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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

                                                        Olivier Berggruen, New York, March 16, 2020

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)

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