Philosopher Gilles Deleuze has suggested that among the arts, sculpture presents perhaps best those qualities that are materially sensational. The sensation of stone, metal and marble vibrate according to strong or weak beats. Then, there are protuberances and cavities in the material that resonate with each other. The set-up of the sculpture with large empty space between the groups, or within a single group, makes it that one no longer knows whether it is the light or air that sculpts or is sculpted (Deleuze: What is Philosophy).
Sensations attached to the materiality in sculptures relate to ideas of tactility (perceptible to the touch; tangible). Our experiences of materiality has shifted, as 21-century cultural landscapes keep molding our tactility through complex body-digital technology relationships, changing our imagination of the virtual spaces. Contemporary sculpture is reflecting some of these shifts, showing powerfully the time beyond the current, the moment at hand. Among some of the interventions, Frieze 2014 in New York City paraded a loss of the technological overrule. The disengagement from materiality at large, was shown in some works. There were works that were pointing to our roots of craftsmanship, bringing back materiality of different scales, and putting out the new spatial engagements. Noteworthy is that large scale is not necessarily the most powerful signifier, but some minimal portions or material may also integrate ideas. An example of this kind was installation with smaller details and nuances by artist Maria Nepomuceno. The artist was presented at Frieze NYC by A Gentil Carioca‘s Gallery from Rio de Janeiro.
Nepomuceno draws on Brazilian craft traditions using weaving and braiding techniques, as well as her own designs to build biomorphic sculptural forms. The sculpted appears as seductive when the colors and patterns nourish imagination. The lingering movement and rhythm comes from the way of installing sculptures in the space, some scattered forming a logic. The artist allows sculptures to spread across space like vegetation. Rope and necklaces are used as raw material in the works, and the materials take a natural spiral form. The artists has been using body and nature as inspiration, creating infinity, and shaping of living organisms. The ancient traditions and techniques are a source for her art, as she gives materials a new form and content.
Another woman artist in Frieze show was talented Jumana Manna, presented by New York’s CRG Gallery. The artist recently exhibited her works at Sculpture Center in Long Island City titled Menace of Origins. Manna’s piece at the art fair was titled Crowd connecting closely to her recent show, and echoing of same elements and materiality. The artist has explored a notion of relics in her works. Using archaeology as a device, she has explored ruins and architectural forms that reminiscence human presence. The works that build ideas and are structurally challenging explore the construction of power, nationalism, gender, and history through material relationships. Manna works mainly with sculpture and video, often pairing them together to create surprising events.
Respectively, Liz Larner’s sculpture spoke from the Frieze exhibition of Los Angeles based gallery Regen Projects. Her bold sculpture was physically large and airy at the same time. A free-standing metal sculpture displays a cold aesthetic. Her sculpture “V (planchette)” (2014) has a smooth aluminum surface, which is painted a chalky black. It is curvy suggesting motion, giving feelings according to the angle it is viewed from. It is wider at its base, leaner in the middle, large and flowing at the top. The statuesque nature promises balance, but gives a hint of character that might be leading to odd and ambiguous places.
Rémy Markowitsch’s five-part group of wooden sculptures took the stage curated by Berlin-based Galerie EIGEN + ART. His installation FALL uses two different historical events as material, namely four of the sculptures mimic the painting Absturtz (the Fall) by Swiss painter Ferdinand Hodler, depicting Alpine climbers that were created for the 1894 World’s Fair in Antwerp. The fifth figure comes from a different source, representing a German mountaineer Toni Kurz, who died when attempting to climb the north face of the Eiger in 1936. Sculptures are nude, so they come across as timeless, without specific location. His installation is accompanied by his other work showing mountains, which give out a feel of nostalgia to the romantic past times when climbing at the world’s highest mountains produced heroes, while there were sacrifices, and danger involved.
Lehman Maupin (New York/Hong Kong) brought in a large sculpture installation called Library II-II by artist Liu Wei. This sculpture is made from thousands of books and it weights nearly a ton. The gallery told that they had to reinforce the floor underneath the sculpture so its weight was supported. Liu Wei’s sculpture will be part of an exhibition Bringing the World into the World at the Queens Museum (opens on June 15). Around the sculpture, space is altered and tilted. The work notes literariness of our civilizations. The inventions of paper; dimensionality that comes with the written cultures and around ancient canopies of words. Lingua and library, freedom of press, freedom of writing, utterances. But more than any literal connotations of the material itself, the sculptural challenges beyond the apparent, parafrazing, the architectural of the cities and urban life cycles, as our connection to global spaces, and disconnectedness from the traditions.
Galeria Fortes Vilaça from São Paulo presented Erica Verzutti’s concrete sculptures that were academic and playful at the same time. The gallery commented that Verzutti’s works gained a lot of attention at the Frieze art fair, due to their brilliant interactive quality, and sense of humor. The sculptures are semantically pointing to archeological pasts, many of them depicting minerals and natural stones that appear as traces of nature. Playfulness comes from the interactive quality of her sculptures, some parts are loose (like egg-shape stones) and can be organized differently. Double Sunset is a bit different from her other works, some of them on stands. The work on the wall showcases two basketballs as a colorful urban signifier of play and sports, when they are installed in the concrete. But ultimately the viewer has a chance for interpretation. A woman’s bust, femininity paraded?
One show-stopper at Frieze was a pale installation composed of a single cage, which was hanging from the ceiling with nothing around it but the white walls. Wilfredo Prieto was the artist curated by Nogueras Blanchard gallery from Barcelona. It evidantly showed how to be captured, a sentiment so fearful, yet potentially something that makes art appealing to its viewers. The possibilities are endless to imagine how to relate to the cage as an object, to think what are the experiences and feelings attached to its awful shape. It represents zoo-like ready-made feelings, and it reminds of a consumer-object relationship without pointing to a specific direct target, except the art fair itself? Who would need a shark-cage? Who needs this kind of art? A question, what are the sensations attached to our art-viewing, comes to mind. Is art made for humans as animals? Weird crescendo of concepts makes it art?
Shark cage illustrates a perfect example of the first position. The piece does not allow for the poetic metaphor and is in itself a clear statement, provocative and critical of its environment, in this case an art fair. The presentation of this work becomes a pitched battle between the object, the context and the interpretation of the viewer. The artist participates only as a facilitator of such a meeting. A strict representation of the cage, without any further intervention, is what turns us all into potential sharks. (Alex Nogueras&Rebeca Blanchard)
One of the favorite was Tobias Putrih who is internationally acclaimed artist working with such modest materials as cardboard and plywood. Those are exactly the materials that are hard to work with, as there is the air element that challenges them. Putrih’s two sculptures were presented by Galerie Greta Meert from Brussels. The cardboard was transparent enough to create a surface, which circulates light. His sculptural objects are attractive and sensual enough, as much as they project intellectual and architectural propositions, definitely aiming to shape our viewing experience. Touchable, palpable, airy, anything between transparent and materialwise poetic.
Last, but not least, Paul McCarthy’s large blue head sculpture belonged to New York gallery Hauser Wirth’s exhibition titled On the Fabric of the Human Body. His large heads are like prop-objects, and comment a tradition of beheaded figures in art history. Together with works from Rita Ackerman, Louise Bourgeois, Isa Genzken; McCarthy’s sculpture worked as expressive part of the art fair, expressing body that reinvents and transgresses.
As a summary, what comes to mind is the movement of the virtual; our contemporary lifestyles embedded with mediascapes (term coined by Arjun Appadurai in 1990). The global cultural flow affects both the artists and the viewers, who are participants of the art world. The historical referencing opens to ideas of homogenization of the arts. Repetitive use of similar motives over and over again would easily define the art, and block any motion. Such would be the case if the consumer culture says that art should be purely digitalized! As we want to consume while we eat, rest, and start again with the same. Contrastively, art should provoke us, make us move from our comfort zones, let us move in between the sculptural, sense the provocative. It can touch our sensibilities. It should stop us from numbness.