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April 16 2009 5 16 /04 /April /2009 15:00

The Museum of Contemporary Art of Chicago presents, until June 21, “Starting with the Universe”, the first major exhibition of one of the greatest American thinkers and visionary of the 20th century, Richard Buckminster Fuller.

Born in 1895 in Milton, Massachusetts, this philosopher, inventor, teacher, architect and mathematician, decided in 1927 to always and only work for all humanity, in the global problematic of poverty, disease, and homelessness. In 1947, he started teaching at Black mountain College in North Carolyn and exposed his major invention, the principle of the geodesic dome: “the only kind of building that can be set on the ground as a complete structure--and with no limiting dimension. The strength of the frame actually increases in ratio to its size, enclosing the largest volume of space with the least area of surface.” This structure is based on the study of nature, precisely on plancton's organism, using their simple form as the tetrahedron, octahedron, and the closest packing of spheres, making them lightweight and stable. The patent for geodesic domes was awarded in 1954. Today, we own him over 500 000 geodesic domes.
Then he became acknowledged by the American society: in 1959, an exhibition at the MOMA of New York consecrated him. In 1967, he was chosen to be the curator for the United States Pavilion at the Universal Exhibition in Montreal.

The visionary idea he had was to create and use deep technologies in order to save humanity and nature. He already had, in the late 20’s this awareness of the waste of nature's resources we were using, and was already thinking ecologically. His adage was: “More for less” : More technologies for the fewest resources. The goal was to explore at the maximum the capacities of human technologies in order to save the society from their own waste.
As part of the New England Transcendantalist, he adhered to "an idealistic system of thought based on the essential unity of the natural world and the use of experiment and intuition as a means of understanding it", in fact, he considered necessary to place faith in the integrity of a regenerative universe.

Housing, transportation, communication, cartography, he explored many different ways, inspiring himself from organic structures. They are all presented in this exhibition through a combination of models, sketches, photographs, and scale models.

When I think about a problem, I never think about beauty, only how to resolve it. But when I finished, if the solution isn’t beautiful, I know it is not good

This exhibition is organized by the Whitney Museum of American Art, in association with the Department of Special Collections of the Stanford University Libraries

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April 15 2009 4 15 /04 /April /2009 12:46

“The Endless Renaissance” is an original proposition of the Bass Museum of Art in which the curator Steven Holmes offers us, from April 17 to August 16, a fresh new look on its collections with the help of well-known contemporary artists.


Indeed, some Delacroix, Rubens, Goya, Rigaud and Hoppner, are shown juxtaposed with pioneering artists of our day such as Joseph Beuys, Charles Ledray, Byron Kim, Jonathan Monk and Eve Sussman. The purpose of the curator is double : first to show the deep link between contemporary art and art from 17th , 18th  and 19th centuries, how an artist is constantly looking back to its masters when he creates. And secondly in which manner, when an artist quotes an other one, or when an art critic gives a point of view on an artist, our look changes almost irreversibly on this latter.

In fact, quoting an artist has always been in the creation’s process of artists, but we can notice an increase in the interpretation of the master in actual art. Apart from the famous example of Duchamp, when he drew a moustache and goatee on a cheap postcard of the Mona Lisa, and titled it L.H.O.O.Q, we can remember the historical portraits series of Cindy Sherman, when she retakes famous portraits such as the Self-portrait in Bacchus by Caravaggio, or the Virgin and the Child by Sandro Botticelli. Besides, one of the biggest exhibitions of this year was in Paris at le Grand Palais with  “Picasso and the Masters”, an explanation of the inspiration’s sources of Picasso, and how he confronted himself to painters such as Delacroix, Velasquez, Manet, or Raphaël.

To do pastiches can bring new ideas either on the subject represented or on the artist itself.  For instance, when Yinka Shonibare, actually exhibiting at the Santa Barbara Museum of Art, refers to the painting The raft of the Medusa  by Théodore Géricault, it is to give a new point of view on the historical matter of the tragedy of the raft of the Medusa. And it is true that after, when we see again at this masterpiece, our look has changed: we now think about the Africans who suffered the colonialism of the British and the French.

It is the same matter with art critic; the texts actually have an influence on our interpretation of works of art. Thus, our aesthetical experience, sensitive, gets modified following the moment we look at it : this is what Steven Holmes wants to show us : how instable and unpredictable is our experience of art.

Among the artists presented you will find  Joseph Beuys, Joe Coleman, Gregory Crewdson, Eugène Delacroix, Thierry Delva, Wim Delvoye, Nicole Eisenman, Peter Friedl, Francisco José de Goya y Lucientes, John Hoppner, Pieter Hugo, Byron Kim. Charles LeDray, Sol LeWitt, Kelly Mark, Jonathan Monk, Martin Puryear, Sharron Quasius, Hyacinthe Rigaud, Bert Rodriguez, Peter Paul Reubens, Chemi Rosado Seijo ,Thomas Struth, Huang Yongping.

The Bass Museum of Art is generously funded by the City of Miami Beach, Cultural Affairs Program, Cultural Arts Council; with additional support provided by Miami-Dade County Department of Cultural Affairs, the Cultural Affairs Council, the Miami-Dade Mayor and the Board of County Commissioners; State of Florida, Department of State, Division of Cultural Affairs, the Florida Arts Council and the National Endowment for the Arts; and Friends of the Bass Museum, Inc.

[Visuals above : Left : Pieter Hugo (South African, b. 1976), Abdullahi Mohammed with Mainasara, Ogere-Remo, Nigeria, 2007, From the series The Hyena and Other Men, Digital C-Print , © Pieter Hugo, Courtesy Yossi Milo Gallery, New York and Michael Stevenson Gallery, Cape Town, Courtesy The Margulies Collection at the WAREhOUSE, Miami. Right: Hyacinthe Rigaud (French, 1649-1743), Hans William Bentinck, Earl of Portland, K.G., 1698-1699, Oil on canvas, 53 x 42” Collection Bass Museum of Art]
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April 14 2009 3 14 /04 /April /2009 16:41

Genesis P-Orridge, lead singer of the Throbbing Gristle, seems to escape from a photograph by David Lachapelle. He is extravagantly bizarre and wears on his face traces of his artistic dimension. He reminds us Amanda Lepore, American photographer’s “muse”. Transatlantic, transgender, transsexual. The shadow behind the color. 

The venerable Hotel de la Monnaie, Paris, devotes a particularly interesting retrospective to David Lachapelle, the enfant terrible of the international photography, to May 31, 2009. Surprisingly, the exhibition begins backwards, starting with the latest works and going back to his brilliant beginning, coming back to original icons. We can quickly cut his work on 3 periods, a kind of evil trilogy, corresponding precisely to 3 different periods of Genesis P-Orridge’s carrier. Let’s take backwards from the rear and go back to genesis, without nostalgia. David Lachapelle, like Genesis P-Orridge, from the very beginning, understood everything. The first one on fashion, the other one on rock music. Both incarnate, on their respective domain, the application of an implacable intelligence. David Lachapelle made portraits of famous or anonymous people (Angelina Jolie in Poppy Field, Milk Maid) with an innovative and like anything grace. A style immediately recognizable, an inimitable technique, a running revolution and the brilliant application that you implement an aesthetical concept by giving to see. It’s exactly the same thing with the Throbbing Gristle: they understood that the revolution was the most astonishing on the limited framework of rock music, as a continued and contained implosion, the English band led a frightening holy war. To modify game rules, to be free under laws (well, special laws), it’s like striking down the dragon.

Sailing up the Styx, you arrive to Revelation, the mystical exploration: "the Heaven to Hell" or "Deluge" series by Lachapelle. This religious possession is equivalent to Psychic TV, Genesis P-Orridge band. He attempts the more or less spontaneous conversion of industrial adepts, implementing a quasi-ecumenical dimension of nebulous grouping around the TOPY (Temple Ov Psychick Youth). It’s time for preaching and transcendental questioning. Both wish to find themselves on a deviate and deviant faith, forswearing their sins on an artistic blasphemy. They try to show us the way, to lead us to their own after-life, to make us penetrate the vision, to open our third eye. They mostly open the sea of rupture.

Third and last movement of the evolution, the format exit. David Lachapelle explores the 3rd dimension with cardboard installations issued from his photographs and Genesis P-Orridge exhorts, exults, exists through Thee Majesty, expressing Lady Jaye’s soul. The puffy impressions of Lachapelle (Holy War) are only interesting by the poor material (cardboard) perfectly combining with his exploration of futility and fragileness. The rest, the themes (Holy War, worsened consumerism fight, redemption on lust), the terribly didactic aspect, the overrated compositions, transform Lachapelle’s latest works into monsters of inutility. Like the frog wishing to be as big as the ox, wanting to change his status, his dimension, from photographer to artist, he changes from artist to photographer. By keeping on wanting to say too much, badly, you end by spoiling the message and sinking into a devastating anything. Thee Majesty is on the same display. By keeping on wanting to say too much, badly, you end up by spoiling the message. The anything is less devastating because it stays on a musical field, even if it wants to pride itself, to ennoble itself under the metallic gildings of the Pompidou Center or comes closer to Orlanesc reasoning. Why looking after the sun when you shine so much on the shadow? They both totally mastered their art. They left us the choice, the right to reinterpret, to understand, or not, an innovative and solitarian reasoning. They walk now among others, in the middle of a crowd of famous anonymous. 

What’s salvation now? It is still fascinating to analyze the evolution of an artist on the long range, refusing hasty judgments, looking after perpetual struggle on long periods. A new phony war somewhere. Do not forget that they are still able to surprise us with real Grace moments. Talent, it’s like riding a bicycle, you never forget: the "Awakened" and "Recollections in America" series (Lachapelle becomes artist), the Part two. Endless Not and PTV3 (Genesis reminding himself he’s still able to invent the future). Maybe they can try, now, a naturally unnatural alliance. Will they dare to court disaster and create Lachapelle Ov Psychick Youth? Everything is possible with these two revered f(r)iends…

[Visuels : above, David Lachapelle, Awakened: Jesse, 2007. Photographie. Courtesy : David Lachapelle & Hotel de la Monnaie, Paris. Below: David Lachapelle, When the World is Trough, 2005. Photographie. Courtesy : David Lachapelle & Hotel de la Monnaie, Paris]

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April 13 2009 2 13 /04 /April /2009 14:33

Zeng Fanzhi has largely been awaited in United States, for a prestigious Gallery such as the Acquavella welcomes him for his first solo exhibition in the United States. Indeed, since a painting from the Mask series has been sold in Christie’s Hong Kong for $ 9,7 million, the auction record for a Chinese artist, he is considered as one the greatest figure of the contemporary art.

This exhibition, largely broadcasted by the media. is an event in the art world of New-York. William Acquavella, President of Acquavella Galleries, said : "Since the early 1990s, he has been shown in major museums and sold by major galleries and is now the most admired figurative artist of his generation in Asia. His powerfully distinctive paintings explore personal identity and social convention."  Twenty paintings, portraits and landscapes which he started in 1999, will be showcased.

Those two series of paintings mark a important turn in his creation. We shall explain briefly his path in order to capture the background of this exhibition. It is with the Mask Series (1994-2000), that the public noticed the artist. Representations of people from the Chinese society, alone or in groups, always with masks that feature a smiling yet frozen expression. These paintings highlight a certain fragility, and human loneliness among this society. The background is usually plain, with vivids colors, and the characters have typical clothes evoking communism, such as the red tie.

Zeng Fanzhi is considered as a Chinese artists who succeeded to render emotions, ideas from China and shared it with an occidental public, yet with an authentic Chinese expression. But when we look close to his work, it is hard to say where the innovation and the Chinese breathe remain... Could we guess at first sight that the works are non-occidental paintings? It might be because it is so occidental and conventional that the Art Market welcomes him so warmly. For instance, the series of portraits displayed in the Acquavella Gallery seems to have a too strong touch of Francis Bacon, that was already here in the mask series : Not only in the wipeout of the brushstroke, escaping toward the top of the canvas, giving this impression that the characters’ minds are fading away, but their strong look, the plain background, are all characteristics of Bacon’s work.

Yet, the technique is perfect, and the Landscape Series, with his rhizomatic lines invading the canvas, saturating the space, reaches us with a strong feeling of constriction. In this series we can really see the personality of the artist growing, expressing and actually really reaching us. This dark atmosphere, blue and purple, those characters prisonners of this chaos of lines :  it could symbolize this same chaos of desire and restriction we have inside ourselves, which blocks us in our path and ideas.

Did Zeng Fanzhi understand better than the other Chinese artists how to capture the art market ? By retaking some patterns of one of the best contemporary (also with Lucien Freud, Bacon is today the most expansive work) and mixing it with the cliché of the communism in China ? Did he just entered the system in acting as an occidental would expect him to act as a Chinese ? The best is to leave those questions open, and, in order to make your own opinion about Zeng Fanzhi, take advantage of this exhibition, and confront yourselves directly with his work.

Zeng Fanzhi was born in 1964 in Wuhan province and studied oil painting at the Wuhan Art Academy. Today he lives and works in Beijing. Zeng Fanzhi has exhibited widely at acclaimed institutions such as the Shanghai Art Museum, National Art Museum (Beijing), Kunst Museum Bonn, Kunstmuseum Bern, Santa Monica Art Centre, (Barcelona), and Art Centre (Hong Kong).

[Visual : Zeng Fanzhi, portait 08-4-1, 2008, oil on canvas, courtesy Acquavellas galleries]

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April 12 2009 1 12 /04 /April /2009 14:00

At the Robert Mann Gallery, from April 2 until May 23, you will have the chance to explore new possibilities of living turned against consumerism and pollution , through this rare, beautiful, and pure work of Mary Mattingly : "Nomadographies".

As the title says, this show talks about a graphic expression of nomadism, and makes us understand this ideal of living in deep relation with nature.
Mary Mattingly travels a lot: she draws upon them her inspiration, and brings us a sort of travelogue, between the documentary and the dream, where she succeeds to embody the idea of biosphere.

Landscape photographs of the far north with half submerged boats, portraits of people in a complete osmosis with a magnificent landscape. A recurrent object is this tall pile of cardboards attached by a cord, traveling sometime on the shoulder of a man in the desert, or on a boat on a lake, and contrasting with the landscape... a metaphor of the travel. With pure and vivid colors, characters featuring people who look like there are coming from another dimension, it is a kind a fresh air that we breathe in. A true peace is emanating from this series of images.

Apart from the photographs, we discover one installation “Everything you own including the shirt off my back” which retakes this same pattern, the pile of cardboard boxes bound with bungee cord, but this time attached to a man bicycling, with only one wheel on the ground. The balance is incredible, it really feels like he is landing from… but from where? a world imagined by Marry Mattingly, a world of recycled objects,  of non consumerism, wild globalization. where the simple is synonymous of grace.

An other fundamental piece is the waterpod model, an object resembling to a sphere, which is linked to a very important project. The Waterpod™ Project is a floating eco-habitat which is a sustainable navigable space, conceptualized and designed by the artist as a model for new form of living and DIY technologies. In May, the boat will start his course among the waters of New York Harbor. The project can be tracked on the website. A real and deep reflexion about our society is here proposed, and we can only admire her courage and determination to find other solution of living while the world's balance is collapsing.

“The Threaty of Nomadolgy”, written by Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari, explained how nomadism was linked to a war-machine. The work of Mary Mattingly could also be seen as her own war-machine, and this project would  thus embody her own vanishing point from this society of consumerism, designed with grace and cleverness.

Nomadographies  is  Mattingly's  second solo exhibition at the gallery. Most recently she  was shortlisted for the  inaugural   Prix Pictet  and  had  a  two-person exhibition with  Mle  Kjaergaard at  Standpoint  in  London.  Mattingly  is   also  included in the forthcoming  exhibition  "Trouble in  Paradise" :  Examining  Discord  Between  Nature  and  Society at the Tucson Museum of Art. In 2008 she was included in group exhibitions at the Palais de Tolkyo, the Neuberger Museum, and the Tessaloniki Museum of Photography.

[Visuals: Above : Mary Mattingly, In the Navel of the Moon, 2008, 30 x 30 inches, edition of 5, chromogenic, dye-coupler print mounted to dibond. , Courtesy Robert Mann Gallery.. Below : Mary Mattingly, Everything you own including the shirt off my back, 2009, dimensions variable, mixed media installation  Courtesy Robert Mann Gallery]

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April 10 2009 6 10 /04 /April /2009 11:38

From April 10 to June 14, the REDCAT in Los Angeles exhibits a project by the Lebanese artist Walid Raad (b.1967). This exhibition is the first presentation of a research on the development of cultural infrastructures in the Arab world. Consequently, it also studies the impact of the war and other conflicts on the cultural background and tradition of those countries. Mixed media such as photography, texts, sculptures and installations are gathered to give us an idea upon the link between war and tradition, and how the look on our own countries modifies following its political evolution.

This project is in fact an extension of a first one, established in 1999 through The Atlas Group. The aim was to collect information about the contemporary history of Lebanon, with a special focus on the Lebanese war, between 1975 and 1991. The Atlas Group Archives gathered a lot of information, and quite deranging by its strong preciseness. Photographic archives, testimonies, documents, the whole classified and indexed, with for instance, this note: 3641 cars, 4386 dead. We could interpret this strange quantification and recollection of documents as a Walid Raad’s personnal way of dealing with past horrors. We should not be mistaken about those number, they are not the expression of a distant objectivity, it is on the contrary a dive into his intimacy.

In 2007, the artist extends his interest in exploring, this time in the whole Arab world he consequences, material and immaterial, of the wars in the culture and the tradition. He founds his researches on a concept elaborated by Jalal Toufic, a Lebanese writer and filmmaker : "the withdrawal of tradition past a surpassing disaster".
Toufic explains: "the surpassing disaster leads to the withdrawal not of everything, but of tradition, and touches not everyone, but a community, with the caveat that this community is reciprocally defined by it as the community of those affected by it, and this tradition is defined by it as that which withdraws as a result of the surpassing disaster…and it is thinkers, writers, artists, filmmakers, musicians, and dancers who can 'take care,' by resurrecting it, of what has withdrawn as a result of the surpassing disaster."
So, “Scratching on Things I Could Disavow: A History of Art in the Arab World /Part 1_Volume 1_Chapter 1 (Beirut: 1992-2005)”, is an example of how Raad highlights through art the way some violent events provokes in a society a withdrawal of its identity: Indeed, culture and tradition are a fundamental part of the definition of a country, and if they decrease, it would simply cause a process of disappearance.

This exhibition calls our mind and emotions to a hidden face of the war with innovation and accuracy. It touches our sensitivity differently than a normal report of the chain of damages of violent events, and it could be because this time, it deals with the disapearance of ideals, ways of expression, creativity... immaterials things which brings us, in a our everyday life, an escape from a sometimes too strong reality.

Walid Raad is also  an associate Professor of Art in the Cooper Union of New York, and a member of the Arab Image Foundotion. His  works have been shown at Documenta 11 (Kassel), the 50th Venice Biennale (Venice), The Hamburger Bahnhof (Berlin), The Museum of Modern Art (New York), Homeworks (Beirut) and numerous other museums and venues throughout Europe, the Middle East, and North America. Raad is also the recipient of the Alpert Award in Visual Arts (2007), the Deutsche Börse Photography Prize (2007), and the Camera Austria Award (2005).

[Visual :Walid Raad, Part I_Chapter 1_Section 79: On Walid Sadek's Love Is Blind (Modern Art Oxford, UK, 2006), (detail), 2009, dimensions variable, mixed media. Courtesy the artist. © Walid Raad.]

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April 9 2009 5 09 /04 /April /2009 16:57

For her inaugural exhibition, the new curator of the Santa Barbara Museum of Art, Julie Joyce, presents the first solo show in the Western U.S. of Yinka Shonibare, “A Flying Machine for Every Man, Women and Child and Other Astonishing Works”, an experience both political and dream-like.

Yinka Shonibare was born in London in 1962, but raised from the age of 3, in Lagos, Nigeria. In his work, he seeks to denounce the disturbing economical outline in the colonized countries. As a plastic demonstration, no violence, nor repelling content; but a skilful way to elaborate and produce his work. Indeed the materials used for his sculptures, those atypical fabrics, brightly colored and wax-printed cloths, are produced in Europe, but feature authentic African batiks, and were sold to African by Dutch traders in the 19th century. This whole process is necessary to be known in order to understand the aims of the artist, who, through the production, makes a metaphor of the merchandising process between the colonized countries and the occidental one.

The major piece displayed in the exhibition is a group of sculptures representing mannequins, riding a one-wheel bicycle topped by a multicolored propeller, and outfitted in Victorian era dresses made from African batiks. A feeling that those characters are coming from a fairy tale, or a myth. The contrast is both accurate and beautiful: first it reverses the habitual cliché of African people looking exotic: here it gives you more the feeling of some prosperous European who look aliens. Secondly, this group of a perfect family-like, we could imagine it as a high quality Window Dressing, which already has his own History in contemporary art: Rauschenberg, Warhol, and Jaspers John had great success with it. Indeed, all the cloths are the result of a slow and very elaborated work.

One disturbing and yet essential point of this piece, is that the characters are headless…  Shonibare comments, in "Sculpture Magazine" (2006) “…a lot of my work challenges the idea of hierarchy or aristocracy in some way. During the French Revolution, the heads of the aristocrats were chopped off using the guillotine.  Basically it started as a joke, because I take working class fabrics from Africa and dress the aristocracy in those fabrics and then I take their heads off, but there’s no blood or violence.  It’s witty in a knowing sort of way.”

In this exhibition, the first film of the artist is displayed: “Un ballo in Maschera" (a Masked Ball) 2004. It tells the assassination of King Gustav III of Sweeden in 1792 through the medium of dance.  For a first  film, it is very  promising.  About it, Shonibare said, in "Artforum" (2005) “My aim with this film has been….to push the boundaries by finding new ways to interrupt the narrative moment in cinema and by reconsidering costumes and its possibilities.  The costumes embody a paradox: They are made from fabric influenced by Indonesian design, produced by the Dutch, who tried it on the West African market, where it was appropriated as African.  The point for me is that identity itself is an artificial construct.”

An other very interesting piece is one of his recent work : “La Méduse”, a crafted sailing ship on roiling high seas in a wood an glass case. It is a direct reference the emblematic painting of Théodore Géricault, The Raft of the Medusa (1918-1919), which remains this tragic event of the death of nearly 150 French people in a storm, who were going to Senegal to argument with the British to retake the land. The genius of Shonibare is, through a multicolored sails which remains the African batik, replacing the true subject of this tragedy.

Finally his sculptures, photographs, films and installations remains provocative and relevant to describe the huge gap between the African and the European way of thinking and acting. The pieces highlight, with a plastic cleverness, the situation of Africa and its past. Playing with  cultural myths  in colourful materials, the artist shows a great sense of lyrism and fantasy which indeed pervades the whole path. This solo exhibition is an acknowledgment for his combat and his art.

[Visual : Yinko Shonibare : "A Flying Machine for Every Man, Woman and Child," 2008, Credit: Brian Forrest]

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April 7 2009 3 07 /04 /April /2009 15:54

Only 6 works. Nothing more. Even the pieces go through the exhibition silently. Even more, the number of works reduces when you move: 3 by Roman Signer and Ceal Floyer, 1 by Laurent Grasso and Micol Assaël. You have a similar visual reduction, from scattered and intermittent Signer’s objects to Assaël’s worrying emptiness, the body is call upon services to appropriate pieces through new forms. So, definitively, with the running exhibition at Pompidou Center, the vacuum is a current trend of art, roughly answering to surrounding excesses. Who could complain?

We were waiting for a while now an exhibition that enlightens the work of art as a unique and singular object. You can run through the Palais de Tokyo at the speed of the main characters of Bande à Part (Jean-Luc Godard, 1964) or take a salutary time to explore the imposed sensorial penetrations, it’s the same. "Gakona" leaves the spectator free to choose, correct, interpret or quietly reject those oriented proposals. The exhibition is an extreme continuation of the tendencies taken and lost after the inaugural "5 Milliards d’années" (Walherian period) : sharp, precise, opened, reflexive, but not (too much) elitist. But, be cautious : if the exhibition is well designed, it does not mean that the exhibited pieces are all perfect. Here is the proof. 

Obviously, beginning with Roman Signer is not risky. The work of the Swiss artist is absolutely and definitively brilliant, and does not spark off superfluous comments. The absolute economy of means (a table, chairs and an electric mower, umbrellas) only partially hides the colossus means implemented, sometimes technically, always conceptually speaking. He is the proudly representative artist figure, magical and magician, and we can’t, and don’t have to, reveal the tricks.

Ceal Floyer navigates on more tenebrous and blurred oceans. His pseudo-minimalism alternates the very good (the switch slide), the good (line traces and action relic) and the ordinary but not bad (sounds). The coldness of the pieces, their distance, participate of an aesthetical choice that is reflected in the dispositive and the connection created between the works. They can live without us but it’s harder for us to do without them.

Haarp by Laurent Grasso leaves us indifferent. The whole thing is aesthetically well done, sufficiently proportioned to impress, but it’s the paradigm of a strong trend on actual art (notably French art) of the young generation. The recipe is quite simple : you take an interesting event from the little history (preferably from Sciences for the theoretical justification), you interpret it quietly roughly on art field (from identical reproduction to slight changes, details) and, if you can, add a referential dimension to conceptual and/or minimal art. Not too hard, it succeeds each time and you can proudly say : “I (almost) did it”.

Chizhevsky Lessons by Micol Assaël runs on exactly the same principle (so, it’s not typically French). The main difference is that Assaël proposes an experience that is not visual, appealing our body foundations, and surprises us by bringing a dimension wisely innovative. Like Laurent Grasso’s piece, the installation is very beautiful on its formal perfection, but it has the advantage to make us go through new feelings. It’s not so frequent to feel the concrete manifestation of our sensibility passing through our body, so, enjoy!

The happy spectators of Thee Majesty show at the Pompidou Center Saturday night lived a similar corporal experience to Gakona. Vibrations, feelings, exploration of unexplored countries, annoyances, silences and noises were the menu. Finally, on minimalism or on exuberance, to provoke emotions and conceptual power is the main art judgment principle. The only one that allows you to escape even on your own body, material or immaterial : isn’t it right, Genesis?

[Visuals : above, Laurent Grasso, Haarp, 2009. Acier galvanisé, câbles, boîtiers. Dimensions variables. Architecte Pascal Grasso. Réalisation, Atelier Patrick Ferragne. Courtesy Galerie Chez Valentin, Paris © ADAGP, 2009. Vue de l'exposition Gakona. Photographie : André Morin. Below : Roman Signer, Chaises, 2007. 15 chaises, tondeuse à gazon électrique. Dimensions variables. Courtesy de l’artiste et de la galerie Hauser and Wirth, Zürich. Vue de l'exposition Gakona. Photographie : André Morin]

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April 7 2009 3 07 /04 /April /2009 12:01

The Pace Wildenstein Gallery presents, until April 18th, “Berlin 2000”, a group exhibition, which gathers two generation of artists who were producing in Berlin when the Wall collapsed.

The interest of this exhibition is double: first it is the occasion to understand the strength and the freedom of creation of those artists, willing to express themselves about the new world they entered in. Secondly, the Pace Wildenstein Gallery made for the occasion a very special catalogue, bilingual, extremely well documented, and other special product made especially for the occasion.

In 1989, when the Wall collapsed, Berlin became a center for a great evolution of mind. A kind of cultural renaissance happened: the incoming of foreigners people, of images from the liberal world inspired for new ideas, in a radical sense. In fact, socially, politically and economically, Berlin was growing in a fast and furious manner.

As for the art creation, we can see in this exhibition how groups of artists were organizing and displaying together theirs works. A real collaboration was born, with an underground nightlife as a background. Therefore, many artists from abroad, such as Damien Hirst, Tacita Dean, Mark Wallinger, were supporting this movement. Those latter were awarded as DAAD fellowship.

Installation, sculptures, paintings, photographs, a great variety of medias and artists are here displayed : 37 artists, 60 works created around 2000, express their feeling, their opinion about this period of changes, of new freedom. The artists are selected for the quality of their works, for an aesthetic and intellectual experience. To notice : the installation of Anselm Reyle, Believe (2002), the painting of Peter Strauss, the sculpture, Salem (2000) by Gabriel Vormstein, the wall painting of Martin Eder etc...

The bilingual catalogue is a gold mine of elaborated texts and articles about Art,  but also topics as Philosophy and Subjectivity in the 23 These written by the German writer and Philosopher Marcus Steinweg. Also,  Tim Wendland create a multimedia installation as a support of the exhibition, and the artist Daniel Pflumm produced a vinyl record of his music, available at the gallery.

What attracts us in the city of Berlin nowadays, the vast places transformed into studios of artists or DJ’s, the hip urban social scene, and the underground nightlife, all this started at that time. To see this exhibition is both a jump into the past, and a personal consideration on it from each artist, an interesting experience, with high quality works

[Visuals : Above : Anselm Reyle and Katja Strunz, Memorias dos tempos, 2001, mixed media, dimensions variable. Courtesy Pace Wildenstein Gallery. Below : Gabriel Vormstein, Salem, 2000, wood, lacquer, plaster, pineapple, mango, pomegranate, 82-5/8" x 7-7/8" x 15-3/4" (210 cm x 20 cm x 40 cm) Courtesy Pace Wildenstein Gallery]

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April 5 2009 1 05 /04 /April /2009 12:54

The Philadelphia Museum of Art is offering us, from March 20 to June 21, a rare experimentation of the incarnation of time, through three works of the artist Tim Hyde : "Building in Reverse"

There is something very disturbing and attractive in the videos and collaged photographs of this American born artist (1968), where we are losing all our marks… and it might be mainly because he plays with our fundamental bearing of life, time and space. Yet, since the philosopher E. Kant defines time and space as the basic conditions of any knowledge (The Critic of Pure Reason), manipulating them can create a great effect on our sensations. But it is not only about space and time: Tim Hyde, with only three works presented in the museum, bring us much inspiration, and opens up our mind to new perspectives about, for instance, Andy Warhol’s works, the relation between men and architecture, or simply the photographic media. 

To find his subjects, he traveled in very different places such as Albania, Belarus, Ukraine. The Keeper (2006) is a video that takes place in Kiev, Ukraine where the first interest, the architecture of an ex-KGB building, transformed into a focus on speechless encounter with an old lady. Hyde describes it as an "inverted portrait in which the traditional function of figure and background are reversed." Indeed, it remains as a reversal of Warhol’s Screen Test (1964-1966), in which the artist was featuring famous and glamorous people with almost no movement neither talking.  The architecture, which is an inanimate construction of men and was the first focus, gets hidden by this strange figure who actually seems less vivid than the latter. Our conception of those two elements gets then confused and mixed up.

The second video, Video panorama of New York City during which the camera failed to distinguish the city from a snowstorm,  also remains some of Warhol works; the topic is the city of New York disappearing under mist. It plays with our perception of space and time trough a ingenious mechanism of display: It is 180 degree sweep over a period of seven hours, separated in seven parts, each the record of one our filming. The whole presented on seven screens. Then, there is no possible narration, the viewer confronts himself with a blurred vision of one the most emblematic city in world, where space is perceived and transformed in time. Empire a video of the Empire State Building made by Warhol in 1964 was a first experience to render time spatially tangible.

The last work, Untitled (Monument) is a group of collaged photographs that represents a man holding on his shoulders and showing different kind of reduced symbolic architectures. Yet, they embody in a concrete white form an experience of time and space. A magnificent freedom is here expressed, first with the representation of this Sisyphean figure carrying architectures, and second by extending the power of the photographic media.

In only three works, we get an impressive demonstration of a fine plastic reflection on very sharp concept such as time and space.
"Tim Hyde's attentiveness to the production of images in film and photography is evident in his work, and the ways in which it challenges interpretation and the nature of representation," Assistant Curator Adelina Vlas said. "His thoughtful use of the camera lens engages both the perception and the imagination of the viewer."

Don’t miss the experience…

[Visual : Untitled (Monument), 2008–09, Photo collage installation, Courtesy of the artist and Max Protetch Gallery]

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