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visits on art, design, architecture and literature

“Stories and Reflections” Axel Vervoordt and Michael James Gardner

 

Last spring during a beautiful dinner given by Fergus McCaffrey gallery, New York, as of the historic exhibition Gutai (1953-1959)  I met the writer Michael  James Gardner.  Our evening conversation was on his new publication, a memoir co-written with Axel Vervoordt,  “Stories and Reflections”, published by Flammarion (p hardback, 312 pages).  Axel Vervoordt, Belgian designer and famous curator whose taste and knowledge for rare and beautiful antiques, in modern art, furnishings, and pottery is astonishing.  Michael James Gardner is an American writer and Axel’s son in law.   I was delighted when I received the following afternoon my own copy signed by both authors.

To make this book. we began with a list that Axel made that included one hundred moments from his fascinating life. During a period of time that lasted many weeks, we met as often as we could, Axel started to tell me his stories and I learned many things that I never knew.  In the months that followed, as I listened to the recordings of the time we spent together, it became clear that many of the one hundred moments were connected…One thing leads to another. One story contains many…(Acknowledgements, Stories, and Reflections)

 

Needless to say that ‘Stories and Reflections”  was my companion through the summer during quiet hot afternoons in the Mediterranean and busy travel time as  the stories  unveiled and weaved in an extraordinary way, from discovering Japanese Gutai art, the decades-long series of exhibitions at Palazzo Fortuny in Venice; the  wonderful insights gained from artists, such as Cy Twombly, Anish Capoor..   By permission from Michael James Gardner, I chose three stories and photos to share here.

Cy Twombly and a Change of Heart 

photo©Jan Liegeois, published in “Stories and Reflections”

 

One of the last times I saw Cy was at TEFAF. He was interested in an ancient artifact, a Mesopotamian duck weight, circa 1500 BCE. Made of marble, such weights were used for measuring commodities traded in local villages.  He wanted to buy it, and I wanted to deliver it to his house in Italy personally. It was always difficult to reach him to make the travel arrangements. He rarely used the phone. His home in Gaeta was in a remote, hillside village on the coast between Roma and Naples. The best way to contact him was to call a local café, which he went to at the same time every day. …..in 2011, the news arrived: he had died in a hospital in Rome. In remembrance of him, I didn’t want anyone else to have the marbled duck. Today, it has a special place in the library of the castle and I think of Cy wherever I see it. (Stories and Reflections,pp. 194)

 

Stones and Silence 

photo©Jan Liegeois, published in  “Stories and Reflections”

 

“I believe stones are created by time and carry the power of the earth. Stones are like silence, slow-living animals-they have a spirit that resonates for thousand and even millions of years. 
…I believe there is a distinctive spirit in different types of stones – my practice is a reminder of that.  It’s a way of giving nobility to an earthy object that looks humble but actually has weight and meaning.”
In our workshop, I have designed floating stone tables using black Belgian slate. The creative process includes simply running my hand over the stone, not to give it the shape that I want, but to respect the shape the stone has already – like its hidden soul – and to use this as a guide in the design. Creating a patina by rubbing our hands over stone objects can be a healing process.  (Stories and Reflections, pp. 202) 

 

The Story of the Parquet

photo©Jan Liegeois, published in “Stories and Reflections”
While renovating the castle in the mid-1980s. I dreamed of creating a study with a beautiful floor. .. Through a referral, I heard there was something special in the north of Paris 
…A few weeks late, the parquet was delivered to the castle. It was much more beautiful than I could have expected. The designs used a mixture of walnut, rosewood, and maple to make intricate and unique shapes inspired by geometry, with expert precision……
…During that time, the craftsmen in our workshop worked hard for man months to recreate each square. On the day that the parquet was removed from the castle, we replaced the entire floor with our version, The process of producing it was the excellent technical training of our craftsmen. I consider their work to be a masterpiece. (Stories and Reflections, pp145) 

 

Author’s note: In the process of creating this book. I relied upon my memory of many different experiences in my life. I recounted the stories to my son-in-law in English, which is not my native language. We consulted family members and others who appear in these stories to read drafts, provide edits, or offer their own accounts of the events as we lived them. We researched facts and details when we could. I have changed the names in some cases or omitted them altogether. I occasionally left out certain details, but only when that didn’t change the purpose or emotional truth of the story and why I wanted to share these memories with you. (Axel Vervoordt)

….. you learn also from the ugliness because you either want to make it better or try to accept it. There is no beauty without ugliness. Art made me look at things differently. It opened my mind. I went on my own to England when I was 14 to buy antiques, and then I sold to my parents’ friends. I went to big, beautiful houses, and they had the most amazing art and furniture with Wellington boots out front. They lived in a casual way with beautiful things. In France and other countries, people had expensive things, but you couldn’t touch them. It was only to show riches, and I never liked that. I like things that are close to you that give you spirit. (Axel Vervoordt ” the design is here’, conversation  with Kanye West, by Chris Gardner, April 13, 2018)

 

“I want to give a different dimension to what I do. I don’t like that word, decorating…Rick Owens speaks with Axel Vervoordt about living in the light and what it takes to make a village.” Interview magazine, July 16, 2014)

Author’s note: The first half of the book tells more of a chronological story of Axel’s life, and the second half he really wanted to add more “reflections” and little lessons that he learned. It is more about mentorship that he received as a child and trying to pay that forward. (Michael James Gardner, May 28th, private note/email to me)

all photos©Jan Liegeois published  by permission directly by the author Michael James Gardner

 

Munich;African Ceramics. Collection of Franz, Duke of Bavaria donation and permanent loan to Die Neue Sammlung

Clive Sithole, Gefäße, 2014 (rechts) und 2015 (links), Südafrika / Zulu,
Sammlung S.K.H. Herzog Franz von Bayern. © Die Neue Sammlung (Foto. A. Laurenzo)

 

A warm July afternoon I attended a lovely event at the Rotunda of the Die Neue Sammlung at the Pinakothek der Moderne, as Franz Duke of Bavaria generously grants a gift from his important African ceramics collection.

“The donation and permanent loan of African ceramics form an important extension to our collection and a major addition to our non-European holdings. We are very grateful for the exceptionally generous gift,” comments Angelika Nollert, Director of Die Neue Sammlung.

The African Ceramics collection closes the unfortunate geographical gap in the holdings with an inventory that is as outstanding in terms of quality as it is in quantity.’

Over 1,300 items of African ceramics from the collection of Franz Duke of Bavaria are going to Die Neue Sammlung.

Gefäß, 2013, Jabu Nala, Südafrika / Zulu Sammlung S.K.H. Herzog Franz von Bayern © Die Neue Sammlung (Foto. A. Laurenzo)

 

Starting in the 1960s, His Royal Highness the Duke of Bavaria has established an important collection of African ceramics. The collection comprises examples from different African regions and focuses in particular on ceramic vessels from the 19th and 20th centuries. The collection is regarded as one of the most important collections of African ceramics worldwide; highly aesthetic objects are formally very diverse and include items of everyday use as well as ritually employed vessels. The range of designs oscillates between the abstract and the figurative.‘ (Die Neue Sammlung official press news)

Voania Muba, Gefäß, Ende 19. Jh. – Anfang 20. Jh., Demokratische Republik Kongo / Woyo Sammlung S.K.H. Herzog Franz von Bayern © Die Neue Sammlung (Foto. A. Laurenzo)

 

Figur, 19. – 20. Jh., Togo / Ewe oder Fon (Mono Fluß?) Sammlung S.K.H. Herzog Franz von Bayern
© Die Neue Sammlung (Foto. A. Laurenzo)

 

Vessel, beginning of 20th century, Democratic Republic of Congo / Teke (Utyo area), Collection of Franz, Duke of Bavaria. © Die Neue Sammlung (Photo: A.Laurenzo)

 

My dear colleague and friend, Ashley Booth Klein, in her beautiful publication, “Obelisk” notes on ‘painting in ceramic art’…

….painting in ceramic art was being treated in two different ways in the 1950s: ceramic artists, including Voulkos, Mason, and Price, were treating painting as the end of multi-step individualized processes—to push of craft into the territory of fine art, while painters like Picasso and Joan Miro were learning craft in order to exploit ceramics as, simply, another medium employed in a broader art practice. All of these artists would continue in the 1960s to pursue and refine their different methodologies and define ceramic art as something exceeding craft to the end of the century.

Vessel, 19th – 20th century, Ghana / Ashanti, Collection of Franz, Duke of Bavaria. © Die Neue Sammlung (Photo: A.Laurenzo)

 

‘Ceramic art, at times functional, at times purely decorative or symbolic, in its original capacity was used to tell myths and stories. In Ancient Greece, small figurines symbolized Gods and the human form, while vessels were etched and painted with a range of pictorial narratives from funeral scenes to sea battles, to dances and boxing matches. Ceramic art was essentially a type of visual history, and much of our understanding of the ancient world and the first civilizations has been discerned by the unearthing and analysis of its worn fragments. In my eyes, the medium, throughout centuries of adaptation and reinvention, has remained and will always remain, a vestige of its primary and vital function as an embodiment and conveyor of human life and its essence.’ (Ashley Booth Klein, on Origins andPhilosophy,boothceramics,com)

 

all photos above courtesy & by permission (press office, Die Neue Sammlung, 2018)Thank you Verena Sanladerer for providing me with these special photos.
installation view, Die Neue Sammlung, (rotunda, Pinakothek der Moderne), July 2018,photo©Venetia Kapernekas

 

Hamburg: Elbphilarmonie, June 20th,2018; Robert Schumann & Antonín Dvorák

“The Elbphilharmonie takes inspiration from three structures: the ancient theatre at Delphi, sport stadiums and tents”
                                          Jacques Herzog & Pierre de Meuron, architects

 

Visiting the captivating city of Hamburg, ‘Venezia of the North’ and  thanks to a splendit invitation by Tom R. Shulz (pressesprecher), I had  a blissful evening attending  a concert on June 20th with my daughter Nefeli at the Grand Hall of the Elbphilarmonie, (Robert Schumann and Antonín Dvorák ) with Thomas Hengelbrock  principal conductor of the NDR ElbPhilarmonie Orchestras, and lead violin Ms. Vilder Frang.

History meets modernity at the traditional port Sandtorhafen in the HafenCity in Hamburg.  Approximately up to 25 historical vessels can dock along th380-meter long pontoon area of Hamburg’s first artificially built port basin.  Somewhere here at the edge the ElbPhilarmonie stands spectacularly with its impressive glass facade and the wave-like rooftop rises up from the former Kaispeicher building on the western tip of the HafenCity.   It is been rated as one of the largest and most acoustically advanced concert halls in the world.

Elbphilarmonie, photo ©Sophie Wolter

For the Elbphilharmonie, ( Herzog said in an interview),  “one influence was the Greek amphitheater—carved out of the ground, as much geology as it is architecture.  Another was the canopies used at festivals and outdoor theaters to protect people from the sun.”

Elbphilharmonie Cross-Section (unlabelled) © Herzog & de Meuron

The Theatre at Delphi, designed to stage lyrical and dramatic productions, was cut out of the hillside overlooking the temple of Apollo during the sixth century BC, probably to replace an earlier wooden theatre.

Ancient Theater at  Delphi in Greece

 

On 11 January 2017, Thomas Hengelbrock and the NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchestra have officially opened Hamburg’s newest concert hall, the Elbphilharmonie. That first concert marked the beginning of a new era in the life of the orchestra, which has moved into the Elbphilharmonie as its resident orchestra and finally gained a permanent musical home after seventy years without a base.

NDR ElbPhilarmonie Orchester (Grand Hall); June 20th,2018  conductor: Thomas Hengelbrock,photo© Daniel Dittus

NDR ElbPhilarmonie Orchester; June 20th, 2018; violin: Vilder Frang; conductor: Thomas Hengelbrock, photo© Daniel Dittus

 

The renowned Japanese acoustician Yasuhisa Toyota is responsible for the perfect acoustics in the Elbphilharmonie. His company, Nagata Acoustics, has a long list of satisfied clients, including Suntory Hall in Tokyo and the Walt Disney Hall in Los Angeles. Toyota’s goal for the Elbphilharmonie Grand Hall (Grand Saal) was that the hall should assist the natural acoustics of the music but also be sensitive to electronic sound systems so the audience might enjoy rock concerts as well. ‘Designing the hall is something like making or creating an instrument, like a violin.‘ (interview of Yashuhisa Toyota to Aaron Gonsher, April 2017)

The auditorium, the Grand Hall (Grosser Saal) with the  ‘vineyard’ style seating places audience no further than 30 meters from the conductor, breaking down barriers bbetweenmusicians and audience.

Grand Hall at Elbphilarmonie, photo©Michael Zapf

This auditorium—the largest of three concert halls in the Elbphilharmonie—is a product of parametric design, a process by which designers use algorithms to develop an object’s form. Algorithms have helped design bridges, motorcycle parts….in the case of the Elbphilharmonie, Herzog and De Meuron used algorithms to generate a unique shape for each of the 10,000 gypsum fiber acoustic panels that line the auditorium’s walls like the interlocking pieces of a giant, undulating puzzle.(Wired, What happens when Algorithms design a concert hall?)

Grand Hall, white skin at Elbphilarmonie, photo ©Oliver Heissner

The described  “white skin” that covers the surface of the walls and ceilings in the Grand Hall is composed of approximately 10,000 sheets of gypsum fiber panels. With the help of an expansive reflector that is suspended from the middle of the vaulted ceiling, the panels project sound into every corner of the space.’ …The 10,000 panels coalesce into a billowy, off-white skin, punctuated only by 2,150 seats and 1,000 hand-blown glass light bulbs…. beauty was only part of the architects’ intention when they began designing the building more than 13 years ago. “Every panel has a function,” says Benjamin Koren, founder of One to One, the studio that worked with Herzog and De Meuron to design and fabricate the panels.’

NDR ElbPhilarmonie Orchester; June 20th, 2018 violin: Vilder Frang; conductor: Thomas Hengelbrock, photo© Daniel Dittus

 

The Elbphilharmonie is located in the historic Sandtorhafen, which was Hamburg’s old working harbor for centuries. The Kaiserspeicher, Hamburg’s biggest warehouse on the water, was built in 1875. Destroyed in the Second World War, it was then rebuilt and renamed Kaispeicher where cocoa, tobacco, and tea were stored until the 1990s.

der Kaispreicher (2003)l resource;bildarchive_Hamburg
Architects Pierre de Meuron, Jacques Herzog, and Ascan Mergenthaler have been working on the Elbphilharmonie since 2003. Herzog and de Meuron established their office in Basel in 1978 and have since then designed and completed major projects such as the Tate Modern in London, the Alliance Arena in Munich and the National Stadium in Peking for the 2008 Olympic Games

 

Elbphilharmonie Cross-Section (unlabelled) © Herzog & de Meuron

Concertgoers can access the Grand Hall and Recital Hall foyers via stairs and lifts from the Elbphilharmonie Plaza. The Grand Hall foyer clearly defines the character of the Elbphilharmonie architecture with stairs that extend over several floors; 1,000 curved window panels, tailor-made to capture and reflect the color of the sky, the sun’s rays, the water and the city, turn the concert hall into a gigantic crystal.

Grand Hall Foyer, Elbphilarmonie, photo © Iwan Baan

Elpphilarmonie, photo ©Maxim Schulz

Hamburg is called the city of Music. The cost of the ElbPhilarmonie has escalated to 789 million euro. The current music scene in Hamburg is highly diverse; the city is home to three professional orchestras, an opera house, notable soloists and ensembles, jazz, rock and pop musicians, composers, singer-songwriters, electronic experimenters and many renowned educational institutions.

Elbphilarmonie, photo ©Michael Zapf

Roof of Elbphilarmonie, photo ©Michael Zapf

 

Christoph Lieben-Seutter has been the General and Artistic Director of the historic Laeiszhalle and Hamburg’s new concert hall, the Elbphilharmonie Hamburg,since September 2007. His responsibilities include directing the artistic content of both venues with around 100 events of different genres annually. Lieben-Seutter is also a member of the board of the Gustav Mahler Jugendorchester…

Christoph Lieben-Seutter, photo © Michael Zapf

 

 a winter morning;  photo© Michael Zapf

all photos kindly have been released by the press office of Elbphilarmonie (all photographers accreditation have been noted). Thank you, dear Tom R. Schulz, for the invitation experiencing a magical evening.

New York_Andrew Ferentinos ‘The desk of an architect:objects of desire’

“Recognizing the need is the primary condition for design.” Charles Eames

 

A beautiful warm fall afternoon in New York City, I walked to Andrew Ferentinos‘ studio. The sun was bright and some beautiful object was calling for attention on his desk.  I thought yes, indeed, this is an object created at the desk of the architect to elevate maybe the experience of everyday life, the need to reach for simple but yet important moments that transcend a normal day experience;  without any technical device, or charged the phone. It was indeed there, the “Untitled, Box No, 1”

Andrew Ferentinos, Untitled, Box No. 1, 2016, aluminum, brass, cork, photo©Andrew Ferentinos

The box is constructed from two solid blocks of aluminum measuring 18″ x 4.75″x 3.5″. Voids within the interior provide storage for business cards or small items. The cork lining provides soft contact when closing. Two brass rods are pinned to the underside and raise the box slightly off the table.

Andrew Ferentinos, Untitled, Box No. 1, 2016, aluminum, brass, cork, photo©Andrew Ferentinos

 

Andrew Ferentinos, “Untitled, Box No. 1″, 2016, aluminum, brass, cork,5.5″ x 4.25” x 18″(available in mirror polish or sandblasted with clear anodize), photo©Andrew Ferentinos

 

“I am interested in part-to-whole relationships and the repetition of units in series. The concept of the box is to function as a brick. A brick can stand alone or be one of many bricks in a larger assembly. The form of the box is a result of its potential to construct something larger than itself.  This is achieved by the coupling of flutes and rods that fit together, establishing not only a firm joint and locking mechanism but also a sliding mechanism.  Boxes stacked in series function as the stacked sliding drawers of a cabinet.  Like a brick, there is no prescribed way of joining them together. It is up to the builder to make an arrangement.” (Andrew Ferentinos)

Andrew Ferentinos, 11″ x 17″ graphite on paper, sketches for the ‘unitled Box no.1’

Andrew Ferentinos, 11″ x 17″ graphite on paper. sketches for the ‘untitled box no.1’

Farnsworth House, in Plano, Ilinois,  designed by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, completed 1951,now a modernist icon, was once a controversial home, photo©Arcaid images/Alamy

Villa Savoye, a modernist villa on the outskirts of Paris, designed by Corbusier & Pierre Jeanneret (1928-1931)
Corbusier cited the 1912 book of the Austrian architect Adolf Loos “Ornament and crime”, and quoted Loos’s dictum, “The more a people are cultivated, the more decor disappears.”….He declared that in the future the decorative arts industry would produce only “objects which are perfectly useful, convenient, and have a true luxury which pleases our spirit by their elegance and the purity of their execution and the efficiency of their services.

 

Le Corbusier, Exterior of the Unité d’ Habitation, in Marseille (1947–1952)

The modular design of the apartments inserted into the building the Unité d’ Habitation, in Marseille (1947–1952)

Andrew Ferentinos has created another ‘object of desire’ the ‘Barcelona Column’  

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Andrew Ferentinos, ‘Barcelona Column’, a photo of the prototype,2016  ©Andrew Ferentinos

Barcelona Column is an exact replica of Mies van der Rohe’s legendary Barcelona Pavilion column, yet made of polished yellow brass and slightly scaled down to become an object rather than a building component.

Andrew Ferentinos, ‘Barcelona Column’, a photo of the prototype,2016  ©Andrew Ferentinos

The  Barcelona Pavilion, part of the 1929 International Exposition in Barcelona, Spain,  designed by Mies van der Rohe, was the display of architecture’s modern movement to the world.  Originally named the German Pavilion, the pavilion was the face of Germany after WWI, emulating the nation’s progressively modern culture that was still rooted in its classical history. Its elegant and sleek design combined with rich natural material presented by Mies’ Barcelona Pavilion as a bridge into his future career, as well as architectural modernism.

the Barcelona Pavillion photo ©Gili Merin (resource, ARCDaily, Feb 2011 )

“..In 1930, the original Barcelona Pavilion was dismantled after the International Exposition was over;  in 1983 a group of Catalan architects began working on rebuilding the pavilion from photographs and what little salvaged drawings that remained.  Today it is open daily and can be seen in the same location as in 1929

….the Barcelona Pavilion resides on a narrow site in a quiet tucked away corner secluded from the bustling city streets of Barcelona.  Raised on a plinth of travertine, the Barcelona Pavilion separates itself from its context create atmospheric and experiential effects that seem to occur in a vacuum that dissolves all consciousness of the surrounding city.”

the Barcelona Pavillion photo ©Gili Merin (resource, ARCDaily, Feb 2011 )

 

‘…..The interior of the pavilion consists of offset wall places that work with the low roof plane to encourage movement, as well as activate Mies’ architectural promenade where framed views would induce movement through the narrow passage that would open into a larger volume….’

Andrew Ferentinos studied architecture and art at The Cooper Union in New York City and at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Andrew Ferentinos received a BArch from Cooper Union and an advanced Masters degree from MIT.  Ferentinos opened his architecture office Ferentinos Architecture in 2012 after working in New York City for such prestigious architects as Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM), Raimund Abraham, and Francois de Menil.  Currently, Andrew is working on the re-constructing ambitious revival (private client) of two houses by Peter Eisenman, on West Cornwall, Connecticut, and Hardwick, Vermont.

 

The longer I live, the more beautiful life becomes. If you foolishly ignore beauty, you will soon find yourself without it. Your life will be impoverished. But if you invest in beauty, it will remain with you all the days of your life.
                                                                                                 Frank Lloyd Wright

 

Andrew Ferentinos has been one of my contributor writers with a beautiful piece in earlier times for my blog, on Eero Saarinen’s MIT Chapel 

 

…………………Thank you Andrew Ferentinos for your friendship and your contributing story for  my blog  and learning  so much about architecture with you;  photos and sketches permission publication  of your fabulous ‘objects of desire ‘  (New York, May 2018 )

 

New York_ Francesca DiMattio_ ‘Boucherouite’stitching histories & traditions with porcelain and stoneware & color

Francesca diMattio, “Boucherouite”, Venus II, 2018 (detail), glaze on porcelain and stoneware, resin, enamel, acrylic paint, steel, courtesy salon 94, New York  & artist

 

Upon my return from Europe, from Maremma/Toscana mid-March,  I left a beautiful and lovely springtime landscape.  New York has not smiled to spring; one of those rainy and cold days, I walked one of those mornings into a very special garden at 243 Bowery (salon 94), Francesca DiMattio’s ‘Boucherouite”.

DiMattio returns to the aesthetics of craft for inspiration, metamorphosing traditional techniques and imagery into mad-cap mise en scenes. Boucherouite, the exhibition title, refers to the rag rugs traditionally made from torn and reused clothing by Berber women in North Africa.  In a nod to their improvisational and idiosyncratic style, DiMattio shreds and weaves together images from many centuries and cultures, turning them into a new hybrid form. (Boucherouite exhibition, salon 94, NY, gallery press release)

The Boucherouite rug  is a magical colorful work of art, made by the  Berbers in Morocco, Boucherouite or Boucherwit, from Moroccan Arabic ‘bu Sherwin’ ( a piece torn from pre-used vintage clothing scrap )

 

What is the contract of a copy?  How does a reproduction shift meaning?  Monet’s waterlilies are at once associated with a Kleenex box and to MoMA. I love how a reproduction can reroute the value system, pointing out an image’s inherent instability.  That’s in part why I was drawn to porcelain.  Its development can be mapped through the copying from one culture to another- a history of hybrids: a Dutch version of an Asian scene, the white glazed clay cup faking porcelain, etc. I am most attracted to such dueling combinations. (Francesca DiMattio, February 2018)

Francesca DiMattio, “Boucherouite”, 2018 at Salon 94, Bowery, New York,  exhibition view

Francesca DiMattio, “Boucherouite”,2018 at Salon 94, Bowery, New York, exhibition view

 

Francesca DiMattio, “Boucherouite” ‘Venus II’, 2018, glaze on porcelain and stoneware, resin, enamel, acrylic paint and steel,96x60x38 inches, 2438×152.4×96.5 cm), courtesy of salon 94, NY  & artist

 

Francesca DiMattio, “Boucherouite”,’Venus I’, 2018, glaze on porcelain and stoneware, resin, enamel, acrylic paint and steel, 105 x 44 x 33 inches (266.7 x 111.8 x 83.9 cm), courtesy of salon 94, NY  & artist

As in her painting, in her ceramic work, DiMattio follows the principles of stitching together pieces of fragments of histories and traditions to create multivalent forms and images that connect diverse sculptural and decorative languages around ideas of value, function, gender, and class.  References to decorative wares such as Anatolian Iznik, Chinese Ming Dynasty porcelain, and Dutch Delftware abound alongside allusions to the output of the German factories Meissen and Augarten, the French Du Paquier and Sèvres, and the English Derby, Minton, and Wedgwood. (Claudia Schmuckli “Digital Becoming”, published in DiMattio book, Blaffer Art Museum, University of Houston)

Francesca DiMattio,”Boucherouite” ‘Venus I’, (detail )  2018, glaze on porcelain and stoneware, resin, enamel, acrylic paint and steel, 105 x 44 x 33 inches (266.7 x 111.8 x 83.9 cm), courtesy of salon 94 & artist

Roberta Smith writes at the New York Times (April 2015) on  DiMattio ‘s  ‘Domestic Sculpture’ at Salon 94 “Combining porcelain and stoneware, these bravura bricolages owe something to the ceramics of Nicole Cherubini and Arlene Shechet, while merging the improvisation energy of Peter Voulkos with the neo-Expressionist swagger of Julian Schnabel’s broken-crockery paintings. But they mainly reflect Ms. DiMattio’s voracious reconsiderations of the history of ceramics, seemingly deforming, shattering and piecing (or jamming) together appropriated vessels in contrasting styles, glazes and decorative patterns.”

Cindi Strauss finds a challenging similarity of Ms. DiMattio’s work in “Pattern Recognition”* with Katsuyo Aoki‘s

..perhaps one of the most intriguing comparisons to DiMattio’s ceramic sculpture comes in the work of Katsuyo Aoki (see figure below), a Japanese ceramist who has emerged in the past few years as an exponent of a ‘neo-ornamentalist’ style in Japan. Like DiMattio, Aoki favors the baroque and rococo styles of eighteenth-century Western European porcelain, examples of which she has seen only in books. Through her absorption, dilution, and translation of the ‘pieces’ form and ornament, she questions historical porcelain as a symbol of wealth and power. Aoki’s concern is with how these symbols of beauty from the West have filtrated and affected Japanese culture. ….DiMattio’s concern differs, lying in porcelain’s association with the feminine and the easy dismissal of the medium by society. (*Francesca DiMattio, published book by Blaffert Art Museum, University of Houston)

Katsuyo Aoki, view of the solo exhibition, May 2005, INAX gallery2, Tokyo, 2006

Francesca DiMattio working on her studio finalizing her sculptures for “Boucherouite. photo@Mathew Novak, published at New York Times (permission by Salon 94)

 

While walking  around the exhibition large space of Salon 94, at Bowery,  I could not stop thinking the similarity of the intensity of the work with Niki de Saint Phalle ‘s  just a few days before I was at the Tarot Garden by Niki de Saint Phalle in Maremma, a fourteen-acre sculpture park build atop Etruscan ruins, close by the picturesque village of Capalbio,  which happens to be close to my summer home. (see here “Beautiful Monsters” at New Yorker, April 18, 2016, by Ariel Levy)

Niki de Saint Phalle among her Nanas at the Galerie Alexandre Iolas, Paris, Autumn 1965. Photo: © André Morain, Copyright © 2007-2018 Niki Charitable Art Foundation

Niki de Saint Phalle in her studio at Soisy, surrounded by Le Mangeur d’Enfants, La Mariée sous l’Arbre, and Le Cheval et la Mariée. Photo: © Monique Jacot Copyright © 2007-2018 Niki Charitable Art Foundation

To Saint Phalle, the Tarot Garden was to be an Eden of art and magic. To the local gentry, the garden was an act of vandalism. But there was little they could do besides carp about the “madwoman and her monsters,” because Saint Phalle was under the protection of Italian nobility. (Ariel Levy, “Beautiful Monsters” at New Yorker, April 18, 2016)

Francesca DiMattio, “Boucherouite”,2018 at Salon 94, Bowery, exhibition view, courtesy of salon 94 & artist

On Q & A at Interview Magazine, by Emily McDermott, “Francesca DiMattio’s Unstable Stability, November 5, 2015, Ms. DiMattio says,

….I don’t think I took a sculpture class the whole time I was at Cooper. The sculptures really developed out of the paintings, out of the thinking I had already developed. I definitely had to figure out how to make stuff, and I still do. When I was at school nobody could teach me ceramics. I was lucky enough to have that in my family. 

DiMattios’ answer to Anne Thompson’s question “..is there any modernist critique or engagement in your use of ceramics”  … FD: I choose to work with ceramics for feminist reasons rather than as a modernist critique. I was interested in ceramics for its connection to craft because I think a lot about the structures of craft in general. The up and down of sewing, the stark juxtapositions of colors and patterns in guilts, and how knitting and crocheting can turn the disparate material into something altogether new. (*Francesca DiMattio, published book by Blaffert Art Museum, University of Houston)

lovely Francesca DiMattio with Ana-Nefeli, photo©VenetiaKapernekas

Munich “IL TRITTICO”, Giacomo Puccini at Bayerische Staatsoper_ a brilliant performance

IL TRITTICO: Il tabarro / Suor Angelica / Gianni Schicchi

Three operas in one act each: Composer: Giacomo Puccini ; Libretti by Giuseppe Adami and Giovacchino Forzano  (In Italian with German and English surtitles)

 IL TRITTICO (Suor Angelica): Ermonela Jaho (Suor Angelica), Ensemble und Chor der Bayerischen Staatsoper photo©Wilfried Hösl

 

musical direction: Kirill Petrenko  production: Lotte de Beer
Conceptual advice: Peter te Nuyl 
stage: Bernhard Hammer 
Costumes: Jorine van Beek 
light: Alex Brok 
dramaturgy: Malte Krasting 
choirs: Sören Eckhoff 

Last December, few days before Christmas, I had a lovely invitation for “Il Triticco, one of the most underrated opera by Giacomo Puccini, for the Bayerische Staatsoper_Munich,   one of the most triumphant opera houses of our contemporary time.

Three radically different sets being demanded for this 3-act opera and a balanced ‘marriage’ of Ms Lotte de Beer ( production /stage design), the music direction by Kirill Petrenko and the performers, principally Ermonela Jaho on the role of Suor Angelica emanated  to an astonishingly outstanding performance.

Simply stunning, simply gorgeous….And then something very rare happens: De Beer takes the stage, and instead of the usual boos the applause gets even louder. The spinning spaceship has done it to the audience. “(Sueddeutsche Zeitung”)

These three self-contained operas whose stories have nothing to do with each other  act as strange neighbors; First,  ‘Il Tabarro’ (The Cloak), a melodramatic slice of life and marital sleaze, a chill drama on the Seine; then follows the delicate tragedy of Suor Angelica, a religious tale set in a convent, (location:near Siena), featuring an entirely female cast; and the third act comes a devilish comedy of Gianni Schicchi (location; Florence) in which a family of hypocrites are duped out  of their inheritance by a perfect villain.

 Giacomo Puccini has summarized under the art historical term “triptych” – Il tabarro, Suor Angelica and Gianni Schicchi  three one-act operas,  scenes of reality. Puccini ventures to narrate the world as a whole in a grand opera as in a great novel.  Puccini sets three historical highlights, bundled by a music that understands the human impulses of relentless coldness to glowing passion.

Ms. de Beer doesn’t think operas should abandon the audiences they already have in favor of new audiences, but “I think they should get a second brand, like a younger version run by young artists who get a chance to try and communicate with their contemporaries.(NY Times, 2014, Breaking the Rules of Opera for a New Generation)

Il trittico (Sour Angelica): Michaela Schuster (Die Fürstin), Ermonela Jaho (Suor Angelica) photo ©Wilfried Hösl

Around 1904, Puccini first began planning a set of one-act operas, largely because of the success of  Cavalleria Rusticana.  Originally, he planned to write each opera to reflect one of the parts of Dante’s Divine Comedy However, he eventually based only Gianni Schicchi on Dante’s epic poem; the link in the final work is that each opera deals with the concealment of a death. 

Il trittico (Sour Angelica): Ermonela Jaho (Suor Angelica) photo©Wilfried Hösl

“Il Trittico is not only a showcase of some of Puccini’s best writing, but it can also be a showcase for a director who is unable to resist the temptation to try to link them at least thematically, since there is little common convergence of tone, period or character between the three short works. Lotte de Beer connects the three pieces in only the most abstract of ways for the new production in Munich. Each of the one-act operas remains in the period of its original setting, and plays out closely to the libretto, but each take place within the wide opening of what looks like a large tunnel. The concept behind this is something to do with time, connecting the past with the future, but it’s not something that makes a great impression or present the works in any new or revelatory way.” (Opera Journal, Puccini, Il Trittico, Munich 2017) 

Il trittico (Sour Angelica): Ermonela Jaho (Suor Angelica) photo©Wilfried Hösl

After the extensive music dramas of Richard Wagner and Giuseppe Verdi, the music world occupied itself with the question of what can follow those form-perfect opera dramas with leitmotif technique and a duration of many hours of performance; an increase no longer seemed possible. In Italy, therefore, people around the year 1880 recollected the short form of one-act play, which was not completely unknown. As early as the 16th century, it was customary to insert smaller and stand-alone “mini-comedies” as intermedia between the acts of tragedies, in order to make the evening evenings more varied. Over time, the comic intermezzi between soprano and bass buffo developed out of these, while in France they created variety through ballet inserts between the tragedy files. (Amelie Langermantel, Il Trittico-Die Kunst Des Einakters, 12.20.2017)

 IL TRITTICO (Il tabarro): Eva-Maria Westbroek (Giorgetta), Wolfgang Koch (Michele), Yonghoon Lee (Luigi); photo©Wilfried Hösl

 IL TRITTICO (Il tabarro): Eva-Maria Westbroek (Giorgetta), Wolfgang Koch (Michele), Yonghoon Lee (Luigi); photo©Wilfried Hösl

The idea of the one-acter Puccini did not seem to have let go since then. At the turn of the century, he focused more intensively on the idea of three co-ordinated short operas dedicated to various episodes of the Divine Comedy Dante, each depicting the areas of Inferno, Purgatorio and Paradiso (Hell, Purification Mountain and Paradise). Both the unsatisfactory libretto search for three matching stories, and in crucial instance Puccini’s publisher Giulio Ricordi spoke against the implementation of this fabric idea. However, Puccini thus laid the foundation for his Trittico, which should unite as well as the Divine Comedy in three initially independent parts under a theme. Over the years, the composer tried repeatedly  to implement the idea of the three separate acts and thought, for example, in 1907 to set to music by Maxim Gorki. Again publisher Ricordi expressed his concerns that those topics would not be suitable for an opera and would never sell to the public.

 IL TRITTICO (Suor Angelica): Ermonela Jaho (Suor Angelica), Ensemble und Chor der Bayerischen Staatsoper photo©Wilfried Hösl

 

Many thanks to Christoph Koch (Head of Press & Editorial Content /STAATSOPER) for his invitation and  support  and patience to finalize this post.

 

 

‘Lightscape’ porcelain quietness creations of Ruth Gurvich

‘Lightscapes ‘: light and delicate as paper, precise as an origami object, and pure  and clean as freshly fallen snow.

all photos, courtesy of Porzellan Manufaktur Nymphenburg

When the days are heavy and stormy, as last days in New York, my luxury refuge memories is my passion for porcelain.  About a year ago, a very misty morning, while living in Munich, having an invitation to visit the Porzellan Manufacturer Nymphenburg, I drove to Nymphenburg Palace, where springtime I visited often the gardens, to experience the creations of Ruth Grulich.

Porcelain has been made for 1,000 years, traded for 1,000 years. And it has been in Europe for 800 of these.  You can trace a few shards earlier.  These broken fragments of Chinese for gleam provocatively alongside the heavy earthenware pitchers they were found with an no one can work out how they got to this Kentish cemetery, the Urbino hillside. There are scattering of porcelain across medieval Europe in inventories of Jean, doc de Berry, a couple of popes, the will of Piero de’Medici with his ulna copper di porcellana, a cup of porcelain. (Edmund de Waal, The White Road, a pilgrimage of sorts,

….Marco Polo reaches ‘a city called Tinju’.

Here, they make bowls of porcelain, large and small, of incompatible beauty. They are made nowhere else except in this city, and from here they are exported all over the world. In the city itself, they are so plentiful and cheap that for a Venetian groat you might buy their bowls of such beauty that nothing lovelier could be imagined.  These dishes are made of a crumbly earth or clay which is dug as though from a mine and stacked in huge mounds and then left for thirty or forty years exposed to wind, rain, and sun. By this time the earth is so refined that dishes made of it are of an azure tint with a very brilliant scene. You must understand that when a man makes a mound of this earth he does so for his children; the time of maturing is so long that he cannot hope to draw any profit from it himself or to put it to use, but the son who succeeds him will repay the fruit. (Edmund de Waal

.

Ruth Gurevich’s models have not created additively; she does a model with paper, she constructs, usually starting with a single sheet of paper.  She cuts, folds, and designs according to a precisely calculated plan.  Like a true architect, Gurvich leaves nothing to chance.  And this is true when it comes to choosing the paper as well; she uses silky soft, absorbent paper made from cotton fibers, like the packing paper used for rolls of film. To fix the models in place, she uses off-the-shelf paper glue.  This creates tensions, kinks, and seams that give the vessel support and structure. (Nymphenburg Manu Factum)

Ruth Gurvich to the question ‘how do you transform paper into porcelain’,  She says: …‘for the production, we had to take a completely fresh approach.  The idea was always to translate the paper character of the models as accurately as possible, even including to the feels of it, but I also wanted to expose the construction process and structure. The cuts and splices, the kinks and curves, even the measurements I had written in pencil on the model, which provides the idea for the decorative painting.’

Ruth Gurvich originally studied architecture before she turned to painting, and this is reflected in her creations. The major theme of her life’s work is the examination of spatiality and dimension, and the passion to captivate space in delicate porcelain vases.

all photos, courtesy of Porzellan Manufaktur Nymphenburg

‘Porcelain had interested me for a long time, so the idea was to translate the feel and character of the paper models, as accurately as possible, to porcelain,’ the Paris-based Argentine, who is known for her three-dimensional work with paper. A beautiful video, (Ruth Gurvich: An artist with scissors and paper): camera by Frank Becker.

Ruth Gurvich was born in Cordoba, Argentina in 1961. Initially, she studied architecture in her homeland, but in 1979 she switched to art, continuing her studies at the École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts in Paris from 1987 to 1991. In her designs, Ruth Gurvich aims to show the shapes and structures of everyday things the way they are. Her ‘lightscape teapot 2011’, manufactured by Nymphenburg Porzellan, is part of the Product and Decorative Arts department at Cooper Hewitt, New York.  Ruth Gurvich lives and works in Paris.

 

 

 

 

New Haven: Tom Burr revives Jean Genet’s ‘May Day Speech’ at Yale/ the Pirelli bldg

Tom BurrThe Railings (May, 1970), 2017 detail, photo@courtesy of the artist and Bortolami, NY

 

“What is still called American dynamism is an endless trembling.”

 Jean Genet’s prophetic declaration, written for a speech he delivered on  May 1, 1970 at Yale University, before an audience of approximately 25,000 (published in Hyperallergic, Tim Keane, Jan 21,2017

Reflecting last days of our ‘contemporary political landscape’, I recall that rainy  Sunday morning, November 5th,  invited by  Stefania Bortolami  for a  journey to New Heaven as of the last day of a ambitious project by artist Tom Burr, part of the expanding out of the box /Bortolami gallery projects “Artist/City”.  Over the past six months, Tom Burr has occupied and activated the first of the Marcel Breuer-designed Armstrong Rubber Company, later and more colloquially known as the “Pirelli Building” for the Pirelli Tire Company.After extensive demolition and remediation to the lobby’s original interiors, local codes required new railings. Burr produced and engraved new stainless steel railings with the complete text of Jean Genet’s “May Day Speech” delivered at Yale on the occasion of the 1970 May Day Rally (shortly after the construction of the building) in support of the Black Panthers, and their recently imprisoned founder, Bobby Seale. Burr named this site-responsive sculptural work The Railings (May 1970). (gallery press)

Tom Burr / New Haven, Phase 1, 2017, installation view, Bortolami, New Haven, photo@courtesy of the artist and Bortolami, New York

In order to open the Pirelli Building to the public, the City of New Haven required the artist and the gallery to cordon off the rough edges of its naked interior with safety railings; this became the most and central piece for Burr as he inscribed with Genet’s speech, in full.  Genet’s words may ring  true today: ‘We whites are living perhaps in a liberal democracy, but the black lives, like it or not, under a paternalistic, authoritarian, imperialistic regime.’

Tom Burr / New Haven, Phase 1, 2017, installation view, Bortolami, New Haven,photo@courtesy of the artist and Bortolami, NY

Genet was legendary for his queer subversion of power and his fetish for domination; his face appears twice in the Pirelli Building’s open-plan ground, printed on aluminum plates. Photographs of young and old Genet (Bae Genet / Grey Genet, all works 2017) rest on either side of a urinal divider, separated – or perhaps conjoined by – decades of sexual deviance.

Tom Burr / New Haven, Phase 1, 2017, installation view, Bortolami, New Haven,photo@courtesy of the artist and Bortolami, NY

 

“Located in the artist’s hometown, the Breuer- designed building constitutes a cipher for the various social and political concerns central to Burr’s work, not to mention the artist’s own autobiography. As he explains, “I was born there a handful of years before the Pirelli Building was built, so it was always in my mind while I was growing up.” Armstrong Rubber commissioned the building in 1968 for its factory and executive offices and it became an iconic emblem as the entrance to the city o Interstate 95, particularly at a time when the city was gaining attention for its urban renewal and restructuring. The building was envisioned and constructed as a symbol of utopian urban strategy but, like many examples of  Brutalism became a representation of the failure of Modernism’s idealistic aspirations.” (Bortolami gallery,NY, press text)

today’s Pirelli /IKEA bldg.(photo@VK),Nov.5, 2017

This Brutalist masterpiece has served as the site of an evolving exhibition that commenced with the first phase, Pre-Existing Conditions, and it concluded with the final phase,  “Always Already Happening”, an ongoing durational performance consisting of simultaneous readings throughout the space …..

Tom Burr during the last day of the Artist/City project, (November 5,2017) orchestrated  a four-hour performance at the ground floor;  a group of “actors” /Yale are students were reading texts by or responding to the legacy of Anni Albers, Jean Genet, and the Black Panthers; the actors  were positioned near “zones of intensity” and each person was  reading  a specific  text during the 4 hour duration.

Yale art students on 4 hour performance,Nov.5, 2017  photos@VK

 

Yale Art students hired by Tom Burr reciting text (4-hour performance/Nov 5, 2017)photo @VKThe interior space had no heating and the constant rain and greyness of the day o had created a heavy atmosphere within  the dry and gloomy colors inside; while  the actors /students were reading, I found it somehow refreshing to take snippets of the text mirroring the experience of reading The Railing (May 1970)

Tom BurrThe Railings (May, 1970), 2017 Blackened steel, polished steel etched with Jean Genet’s 1970 “May Day Speech”, tempered glass, 23 panels, total length 42 in x 104 ft / 106.5 x 3170 cm, photo@courtesy of the artist and Bortolami, New York

 

Located in the artist’s hometown, the Breuer- designed building constitutes a cipher for the various social and political concerns central to Burr’s work, not to mention the artist’s own autobiography. As he explains, “I was born there a handful of years before the Pirelli Building was built, so it was always in my mind while I was growing up.” Armstrong Rubber commissioned the building in 1968 for its factory and executive o ces and it became an iconic emblem as the entrance to the city o Interstate 95, particularly at a time when the city was gaining attention for its urban renewal and restructuring. The building was envisioned and constructed as a symbol of utopian urban strategy but, like many examples of Brutalism, became a representation of the failure of Modernism’s idealistic aspirations. (gallery press text)

Tom Burr Women Who Work, 2017 powder coated steel guard rails, IKEA desk chairs, direct-to-substrate print on aluminum, book (Women’s Work: Textile Art from the Bauhaus by Sigrid Wortmann Weltge), photo@courtesy of the artist and Bortolami, NY

 

Burr’s sculptural composition entitled Women Who Work consists of a group of IKEA chairs facing away from a printed aluminum panel featuring a textile design by Joseph Albers. Burr positioned a book called “Women’s Work: Textile Art from the Bauhaus” is open on one of the empty chairs, suggesting maybe an absent audience.

Tom Burr ‘Brutalist Bathroom’, 2017 Powder coated steel guard rails, bathroom doors from Marcel Breuer’s Armstrong Rubber Co building, direct-to-substrate print on aluminum, photo@courtesy of the artist and Bortolami, New York

 

Next to two bathroom doors, one labeled “Gentlemen” and the other without any label, Burr positioned a portrait of J. Edgar Hoover brandishing a gun.  At that time Hoover presiding  FBI Director in 1970 he ordered his agents to disrupt and discredit radical groups, like the Black Panthers who were on trial in New Haven at the time.

Best known as the home of Yale, one of the most elite universities in the US,  New Haven is a surprisingly blue-collar port town. Tom Burr was born in New Haven in 1963, under the mayoralty of Dick Lee, a prodigious builder and an enthusiast of modernism. In 1968, Lee convinced the Armstrong Rubber Company to hire Marcel Breuer to design their corporate headquarters: an imposing seven-story concrete tower atop a long base, like a head on a recumbent body. Armstrong was bought by Pirelli, a tire manufacturer, who later sold the building to IKEA; after demolishing its base, though, the Swedish megastore decided to set up shop next door, leaving the stripped Breuer behemoth abandoned for over 15 years. (text from gallery press)

Tom Burr Body/ Building (blue), 2017 Used blue work shirts, metal clothing rack, wooden pedestal, photo@courtesy of the artist and Bortolami, New York

 

“Genet’s highly stylized, sexually explicit works in memoir, fiction and playwriting transformed each of those genres, scandalizing readers and audiences and turning him into one of the most exasperating and profound moralists of the twentieth century. Late in his career, facing a decade-long writer’s block, his writing was reborn, first by engaging with the visual art and later, through writing about aspiring revolutionary groups who were fighting power from the margins. Little wonder, then, that by the late 1960s he was drawn to the trembling that was shaking the United States.” (Tim Keane, Hyperallergic, January 21, 2017)

Jean Genet, “May Day Speech” (1970) (© City Lights Books)

The speech, read in its English translation by a founding Black Panther member, Elbert “Big Man” Howard, consists of a rousing appeal on behalf of Bobby Seale, who was then on trial in New Haven for murder (the charges were eventually dropped). Genet’s oratorical strategy, a full-scale assault on the toxic apathy of white liberals, remains prophetic.

Genet blames the prevalence of racism on his Yale audience. “It is very clear that white radicals owe it to themselves,” he declares, “to behave in ways that would tend to erase their privileges.” Closing on a provocative note, he further goads the audience by comparing universities to “comfortable aquariums […] where people raise goldfish capable of nothing more than blowing bubbles.” Reread in light of the response to controversial police killings of African Americans in Charlotte, Ferguson, and elsewhere, Genet’s words bluntly spell out the diplomatically stated ideas coursing through the Black Lives Matter movement. (Harriet Staff, ‘A Look at Jean Genet’s 1970 May Day Speech,published at Poetry Foundation, January 23, 2017)

Angela Davis and Jean Genet  (Berkeley,70s,published at Blogcitylights, on Mumia Abu-Jamal’s article)

‘……The Frenchman’s name was Jean Genet, but I had no idea what that meant. David gave me a slender book, entitled The Blacks, with the name Jean Genet listed as its playwright. I turned to the back cover to learn more. It described the play, The Blacks, as an example of what was called ‘The Theatre of the Absurd’ (Mumia Abu-Jamal, Blogcitylights, September 9, 2016)

I want to thank  Tom Burr and Stefania Bortolami, an amazing visionary gallerist, who gave me  the chance to travel thru time, challenge and question myself where we are now as viewers, as spectators, as life critics, as young in heart revolutionary students, as mothers, being concerned of our times and the political fearful environment.  My early student days in Berkeley was after Genet and Angela Davis ‘s teaching days while their speeches were ‘rocking’ the strong temples of the University.  Indeed, their echo was still there; it also spread thru the Pirelli building that morning thru Burr’s selection of performance texts by the students and his fabulous rail installation/art piece.

 “The essence of theatre is the need to create not merely signs,” Genet writes, “but complete and compact images masking a reality that may consist in absence of being.”

Tom Burr with young visitors, Maya Fuchs Bortolami and Nefeli Brandhorst, Nov 5th, 2017, photo@VK

 

So much of my specificity as an author, as an artist, has to do with being a queer subject. …I became interested in throwing these things into the foreground, not letting them exist in an anonymous vessel. I’m interested in this project being a culmination of these facets, these problems/masquerades/privileges/disappointments, of both this particular building and my own body. All of these conditions that operate both metaphorically and actually, manifest in the presence of the building and in the hopes and dreams and expectations and all the disappointments and abandonments as well. … (Tom Burr, as told to Julian Elias Bronner, Artforum,500 Words, Feb 3, 2017.online)

rendering made “The Railings” 23 panels, total length: 42 in x 104ft (106.5 x 3170cm), 2017  @courtesy Bortolami gallery, New York
“I don’t have a preservationist approach to my project,” says the artist. “I like the building, so I don’t want to see it taken down. But I’m not here to save it. I’m interested in the fact that it’s amputated.” (Tom Burr to Mark Byrnes at CityLab, Oct.5, 2017

 

 

New York: Karin Waisman’s new piece “Stem 3” silence speaks

“Space is not merely given, it too  is produced; by analogy, we can evoke the space created by a musical chord, its wave-like expansion producing a tapestry of sound.”
                                                         (Olivier Berggruen on Karen Waisman’s work)

 

A short ride with the subway from Manhattan to Queens last week,  before the temperatures dropped dramatically in New York City on my way to visit my dear friend’s studio, Karin Waisman to see her new piece,  “Stem 3#”  a jewelry piece.  While reading a great book, Pascal Mercier ‘ s ‘Night Train to Lisboa” I was traveling through time since I met Karin and arrived early a sunny afternoon at Karin’s lovely small studio; our conversation unfolded slowly with green tea revealing the essential nature of her work.

Karin Waisman  studied architecture as an undergraduate in her native Buenos Aires and later earned an MFA in sculpture from Cornell.  She lives in New York with her family and goes uninterrupted to her studio every day. She is an accomplished artist with many exhibitions and site- specific installations to her credit.   Despite being trained as an architect, she prefers to work on her art full time.  A great writer, my dear friend, Olivier Berggruen, notes on  Karin’s work:

El Dorado, 2008-2014. Installation view;photo ©Karin Waisman

Karin Waisman creates haunting, ethereal works in which ornamentation acts as a founding principle.  Formal elements alternate between refined vegetal motifs and a proliferation of geometric patterns. These unfold effortlessly across a flat surface that is primarily dynamic rather than static. The expansion of geometric forms occurs in a spontaneous, organic fashion that undermines the Pythagorean ideal on which they seem to be based.

        Karin Waisman  Stem #3, 2017    Carved in wax and cast in  gold 1”D x 7/8”W x1-1/8”H; photo ©Karin Waisman

 

Karin Waisman, El Dorado, installation view, 2008-14. Wall 2, dimension variable;photo ©Karin Waisman

 

….the interlacing of lines is the foundation of the structure of the arabesque and its geometric complexity (much cultivated in late Antiquity) reveals repeated patterns, thus allowing the beholder to imagine the design extending beyond its actual limits. It also introduces the idea of infinite connection of correspondence. In one-way or another, everything is deduced and linked together.  The arabesque was not just exclusive to Islamic art. Rococo ornament, for example, introduced a fluid and whimsical style that has applied to a variety of media, from boiseries and mirrors to porcelain and silver. 

Karin Waisman’ work refers to 17th Century needlepoint, the craft involving lace making by embracing potentially infinite growth forms, ornamentation generated through a painstaking process.  (Olivier Berggruen essay  ‘Efflorescence & Evanescence’ at the book/ cataloge ‘Karin Waisman – The Garden of Eden’, New York, 2004)

( boiserie: finely-sculptured wood paneling or wainscoating, particularly  in 18th-century French architecture, source; Collins dictionary)

Karin Waisman, Evanescence I, 1998-1999. Pencil on velum, 68″h x 96″w;photo ©Karin Waisman

 

Karin Waisman, Tondo II, 2006. Cast Resin, 84″ diameter; photo ©Karin Waisman  

Karin Waisman -Puzzled, 1998-1999. Cast Aluminum 432″h X 24″w x 2″d. Permanent Collection Plattsburgh Sculpture Park. Myers Fine Arts Building;photo ©Karin Waisman

Karin Waisman -Puzzled, 1998-1999 (detail) Cast Aluminum 432″h X 24″w x 2″d. Permanent Collection Plattsburgh Sculpture Park. Myers Fine Arts Building;photo ©Karin Waisman

    Karin Waisman  Stem #3, 2017    Carved in wax and cast in  gold 1”D x 7/8”W x1-1/8”H;
photo ©Karin Waisman

Stem #3 is part of a new series of pieces that are to be worn on the hand. This new tactile element of the work explores how one perceives weight, temperature and different surfaces on our own body. My previous pieces for public places, explored the relationship of our body moving in front of the work or in an enclosed space, perceiving it as a field of vision. In these sculptures the relationship is changed; we hold, move and transport the piece with our own body. (Karin Waisman, 2017) 

In her work, ‘Evanescence I‘, Olivier Berggruen continues, ‘… The vegetal-inspired motifs that appear in this inner sanctum evoke growth and movement without falling into representation. In other words, the motif that pervades this work is inspired by vegetal forms but nowhere is there a fully formed, self-contained plant to be seen. The principle of vegetal, organic growth is used as a formal and metaphorical device to structure the work. Plants have the infinite potential for growth. Vegetal forms here are an evocation of life, of that very form that appears in movement.’ 

Karin Waisman, Evanescence I, 1998-1999. Pencil on velum, 68″h x 96″w, detail;photo ©Karin Waisman

see Karin Waisman   and more about her work  see here 

  Karin Waisman,  Stem #3, 2017  Carved in wax and cast in recycled silver  1”D x 7/8”W x1-1/8”H;photo ©Karin Waisman

Karin loves to be surrounded by nature; her second studio is two hours away from the city in Eastern Long Island where she escapes to work, a sanctuary, a place to work on her large pieces and preparation sketches on site-specific site-specific work that often incorporates architectural elements.  One of them is at Chihuahua Desert at the foothill of the 18th century silver mining town Real Catorce, the ‘Blue Oasis’, finalized in 2013.

Blue Oasis is a partially buried concrete structure, fifteen feet square and twelve feet high on the inside. We enter by descending a narrow and dark stair, a transitional space that leads to a large tiled cubic room. All the walls, floor, and ceiling are covered with a square encaustic tile that is patterned with concentric circles in blues and greens. A stainless steel tube penetrates some of these circles to the outside, allowing for natural light and ventilation as well as serving as a small oculus that allows the viewer to see the desert landscape beyond. Working within this extreme site, Blue Oasis exists for the viewer to establish a temporary dialog with Nature through the lens of the vibrant blue light that pulsates within. It transforms the landscape from within. On the outside it blends with the desert landscape, half- buried in the land. (Karin Waisman, April 2013)

‘Blue Oasis’, San Luis Potosi, Mexico, 2011. Permanent collection Sculpture Park San Luis Potosi.  Exterior view, reinforce concrete;photo ©Karin Waisman

‘Blue Oasis’, San Luis Potosi, Mexico, 2011. Permanent collection Sculpture Park San Luis Potosi. (Detail tiled main space with wall and ceiling perforations);photo ©Karin Waisman

‘Blue Oasis’, San Luis Potosi, Mexico, 2011. Permanent collection Sculpture Park San Luis Potosi. (Detail wall perforation looking to the desert from inside main space;photo ©Karin Waisman

This optic effect reinforces the idea of movement and transformation. The sound of our own bodies reflects on the tiled walls, floor and ceiling creating a continuous echo. Outside is the desert, harsh and sublime, tamed by this new oasis, a shelter, a second skin. The possibility of perceiving the walls as a limit that separates the inside space from the outside world and as an element that grants that space its symbolic quality is only possible because I, myself, inhabit my body within the limits of my own skin. (Karin Waisman, April 2013) 

 

 

New York: Carey Young “Palais de Justice” and Franz Kafka ‘Before the Law’ 1915 parable at Paula Cooper gallery

SEPTEMBER 7 – OCTOBER 14, 2017 at Paula Cooper gallery, 21st street, Chelsea
published:(VK)  October 8th, 2017, Berlin

Installation view, Carey Young, Palais de Justice,2017,single-channel HD video (from 4K); 16:9, color, quadrophonic sound;17 mins 58 sec,Photo: Steven Probert  © Carey Young. Courtesy Paula Cooper Gallery, New York

 

Carey Young presents a  challenging,  quitely stunning 18 minute video, and  poetic exhibition at Paula Cooper’s space on 21st street.  The piece, a new video  ‘Palais de Justice’ develops Young’s interest in law, gender and performance, and considers the complex relations between lenses, surveillance and ideas of framing or being framed.

Carey Young (London-based British -American visual artist,b.1970, Lusaka, Zambia) takes her inspiration in part  from “Before the Law” by Franz Kafka (1915) parable Focusing on “gateways” to the law, both architectural and human, Young’s work here—a quietly stunning 18-minute video shot in the Brussels court building in which the protagonist is continuously denied access to ‘the law,’ the series depicts these doorways as metaphors for the legal system itself.

Before the law sits a gatekeeper. To this gatekeeper comes a man from the country who asks to gain entry into the law. But the gatekeeper says that he cannot grant him entry at the moment.  The man thinks about it and then asks if he will be allowed to come in later on.  “It is possible,” says the gatekeeper, “but not now.” At the moment the gater to the law stands open, as always, and the gatekeeper walks to the side, so the man bends over in order to see through the gater into the inside. When the gatekeeper notices that, he laughs and says: “If it tempts you so much, try it in spite of my prohibition. But take note: I am  powerful.  And I am only the most lowly gatekeeper. But from room to room stand gatekeepers, each  more powerful than the other. I can’t endure even one glimpse of the third.” (exerpt “Before the Law” (1915) by Franz Kafka, transl.by Ian Johnston)

 

Installation view, Carey Young, Palais de Justice, 2017,single-channel HD video (from 4K); 16:9, color, quadrophonic sound;
17 mins 58 secs,Paula Cooper Gallery, New York  © Carey Young. Courtesy Paula Cooper Gallery, New York

 

Palais de Justice was filmed surreptitiously at the Palais de Justice in Brussels, a vast 19th century courthouse designed in an ornate late Neo-Baroque style. Contradicting the familiar patriarchal culture of law, Young’s concealed camera depicts female judges and lawyers at court. Sitting at trial, directing proceedings or delivering judgments, female judges are spied through a series of circular windows in courtroom doors.(gallery’s press release).

Installation view, Carey Young, Palais de Justice, 2017,single-channel HD video (from 4K); 16:9, color, quadrophonic sound;
17 mins 58 secs, Paula Cooper Gallery  © Carey Young. Courtesy Paula Cooper Gallery, New York

 

“…..Examined through the lens of contemporary politics, both within the United States and abroad, the film acts as a critical counterpoint to regressive trends towards autocratic government and limited civil rights, particularly those belonging to women….”

Installation view, Carey Young, Palais de Justice, Paula Cooper Gallery, New York (9/7 – 10/14/17) © Carey Young. Courtesy Paula Cooper Gallery, New York

 

The exhibition includes a series of photographs, images  of courthouse doorways….Carey Young in continuous analysis based on Before the Law, after Franz Kafka’s 1915 parable, which the protagonist is continuously denied access to ‘the law,’ depicts these doorways as metaphors for the legal system itself.

As Carey Young  told Elephant in an interview earlier this year, the law “beckoned as an institution that had been little explored by artists, and one which had such a relevant philosophical literature in terms of art—Derrida, Agamben, Deleuze, Foucault, Butler etc. … In so many ways, mainly to do with its lack of visuality and lack of understanding of creativity, law is an “other” to art, and yet when one takes an artistic subject—ideas of site, space or landscape, for example—law offers me a way to reframe it in a playful and unfamiliar way, in which I can also conflate it with ideas of control, rhetoric, power and neoliberalism.”(Jeffrey Kastner, on Vice, sept 28th, 2017) 
“…. Courtrooms are glimpsed in various ways – a red glow emanating from one entices us with its surprising warmth and seductiveness; a red velvet curtain in another calls to mind law’s reliance on aspects of theatre; in a third, a courtroom visible through a frosted glass window glows like an abstract painting, as if law’s abstractions may connect with artistic thinking in ways which have not yet been fully considered…..”

Installation view, Carey Young, Palais de Justice, 2017  single-channel HD video (from 4K); 16:9, color, quadrophonic sound;
17 mins 58 secs,Paula Cooper Gallery, New York  © Carey Young. Courtesy Paula Cooper Gallery, New York

 

Few days after the opening of the exhibition, September 8th, Anthony Allen,  director of Paula Cooper gallery organized a challenging and intellectual  panel discussion with Carey Young, Colby Chamberlain and Joan Kee , where many questions were raised on law, patriarchal society and barriers…

Carey Young (b. 1970) is a British-American artist based in London, England. Her work has been exhibited in prominent national and international exhibitions and has been the subject of numerous one-person exhibitions including at the Dallas Museum of Art, curated by Gavin Delahunty (2017); the Migros Museum of Contemporary Art, curated by Raphael Gygax (2013); Eastside Projects, Birmingham, England (2010), which traveled to Cornerhouse, Manchester and MiMA, Middlesborough; Le Quartier, Quimper, France (2013); The Power Plant, Toronto (2009); and the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis (2009). Young’s work has also been presented at the Taipei Biennial (2010), Tate Britain (2009), Moscow Biennale (2007), Modern Art Oxford (2007), Performa 05 and the Venice Biennale (2003).
Colby Chamberlain is Lecturer in Discipline in Modern Art and Theory at Columbia University and is a founding editor of Triple Canopy. His scholarship and criticism focuses on intersections of art and other fields of professional practice, in particular the law.
Joan Kee is Associate Professor in the History of Art at the University of Michigan. A contributing editor for Artforum, she received a J.D. from Harvard Law School and has recently completed a book on the relationship between contemporary art and law in post-sixties America. In 2016, she guest edited a section of the Brooklyn Rail on art and the law whose contributors included Carey Young.

 

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