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Category: ART

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

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.

“Stories and Reflections” Axel Vervoordt and Michael James Gardner

 

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

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

 

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

Cy Twombly and a Change of Heart 

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

 

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

 

Stones and Silence 

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

 

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

 

The Story of the Parquet

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

During a beautiful warm fall afternoon in New York City, I visited  Andrew Ferentinos‘ studio.  The sun was gloriously bright and a beautiful object was calling my  attention on his desk.  Indeed, was an object  that was created on the architect’s desk. Seeing in very simpler essence the experience of everyday life, the need to reach for simple and  important moments that transcend a normal day experience. And there it was standing alone, beautiful and quiet on the desk, “Untitled, Box No,1”

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

Andrew Ferentinos has created another luxurious desirable object, which serves as a book stand or paper holder, the  ‘Barcelona Column’  

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

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

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

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

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

“..In 1930, the original Barcelona Pavilion was dismantled after the International Exposition was over;  in 1983 a group of Catalan architects began working on rebuilding the pavilion from photographs and what little salvaged drawings that remained.  The pavilion is furnished with only a few pieces of furniture and a sculpture by Georg Kolbe on the rear patio. On the occasion of Mies’ s 100th birthday, the pavilion was rebuilt in 1986 according to his original design. 

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

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

 

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

Here Mies combined glass, steel, and stone into a reduced abstract composition with clear horizontal and vertical lines. The building’ load-bearing and space-forming elements ae strictly separated and allow for a free-plan interior. Eight chrome-plated steel supports (cruciform in cross section)carry the roof slab, but partitions have been inserted without any structural function. A large travertine plinth raises the pavilion above its surroundings. (Bauhaus, publ. by Prestel,2001,Hans Hengels, text Ulf Meyer, pp.72)

Based on the above detail text on the Barcelona Pavilion, I found proper to relate the fabulous ‘Barcelona Column’ by Andrew Ferentinos.

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

 

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

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

 

…………………Thank you Andrew Ferentinos for your friendship and your story  on Eero Saarinen and your continuous educating me on fine architecture; and  photos and sketches by permission to be published in the VK Blog.(New York, May 2018 )

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

IL TRITTICO: Il tabarro / Suor Angelica / Gianni Schicchi

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

 

‘Lightscape’ porcelain quietness creations of Ruth Gurvich

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

all photos, courtesy of Porzellan Manufaktur Nymphenburg

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

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

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

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

.

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

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

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

all photos, courtesy of Porzellan Manufaktur Nymphenburg

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

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

 

 

 

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

see Karin Waisman   and more about her work  see here 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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