Linda Cunningham’s sculptural installations speak many languages. Much of her recent work has been tapping into environmental specificity relating to the South Bronx waterfront. The artist has explored a topic of climate change in urban environments. Through July-August, Cunningham has her solo exhibition up in Brooklyn at the celebrated ODETTA. The current show features a large installation of her sculptural pieces well put together with drywall photo collages, both mediums that Cunningham frequently works with. This time Cunningham’s exhibition features textual patterns as mixed media works. The images display historic texts, which carry references to three monotheist World religions (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam) in earlier times when the cultures co-existed peacefully, a scenario impossible to imagine now. Many of the texts seem to be fragments that have been saved, depicting religious writings in Coptic, Hebrew and Arabic. The title of her exhibition: Whose Land? Whose God?, also includes remnants, which the artist acquired from the Berlin Wall in 1989. As the artist herself is well-traveled, behind the exhibition story is an expedition.
Firstindigo&Lifestyle: Let’s talk a bit about the bronze as a material in the exhibition. As I understood, you were running your own bronze workshop in Pennsylvania?
LC: As a young professor at Franklin & Marshall College, I was challenged to create a bronze casting facility to make use of a very old oil burning furnace that a former professor had acquired for the sculpture facility. Enthusiastic art students and guest professors helped me build the facility and develop the expertise to do traditional bronze casting which I later taught in Advanced Sculpture classes. I eventually ran some women’s bronze casting weekend workshops which was wonderfully empowering for the participants who never had had such an opportunity.
Firstindigo&Lifestyle: About the process of pouring the metal, how do you create the movement so evident in your sculptures. What is the methodology behind the pouring, and using sand in the process?
LC: I eventually became interested in much more experimental casting methods that sculptors like Isaac Witkin were using, pouring bronze in single sided shallow molds filled with foundry sand. I developed the technique of pouring long thin forms that record the flow of the hot melted bronze. The bronze freezes the flow patterns and splatters creating the highly textured surface as it solidifies in seconds. Early on I found a way to acquire scrap military bronze and was using these lacy bronze forms to create 11 ft high shells of figures I called “War Memorial.” I thought of them of as vulnerable survivors. Five of those bronze images framed the entrance to the City University Graduate Center when it still stood for many years on 42nd St across from Bryant Park. They are now owned by Grounds for Sculpture in Hamilton, New Jersey.
Firstindigo&Lifestyle: Your exhibition Whose Land? Whose God? is inspired by an exhibition that you saw in Germany, when and where did this exhibition take place?
LC: The text Images were taken from the catalog of an exhibition I saw and was deeply impressed by in Berlin, 2015 titled: ‘One God: Abraham’s descendants on the Nile. Jews, Christians and Muslims in Egypt from late Antiquity to the Early Middle Ages’ at the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, known as the Bode Museum on the Museum island in Berlin.
Bronze features movement in Linda Cunningham’s work.
Artist Linda Cunningham in her exhibition at the Odetta Gallery.
Linda Cunningham’s mixed media depict layers of text with sculptural materiality.
Firstindigo&Lifestyle: How many texts, including a variety of liturgical, bible & prayer books, are there included in your exhibition?
LC: I used 16 different examples. Many more were included in the exhibit in Berlin.
Firstindigo&Lifestyle: How about the pieces in the exhibition that you acquired from the Berlin Wall, what is the story behind them?
LC: I was invited to create a sizable installation in an alternative arts factory building in Kassel as an alternative documenta exhibit in 1992 about 2 1/2 years after the wall had opened up. A man who worked in the factory that was sponsoring the project took me to the town where he lived that was just over the former border where mountains of posts, fence, electrical cable and barbed wire were assembled as they dismantled the border that reach across the entire country. They were happy to have me take what I could fit in his van and charged me 50 Deutschmarks. The elements fit perfectly into the theme of the installation I was working on at that time.
Firstindigo&Lifestyle: How did the transportation of the wall pieces take place, literally from Germany to the US?
LC: When the exhibition came to an end after 90 days, I couldn’t bear to throw them out and storing was also prohibitive. My German friends helped me to get crates built and one friend drove the crates to Hamburg to get them loaded on a freighter. I picked them up with a van at a New Jersey port outside Newark. I always intended to exhibit them again and they have been schlepped from one studio to the next ever since.
Diana Al-Hadid: Liquid City is an exhibition full of history that is so relevant today. Al-Hadid’s solo show is currently on view through September 24, 2017 at San Jose Museum of Art in San Jose, California. Liquid City is like a micro-cosmos of a world, in which the observer has carefully assembled her sharp point of view towards the core. It features an art-historical study on a matter that is hybrid and timely in the world, where archaeological sites and cultural homes are disappearing in front of our eyes. The subject is immense, but in this exhibition, the history gets rewritten in more pleasant terms.
The exhibition focuses on Al-Hadid’s creative process by bringing together works and related primary source materials. One example of this fruitful exchange is a large sculptural installation titled Nolli’s Orders (2012), which refers to Giambattista Nolli’s landmark 1748 map of Rome. The artist has included a reprinted folio of Nolli’s map and works on paper by old masters, to support the idea for the sculpture. The two-dimensional papers are an interesting contrast to the three-dimensional sculpture, perhaps showing how the process evolves from sketches to more complete forms. The constellation addresses how works are fluid and in-between states before their final spatial configurations.
Sculptural centerpiece Nolli’s Orders brings Al-Hadid’s installation idea to the museum space. With the multiple references, the sculpture addresses an idea of a city as public and shared space. Showing private and public structures of contemporary life, it anchors the idea of the sculpture into city with piazzas and fountains. Cities have been shaped around sources of water, around which the people have gathered and shared their belongingness. The conflict, which this work implies, is embedded in the idea of not belonging. It touches on the private spheres in which people feel uncertainty and alienation from firm structures, lacking the real connection to the architecture of the city. Resulting in the shapes as structures without roots, narrative and story?
The idea of the sculpture continues also in Al-Hadid’s two-dimensional works, which aesthetically relate to its colors and patterns. On the other hand, Diana Al-Hadid has employed yet another ephemeral pattern and style on their surface. In these works, the historical evidence is present as influence of ruins. The dripping paint creates the delicate surface as if showing traces of archeology as rendering marks. During her graduate studies, the artist was influenced by Hellenistic history that is visible in the ruins near Aleppo. She also explored Moorish layers in Spanish cathedrals.
Diana Al-Hadid: Liquid City is displayed in the SJMA’s central skylight gallery, and as such fits to the space eloquently. The work questions boundaries of the space. Putting together the reference materials is brilliant, as all surrounding works add to the monumental scale of the sculpture. The visual of the artist’s own works is compelling, interwoven, giving a context to a deeper thinking of history. Al-Hadid’s thinking is full of vivid ideas of fusing materials into new order, rewriting history from today’s point of view. How the artist got interested in the borderlines and beloningness/alienation thematic, comes from her own background as an immigrant to the United States. The artist was born in Aleppo, Syria, but was brought up in Ohio, US. Being contradicted with different experiences was a nourishing source for imagination and thinking. The theme connects many fragmented ideas across continents, beyond physical and social realms, and certainly travels across the world with its relevance. The works in the exhibition are far from being literal.
Japanese sculptor Yasushi Koyama lives in Helsinki, Finland and exhibits frequently in the local galleries. In this interview, he ponders the aesthetics behind his cute wooden sculptures. The artist brings the two artistic worlds together in his deep knowledge of both Finnish and Japanese cultures. One of his revelations connects to an idea of etic (or ethic), a general belief that influences people’s behavior and attitudes.
Firstindigo&Lifestyle: When did you move to Finland, and how did you decide to go there to study?
Yasushi Koyama: I moved to Finland in Autumn 2007 to study Fine arts in Saimaa University of Applied Sciences in Imatra. In 2006, I met Finnish printmaker Tuula Moilanen and took her art courses in Kyoto Japan. She was a good teacher and gave me some advice for Finnish education and art school. Then I decided to come to Finland to study.
Firstindigo&Lifestyle: What is the best part of having two cultures to live in and with?
YK: The best part is to have another viewpoint beyond one culture. In addition, in my own artwork Finnish culture meets Japanese culture automatically, unconsciously and unintentionally. It is a good mixture of two cultures for me.
Firstindigo&Lifestyle: Do you think that new cultural heritage transforms you?
YK: I am transformed by Finnish culture on a daily basis especially with the sense of nature and with the contemporary culture of art & design in Helsinki. While in Imatra I experienced a lot of nature such as forest, lake, snow, river, waterfall etc. I took many photos of the beautiful Finnish nature during each season. In this point I was transformed to be a person who likes nature. At the same time, it reminded me of how to be a Japanese, because a life with nature is the very style of Japanese culture too. I came to Helsinki in 2012 to have my solo exhibition in NAPA Gallery. In 2012 Helsinki was the world design capital and my exhibition joined in with some events of World design capital 2012. NAPA Gallery had many artists who were related to graphic design. It was very fresh for me. The art of NAPA members inspired my own art language to absorb the feeling of contemporary graphic design into my art. So I am transformed to get the design viewpoint from the Helsinki contemporary culture.
Firstindigo&Lifestyle: You are currently taking part of an exhibition at the Cable Factory in Helsinki. Tell about the background for this particular show.
YK: The show is called “Masters of Saimaa’16”. It is Masters of Fine Arts graduation exhibition in The Saimaa University of Applied Sciences. 9 master degree students have joined in the show. My artworks are 3 works. There are 2 wood sculptures and 1 wood installation from me.
One of the wood sculptures is titled Panda papa and child. It is a large sculpture, 160cm high and weighting more than 400 kg. The artwork is made for my Art for Children project in 2016. People can touch & hug this Panda papa sculpture, so it is interactive art, and the art also connects to our well-being. It is going to be donated to children’s public place as a public art after my upcoming solo exhibition in Galleria AARNI. I have a good memory attached to Panda. When I was 6 years old Panda came to Ueno Zoo in Japan from China. I visited the Zoo to watch the Panda with my father.
Another wood sculpture is titled Walking cat with Katja’s T-shirt – collaboration with Katja Tukiainen. It is 150 cm high and weights more than 200 kg. Artist Katja Tukiainen is my supervisor for my final works of my thesis. Both Katja and I had a similar experience of having cats as pets in our childhood, and we both like cats. Katja Tukiainen has also designed the official T-shirt for the Cable factory. I liked the T-shirts and so got the idea for the collaboration with her.
Then, my wood installation’s goes with the title The horizontal – wood installation. It is composed of 6 pieces of woods that were originally from one large tree (5m high). Each piece weights between 30 kg to 150 kg. It is made from ash wood that my friend gave me. The title is from Eija–Liisa Ahtila’s video work “The horizontal “ to use 6 screen panels to show one long tree in horizontal way. Her video work “The house” was the first contemporary Finnish art that I saw in Tokyo in 2003. Through this work I wanted to express the culture of wood in Finland and Japan, the process of wood sculpting and wood as a material itself. In Finland the forest area is 71% of the entire land area. In Japan the forest area is about 68% of the land area. In the world, the average of forest area is 31%. So in comparison, our countries have a lot of forest and woods. I think that we both have the tradition of wood culture such as wooden buildings, wooden houses, wooden tools, wooden arts etc. So wood is really important material for me.
Firstindigo&Lifestyle: You hear often that Finnish and Japanese cultures have something in common from the point of view of the design cultures. Do you think it’s true and in what ways?
YK: Yes, it is true. As I told, both Finland and Japan have the culture of wood. Both Finnish and Japanese like nature in life. So natural materials have an influence on the expression of our cultures of design, architecture and art. In addition simplicity, clarity and repetitive nature are similar in both cultures.
Firstindigo&Lifestyle: How did you find your artistic expression with the sculpture?
YK: My artworks are animal sculptures described as “Cute, lovely and humorous”. Most of my works are made from one piece of wood by using hand chisels. The rich textures of wood sculpting give people a warm impression. My wood sculptures have the good mixture between traditional wood sculpting and contemporary expression.
I learnt traditional wood sculpturing in Japan, New Zealand, Transylvania and Finland. For example in Finland in school I learnt wood sculpting from Finnish sculptor Pasi Karjula. He cherished the traditional way of wood sculpting using axe and hand chisels as well as other methods.
In the contemporary art context my wood sculptures have the expression of cuteness and positive energy. Finnish painter Katja Tukiainen had an influence on those expressions. And Finnish sculptor Kim Simonsson inspired me with his innocence of cartoonish sculpture. In addition, the graphic design of Marimekko etc., as well as the culture of the Finnish children’s characters, especially the Moomins took effect on me.
At the same time Japanese Manga & Anime and “neo-pop” art by Japanese painter Yoshitomo Nara have influenced my art language of cuteness. The ideas of art works are inspired by animals, natural shape of wood, self-drawing, Finnish art, illustration, textile design and Japanese art & culture.
Firstindigo&Lifestyle: Are your cute animal sculptures loved by both Finnish and Japanese audiences alike?
YK: Yes, I think so. They are loved and sold in both Finland and Japan. The interesting issue is that Finnish people say Yasushi’s works have Japanese feeling, and Japanese people say that Yasushi’s works have Finnish feeling in them. I accept their viewpoints as a good mixture between Finnish and Japanese culture.
Firstindigo&Lifestyle: How do you develop and teach your concepts to kids?
YK: I remember that I was making animal sculptures with clay almost every day when I was between 4-6 years old. My father gave me photo books of animals. After I looked at them I made animals. It was my ordinary life during my childhood. So it was natural for me to make cute animals. Although I was making a human sculpture while in school, after my graduation I remembered my enjoyment with animal sculptures. So it is normal and natural for me to make these cute animal sculptures. After starting to create animals, some friends and gallerists told me that my artworks include concepts for kids. So I will continue developing art based on my own childhood memories.
Firstindigo&Lifestyle: What is your favorite museum or museums in Finland and why?
YK: I have many favorite museums in Finland. It is difficult to tell of all the museums. So I point my favorite 3 art museums with exhibitions in 2016. I liked Ai Weiwei & Yayoi Kusamaexhibitions in Helsinki Art Museum, Ernesto Neto’s exhibition in 5th floor in Kiasma and “Suomen Taiteen Tarina” (Stories of Finnish Art) in Ateneum Art Museum. Ai Weiwei and Yayoi Kusama are top well-known artists in the world. I appreciate HAM to have offered their exhibitions to people in Finland. I also like the space in Kiasma’s 5th floor. Ernesto Neto’s exhibition gave us the participation and experience, the post colonial and interdisciplinary disciplines in the contemporary art context. “Stories of Finnish Art” was very compact exhibition, but at the same time a very profound way to show Finnish art history. I thought it was a great opportunity for tourists in summer to see the exhibition in Ateneum and also for Finland to show their image through Finnish art.
Firstindigo&Lifestyle: How would you describe Finnish aesthetics?
YK: I want to describe 3 concepts of “less is more”, “silence” and “sorrow” as Finnish aesthetics.
When I think about aesthetics, I always think about “etic” of aesthetics. Etic (or ethic) is a general idea or belief that influences people’s behavior and attitudes. I think that Finnish etic are diligent, honest and simple. Finnish aesthetics is the general idea that influences Finnish people’s behavior to understand beauty. So in my opinion one of Finnish aesthetics is about “less is more”. When I see the simple structures of Finnish architectures, it is so obvious.
About “silence” (hiljaisuus in Finnish), and how it is connected to nature. I remember silent landscape of snow in forest during winter. It was very beautiful. One of my Finnish friends gave me the message about nature, comparing sisu to silence (sisu is a Finnish spirit against strong power). “Nature means more than forests or lakes. It means freedom for oneself. Sisu is the most important for Finns. But how can one respect the other’s freedom? To respect one’s own freedom and the other’s freedom, Finns are keeping silent.” It is poetic but precisely showing the Finnish behavior of silence.It says that silence is the expression to respect one’s own and other’s freedom. Silence is one core of beauty related to the idea of freedom in Finnish culture.
About “sorrow” (suru in Finnish). A Finnish pop singer-song writer Kaija Koo says the phrase: Niin kaunis on hiljaisuus, mutta kauniimpaa on kaipaus. It means: So beautiful is silence but more beautiful is longing. So, when a Finn misses another person or a place, they feel sorrow. The sense of sorrow is connected to the feeling of longing and missing. In addition, a Finnish sense of sorrow takes place in the melancholic climate of Finland, such as during cold, dark and snow etc. “Sorrow” is a general and profound concept in Finnish art, film, novel, mythology etc.
Firstindigo&Lifestyle: What does innovation mean to you?
YK: Innovation is the attitude to look for new applications of old knowledge and the one to create new concepts by mixing more than two different concepts and cultures.
Firstindigo&Lifestyle: Who do you collaborate with and where do you work? Is teamwork important to you?
YK: To meet a person is very important for me. So I would like to cherish meeting a person. This time I collaborated with Finnish painter Katja Tukiainen in Cable Factory, Helsinki. I met her in Cable Factory in 2009 coincidentally, when I was walking around the Cable Factory. She was very kind to me even though I didn’t know her at all at that time. She talked to me friendly about Japan and her exhibition in Yokohama, Japan. I think that meeting is sometimes coincidental but often meaningful. I would like to cherish such a meeting. For the collaboration it is important for me to have a similar concepts, and to be able to share ideas. It is important for me to make collaboration beyond your own culture and to create something new from it. I have collaborated with artists such as painters, sculptors and printmakers. For the future I am interested in collaborating with not only artists but also with designers, anthropologists, philosophers, children, and with ordinary people to be transforming my art.
Firstindigo&Lifestyle: Do you have an opinion about Kusama’s works, she is now extremely popular in the West. How do you like the exhibition in Helsinki at the moment?
In my opinion Kusama’s exhibition includes an important concept of interdisciplinarity, the roles of post colonial and gender in the contemporary art world. So it is natural for the West to accept her art. And her exhibition shows not only art but also an idea to share an experience of her art with visitors. It means that her art works are not only objects but also the image of her art, spirit and that of the contemporary culture. Her exhibition goes beyond art and connects with people in the gallery space to share their experiences. From this point of view, the visitors can participate in her exhibition. And I find that her paintings have an influence coming from native art and aboriginal art. Then, I think that her dot art includes not only pop art but also biological consideration of a cell, Shintoism and neo animism. I imagine that those concepts are fresh and still new to the West. So I admire HAM (Helsinki Art Museum) to have her exhibition.
Firstindigo&Lifestyle: Does Kusama have an approach that can be applied to other things, or could there be a recipe for a good idea to be developed further. There seems to be something that makes people really want to participate in it?
YK: Yayoi Kusama was the world’s most popular artist in 2014. And she is still one of the most popular artist in 2016. I think that the quality of this exhibition is among the top of the world. And her exhibition has been already developed by the point of visitor’s participation, comparing it to her exhibition that I saw in Matsumoto, Japan in 2003. It would be possible for her to use 5 senses to prompt visitors to participate in her art, such as the sense of touch, the sense of smell and auditory sense.
Firstindigo&Lifestyle: Do you think that art should be more sensorial, and available for people to touch?
YK: Yes, at least for me. I think touching art is a much deeper experience than seeing art. I make my large animal wooden sculptures (about 160 x 80 x70 cm) to be touchable and huggable. It is a hands-on way of “interactive art” in a sense that visitors also take action towards the art. And it is also “participation art” as you are touching and hugging a sculpture in the exhibition gallery space or in the public space. The importance of touching art is also connected to the internet period or described as a post-internet period. Although we can see a lot of images through internet, we can’t get a sense of touch through internet as well. So the sense of touch is a strong point attached to my animal sculptures. The feeling of a wood material is little warm and nice to human body. My animal sculptures have been already in some public places as public art. It gives people happiness and experiences in a way that they participate in a society through art.
Firstindigo&Lifestyle: Is there a line between art and design in contemporary art or does there have to be?
YK: For me such a line is not so meaningful in our contemporary time. Design can be art and art can be design. I think that art and design have an effect on each other especially here in Helsinki.
Firstindigo&Lifestyle: What are you planning next, do you have new ideas and exhibitions coming up?
YK: My next exhibition is coming soon 23.11-18.12.2016 in Galleria AARNI in Espoo, Finland. The concept is “Cute” –between SÖPÖ and Kawaii. I mix Finnish cuteness “SÖPÖ” with Japanese cuteness “Kawaii” in my art. In Japan “Kawaii” (= the quality of cuteness) has become a prominent aspect of Japanese popular culture. This term Kawaii has taken on the secondary meanings of cool, groovy, charming and innocent. The book “Kawaii Syndrome” tells “cute” and “neat” have taken precedence over the former Japanese aesthetics of “beautiful” and “refined”. So cuteness is a new cultural wave of Japanese postwar generation especially of the ones born in 70’s and 80’s. This cultural wave has come to Europe particularly through Manga and Anime. For the design of my animal wood sculptures I use Finnish wood, and the Finnish cuteness of SÖPÖ is inspired by Finnish art and design. In the exhibition visitors can see ”Cute” animal sculptures, touch & hug a large sculpture ”Panda Papa & Child”. I am hoping the audiences will enjoy Yasushi Koyama’s world of cute animals in the exhibition coming to Galleria AARNI.
Chinese artist and activist Ai Weiwei’s exhibition opened in Helsinki in September 2015. Ai Weiwei @ Helsinki will be on view through the end of February 2016. His first solo exhibition in Finland features 25 works from 1985 to the present, including selection of wooden sculptures and installations, and taking materials from antiques and building structures of old temples. Ai Weiwei’s exhibition is connecting to historical China, raising contemporary questions and speaking of the critical voice, which requires to be heard. The exhibition narrates of the personal and the cultural, weighting the nuances that the artist has tested in practice.
Ai Weiwei is the artistic figurehead for thinking how today’s east meets west in many forms. I call my perception of the works ‘massivity of matter’. Firstly, the amount of matter in a museum space probably recalls any sculpture display as the intervention of matter over the space. In this exhibition, however, the sculptural speaks together with the space, the airy high ceilings are breathing with the objects. Second, the massivity of matter is more of a feeling that comes with the lack of scripture between the works. An echo of Chinese contemporary art, in which ancestral is disconnected from the line of reproducing the artifacts?
Map of China (2008), is Ai Weiwei’s large opening piece to the exhibition. The sculpture is tall, hard to measure, and made of tieli wood fragments that come from ancient temples. This material is centuries old and told to be very rare today. Map of China is made with traditional Chinese woodworking technique bringing the pieces together. The challenge was to create the work without any visible seams. The configuration has the shape of the country showing how there was not a single history or culture in the first place, but only a forced effort to fit all the richness into a one state.
So a question arises, how to connect historical meaning and the general meaning of the past to those issues that define a contemporary consciousness of a man, after he had to struggle with the fascist propaganda and denial? I am not proposing this question as an individualist concern, but more as a rhetorical phrase to speak of a multiple choices. The artist can mirror his personal position on the power/to shed light on the power, which one-sidedly and univocally has taken over all the other voices, eventually starting to represent masses of voices. This is where massivity arises in artistic aesthetics. And perhaps this is why there is no single narrative imposed in the exhibition, because bringing together all the objects would already be a lot. They would utter so strongly, so let them escape the definition, and let the cacophony sing its well-orchestrated noise. Needless to say, as the wood is concerned, the aesthetics is well rehearsed, well mounted, the sculptural is well organized in groups, following up the international sculptural aesthetics of the moment. Working with wood, and collecting pieces that come from a cultural place with this huge time span; say, goes far beyond our contemporary time. This makes the works epic for today. Historical load is apparent. History arrives with the same massivity, as the ancestral would drive you over.
To be a political artist is not easy from the point of view of artistic aesthetics. Our art world needs the voices to break silences, but often the politics becomes massivity. It would perhaps be different to subtly speak without ruins taking over, as objects do have their own weight without us directly attaching them to ‘art’. In this case, the objects are not simply cultural artifacts as they appear in the art museum context, however they connotate in the form of temples, for instance. Some pieces come from temples – that is the shrine nature of a house, narrating about ancestry and patriarchal dominance. These fragments are ultimate references to the age of property, practice, and material attachments.
Another sculptural work by Ai Weiwei, is called Tree (2010). It is an assemblage of different woods deriving from individual trees. The dead tree trunks were collected from various locations in the mountains of South China. Differences between components is left visible intentionally:
‘We assembled them (the parts) together to have all the details of a normal tree. At the same time, you’re not comfortable, there’s a strangeness there, an unfamiliarness. And it’s just like trying to imagine what the tree was like.’
Wood as artistic material is so much about nature. Tree as a material is beyond our dominance. It exists and grows without our appropriation. But we did cut trees, we destroyed their existence, and we were cutting down entire forests. In the exhibition, the tree-sculpture is made from pieces to look like a whole tree, an original, yet at the same it is not. It is a look-alike, a not exactly, and a make believe of a tree, a form of a tree, a powerful signifier of a tree, of nature, of origin. It is quite interesting how this sculpture ended up being the center, as other objects are made of wood as well, representing crafty continuation of the artifacts as man made materiality, a continuation of time, which was before mass production.
The modernity of artificial materials, known as the mass-production is another question. Mass production creates massivity. Perhaps the ancestral places speak in the same manner as the modernity. The history is long; we communicate and paraphrase with it. Perhaps this exhibition communicates beyond art, becoming dynamic battlefield for matter and spirit, proposing final materiality in art. Where do we stretch the line between the materials that make the essence of an artwork? We draw from culture, bringing cultural objects into museum to speak for the culture. And this takes place ultimately not in the name of individual subjectivity but for all the collective consciousnesses.
After all, the dialogue between poetic and anti-poetic is what we are looking in the massivity. Poetry does not speak with the loudness unless it was dried out of mythological meaning and it communicates more with the naturalist approach to speak with metaphors. Metaphor can be standing for something, which is not invisible, and stands for something apparent, showing the evidence, creating presence of the political as inevitable. It is standing, yet changing?
There is an evident need for change in the cultural. The aesthetic is more of a repetitive force that takes form in the massivity. The criticism toward west comes in the undertone of the material in consumption, as enlightening force. The materialism is our new religion?
Traveling Light (2007), is a sculpture mounted on a temple pillar, appearing as being a gigantic table lamp or crystal chandelier. Ai Weiwei became interested in light as an object from the point of view of illumination and environment. The large sculpture stands for the idea that objects are close to human scale to be experienced physically.
Divina Proportio (2012), is composed of huali wood, referring to the golden mean, and as mathematical proportions to geometry in the Renaissance.
The exhibition includes two previously unseen works, White House, and Garbage Container, the former speaking of China’s developments and urbanization, the latter about five homeless boys who died tragically.
A new piece in the exhibition titled White House (2015) is an entire residential house of the Qing dynasty. The composition includes different woods and is constructed traditionally using nail-less joints. The work stands for the heritage, as the new developments in China have pushed away the traditional. The new white paint on a wooden surface creates questions about past and present, authenticity and change.
But cultures change slowly. The anthroposcience of human life shortly lived, continues in the legacy of a son who outlives his father (in a natural cycle). The artifacts have a longer life than we do, and this ends building the culture as fluid and as anatomically tilted. Objects lend to the patriarchal order creating legacy and interdependency. Objects echo about history, so in the name of the poetics and dialogue whenever they are on display there is an underpinning of voices that mesmerize with their presence.
The exhibition architecture divides the show into two large rooms. On the other side there are objects, which call much of the legacy that is darker, even more personal than the first exhibition space. Ai Weiwei became a prisoner after he was arrested in 2011 at the airport in Beijing. He was sometimes handcuffed to a chair while questioned. He also kept washing his one set of clothes while in prison, drying them on a hanger.
The art in this case becomes a historical conscience of a collective. It necessarily opens as a voice for the people whose history it is part of. The objects, their material consciousness and presence appear as inevitably non-corruptive, with presentation and physical presence, as non-poetic solidity. The substance is speaking through the stone, or the stones would shout, in this case wood objects.
Ai Weiwei’s role as a seer or visionary, means a hard position at home in China. His work Through (2007), is composed of tieli wood once again, having fragments of old temples from Qing dynasty. The scale is massive, and piercing, the tables and pillars form an almost cage-like atmosphere.
He says: ‘Artists are not in a position to decide the conditions imposed upon them but they can make statements about these conditions.’
Artists have their own life, their own existential power, their own presence and saying. When it comes to power propositions with artwork, let’s say this. It is hard to assume that the artist proposes his artwork knowing that the entire nature of the artwork would stand for the resistance of power. Cultural legacy changes in a moment, when it becomes ‘art’. The objects are in a terrain of global and international exchange of matter. When it comes to materiality in the sense or meaning, would not the objects have a saying only inside their cultural reference? Legacy or cultural speaking of the history changes with the art market. When legacy becomes art, it has become layered with different meaning; yet the objects are not entirely free of their cultural origins.
The Garbage Container (2014), impresses as a valuable huali wood piece, reminiscing of a cupboard, and looking like a container when it turned on the side. Another impressive piece is the architectural installation titled Ordos 100 model (2011), which was built together with Swiss architect firm Herzog & De Meuron. Made of carved pinewood, an uncompleted, miniature city was planned to be build in Ordros. Treasure Box (2014), is another construction made of huali wood. interestingly, all the objects seem to highlight the wallpaper, titled as IOU Wallpaper (2011-2013), which has decorative appeal, yet a message that makes everything seem unconventional.
Ai Weiwei’s exhibition atHAM Helsinki in on view until February 28th, 2016.
Jasmin Anoschkin is a Finnish artist working with ceramics, wooden sculptures, drawings and painting. She is a member of the Arabia Art Department Society and has exhibited widely for the past ten years. The unique world of sculptures crafted by the artist includes expressive statement pieces. These works feature something of the magical world of animals that have spirits. As if animated, they are calling you to bond with them and follow them into the world of stories. Some of the sculptures also speak slightly of the aesthetic language borrowed from contemporary folk art.
Jasmin Anoschkin, Bambi, 2007, Wood, photo: Pekka Vainonen.
Jasmin Anoschkin, My Little Poro, 2012, Wood, photo: Severi Haapala.
Firstindigo&Lifestyle: Could you tell your story of becoming an artist?
Jasmin Anoschkin: When I was five years old, I figured out how to draw from a visual image. I was able to copy an image to another page, which made me feel pure amazing. At that time, I also started to sew and crochet small sculptural objects and flowy skirts. I guess I had a chance to do this since my mother was staying at home with me, and my siblings were all in school. Then, while I was at the junior high school, being an eight-grader, I was convinced that I would become a painter. During my studies at the Art High School, I got inspired to work on sculpture. When I later studied at the Academy of Fine Arts in Helsinki, I took sculpture as my major.
You have a very impressive career with exhibitions, how did it progress?
JA: I graduated from the Academy in 2004, after which I have been continuously exhibiting. Often a current exhibition has birthed a new one, and so forth. I would say that my breakthrough exhibition and artwork was Bambi that was shown at the Mänttä Art Festival in 2009. The same sculpture was also in 2010 at the 100th Anniversary of the Association of Finnish Sculptors in Wäinö Aaltonen Museum of Art. Today it belongs to the Finnish State Art Collection.
In 2012, I was chosen to be the year’s young artist in the Satakunta region of Finland. During the years of 2009-2010, I was a visiting artist at the Arabia Art Department Society (it was established in 1922). And in 2014, I became a member of the society.
Are there any other artists in your family?
JA: My mother studied painting, but has not worked as a painter professionally, except having it as her hobby.
Your sense of color is very strong and expressive. I would say that this is the case in both of the paintings and sculptures. Do you attach to a particular philosophy of color?
JA: I like many colors, especially the neon-colors, but white is my absolute favorite. In my paintings (I have painted life models always), the colors create the atmosphere of the room and the mood around the model. As it comes to my wooden sculptures, I pick the colors on the go, or they appear as coincidentally according to what jars or pigments I have available. When working with the wood sculptures, I start marking the wood with colors seeing which parts to leave and what to carve out. If the initial colors fit to the work they can stay.
In my ceramic works I use glazing that is actual leftovers from other artists, or opt for the colors that Arabia factory has used in its history of making utensils and everyday objects. I don’t really make samples, and sometimes you have to be firing the clay several times before the end result is perfect.
You seem to have two mediums in your art making, do you intentionally make paintings around humans, and then create the sculptures about animals?
JA: I would like to have animals as pets, but I cannot take care of them. It is easier to take care of the sculptures than real living animals. I don’t have to feed them, just dust them occasionally, nor do I have to take them out, except to museums. Painting is fast for me, and sculpting is very slow.
How about the paintings, which are portraits, how did you choose your models?
JA: I like to work with life models, and almost all of them are artists or other friends.
Do you start with emotional or affective state of a person?
JA: The painting sessions I plan always three weeks in advance, so I can prepare myself to the work itself. I do not sketch or do other kid of preparations, but what I do is to more intuitively process the work out. I’m always nervous to meet my models so it’s really hard to get any sleep the night before.
Your paintings also bring to mind expressive fluidity and specificity of the line, which is almost drawing-like.
JA: I draw and paint a life model, and its pretty fast-paced taking only 3-5 minutes, so perhaps this methodology has left some marks on my works.
Could you explain where the themes to your sculptures come from?
JA: Many of my sculptures have a story implied in them, either I heard them from others, or they are based on my own experiences. A friend of mine lived three year in China, and they had two servants. The other friend of mine went to India and brought back a sari. Third bought a dog from a faraway place. So I have this blue servant dog –sculpture who wears a sari as a hat. It is serving coffee from an earring, and the soap is like a pastry. The sculpture is called: Would You like to have some breakfast, Sir? Eventually, as you can hear, the artwork includes all three stories told by three different people.
My other sculpture, which is called Huulipunankoemaistaja, Lipstick taster, is an animal. A friend of mine worked at the Lumene cosmetic company in a laboratory. I imagined that the person was inventing and creating new shades for lipsticks while at work.
Do these fascinating animal figurines represent any specific animals?
JA: I cannot say it myself. Many customers tell me that this particular work is my personal power animal, and then they want to acquire it. And, I often call my sculptures as ‘random varieties’.
One more thing about the sculptures, how do you construct them, what is your technique?
JA: The clay sculptures I build by hand starting from the bottom and moving towards the top. With the wood, I start with cutting off the extra material, and adding pieces. The process goes basically cutting off from the material, and adding repetitively, and incorporating the colors from the start.
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
Yvonne Rainer’s work Trio A (1966), is one of the most enchanting dance pieces of dance history that paved the way to contemporary and postmodern dance practices. It is an interesting choreographic work, not least because it is exhilarating from pure performance and performer points of view. How many times do contemporary performers get immersed in new projects, where choreographers and directors inquire effortless, non-virtuous task-oriented movements and behavior to use them as backbones for their pieces. This in fact is not so easy to accomplish at all. As what performer goes through is not so much about ‘performing’ from a merely audience seduction point of view, but follows more a neutral way of not-doing too much. This might sound complicated, but makes all sense when in dance the performers start tapping the space, letting their bodies organize the way through the space. The inheritance of this type of movement in dance, a meticulous way of appearing happens sometimes simultaneously in conjunction to things and objects. In sculptural and spatial terms, the dancer is like a living and moving human sculpture. But more than that, the art of dancing in this case is shaped also around imaginary objects, or spatial lines that cut through the architecture of space. In Trio A, it seems that the space and objects were a great source of inspiration for Rainer, acting as inner elements, and shaping the movement sequences. There are, of course, noticeable tricky movements and balancing included in the work, even when the dancer (herself in the original Trio A, which was part of a larger work The Mind Is a Muscle) would not make a full sequence of complicated turns, for example. In 1966, Trio A changed the dance scene by examining the possibilities of human movement. Rainer had learned from Merce Cunningham and John Cage to have different approach to the her audience or spectators in general. She also started to experiment with film using the same methods as in choreography.
When watching the composition of Trio A evolve on the video, it comes to mind that perhaps the biggest challenge is to maintain a calm steady movement flow. The work became a classic not only because it still makes powerful statements of what a composition and a performance is about; but stating a strong performer making the composition. It changed so much in the Western dance history.
Dance does not always get noticed among contemporary art forms, or is quite rarely placed in the art history like visual arts. When it appears to be paired together with and being a component of the visual arts as a performance art, or in conjunction of musical composition, it gets a different approach. The so-called post-modern dance era brought in new curiosities in terms of artistic collaborations that stretched beyond boundaries of different art forms and genres.
Loretta Howard Gallery opens on September 10 with a new exhibition entitled “Where Sculpture and Dance Meet: Minimalism from 1961 to 1979.” The gallery curates annually an historical exhibition, and this truly interesting archival exploration showcases videos of historic performances and sculptures associated with minimalism both in art and dance. The exhibit is timely as it is doing homage to ideas that are still in a dialogue setting current trends in visual arts and performance. The exhibition shows that choreographers and sculptors, for instance, used methods of composition that were known as subjective. Yvonne Rainer belongs to these artists who brought minimalism to dance. She did not eventually wish to include her Trio A showing into the gallery exhibition, but her historic rehearsal recording from Conneticut with a group of performers works as a good intro to her style.
Sol LeWitt and Lucinda Childs’ Dance
Sculpture by Sol LeWitt
Performers in Yvonne Rainer’s Conneticut rehearsal
Silver Clouds, Andy Warhol’s installation of helium filled pillows
Sculptures by Donald Judd
In the exhibit, there is also a video of sculptor Robert Morris’ work,in which a masked male performer performs with a sculpture created by Morris. In the 1960s, he built his early sculptures in Yoko Ono’s loft that also involved unique performance elements. Choreographer Simone Forti’s archival video of her piece Slantboard (1961), is an important addition to the exhibition. The work includes a platform in its center for performers to attach to and play with. The exhibit culminates around a piece Dance created by Lucinda Childs (original from 1979). The video is a double performance in a sense that Childs’ company performs in the background video when the Dance is recreated for stage. The choreography gathers an architectural sculpture from Sol LeWitt around it. Childs collaborated with the artist in set designs, and used music from composer Philip Glass.
Andy Warhol’s installation of helium filled pillows, Silver Clouds, adds an interesting story to the exhibition. Warhol created the pillows which then functioned as a set in Merce Cunningham’s dance work Rainforest (1968). Performers in this choreography encountered the clouds when they were floating across the stage. Cunningham often explored dancers and objects to create ‘random’ encounters, so it is great that the exhibition’s shows a performance video and the sets in the gallery space to make the central point come across.
In addition to the artists and collaborations mentioned, Loretta Howard Gallery displays Trisha Brown’s video Group Primary Accumulation (1973) as part of this archival display. The choreography explored altered understanding of the beauty and power with simple repetitive movements. Brown used principles of mathematics, modularity and repetition when composing the dance. Next to this video, there are minimalistic sculptures on the walls from Donald Judd, who created designs for some of Brown’s choreography. Then, a strong sculptural work is on display from Ronald Bladen.
The exhibition “Where Sculpture and Dance Meet: Minimalism from 1961 to 1979”, is curated by Wendy Perron, who is the author of “Through the Eyes of a Dancer” and former editor in chief of Dance Magazine. It is co-curated by Julie Martin, who is an independent scholar and currently Director of Experiments in Art and Technology (EAT). The exhibit is on display from September 10 until October 31st, 2015 at Loretta Howard Gallery, 525-531 West 26th Street, New York.
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
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 2014in 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 AGentil 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 exhibitionBringing 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 galleryfrom 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 Putrihwho 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’sexhibition 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.