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visits on art, design, architecture and literature

‘preserving currant tanks for human rest’ at ‘Dexamenes’

‘Dexamenes’, (Kourouta, Peloponese), Greece A postwar winery, has been transformed into a conscious-travel resort  (by Venetia Kapernekas, July 2020)

 

 all photos unless noted otherwise ©Claus Brechenmacher & Reiner Bauman  

 

“There is design in everything … in a cloud, in a wall, in a chair, in the sea, in the sand, in a pot.”
                                                              Clara Porset,Mexico City, 1952

 

Nikos Karaflos, the visionary entrepreneur-turned-hotelier, originally contacted k-studio www.k-studio.gr  several years ago with an idea to transform an abandoned wine factory on the west coast of mainland Greece, into a hotel.  Nikos ‘s family is from that part of Peloponese (municipality of Helias )  and his  memories as a child were around that area of ‘kourouta’ and love for his childhood family summers filtered his long dream to create/revive something special.

“Trying to raise awareness to save an old factory of currants from demolishing can be a horribly disheartening process” Nikos told me; with family help the  purchase through an auction to save that old factory and its history became a reality.

The history of Dexamenes°° dates back to the ‘Era of Currants‘.  Since the liberation of Greece in 1830, the cultivation of currants took on impressive dimensions and currants were the main export product of the Greek Kingdom. But when the ‘Currants’ Crisis broke out in 1910 in Greece, the trade of currants collapsed and there was a need to convert the unsold stock of currants into alternative products, such as wine. This was when the first wineries and distilleries were created. Dexamenes°° was built on the sea so that ships could be loaded with wine directly from the tanks, before setting sail for the major overseas markets. The derelict, industrial structures that characterize the site were left relatively untouched since the 1920’s, sitting quietly on one of the most unspoiled and beautiful stretches of coastline in the western Peloponnese. 

After a long process of design, development and incredible bureaucracy,  Nikos ‘s  dedication to the management of the project had been completed and the Dexamenes°° Seaside Hotel www.dexamenes.com opened June 2019.

Those  difficult last months for the whole planet as of Covid19, the  decisions and planning have become the most difficult task.  I was informed about the Dexamenes°° while in New York last fall, after a direct phone call  I made the  decision  to visit the spring 2020 with my daughter. The lockdown permitted us to visit end of June. My early childhood memories (my mother comes from that region) and the summers in that nearby seaside,  connected me  to a short pilgrimage trip and indeed became our destination travel.  We both immersed ourselves in this fabulous natural landscape of the Dexamenes°° for 12 unforgettable days.

While I am editing and writing on my desk today, a very unusual hot afternoon  in Munich, I recollect my memories of our arrival the  hot afternoon June 20th, arriving after a 3 hour drive from Athens, indeed the feeling was similar maybe going to an Arizona dessert.  Nikos Karaflos was waiting for us with the lovely consierge Georgia Koutsioubi behind their protective covid-19  masks with refreshing glasses of fresh lime & cucumber juice; walking thru the old factory Nikos shares with us the inside story of his dedication and dream. The landscape was welcoming us with a splendid embrace heat while walking around the factory and the breeze was traversing  through.

Constantly one is drawn to the abundant growths of the regional plants, where very carefully have been selected by the architects and Nikos Karaflos, from the yellow mexican feather grass  (nasella tenuissima ) and along the border fence by the sea the leymus arenarius. Recollections of my last spring trip in Tulum in Yacatan, feeling of disorientation being  in this magical place in the western Peloponese, just across from the Ionian islands.

I was  drawn to the details within this stark landscape. What a  natural splendour. (midday photos @venetiakapernekas)

                                                                           photo @venetiakapernekas

From the outset it was clear that the strong history and raw beauty of the existing buildings should not only be preserved, but be showcased in a design that would breathe new life into their walls. Here the architects plans compliment their brutality with elegant interventions and transform their austere functionality into a place of calm, comfort and relaxation. This last february, Dexamenes was one of the 3 projects by the K-Studio included in the beautiful edition, New Perspectives, The Design Hotel Book, Edition 2020 

I recollected memories while a Berkeley  University student in the mid 80s, an invitation brought me south to Palm Springs. Palm Springs made Desert Modernism, not the other way around.  The house of Frank Sinatra completed in 1948, architected by Stewart Williams, unleashed a new architectural frontier, Desert Modernism – a regional take on Midcentury Modernism – which has been bubbling away in Palm Springs for around two decades already, led by visionary architects like Richard Neutra, Albert Frey, and William F Cody. (Lucy Brook, on her article ‘Desert Modernism’ at Cereal, 2016)

photos  ©Claus Brechenmacher & Reiner Bauman  

 

 Inside, a narrow black steel framework collects together the various beautifully detailed elements within the 30sqm space, organizing them with Zen-like precision. Textured glass brings light through from the bedroom and dressing areas into the bathroom. Generous proportions in the shower and WC bring a sense of luxury to the warmly toned and textured surfaces and polished terrazzo is a visual link to the colourful texture of beach-pebble aggregates revealed wherever the old walls have been sliced through to create new openings…The courtyard tank rooms are identical in their ergonomic layout. Original features such as the manholes and pipes in the façade of each tank and the patina of the internal wall surfaces have been preserved.

                                                photos  ©Claus Brechenmacher & Reiner Bauman  

The factory as was made with hard concrete  walls to house the currants in old days, had a very simple philosophical eco statement; at that time no air-condition or any technology would ‘save ‘ from the heat so the wise old greeks at the time to create a ‘shelter for their crop, their currants, they had to create the coolest rooms ever..  Nature, ‘preserving the currants’ will be the mode to create a small oasis for our visitors to ‘rest’ and cool down where the team of K-Studio architects and Nikos were based.  Indeed, they succeed on that ! and ‘Dexamenes’ won the best New Architecture in an Existing Bldg Awards at the Domes 10yr awards, 2019 and Winner of Best Suite in the Ahead Europe Awards, 2019.

Local grape and currant varieties are becoming well established along the edges of the garden and will gradually make their contribution to the microclimate and productivity of the hotel.

                                                   photos @venetiakapernekas

                                                    photo  ©Claus Brechenmacher & Reiner Bauman  
                                                                                                   

                                                    photos @venetiakapernekas

In addition to the tank rooms, their pavilions and the courtyard garden, the 2 original stone out-buildings have been carefully converted to provide the hotel with in-house dining and event facilities with a focus on communicating the culture of the area and the history of the building through art and cuisine. Reclaimed bricks found inside the original structures line the floors and terrace, and the pitched roofs have been restructured with bespoke ceramic tiles made locally and crafted to blend with the originals.

The old factory’s engineer room features an open kitchen with a communal dining table for wine tastings and cooking workshops, and an external dining terrace. Precautions had to be taken this year as the C19 so quite the arrangements had to be changed.  

                                                   photos  ©Claus Brechenmacher & Reiner Bauman  
 photos below @venetiakapernekas  

 

For Chef Spyros Drakoulis modern cooking has become a serious art, but for him also is something instinctive. His search for fresh produce starts very early in the morning in the local market in Amaliada  and early visits to see the fishermen or to contact the best regional honey producers or the best extra virgin oil of the area. Chef Drakoulis ‘ cooking mirrors his love for his region, his family secret receipts, honest , fresh food.  Some afternoons I would come from the sea and say hello and he would be working  his mask, making new fresh bread, ‘zea’  for next morning. The ‘glue’  that cements the team of his kitchen together is his command in the most amazing way as he educates, explains to his staff every little detail of his cooking, all behind the ‘difficult mask’. One afternoon I met the beautiful Chryssa Giatra Batzi , consultant and aenologist who visits Dexamenes to train the  team for the best greek wines to accompany the delicacies of this magical kitchen.

 

 

 

 

photos ©Spyros Drakoulis & Venetia Kapernekas

Foloi Oak Forest, Ilias, Peloponese,  fall 2019, photo©Spyros Drakoulis

 

Ancient Olympia, (the eternal flame of the Olympic sprit ) is 25 km away. The Olympic Games—the most famous and important sporting event in the ancient world—paid homage to the finest athletes. That tradition continues to this day, nearly 3,000 years later.  It was a place where remarkable works of art and culture were created and shared to worship the Greek god Zeus.

The interior of the workshop of Pheidias, where the great sculptor crafted the gigantic chryselephantine statue of Zeus. In the early Byzantine era, it was converted to a Christian basilica.

 

                                 photos  ©Claus Brechenmacher & Reiner Bauman  

 

Nikos Karaflos  is managing his  small paradise with an extraordinary  team; as the C19 did not allow the ‘Dexamenes ‘ to open as scheduled in April, the hard working team meeting  all the needs for their  guests_ opened first week of June, with all precautions and masks always in place, (quite miraculous with the heat). Our stay was the most beautiful and memorable and we will come back soon. Thank you Dexamenes  

Venetia Kapernekas, Munich, July 31st, 2020

……………………………………………………………………………………..

Nikos Karaflos, is the imagineer and CEO of Dexamenes Seaside Hotel, a place of meaningful luxury that changes the way we experience hospitality. With a strong background in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, as well in Lighting and Multimedia, he believes in devising powerful ideas with cultural and social impact.

 K-STUDIO is a design practice rooted in Architecture.n”Our home is Greece, a country of incredible natural beauty and resources, where the cultural identity is founded upon being outside and making good, economic use of local skills, materials and agriculture to provide nourishing hospitality to visitors from near or far.”

K-Studio Design Team: Dimitris Karampatakis, Giorgos Mitrogiorgis, Dimitris Sotiropoulos, Marivenia Chiotopoulou, Giorgos Dimitrakopoulos, Christina Stamouli, Thomai Christopoulou. Structural Engineer:Panagiotis Zoumtos

Clara Porset,(1985-1981)  (whose headnotes marks the beginning of the article), a political exile from Cuba who became one of Mexico’s most prominent modern furniture designers. Influenced by Bauhaus ideas, she believed that design could reshape cities, elevate the quality of life, and solve large-scale social problems. (exhibition at the Art Institute of Chicago, Sept 6, 2019-Jan 12,2020) 

Foloi Oak Forest (photo of mushroom by Chef Spyros Drakoulis): According to mythology, the forest was named after the Centaur Pholus, who gave roof to his friend, Hercules, on his way to locate the Erymanthian Boar. Pholus offered Hercules a divine wine which excited the rest of the Centaurs who attacked the two friends. During the battle, Pholus was injured by mistake from one of Hercules’ arrows. The hero decided then to name the forest Foloi after his friend.

 

Madrid_ Lorenzo Rodriguez, April 29, 2020

                               “The ability to understand and share feelings of another…”,
                                                                                          Lorenzo Rodriguez,  Madrid 

 

 photo @Lorenzo Rodriguez, Madrid, April 29, 2020

 

                                       Very early this morning I received this letter essay from my dear friend Lorenzo Rodriguez, a citizen of the world, quarantined in Madrid, a successful man in his profession in the investment world, with a great  passion in contemporary art and literature;  Directly from my desk, no editing or corrections. (Munich, Venetia Kapernekas)

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The month is March in the year 2020, it sounds like I am starting a science fiction story, although it feels like I am living in one at this moment. The corona virus has become a part of history, in particular my history. It was not by choice but rather it was put upon me and the world with no permission or even a warning. Its origins are not so important, that time has passed as it is now part of the global landscape. I think about how something so small as a molecule could wreck so much havoc. I am 57 years old and have lived through and seen so much. Going back as far as I can remember, to events that were shaping the world, most of those were forged by human endeavors. The television brought these great feats into our living room. So for me, it starts with landing a man on the moon. The vivid pictures are imprinted in my memory, the grainy images and the crackling voices of that event that changed the world. As child it was a remarkable time,  my brothers and I would gather around the television, religiously as live feeds from the moon were projected magically. I think that the entire human race was awakened to the possibility that anything was possible. We as human had achieved a sense of immortality or at least the illusion that we could control our own destiny. Maybe it was this event that allowed me to see a future that had no boundaries.  

As time moved forward, world events would unfold as a testament to both the wonder and tragedy. It was clear that human existence could not only achieve ongoing progress but could also plunge itself into endless sorrow and destruction. If I had to name the the achievements most of these would include science, technology, medicine, infrastructure, agriculture and of course the longevity of the human race. The antithesis of this would be wars which would range from Vietnam all the way to Bosnia and continue to the Middle East. We became used to these tragedies as, once again social media would bring these far off conflicts into our daily life instantaneously. In some sense our tolerance for these events became somewhat immune to the terror. 

However their were events that would begin to shape me personally, as they began to include people that were close to me. They were no longer stories of far off places with names and faces that had very little to do with me. The first would be the Tsunami in Bali – cataclysmic wave that would consume and decimate an entire city. Unfortunately one of my oldest and dearest friends was there with his wife and two small children. He would later tell me of the horror he witnessed that day. He would describe running up a hill with his two children in his arms and his wife behind him as the desperately moved to higher ground. It was unimaginable for me to comprehend what he went through. Later they would make movies to try and at least portray the magnitude of this natural tragedy. For me this was the beginning of an awaking that despite our growing sense of immunity, maybe we are not so safe and not so out of reach from nature’s wrath. 

The second would be incited by the human touch and would demonstrate the true nature of our depravity. That is of course would be September 11th. I was living in New York and would experience not only the devastation of a city but also a country. It was one of those moments that shaped my very existence and has remained not only as a scar but ghost that still haunts me. We have all seen the image that flashed across every media outlet worldwide. However, to have lived there and experience the trauma firsthand was something I am still not able to articulate. Though just an attempt, all of my senses would be to the point of being compounded. The visual would be only the beginning as my olfactory would begin to absorb the flesh and metal that became the scent of the city. The blare of constant sirens and the occasional explosive would immediately push my thoughts to another attack. I would be reminded, the loss of a group of firefighters whom were a part of my life and local community. They would all perish in the blink of an eye. 

Yet here I am. I have been under self quarantine in Madrid for several weeks now. This situation has given me time to reflect and to consider many things. I have had on going dialogue with friends, clients and associates. My network is quite extensive, that is to say it not only spans continents but also demographics, incomes, occupations even intellect. That is a ambiguous word intellect -, those with higher education and others that have learned through life experience. Currently we are all sharing the same fate, whether in self quarantine or about to enter self-quarantine. This corona virus had unexpected consequences. We have all been thrust into this new paradigm, a seemingly alternative universe. Times of sickness require us to stay put, to hunker down. I have had to reflect on not only myself but also the world and society that is part of my community. The personal changes that have occurred these past weeks. Being isolated in one place over a long period of time does not happen often. Times of sickness require us to stay in bed and are usually accompanied by a mix of medicine, fever and doctors. However for many, circumstances in this case are quite the opposite. We are being told to just isolate, not leave the house or apt. There is nothing forcing me to do this other than the fear of contracting the virus . 

I am writing these thoughts because I am part of this theater in which the entire planet has set the stage for either actors or extras within a global drama. It might be for the first time in my life I am beginning to understand that we are all part of this, that this virus has made this all inclusive. It doesn’t matter the color of our skin, the demographics, the language we speak or the neighborhood we live in. Its doesn’t discriminate in its sexual preference or our beliefs. It actually has become the great equalizer, it has in a strange way united us as human beings. Its like a alien landed on the planet and has declared war on all of us, just as in the movie “War of the Worlds”by H.G Wells, but now it has appeared as a molecule. 

During this quarantine time the first thing I did was order books. I started with SPQR The History of the Roman Empire. A fascinating book on the rise of Rome from obscurity. It carried me through the history of how this great empire came to be. As I read this it became clear that the issues that faced these ancient people are the same issues we are facing today. You have to put this into context as well, Rome at is peak was a million people. There was no other city that even came close to the population of Rome. In fact, close to a million people died in the colosseum alone. What became clear to me is as society becomes more advance, it simultaneously falls progressively more victim to over population, immigration, sanitation, disease as well as social unrest. The division between the haves and have nots always seems to widen and, in the end, is one of the reasons for it collapse. As I sit here in quarantine I see that not much has changed. 

The next book I read was a story about the immigration of a family from Vietnam to Hartford Connecticut. The title of the book in itself is so moving,“On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous “. Quite apropos for the moment we are currently in. The book is almost a letter to the mother from the main character. It is a an accurate account of the hardships immigrants face when coming to America. Being first generation Mexican American the book resonated with me and reminds me of stories my father told me when he first came to the United States. One of the most striking themes of the book is how all the immigrants, from the Hispanics working the farms, to the Asians doing manicures and pedicures and even working class Americans all share the same fate. They are forgotten and the ones with a small voice. It is also the class struggle of big pharmaceutical that places opioids in these communities and completely devastated them. The addictions turned small towns into dens of despair with no way out but prison or death. I was moved to tears as the story of hope seems so far removed from these communities. Yet the writer was able to escape well those around him would disappear into the landscape. The question for myself is how did I escape from my social class that most of my friends remain? I often think that it was books and stories that gave me a glimpse of something that was far beyond my reach, yet at the same time I saw possibilities. 

The final book I completed was the story of Churchill and the bombing of Britain. The title was “The Splendid and the Vile”. Is it a coincidence that I am reading a book about one of the most devastating moments of history of the 20th century? I understood World War II quite well, however I really was not able to comprehend the onslaught of Nazi Germany on the cities and people of the United Kingdom. The odds that were completely stacked against them as a nation. They were entirely alone and the rest of Europe had already fallen to Germany. The United States was not interested in global politics, in fact the slogan, America First was the theme and isolationist led the charge. What the UK had was Churchill and his unending focus and will to press ahead. The premise of the book is about leadership in a time of crisis. Churchill had the ability to garner support in the most dire circumstances. His honesty and empathy was the shining beacon that guided a country to eventual victory. He would always begin by telling the truth no matter how difficult it was. It was imperative to him that the population understand that the current situation was not good, in fact it looked quite grim if not hopeless. The next part of his speech would be to consider the possibilities, to look at what we do have and how we can improve to better the chances of survival. His uncanny ability to mobilize his staff and the industry of the country was remarkable. Finally he would speak about all of the United Kingdom being part of one community and also history itself. That together they would withstand the tyranny and if it cost them everything then so be it. He was able to lead and invigorate everyone, from the working class to the high minded. Yes this would be their finest hour ! 

Words seem to define and express the moments and emotions we are currently feeling. I find myself strong, yet fragile, happy yet a moment away from despair. Tears fill my eyes over the slightest story or image flashing across the television. It’s if my entire being has been tampered with, the strings that were firm and well tuned have become somewhat out of balance. Reading these books it has occurred to me that human existence continues to falter and simultaneously excel. Nature reminds us that though it may appear that we are superior, educated and cultured these traits are only fragments of the entire story. One of the reasons I am writing this “essay” or “narrative” is because a dear friend of mine said that when this is over, we will return to the way we were. Humankind’s  need for conformity and consistency is much more bound to us than the premise of change. I am not certain of this, I feel the very fabric of my existence is slowly splintered and is beginning to unravel. I believe that something inherently has shifted and I will be unable to return to the life that I once had. It has dawned on me that experience both positive and tragic begin to alter our sense of reality. That is not to say that most people may just fall back into the life that they lived regardless of the circumstance that we currently face. Maybe the old idea of free will and determinism is much more relevant. I am trying to grapple with this on a daily basis. My idea of freedom has been fractured, blown apart and redefined. Being incarcerated for over a month you start to see yourself in a different light. Physically the changes are subtle, the measures of these are only the length of our hair and the color of your skin. Grooming and dressing slowly evaporates, the need for that is no longer relevant. Recently, I attended a  video conference call for work, I urgently combed my hair, shaved and tried to present myself professionally. Ironically, from waist down I was wearing shorts, no shoes or socks. 

This past month I have been on WhatsApp, WeChat, Skype, BlueJean, Zoom, FaceTime as well as on the phone. My parents who are 88 and 86 years old live outside of Chicago. Last year I gave my mother my old iPad and also put WhatsApp on her cell phone. Luckily my mother who is incredibly resourceful learned to use these apps in spite of her age and lack of technological prowess. This has been the only way to physically see them and check on them. I can hear their voices and see if they were showing symptoms. I was also able to send them information on how to live in this time of social distancing. It is hard to imagine how excruciating it would be not to have this technology and being so far away. I speak to my mother often, she just tells me about her day and what she is doing. Her appreciation for these calls is evident as each ends with a sigh and tear. For my parents this isolation took sometime for them to realize that it would not end anytime soon and that they are very susceptible to the virus. However, they are selfless and only encourage me to be strong and to always be hopeful. The appreciation that I have for them and the time that they have left has become so crystalized. It has occurred to me that I am very lucky and that everyday is somewhat a gift that has been bestowed upon me. In this confinement I find comfort in the uncertainty. 

There have been so many conversations with friends its hard to find a place to start. They all began with the questions; How are you? Where are you? My friends are located across the globe, New York, London, Paris, Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Rome, Madrid, Los Angeles, Chicago, Milwaukee, Detroit, Washington DC, Houston, Austin, Tokyo, Osaka, Charlotte, Miami, Big Sur, Seattle, Stockholm, Milan, Mexico City, Guadalajara, São Paulo, Moscow, Rio, Bonifacio, Zurich, Athens, Sevilla, Williamsburg, Venice, Sydney, Greenwich, Darian, Mallorca, Ibiza, Hamburg, Berlin, Istanbul, Dallas, Antwerp, Brussels, Clinton, Oswego, Naperville, Frankfurt, and Philadelphia. If I am forgetting someplace, its probably due to my emotional state. We discussed the virus and the impact it was having on our personal lives as well as our community. Assurances were made that we were all taking every precaution and that we would let each other know if any issues would arise. The love and affection that I felt was sometimes overwhelming. Their were moments that I would weep uncontrollably knowing that I was blessed to have such friends as part of my life. The backgrounds vary, from artist, entrepreneurs, bankers, tech, porters, chefs, restaurant owners, doctors, writers, drivers, curators, art dealers, furniture sales, architects, moms, hotel owners, hairstylist, jobbers, dads, grandparents,  designers, translators, contractors, lawyers, screenwriters, waiters, chauffeurs, salespersons, teachers, professors, economist, researchers, motivational speakers, bloggers, and the list goes on and on. I wanted to show that no matter what we do and where we are, all of us are bound by this human existence. Now, at this time we also share the same fate, as the pandemic has become the thread that has woven this pattern. 

Throughout this past month, conversation with friends has been some of the most illuminating times of my life. The spectrum has been wide with respect to cause, blame, effect, outcome and possible resolution. These conversation have sometimes been quite heated. Anger and rage directed to China as the main cause for the current state of affairs. I have been quite surprised by some of the language and xenophobic words used towards that country. Yes, the virus originated in China and that the government didn’t inform the world in a timely manner. What concerns me is that the vernacular used and the  detrimental consequence not only to people of Chinese origin but also to Asians in general. Unfortunately, humans tend to categorize ethnic groups into clusters. Americans especially have a tendency to define race in order to identify origin. I know this first hand being Mexican American. How many forms did I  fill out describing my ethnic background. The terms Hispanic or Latin or other. When we begin to put identity on diseases we fall into a perilous place. That is why scientists are careful not to label them as ethnic designation. 

Recently I watched a comedian and social commentator rant about why we shouldn’t call it the CHINESE VIRUS. He went on to describe other viral outbreaks;  West Nile, correct me if I am wrong is that an ethnic group,  Zika from the forest, Ebola from the Ebola river, but if I am not mistaken they are not countries or ethnic group but rather a region. The whopper, which he should have taken a history lesson, the Spanish Flu as that did not originate in Spain. Cause which then transforms to blame. There is a fine line which can be perilous. The history of the Japanese Americans during the Second World War is an example. Its understandable as it creates an enemy that we can see, identify and label. Its very difficult to blame a molecule or a virus. I think it’s important that we are cognizant of the consequence of words and labels. We have seen too often the detrimental effects it can have. I have often tried to diffuse these conversations and try to focus on the problem at hand. I think we are far beyond the position of blame. Our world is in turmoil and the enemy is the virus. So if the enemy is the virus the army must be the scientist and health care workers who are on the front lines of this so called war. I am often amazed at the compassion and fearlessness these health care workers take on a daily basis. The world has come together to try and find a solution to this dilemma. The great thing about scientists and science is they don’t see borders, countries or even language as a barrier. To them the problem lies solely with the molecule and how to stop it. Watching the news its astounding seeing cooperation of governments around the world not only to share information, data and research but additionally provide medical supplies as needed. Madrid, where I am currently under quarantine, every evening at 8:00 pm the windows are open and the city claps and shouts. Its not of anger or distress, but of praise to the sanitation workers that are daily disinfecting the city streets and making sure that city remains hopeful. I too have participated reaching outward from the window with my arms outstretched clapping and applauding. You can hear the echos of so many hands together in unison as well as sirens and music. I find this moment quite moving and almost ephemeral, we cant see each other but we share this feeling of gratitude as well as unity. 

The effect that virus has caused seems to be endless. I could start with the health issues that lay before us. The magnitude of the social displacement has been unimaginable. The world has suddenly stopped other than the typing of the keys on-computers and cell phones. Socially we have been asked to separate and stay inside. I cannot remember in my entire life this being so wide spread. Yes their have been storms, tornados and even hurricanes that required diligence and shelter. Yet this has taken us to another level. The effect of this for me is both a blessing and a curse. I found this quote the other day by Gabriel Garcia Marquez “ ….time was not passing…it was turning in a circle…” it was taken from the book One Hundred Years of Solitude. I find both the quote and the title of the book appropriate if not prophetic. Time is not passing the way that is use to, it is moving in a foreign way. We are not able to discern its true direction. We are in solitude, some actually alone in their homes others alone in their thoughts. How long will this timelessness endure? 

Personally and professionally my life has had an abrupt change. My work which included me getting on an airplane at least 2 to 3 times a week has comes to a standstill. Interaction with my clients is solely via emails or video chats. However, there seems to be a greater connection to some of them. As we are all in this uncertain time the need for trust and confidence becomes so much more important. In addition there is more intimacy in the nuances of our conversations. We speak about investment opportunities not as just a numerical exercise, but also what impact it will have on our respected countries, and even sometimes families. I can’t recall ever having these types of conversations in the 20 years I have been doing this. I am working on a deal that is closely tied to the underclass in Los Angeles. The urgency of this project has also come into light by several of my investors. They feel that something needs to be done to help during this crisis. I often wonder why now, why at this time do we now feel this urgency? 

Personally my passion is contemporary art. For the last three decades I have travelled across continents to see and experience art. My closest friends are artists, dealers, collectors and curators. The art world has always presented itself to me as an alternative to not only my profession but also a sanctuary for my emotions as well as my critical understanding of the world l live in.  It has given me countless measures of pleasure as well as hope. That is not to say that the art world has not been disrupted and chastened before. This time it feels different and much more systemic. Maybe because the art world has expanded in leaps and bounds these past 10 years that it felt that it was part of this new boundless world. As in all things it may have reached it’s zenith and has become part of the devastation that the virus has placed on all things. I know that it will reinvent itself and adapt and hopefully for the better. What I am certain of is that it will endure not for the financial or economic reasons. I believe that part of it will continue as wealth will maintain its presence. I do believe that the idea of art will be a reflection of this time and the time to come. I have been asked many time why art is so important to you? In short, there was a time when I studied theology. I was a believer which is the catch word used by ‘Christians’.  I went to seminary and my life and belief was centered around this idea of faith. However over time, and after extensive education I eventually lost that belief.  I realized after studying theology, sociology, anthropology and so many ideas. It soon occurred to me that many have come and gone and others adapt and change.  Empires have also risen and fallen with remnants somehow continue but the days of their glory has long passed. What has remained is always the art. It finds its way as a testament of the human experience. Even when man has laid waste to itself, the art rears it head in the most unlikely way. This for me is very comforting as my time here is so limited. So I am not so concerned about how this will impact the art world, as in the end it will always find a way. 

As I write this essay it has occurred to me that the overall effect of this pandemic is that it has required all humans to stop and think even for a moment. The silence sometimes is deafening as for this brief moment all of us are at least aware that something has happened. Nature is acutely aware as the pollution has stopped, and the waters are clear. Even the animals that were so reclusive have appeared in our cities and towns. Its springtime and the flowers are blooming as nature reminds us that this is the season of renewal. I have gotten so me photos sent to me of flowers and trees and green fields. No more images of parties, gallery openings or even cities. If feel like people are much more aware of nature which also requires time. What I don’t want to negate is that there are many that don’t have the privilege or luxury to stop and listen.  What has emerged so clearly is the indifference and injustice that our society has created. As someone very dear to me said society is broken and unfortunately it took a pandemic to shine the spotlight on something that has been simmering for a long time. I received an email from a friend of mine in London who quoted a statistic to me about Chicago and the number of fatalities in the African American neighborhoods versus the deaths due to the virus. I was quite upset as these neighborhoods on the West side of the city have been plagued with violence and gun related mortality for years. However, it was only noticed in respect to a pandemic sweeping across the states. The stark reality of this became clear to me when a map of the virus was enhanced of New York City. The city includes 5 boroughs ( Brooklyn, Queens, Bronx, Staten Island and Manhattan) Manhattan being the most recognized and the wealthiest. The remainder are working class neighborhoods that hold every ethnic group across the city. They say you can take the A line and travel across the globe. The colors showed the areas with the highest level of the pandemic. Darker colors highlighted the outbreak as hot spots. The darkest colors were the lowest income zip codes with the lighter ones mostly in Manhattan except for Harlem and Washington Heights. I am sure this repeats itself in places like Chicago, Detroit, New Orlean, Miami and other major cities.  I think about these neighborhoods and the people who live there. They work two maybe three jobs to cover living expense and keep food on the table. A friend said many send their children to school to make sure they get one nutritious meal at lunch time as money can be tight. However they don’t complain nor do they have time to think about the virus. This reality is what most Americans face and this income gap is only growing. I was recently in Iowa before the virus lock down in the Midwest. I was with an old friend who grew up in one of these American towns. He drove me around telling me about how the farms were the back bone of the economy. Family farms that had been run for generations. Now most of corporate farms, you can tell by the machinery in front of the barns, brand new equipment. Also the lights are off in farmhouse properties. We also drove through the town which was empty and boarded up. He told me that it was a great town always busy with people. Then Walmart came. They warned the citizens of the town not to shop there as it would destroy the community. However the low prices and quantity of goods was irresistible. So slowly the entire town closed it shops and soon it was empty. Then came the opioids which would be the nail in the coffin. My friend said this story repeats itself all along the banks of the Mississippi where all these towns use to thrive. I think that something is inherently wrong with our society and the virus is a symptom of the sickness. I believe we deeply care about our country as well as its citizens but is that enough? 

The world is in lockdown mode and quarantines are part of the social, political and daily lifestyle across the globe. Economies have come to a standstill and unemployment has skyrocketed. For many this is a spiral with an outcome of  instability. Social unrest is growing especially in the United States where the average family has $400 dollars for emergencies. People are feeling desperate as governments try to grapple with the virus spreading and economies shrinking. It’s a daily battle that doesn’t seem to be letting up. I know that I will be able to weather the storm as well as many of my friends and peers. You see we are part of that  generation who learned to adapt as well as save. Adversity has always been a part of my life personally. My parents didn’t have money to spend and with that they instilled a strong work ethic of self reliance. The motto being “ you don’t work you don’t eat and if you don’t ask you don’t get”. Everything was a struggle, if we wanted something we had to find a way. So this ideology  strengthened my resolve to always be ready for the worst case scenario. The irony is my parents are retired living on a fixed income with their savings a little else. My twin brother, unfortunately is part of the paycheck to paycheck society. He works extremely hard but has little to show for it. In addition he must pay child support as well as keep himself above water. So I ask myself how does this happen? Why him and not me? It occurred to me that most of the people I grew up with are similar situations. Hard working, honest and admirable people who just cant seem to get a break. Yet my world is completely different, even in the crisis we face today. I know that I will be fine and that in the end not much financially or lifestyle will change for me. Yet I feel a sense of despair as well as embarrassment. To achieved what my parents wanted for me, success, independence and freedom from the burden of class struggle. 

All this being said what will be the outcome of all this? How then shall we live? I just started reading “Meditations” by Marcus Aurelius. I find the words profound and articulate. The idea of responsibility to society but also to oneself. It talks about being a citizen and how that defines the person. Of course he was talking about being a citizen of Rome, however the same applies to a citizen of humanity. To examine our responsibility to our community, family and country. The idea that nature will runs it course is somewhat comforting. “Time is a river, a violent current of events, glimpsed once and already carried past us, and another follows and is gone.” This pandemic will eventually end or come to some sort of resolution. Either a vaccine or inhibitor will be created. Yet the impact will linger and its effect continues to define the present as well as the future. I hope with all sincerity that society has come to understand that we are all part of the same. As human beings we are all exposed to the possibility of this virus but also to the aftermath of its destruction. The question that rings constantly in my consciousness is have we heard and are we listening? Humanity is sitting on the razors edge, slowly inching it way trying to stay balanced and at the same time avoiding the blades sting. How we manage this moving forward is the question. As individuals we must choose and decide what this means for us as well as our community. That community is our friends, coworkers, family as well as the strangers who walk among us. I know that the geopolitical and economic outcomes will be decided between governments. Those outcomes we have very little say in that decision process. To be honest governments have failed us in these times. Their inability on a global basis to consider individuals and the actual effect it has has on them is overshadowed by political agendas and economic rhetoric. The voice of the people have long been drowned out by money and power. I was never a proponent that change comes from speeches or sweeping policies. Those tend to get lost in the excitement that soon becomes bogged down in technocratic gibberish. However, I do believe in the individual and the community. The opportunity to shape our own life and those around us. This idea is organic and grows from within itself. It may not be glamorous or exhibit to the  world how advanced society is. Yet it is personal and effects people immediately. It gives us the opportunity to feel and understand each other and hopefully broaden are perception of the world around us. This is not a political agenda or a ideology that requires a label. Its neither right nor left or even center. It’s a personal choice that requires a bit of compassion and empathy. That word that I hope will define all of us moving forward into this unknown future. “The ability to understand and share feelings of another”. The corona virus has left its mark on history this is certain. Yet at the same time has given us, you and me a opportunity to also be affected by its outcome. There is a hope here that I believe can have a much deeper and profound impact on humanity and society. This can be remembered as a new beginning.  

                                                       Lorenzo Rodriguez, Madrid, April 29, 2020, 8 am

‘Kate Liu at the National Arts Club’, New York, by Olivier Berggruen

Kate Liu. Recital presented by the Stecher and Horowitz Foundation at the National Arts Club, New York, 10 March 2020
Olivier Berggruen was the curator of a retrospective of Pablo Picasso & the Ballets Russes at the Scuderie del Quirinale in Rome in 2017

 

Kate Liu (right) and Olivier Berggruen (left ), after the recital, National Arts Club, March 10, 2020 photo @venetiakapernekas

 

“Music is the space between the notes,” according to Claude Debussy, though the remark is sometimes attributed to Mozart. That space is often described as silence, but can also be likened to the breath—the movement and oscillation between notes, beats, and measures, to the extent that a piece of music seems to develop in space as much as it does in time.  Space in music can be visualized in various ways; a slow piece projects the feeling of empty space; a fast one has greater density; the divided moment between two notes, two beats, is akin to the moment of suspension in breathing, between inhale and exhale. To make this palpable, for an interpreter, requires a sense of tone, articulation, and timing, of which the piano becomes the seismograph. 

In a recital at the National Arts Club presented under the auspices of the Stecher and Horowitz Foundation, Kate Liu demonstrated that she has that rare talent to expand our sense of consciousness; notes do not just follow each other, but create space in time. Born in Singapore and educated in the United States, Kate won numerous competitions before becoming the bronze medallist of the Fryderyk Chopin Competition in Warsaw in 2015. Since then, she has been studying with Veda Kaplinsky and Robert McDonald at Juilliard. 

Liu’s interpretation of Schumann’s charming Arabeske unfolded in an unhurried fashion, dreamy and intimate, yet infused with those flights of fancy which seem to arise in spontaneous, unpredictable bursts; Schubert’s Moments Musicaux D.780 were a study in equilibrium, alternating between tenderness and lyricism, and the pianist’s beautiful singing tone brought out the music’s clear, transparent structures.

Kate Liu ended her recital with Brahms’s monumental 3rd sonata in F-minor. Written in five movements, it can be seen as the young composer’s homage to Beethoven, in its incorporation of fragments from the 5th Symphony, but equally in its orchestral approach to writing for the piano. One can think perhaps of more powerful renditions (such as Julius Katchen’s famous recording), but here Brahms’s blend of youthful Romanticism and classical form was given a just expression, oscillating between gravity and grace, lightness and depth. There was a sense of time, reflecting the carefully structural development devised for such a vast composition; between the various changes in key reflective of the Romantic aesthetic of fragments in the wake of Schumann’s works for the piano. The Rückblick (4th movement) in particular,  was infused with moments of such beauty; reminding this listener of Dorota Szwarzcman’s remark in connection with Kate’s playing  at the time of the Chopin competition in 2015: “every sound speaks to the audience, each one has its own justification.” 

If the Brahms sonata was surely a great achievement, the impression that lingers in my mind is one of continuous experience; the audience seemed completely absorbed in the performance, because of the ability of this young performer to create a world in which she draws us in, as if by magic. Musicianship, for sure, but also the ability to make the instrument reflect a community of spirit between composer and listener. Instead of being confronted with a mere proposition (the musical score) about the world, the listener may reach a movement of abolition of the self, a mechanism of identification with, and absorption into, the world of sound. 

                                                        Olivier Berggruen, New York, March 16, 2020

Hans Abrahamsen’s ‘Snow Queen’ at Bavarian State Opera premiere, December 21, 2019

Rachael Wilson (Kay ) Thomas Grässle (Kay double), Kinderstatisterie der Bayerischen Staatsoper, Hans Abrahamsen: THE SNOW QUEEN | Premiere: 21. Dezember 2019 | Musikalische Leitung: Cornelius Meister | Inszenierung: Andreas Kriegerburg,photo ©Wilfried Hösl

 

Snow Queen (premiere, Dec 21, 2019 at Bayerische Staatsoper)
musical direction……………..Cornelius Meister
stage design……………………Andreas Kriegneburg
stage………………………………Harald B.Thor
costumes………………………..Andrea Scharaad
light………………………………..Michael Bauer
choreography…………………..Zenta Haerter
Choir……………………………….Stellario Fagone
dramaturgy………………………Malte Krasting

 

A musical triumph Hans Abrahamsen’s The Snow Queen,  was celebrated its Danish-language world premiere,  October 2019, at the Royal Danish Opera , directed by Francisco Negrin. The Bavarian State Opera produced its own version in english-language premiere, Dec 20th, 2019.  So very fortunate indeed I was while landed in Munich that rainy morning on December 21st,2019 to attend an evening invitation for the premiere of this new fabulous contemporary performance, with a new star, Barbara Hanningan, a reigning soprano of contemporary music, for which the opera was originally written.

From fairy-tale to trauma drama; In the literary original, Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy-tale Die Schneekönigin, little Kai loses all emotion with a diabolical troll-mirror shard in the eye and heart, and is kidnapped by the Snow Queen. But his friend Gerda begins an arduous journey to rescue Kai. Andreas Kriegenburg places Gerda’s unconditional devotion to her friendship with Kai at the centre. With this story he is interested in the notion that, “someone in society becomes so cold that they withdraw into their very own inner snow-covered landscape.”

Joshua Baron writes at the New York Times, during the rehearsal previews, “And there is no metaphor more apt to describe Mr. Abrahamsen’s music than a snowflake: pleasantly soft and simple from a distance, mathematically precise and complex under a microscope.”He continues.. His song cycle “let me tell you” evokes a landscape as wintry as one in a Bruegel painting. And there is no metaphor more apt to describe Mr. Abrahamsen’s music than a snowflake: pleasantly soft and simple from a distance, mathematically precise and complex under a microscope.(New York times,review rehearsal, dec, 2019)

The Snow Queen: Peter Rose (Snow Queen), Rachael Wilson (Kay), Statisterie de Bayerischen Staatsoper,photo ©Wilfried Hösl

 

The Snow Queen: Peter Rose (Reindeer),photo ©Wilfried Hösl

 

The role of Kai, conceived as a breeches role, is embodied by mezzo-soprano Rachael Wilson. The Snow Queen is interpreted by Peter Rose. (bass baritone). Hans Abrahamsen does not only see the Snow Queen as a negative force’s or in his case him has also a good side. The idea of choosing a bass baritone for the role of the Snow Queen came from one of the leading role of Greta, Barbara Hannigan, “a bass baritone can be very seductive.. or even moving and comforting” (Mr Abrahamsen’s interview at the Bayerischen Staatsoper magazine, 2019)

The Snow Queen: Barbara Hannigan (Gerda), Thomas Grässle (Kay double), Chor de Bayrischen Staatsoper,photo ©Wilfried Hösl

 

In the Munich production Gerda and Kai are a grown-up pair. Possibly traumatised, Kai has withdrawn into a silence similar to the phenomenon of mutism and refuses all communication..The Snow Queen is staged by Andreas Kriegenburg, who has already brought Der Ring des Nibelungen, Wozzeckand Die Soldaten to the stage at the Bayerische Staatsoper turns the fairy tale into a psychological drama, that oscillated between dream and reality. Gerda and Kay, in Mr. Kriegenburg’s production, are a middle-aged couple. The mirror splinters have always suggested psychological trauma; Kay’s condition is an actual mental illness.  The mental institution, takes place in different way in both acts (the opera is a two act opera ); the adventure of the tale is choreographed between the large rooms of the institution and the intense lab factotum of the surgery room; Fantasy blurs with reality under Gerda’s hopes and fears.

The Snow Queen: Barbara Hannigan (Gerda), Kevin Conners (Waldkrähe), Statisterie de Bayrischen Staatsoper,photos ©Wilfried Hösl

 

The Snow Queen: Barbara Hannigan (Gerda), Ensemble der Bayerischen Staatsoper,photo ©Wilfried Hösl

The Snow Queen: Peter Rose (Snow Queen), Kinderstatisterie der Bayerischen Staatsoper,photo ©Wilfried Hösl

 

The Snow Queen: Rachael Wilson (Kay), Thomas Gräßle (Kay Double), Statisterie der Bayerischen Staatsoper,photo ©Wilfried Hösl

 

Mr. Abrahamsen said he had wanted to write an opera since the 1980s. But it was only after “let me tell you” that he felt ready to fulfill a commission from Royal Danish Opera. Although “The Snow Queen” was written with Ms. Hannigan in mind — and although Mr. Abrahamsen had wanted the libretto to be in English — that company insisted on it being in Danish. But the language, Mr. Abrahamsen said, is difficult to sing, with “words in the back of the mouth, and the vowels very near each other.(Joshua Baron, New York Times, Dec 2019)

 

The Snow Queen: Dean Power (Prince), Barbara Hannigan (Gerda),photo ©Wilfried Hösl

 

Shirley Apthrop writes for the Copenhagen premier, (Det Kongelike Teater, (the Royal Danish Opera) “…Abrahamsen’s score is a work of obsessively fine detail, of immense complexity calibrated to sound beguilingly simple, of silvery, perfumed lyricism overlaid with hallucinatory effects. Everything sounds both familiar and strangely warped. There are delicate references to familiar works — Strauss, Mahler, Bach, Wagner — more like snatches of memory than quotes; but just when things seem about to become recognisable, Abrahamsen will bend away from pure tonality to warp a note or twist an interval, to stab or spike through an arpeggio, to hurt us just enough to make us come back wanting more.” (Financial Times, October 14, 2019)

The Snow Queen: Ensemble und Chor der Bayerischen Staatsoper, photos ©Wilfried Hösl

I  treasure the beautiful book “Hans Abrahamsen_The Snow Queen”published by Bayerische Staatsoper Spielzeit 2019-2020 (Bureau Mirko Borsche) and to a wonderful surprise with photos by Mark Mahaney, and his fabulous project, ‘Polar Night’ who travelled to Utqiagvik last January, during the final days of the season’s polar night. “Landing, it looked like we were dropping down onto the moon,” he said to Coralie Craft (photo editor, contributor to the New Yorker)

Life in Alaska in the Round-the-Clock Darkness of Polar Night,published at Photo Booth/The New Yorker  by Coralie Craft,Sept 29, 2019, photo ©Mark Mahaney

Mark Mahaney’s Polar Night is a passage through a rapidly changing landscape in Alaska’s northernmost town of Utqiagvik. It’s an exploration of prolonged darkness, told through the strange beauty of a snowscape cast in a two month shadow. The unnatural lights that flare in the sun’s absence and the shapes that emerge from the landscape are unexpectedly beautiful in their softness and harshness. It’s hard to see past the heavy gaze of climate change in an arctic town, though Polar Night is a visual poem about endurance, isolation and survival.

Mark Mahoney’s fabulous photo book ‘Polar Night’ has been published by the Texas-based independent art book publisher TressPasser Publications  His work  is represented by Kominek Gallery, Berlin 

Life in Alaska in the Round-the-Clock Darkness of Polar Night,published at Photo Booth/The New Yorker  by Coralie Craft,Sept 29, 2019, photo ©Mark Mahaney

The Danish composer Hans Abrahamsen is one of the most original and independent voices in contemporary music. He started his career by studying horn and composition. This was followed by the first own works that already met with international resonance, such as winter night. During a creative break of several years, which he called “Fermate”, he orchestrated and edited pieces by Johann Sebastian Bach, György Ligeti, Carl Nielsen, Robert Schumann, Arnold Schönberg and Claude Debussy, whose music also influenced his own compositions. His work Snow for Chamber Ensemble was premiered in 2008. A cycle of compositions that is connected in terms of content and motivation is constantly growing around this work. His piano concerto for the left hand (left, alone) and the monodrama let me tell you, which he wrote for Barbara Hannigan and with which his music finally became known worldwide, are just as much a part of it as his first opera The Snow Queen after Hans Christian Andersens eponymous fairy tale.

Andreas Kriegenburg became a director at the Volksbühne Berlin in 1991 after training as a craftsman at the Magdeburg Theater. In 1996 he moved to the Hanover State Theater and in 1999 to the Vienna Burgtheater. From 2001 to 2009 he was senior director at the Thalia Theater Hamburg and from 2009 to 2014 chief director at the Deutsches Theater Berlin. He directed and directed the Munich Kammerspiele. a. in The Trial and Maria Stuart. After his opera debut in Magdeburg in 2006, further work followed at the opera houses in Dresden, Frankfurt, Berlin, Hamburg, Barcelona, Paris and Tokyo. At the Salzburg Festival he directed Lady Macbeth von Mzensk in 2017 and Simon Boccanegra in 2019. In 2014, his production of The Soldiers at the Bavarian State Opera was voted Production of the Year by the Opernwelt magazine. He also directed Wozzeck and The Ring of the Nibelung.

 

Thank you Christoph Koch (Head of Press & Editorial Content, Bayerische Staatsoper)for your invitation to the premier & cooperation for submitting  all photo  materials on my desk. (january 20, 2020)

 

 

 

Ruth Duckworth; monumental sculptures & murals & dramatic poetry in ceramics

“I think of life as a unity. This unity includes mountains, mice, rocks, trees, and women and men. It is all one lump of clay. ”   Ruth Duckworth (1919-2009)

 

….maybe the world’s foremost and influential ceramic sculptors? Yes, indeed..

One  of the galleries that leads a journey discovering significant women in Art history is Salon 94 /New York and presently affirms some of Ruth Duckworth’s brilliant pieces.

Ruth Duckworth,’Untitled’, 2003, porcelain (5 3/4 x 5 1/2 x 3 1/2 in.-14.6 x 14 x 8.9 cm) Courtesy Thea Burger and Salon 94/New York

 

Ruth Duckworth (1919-2009)  was born Ruth Windmüller in Hamburg, Germany. She began drawing at a young age and left Germany for England in the mid-1930s, fleeing the Nazi regime. She attended the Liverpool College of Art from 1936 to 1940, studying painting and drawing. She studied at the Liverpool School of Art, the Hammersmith School of Art and the prestigious Central School of Arts and Crafts in London, where she later taught.

Throughout the 1940s, she took various jobs as a puppeteer, tombstone carver, working in a munitions factory and spent some time working in Lucie Rie’s  ceramic studio. At the time, ceramics in England were still quite traditional in style and functional in form, and her organic, hand-shaped, surrealist works were misunderstood by audiences at-large, but celebrated by fellow artists and ceramicists.

Ruth Duckworth ‘Untitled’, 2002 Bronze, 19 x 8 x 9 inches (48.3 x 20.3 x 22.9 cm) Courtesy Thea Burger and Salon 94/New York

 

Duckworth’s early sculptural work was representational but she turned to abstraction and organic forms that were influenced by both prehistoric and modern imagery, as well as nature and human relationships.  Inspired by a museum exhibition she saw of Indian pottery, she continued her studies at the Central School of Arts and Crafts in London from 1956 to 1958, turning more seriously to porcelain ceramics. …She started out by carving stone but moved quickly to clay.

She approached the medium as a sculptor rather than with the traditional methods of a potter and was influenced by such modernist sculptors as Henry Moore and Isamu Noguchi, as well as primitive work and ancient carvings. (LA Times staff, sept 26, 2009)
Ruth Duckworth,’Untitled’,1989,Porcelain, 6 1/2 x 7 3/8 x 2 1/8 inches (16.5×18.7×5.4cm)  Courtesy Thea Burger and Salon 94 New York

 

Ruth Duckworth  characterized porcelain ceramic as ‘a very temperamental material’.

I’m constantly fighting it. It wants to lie down, you want it to stand up. I have to make it do what it doesn’t want to do. But there’s no other material that so effectively communicates both fragility and strength.” Ruth Duckworth

When the gallery sent me some visuals I could not stop thinking about some of the Cycladic Art and while deepening into my tiny research I am certain now that Ruth had deeply studied both the Grotta-Pelos (Early Cycladic I)  culture (c. 3200?-2700 BC) and the Keros-Syros (Early Cycladic II) culture (c. 2700-2400/2300 BC)

(images:source, The MET/Dept of Roman and Greek Art)

marble head from the figure of a woman, Early Cycladic II, 2700-2500 B.C. H.915/15 in (25.3 cm), Gift of Christos G. Bastis, 1964, Metropolitan Museum of Art.

 

Ruth Duckworth, (source of images: Daum Museum of Contemporary Art, Sedalia, MO, exhibition photo, “Modernist Sculptor” (July 30-October 23, 2005)

Ruth Duckworth, ‘Untitled’, 1986 (image source; auction house)

Ruth Duckworth, ‘Untitled, 1990, porcelain,Courtesy Thea Burger and Salon 94/New York

Duckworth’s work helped shape a new way of thinking about ceramics in the second half of the 20th century and created a place for clay as a sculptural medium at a time when it was not widely accepted.

In one body of work she sets smooth and open shapes against sharp taut lines, deriving a dramatic poetry from a confrontation of flux and substance. In another, she creates massive undulating vessels with rough textures and earthy tones whose delicate sensuality belies their size and strength. (exhibition writer ) 

“Her stoneware murals, notably “Earth, Water and Sky” (1967-68) and “Clouds Over Lake Michigan” (1976), incorporated topographical swirls and abstractly rendered cloud patterns. Her small works, by contrast, were often delicate and abstract, with surrealist overtones. The influences were varied. The stylized modernism of Henry Moore, Constantin Brancusi and Isamu Noguchi competed for attention with Egyptian, Mexican and Cycladic art.”(William Grimes, NY Times, Oct 24th, 2009, ‘Ruth Duckworth, Sculptor & Muralist, dies at 90 )

During her twenty-three-year tenure teaching at University of Chicago), she joined the faculty of the University of Chicago in 1964),Duckworth brought some excellent public art to the university and the city, most celebrated, the mural ‘Earth, Water and Sky’.  In the 1970s, she received a commission for “Clouds Over Lake Michigan,” a mural that was displayed first in a bank and later in the lobby of the Chicago Board of Trade building. It is a sweeping piece of relief that incorporates meteorological and geological themes.

Ruth Duckworth, Earth, Water, Sky, Geophysical Sciences Building at the University of Chicago, 1967–68…a ceramic mural featuring abstracted weather patterns, rock formations, and topographical views, lines the entryway to the Henry Hinds Laboratory for Geophysical Sciences.

For Earth, Water, and Sky, completed in 1968, Duckworth abstractly depicted aspects of the earth’s natural topography and environment, using clay glazed in earth tones, modeling “fins,” and carving concentric circles to represent the elevation rings of Mt. Fujiyama. (source:The Minneapolis Institute of Arts)

Alice Westphal, Duckworth’s dealer at the time, describes the mural as an “archaeological fantasy of Chicago as a site of an ancient civilization” centering around the dualities of life: “order and chaos, similarity and difference, the organic and the fabricated…creation and regeneration.”

 

That was really a breakthrough piece for her. She really found her voice and form in that piece,” said Michael Dunbar, her friend and a sculptor who is an art in architecture coordinator for the state of Illinois. (LA Times, October 26, 2009)

Upon retiring from the university in 1977, moved her studio space to a former pickle plant in Lakeview, Chicago. She lived on the second floor of the space which she renovated in the early 1980s.  A large opening in the floor allowed her to look down from her home to see her murals in progress and envision how they would look on a wall.

Clouds Over Lake Michigan‘ ‘(1976) at the Chicago Board Options Exchange Building, and large bronze works at various college campuses.  Duckworth here has invented a territory where rhythmic, unfurling nature collides with human history. The mural embodies the dualities in life: order and chaos, similarity and difference, the organic and the fabricated – the oppositional elements necessary to uphold balance and sustain harmony.

Ruth Duckworth in her studio, Chicago (image source:American Craft Council )

Her work is featured at such institutions as the Art Institute of Chicago; Boston Museum of Fine Arts; Windsor Castle, England; Stuttgart Museum, Germany; National Museum of Modern Art, Japan; Museum Boymans-Van Beuningen, The Netherlands, Philadelphia Museum of Art; The Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC; National Museum of Scotland; Kestner Museum, Germany; Schleswig Holsteinisches Landesmuseum, Germany; Museum fur Kunst und Gewerbe, Germany; City Museum, Bassano Del Grappo, Italy; Buckingham County Museum, England; Utah Museum of Fine Arts, Utah; American Craft Museum , New York; Los Angeles County Art Museum, California; Evanston Public Library, Illinois; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. (source:The Venica Project)

Ruth Duckworth, Untitled (Archival Inventory), 2002, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of the James Renwick Alliance in honor of Kenneth R. Trapp, gift of an anonymous donor

She was a great original, pioneering her own path within ceramics, brilliantly exploring the idea of the figure, the vessel and the more abstract form,” said Emmanuel Cooper, a British ceramist and an editor of Ceramic Review. (NY Times, Oct 24th, 2009) 

 

 

 

Ruth Duckworth house in Chicago, ( a former pickle factory at earlier times a dowdy part of Lake View (along the Metra tracks on Ravenswood Avenue)

 

Nature remained her inspiration, and many of her ideas took root in a courtyard garden. Duckworth passed away in 2009 in her adopted home of Chicago.`

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Helen Frankenthaler’s ‘Scarlatti’ & ‘the gods may pursue their amours’

 “There are no rules. That is how art is born, how breakthroughs happen. Go against the rules or ignore the rules. That is what invention is about.”

                                                                                           Helen Frankenthaler

exhibition installation photos ©Joe Kramm, Jason Mandella, courtesy of Yares Art Gallery, New York & Santa Fe

 

Yesterday, a sunny friday afternoon I walked down on 5th avenue (745 5th) visiting Yares gallery to gaze for third time ( last day of exhibition yesterday) an extraordinary unfolding of miraculous paintings by Helen Frankenthaler (paintings are ranging from 1957 to 1990). An unforgettable experience as the bright afternoon spring New York light vaporing generously in the gallery. This morning I am reading the remarkable foreword by Dr Alexander Nemerov in beautifully published book by Yares gallery while I am  listening to allegro and andante sonatas Scarlatti on piano played by Vladimir Horowitz, my memory is vivid and alive of the magnificent “Scarlatti” painting (1987) (224×288.9 cm, private collection) as Helen Frankenthaler had heard on a recording (Vladimir Horowitz at the piano two weeks earlier when she completed this painting. (see footnote *2)

 

Prof. Alexander Nemerov on his introduction “The Gods May Pursue Their Amours’ on the beautiful book that has been published for this exhibition, edition 750 (footnote*1) writes…

photos ©Nefeli Brandhorst, New York, May 19, 2019

 

The blue of Helen Frankenthaler ‘ Scarlatti is the blue of the sky. A bright transparent blue, as of cerulean and ozone, it evokes the brilliant summer day in 1987 on which Frankenthaler completed it –a day that reminded her of the sparkling music of the 17th century Neapolitan composer Domenico Scarlatti (1685-1757), which she had heard on a recording ( 2 weeks earlier. (footnote*2)

(Scarlatti,1987, acrylic on canvas, 222 x 288.9 cm, photo ©Jason Mandella

The blue of ‘Scarlatti’ sky is the blue of the composer’s Italian contemporary, Giovanni Batista Tiepolo  (1696-1770), a prolific painter of the Rococo whose art Frankenthaler admired.  Fresh out of Bennington College in the early 1950s, she saw Tiepolo paintings in the Old Master gallery of her former roommate’s father, Saemy Rosenberg: ‘really fine examples” of the painters’ work Throughout her life, Frankenthaler loved Old Master paintings, and would sometimes directly base her pictures on them..

Prof. Alexander Nemerov continues,

Before Tiepolo and other Old Masters, Frankenthaler’s measure of adoration was analytical but finally speechless. With her nephew, the artist Clifford Ross, she would go to the Metropolitan in the 1970s and 1980s, and gaze at the paintings of Tiepolo ‘s Venetian predecessors __Titian, Veronese, and Tintoretto. They would talk about what made the paintings great but they never veered into recondite art-history lessons. Then _ the best part_ they would fall into an appreciative silence, a stupefied delight, punctuated now and then by one Frankenthaler’s terms of highest praise : the paintings were “knock outs,” “they were terrific.”

Giovanni Battista Tiepolo ‘Apollo Pursuing Daphne’,ca.1755/1760 (68.5 x 87 cm).Collection of the National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC. Samuel H.Kress Collection (detail)

 

“…Before Tiepolo’s ‘Apollo Pursuing Daphne (ca.1755/1760) a painting that came into the National Gallery’s collection in 1952, just as her career was starting. Frankenthaler might have stopped and stared whenever she was in Washington. She might have admired Apollo’s bursting energy, his radiant halo, the circle of it rhyming with the black mouth of the urn She might have loved the laurel branches that grow from Daphne’s hands, not to mention the weird and even perverse correspondence of Daphne and the cray-bearded river god slumped on the urn, their paired bodies looking a bit like the same figure shown from the front and the back. To die for was the contract of cloaks, the sweep of Apollo’s gold garment contrasting with he river god’s soggy red one. But she might have loved most that blue sky, with its soft white clouds, which imparts a lightness as of helium, to even the grievous emotions of deities. Those skies are richly different from the other azures Frankenthaler had at her command, the ocean blue of ‘Pavillion’ of 1971, for instance, with it Sgt. Pepper palette and exuberance, as of ta scarf blowing in a slipstream. Scarlatti, by contrast, is a dream of Tiepolo, of his sparkling scenes, his brilliant summer days. 

exhibition installation photos ©Joe Kramm, Jason Mandella, courtesy of Yares Art Gallery, New York & Santa Fe (Scarlatti,1987, acrylic on canvas, 222 x 288.9 cm – seen at right of image)

 

 But the blue of Scarlatti show no empyrean romp of gods. The blue is the blue of a room. The creamy architectonic lines in the lower part of the paintings make a floor or a tabletop. The lines extending from the midpoint of the left and right edges of the canvas suggest the meeting point of a wall and floor. The pure blue rectangle at upper right might be a window. Even the largest Frankenthaler paintings “project a specifically human space, responsive to emotion, tangibly perceived.” in the works of her close friend, the writer, Sonya Rudikoff. Her paintings present “a space of human scale, imaginatively, sensuously, visually.” (Alexander Nemerov, ‘The Gods may pursue their Amours’)” 

 

1969: Abstract and expressionist artist Helen Frankenthaler tips the contents of a can of paint onto a canvas on the floor. She is the inventor of a technique whereby unprimed and absorbent canvas is soaked with paint giving a translucent effect. In black and white book (Photo by Ernst Haas/Ernst Haas/Getty Images)

Artwork by Helen Frankenthaler © 2019 Helen Frankenthaler Foundation, Inc./ Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

 

photos ©Nefeli Brandhorst, New York, May 19, 2019

 

The ancient Greek legend of the water nymph Daphne, who was changed by her father, a river god, into a laurel tree to escape the unwanted love of Apollo, symbolized during the Renaissance the belief that selfish love is doomed to fail. The ability to portray not only the atmospheric quality of light, but a wide range of character and emotions, ranks Tiepolo among the most inventive and technically proficient artists in history.

 

Prof.  Alexander Nemerov concludes with these poetic words …”the brilliant day  is not proof of a higher exultation. The window into which the sunlight flows, like the viewer whose face and body the light will bathe, receives the glowing warmth without any revelation except the desire let loos by sun and sky. This desire is a feeling, sometimes called the feeling of being alive –of being alive on a specific day, in a specific place –a feeling as physical and immediate as Van Gogh might have felt in some olive grove or down some cobblestoned  street beneath the stars. It amounts to an ecstasy: a sense that art might provide a proof, if only one that evaporates even as it manifests, that a sense of abundant life –the sunlight, the blue sky –can permeate our private beings and make us feel less alone.’ (Dr Alexander Nemerov, ‘The Gods may pursue their Armour, Helen Frankenthaler, Yares Art, New York,  2019)

Footnotes

*1.’Helen Frankenthaler/Selected Paintings/edition of 750 (Editorial and Design Productions, SNAP editions, New York, Editorial: Sarah S. King, Annikka Olsen, Nathan Jones, David Ebony and Ted Mooney; Design; Tim Laun and Nathalie Weeding, Printing: Brilliant Graphics, Exton, PA; Exhibition photos: Joe Kramm, Jason Mandella

*2 Oral history interview with Helen Frankenthaler, 1968,Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C

*3 Prof. Alexander Nemerov

A scholar of American art, Nemerov writes about the presence of art, the recollection of the past, and the importance of the humanities in our lives today. Committed to teaching the history of art more broadly as well as topics in American visual culture–the history of American photography, for example–he is a noted writer and speaker on the arts. His most recent books are Silent Dialogues: Diane Arbus and Howard Nemerov (2015), Wartime Kiss: Visions of the Moment in the 1940s (2013) and Acting in the Night: Macbeth and the Places of the Civil War(2010).  In 2011 he published To Make a World: George Ault and 1940s America (2011), the catalogue to the exhibition of the same title he curated at the Smithsonian American Art Museum.  Among his recent essays are pieces on Danny Lyon, William Eggleston, Bill Yates, and Gregory Crewdson.

Nemerov’s new book, Soulmaker: The Times of Lewis Hine,appeared in 2016, published by Princeton University Press.

Amsterdam_Tess van Zalinge “Shades of White”

In  color theory, a shade is a pure color mixed with black (or having a lower lightness) Strictly speaking, a “shade of white” would be a neutral beige.

Nevertheless, in Tess van Zalinge ‘s  fabulous creations, the shades of white take a complete different direction;  ‘The designer label’s aesthetics contemporises the female form, combining modern Dutch silhouettes with traditional elements. The precise cut and fit of her collections take centre stage, an approach lending itself to bespoke tailoring. Influenced by her Dutch roots, Tess van Zalinge references in her work Dutch crafts, costume wear, design and typically Dutch techniques.

photo ©Wadim Petunin

Virgin white organza and frail corsets formed the basis for the enchanting show with folkloristic kraplap. With the title ‘Monday, Wash Day’, the young designer referred to nostalgic traditional Dutch sculptures of green meadows with clotheslines full of flowing white wax.

I met Tess van Zalinge  first time last July afternoon in Munich; Tess  was attenting a special event for a dress creation which would be part of the Alte Pinakothek for limited time ‘Woman in Blue Reading a Letter’ by the Dutch master Johannes Vermeer (1632–1675). Tess and her studio created  a dress for that occasion, as her studies on costume historical design.

Design: Tess van Zalinge, Photo©Peter Stigter

 

photo ©Tomek Dersu Aaron, model Suez

 

Her collection “De Porcelayne Fles” (“the Porcelain Bottle’), collection 2017/2018  was launched  in  collaboration with  Royal Delft.  The collection was a class  between functionality and sensuality, featuring oversized suits and lingerie. Due to the unique collaboration, between Tess and Royal Delft, prints were created honouring Dutch master painters like Johannes Vermeer.

The music of Alexander Desalt echoes beautifully during that collection. Young Tess, a very hard working young fashion designer based in Amsterdam has lots in her mind..

A long admired artist and writer,  Edmund de Waal in his magnificent book “The White Road”, he writes,

“Porcelain is made of two kins of mineral. The first element is ‘petunse’ or what is known as porcelain stone. In the vivid imagery used here in Jindgedezhen it provides the flesh of the porcelain.  It gives translucency and supplies the hardness of the body.  The second element is ‘kaolin’ or porcelain call and it is the bones.  It gives plasticity.  Together ‘petuntse’ and ‘kaolin’ fuse at great heat to create a form of glass that is vitrified: at a molecular level the spaces are filled up with glass, making the vessel non-porous. ” (Edmund de Wall,”The White Road”_ a pilgrimage of sorts, pp29)

 

  photo© Tomek Dersu Aaron

“…It is from ‘kaolin that porcelain draws its strength, just like tendons in the body.  Thus is that a soft earth strength to ‘petuntse’ which is the harder rock. A rich merchant told me that several years ago some Europeans purchased some petuntse, which they took back to their own country in order to make some porcelain, but not having any kaolin, their efforts failed … upon which the Chinese merchant told me laughing, ‘They wanted to have a body in which the flesh would be supported without bones.” (Edmund de Waal, ‘The White Road, pp.29

Tess’ love for crafts, nature and folklore is again central in her newest collection. Inspired by the nostalgic image of white laundry on the clothesline above the vast fields that Dutch nature has to offer. Tess takes you back to Monday Laundry, ‘I have been inspired by this typical Dutch image of peace and quietness and made a translation of it with the focus on traditional costume, craft and experiment’.

photo ©Tomek Dersu Aaron

In some of their creations, the fashion designers, not always referencing as specific building , often incorporate architectural elements, like elongated proportions and strong silhouettes in their fashions; architecture usually plays the influence pattern. Coco Chanel quoted  “Fashion is architecture: is a matter of proportions”

Tess van Zalinge’s studio was created in 2016, a small creative team of 1-5 young designers, usually some interns of fashion design and all the  fabrics are within the borders of Netherlands. Tess does not hold any rules concerning how often she will present collections, first year she held three and a capsule collection, for this year is to do one collection and simultaneously to work /collaborate on interesting projects on the site.

The unique folded apron from the Molensteenkraag was the inspiration for one of the signature looks from Tess Van Zalinge’s Porceleyne Fles’ collection back in 2017. For her partnership with the Centraal Museum in Utrecht, Tess has re-invented the stand-out piece to be exhibited next to the artwork in the museum for the duration of six months commencing in January, 2019.

photo©Marieke Bosma, courtesy of Centraal Museum Utrecht

photo© Marieke Bosma,courtesy of Centraal Museum Utrecht

photo © Tomek Dersu Aaron, model Fien Kloos

You are by the sea at the turn of the tide.. The san is washed clean. You make the first mark in the white sand, that first contact of foot on the crust of the sand, not knowing how deep and how definite your step will be. You hesitate over the white paper like Bellini’s scribe with his brush. Eighty paris from the tail of an otter ends in a breath, a single hair steady in the still air. You are ready to start. The hesitation of a kiss on the nape of the neck like a lover. (Edmund de Waal, The White Road) 

 

From September 5, 2018 to March 31, 2019, the Costume Museum organizes the Contemporary Fashion exhibition.

The Dutch Costume Museum shows the craftsmanship, artistry, and passion that created the Dutch traditional costumes. The collection encompasses a cross-section of local traditional dresses and folk art from each region. Each region has its own garb, with variations from different villages or stages of life, such as marriage and mourning after a death. The museum houses seven rooms, and each room is decorated with motives and colours characteristics for each specific region…..The museum is housed in a 17th-century canal house at Herengracht, around the corner or Leidsestraat in the center of Amsterdam. In 1665, ropemaker Jan Jacobszn van Gelder bought the plot of land on which he built house numbers 427 and 429. The carpenter Cornelis de Roos had a facade with neck gables constructed in 1700, a feature that is still visible today. The interior contains an original Blue Delft toilet, which is still in use.

……

all photos credited by the photographers and courtesy of Tess van Zalinge Studio, Amsterdam, Netherlands. 

 

 

 

Azhar: from the desk of the architect ‘dark blue crystals harvested’

In my new section at VK publication,  “Photography Exemplar”  a platform in which  I invite artists that work on the media of photography or architecture to share their experience working on a project, an idea, that it might  develop to a larger narrative or simply stay at the moment.  My second guest is Azhar (Azhar Architecture, London & Berlin ) with his project ‘Space’. Azhar is a multidisciplinary architect. Born in Lahore, trained in London, and shares his time between London and Berlin. All images and text below are courtesy of Azhar.(note from editor VK)

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This series of modified images, are about reverting these drawings into “Blueprints”, the original status of their creation, they return to be not descriptive but prescriptive.
SPACE SERIES _ The space race has created such incredible technological advancement and fundamental analysis on human support systems. It strikes me that we still have a lot to learn from that extensive research, not just stylistically but in multivalent ways.  These are for me an optimistic series, to be  extra-terrestrial was the combination of vision and technical challenge.
As an architect, I am often introduced as somebody who creates buildings, which is only partially true. I see myself as someone who devises “instructions”, the process of which is drawings, whether it is a concept sketch, or an intricate 3D model. These plans, sections, elevations, 3D models are the instructions for others to use, contribute, interrogate and build the ‘plan’.
I started experimenting with ink drawings as a child, the technical pens of Rotring and Faber Castell, working with a series of proportional pen thicknesses, in fractions of millimetres, 0.1mm, 0.13mm, 0.25mm, 0.35mm 0.5mm etc. I was enthralled by this proportional thicknesses and this absolute precision.

“Apollo Command Module” used for the Apollo program between 1969 and 1975

“Apollo Lunar Module” which was flown to and landed on the Moon. Ten lunar modules were launched into space, of these six successfully landed humans on the Moon between 1969 and 1972.

“Skylab” launched and operated by NASA and occupied for about 24 weeks between May 1973 and February 1974. Skylab included a workshop, a solar observatory and other systems for crew survival and scientific experiments. Three missions delivered three astronaut crews in the Apollo Command and service module.

“Space Shuttle”, taken from a 1969 plan for a reusable spacecraft, tge first orbital flights occurred in 1982. In addition to the prototype, five complete Shuttle systems were built and used on a total of 135 missions from 1981 to 2011.

 

“Spacelab” was a reusable laboratory used on certain spaceflights flown by the Space Shuttle. The laboratory comprised multiple components, including a pressurised module, an unpressurised carrier and other related hardware housed in the Shuttle’s cargo bay.

“Columbus” is a science laboratory module that is part of the ISS International Space Station and is the largest single contribution to the ISS made by the ESA European Space Agency. It was launched aboard Space Shuttle Atlantic on February 7th, 2008. It was designed for ten years of operation.
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THE ALCHEMY OF INK
The colour of blueprints, are a “Blue-Black”, I have an instinctive love for the colour. It is my favourite ink in my pens, I draw predominantly with ink-pens, I like the fact that ink is unforgiving, one can only with great difficulty correct an ink gesture on paper.
Blue Black ink is in a way in my blood, my maternal grandfather was an ink maker, amongst other roles. His factory made writing ink in Lahore, where I am born, and from my youngest memories of seeing dark blue crystals being harvested, ready to be made into precious formulas to be sent out in little bottles to scribe, create and record the world, for good or for bad. Ink is a magical, a crucial invention for the evolution of civilisation, and is still wondrous to me, it is an alchemy.
INK MASTERS
As a boy, I fell in love with the Victorian Aubrey Beardsely, the brilliant young illustrator, the gestures and commitment that he drew, often erotic, his drawings were produced with an absolute commitment to ink, his medium. It was the age of Orientalism, I learnt that Beardsley had fell in love with the great master Hokusai and sought out a large format monograph of the masters work at a local library, I fell into the world of this book, and I have never left.
                                                                            Azhar, Berlin, February 12, 2019

New York:Alberto Giacometti ‘Intimate Immensity’ and ‘Poetics of Space’ at Luxembourg & Dayan

….Far from the immensities of sea and land, merely through memory, we can recapture, by means of meditation, the resonances of this contemplation by grandeur. But is this really memory? Isn’t imagination alone able to enlarge indefinitely the images of immensity? In point of fact, daydreaming, from the very first second, is an entirely constituted state. We do not see it start, and yet it always starts the same way, that is, it flees the object nearby and right away  is is far off, elsewhere, in the space of ‘elsewhere’...  (Gaston Bachelard, The Poetics of Space, 1958, pp 183-184)

 

‘Intimate Immensity’ is installed in collaboration  with contemporary Swiss sculptor Urs Fischer

Homme qui marche: (7.1 x 3.8 x 2.6 cm) )cast no.5/6, bronze, (cast in 1969), Alberto Giacometti “Intimate Immensity Sculptures 1935-45) , courtesy Lyxembourg Dayan gallery, NY

 

….when Ottilia died in 1937 (his sister after giving birth to her son Silvio,..”at times I have tried to work on Ottilias’s head but when I perceive resemblance I feel so much pain and regret that I have to stop.” Gradually reducing the scale of his work further and further … this was to become a characteristic of Giacometti’s new sculptural work created ‘de memoire’ (from memory) following his decision to abandon studies ‘d’après model’ (based on a model). (Casimiro Di Crescenzo “Alberto Giacometti: towards a New Figurative Art, 1935-45) ( Luxembourg &Dayan publications,2018)

……“wanting to create from memory what I had seen myself, the sculptures gradually became smaller and smaller, bearing resemblance only when they were small… Often they became so very small that with one touch from my knife they vanished into dust.” (Alberto Giacometti writes  to  Pierre Matisse, his art dealer in New York,1948)

Alberto Giacometti “Intimate Immensity Sculptures 1935-45, courtesy Lyxembourg Dayan gallery, NY

 

The exhibition “Intimate Immensity: Alberto Giacometti Sculptures, 1935-1945” at Luxembourg & Dayan  is exclusively dedicated to the artist’s cycle of very small human figures created in France and Switzerland during the Second World War….the exhibition is installed in collaboration with the contemporary Swiss sculptor ups Fischer , who shares Giacometti’s passionate commitment to redefining the human form as conduit for and conveyor of psychological experience (gallery text) ..The works are no more than three inches tall and as thin as nails are elegantly placed in large vitrines and dramatise the scale of the tiny sculptures in Manhattan’s second narrowest townhouse, foregrounds Giacometti’s insights concerning scale.

Alberto Giacometti “Intimate Immensity Sculptures 1935-45) , courtesy Lyxembourg Dayan gallery, NY

 Alberto Giacometti “Intimate Immensity Sculptures 1935-45) , courtesy Lyxembourg Dayan gallery, NY  (first floor)

Bachelard wrote in a chapter entitled “House and Universe.” “A house that has been experienced is not an inert box. Inhabited space transcends geometrical space.'” In  lyrical chapters on the “topography of our intimate being”—of nests, drawers, shells, corners, miniatures, forests, and above all the house, with its vertical polarity of cellar and attic—he undertook a systematic study, or “topoanalysis,” of the “space we love.” (Joan Ockman “Poetics of Space” by Gaston Bachelard at Harvard Design Magazine, no.6)

Alberto Giacometti “Intimate Immensity Sculptures 1935-45) , courtesy Lyxembourg Dayan gallery, NY, second floor

 

The sculpture I wanted to make… was meant to capture precisely the vision I had of her in the moment that I saw her for the first time in the street, from a certain distance. I wanted to give her the grandeur that she had at that distance.” He added, “I saw an immense blackness over her, the row of houses; so, in order to give that impression, I had to make an immense pedestal so that the ensemble will match the vision.” (Alberto Giacometti, later in life, explains  to Pierre Dumayet,(1963) how the gradual diminution of his sculptures in this period finally found its true purpose in a portrait of his model and intimate friend Isabel Rawsthorne)

Tête d’Isabel II, 1937-38 (cast in 1962) Bronze (29 x 22 x 24 cm)
Alberto Giacometti “Intimate Immensity Sculptures 1935-45) , courtesy Lyxembourg Dayan gallery, NY

Diego, c.1937 (cast in 1965) Bronze (20 x 12 x 16 cm)

Alberto Giacometti “Intimate Immensity Sculptures 1935-45) , courtesy Lyxembourg Dayan gallery, NY

 

If we could analyse impressions and images of immensity, or what immensity contributes to an image, we should soon enter into a region of the purest sort of phenomenology – a phenomenology without phenomena; or, stated less paradoxically, one that, in order to know the productive flow of images, need not wait to the phenomena of the imagination to take form and become stabilised in completed images. (Gaston Bachelard, The Poetics of Space, 1958, pp 183-184)

Tête d’homme sur double socle, c.1946 Plaster (11 x 4.5 x 4.3 cm)
Alberto Giacometti “Intimate Immensity Sculptures 1935-45) , courtesy Lyxembourg Dayan gallery, NY

 

La Poétique de l’Espace (1958) was first published in English in 1964, two years after Bachelard’s death, then in paperback in 1969, and reissued in 1994. An allusive little book, its author was a highly-respected philosopher who late in his career had turned from science to poetry.  Nothing about his intellectual journey had been orthodox, particularly as measured against the rigid norms of French academic life and advancement.  He was from a provincial background in Champagne, a post-office employee, who rose largely through intellectual tenacity to hold a chair in philosophy at the Sorbonne.(Gillian Darley, writer in architecture and landscape, in Aeon)

On the subject of the home as a workplace, art critic Kirsty Bell  in her book “The Artist’s house” (published by Sternberg Press, 2013) suggests that for the artist, the freelancer, and the homemaker as well, “there isn’t a true division of when our work day ends and our evening of relaxation begins.” She explains, “that’s because we’re all constantly available and communicating.  That’s very new and radical!”

and important to mention here Aristotle, a towering figure on ancient Greek Philosophy …

Aristotle rejects the definition of space as the void. Empty space is an impossibility. Hence, too, he disagrees with the view of Plato and the Pythagoreans that the elements are composed of geometrical figures. Space is defined as the limit of the surrounding body towards what is surrounded. Time is defined as the measure of motion in regard to what is earlier and later. It thus depends for its existence upon motion. If there where no change in the universe, there would be no time. Since it is the measuring or counting of motion, it also depends for its existence on a counting mind. If there were no mind to count, there could be no time. As to the infinite divisibility of space and time, and the paradoxes proposed by Zeno,  Aristotle argues that space and time are potentially divisible ad infinitum, but are not actually so divided.

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……..Thank you Luxembourg & Dayan for this opportunity to cover this amazing exhibition and permission to the visuals and thank you Stephanie Adamowicz (gallery director) for your lovely walk thru and all information and gift  / publication ; is a marvellous book  (VK note)

‘Archipelago of Fournoi Korseon, islands’ project by Christina Dimitriadis

Walter Benjamin, compared ‘memory . . . the medium of past experience . .  to ‘the ground (which) is the medium in which dead cities lie interred.’

 

In my new section at VK publication,  “Photography Exemplar”  a platform in which  I invite artists that work on the media of photography to share their experience working on a project, an idea, that it might  develop to a larger narrative or simply stay at the moment.  My first guest is  Christina Dimitriadis (lives &  works in Berlin) whose work  I admire for a long time, (Christina submitted 37 photos on my desk /september 2018  the photos are presented here unfiltered, exactly the way were delivered to me;  it is a journey of her  days residing at the remote Fournoi Korseon  islands, far east of the cycladic aegean sea; the “Island Hoping”was evolved to an exhibition presently on view at the Athens Municipality Arts Center, in Athens, Nov 10, 2018 -3 Feb 2019) (curated by Dennys Zacharopoulos. artistic director ); thank you Christina for sharing your journey with us. (note from editor VK) 

“Middle of May 2018, I take a photographic journey to the archipelago of Fournoi Korseon, islands I ́ve never been before. While I photograph for my new project “Island Hoping” with my professional cameras, I use the camera of my i phone to document my everyday life, my surroundings. The wild beauty of the Archipelago becomes my muse. Like an enchanted landscape transforms me into something I forgot how to be“. Christina Dimitriadis, artist

….see in detail all text /the journey after the images.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A digital diary of my journey to the Archipelago of Fournoi Korseon.
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The basic function of Instagram is the practice of photο-sharing. Photo-sharing as a regular or daily practice, a mise – en – scéne of one self, a formation and not only a presentation. While phone calls are decreasing and text messages are becoming shorter, photo-sharing becomes the new language of communication in the digital technology.
Posting photos and videos on Instagram is like a virtual dialog with the followers. A desire to communicate, to see and be seen.
Known or unknown followers, colleagues, collaborators, friends or not, some forgotten, some beloved, some wishing to meet to love.
Counting the number of hearts underneath each posts. Searching for names.
So ephemeral the life of a post, no longer than a few hours, a day the most, even if they can be saved to the timeline of the app.
The platform, the sleek design, the sophisticate filters the square format, become my new vocabulary. A vocabulary different than my actual life, but also different from my artistic practice.
A third dimension of myself, constructed with different tools.
I use this dimension as my notebook. Notebooks which were usually kept private become public.
Middle of May 2018, I take photographic journey to the archipelago of Fournoi Korseon, islands I ́ve never been before.
While I photograph for my new project Island Hoping with my professional cameras, I use the camera of my i phone to document my everyday life, my surroundings.
The wild beauty of the Archipelago becomes my muse. Like an enchanted landscape transforms me to something I forgot how to be…                                                             Christina Dimitriadis, September 2018

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See published Christina Dimitriadis’s  ‘Island Hoping’ on Art Agenda by Kimberly Bradley, Feb 1, 2019

Fournoi Korseon  (Φούρνοι Κορσέων) is a complex of archipelago  of small Greek islands that lie between Ilaria, Samos, and Patmos, North Aegean region. The two largest islands of the complex, the main isle of Fournoi 31 square kilometres (12 square miles) and the isle of Thyemaina  10 square kilometres (3.9 square miles), are inhabited, as is Agios Minas island 2.3 square kilometres (0.9 square miles) to the east

 

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