In: Visual Art
Everyone is talking about the Frank Stella Retrospective at the New Whitney museum this fall. However, the art world is split right down the middle when it comes to their opinion of the show. Some find that the Whitney dropped the ball, stating that the show’s monumentality is purely just that, an aesthetic play on the public’s taste for the spectacular in the modern day of Instagram and Snapchat. However, some find that it is exactly this focus on the aesthetic that so greatly captures why Stella was revolutionary for the art world.
Frank Stella was born in 1936 in Malden, Massachusetts to first generation Italian-American parents and attended Princeton where he earned his degree in history. While attending Princeton, Stella furthered his interest in art and studied underneath the painter Stephen Green and art historian William Seitz, who introduced Stella to the New York art world, and in turn, the Abstract Expressionist movement that he was soon to react against.
Stella moved to New York in 1958 and quickly became famous due to his emotionally cool and aesthetically sleek geometric black paintings that stood dark and menacing in the face of Ab-Ex. Whereas critics like Clement Greenberg believed Pollock to be the ultimate destroyer of perspective (this is a good thing) and king of formalism, others like Michael Fried praised Stella for removing the “theatre” from art and allowing the works’ own formal properties, such as two-dimensional surface and structural shape, to define it. Ever since his explosion on the scene in the late 50s, Stella’s career has ceased to slow. Moving from Geometric Abstraction and Minimalism into Lyrical Abstraction, Color Field and Abstract Illusionism; Stella’s work is always reactionary, aware of the times and its own influence over the path of artistic experimentation.
The best word to describe the Whitney’s Stella Retrospective is monumental. Visitors are greeted by the artist’s enormous forty-foot painting entitled Das Erdbeben in Chili, 1999, paired next to his huge, gray-scale geometric work Pratfall, 1974. It is fitting, as the exhibition takes you from the early Minimalist works of the artist, though while minimal they are not small, to the “Maximalist,” hyperbolic pieces that the artist has created during the later years of his still on-going career. In its entirety, the show is filled with huge paintings and sculptures that tower over visitors and snarl with metal tongues or stare blank faced, sometimes almost haughty, from their painted structures; while the works at the beginning of the show may seem completely unrelated to those at the end, their differences highlight the true genius of the artist, a formalist with no limits.
The museum’s new space enhances the already intense overall visual impact of his works. The visitor follows Stella’s career as he shoots to art stardom with his Die Fahne Hoch! 1959, the epitome of his black painting series that is comprised solely of the shape of its own structure; at the time, a rejection of the exploding Abstract Expressionist movement and an embrace of the antithesis of gesture and human expression. This idea of allowing the art and its formal elements to define the very content of the work will remain with the artist throughout his career.
The show is designed in a mainly chronological order, exemplifying Stella’s experimentation with color and shaped canvases that create dynamic and complex structures to form the subject of his work. As visitors move through the open galleries, they can stand before a metal sculpture that is grotesquely kitsch, baroque to a point where Gaudi himself would be proud, and look two decades back at the artist’s first shaped, colorful canvases. The space allows the viewer to make connections and understand the artist’s progression by putting fewer restrictions on the visitor’s visual input.The one noticeable trait about Stella’s oeuvre that stands out in the retrospective is the display of true dedication to formalism. Whether it is the rejection of expression and perspective on a canvas to the embrace of gesture and curvature in metal works, Stella is always seeking to highlight the formal aspects of the materials, the object, itself. The motif that marks Stella’s career as presented by the Whitney’s retrospective is the growth and diversification of aesthetic in the realm of abstraction. The exhibition stays true to Stella’s early motto of “what you see is what you see.”
November 13, 2015
The current display at Four Corners Gallery is the culmination of work by five artists: Marianne Bjornmyr, Maria Kapajeva, Jo Lawrence, Georgia Metaxas and Elisa Noguera Lopez. All were selected to take part in Fathom 2015, a residency in its second funding round, granted via Arts Council England with additional support from the European Regional Development Fund for this final exhibition. The driving force behind the programme is to provide London based film makers and photographers with an opportunity to explore their ideas in an open, practice-based, experimental manner.
The exhibition space itself is fairly modest and fitting all five artists in was clearly a curatorial challenge. I was lucky enough to have a long conversation with Dave Than, Exhibitions and Project Manager, who treated me to a fascinating account of the history and cultural significance of the space which houses (amongst other things): around twenty artists’ studios, a fully functioning photographic studio, the London base for photographer Steven Gill (arguably the photographer of London’s east end) and a fully functioning colour and black & white darkroom. The darkroom itself is shared with the photographic printing service Labyrinth who have just been awarded the Lucie Foundation’s Best Darkroom award – so a massive congratulations to them! Hopefully I am beginning to paint an accurate picture of just how important the work that goes on inside the Four Corners building, which is currently celebrating it’s 40th year, really is.
What became most apparent from my conversation with Dave is the care and support each of the artists in residence receives as a part of the programme, with such a wealth of knowledge and resources available it’s not surprising that there is such diversity in the works on display. At one side of the gallery you have the quietly confident work of Georgia Metaxas who has created bust-portraits of invigilators across London in a classical style, a great homage to those who work in the galleries we visit and endure the painful task of sitting in the same place for hours on end. Then, at the other end of the gallery, you have the work of Jo Lawrence who happened upon Angeles Duran, a Spanish activist who found a loophole in the legality of constellation ownership and claimed the Sun at the centre of our solar system as her own.
Her animation tells Duran’s story in a playful style and is the result of many conversations that took place between the two women. Sandwiched between these are offerings from Marianne Bjornmyr, Maria Kapajeva and Elisa Noguera Lopez. Bjornmyr’s beautiful black and white photograms were created by scattering actual meteor dust across the surface of the paper whilst, opposite the Dogs and Chairs in Lopez’s films and found images explore the notion of animism – the belief that natural phenomena possess souls. Finally, Kapajeva shows a sensitive and tense collection of previously undeveloped photos the artist found that had previously belonged to her Father. These are paired with equally delicate excerpts from the novel ‘If on a winter’s night a traveller’ by Italo Calvino. All of the works require a dedicated amount of time to really get the most out of them – I would highly recommend purchasing the exhibition catalogue to gain and even great understanding of the artists’ background and intentions.
To any budding photographers based in London, do make sure that you keep an eye on the Four Corners website for future photographic residencies as this programme is potentially one of the most exiting in the capital.
Fathom 2015 will run unitl 23rd January 2016 .
November 9, 2015
Part I of this article explores the current exhibition “Warhol Unlimited”, but why Andy Warhol again? With this “King of Pop Art”, we are now still struggling to distinguish the actual influence he had on his time from the artistic importance of his art, and indispensably also ours.
In order to better understand the influence of Andy Warhol’s art, we may first try to look at the rise of pop art. Though we often associate pop art with American artists from the early 1960s, such as Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein and Claes Oldenburg, pop art actually began in early 1950s when a group of artists, such as Richard Hamilton, architects and critics formed the Independent Group and organised conferences and exhibitions with topics such as popular culture’s place in fine art. This group wanted to counterbalance the hierarchical and rigid English society.
By the 1950s, on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean, artists in the United States such as Jasper Johns started to react to abstract expressionism by using abstract expressionist techniques to depict easily recognisable objects from reality, such as the American flags. Thus, the emergence of pop art can be seen as a way to counteract the prevalent abstract expressionism and to reintroduce figurative representation into modernism.
Contrary to traditional “high art” subjects of morality, mythology or historical events, common objects and people from daily life are adopted by pop artists. In this sense, they uplift popular culture to the level of fine art, disrupt the hierarchy of culture and blur the division between “high” and “low” art. The central feature of pop art, that anything can be art, has had a tremendous influence over art ever since. It became an international phenomenon that artists from different cities were making use of forms and representations from popular culture. At the same time, since pop art integrates many commonly seen popular images, it has become one of the most discernible genres of modern art.
Quite a few pop artists come from the commercial art field, for example, Andy Warhol had gained recognition as magazine illustrator and graphic designer; James Rosenquist started his career as a billboard painter. Their commercial art background equipped them with the abilities to make use of mass culture as the visual vocabulary, and in turn, to finely blend the dimensions of high art and popular culture.
Among the pop artists, Andy Warhol has cast remarkable influence on spreading this art movement. Warhol is well-known for his unique style with vividly coloured portraits of celebrities. Warhol explored various subject matters throughout his career, with mass consumer culture having always been the common theme throughout. In the 1960s the United States actually witnessed the advancement of production and the diffusion of mass-produced consumer products. Then, Warhol would reproduce Coca-Cola bottles and Campbell’s soup cans in an infinite quantity virtually transforming the gallery space into a supermarket shelf. At his first solo exhibition at the Ferus Gallery in Los Angeles, he showcased 100 canvases of Campbell’s Soup, which has changed the face of modern art ever since. Through this mass-produced product put within a fine art context, Warhol especially draws attention to people’s perceptions of commodities in consumer society. This early work, Campbell’s Soup, a version of which is also exhibited in the current “Warhol Unlimited” exhibition in Paris, is then recognised as one of the most representative and important works of pop art.
Warhol relied on screenprinting for large-scale replication of popular images. His persistent adoption of this mechanical method repudiated notions of artistic authenticity and genius. In that sense, paintings became comparable to common consumer goods such as cans of Campbell’s soup that can be bought and sold. Even celebrities in Warhol’s art, such as Marilyn Diptych (1962), were treated as parts of mass-produced consumer products. By acknowledging the commodification of art, Warhol eliminated the boundaries of art. Therefore, pop art has become widespread and unlimited. Art is emancipated from traditional perceptions and limits, and as a result, has gained appeal to a much wider common audience.
November 8, 2015
Nikolas Antoniou was born in Larnaca, Cyprus where he resides and works. He is a graduate of the Department of Fine and Applied Arts of the University of Western Macedonia, Greece (2012) with professors Harris Kondosphyris and Manolis Polymeri.
His paintings do not stem from a specific idea or theme. He consciously avoids focusing on specific questions or particular answers but instead, creates new pictures that generate unknown questions. He paints vague spaces, objects which appear to be misplaced both through time and dimension, next to items disjoint with figures lost in an intense painterly environment, but in the end coexist and interact, giving meaning to their existence, tell a story and express a sentiment.
As of 2010 through to today Nikolas Antoniou has succeeded in portraying his paintings in a number of solo and group exhibitions. Most momentous of which took place in 2010 at the Aianis Archaeological Museum in Kozani entitled “Time – Memory – Oblivion”. In the following year he participated in the “Sixth Student Biennale of Fine Arts”, which took place in the exhibition hall of the Athens Metro at Syntagma Station. He also took part in the group exhibition “Eumorfos Anthropos” in Technohoros Gallery, Athens. In 2012 the same exhibition journeyed to two cities of Northern Greece. In the months of February to March the exhibition was hosted at Gallery 512 in Ptolemaida and two months later at the Museum of Contemporary Arts of Florina. Both exhibitons were held under the supervision of Harris Kondosphyris. During the months of June and July Nikolas’ works reappeared in the Technohoros Gallery under the heading “Maps 1987 – Travel 2012” and in late July-early August he takes part in another exhibition titled “IR E MO” showcased at Gallery Lola Nikolaou in Thessaloniki. In 2013 he returns to Cyprus permanently and is involved in several group exhibitions around the island and colaborates with a number of galleries. In May 2013 he presents his first solo exhibition entitled “Sanitizing Logic” at Polychoros Warehouses in Larnaca, while a few months later the same trail of work is exhibited again in his second solo exhibition “Sanitating Logic 2” in Gallery Technohoros in Athens, Greece. In 2014, his work is hosted by Gallery Myro in collaboration with Gallery Lola Nikolaou in Thessaloniki, Greece.
Solo – May 2015 – Technohoros Gallery – Athens
Group – Oct. 2015 – the Collection Gallery – Embody – Nicosia
Group – Dec. 2015 – Lola Nikolaou Gallery – Thessaloniki
1. What do you think contemporary art really is?
Contemporary art is the natural order of things that led art history up to this point. The evolution of time and the alteration of how we do things have played a significant role. In a sense, art and specifically painters used to be craftsmen in the past but now developed as modern day artists that can freely decide the concept of their art. In the same way -as we have today – contemporary artists that begun their practise with different foundations, this will be the case in 20 years time too and another term might possibly develop in art history. Artists will evolve with different foundations due to the evolution of time. Artists cannot have the same starting and ending point. Contemporary art today follows the general principle that an artist has the freedom of expression and is able to deal with any concept. But, the problem with contemporary art today is that it is difficult for people to understand especially when you have no interest in it and it is thus challenging to engage with something you can not understand.
2. So do you believe there is an apathetic stance from people to understand contemporary art?
Well, not really apathy. Art is just something that needs further consideration and examination. You need to go deeper and people don’t do that. People choose not to see art to its core but rather stay on the surface – that is the way they tackle everything they see. That’s a problem (laughter). The artist should not compromise his or her expression based on what the rest of the world understands. People who create (whether it is food, art or any service) do it the best way they can and develop along with it and thus consciously the result develops within them. Thus, people who will try and engage with an artist’ work must put the same or more effort into comprehending what it is shown on a plain canvas.
3. Have you ever come across in any misunderstanding with people that have brought you into a difficult position? Let’s say such as not understanding the way you express?
It happens everywhere, even if you go to a place with people not related to art, you might find people who understand what you do. Regardless if they are involved with art or not, they have the mood and eagerness to understand, ask and learn my own perception exposed in my artwork. There are people that just don’t want to understand. Personally, I have never came across a difficult position but you know it just happens.
4.Does it bother if a contemporary art piece in a gallery has an explanation written next to it? Does it bother you that the artist needs to go in the process to explain when he is displaying his work?
No, I don’t mind at all, because they way I see it – this is part of art as well. Why shouldn’t there be a panel next to it? An artist worked on that text and he or she is thus narrating his/her work. Art needs to find a way to draw more people in. What bothers me is when the text on the label is meaningless, or the artwork is pointless along with the text. Since you are using another medium along, it should be two times stronger.
5.Why does most of your work include the human body? How do you tackle any project series or art piece when it comes in creating something related to what you do? Do you do any specific research?
That’s what I like in art. The human body attracted me as an audience. So it gave me the interest to explore it and create artworks around it. The human body is the most interesting part of a human. A figure is a figure. Even a bottle can be perceived as a figure but the human body can change its position: the gaze, the size and that it creates emotion. Observing human body figures as part of an audience made me feel as if I was seeing myself. The eyes and the glance can capture you and draw you into an emotional process. I have worked into exploring the human body for so long that I became extremely interested on how the figure changes from one painting to the other. The smallest change in position can alter the whole atmosphere of the painting. I don’t do any specific research. I research and work all the time and gather my thoughts when it comes to create something. Most of my pieces are not related, some are, and some are not. When I exhibit my work I group my pieces and then present them. I do not start something based on specific research. The only research I do and the only way I tackle my projects happens when I gather all of my artwork and try to group them to make sense to the audience. I like putting myself into complicated tasks and then represent my art pieces in that way.
6. Would you classify yourself as a contemporary artist?
Not really. A contemporary artist is an artist who observes what is going on in the world now. I honestly do not think that I understand what is going on in the world today. I am contemporary in my own perspective; I don’t think others would perceive me as a contemporary artist.
7. Sometimes when I observe your artwork I can see a sense of rebellion in the way you paint. But then, this is my own personal take. Do you have any particular themes you want to elaborate through your work?
Not necessarily. I don’t work on purpose, I let my thoughts emerge and I like it that way. Sometimes I feel that themes might keep an artist restrained, but since I don’t work that way I let my paintings be personal. I don’t feel my art should be something particular. I do have some obsessions with certain concepts, which they help me elaborate on my work when it comes to my own technique, but this is as far as I take it. I want to expose particular themes. I am pleased when people perceive my art and create bonds, which works as food for thought for them. One of my teachers used to say that art is the space between the viewer and the painting. So, this is where my art lies. This is the way art should be anyway.
8. I feel that this could be interpreted as a theme by itself. Some artists might do some pieces and then for the sake of being accepted in the art world, they come up with some sort of concept they never thought about just to fit in a box. So, please share with us then what made you become an artist?
To be honest, I wanted to become an architect as my cousin influenced me. But then I realised I was terrible in maths. Going into an art school was almost an accident. I travelled all the way to Hungary for my studies but I couldn’t learn the language so during my stay there, I was having private art lessons and then realised that I wanted to do Fine Arts. When I was in my third year of art school I realised that this was my dream. I always liked art and people were telling me that I was good at it but I couldn’t really understand that myself. I entered art school ranking last and I then worked really hard and I could not abandon it. I always painted as kid, but that was as much as I can remember.
9. Then who is your favourite artist and what is your source of inspiration?
I don’t have anyone specific. I examine and observe several artists all the time and I like specific pieces not specific artists. Lucian Freud and Francis Bacon had a massive impact in my work. I realised that after many years of practicing. When I was researching Bacon and Freud I didn’t realise that they were the main catalysts influencing my development as an artist. My source of inspiration? I just want to sit back and paint. I don’t have anything specific that inspires me. My brain is always working, as I am observing my surroundings. I told you already that the human body is my main interest. Mostly women, but that’s completely without a reason. Therefore, I enter my studio and simply work. This is my way of living; this is my main source of inspiration.
10. Is there a specific life-event that stigmatised you as an artist? Something specific that worked as turning point in the way you are tackling your pieces?
Yes, a teacher that used to teach me back when I was in art school, Manolis Polymeris. It was the first time I have ever seen an artist in my life working and the fact that he was working so obsessively and neurotically to create an artwork stigmatised me. It was at that specific moment that I realised how art should be created. Most people see the end result in a painting, not the procedure. But studio practise is what art really is. Art is studio practise, not the result of a painting. So yes, Manolis Polymeris was the only person that made me realise what art really is.
11. Then what do you think is the purpose of art in the world? Should it have a purpose?
There is a tendency around the world where people think that things have a purpose only if they relate to everyone. If this is the case, then art will never be able to have a purpose. BUT, since some people sacrifice their entire lives working for art, developing both as humans and as artists around it, motivating other human beings, then art has entirely its own purpose. Not everyone will get its purpose and that is perfectly fine. It is enough if art goes back in motivating people to create more in any field they choose to be involved with.
12. How do you see yourself in the future?
In a studio, working and creating. If this thought will provide me with money to make living, that is another story. I don’t think I will be staying in Cyprus for the rest of my life but I am not leaving now. For the time being, I am happy here. I don’t have any personal ambitions; I just want to work in my studio.
13. And finally, since you are relatively young in age, what are the messages you want to deliver to the younger generation and especially those that aspire to be part of the art world?
The world today is structured in a way that it is easy for us to lose the substance and the meaning of life. Even if you are very ambitious, you have to understand what the substance of life is. That’s the only thing that will make you successful. Everything else does not really matter. There is a tendency for young artists to start their career from the ‘ending point’ – this is how I call it – because they focus more on the economic aspect of their career and not their own personal development. But this will not take you anywhere. This was not the main reason a person choses to become an artist. If you are interested in becoming famous, practising art is not the place to become one.
November 7, 2015
The first part of an ongoing exhibition which will see contributions from artists, philosophers and neuroscientists, is Ann Veronica Janssens’ sublime vapour filled room. The title yellowbluepink describes the spectrum of colours beautifully limiting the perceptions of those entering. At first, this feels slightly unnerving, the colour leaves you blind to the world in front of you and those entering the space can be seen with arms tentatively outstretched, nervously trying to avoid the other bodies that they can hear but not yet see.
Once the initial sensory shock has abated, you are able to travel seamlessly through the hues of the space, and of course the setting is incredible for taking a never ending amount of yellow, pink and blue tinted selfies.
As well as the colours interrupting and dominating the typical conscious experience, the people sharing the space ebb and flow from each others visibility. It is entirely possible that my experience of the space was directly affected by the fact that I seemed to be the only person in there alone, but the blanket of vapour clouding my vision had a definite feeling of alienation. There was what felt like an obstacle of colour between me and everyone else, realised through my perception of my immediate surroundings. I was aware of not only how this installation was affecting my visible world, but after a while, I began to analyse my entire position within the world at large.
The installation is running until January 3rd and full details of the installation can be found here.
November 5, 2015
Two years ago the world’s first Street Art museum appeared within the structure of an active Soviet laminated plastics factory in Saint Petersburg, Russia. The reality is that impotent and unprofitable leftovers of the Industrial Soviet past are torn down almost all the time, surrendering to the giant capitalist commercial centers of today. Industrial land repurposed for commercial motives raises unemployment by approximately one percent, which in turn incubates crime growth by 7 percent, all while a chosen few make a fortune. A similar fate awaited SLOPLAST, which was the biggest factory within its sector. The wheels started turning a couple years ago, when after a street art party at the plant, Mikhail Astakhov, one of the museum’s curators, received a text from the factory’s management to negotiate the terms of the future museum.
Giving the plant an alternative future was seen as a substantial contribution to the local community, which would in turn bring about positive social change. The Russian youth are conscious and hypersensitive to the injustice of the ongoing social order, and their reactions to it take on the form of street art. The creation of the Street Art Museum has not only saved a drastic number of jobs, but has also contributed the operators’ cultural and social involvement by engaging them with the museum’s activity.
World's First Street Art Museum - St. Petersburg
Soon, 50,000 square meters of the factory’s walls will be covered entirely in murals. Such a vast space offers unlimited possibilities to artists’ expression. Museum walls are already hosting works by artists Ecsif, Pasha 183, Timofey Radya, Kirill Kto, Pasha Wais and many others. In addition, the museum’s 11 hectare outside area will be a platform for music festivals, performances, shows and other events. Thus the museum’s activity is not limited to only a pictorial aspect, but grasps every bit of the local contemporary culture.
Today street art’s crisis lies in its forceful withdrawal from its natural context. Paradoxically, “street art” is also showcased through gallery displays, where it can travel to museums and private collections. This tendency is an indicator of a rapidly rising interest in street art worldwide (ironically, very first article on Art Versed was on street art as well), but it may also lead to street art’s decline. Such enthusiasm appears to be damaging to the development of certain artists. The increase of demand defeats the purpose of street art by shifting its ideological and aesthetic content towards consumerism and away from opposing it.
While serving as the skin of a city, street art also serves as an indicator of its inner state; it reflects what we are as a society, thus it shall never be reshaped by demand and investments. Failing this, street art risks being transformed to a bias information source, like a federal news channel. Instead, it can be used as a 3D-dolby-cinema, which, according to Astahov, catalyzes concern and interest in art within the society. With its industrial setting, Saint Petersburg street art museum is a concentration of urban culture that gives birth to protesting art forms that are extremely important today to Russian society.
October 27, 2015
Yes, here is another Andy Warhol exhibition. In this busiest month for the Paris art scene, the modern art museum of Paris (Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris) has launched a new exhibition, “Warhol Unlimited”. There are over 200 works, highlighted by the rare showing of Shadows (1978-79), which is being shown in its entirety for the first time in Europe.
The first Andy Warhol exhibition I went to was “Andy Warhol: 15 Minutes Eternal” in Hong Kong in the end of 2012. It was a touring exhibition started that year – 25 years after Warhol’s death. That retrospective was very comprehensive, exhibiting over 300 works of Andy Warhol – the largest ever collection; including paintings, photographs, screen prints, drawings, installations and sculptures. The exhibition was very impressive as it showed a great deal of this star artist’s life and art. Quite different from that, the current “Warhol Unlimited” focuses on exploring the serial side and the repetitive nature of Warhol’s art.
The Flowers series is quite appealing as various sized and coloured prints of flowers are placed at different heights on the wall. They all look like flat and simple decorative paintings. Despite being in different colours and sizes, they look very alike and it may not be easy for you to pick your favourite if you have to. It is said that Flowers indicates Warhol’s utopian dream to make all paintings interchangeable so that “nobody thinks they have a better painting or a worse painting.” It recalls one of Marcel Duchamp’s famous quotes that “it doesn’t matter whether taste is good or bad, because it is always good for some and bad for others. Whatever the quality, it is always taste.” The commonality between both artists lies in their desire to subvert established standards and modes of perception of art throughout their lifetime, which as a result, has reshaped modern art and even art in our time, and how we perceive art nowadays.
One exhibition room is painted all in silver, replicating Warhol’s studio in New York City, which is often referred to as the Silver Factory. This recalls the nothingness in Warhol’s art as he explained that he chose the silver colour based on its capacity to muffle and dissolve its environment.
The final part of the exhibition is dedicated to the most anticipated piece, the ensemble of Shadows (1978-79). It consists of 102 silkscreened canvases of 17 different colours, totals over 130 meters in length and stretches across the whole large exhibition room. You cannot view the whole piece all at once but you have to walk around to see all of it. In this way, Warhol aimed at disrupting our spatial and temporal perception of paintings; and thus making his art unlimited, as suggested by the title of the exhibition. While gazing at only one single canvas of Shadows, you might feel its undertones of death and misery. Intriguingly, if you keep walking around and grasp the repetitive image altogether, the feeling fades away and what remains is abstract. As with Warhol’s other series, Shadows’ excessive repetition turns the inherent quality of the subjects into nothingness.
Then, you might have wondered: Why Andy Warhol again? Why is he the “King of Pop Art”? Why is pop art still everywhere almost thirty years after his death? Follow us and wait to check out my next post to see what pop art is and why it is so pop and “unlimited”!
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!
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 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.