Teresita Fernández’s current solo exhibition is on view until December 31 at Lehmann Maupin’s 536 West 22nd Street location. Her seventh solo exhibit with the gallery coincide with her sculptural installation Fata Morgana, which is on view in Madison Square Park in New York. The gallery shows her latest body of work, including sculptures that are composed of intimate interior landscapes in concrete, cast bronze, and glazed ceramic. Recalling the artist’s earlier Rorschach pieces (2014) – a sculpture made of gold chroming, fused nylon, and aluminum – the new multidimensional works play with the idea of landscape and terrain. The theme of landscape in these Viñales pieces convey three-dimensional forms. The sculptures are detailed yet rough as they are somewhat fragmented, echoing of darkness and distortion, interior and exterior.
Best known for her unique works and public projects, Fernández explores the natural world, as well as the scale, being sensitive to the act of looking, perhaps finding out about the human versus the landscape. Her conceptually-based art making includes research, and communicates with an entire world of references coming from different sources. In the exhibition, Fernández has created a series of darkened and intimately sized ink and graphite drawings, which are mounted on small-size wooden panels.
These small pieces in sequences show her innate interest in scale. The dynamics between the immense and the intimate; the vast and the miniature; the macro and the micro are definitely part of the exploration. As the natural world as a reference is often large, the human viewpoint brings it closer; in other words we can grasp what we may or could see, if we had time and body to get to these places. Nature’s body is too vast to be created as miniatures, but this is what Fernández actually does. She has looked closely into the malachite mineral rocks and at their interiors comparing their material formula into full-sized landscape of the Viñales Valley, an iconic landscape in rural Cuba. She took up the saturated rich greens and turquoise colors from the malachite, being inspired by their clustered formations. These reminded of the aerial views of the green and lustrous landscapes of the rainforests.
Fernández draws huge parallels between the malachite rocks and her own experience of the caves in Viñales. The whole project is tricky and fascinating. She reflects the idea of the landscapes both visually and physically, taking in both extremities of light and darkness, inside and outside, containment and amplification. In the exhibition, the Viñales landscape merges with the malachite rocks, which come from the Democratic Republic of Congo, and with the sculptural materials that of concrete, bronze, and ceramic. Fernández fuses with these materials and plays with the scale creating metaphorical “stacked landscapes”, which narrate several layers of references to a place.
The exhibition includes three large-scale works made as glazed ceramic panels. The panels shine as saturated greens forming abstracted images. Their inspiration is the actual landscape of the Viñales Valley with its otherworldly mogotes (rare, limestone tower formations), cave interiors, and the exposed surfaces of minerals. Again, the artist is using clay, which is earthbound material. Yet the result is as if the accumulation of this material creates completely imaginary sense of the landscape itself. This is maybe the way art meets a complex surface of the natural world.
The central sculpture in the exhibition, Viñales (Reclining Nude), is a horizontal configuration of trapezoidal cast concrete structures of various sizes and heights with descending malachite and bronze forms that evoke the sprawling, verdant landscape from distant to close-up perspectives. As viewers engage with the full-round sculpture, the suggested landscape expands and contracts, prompting viewers to visually construct the image and become the size of what they are looking at.
Teresita Fernández have a deep rooted association for the cultural and aesthetic language of nature, as she has explored the surfaces of the landscape. She has visited the place, grasping intuitively about something unique of it. Thus the language of the place pours in richly textured forms, being poetic and narrative, echoing about rootedness, history, and different contextual phases. The forms shine through layers, ceramic bits, detailed and yet rough edges of pieces, depicting large and small fragmented knitbits of information. The old, or ancient speaks with the natural, as they have become entangled to stand for their environmental presence. Fernández uses devices like proportion and unconventional materials to draw the viewer into her works. She stands for individualized experiences that ask questions of place and us as humans. Ultimately, the essence reflected in each work could be described as tactile.
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Teresita Fernández at Lehmann Maupin
November 6-December 31, 2015
536 West 22nd Street, New York
Ice Watch will open to the public on Thursday, 3 December 2015, in the Place du Panthéon in Paris. This artwork by Olafur Eliasson and geologist Minik Rosing is part of the occasion of COP 21 at the United Nations Conference on Climate Change.
Olafur Eliasson is a Danish-Icelandic artist known for his large-scale installation art, which often has a site-specific component. He has also worked with sculpture. The elements, such as light, water, and air temperature are essential parts in the works to draw the viewer into experiencing them as corporeal and sensory.
Olafur Eliasson is not a newborn to the climate change issue; neither is he using blocks of ice for the first time in his installations. He has created interconnected works that are close to environmental happenings, proposing an innate sense of activism. How to catch great attention and international visibility with earthy and conceptual works, is his niche. Perhaps Eliasson artistry sometimes implies great attention with metaphysical value, but this fact is by no means discarding the materiality and tactility of the things. Perception and comprehensibility of larger subjects, particularly that of a climate change are very much embodied in the projects.
Taking the icebergs, which predominantly float far away from our sight in the isolated North are now taken seriously. Eliasson brings a hint of their monumental presence along with him putting them down on the marketplace of a metropolis, across the street so to speak. Let the ice melt there in front of our eyes to remind how the world is running out of time with the climate change, and how things truly are physical. We live in a physical world. In 2014, Eliasson installed the show in Copenhagen. The ice was placed in the middle of the town square, lifting the local spirits to think about the fjord water in the north. In 2013, at PS1 of MoMA in New York City, another work of this kind “Your waste of Time”, had ice pieces that arrived from the Iceland’s largest glacier, Vatnajökull. Visitors had a chance to observe and discover the melting ice.
The project, which is installed in Paris recalls the title “Ice Watch“. The metaphorical piece has a power to speak of the ice that is speedily disappearing due to the global warming. Eliasson has stated that he is interested in giving knowledge a body, to encourage action on an everyday social level. What is sure is that everybody in the recognition of the global warming is going to be involved in the process. The artwork addresses it to the world, and thinks of it from the perspective of the future generations.
The physicality of the ice is remarkable because it stands for the longer life spans. Ice is older than us, who dwell here. For the installation, there are twelve large blocks of ice that come from free-floating icebergs in a fjord outside Nuuk, Greenland. They are arranged in a clock formation on the Place du Panthéon. Weighting around 80 tonnes, the ice will melt away during COP21.
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Origin: Nuup Kangerlua fjord outside Nuuk, Greenland
Transport: Organised by Group Greenland / Greenland Glacier Ice, the ice was collected by divers and dockworkers from the Royal Arctic Line and then transported in six refrigerated containers from Nuuk to Aalborg, Denmark by container ship and to Paris by truck. Ice Watchis supported by Bloomberg Philanthropies and realised in collaboration with Julie’s Bicycle. Ice Watch is part of the initiative Artists 4 Paris Climate 2015.
Artist Clay Apenouvon has created a new installation Film Noir de Lampedusa for the Paris Climate Conference COP21, which begins the last week of November. The work is a memorial to the thousands of migrants from Africa and the Middle East who arrived across the Mediterranean to the safety of Europe in makeshift boats and rafts. Installation, which was commissioned by the Église Saint-Merri, (Church Saint Merri) in Paris, consists of extended plastic film with various objects that are assembled into a “Museum of Silence”.
Apenouvon was born in Togo, West Africa. His new art installation traces back the memories of those that are lost forever beneath the waves. Throughout his career, he has worked with painting, graphic design and screen-printing. He has explored different materials, for instance cardboard using it as a physical material and as an artistic medium. The cardboard has been used as a symbolic material to address issues of packaging. Then, Aponeuvon created a concept Plastic Attack, which raised awareness of the dangers that plastic poses to the environment on a global scale. This scalable work is in constant movement, and has so far been exhibited in residences in Iceland, in the US, and in France.
As the Paris Climate Conference draws near, the theme in the Film Noir de Lampedusa installation handles a difficult subject of climate refugees. They are crossing perilous seas and changing locations because of the wars and economic crisis, which ultimately derive and cause new struggles over natural resources. As we know, the climate change deepens all kinds of crises around human-caused conflicts.
The installation itself reminds of a black waterfall pouring out from the walls as a kind of a vast oil spill that cannot be stopped. Film Noir de Lampedusa takes place in a church space, so the sanctuary next to the altar echo historical presence, yet the context links the work strongly to the present moment in which we encounter the refugees, and mourn the missing lives. The objects themselves punctuate lost things, as a bottle containing message of love, a cell phone, pair of children’s shoes, and religious objects, such as crucifix, image of the virgin and a Qur’an are scattered around the work. The composition is inspired by an Lampedusa activist Giacomo Sferlazzo, who collected pieces that were thrown over from the refugee boats, or lost by the refugees on the sea.
Spatially in the church context of the Eglise Saint-Merri, Apenouvon’sinstallation emerges from beneath the grand painting by Charles Antoine Coypel, called Les Disciples d’Emmaüs, (The Disciples of Emmaus, 1749). Then, the installation’s title implies a “Film Noir” that certainly can have many references. First, it can be environmental, as it stands for the black film left on the ocean’s surface by each oil spill. Second, it is remembering those victims who of African descent so quickly fade away from the conscience of the world’s wealthy nations. The artist utters his concern:
“I read dozens of articles about the subject of newspapers, poignant testimonies of survivors and inhabitants of the island of Lampedusa. Among the items, a drawing marked me, that of Planzer, entitled “The oil spill of Lampedusa”.
Third, the installation title evokes the Film Noir genre of Hollywood melodrama, possibly referring to scenes and atmospheres of cinematic practices that raised subjects, which audiences did not wish to deal with in their daily lives. The mystery of worlds around us, which directly or indirectly touch us, but we think do not affect us? Could climate change with the planet calling for our action still be a subject of mystery, which needs more of our scrutiny, prayers, and art installations, such as Clay Apenouvon’sFilm Noir de Lampedusa?
Firstindigo&Lifestyle interviewed artist duo IC-98 from Finland, who are Patrik Söderlund and Visa Suonpää, respectively. Their recent site-specific installation ‘Hours, Years, Aeons’, was produced for the Pavilion of Finland at the 56th International Art Exhibition of the Venice Biennale. IC-98 projects scale with in-depth research; being abstract and taking form in installations and in publications. Their animation language draws from the collective history of nature and culture. As the duo says:
Our work is post-historical, it is set in a distant future after the age of man. It’s about nature, which still has to deal with the consequences of the human era. It’s not natural nature, but a twisted one.
Firstindigo&Lifestyle: How did IC-98 get started, what was your thesis during the first few years?
IC-98 (artist duo Patrik Söderlund and Visa Suonpää): We met at the University of Turku, majoring in Cultural History and Art History. We wanted to broaden the scope of academic writing by bringing our “writing” into public space. This idea became our program: to make site-specific interventions in public space, be they installations or anonymously distributed booklets.
How do your art works communicate with theoretical thinking, do you consider to be conceptual artists?
IC-98: The works start with conceptual and/or contextual analysis. This depends on the project at hand. Site-specific works start from research; animations are amalgamations of conceptual thinking, adjusted storytelling and handcraft. But if we should characterize ourselves shortly, we’d say we are conceptualists first.
Can you name some of the most important theoretical premises that could be your guidelines? How about your artistic influences?
IC-98: Our theory comes mostly from the left-leaning French poststructuralism: Michel Foucault, Gilles Deleuze & Felix Guattari, Michel Serres, with an important German addition: the work of Walter Benjamin. Artistically we do not have many modern or contemporary influences. Visually we lean towards 19th Century and the history of depicting landscape: Claude Lorrain, Gianbattista Piranesi, Caspar David Friedrich, and William Turner. The important thing about 19th Century is the fact that it is often at the same time the prehistory and a mirror image of our own time: in many respects, the world was the same but the underlying processes are still more visible (think Jacquard loom vs. laptop: they share the same binary logic but where laptop is a black box, in the loom we still see how the thing actually works).
Could you tell more about the process itself, in what ways do your concepts or visual process evolve, are there any common or repeating parameters in the making? For example, how do you choose your visual atmospheres, like create the sets, lighting, how does the process unravel itself?
IC-98: The style is based on the fact that the animations visually start with pencil drawing. From this stems the fact that the animations are black and white. So it is a material, not a stylistic element. The different atmospheres and recurring elements, our visual vocabulary (fog, mist, stars, water) is functions of the scripts, which often deal with multi-rhythmic time and transformations of energy and matter. The script always comes first; even lighting should carry parts of the story. If we cannot justify a visual element, we omit it from the final work. Technically the “scene” is fashioned after 18th century theatre: the image is composed of flat layers and digital effects between these layers. We try to keep it simple, not to be too much carried away by the limitless possibilities of cgi (Computer-generated imagery). When we compose a scene, the pencil drawings are first scanned, then composed into layered scenes and lastly animated.
What do you want to say about your idea of ‘Events’, and about the ‘possibilities’ that can be found in your artworks?
IC-98: The idea of a moment being pregnant with possibilities – or situationistically speaking “constructed situations” – comes from our earlier practice. We combined situationist thinking with Deleuze’s idea of the actual and the virtual and Benjamin’s Theses on History to conceive an idea of an intervention/work as an event making the user/viewer aware of the interconnectedness of past and future possibilities. As Deleuze beautifully writes, the present moment is surrounded by a cloud of virtualities, the unactualized past events, which maybe did not take place but can still happen. This we still consider the political element of our work even when the animations might at first sights appear visually anachronistic.
Is it relevant to always question time and space as elements in you work-in-process?
IC-98: Coming from the background of both visual arts and history, the complex nature of time is elemental in our work. Animation enables us to show multiple temporal rhythms in one image frame. Sometimes it is about the passage of time as such, then again it might be about a certain time in history.
What are the three things you would tell about yourself to North American audience today as an introduction?
IC-98: We have worked over multiple media for almost 20 years now. During this time, we have developed a visual language – be it artist publications, installations or animated films –, which combines the theoretical and the political with the visual and emotional. And important element here is the combination of old school (drawing) craft and the new digital media.
You have participated in Art Fairs in New York City, in fact at the VOLTA Art Fair couple of years ago, how was the reception from the audience and organization, how about other experiences from local scene?
IC-98: The reception has been good, though ours are relatively difficult works in the fast paced fair circuit. You need to be able to give time to the work. Then again, even a quick glance of the “surface” communicates the classical quality of crafting the artwork – though it’s in digital form.
Some time has passed since the opening of the 56th Venice Biennale, what are your most important remarks from the art biennale so far, did the location and site change the actual process? How do you feel, are you able to follow up what takes place during the art exhibition?
IC-98: Working on site-specific projects has taught us that it’s always about communication between the site and us, the hermeneutics of place. In Venice we realized, that we had mostly done the research over the years already (the questions of territory, public space, wood and woods, the history of the Finnish welfare state, the relations of humanity, architecture and nature as a whole). The challenge then was to find the best way to tell the story in a framework of very strict regulations. We were first working on a more ephemeral and performative format, but had to recur to our most well known medium in the end: the animated film.
During the biennale we have mostly received comments from visitors now and then. But, the perception of our own work hasn’t changed during the process. We have always done a lot of thinking and tried to take into account all the possible permutations of a given site or situation.
It seems that ‘Hours, Years, Aeons’ has duration and layers, what does the work narrate about? It starts forming in the cave, and goes through time in history? Does it deal with today’s hot topics, such as climate change?
IC-98: It’s very much about climate change, the much talked about questions of the Anthropocene (note: Wickipedia defines this as: proposed epoch that begins when human activities started to have a significant global impact on Earth’s ecosystems). But our work is post-historical, it is set in a distant future after the age of man. It’s about nature, which still has to deal with the consequences of the human era. It’s not natural nature, but a twisted one. The work exists both as a spatial multi-screen installation and the linear film shown in Venice. The Venice version let’s us experience long, geological stretches of time – the aeons.
Specifically, the work has a background in the nuclear waste repositories, how something is buried deep into the ground. But as we all know, what is buried, will once surface again.
IC-98 installation view at the 56th Venice Biennale.
IC-98 installation view at the Venice Biennale 2015.
IC-98 installation view of ‘Hours, Years, Aeons’, 2015.
Entrance to the IC-98 installation at the Venice Biennale. photos: courtesy of IC-98.
Outside the Pavilion of Finland at the 56th Venice Biennale.
Did you find time-based media works as your medium from the very beginning of your artistic career? How about your sculptural works, and the ways different media communicate with each other?
IC-98: We considered our free distribution books already time-based in a sense. The installations often include an interactive element, which means that they work in space but also as a part of lived time. We have liked the idea of the viewer as a user. But formally we entered the temporal realm when we wanted to make animations. The main idea was to be able to show the chains of cause and effect and use certain cinematic techniques to speak not only to the intellect but also the senses.
Time-based media has a different nature than other art works. What is your opinion about it, how do you see your art from the point of view of the future, what could be the time-span?
IC-98: In all probability our works will seem as anachronistic or as nostalgic as any other cultural product of our time. The paradoxical thing is, we always try to conceal the technological or digital basis of our works. We try to make our works look like they could have been made in any era. It would be nice, if in the future it would be impossible to say from the outset when watching our work: “That’s so 2010’s!” Then again, the animations are all about the resolution, the bit-depth, the ratio, and the available digital effects…
Finally, what are your ongoing and new propositions for the future?
IC-98: We are in the preproduction phase of our first feature film, ‘The Kingdom of Birds‘. It’s loosely based on the life’s work of Finnish deep ecologist, eco-fundamentalist, ornithologist and fisherman Pentti Linkola. The film imagines an old fisherman’s last day on earth in a future where all of mankind has perished. It is time for other species.
The 56th La Biennale di Venezia is open until November 2015, where IC-98 is represented.
Check out the artist websites following the links below:
Artist Ofri Cnaani has created a new photography exhibition consisting of prints and a performance piece at Andrea Meislin Gallery. Photographies on display echo ideas deriving from Xerox art of the 1960s simultaneously connecting with the visual world of the mesmerizing early photography of the 20th century. The exhibition ‘Wrong Tools’ will be on display until October 24, performances taking place on Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays. Cnaani’s Blue Print photographs are like intuitive maps constructed of performative ideas that associate with artist’s own body. With both of her performance and photographs, she creates a presence. The works are building up from fragments, and the pieces are put together in a compelling logic. These could be like ruptures built on the Internet surface, where constant image flows create new associations. Here is Ofri’s interview.
Firstindigo&Lifestyle: Your ongoing solo exhibition ‘Wrong Tools’, at the Andrea Meislin gallery speaks a strong esthetic and spatial approach with performance element added to the photography gallery. The performative element also looks back from the blueprints, which display hands in various positions doing tasks, perhaps. Are these prints your hands making the past performances, or projects?
Ofri Cnaani: In the cyanotypes I’m using my own body. I’m using the special qualities of one of the earliest photo techniques to promote some sort of performative photography. In a way, it is very similar to what I do in the performance: I’m creating an image in a limited amount of time that is constructed from found objects, made objects and my own body. Like in the personalized ‘image maps’ I’m creating in the performance, here too, I have a limited control of the final result. The process is always between failure and magic.
In your actual performance that I observed taking place during the opening night at the gallery’s foyer with windows, you encounter audience member on a participatory table setting, where each unique guest sits opposites of you. The scene comes out as very intimate and poetic; we are simultaneously looking at the wall where the reflection of the table surface is displayed with your real-time construction of objects and images on it. And, we are grasping the exchange between you and the other person embodying the performance. Quite interesting, a guest was taking pictures with her phone of the very situation as well. What is taking place in these moments? How do the photographs and the recording of the event resonate in the doing of the performance physically?
OC: When someone sits with me, I first offer him or her a ‘reading’ of his or her visible future. I used a tarot-like deck that I designed titled ‘future business’. I also ask them to give me one personal item and to choose two items from my collection of small objects. I’m using the message on card they chose and the three objects they selected and gave me as a starting point, to create a live collage-like image. I called it ‘image map’. This image is captured and printed using a special apparatus I build for the show. Lastly I stamped it with a ‘Copy’ stamp and signed it with red ink, handing the Original Copy to my visitor.
Ofri Cnaani’s performance taking place at Andrea Meislin Gallery
During the performance, the process is projected on the wall
As the title ‘Wrong Tools’ already implies so many interesting visual connotations, could you tell more what is the idea or meaning behind it, is it metaphoric with a larger idea and also coming to the performance? Does it resonate solely with ideas, which derive from computing?
OC: My husband, who is great in building things, always says everything is very easy if only one is using the right tools. I realized I’m always using the wrong tools. My studio is a mess and I’m always using the tools that are wrong for the job. I like to think about my method, using the collections of two and three-dimensional objects in my performance, as ‘endless metabolism’. I’m using the same little objects for different performances, as well as for the cyanotypes and other photos. The same objects travel between many of my projects, always been used in different ways, but never used as they were originally meant to be used.
Then, your exhibition at the gallery has these colorful images called ‘future business’, that have a short message embedded in them. It seems that they relate to the performance, do they have an element of time in them as well?
OC: The monoprints are also ‘one of a kind’ and were made in a similar way. I’ve been using cut-outs and flat objects, placed them on paper and rolled them under the press, so each one is a different arrangement, although some of the cut-outs appear more than once. The texts are the same texts on the special edition tarot deck I produced and then use in my performance.
On each card there is a message we get regularly as an online user like ‘Delete All’ ‘Unsubscribe’ or ‘Change Your Profile’. These lines are charged with a very different meaning when we receive them as messages in a one-on-one ‘reading’ session where we all are so vulnerable.
Adi Puterman curated your exhibition for Andrea Meislin Gallery, what do you wish to tell about the curating exchange and process, do you know each others tactics well?
OC: Adi and I worked on the show for over a year and she was very involved with each step: from the concept of having an on-going 6 weeks performance in the gallery, to the selection of the pieces, and communicating my ideas in a written text.
I have noticed that your artist career includes plenty of performance works, such as the ‘Seven Words’ at the Metropolitan Museum. This past work is also very interdisciplinary. Is a question of the different art forms relevant to you in your own art making, or are all forms closely related?
OC: I’m driven by concepts and often by time constraints (like a different space I’m working in or a different collection or archive I’m using). I’m less driven by a specific medium or style.
As an educator of the arts, how do you teach time-based process to your students, do you have guidelines for that?
OC: We see many projects and discuss them, we read texts and using mind-mapping method in order to understand them and connect them to other ideas, texts and art works.
I often think that New York city is such a creative hub with so much international potential gathered in one place. Do you consider that as an international artist based in the city you have a specific role or identity, which is perhaps one here, and another that goes back home in Israel communicating and identifying with the contemporary art scene there?
OC: I’m not sure what do you mean by that but once you leave the place you were born and raised, your identity is always ‘more than one’ and in a constant negotiation.
You have created public artwork, do these works imply a different kind of activism or sensibility that comes with the public space, or are all ideas you are doing basically interrelated?
OC: My work is context specific. When I work in the public realm I work not only with a specific building and its specific history. The process always involves a community or a group of individuals. The process in those projects is part of the final piece. The final images are never known when I start working on a public piece.
Can you tell a little what are your next steps going to be like?
OC: Next week I’ll be doing a performance that is similar to the one in the gallery at Dallas Aurora. My project is part of ‘Altered States’ exhibition, curated by Julia Kaganskiy. Next month I’m going to Inhotim in Brazil to work with the park employees to create a participatory performance titled ‘Frequently Asked’ that will be then presented in Inhotimon early December.
Dan Flavin’s fluorescent sculptures are ‘situational’ in a way that they get their appearance in relation to the context and space on which they are displayed. His sculpture installation untitled (to Helga and Carlo, with respect and affection), reflects blue light with immense presence. When the spectator walks through the installation path she sees the surroundings as altered moments taking in her own reflection on the floor. But why is Flavin’s work so important? The question arises because Flavin’s minimalist art has drawn on a plenty of attention at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in DC. The work extends more than ninety feet in size and is paired with the wall-mounted piece monument, which consists of white bulbs inspired by constructivist art. The first installation of the untitled was at the Kunsthalle Basel in 1975.
It speaks about architectural difference and boundaries. The sculpture-series recreates the architectural environment, it sets barriers making the room where the continuum is installed to appear as an infinite of the sculpture itself. And it creates a path in the space. The installation is composed of sculptural pieces varying in size and color. By using industrial, somewhat regular fluorescent lights to produce artwork, Flavin shows how minimalist materials create powerful propositions about our environments and public spaces. The power lies in it that the every-day contest enters the museum space. What is this about, who am I when I walk this path? And this light brings me to the next door with words on capital letters that speak louder than I’m used to.
Now it is time to stop and look around again, or actually down, since the floor has a message. Barbara Kruger’s installation since August 2012 at the Hirshhorn Museum’s lower level lobby area mixes the architecture of the space into a complete mismatch. It draws us in with text written allover on the floors, walls, and on the escalator leading up. And the printed smileys amuse and terrorize the restrooms. Barbara Kruger’s installation Belief + Doubt, speaks a loud red, white and black language. The messages are those of the digital age. We dwell through the global consumerist culture, in which our omnipotence is created around a simple truth of “I shop therefore I am”, as stated in the most well-known work made by Kruger. The truth is, if we can say so in the days of pluralist opinions, that we need Barbara Kruger’s loud art. If the politics of the everyday, the human culture and the global age needs of the voice that has an innate power to speak with capital wordings, it is hers. Yet, as an artist Kruger is tricky avoiding the task of giving us simple reasons to be her fan and give complete answers why the words chosen in her art would set truth about anything. Say this, and don’t think you could destroy differences, and there is not a one truth?
“Belief is tricky because left to its own devices it can court a kind of surety, an unquestioning allegiance that fears doubt and destroys difference.” -Barbara Kruger
Kruger is the poet laureate of the age of the spectacle. In her early career, she was working for Conde Nast Publications in photography and design. In the late 1970s, the artist begun creating photomontages with found pictures adding texts in them that would alter or complicate the meaning of the images. At the Hirshhorn Museum setting, printed vinyl words and sentences invite the public to get involved, ponder the words, and create their own meaning and association based on the moment and the environment. Meanings of these phrases are open-ended because the every-day life just is with all the power-structures that we face or try to avoid. But at the same time the words are not only words, they are shouting: get involved, speak out loud, speak freely, don’t be silent, there are so many important words! Both great installations are still on view in Washington D.C.
Last month, New York based artist Linda Cunningham showed me her art studio in the Bronx, where she lives and works. It is located next to the Bronx Art Space that is fostering arts education and collaborative artistic projects. She told me stories behind the art works, both the sculptural works and the collages that combine drawing and photography. The studio is in a newly renovated building nestling at the heart of the historic urban Bronx.
Firstindigo&Lifestyle: Linda, you were one of the first artists to come to this location, how was the neighborhood back then, it’s been now a good fifteen years? You did a series of artwork digging into the Bronx history, in which immigration was a theme or a subject. There seem to be real person’s story involved, including documents, such as passports with photos. Could you tell about the project that was exhibited at the Andrew Freedman house in 2012?
LC: When I first moved to this historic landmarked area of the South Bronx, I began photographing the now renovated 19th Century row houses with brownstone trim, the contrasting graffiti walls with the shopping carts of the homeless. The barbed wire and I merged those images with a young Jamaican’s poetry and rubbings from the historic signage telling about Jordan’ Mott’s iron foundry. Later I was invited to create a large installation in No Longer Empty’sexhibition at the Andrew Freedman House, an amazing building designed like a Renaissance Palace, left from the early 20s when the Bronx was blossoming. My installation was constructed like an open book from broken drywall panels and broken old wood frame windows with each panel referring to an era of Bronx history. I along with other artists scavenged in the water soaked ruins, excavating the papers representing early 20th Century history of the Bronx. Including among them was the unusual passport of a resident of the house with two different last names, both apparently Jewish heritage, along with her photos. She had traveled all over Europe 1936, and through the Third Reich and into Switzerland several times, so her story suggests that she might have functioned as part of an underground.
Firstindigo&Lifestyle: You recently attended an Art Fair in Harlem, titled FLUX art fair in May 2015; do you have any specific notes in regards to engaging with the community during this festival?
LC: This was such a lively engaging event during which I enjoyed most interesting conversations about my work. The artwork displayed in this art fair was tough and engaging and in general more accessible than in most other art fairs
Firstindigo&Lifestyle: What captured my attention was your rich methodology of juxtaposing various elements. Your artwork depicted ancient olive trees in Italy that are approximately 800 years old by now. These trees got bacteria from Costa Rica somehow. Did the local community got involved in saving them?
LC: I don’t know anything about the local community. I just read about it in the Times saying that “they” are trying to contain the epidemic.
Firstindigo&Lifestyle: What you did in your collage was that you implemented the trees together with post-industrial photographic scene of Ruhr in Germany. This area used to be a center for coal, and now it’s gone. Tell, what is the particular message behind this juxtaposition?
LC: Both of these astonishing entities are vulnerable, but these amazing ancient trees will continue being productive and useful for centuries, whereas, the astonishing human designed technology is obsolete in 75 years or less and falls into ruin.
Firstindigo&Lifestyle: You have worked with sculpture. The bronze in them comes from ’recycled’ old weaponry from the Pennsylvania army base. The story behind the material is so intriguing, and the fact that you wished to turn the weapons into ’vegetal’, so the forms are like plants. The texture of your sculptures remind of natural formations appearing rough, in some parts they are smooth, as if ironed. Could you tell a little bit about the process, how did you find them, and how was it to work with the material?
LC: The bronze came from military scrap, which I obtained with some difficulty through a not-for-profit institution where I was teaching for a number of years, Franklin and Marshall College. The scrap bronze, which mostly came from ships, military ships, which are not really weapons. The bronze was smelted and poured into a defined shape in flat, oil-bonded sand molds. The cooling of the hot bronze creates the rough surfaces as the bronze is poured. I am doing some casting currently.
Firstindigo&Lifestyle: Another element in your sculptures comes from nature. It’s fascinating how some of the rocks you have in the studio are from the ocean. The nature has worked in them so that the huge pressure in the floor has pressed the shells to attach into the stones. One of the rocks is also volcanic, and comes from the Californian coast. Do you have a specific relation to ocean and water in your artistic thinking, as I see the ocean appear in many of your collages?
LC: I have always been drawn to the eternal rhythm and power of the waves, but in my youth I had read Rachel Carson’s “The Sea around Us”, a beautiful factual narrative about the origins of life and the vulnerability of the life giving sea so essential to our survival. Then super storm Sandy gave my early interest a new focus.
Firstindigo&Lifestyle: Also the technique in your collages is interesting, you are drawing and then adding laser photo transfers to paper. Even the surface has layers, cement or metal appears on the surface of the paper adding three-dimensionality. Could you tell more about this appeal?
LC: I have worked as a sculptor, and even when I am engaged with these large drawings I am drawn to include appropriate resonant texture and sensibility. Even though photography can be manipulated it is essentially documentation and convincing as reality. The veracity of photography seems essential. My exhibition will be at Odetta Gallery in Bushwick in November 2015, and I will include especially drawings fused with sculptural elements. I was working on creating some new spectacular bronze forms that will be included in the show. I work on torn irregular shapes because reality doesn’t fit neatly inside a rectangle shape, rather it’s discontinuous, fractured etc. I work from places I have been, responding to particular environmental and historical issues raised e.g. from flooding of Venice, and a jungle growth strangling Ancient Cambodian temples. I built the installation with the Hebrew text some years ago after I spent a year in Berlin on a Fulbright scholarship. I did an installation In Kassel for an alternative documentary, and obtained many of the elements from the former East/West border known as the Berlin Wall.
I have always been drawn to the eternal rhythm and power of the waves, but in my youth I had read Rachel Carson’s “The Sea around Us”, a beautiful factual narrative about the origins of life and the vulnerability of the life giving sea so essential to our survival. Then super storm Sandy gave my early interest a new focus. -Linda Cunningham
Anish Kapoor returns to Italy with a new exhibition Descension, a project produced specially for the former cinema and theatre space of Galleria Continua in San Gimignano. The exhibition takes its name from the installation Descension, which is a black whirlpool consisting of motor-powered water swirling towards its center. Interested in binary relations and opposite energies, Kapoor(born in Bombay in 1954, lives in London) poses alchemical questions with the large scale installation. It creates paradoxical ideas of matter, energy and the universe, which also touch our human core and perception. The exhibition opened on May 2 and will run until September 5, 2015.
The exhibition features a series of new sculptures in alabaster, in which the artist has meticulously carved out a more refined section. We can expect that the concepts of infinite and time are buried within their form and substance as they appear in nature. The intense red (and kind of orange) embedded in the translucent qualities of the alabaster sculptures suggest organic qualities. But idea travels well through the entire exhibition, which among alabaster includes a variety of mixed media works in fiberglass, paint, stainless steel, pigment and acrylic.
Descension, the installation established by Kapoor in the stalls area of the cinema-theatre in San Gimignano, continues his earlier theme introduced as ‘Descent into limbo’ in 1992. The artist’s former work was presented respectively in Kassel, Germany as documenta IX; a Cubed building with a dark hole in the floor. In the middle of a cube, there was a kind of bottomless black hole opening up in the floor, which was “dragging” viewers with its powerful presence. The idea of Descension shows how Kapoor has an interest in non-objects and self-generated forms. In 2015, the installation destabilizes and undermines our perception of the earth as a solid element. The earth, perceived also as mother earth, is in constant flux and movement bringing forth a thrust downwards and towards an interior that is unknown and hidden from the visible world.
Kapoor has inevitably shown how he is reinventing his artistic language both in monumental dimension, as in more intimate pieces. His philosophical inquiry begun early with his very first works and has continued through to recent and more large-scale installations in museums and public spaces. His themes are partially alchemical, dealing with mystery and universality of time and space. But the human beings with their self-awareness and experiences is at the heart of his artistry as well.
”… all my life I have reflected and worked on the concept that there is more space than can be seen, that there are void spaces, or, as it were, that there is a vaster horizon. The odd thing about removing content, in making space, is that we, as human beings, find it very hard to deal with the absence of content. It’s the horror vacui. This Platonic concept lies at the origin of the myth of the cave, the one from which humans look towards the outside world. But here there is also a kind of Freudian opposite image, that of the back of the cave, which is the dark and empty back of being. Your greatest poet, Dante, also ventured into a place like that. It is the place of the void, which paradoxically is full – of fear, of darkness. Whether you represent it with a mirror or with a dark form, it is always the “back”, the point that attracts my interest and triggers my creativity.”
Galleria Continua, Via del Castello 11, San Gimignano (SI), Italia
Brazilian artist Martha Araújo’s piece Para um corpo nas suas impossibilidades, (For a body in its impossilibities) was created in 1985. Now at 2015 Frieze Art Fair, we celebrate the corporeal experience at the skateboard ramp dressed in suits that are patched with Velcro straps. The user-experience is less of a performance, and more of a subjective experience, which is very much according to the manifesto written by the artist. Martha Araújo (born in 1943) wrote the following:
Believing in the impossible is also a way of making art, for it is to doubt the impossibilities that make our dreams and follies feasible. Our proposal consists of experiencing situations in which the body crawls (on the ground floor) and tries to climb vertically. It is a search to achieve utopia; an exercise in transcendence. For this we will wear two pairs of overalls with several strips of Velcro attached to them vertically and horizontally. We will also use a runner rug measuring 6.00 x 2.00 m, stuck to a skate track-type wooden framework. The Velcro strips on the overalls are the elements that fix the bodies to the rug.
The project was curated in the Frame section of the art fair by Galeria Jaqueline Martins from São Paulo. The gallery won the prize for most innovative Stand Prize this year. The stand is comprised of the ramp and few suits, which the public can wear and then try the structure. The booth also has black and white photographs from 1985, which document artist Araújo and her crew experimenting with the concept. At Frieze, these photographs are on sale, and so are the suits. The ramp belonging to the artwork can be reproduced with the suits.
Another visitor intervention at the Frieze was Japanese artist Aki Sasamoto’s Coffee/Tea project. Being one of the Frieze 2015 Projects, the artist created a three-dimensional personal test experience that included multiple-choice questionnaire. The maze-like structure was among the gallery booths, having several rooms, in which visitors/viewers make a choice between two objects or situations. Different choices lead through rooms and doors and then to the exit, where participants discover which personality suits the course of actions they chose. Here is my test in photographic documentation.
In the beginning, the structure encourages you to think that you are boarding a spaceship, artist has written a dark statement on the wall:
The world is ending. You are selected to board a spaceship with one animal. Which will you bring? A. Peacock, B. Horse, C. Tiger, D. Sheep
As we don’t actually make this choice between four animals; we can choose to enter between two doors, one on the right and one on the left. Behind the left door there is a table with teacups and tea poured on them. Today I’m happy they would offer tea. Through my next choice, I’m encountering two kinds of blue on the floor; the other one looks like tiled, so will follow that one. Not quite getting the sitdown-point, where would have to ponder between the choices, rather stay moving and opening doors. Then, not quite sure how, suddenly entering the door with ‘intodetails’ exit floor mat in black-and-white. Feels like a fast experience. There was another blue, this time gymnastic mat on the floor with wooden board in the middle. A chance to balance a little bit, and the exit was right there.
Is there anything in common with these two art projects? Martha Araújo’s art dates back to the mid- 1980s, and Aki Sasamoto’s project is very recent. The getting-involvedness, and the intellectual mind vs. trust yourself and let your body lead the way -issue; has both of these projects. Sasamoto’s making choices project encounters also our bodily input, as this is about experience. The color blue seems to be a fascinating factor in both projects. Araújo’s and Sasamoto’s projects will be living in the form of re-enactments. Being convinced that there will be more photography and live-documentations happening.
What are the most celebrated features in the international art scene at the moment? The big art fairs, such as The Armory Show display candy art, and communicate the global tends. What strikes through from the art fair’s mass volume is the moment factor. The art takes place in the now, and is grasped as intensely global. Sometimes the moment appears as too loud and cacophonic, and as hard to perceive. However, it is always interesting to see how new ideas are shaping the content of the art world. Currently, we certainly live in an era of an object, we believe in the objects, and are looking for new center pieces that reflect more dynamic, perhaps organic, maybe even transformative ideas. With the object comes the abject, the ideas, the observations in the chaotic, the necessary artistic vision and paradox. The abject visualizes our need to give shape to turmoil in the world and in our personal lives. In the midst of it, there is a sense of calm, a need to seek out to other realms, or to give the paradoxes a more usual everyday reference. Art has hardly ever been so metaphorical as it is now. Here pulsates both the object and (its) abject. Berta Fischer’s sculptures attracted with their transparency and with their neon-candy volume of lightness, they are popular and easy to access. Some of her works have a different texture in them, like the oval-shape, red-yellow wall sculpture below. It comes closer to definition of an abject reminiscing of the interior, and the morphological. Nicole Eisenman’s reclining head-sculpture titled Big Head Sleeping, spoke about the materiality and shape, asking how a single body part connects to a dominance of a head, but with a cut-out presence. Her sculpture stood as an abject with introspection, critically studying our contemporary culture.
This year, The Armory Show included a curated section highlighting the geographic region of the Middle East, North Africa, and the Mediterranean. Jumana Manna was one of the artists featured in this section, presented by CRG Gallery, New York.Manna’s works stand for ruins, and act out the disappearing landscape of people and their cultural heritage. More general references are to the origins of the culture, since the artifact nature of the ruins is present. Yet, her works narrate of the idea of the home, and perhaps of the lost home. The artist uses film and sculpture to capture history, anthropological sensibility, and truly benefits from the performative ways to present realities of her projects. Another focus artist was Mona Hatoum’s art presented by Alexander and Bonin,New York.Mona Hatoumi’s black circle on the floor, appears as if it is glued to the space, leaving lots of room for interpretation. Overall, the curated section in this year’s art fair comprised of fifteen gallery presentations from across the globe, including non-for-profit institutions. The Armory Focus 2015 was curated by Omar Kholeif, a curator based at the Whitechapel Gallery in London.
What else was capturing the moment factor? The time of the selfies, and an act of self-reflection, when we are looking at ourselves and the others in the mirror, having object-devices as the backdrop of our doings: performing ourselves, and putting ourselves out there in the social media, which in someways acts as today’s mirror. This is a theme that young generation artists will return to with new and different ideas. One is the always relevant question of identity, how we look ourselves in the mirror, and what does the mirror show. This interplay is shown in Alicja Kwade’s mirror-sculpture titled, Figure. It stands on a leg, being humorous, historic, reflecting the person-in-charge, whoever looks into the depths.
Environment is one topic in the current art world. And it should be. Among the chaos, across the globe, where natural disasters and turmoil take place on a regular basis. Art necessarily reflects this. The references are not too obvious, but you can understand the point through the presentation. Such was the installation by Yargo Alexopoulos, presented by Bryce Wolkowitzfrom New York. The infinite loop might as well be artificial, but it connects to the ocean, presenting a dynamics of the water surface, as monotonous and as moving with tension. Similar subliminal feel comes out of the visual imagery of Catherine Yass, presented by Galerie Lelong, New York. This work was a light-box installation, in which the artist used photographic exposures of the lighthouse and blue-colored filters. The result is eerie, and comes with a message, where the source of light has turned black.
One of the personal favorites in this year’s Armory Show was a Los Angeles based gallery which brought along fresh ideas to the East Coast. The meditative palette by artist Luke Diiorio, presented by Anat Ebgi, was unique. The gallery showed his recent work-series titled ttylenol. These linen works praise craft, meditate, and encompass, and have some feel of the work-in-progress.