Newsletter: March 2012
Picasso’s “Guernica” at the Reina Sofia
As much as I love art to my very core, there have been only two times I have had a truly visceral reaction to art, an experience that moved my soul and brought me to tears. The first was seeing Michelangelo’s Pieta at St. Peter’s in Rome with my mother in the early 80s and then again on my own ten years later. The piece was so breathtaking that I was speechless. It is the experience that ignited my passion for art.
The second time occurred on my recent trip to Madrid. I had the pleasure of seeing a work of art that I had waited 20 years for–a work that can never travel and thus had always eluded me. The power of this work is inescapable, however, an image in a book or on a computer screen absolutely cannot do it justice. Guernica, Pablo Picasso’s visual response to the Spanish Civil War, is a masterful composition. Its size and its restricted palette of black, grey and white smack the viewer into silence. An almost perfect composition worked over for many years exudes the raw emotion of the times. The anguish and horror of the figures on either end of the canvas is beyond moving. Standing in front of this masterpiece made me go weak in the knees-literally. I turned away as the tears welled up in my eyes; it was almost too painful to look at, yet, it kept drawing me back for a second, third, and fourth glance. When I have these encounters with art it is almost as if time stands still and I am unaware of everyone else around me. But, as I returned to take just one more look before I left the Reina Sofia, I took notice that all of the other visitors seemed to be just as moved as I was. Unlike the usual cursory stroll through a museum and quick 10 second glances at the paintings by the general public, people took their time with this work. They thoughtfully took it all in. And the fact that it is quintessential Art History 101 just made it that more impactful. For me, this is the perfect example of why one must see a work in person–jpegs and images in books cannot accurately or effectively convey the power of a work’s size, color, intensity and subject matter. As my eyes scanned the composition I was full of sadness until I spotted, at the bottom of the canvas, an arm clutching a flower. Even in the midst of suffering and pain beyond comprehension, there is hope and renewal. Thank you, Picasso. You were absolutely a genius!
La Persistencia de la Geometria at Caixa Forum
I was so astounded by the Herzog & de Meuron designed building that I doubted anything inside could rival it. I was wrong. The small exhibition, “The Persistence of Geometry” on the 3rd floor surprised me–it was a very well organized show with 96 fantastic works by 31 artists selected to highlight the role of geometry in 20th century art and in particular, its removal of any representation of reality.
The entry to the show housed wooden and glass vitrines with three works made of marble: a square, a circle, and a rectangle by James Lee Byars. Perfect examples of the beauty of geometry.
Bruce Nauman’s nauseatingly wonderful “Black Stones Under Yellow Light” was included in an area with a video of Smithson’s “Spiral Jetty” and Eleanor Antin’s black and white photographs of rubber boots in 100 different configurations in various locales (one of my favorite works in the show for its wit). There was a beautiful Mario Merz work made of glass, lead, ink and rope that projected fabulous shadows on the wall behind it.
Armando Andrade Tudela’s sculpture made of seat caning and steel seemed to undulate in space. Gego drawings and a mobile filled one gallery’s center while Leon Ferrari prints lined the walls.
Ettore Spalletti’s poetic works of monochrome pink and gray colored stucco on wood made a powerful statement and emphasized what is best about this exhibition–that only placing two works in a room can be incredibly powerful. This show was perfectly hung–perfection.
A Rachel Whiteread resin work made of rectangles (casts of some unidentifiable household object) reminded me of a Judd stack laid out on the floor. In a section labelled “Minimalisms in Expansion,” Jordi Colomer’s white painted wooden blocks were spotlit and placed carefully on a tabletop. “Geometric Strategies” included works by Jose Davila and Damian Ortega. Ortega’s piece included a room of 8 old film projectors with images of stones toppling like dominoes.
Hans Haacke’s “Condensation Cube” from 1963-65 is very cool in its simplicity, just a clear cube sealed housing beads of exactly that, condensation, on the inside. It shares a space with Richard Long’s work of small pebbles in concentric arcs. This room, with the theme of “Essential Forms”, leads to a darkened space where a red light is projected into a corner to look like a red hole in the wall. “Red Atrium” is clearly an early work by James Turrell.
Though there were the usual suspects in the show, I enjoyed seeing work by artists I had never heard of. And instead of focusing too much on wall text, I enjoyed just meandering throughout the different galleries and taking in the aesthetically pleasing works. How often can you say that these days?
The Persistence of Geometry is on view at Caixa Forum Madrid until March 25, 2012.
Madrid and ARCO February 2012
Not only did I thoroughly enjoy my first visit to the city of Madrid, I loved visiting the fair. Sure, I was not so excited about the IKEA VIP lounge, but I was certainly introduced to some new galleries and more importantly, some artists I did not know about but whose work I quite liked. Here are some highlights:
At Madrid gallery, Travesia Cuarto’s booth-a very cool installation
At Espacio Minimo’s booth, an interactive Olaf piece filled the space in which the viewer sits in a chair, dons headphones and peeps through a keyhole at video of a man’s intimate interaction with a child on one side and a woman’s on the other.
Spanish gallery Formatacomodo had my favorite works in the fair–abstract and hard to define with candy colors. I fell in love with their cartoon-like qualities.
At Galerie Krinzinger bright colors of de la Cruz’s work drew viewers into the booth.
Max Estrella’s booth was filled with amazing works and this painting in particular grabbed my attention. My crappy photo does not begin to do its sumptuous surface justice.
And what evening in Madrid is complete without a visit to the art world after hours spot: Bar Cock
Interior of Bar Cock
Nic and her new friend, Jose Maria
Prado highlights, Galeria Espacio Minimo and the Reina Sofia
At the Prado, I had the pleasure of what seemed like walking through an art history book. Goya’s “Third of May 1808″ and “Saturn Devouring his Son”; Velasquez’s “Las Meninas” and Bosch’s “Garden of Earthly Delights” are all found under the roof of the Prado and that’s just the beginning. But there was so much more to see in Madrid.
There was a group show at Galeria Espacio Minimo with work by Susan Collis and Liliana Porter.
The show also included two Spanish artists whose work I had never seen. In Nono Bandera’s installation, the artist sources old drawings and photographs from flea markets and then paints over them, creating his own world. Small wonders of found objects are strategically placed on a desk and with drawers open, the viewer feels like a voyeur, peeking into someone else’s world.
Juan Luis Moraza’s sculptures use skinlike textures on household objects and functional items. The works combine wood and metals and beg the viewer to walk fully around them to see every angle. And of course, Liliana Porter’s works play with scale and have elements of humor as well as societal commentary.
The Reina Sofia
A beautiful Calder is found in the courtyard in the center of the Museum
Miro and Tapies works can be found in almost every gallery. A treasure trove if you like their works. And it was capped off by a gorgeous sunset from the window of the Reina Sofia.
There was also a Hans Haacke special exhibition. I found this piece one of the most visually interesting in the show.
Los Angeles Galleries
On a recent trip to Los Angeles I got to check out some gallery exhibitions. Here are some of my favorites:
Alessandro Pessoli at Marc Foxx
Having recently moved from Milan, Pessoli is now based in Los Angeles and his exhibition reflects work that came about as a result of this transition in his life. He explores his feelings that vacillate “between a sense of belonging and one of alienation.” I loved this exhibition that was chock full of art historical references and beautiful pieces. Pessoli, previously known for his ceramic sculptures, here experiments with bronze, aluminum and steel. One work entitled Books Waiter includes a book of drawings housed within the back of the sculptural figure. Newspaper seems to be an oft used material in Pessoli’s work. Metal clips held up a painting that had a drawing layered on top with a nod to old school Italian works. In the The Player, the largest sculpture in the show, there is a bronze figure on a bench under a red flag. The bronze material of the sculpture is smooth, yet there are clearly rough patches with gestures of the artist’s hand showing the manipulation of the clay the artist used to make the original form. Perhaps this piece represents Pessoli himself searching for his identity in his new home.
Matthew Marks new space
The simple white box is crowned by a black rectangle hovering just in front of the facade. It is truly a beautiful space to see work as the interior is infused with natural light.
Ellsworth Kelly at Matthew Marks Gallery
It seems very fitting that the first show in Matthew’s new space is Ellsworth Kelly. The pared down shaped canvases in one or two colors energize the white cube. My favorite part of the show are the collages from the mid 50s. Across from the studies is the 1966 painting Black Over White. It is wonderful to see the dialogue these works have. And even more fun to recognize that, in fact, this is the inspiration for his sculpture that has been permanently installed on the facade of the gallery. The exhibition is on view through April 7, 2012. Be sure to also catch Ellsworth Kelly: Prints and Paintings at LACMA on view through April 22nd.
Shio Kusaka at Blum and Poe
Blum and Poe’s space in Culver City is breathtaking; I was particularly taken with the upstairs gallery. Light poured in on the 50-foot long pedestal which housed the varied ceramic works of Shio Kusaka. What I was most drawn to were the different shapes, patterns and colors utilized in their creation–every work is “distinctively unique.”
Carlos Bunga at the Hammer
Using cardboard, tape and paint, Bunga, a Portuguese artist, created an entirely new environment in the lobby of the Hammer. In the Projects room of the museum, collages documenting his completed installations are on view as are performative videos. Trained as a painter, he became intrigued by decaying architecture and began integrating his paintings into urban landscapes. This work questions “ideas about the physical permanence and societal importance of architecture.” His large-scale installations are really oversized maquettes that take form as he creates them. His works deteriorate over time and thus become “meditations on impermanence.” This show is on view through April 22, 2012
Chris Burden at LACMA
What fun Los Angeles-based artist Chris Burden’s Metropolis II is! Metropolis I was made seven years ago and included 80 matchbox cars traveling around a model city. This second work is on a much grander scale and has been in the making for 6 years. Including 1200 custom designed cars, 18 highways, and wooden blocks and Legos making up buildings, Burden has created a miniature Los Angeles. Metropolis IIruns every hour and is ongoing.
Los Angeles Contemporary Art Fair Opening Night
Very cool piece by Fiona Banner at 1301 PE booth
And last but not least, I felt compelled to head to Larry’s gallery to see the infamous Spot Paintings of Damien Hirst. And, I felt the same way about them after seeing them as I had before I went, totally unimpressed.
Amanda Ross-Ho Studio Visit
As luck would have it, some wonderful Chicago collector friends invited me along on their visit to the studio of Amanda Ross-Ho and her husband, Erik Frydenborg. Amanda is represented by Mitchell-Innes & Nash in New York, Shane Campbell in Chicago and Cherry + Martin in Los Angeles. Probably best known for work she had in the 2008 Whitney Biennial, she has also been in many other museum shows including last year’s New Photography show at MoMA in New York. Luckily, Amanda has an upcoming show at LA’s MOCA in June so the studio was filled with works in progress.
Her downtown Los Angeles studio is vast but somehow manages to feel cozy; perhaps it is Amanda’s friendliness and her eagerness to discuss her work that adds to the pleasant atmosphere. Amanda is originally from Chicago but came out to Los Angeles for graduate school. Since receiving her degree from USC (where she met Erik), her career has had a meteoric rise.
As we stood in front of a large canvas that had a huge section cut out of it, the drape still hanging at the bottom of the work, Amanda explained that it is important for her to work simultaneously on many pieces. Negative space is just as important to her work as the painted elements. It seems that all of the cut pieces that are removed during the creative process always make their way back into her work in some way.
She uses blue painter’s tape to create shapes and those, in turn, inform other pieces. The tape used in the creation of one work can be, and often is, photographed and then used in another piece in some manner. A huge part of Amanda’s practice is incorporating gestures used in one work back into another work at some point, translating work that is hers. She believes that every gesture is productive—there is no wasted gesture. Every piece has a life beyond itself and “every gesture is caught.” She is a keen observer who uses these gestures like brushwork. She constantly takes pictures and takes notes while out and about in the world that inform her studio practice.
Works live on eternally in Amanda’s production. Even if a work is finished and lives in someone’s collection, themes, gestures, subject matter may reappear in a new way. In that cyclical process, all of her work is related and thus makes it that much more powerful of an experience to see her studio.
Her hexagon painting series came out of a vintage quilt pattern book that she acquired. Amanda was drawn to the predetermined abstractions and the idea that a fragment can be used to create a totality. She still has plans to make all of the patterns in the book. She stated that she likes to “saturate the whole archive in making a series.”
One thing I noticed and asked about as I got up close and personal with her works and studio walls is that there are phrases written in pencil in random areas on the actual walls themselves. She told me that she hears these phrases that catch her attention in some way whether it be while listening to music or speaking to Erik, and instead of going to get a pen and paper and disrupting her flow, she just reaches over and jots them on the wall. This made me step back and take a hard look at her studio walls.
She has worked on many pieces over the years and elements of her works can be seen all throughout her studio. The walls themselves are works of art and inform her practice. As she said, she “builds a field” when creating her work.
Scale shift has been a part of Amanda’s oeuvre for many years. She has a background in textile design and prop making from when she first arrived in Los Angeles that helped her when creating her larger than life apron pieces. She would wear aprons when making paintings and as each mark landed on the cloth, she would consciously become aware of it and reflect on what it would take to make it look real and unplanned once she began the process of making an inauthentic item look authentic. That type of work requires a particular eye, focus and heightened level of attention to make. But Amanda is wired that way and thinks about things like what happens when a screw is drilled into a wall—it does not just create a hole, but it splays out and creates a unique mark. Her practice involves some elements of chance but a good portion of it is informed by a serious intentionality. The human-scaled aprons hang on the wall and around them loomed the outline of the larger aprons that have long since left the studio and been exhibited and purchased by collectors.
Oversized objects will also be a large part of her June exhibition at MoCA. She treats works she has made like found objects that she groups the way she groups source material on her studio wall. [I love looking at idea walls in artists’ studios. I had a dealer friend tell me that just because I am not an artist doesn’t mean I can’t have a wall like that of my own. I am now going to begin one.]
In addition to her paintings are installations using found objects, kind of happy accidents. One piece included a found chair that ended up living in the studio. A sculpture seemed to emerge from it and so she played with putting it on a stand to see what would happen. It is nice that these objects are embedded with an intimacy due to having been in her space. There is an organic feel to all of her creations. But for Amanda it is only once works have been exported out of the studio that they really exist.
A smaller room houses Erik Frydenborg’s meticulously cut out abstracted shapes from books and magazines.
He makes small collages using these cutouts that look beautiful when hung in a group. He then scans the collages and prints enlarged versions for wall hangings. Some of the geometric forms are repeated in freestanding sculptures he creates using wood and polyurethane. The collage began as a substitute for a drawing practice and he didn’t think of them as works in their own right, but now that has changed. He explores the forms and translates them from 2-D into 3-D objects.
VIP 2.0 Art Fair
Round two of the VIP art fair opened to Elite members this morning. And unlike last year, when I logged on there did not seem to be any glitches. I found the layout easy to navigate, the quality of exhibitors strong and the artwork on view accessible. I particularly enjoyed the discussions section where you can watch short videos of interviews with dealers, collectors and advisers. I only wish I had more time to cruise the site in an attempt to see more work. I hope it will be successful for all. Happy viewing!