In: Contemporary Art
October 26, 2015
Photoville, Brooklyn’s innovative showcase of photography through the use of moving containers as exhibiting rooms, has come and gone but the photography projects shown there are still alive and well. A particular project that has stayed with me even a few weeks after the final weekend of Photoville, goes by the name of “Upstate Girls” by Brenda Ann Kenneally.
Since 2004, Kenneally has dedicated her life to documenting and exploring class inequity in America, and more specifically in Troy, New York. Troy is known as a prototype of the industrialization in America. As the majority of the manufacturing businesses that once provided Troy with the means to flourish move overseas, many lose jobs, incarceration rates soar, and an increasing number of households are left in the hands of single mothers. The current median annual income for a family of three living in Troy is $16,796.
For five years, Kenneally closely followed and documented the lives of seven women living in Troy. Keneally’s artist statement claims, “Poverty is an emotional, rather than purely physical, state.” This fact is brought to life in this project where the viewer is given the opportunity to observe all aspects of these womens’ lives, the ups and the downs.
Like all of the other Photoville exhibits, Keneally’s work was presented in a shipping container. However, this exhibit was vastly different than those surrounding it. There is stuff everywhere. All available wall space is covered with photographs. It honestly feels very unorganized and messy, as if a young child had curated the show. This is obviously done purposefully given the fact that the titles and descriptions paired with each photograph are hand written in a black ballpoint pen on masking tape and taped straight on to the prints. Loose corners of the unframed eight and a half by eleven prints are also held down by masking tape. At first glance, the exhibit itself seems very amateur. However, once you look over the subject matter – the messiness of the houses, the many children running around, and the piles of junk food on the dinner tables – you realize that this style of exhibiting seamlessly transitions into the actual photographs. In addition to this sea of images, Kenneally provides her audience with a large projected video of everyday life with these women of Troy, a couple more smaller screens with similar videos and headphones with sounds that bring the images to life. How the artist fit all of this into one shipping container is incredible. Even Kenneally herself, who was there struggling with the projector, was messy in her ways, which only added to the seemingly appropriate and even authentic ambiance of this little world the artist had created in the shipping container.
What really intrigued me and brought the project even more so into the realm of reality was that some of Kenneally’s subjects were in fact there, visiting the exhibit themselves. Note this project is not a flattering representation of these people’s lives. It is extremely honest and in fact more often than not very unflattering. If I myself was in these photographs I would most likely not want to look at them in front of the general public. However, I was glad they were there. Photography, more often than not, has the ability to create distance between its subjects and its viewers. Though in this case, as I observed a photograph of a bleached-blond girl sitting with her shirtless boyfriend on a dingy couch, this same bleached blonde girl stood beside me also enjoying the exhibit. Any feeling of distance with the subject was shattered.
These people were real!
It’s probably necessary to let you in on my state of being before describing my reaction to the current display at The Photographers Gallery in London. Prior to my visit, I had donated my tenth pint of blood, my deca-donation if you like. This is no mean feat when you’ve spent most of your life putting a blanket ban on films that contain gore and violence and feeling faint at the mere mention of blood. On this occasion I had decided that it was finally time to look at the needle and blood bag. Unsurprisingly, this left me cold, clammy and white as a sheet with the nurses huddled around me trying to keep me from fainting. I’m sure you can then imagine my wobbly disposition when entering the The Photographers gallery shortly after.
Noémie Goudal’s top floor presence contains a collage of realities. The vast photographs, hung low to fill ones gaze, are inspired by the ‘human fascination with the sky.’ Goudal presents landscapes, interrupted by printed digital imagery, each photo contains another photo, and the execution is such that at first the placement of one image inside the other appears seamless. Upon closer inspection, the construction of the images becomes much more obvious. Goudal positions the somewhat crudely cut out photographs in front of the lens, creating a simple extra layer on top of the background landscape. She allows you to see how the image has been constructed by including the brackets and wires holding it in place, making allusions to a theatre-like stage where the intention isn’t to fein realism but to evoke a willingness to understand a new idea or narrative. Her influences described in the accompanying text are communicated in simple visual language and avoid the art world faux pas of merely illustrating a concept. This floor is an absolute treat.
Walking down to the subsequent level, my mood had been settled. Goudal’s works have a subtle, therapeutic effect and allowed my somewhat giddy mood to mellow. This next floor contained what I later found out to be the second part of Burden of Proof, an exhibition demonstrating the historical lineage of the introduction of photography and moving image into criminal investigations.
The exhibition is extensive so I’m just going to pick out a few pieces that struck chords with me. The first piece I came across was a film demonstrating how video footage can be analysed to understand, in impressive detail, the impact of a drone attack. In the case shown, forensics rely on footage filmed by a citizen in a neighbouring building to determine where the building was situated, where the drone came from and whether there were fatalities. The process is disturbingly fascinating.
Richard Helmers ‘face-skull superimpositions’, on the same floor, were realised by placing stock footage of Josef Mengele’s face over the top of images of a skeleton found in the suburbs of São Paulo. This process allowed the researchers to determine that the skeleton in question was in fact Mengele – the ‘executioner of Auschwitz.’ The images themselves reveal a disturbing dichotomy between life and death – ‘face wrapped over skull, subject over object, an image of life over an image of death.’
The star piece of the show is a short documentary film that describes the first moment moving image was used in a court room and the case in hand happened to be one of the infamous Nuremberg trials. The narrator details the build up and context of the case and demonstrates how the courtroom underwent a structural make-over in order to display the film. It then moves on to show parts of the moving image used in the trial. The footage is nothing short of harrowing and unlike most gallery housed films, where the viewers come and go, no one left the room until the credits ran. I felt glued to my seat. It is one thing to see still images from the second world war, it is quite another to see the victims of this regime walking around like living skeletons with the guards standing in stark contrast next to them.
The atrocities displayed in this exhibition feel as though they should belong in some well crafted dystopian timeline, not one that represents the true historical lineage of the relationship between image and criminal behaviour. I would highly recommend visiting, but please do so with all the blood in your body.
October 23, 2015
Less than a week after Frieze Art Fair in London, gallerists, collectors and art-lovers in the art world take only a short breath and then gather around another important international contemporary art fair, FIAC, in Paris. Under the natural light coming through the exquisite glass roof of Grand Palais, the 42nd edition of FIAC has gathered 175 exhibitors from 23 countries. Here is a quick guide for some galleries to watch out for!
1. Neugerriemschneider (0.A30)
Directly facing the main entrance, this gallery from Berlin has proudly put up a large piece to match its honourable location. Overdose by Michel Majerus consists of 15 panels and forms a painting as well as an installation. Woody, the easily recognisable cowboy character from <<Toy Story>>, together with other colourful ads and brands, immediately gives visitors a familiar feeling as they set foot in the fair.
2. Galerie Chantal Crousel (0.A32)
The gallery is celebrating its 35th anniversary this year and is showcasing artists including Danh Vō, Haegue Yang and Heimo Zobernig. The spotlight is on Melik Ohanian, the winner of the Marcel Duchamp Prize this year with his Portrait of Duration. Every year the Marcel Duchamp Prize selects a French artist or an artist residing in France in the field of the plastic and visual arts. Don’t forget to check out this prize-winning artwork at the far end of the exhibition hall.
3. Andrea Rosen Gallery (0.A40)
The three sections inside the gallery booth presenting different artists sit well with one another. Among those artists presented, David Altmejd is undoubtedly my favourite and whose solo exhibition was in place in the modern art museum of Paris (Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris) earlier this year. His gestural plaster works have always been his signature while the shattered mirror this time has caught much photographic attention.
4. Luciana Brito Galeria (0.A47)
I was intrigued by the installation work But a Melon for Ecstasy by Héctor Zamora, a Mexican artist who lives and works in São Paulo, Brazil. According to the gallerist, the watermelon on a bike refers to a Brazilian movie from the 1970s about a watermelon fetish. The watermelon denotes a secret sense of desire and loneliness.
5. Galerie Pietro Sparta (0.A50)
The sculpture consisting of shells and plates by French artist, Jean-Luc Mouléne is wisely juxtaposed in front of the installation by Mario Merz. It creates a dialogue between the two artworks, both emphasising the material and metaphorical qualities of natural objects.
6. 303 Gallery (0.B22)
Several conversations engaging various artists are happening in this booth. A silvery installation by Dominique Gonzales-Foerster is placed below a painting by Karen Kilimnik in a smaller confinement while a glass sphere is superimposed in front of blue Breathing Watercolours (Wallpaper) by the same artist, Jeppe Hein. My favourite piece is Moot Matter by Alicja Kwade –sitting on the ground subtly collecting everything from its surrounding onto its reflective surface.
7. Kamel Mennour (0.B32)
The gallery has very diverse displays to offer, mixing rising and established artists, from sculpture by Alicja Kwade to Anish Kapoor, from Michel François to Daniel Buren. The most eye-catching was the sculpture by Huang Yong Ping which resembles a deer divided into two with a bow in the middle.
8. Karsten Greve(0.B34)
The gallery has put up several works by well-known French artist, Louise Bourgeois, alongside Claire Morgan, a London-based artist of contemporary sculpture and installation art. Artworks by both artists caught equal attention and are all amazing, especially the light and soft sculpture by Morgan using grains as shown in the picture.
9. Lisson Gallery (0.B40)
There is an installation work of fluorescent light called Paris Sky by Spencer Finch, probably especially chosen to match FIAC’s setting in Paris. Anish Kapoor‘s In-between, a sculptural installation with sexual undertone, retreated at a corner of the booth but still caught a great deal of attention, even with a security guard solely dedicated to it.
10. Galerie Nagel Draxler (0.B53)
The French-Algerian artist, Kader Attia‘s sculpture, Culture, Another Nature Repaired is reflected in another piece, Repaired Broken Mirror #11 by the same artist. “In the mended mirrors, the visitor will see his own face as if scarred by the metal wire,” the artist once said. With the wooden sculpture, Attia has transformed faces of mutilated war victims into a new depiction of human existence under interacting influences of African-Arabian and Western cultures.
11. Hauser & Wirth (0.C33)
The stand paid tribute to the attacks to the French newspaper Charlie Hebdo which happened earlier this year in the city. There are works with themes on freedom of speech and expression, such as Tienanmen (Students) by Fabio Mauri, being displayed around a stack of Charlie Hebdo issues.
12. Galeria Plan B (1.J28)
Let’s then turn to a booth on the first floor with a more playful selection. There is a work by Navid Nuur that requires you to take a flash photo so as to truly see it. On the other side of the booth, clementine skins are displayed as Pattern for a Sphere, accompanied by a kind of recipe that teaches you to make similar artworks, possibly with oranges, mandarins or grapefruits as suggested by the artist, Miklos Onucsan.
If you are in Paris for FIAC, don’t forget to check out the programme “Hors Les Murs” by FIAC — exhibiting outdoor installations scattered at various spots along the Seine, with the beauty of the City of Light as backdrops.
October 20, 2015
If you’re in tune with even a sliver of art culture, you know who Banksy is. Mysterious and shadowy, the world is constantly trying to figure out who this visionary artist is, especially with the opening of his bemusement park, Dismaland, in the UK. But we’re not here to talk about Banksy. We’re here to talk about the rumored-to-actually-be-Banksy street-artist and filmmaker, Mr. Brainwash, specifically his pop-up exhibit, Life is Beautiful, that’s been making splashes in NYC.
Thierry Guetta a.k.a. Mr. Brainwash popped on the scene in 2010 when Banksy released his Academy Award-nominated documentary, Exit Through the Gift Shop (and if you haven’t seen it I suggest you treat yourself to a night in with Netflix and this film). It tells the supposedly true story of Guetta, a French immigrant who moves to Los Angeles, and I won’t spoil the ending except to say that in real life, Guetta turns into the brilliantly successful Mr. Brainwash.
Now, I love his name, especially when you know the context of his work. Guetta’s signature work revolves around the clever rendering and altering of pop culture icons – so think of Andy Warhol except taking one step further. His name reflects on how these figures impact society in such a way that people will change their lifestyle or beliefs based on whatever is socially acceptable on that day. We are brainwashed by social media and other people’s opinions, and Mr. Brainwash confronts you with this idea through his work.
Life is Beautiful is located on West 13th Street near the entrance to the Highline in the Meatpacking District in New York City. As you approach the gallery, all you can see are statues stacked up against one another, crowding the windows. Prominent cultural figures are showcased in this pop-up and are given a humorous twist while creating a social commentary. For instance, Mr. Brainwash takes Warhol’s tomato soup can and turns it into a tomato soup spray can, or creating a royal portrait of Caitlyn Jenner. The space is packed with trashy-pop sculptures and re-adaptations, leaning items against the walls and creating mountains of old-school tech tools and toys like typewriters and grungy stuffed animals. There’s plenty of seating, making the space feel like a weird residential or communal area, where you can reflect on the work towering over you while flipping through the pages of a Magritte book conveniently left on the coffee table in front of you.
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This exhibit shares the messages of how beautiful life and love are along with the major influence pop culture has on society. I left the gallery with a smile across my face for the genius behind Mr. Brainwash’s work, with the reminder that everything relies on how you’d like to look at it.
It’s all about perspective.
October 19, 2015
Last week it was London’s annual Frieze week. This meant a week of hectic art fever in the capital. Not only did two gigantic white tents – as well as a sculpture garden – take over Regent’s park, but all over London galleries and museums organised events to coincide with Europe’s most exciting commercial art fair and ride the wave of all-round Frieze-mania. Besides openings, artist performances, talks, huge auction sales and ‘art marathons’ (see the Serpentine’s ‘Transformation Marathon’ that occurred past Saturday), there was also the occasional alternative art fair. One such fair is SUNDAY.
Set up as a low-key, low-budget satellite site to Frieze in Regent’s park – a 10 min walk away – SUNDAY has a reputation as the cooler addition to the frenzied art fair week. Staged in Ambika P3’s subterranean space on Marylebone Road, the fair attracts its visitors and evokes their intrigue with a few hundred playful, funky, experimental artworks in a wide range of media as presented by a set of relatively unknown, young, up-and-coming galleries from Europe and North America.
SUNDAY is difficult to compare directly with the big money, big business violence of Frieze, happening just down the road. Upon arrival you were led – instead of past glamorous VIP booths and expensive-ticket queues toward security-manned gates – through a windy outdoor corridor of what felt like an industrial carpark, with unassuming white A4’s pointing the way towards free entry to the fair. The obscurity of this slightly mystifying walk was resolved as the fair’s entrance opened up onto an indoor balcony from which visitors had a direct overview of most of its interior, a set of metalwork stairs leading down into the large, open-plan main room.
October 18, 2015
Scale can make all the difference in a serious collection of figurative portraits or studies, a scale that mimics life size gives figures a type of solid monumentality that invites them into the viewer’s space. For centuries this life size figurative scale was reserved for portraits of kings, gods and mythic personages, here at Sargent’s Daughters on 179 East Broadway in New York, Jordan Casteel uses it as a tactic for humanization. In her exhibition of large scale oil paintings, most around 5 by 6 feet, titled Brothers, Casteel brings before the viewer the faces and forms of African American men, inhabiting the unique environments, really interior spaces, to which they belong. Walking through the gallery, you could see that the diverse crowd present at the opening, faced each painting as if it was an encounter with a familiar friend or new acquaintance. The textured application of paint in works like Crockett Brothers and Ashamole Brothers, renders the surfaces and interiors with an impasto that makes them tangible and felt. Within Three Lions this becomes evident as intimate scene links with figural interrelation, expression and gesture.
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Considering each piece, one must step back and meet the gaze of the figures portrayed, take the time to consider them first as individuals then as intricately linked, as family, as brothers, overall part of a community. The figures are portrayed with key objects that represent their passions and interests: the young Crockett brother dexterously grips his saxophone and the Ashamole brothers balance a basketball between them. First by intuition, then by reflection it becomes clear that Casteel is deploying crucial and timely tactics of humanization, we are allowed into these intimate spaces in order to point up a positive type of visibility that complicates black male subjective. For Casteel concerns herself directly with a contemporary post-Ferguson reality, wherein civil rights struggle is back at the fore and black males have become highly visible within media and news, reduced to being antagonists or victims. When social progress comes under fire, it is art’s job to intervene and create a space for reflection: this exhibit, these paintings, are Casteel’s intervention…
A most necessary one.
October 16, 2015
Every October, the Frieze Art Fair attracts crowds of collectors and art-lovers from abroad and paint exciting events and exhibitions on canvas of art scene in London. It is certainly an exciting experience to go visit Frieze London, one of the most important contemporary art fairs nowadays. The 13th edition of this international art fair features 164 galleries from 27 countries. This personal selection attempts to provide you with a glimpse of the fair and help you feel the vibe surrounding Frieze.
- Galerie Eigen + Art (A12)
The installation made of cardboard, acrylic paint and wood by Birgit Brenner looks subtle but intriguing. The artist takes ideas from the banalities of daily life which is then expressed by using collage of raw materials such as brown cardboard, tape, staples and markers. They resemble pieces and parts of information that randomly coincide, overlap or complement each other in our current human existence dominated by means of modern technology and information. The gallery also exhibits works by conceptual artist, Olaf Nicolai who explores the relationship of idea to image or idea to object.
- Galerie Perrotin (A16)
This well-established French gallery is gathering fascinating works by various artists, including poetic minimalist series of Meditation by Korean artist, Chang-Sup Chung and Studies into the Past by French artist, Laurent Grasso, who recreates human and natural phenomena set in surreal time and space. The most eye-catching piece is Cierra, the superrealist sculpture of a nude woman posed like a muse for classical painting, by John de Andrea. You do feel you are staring at a nude lady so close and right in front of you. I like Ivan Argote’s see?, it’s true which examines propaganda in the history of several countries.
- Pace (B6)
The gallery has put up a new installation by Adam Pendleton alongside works by a group of artists including Robert Rauschenberg, Sol LeWitt, Lee Ufan and Wang Guangle. Pendleton’s work is now in place in the Belgian pavilion of Venice Biennale. I was mainly attracted by the rarely seen Salvage works of Robert Rauschenberg, which will offer an historical precedent for Pendleton’s silkscreen work according to the gallery.
- Gagosian Gallery (C3)
There is solo show of the artist Glenn Brown, whose drawings are the focus this time. Through lines, shadings and strokes, Brown revisits the tradition of copying the historical subjects as a learning process while the effects of gesture are emphasised. The artist is known for the use of appropriation that he would work on other artists’ works by changing colours, forms, or texture in the case of sculptures.
- White Cube (D4)
Here you can see works by big names, such as Tracey Emin, Damien Hirst and Mona Hatoum. The gallery was a pioneer in exhibiting works by Young British Artists (YBAs). I was quite attracted by the mirrored sculpture Puzzle by Liu Wei, a Chinese artist who often uses unexpected materials in surprising configurations. Its mirrored surface interacts with fair-goers and other artworks displayed at the booth.
- Galerie Buchholz (D8)
The inflatable Felix cat by Turner Prize winner Mark Leckey at the Galerie Buchholz booth is the largest artwork exhibited inside the white tent, and is reported to be sold early on the first day of the fair. On the other hand, I was rather intrigued by Wolfgang Tillmans’s realist and intimate photograph of Arms and Legs (2014).
The London-based gallery was awarded the Stand Prize at Frieze London 2015 for its two-artist presentation, praised by the jury on the ‘impact’ of the stand which instigate ‘intellectual and formal dialogue between the two artists.’ The sculptural installation by Yngve Holen made with washing machines, model airplanes and plexiglass was playful and attention-seeking. When it is surrounded by pixelated Rothko paintings by Mark Flood, the visual effects are elevated and make the stand difficult to be avoided by almost every fair-goer.
- The Modern Institute (E5)
The 23 Granny Smith apples hung with transparent strings lining in a v-shaped form immediately drew me into the booth of The Modern Institute from Glasglow. With this artwork, Urs Fischer makes use of found objects –real apples, and the v-shaped line looks like the trajectory of an apple falling and bouncing back on the ground. It is in dialogue with the installation at the back of the booth by Martin Boyce who likes to explore modernist design and how time affects our understanding of design objects.
This is a visually fascinating booth guaranteed by works of Olafur Eliasson including Panetary Lovers (2015) and Polychromatic attention (2015). The 24 partially chromed crystal spheres have attracted many smartphones and cameras for photo-taking. Draped Marble (2015) by Analia Saban, which examines the inherent quality of the material, was minimalist, finely made and neatly presented.
- P.P.O.W. (G2)
Always adoring blue and white china, I was truly enchanted by Ann Agee’s porcelain and stoneware installation, Lake Michigan Bathroom (2014), a re-creation of her original work from 1992. Agee often uplifts utilitarian objects to the level of artwork while seeking to replicate and mimic pre-existing forms. With this piece, she replicated industrial china by hand as porcelain and stoneware, in a way to examine reproduced objects’ position in culture.
Last advice for the fair includes: i) going to the sculpture park before entering the white tent of the fair because it gets too dark for appreciating sculptures outdoor after 6pm if you only go after all the booths; ii) do not miss out some “Live” sessions or “Projects” scattered around the venue, such as Misako & Rosen’s Portrait Session (2015) by Ken Kagami, fun guaranteed.
If you have also been to the Frieze Art Fair already, what are YOUR picks? Leave a comment to exchange ideas!
October 14, 2015
Spotted in the 6th Moscow Biennale of Contemporary Art. We all know him or will know him in a few. Yanis Varoufakis. Known as the Former Greek Finance Minister, he was one of the key figures to speak in the 6th Moscow Biennale of Contemporary Art.
Whether one praises Varoufakis or not, is really irrelevant.
His speech had something to offer in the intended audience and beyond: the interpretation of art and music under the umbrella of the political. In my attempt to catch all the important pieces of what he was trying to offer – I had to listen to the speech several times and scrutinise it- I must admit that at first I was shocked. Varoufakis was addressing an audience obviously interested in the arts (they were attending the Moscow Biennale after all). To start off a speech at such an event with the acknowledgement of the minor position of the Ministry of Culture into a Cabinet, especially on issues regarding policy changes, was quite a challenge. After all, Varoufakis has always been like that. Unexpected. As I was moving along, I realised the whole essence of his argument, and the reason of his presence in the Biennale, which at first was unclear.
Varoufakis is no art critic and we know it. His attempt and process to isolate the aesthetic from the musical has always been outlandish to him. Interestingly, however, he does not undermine and adversely understands completely the essentiality of art within a society, as some political figures have failed miserably in doing (I’d rather not elaborate right now, maybe some other time). Instead, as a young radical, he used – perhaps consciously or subconsciously – the importance of the arts in understanding various political and social conflicts. Most importantly, the message is that art has something important to offer when investigating the culture of one’s country and more specifically events that have stigmatised the domestic and international arena. The Guernica for instance, which provides the essence of the Spanish Civil War. Through the eye of the artist an individual ought to recognize any economic or political difference or even indifference for that matter.
So far so good, I completely agree with him and admire what he is trying to say. Yet, another important bit of his speech appeared to be dubious to some. The Eurozone Crisis. We’ve met him reining a parade against the Eurozone. That’s how people got to know Varoufakis. Yes, indeed, the common currency is outstandingly terribly constructed, and perhaps has failed to deliver the purpose of its existence. But, the ambiguity of his argument came along when he spent a considerable amount of time focusing on how the markets are failing, with little reference to how art and culture is influenced by that, but in the end established his point quite clearly.
I’d rather not comment on the other sections of his speech. I am choosing to reinterpret the importance of politics in the arts. But we ought to think of it outside the box, without any prejudices. The history of the world, whether it is politically or socially related, has a dirty background. Europe is no exception. The world as we know it today encourages individuality, doing things separately, hiding behind our masks. Again, European countries are no different. The effort for integration has failed. The vision for a common currency has disappointed Europeans. The reason is quite clear: European political leaders have not encouraged the European countries to combine the economic with the political, the socioeconomic with the artistic and most importantly the heritage culture of one country with the arts of another country. Instead, this lethal division has caused countries to drive apart.
Hence, the rise of individuality has had a devastating impact in promoting a collective understanding of one’s civilization. Perhaps Varoufakis was trying to address the loss of identity, which is subsequently behind the core value of the common economic currency. Or maybe he was trying to address that art and culture was undermined due to the excessive need of the powerful elite to focus on economics and politics instead of the artistic. I cannot decide.
The last statement though, says it all. I am keeping that. “Artists should be feared by the powerful”. Artists are part of the cultural industry. They are part of the aesthetic in a society. Culture is the only industry that tends to fight capitalistic ideas and go against the system, create new ideas and movements. Artists have the capability to overthrow the status quo. Something the powerful dread.
Well done Varoufakis.
October 13, 2015
Claimed by critics, professors, professionals and art snobs everywhere as a “once in a lifetime experience,” the Picasso Sculpture exhibition at the Modern Museum of Art stands up to this promise. It is Picasso as we’ve rarely ever seen him before…or dare I say, never seen him before. He is at his weirdest and most innovative (if he could get any weirder), revealing another dimension of his creative side that is lesser known to the general public and less studied at the academic level.
Needless to say, being the art nerd that I am, I was immediately hooked.
This comprehensive exhibition tracks Picasso’s sculptural and three-dimensional progression from the beginning of the 20th century up until about ten years before his death in 1973. It gives us a taste of his diverse and endless talents, not only as a painter but as a sculptor, ceramicist, and metal worker. Is there anything he can’t do? While working in a plethora of mediums, he used a number of different materials: wood, metal, bronze, plaster, stone, cardboard, nails, steel, various types of clay, terracotta and found objects. Essentially, anything he used anything he could get his hands on and transformed it into a vision of the near-abstract or a vague familiarity. The Venus of Gas, a small figure made of iron, was brought to life when a simple burner and pipe from a gas stove caught Picasso’s eye and reminded him of the charming prehistoric Venus figurines. When looking at it, you can’t help but smile to yourself and think, “Only Picasso.”
The show is organized as a chronological overview of Picasso’s different sculptural phases and as corresponding to where he was living, the political conditions at the time, and other artistic trends. The galleries are grouped according to themes: The Cubist Years, The Monument to Apollinaire, The Boisgeloup Sculpture Studio (with the various renditions of the well-known Head of Woman, where he worked almost entirely in plaster with Marie-Therese Walter as his muse), The War Years, Vallauris Ceramics and Assemblages, and the final phase of Sheet Metal Sculptures.
One of the things that stumped me was the first gallery. When you arrive at the fourth floor, the Sheet Metal sculptures (the final phase) initially greet you in their recognizable Picasso styled eccentricity. We have the basics: female figures with disfigured faces and angular bodies, Chair which looks more like a first grade paper cutting project than anything else, and vibrant colors that break any vision of naturalism. This is the Picasso we all know, in all of its strangeness it is familiar and helps ease us into the exhibit.
One has the feeling of confusion, amazement, intrigue upon entering each new gallery. And once you are finished, you just want to go back around again. For every rotation can reveal something new–another detail, another link, another surprise, another piece of evidence suggesting at Picasso’s relentless genius. (Dude grinds real hard). Once you’ve come full circle again, the first room becomes more clear and you can see how Picasso has gotten there. It’s like solving the ultimate modernist puzzle….but is it ever really solved?
Ultimately, the show is incredibly fun. Be it a serious art historian or a casual fan, everyone was circling around the sculptures, brows furrowed and smiles cracked at the bizarre visions Picasso brought to life. For anyone who is familiar with some of his other works, we can see that he was literally making art all of the time (grind so hard, am I right?) and constantly experimenting. These sculptures help us understand how he achieved and envisioned his paintings.
One of my personal favorites, Baboon and Young, is found in the second to last gallery. Picasso used his son’s toy cars to create bronze molds that he stacked on top of each other, wheel to wheel, to produce the animal’s playful head. (I’m sure his son was thrilled with this one.) The catch–it actually looks like a baboon. Honestly, who else would look at their son in the middle of playing cars and think, “Ah, a baboon head!” Again, only Picasso. It’s absolutely fabulous.
If this exhibit does anything, it shows us how much fun Picasso had tinkering away with form and perspective. He could take any ordinary or dumpy object and turn it into something completely new. I can’t wait to go again for round two.
Picasso Sculpture is on display at MoMA until February 7th, 2016.
October 4, 2015
For someone with a name that sounds like he’s a character straight out of How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Brian Woo (aka Doctor Woo) is a total badass who makes you pine for a tattoo in the worst way.
Dr. Woo has become a sensation in the tattoo and visual art world in the past few years. He’s based in Hollywood, California, working at the Shamrock Social Club. Woo was born in North Hollywood to Chinese immigrant parents and discovered his proclivity toward visual arts doodling in the margins of his notebooks at school. Now, I was a huge doodler and still am, but my doodles would certainly never be translated onto someone’s body.
Woo is trained in what is called the single-needle style which produces such fine, thin black lines that they appear gray. He was offered an apprenticeship at the age of 24 with Mark Mahoney, who’s considered the “founding father” of black and gray art using a single needle, and a living legend who’s tattooed the likes of Lana Del Rey, Johnny Depp, Lady Gaga, and the list goes on and on.
Just look at Woo’s inimitable designs; I don’t think I’ve seen cleaner lines. His tattoos are flawless and precise, going for the strategy of “less is more”, producing fine lines and limited color. Instead, he builds on texture and the outcome looks like a pencil drawing taken right off one of the pages of a sketchbook.
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What I love most about Woo’s tattoos is the simplicity of them all. I think that a lot of times, tattoos aren’t considered amongst the traditional sense of art, when the making of them have 100x more of a consequence then putting paint on canvas or taking a photograph. Tattoo artists are given the task of making a permanent piece of art on someone’s body that’ll be with them for eternity. If that doesn’t make you sweat a little thinking if that was your responsibility, then you have nerves of steel. Woo turns people’s ideas into pieces of art that they proudly display for the world to see.
His Instagram feed is filled with his art, and his family is featured rather often. Woo has 2 beautiful sons; the cutest, droopiest puppy you ever did see; and his gorgeous wife Jayme. And together, they make the hippest family I’ve ever laid my eyes on. Like, I’m 17 older than his eldest son, Lyon, and the kid’s already cooler than I’ll ever be. Just his name screams cool. Lyon.
Are you hooked now? Have you decided that your next tattoo has to be done by Dr. Woo, or for all you first-timers out there, that your first has to be a Dr. Woo??? Well get in line. Dr. Woo has a year long wait list so if you want one, book your appointment and your ticket out to California now and you’ll have plenty of time to come up with the perfect piece for you.
Follow Dr. Woo on Instagram to see a constant feed of his tattoos and his adorable family, plus check out his website for more inspiration. All hail Dr. Woo, maybe I’ll see some of you in the Shamrock Social Club’s waiting room…in a year or so.