Thorvald Hellesen. 1888-1937
April 22, 2022
Thorvald Hellesen (1888–1937) was a Norwegian avant-garde artist who lived and worked in Paris in the 1910s and 1920s. He and his wife, the French artist Hélène Perdriat, were part of a circle of artists that included Pablo Picasso, Fernand Léger, Constantin Brâncuși, Piet Mondrian, Theo van Doesburg, and many others. In his short yet intense life, Thorvald Hellesen created an impressive unique oeuvre, oriented on Modernism, consisting of oil paintings, watercolors, gouaches, drawings, design projects, and textiles. Nevertheless, even in Norway he is only known to a few. With this publication the authors Dag Blakkisrud, Matthew Drutt, and Hilde Mørch have created a written portrait of Hellesen. In addition to classifying him within the history of art, they try to find explanations as to why his artistic practice is only now being considered important and interesting for Norwegian and international art history. You can acquire it here.
Quiet Elegance: The Jewelry of Eleanor Moty
December 6, 2020
Eleanor Moty (b. 1945) from the US is a seminal figure in the field of contemporary international studio jewelry. In a career that has spanned more than fifty years, she has been both a dedicated practitioner and a devoted teacher who has inspired succeeding generations of artists, collectors, and fellow professionals. She began to attract national attention in the late 1960s and early 1970s for her experiments with photoetching and electroforming metal. Later, mid-career, Moty made what seems like an abrupt shift in style and focus, with more abstract works whose designs were inspired by the natural inclusions within the non-precious gems used in their fabrication. While her works have been published in prominent books, catalogues, and journals internationally, this monograph is the first comprehensive in-depth examination of her career from its inception in 1967 through the present day. Published by arnoldsche Art Publishers, Stuttgart, I served as the book's general editor and contributed on of the in-depth essays alongside Bruce W. Pepich and Helen W. Drutt English. You can acquire it here.
The Grotta Home by Richard Meier
(June 17, 2019)
Glenn Adamson called the remarkable residence Richard Meier designed to house Sandra and Louis Grotta’s collection of contemporary studio jewellery and significant works in wood, ceramic and fiber a ‘vessel for living.’ The building was conceived around the collection, framing the objects within the open architecture, which comprises an equal blend of glass and concrete. Nature, visible from many vantage points, plays an essential supporting role. The Grotta Home by Richard Meier: A Marriage of Architecture and Craft is rich in photographs of the collection and provides impressive insights into this exceptionally personal project by Richard Meier. Published by Arnoldsche Art Publishers, Stuttgart, the book is scheduled for release in September 2019. The accompanying essays afford the reader a greater sense of how the Grottas have not simply acquired art but have immersed themselves in it. I have contributed an essay about their jewellrey holdings, which in terms of scope and number, comprises the largest component of their collection.
The unedited article can be read here: Drutt Text- Sandy's Jewelry Collection.
Wendy Ramshaw: Obituary
published in The Guardian (January 8, 2019)
The artist Wendy Ramshaw, who has died aged 79, was best known for the jewellery she designed, and first gained widespread acclaim for in 1970 with a solo exhibition at the Pace Gallery in London. She presented sets of several complementary gold rings, some with semi-precious stones, establishing a signature vocabulary that she continued to develop in different directions for many years.
Dichotomies of Form and Color
essay for Annamaria Zanella: The Poetry of Material, Stuttgart: Arnoldsche, 2018
Inspired by the Arte Povera movement, the Italian jewellery artist Annamaria Zanella (b. 1966) uses base materials, which only gain meaning through their context. Corroded metal or found objects convey statements that can be both political and personal in nature. Zanella wants to bring the “soul” of the material to light through the work of her own hands. The colour used is intended to evoke feelings and reactions. To this end Zanella studied the history of colours and their production, especially that of her unmistakable blue. She produced a blue pigment according to a recipe from the fourteenth century, invoking in its modern use pioneering artists such as Giotto, Wassily Kandinsky and Yves Klein.
The essay can be read here: Dichotomies of Form and Color 2
The Russian Art of Movement 1920 – 1930
review of Nicoletta Misler, The Russian Art of Movement, Turin: Umberto Allemandi (2018) in: The Art Newspaper (No. 304, September 2018), page 11
Over several decades, Nicoletta Misler has firmly established herself as one of the most distinguished authorities on Russian Modernism among the second generation of Western scholars that began researching the subject in the 1970s. Like many of her colleagues then, her interest originated in the study of Slavic languages and literature, and migrated into the visual and performing arts, which were all closely linked.
Based in Italy for most of her career, where she is professor emerita of Russian and East European art at the university of Naples, she has published widely, including monographs on the avant-garde’s key artists, important translations of artists’ and critics’ texts, surveys of the period, and has organised important exhibitions around her key interests, which have focused on costume design and dance.
Lavishly illustrated, with many images appearing in the West for the first time, The Russian Art of Movement is brilliantly researched and marvelously written. Its focus allows an in-depth reading into the study, language and representation of different interpretations of the movement of the body, focusing on a single post-Revolution decade, when the arts in Russia were evolving at lightning speed. It does so primarily through a history of a singular institution, the Choreological Laboratory at the Russian Academy of Artistic Sciences in Moscow, which was a rich breeding ground for performing artists and critical thinkers in dance and body movement at a time when the avant-garde in the visual arts was splintering into competing factions.
Accompanied by a copious chronology, bibliography and illustrated biographies of all of the key figures of the period, this book is an essential addition to any amateur or professional library. Her conclusion cogently appraises the history of the Russian Avant-garde itself: “The rediscovery and reappraisal of the Russian Art of Movement demonstrate not only the survival and vitality of a precious cultural legacy, but also the fact that the Russian renaissance of the 1910s and 1920s was a truly synthetic phenomenon embracing not only painting, literature and music, but also the theatre of movement and even the recreation of the body itself.”
The article can be read here: The Russian Art of Movement
El Lissitky’s Jewish Period: 1905 – 1923, (London: Unicorn Press, 2017)
(Author: Alexander Kantsedikas; Editor: Yeshua Gruber; General editor: Matthew Drutt)
El Lissitzky (1880 – 1941) is unquestionably one of Russian Modernism’s most well known artists. The subject of numerous monographs and exhibitions, his mature abstract paintings, drawings, photographs, and graphic work can be found in abundance in Western and Eastern public collections. In his early career, however, his work was more or less exclusively devoted to Jewish subjects, reflecting his religious education and family’s heritage. While a handful of these works are well known and widely published, this fascinating book, El Lissitzky’s Jewish Period: 1905 – 1923 by Alexander Kantsedikas, one of the world’s leading scholars on the artist, is the first endeavor to look at this phase of his work in depth. Amounting to a veritable catalogue raisonné of 500 plus works, the author has resurrected some of the more obscure but no less fascinating works by Lissitzky in Hebrew and Yiddish. Lavishly illustrated in color and black and white, the book tracks his evolution from an Expressionist style to one that is increasingly more abstract and non-objective. It also includes rare photographic material of the artist’s family, as well as little-known correspondence from his father and his relationship with his fist wife, who has heretofore been entirely obscured in the artist’s biography. You can purchase the book here.
Russia’s Avant-Garde Ambassador to the West: El Lissitzky’s Jewish Heritage
paper given for the conference "Translations and Dialogues: The Reception of Russian Art Abroad," University Ca' Foscari, Venice, co-organized by Centro Studi sulle Arti della Russia (CSAR), Society of Historians of East European, Eurasian, and Russian Art and Architecture, Inc. (SHERA) and Society of Historians of East European, Eurasian, and Russian Art and Architecture, Inc. (CCRAC), October 25 - 27, 2017
Alongside Kazimir Malevich and Vladimir Tatlin, El Lissitzky emerged as one of the most venerated members of Russian Modernism in the West. Through his frequent travels to Germany, Holland, Switzerland, and other countries, he was able to interact and cooperate personally with colleagues in design, architecture, publications, photography, exhibitions, and conferences all exploring shared ideas and debates on the evolution of Modernism. Beginning with his first visit to Berlin from Vitebsk in 1921, he quickly established ties between Russian, German, and Dutch artists, retaining his engagement with Jewish themes that began in 1916, when he was part of a group of Russian artists concerned with establishing a national identity for Jewish art. Perhaps due to his training as an engineer and architect, he was naturally inclined towards collaboration, and among his first projects in Berlin were the illustrations for Ilya Ehrenberg’s Six Tales with Easy Endings, which contains a collage with cryptic Jewish imagery. Together, in 1922 they produced the publication of three volumes of a journal entitled Vesch/Gegenstand/Objet, published in three languages that was a clarion call for the new art in Russia and its connection to the West European vanguard, with contributions from writers and artists from Russia, as well as Western figures such as Le Corbusier, Theo van Doesberg, Fernand Leger, Gino Severini, among many others.
While he was widely exhibited and collected in the West, few exhibitions or publications have given ample attention to his identity as a Jew, something I maintain that he retained throughout his life, in spite of public rhetoric that might seemingly contradict this. In this paper, I confine my remarks to his work from the late teens to the mid-1920s, when his shift to a non-objective visual language and his public persona as a more Western-looking professional artist, suggested that he had moved on to a more secular form of expression. To the contrary, I will show that he continued to remain connected to his Jewish heritage, both overtly and covertly, and demonstrate how works previously thought to be simply abstract are suffused with clear references to Jewish mysticism.
Liv Blåvarp (b. 1956) creates jewelry made of wood. Her pieces are often large, expressive and colorful. She works with a wide variety of surfaces, ranging from smooth and shiny to densely decorated areas. She selects the type of wood she uses according to its degree of hardness or softness, as well as taking into account the structure of each particular piece of wood. Her preferred species to work with are maple, birch, walnut, lemon and palisander. Her jewelry consists of individual pieces that are joined to form a whole. Thus although they are voluminous, they are also flexible and movable, and easy to wear. Sometimes identifiable forms appear in the jewelry, such as a bird’s beak, a banana or a leaf. Liv Blåvarp’s works evoke associations with nature, folk art, and life in vibrant urban centers. Curated by Ceclilie Skeide, the exhibition is accompanied by a major catalogue in which my essay deals with the formal and conceptual evolution of her work, adding insights formed by a collector's encounter with the work over the period of a decade and a half.
The essay can be read here: Nordic Memories
In Other Worlds: The Art of Ahmet Güneştikin
in Ahmet Güneştikin: Journey from East to West (exhibition catalogue) New York: Marlborough Gallery, January 11 - February 4, 2017
This essay is an abridged version of a longer essay planned for my forthcoming book on the arts. The exhibition included a selection paintings, textiles, and sculptures from 2011 - 2016 and, thus, constituted a mini-survey of this internationally-renowned Turkish artist who is currently at the peak of his career.
The essay can be read here: In Other Worlds
Sculpture in the Expansive Fields: Storm King Art Center
in Hermitage Magazine, St. Petersburg: State Hermitage Museum (Fall 2016)
This essay explores one of the greatest destinations in the world for looking at sculpture outdoors. Founded in 1960 by Ralph "Ted Ogden" and his son-in-law H. Peter Stern, it grew from a modest 180-acre site with discreet objects located outside to 500 acres in the Hudson Valley about one hour north of New York City, populated by over 100 monumental works by Alexander Calder, Mark di Suvero, Andy Goldsworthy, Alexander Libermann, Maya Lin, Barnett Newman, Isamu Noguchi, Richard Serra, Alyson Schotz, Joel Shapiro, David Smith, among many others. It is the seminal interaction between art and nature and has inspired other sculpture parks worldwide, but this is truly the King.
Nina Alovert. Motion Captured: The Legends of Russian Ballet
Barbara Paganin: The Ambiguity of Memory and Objecthood
J. Fred Woell (1934 – 2015): In Memoriam
Contemporary Israeli Jewelry: A View from Abroad
In many ways, contemporary jewelry in Israel suffers from the same stigma as contemporary Israeli art did as little as 20 years ago. But for a handful of artists, whose work became known internationally thanks to visiting artists and curators, and those who chose to study abroad and return home to work beginning as early as the late 1960s and early 1970s, Israeli jewelers have been largely marginalized from the contemporary art world, confined to notoriety in their own country or among a small group of collectors and curators who specialize in the field. This bias is complex and has as much to do with the conflicts in the region that distract from celebrating aesthetic achievement as it does with the general bias in the art world against works from outside Europe and the United States and against the crafts in particular.
But just as this has begun to change in contemporary art over the last decade, as the market has expanded globally to include artists and collectors from so-called BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China), so too has the market’s taste for art from Scandinavia and the Middle East begun to reveal itself at international art fairs, and jewelry has entered the mix in terms of offerings. Art Basel’s main two fairs in Basel and Miami respectively have separate but growing design components, and each year more jewelry-based work finds its way into the fair. And as the market embraces this material, museums and collectors follow in lock step, as the thirst for new art forms feeds a market oversaturated by collectors seeking material lacking sufficient supply. Make no mistake about it: the market dictates institutional interest, as institutions are guided by financial assistance from individuals who want to see their taste reflected in the institutions they support financially and otherwise.
So when Israeli jewelry breaks through the borders of its region onto the international stage, and it’s only a matter of time before it will, will it hold up against work from Europe, the United States, and Asia? The answer is not complex. Just as metalsmiths in those countries can be described diversely as artists inspired by and maintaining centuries-old traditions, so too can it be said of Israeli artists. There are also those whose work is informed by innovations with non-precious materials and the very idea of ornament versus wearable sculpture.
While I can’t address all 56 artists presented here, there are some who stand out for me. Both Esther Knobel and Deganit Stern Schocken were among the first to achieve international recognition for their work, and the pieces submitted for this exhibition continue to resonate with jewelry from other countries, although the series that Knobel has submitted of nails and other detritus embedded in enamel which she has been making over the last four or five years seem more regional in character than her other objects, reminding one of fossils found at archeological sites. Dina Abargil’s necklace and brooch, convey a sense of ancient fabrication, but are executed in a style that is utterly contemporary and could have as easily been made in Europe as in Israel, with an emphasis on the sculptural component of ornament. Anat Golan’s work is utterly fascinating: a pearl necklace with a horse pendant rendered in Yves Klein blue is oddly fashionable; a brooch with 19 eyelids and eyelashes peering out at us is like something derived from Sybolism or Surrealism, as is her hairy studded brooch, which almost looks like something that grows deep in the ocean.
The works of Nirit Dekel and Ido Noy are distantly reminiscent of some of the strategies employed by Peter Skubic, but only superficially so. In Noy’s case, one is also reminded of German Michael Becker’s use of architectural plans as platforms for the design of the body of the brooch. Lital Mendel’s interwoven neckpiece of what appear to be cast clothespins is both organic and geometric, something that is very hard to achieve successfully and comes across as being made from the teeth or bones of some odd creature. And while they remind me of the ancient masks exhibited at the Israel Museum last year, Gregory Iarin’s skull objects oscillate between feeling pre-historic and contemporary, like the masks worn by Mexican wrestlers (Lucha libre). Yafit Ben-Mesholam’s neckpiece and bangle rendered like chemical diagrams using liquid levels and other industrial elements are both whimsical, futuristic, and unique in conception.
Finally, there are those who seem to consciously want to identify with Israeli or Middle Eastern aesthetics or imagery, like Shulmat Egozi, Vered Babai, Yakov Bloch, Michal Bar-On Shaish, Ella Wolf, Theila Levi Hidman, among others. There is nothing denigrating in this more culturally specific practice, though to my eye, some are more successful than others, such as Bloch, whose gold, copper, and metal neckpiece bearing the silhouette of a soldier taking aim could just as well be an image from the Vietnam war or struggles in Afghanistan as those in Syria, Lebanon, and the Gaza Strip.
All is all, this invitational survey demonstrates that Israeli jewelry is diverse in style and conception, informed as much by ideas from within as from outside, and is worthy of a broader platform of exposure and comparison on a stage with artists from Europe, Asia, Scandinavia, and the United States.
In Search of “0,10: The Last Futurist Exhibition of Painting”
Felix Gonzalez-Torres: Billboards
In celebration of its 15th anniversary in 2010, Artpace (San Antonio, Texas), mounted an ambitious state-wide exhibition of 336 seminal billboards created by Cuban-born artist Félix González-Torres (1957-1996). Developed with special permission from the artist’s estate, this presentation was the first-ever comprehensive survey of González-Torres’ billboard works in the US. Situated deliberately in the public’s path in four cities (Austin, Houston, Dallas and San Antonio), these artworks gracefully interrupted daily routines with poignant reflections on life, love and humanity. The transcendent quality of González-Torres’ work was magnified in the Texas landscape, and the project garnered international attention for its unprecedented commemoration of this remarkable body of work. This book covers all the billboard pieces and serves as a mini-retrospective of this critical part of González-Torres’ career.
Million Stone: An Installation by Ahmet Güneştekin
Ahmet Güneştekin’s installation of paintings and sculpture for La Pietà embraces issues of cultural history, political history, and gender. Inspired by an important archeological monument in Istanbul that is less familiar to Western audiences, the original Million Stone, or Milion Tași as it is known in Turkish, was built by Emperor Constantine in the 4th century when Byzatntium, eventually renamed Constantinople, was christened as the new Rome, the seat of power for the Byzantine Empire. The object emulated a similar object buit, which was much originally much more ornate, was the center of the Byzantine world, the point from which the distance to every major point in the empire was measured. Today, it exists as a remnant of the original, resembling a crumbling obelisk, with all of the associations such objects have: erosion caused by time, phallic power, and a sense of infinity.
Güneştekin’s installation both celebrates and deconstructs the mythology of this object. A series of three relief works that represent the region’s three major religions—J
udaism, Christianity, and Islam—guide the visitor through the church to Güneştekin’s own recreation of the Million Stone, appropriately placed at the center of the installation. But its phallic symbolism is challenged by a cycle of paintings that recount the story of Lilith, renowned for being the first rebellion against male domination. The exhibition concludes with a major new sculpture of block-like giant colorful letters that spell out Kostantiniyye, the name adopted by the Turkish Ottoman’s when the city first became a republic. Within each letter, in relief as with the Holy Encounter works that lead visitors into the exhibition, the various names the city has been called since its incarnation: Byzantion, Byzantium, Nea Roma, Constantinople, Constatinopolis, Dersaadet, Isambol, Asitane, and Dar-ul-Hilafet, replete with the same religious symbols in relief found in the cycle of works that opened the installation. It provides a kind of closure to the show and is like a dense journey through the city’s frenzied history. Only Istanbul is omitted, the name the city has carried since Turkey became a republic in 1923.
Journey to a Mystic Land: Dashi Namdakov’s Impressions of Asia. Drawing, Jewelry, Sculpture, 2002 – 2014
A solo exhibition of works by Dashi Namdakov, one of the most original voices in contemporary Russian art. Drawn from the last twelve years, the exhibition will showcase over 60 works including bronze sculptures, works on paper, and jewelry that blend motifs and traditional materials of the East and the West. Journey to a Mystic Land is the artist’s second solo New York show in two years.
Namdakov’s work is steeped in Buddhism, or rather Lamaism, a religion practiced in Tibet, Mongolia, and his native Buryatia. However, rather than making works in the mainstream Lamaist/ Buddhist tradition, he creates art within a worldview that is syncretic, embracing his identity, mysticism, the forces of nature, nomads of the steppes, and shamanism. Namdakov draws his inspiration from Buddhist imagery and subjects, the traditions of the Turkic peoples of Siberia, the Buryat epic legends and tales, and the art of ancient China and Japan. Yet despite its traditional sources, his art is at the same time very contemporary in its world view, where characters from mythology and religion are metaphors for modern day life. The unique blend of traditions is especially prominent in the artist’s jewelry, which is a special part of this exhibition. Sculptural and delicate, his jewelry --wild birds, animals, insects, anthropomorphic creatures- resemble historical artifacts, ancient amulets and talismans thought to protect from the evil eye or bring luck. These exquisite pieces are usually crafted from precious metals and gemstones, sometimes incorporating non-traditional materials – such as mammoth tusk – which are used in native crafts and, despite their sculptural quality, are comfortable to wear.
Gifts from America 1948 – 2013. Modern and Contemporary Applied Arts from the Hermitage Museum Foundation
This exhibition presents 74 works of contemporary art from the United States and abroad in ceramics, glass, textile, furniture and jewelry that have been donated to the State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, Russia on the occasion of its 250th anniversary. Thee project inaugurates a new dimension for the museum's permanent collection, becoming the first works of international contemporary crafts to enter the Hermitage's vast holdings. The show is opened on December 2, 2014 and is accompanied by a publication to which I have contributed the main essay.
in Olga de Amaral: The Mantle of Memory, Paris: Somogy Editions d’Art, 2013
Olga de Amaral’s works are owned by major museums throughout Europe, North, and South America, and also reside in distinguished corporate and private collections. Her art deftly bridges myriad craft traditions concerned with process and materiality with fine art principles of formalism, abstraction, and metaphysicality. She has steadily has developed a distinct voice in her field through her command of conventional techniques for constructing textile objects while progressively pushing the boundaries of orthodox understandings of how textiles work as objects in space. She has gradually moved fabric-based works beyond the basic category of woven tapestry —one that privileges flatness, adherence to the wall, pictorialism and an obsession with the organic and physical properties of materials— into a more conceptual practice that embraces strategies otherwise found in painting, sculpture, and architecture. She employs a range of materials, from silver and gold leaf to brightly colored pigments, all of which refer to the landscape and cultural history of Colombia, which are then painstakingly incorporated into the fabric structures of her works over months of repeated hand application. The resulting objects are hefty in girth, but they cast an impression that is simultaneously intimate and monumental, a phenomenon that is not necessarily a function of scale.
The current edition of this publication appears on the occasion of the artist’s solo exhibition in London on October 2013 at the Louise Blouin Foundation organized by Matthew Drutt with the collaboration of Galerie Agnès Monplaisir, one which presents an exemplary selection of works from the last decade and a half that testify to Amaral’s accomplishments in the course of her distinguished career.
Art & Technology
in A Look Inside The AT&T Art Collection, Dallas: AT&T, 2013
Currently Collecting: An Interview with George Beylerian
Do you remember the first work you bought and why?
My first acquisition in the fifties was when I was 14, and I bought a small jade medallion on a carved stand - it was Chien Lung and I bought it in Alexandria, Egypt. I was influenced by the excellent collection of my father's architect who collected jades and impressionist art.
Did you consciously start collecting, or was it something else that motivated you to acquire objects?
It was more impulse, 'sudden interest and lust' . The encouragement from the architect friend was a good inducement
What is it about living with objects that compels you to continue acquiring them?
It is the continuous flow of new art, objects, collectibles that are either developing around me, or that are 'new discoveries' of work done previously.
Is there something that you have always been drawn to that you have collected over time?
My first passion in 'collecting' were Coptic textiles - fragments from the 6th - 8th centuries. AD and later textiles/embroideries
Say more here. This is interesting.
How has your collecting interest shifted over time?
My taste evolved in time. In the paintings field it started with the renaissance Italian masters (da Vinci, Botticelli, etc) to the French impressionists, and then to the later schools world wide well into modern, post modern, and current contemporary art.
What about design???
Have you been guided by a particular art dealer or curator over the years?
Not really, except for my very first inspiration in my teens in Egypt, at which time the impressionists were the only game in town.
So what is your guide for finding work you want to collect? Accident? Chance encounter? A friend’s recommendation?
Do you buy at fairs? If so, which ones and why?
NO - NEVER
Do you establish any rules or limits for yourself?
"Price" factor, alas, is usually the limiting factor. Impulse reigns.
What was your most recent acquisition?
A work by Julio Galan (mexican, dead) from a Paris auction house; a work by Gayle Mandle at the Heller Gallery
Do you have a list of things you are trying to acquire or do you collect intuitively?
Too many to list..
Give us a taste of a few of your top ones and why they are top choices.
Is there an artist new to your collection you just started buying?
Do you have a favorite work in your collection?
Yes, maybe our Craig Kaufman or Varujan Boghosian
What makes these stand out for you?
Is there a missed acquisition that you still think about that got away?
No remorses right now
Is there anything that you regret selling?
I have never sold a piece! - time to think about it.
“Olga de Amaral”
Modern Painters (October 2013)
Olga de Amaral is one of Colombia’s great living cultural treasures. After receiving ?a degree in architectural design from the Universidad Colegio Mayor de Cundinamarca in Bogotá in 1952, she left for the United States to study textiles at the Cranbrook Academy of Art in Michigan. She later returned to her homeland to take up a post as founding director of the textiles department at Universidad de los Andes in ?1965, becoming an important educator while at the same time developing her work both locally and internationally through commissions and exhibitions, thanks in no small part to a growing network of contacts facilitated by the World Crafts Council and textile designer Jack Lenor Larsen. Her works are owned by major museums throughout Asia, Europe, and North and South America, including the Art Institute of Chicago, the Museum of Modern Art in New York, and the Museum Bellerive in Zurich. Since 1958 she has been the subject of countless solo exhibitions and has featured in important group shows, such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s “Modern Design: 1890–1990,” in 1992.
De Amaral’s art deftly bridges myriad craft traditions; it’s concerned with process and materiality, with the principles of formalism, abstraction, and metaphysicality. The artist has developed a distinct voice in her field through her command of conventional techniques for constructing textile objects while progressively pushing the boundaries of orthodox understanding of how textiles work as objects in space. She has gradually moved fabric-based works beyond the category of woven tapestry—one that privileges flatness, adherence to the wall, pictorialism, and an obsession with the organic and physical properties of materials—into a more conceptual practice that embraces strategies otherwise found in painting, sculpture, and architecture. Consider a recently completed installation, Brumas, 2013, which is composed of seven discrete works that combine to make one. Its pigment-saturated strands of fiber create a cloudlike curtain of imagery that resolves differently depending on the angle from which? it is viewed. Not only does Brumas redefine the space it occupies physically through displacement, but its ethereal array of visual sequences imprints itself on its surroundings. ?De Amaral employs a range of materials—from silver and gold leaf to brightly colored pigments, all of which refer to the landscape and cultural history of Colombia—and painstakingly incorporates them into the fabric structures of her works over months of repeated hand application. The resulting objects are hefty, but they strike the viewer as simultaneously intimate and monumental, a phenomenon that is not necessarily a function of scale. Her smaller wall hangings can exude an energy that exceeds their size simply through the dynamic manipulation of weaving patterns and use of color. Sometimes bright, colorful, reflective, and biomorphic, at other times muted, dark, absorptive, and geometric, these works exhibit the same capacity for creating the perception of infinite space found in the works of modernist painters of ?the last century, from Kandinsky and Malevich to Reinhardt and Rothko. Likewise, her large-scale pieces, both the totemic works and the installations that array a number of panels together?in a space, have the capacity to feel intimate despite their size. ?De Amaral achieves this through a delicacy of execution that softens the otherwise imposing presence of these pieces and also forges a relationship with the scale of the viewer through an understanding of how both art and the body function in space.
De Amaral’s works feel at once primitive and contemporary; they refer to indigenous traditions found in centuries-old civilizations, but their execution and presentation conform to concerns found in our own time. They can appear ephemeral and illusory while also petrified with age. It is this duality that lends her work a timeless quality. Her art is anthropological, exploring ideas found in the way we understand history as it is expressed in objects and how we perceive form, color, and material in the world around us.
“Currently Collecting: An Interview with Alvin Friedman-Kien”
Dr. Alvin Friedman-Kien is a distinguished dermatologist and virologist at NYU's Langone Medical Center. He is also an increasingly rare breed of collector, someone more commonly found in the 18th century than in today’s world. His passion and interests in the arts run broad and deep, encompassing an almost encyclopedic realm of cultures and artifacts, from things found in flea markets to objects worthy of the finest museums in the world. His homes are more like curio cabinets, overflowing with treasures both ancient and contemporary. An intensely private individual, he provides us with a rare glimpse into his life and interests in the arts.
I suspect I may have caught the “collecting bug” from my grandfather, who collected mostly English furniture and Old Master paintings and drawings. He encouraged me to explore my interest in art and objects early on. I started collecting marbles when I was 6. I moved onto stamps when I was 8 years old and at the age of 11 I bought my first Oriental carpet: a Tekke Bokhara that I found hanging in the window of a Salvation Army shop. I it purchased with my allowance money for $5.00. Remarkably, I still own that carpet, which remains one of my favorite objects. Oriental rugs were kind of out of fashion but I acquired lots of used books about them and spent my early teenage years studying them and occasionally finding a few antique carpets at neighboring country house sales and thrift shops. I still buy carpets, especially when I see an antique Kohtan (also known as Samarkand rugs) or Caucasian 19th century Kabistans and Turkish rugs. However, fine Oriental carpets have become very popular, so now I find choice specimens at auction or with some of the more distinguished dealers in New York. The nice thing about collecting carpets is one can easily roll them up to store them in order to rotate them on a regular basis.
How would you describe your collecting interests?
I have always been an eclectic collector. The placement and juxtaposition of ancient and contemporary works of art from disparate civilizations seem to fit together in a harmonious way. I continue to acquire works of art from different cultures and periods: pre-Columbian textiles, Indian and Southeast Asian sculptures, especially Cambodia and Thailand, Indian miniatures, African sculpture and artifacts. I have photographs by Andre Kertesz, Tins Modotti, Man Ray, Herb RItts, Aleksandr Rodchenko, Alfred Stieglitz, and many others, Dutch and Flemish genre and landscape painting, early modern paintings and sculpture by Franz von Stuck, works by Elie Nadelman and John Graham, but many contemporary objects as well, such as Lee Bontecou, Robert Indiana, Cy Twombly, Robert Wilson. I also collect folk art and furniture. The collection is defined by what interests me, and I happen to be interested in a lot of different things.
How and where do you find things, and how did your interests evolve?
I developed an interest in American 18th Century furniture early on. I took the opportunity to visit the gallery of Israel Sack in New York, and one of his sons encouraged me to return as often as I wished. Mr. Sack, Sr. spent a lot of time showing me the furniture he had for sale and explained to me why a particular piece was “better” than another one. His book, American Furniture by Sack and sons “Good, Better, Best” was never far from my reach during my teenage period. Occasionally I would discover a choice piece of American furniture such as a Chippendale or Queen Anne chair or table at a country auction or even at a “house sale” while my family was living in rural northwest Connecticut. In high school, one of my classmates was Nina Castelli, the daughter of Leo Castelli and Ileana Sonnabend, who was then Mrs. Castelli, I recall as a teenager visiting their apartment at 4 E. 77th Street which was just above the Leo Castelli Gallery where for the first time I saw the most fantastic contemporary art, not only on the walls of their apartment but in his gallery that was on the floor below. By chance while doing medical research in London in 1958, I met Morris Graves, the distinguished Pacific Northwest American artist who had then been living in Ireland. Remarkably, I had long had a reproduction of his painting, “Bird Singing in the Moonlight” on the wall in my room at the medical school. Graves was a truly gifted painter whose work was strongly influenced by Asian art and philosophy. He encouraged me to become familiar with the various arts of Asia, especially Japanese and Chinese painting, sculpture and ceramics. We maintained a close friendship until he passed away in his mid 90’s. Through Graves I also became familiar with the paintings of his friends and colleagues Mark Tobey and Mark Rothko who had originally lived in the Portland area. Many of the Southeast Asian sculptures I own were purchased from the distinguished art dealer John Eskenazi and Doris Weiner who nurtured my interest and appreciation in Southeast and Asian art. Living in New York during the 60’s and 70’s I had the opportunity to become acquainted with the work of many emerging artists during that period. I recall going to gallery openings where I met Andy Warhol, Cy Twombly, Jasper Johns, Ray Johnson, Richard Lippold, as well as Jean Claude and Christo, who also became friends. On evenings and weekends I got to see what was going on in the contemporary art world. New York was a lot smaller in those days! One had the opportunity to meet artists and lots of other collectors at the various gallery exhibits. It was not uncommon to also meet some of these artists at Max’s Kansas City, a popular restaurant on Lower Park Avenue where so many of the artists used to “hang out”. The Willard Gallery in New York was Graves’ long-term dealer in New York who also showed Mark Tobey as well as David Smith, Richard Poussette-Dart, and Feininger. Marian Willard also showed Richard Lippold and Ray Johnson, so I have over 100 works and countless letters by Johnson. Willard was a close friend of Alfred Barr the director and curator Dorothy Miller from the Museum of Modern Art and lots of other artists like Noguchi and Rothko who often came to dinner parties to which I was often invited. I recall seeing a Mark Rothko painting which was unfortunately beyond my reach. It was only $10,000.00 but it was more than I could afford. I have always regretted not buying that painting. I’ve purchased works at auction and art fairs like Maastricht. Recently I found a Kathe Kollwitz drawing at a flea market in Chelsea. I paid $20 for it. The merchant must have believed it to be a reproduction, but I had it unframed and examined it. It’s a beautiful signed original drawing. Years ago, at the same flea market, I found an unusual painting by Henri Fantin-Latour. It wasn’t a typical flower picture, but a forest scene with figures. The dealer was asking $200, so I bought it on the spot. I was with a friend, a distinguished art dealer, who thought I was crazy, because it was only signed “Fantin”. That happens to be the way the artist signed his pictures.
What are some of the works you are most proud of and what have you acquired most recently?
One of my favorite works of art in the collection is a fantastic female portrait by John Graham. Remarkably, Graham lived at 4 East 77th Street in the basement of the building where the Leo Castelli Gallery was located. Ileana Sonnebend’s mother who lived on the parlor floor of that building had been married to Graham, who had a studio in the basement of that building, although I had never met. In retrospect I recall Nina Castelli telling me about an eccentric Russian artist who was married to her grandmother and had his studio there in the basement. One of my greatest treasures that I found on a trip to London in the 1970’s was a large Franz Snyder painting of a fish market, which is about 8 x 12’, spotted from a taxi on my way to the airport as the painting was being carried in from the street. I purchased the painting on the spot. The dealer asked me, are you sure you want to buy this picture? It’s awfully big.” To which I responded, “I’m not blind.” However he was right. The apartment I was living in then was a 4th floor walk up in a brownstone and there was no way I could get the painting up the 4 flights of stairs so I arranged to temporarily loan the picture to the Metropolitan Museum and eventually the Brooklyn Museum until I finally moved into a townhouse where I was able to hang the painting. Subsequently I acquired d several of Morris Graves’ paintings and drawings, which are still among the pieces in my collection that I treasure the most. During my first trip to Japan in 1968 I purchased some magnificent early Japanese screens, which I continue to collect. I have recently purchased these magnificent Japanese Buddhist mandalas. I have also just acquired a pair of exceptional stone Indian Jalis. They are highly sought after by collectors in the Middle East, who pay astronomical sums for them, so they are very difficult to find.
What is it that you enjoy about collecting? Finding trophies?
The pleasure of collecting art includes not only the discovery of an object, but the process of acquisition and ultimately the placement of the work of art in our personal environment in relation to the rest of the collection becomes for me a creative act. Any new acquisition gets moved around several times until I find the perfect location, which involves moving around other objects and furniture in the collection. When the placement puzzle is solved I feel a great sense of satisfaction and harmony. The pleasure of living with great art and objects is a highly satisfactory experience, which we love to share with our close friends who come to visit. It enriches our lives and appreciation of the creative spirit not only of the artist but in the viewer as well.
Matthew Ronay: The Third Attention
Exhibition catalogue, Kentucky Museum of Art and Craft: Louisville, 2013
KMAC is pleased to present the first published catalogue of exhibited works by Matthew Ronay.
Matthew Ronay The Third Attention
Published in conjunction with the Matthew Ronay exhibition at KMAC, this catalogue documents selected works from the artist's career from 2007 - 2010 with essays by Matthew Drutt and John R. Hale. The catalogue is 88 pages, 55 full-color illustrations, 6 1/2" x 8". Hardcover, clothbound.
“The Armory Show 1913: A Centennial Reckoning”
Written on the centennial of the landmark American exhibition of international modernism held in New York in 1913, this article is an homage to the pioneering spirit of the endeavor. Read it here: Armory Show Full
Moissej Nappelbaum (1869-1958) Portraits of Soviet Intellectual Life
Nappelbaum’s career began with a craft apprenticeship in Minsk, after which he travelled throughout Russia and the United States. En route, he garnered impressions of photographic modes and methods then, after a visit to the Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow, claimed Rembrandt as his true master. Nappelbaum first settled down as a photographer in Minsk, before moving with his family around 1910 to Saint Petersburg, where he opened his studio on Nevsky Prospect.
In 1918 Nappelbaum took the first official portrait of Lenin – an image distributed by the million – then exhibited his work at the Anichkov Palace in Saint Petersburg: two steps that sealed his reputation. His portrait studio quickly became the venue of choice, not only for his usual clientele but also for politicians, scientists, painters, sculptors, poets, composers and actors, all avid to be immortalized.
Nappelbaum developed a personal style impervious to fashions and fads, which he maintained throughout his career. He created portraits meticulously, often at sittings that lasted for hours. Consistent lighting, a generally sparse use of props and the particular attention Nappelbaum paid to his sitters’ hands and line of gaze gave rise to sensitive, finely composed character studies. Nappelbaum approached his prints from a painterly perspective, retouching background areas of the negative plate as if it were canvas – a striking characteristic of many of his works.
Nappelbaum created the definitive portraits of the new Soviet elite. Like Hugo Erfurth’s portraits of artists and scholars in Germany, Moissej Nappelbaum’s portraits captured the image of an era in Soviet Russia. They attest to his standing as the incomparable chronicler of his time.
Anton Ginzburg: At The Back of the North Wind
Anton Ginzburg: At the Back of the North Wind is based on an exhibition that was presented at the 54th Venice Biennale. The book traces Ginzburg’s artistic exploration of Hyperborea, the mythical region first described by the ancient Greek historian Herodotus as the land of the Golden Age, a place thought to exist in a state of pure bliss and eternal springtime despite its supposed location in the extreme north.
His journey led Ginzburg (*1974 in Saint Petersburg) through the forests of the Pacific Northwest, the faded palaces of St. Petersburg, and the gulags of Russia’s White Sea. Like a travelogue, this volume traces the various stations and includes a video featuring a red cloud of smoke, photographic documentation, a serpentine sculpture that emerged from a circle of ashes, fragments of 40,000-year-old mammoth tusks, paintings that serve as maps of the nebulous region, and marble structures that make reference to shamanic totems.
Artpace Residencies and Exhibitions 2007
2007 Artpace Residencies and Exhibitions (Hardcover) by Matthew Drutt (Editor) with projects by Adel Abdessemed, Jesse Amado, Stefano Arienti, Matthew Buckingham, Andrea Caillouet, Mircea Cantor, Nathan Carter, Chris Evans, Claire Fontaine, Glenn Kaino, Marie Lorenz, Franco Mondini-Ruiz, Eduardo Muñoz Ordoqui, Lorraine O'Grady, Rob Pruitt, Alex Rubio, Katja Strunz, and Randy Wallace. Guest curators: Debra Singer, James Rondeau, Alex Farquharson, and Kate Greene.
“Bogota’s Ascendant Art Scene”
Bogotá, the thriving capital of Colombia, may not often be thought of as a destination for contemporary-art lovers, but it should be. With a population of 7.3 million, it is teeming with culture. A representative from the ministry of culture told me during a recent visit that what makes Bogotá so different from other places in South America is berraquera, an almost untranslatable term that bears the same relation to the English "passion" that ennui does to "boredom." I heard it used repeatedly in conversations about lifestyle, food, politics, and an artist’s approach to a body of work, and it aptly describes the pace and energy of the city’s cosmopolitan retail and cultural districts.
There are 58 museums in Bogotá, most of them devoted to Colombia’s rich history, anthropology, and archaeology. The Museo de Arte Moderno de Bogotá, however, focuses on the country’s modern masters, with works by Fernando Botero,Alejandro Obregon, Enrique Grau, and Edgar Negret, as well as by artists from elsewhere in Latin America. This summer it has a show drawn from its own holdings that explores how modernism developed in the region. The Museo Botero — named for Colombia’s most famous contemporary artist, who gave his collection to the city in 2004 — houses more than 120 of Botero’s paintings and sculptures plus a selection of works by such early modern masters as Chagall, Degas, Matisse, Monet, Picasso, and Renoir. But the most impressive of the city’s cultural institutions is the Museo Nacional, one of the oldest museums in all of South America (founded 1824), with vast holdings divided into four main sections: art, history, archeology, and ethnography. Earlier this year it presented a series of monographic shows featuring the country’s bygone contemporary artists, among them the sculptor Felisa Bursztyn, the performance artist María Teresa Hincapié, and the painter Enrique Grau. This summer it is celebrating the bicentennial of Colombian independence with exhibitions exploring how the country’s history has been represented in popular and fine art, a collection show of Colombian sculpture from 1948 to 1965, and a display of the 324 works donated over 50 years by the former president Eduardo Santos.
The city has many notable galleries but perhaps none as unusual or significant as the itinerant Galería Alcuadrado, which closed earlier this year after the death of cofounder Juan Gallo. Over seven years of operation, during which it represented artists like François Bucher, Hincapié, Oscar Muoz, and Miguel Angel Rojas and curated 15 group shows, Alcuadrado staged projects in locales all around Bogotá, treating the city as one vast exhibition space. Galería Casas Riegner originally opened in Miami in 2001 to promote Latin American contemporary art there, but its focus narrowed in 2004 to Colombian art, and the following year it opened a space in a converted property in the fashionable northern part of Bogotá. Boasting a large stable of artists born in Bogotá, Cali, and Medellín — including Leyla Cárdenas, Juan Manuel Ramrez, Rosemberg Sandoval, andGabriel Sierra — this summer the gallery is showcasing the work of María Fernanda Plata, whose monochromatic sand paintings of dilapidated structures speak to the power of nature and the precariousness of human existence.
The wider world has begun to recognize certain local artists, such as Johanna Calle. The recipient of a Cisneros Fontanals Art Foundation (CIFO) grant in 2008, Calle has developed a body of work that includes delicate drawings on paper and wire constructions. She experiments with different forms of writing, turning word fragments and sentences or musical scores into compositions of fractured lines that look like shattered safety glass or broken hurricane fencing. Some of her wire works emulate the fragile structures found in poor districts of Bogotá and elsewhere in the developing world, built using shoddy materials on unstable foundations. Applied to the wall like reliefs, they resemble silhouette drawings, the shadows they cast creating secondary images.
Mateo López is another young local to keep an eye on. López, who like Calle received a CIFO grant in 2008, practices such seemingly disparate disciplines as performance, object making, film, photography, and drawing. Last year he had a solo exhibition in Spain at the Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Castilla y León and participated in the Trienal Poli/Gráfica de San Juan, Puerto Rico. His tiny studio contains piles of paper scraps, ink boxes, and cigarette butts that at first appear to be discarded detritus but that closer scrutiny reveals to be meticulously crafted — how else could a seedling be growing out of a sheet of paper? These objects often find their way into installations where the real and the manufactured reside comfortably side by side. But for López, trompe l’oeil is not an end in itself. He refers to walking as a path sketched between points through movement, and his recent work, including the project completed for the CIFO grant, "Viaje sin movimiento" ("Traveling Without Movement"), explores journeys through video, photography, drawings, and accumulated and synthesized objects that complicate the syntax of drawing by raising it to the level of metaphor.
Danilo Dueas is among the most established artists working in Bogotá today, with 10 years of solo and group exhibitions in the region. His practice is constructivist, using discarded furniture and industrial building materials to fashion abstract reliefs and structures that vary in scale and state of resolution. His larger, tiered sculptures often look unfinished, while his smaller painted objects range from Kurt Schwitters- and early Robert Rauschenberg-like assemblages to tauter, more refined compositions reminiscent of Jean Arp, Kasimir Malevich, and Ellsworth Kelly, artists whose influence Dueñas freely acknowledges when discussing his own ideas.
Colombia may still have a long way to go in overcoming its culturally conservative postcolonial past, when it asserted its independence by rejecting European and other nonnative influences. This year’s installment of Cali’s longstanding biennial, Salón Nacional de Artistas, opening in November, seems poised to return to a regional survey of known talent after the dynamic, international 2008 edition organized by Oscar Muñoz, Wilson Diaz, Bernardo Ortiz, José Horacio Martinez, andVictoria Noorthoorn. But indications of a more exuberant, forward-looking future exist even in the shadow of the strong police and military presence made necessary by the violent drug trade that has plagued the country. At the airport at the end of my visit, I passed through two security screenings, involving X-rays and hand wands, then a gauntlet of soldiers at tables who rigorously examined everyone’s luggage. As a young enlisted man squeezed my toothpaste out of its tube and opened other compartments where I might have stashed contraband, he came across my notes from the past few days and saw scrawled at the top of one page: "Colombia es pasion." He smiled at me, put everything back in the bag, and said, "Sí, señor. Berraquera."
“Ghosts in the Machine: Remembering Pontus Hulten’s ‘Art at the End of the Machine Age”
An exhibition and auction of 30 works donated to Artpace honoring the untimely death of the institution's founder, Linda Pace.
Artists include Sterling Allen, Chiho Aoshima, Edgar Arcenaux, Margarita Cabrera, Anne Collier, Dorothy Cross, Teresita Fernàndez, Spencer Finch, Mona Hatou, Christian Jankowski, Isaac Julien, Adriana Lara, Glenn Ligon, IñigoManglano-Ovalle, Christian Marclay, Daniel Joseph Martinez, Katrina Moorhead, Charlie Morris, Rivane Neuenschwander, Lorraine O'Grady, Robyn O'Neil, Cornelia Parker, Katie Pell, Nancy Rubins, Chris Sauter, Carolee Schneemann, Hills Snyder, Yutaka Sone, Hale Tenger, and Mario Ybarra, Jr. Introductory essay by Matthew Drutt
Guggenheim Museum Collection: A to Z
in Desire, exhibition catalogue, The Blanton Museum of Art, Austin, TX, February 5-April 25, 2010
This essay is a personal reflection on a work made by the artist while in residence at Artpace San Antonio, one that resonated with my own growing infatuation with the sounds, landscape and culture of Texas that was the antithesis of my East Coast upbringing.
Artpace Residencies and Exhibitions 2005
Residencies and Exhibitions by: Ricky Armendariz, Rae Culbert, Trisha Donnelly, Harrell Fletcher, Beto Gonzales, Daniel Guerrero, Diana Guerrero-Macià, Jorge Macchi, Daniel Joseph Martinez, Katrina Moorhead, Ann-Michèle Morales, Melik Ohanian, Cruz Ortiz, John Pilson, Riley Robinson, Luz Maria Sànchez, Bojan Sarcevic, Hills Snyder, Gary Sweeney, and Anton Vidokle. Guest curators: Victor Zamudo-Taylor, Gabriel Pérez-Barreiro, and Berta Sichel.
Artpace Residencies and Exhibitions 2004
Residencies and Exhibitions by: Fareed Amaly, Erik Benson, Janice Caswell, Michel François, Luis Gispert, Jessica Halonen, Oliver Herring, Alex Lopez, Yunhee Min, Wangechi Mutu, Ulrike Ottinger, Robert Pruitt, Ruth Root, Peter Rostovsky, Chris Sauter, Gary Sweeney, Milica Tomic, Willie Varela, Michael Villiquette, Anne Wallace, and Allison Wiese. Guest curators: Lawrence R. Rinder, Ute Meta Bauer, and Dan Cameron.
The Guggenheim Collection
Originally, Solomon R. Guggenheim donated works from his collection to the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, which he began in 1937 to support and promote non-objective art. Then, in 1939, he established the Museum of Non-Objective Painting, which was renamed the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in 1952, and its signature Frank Lloyd Wright building opened on New York’s Fifth Avenue in 1959. Over time, the Guggenheim has expanded the type of art that it exhibits and collects through the addition of other great collections–notably, those of Karl Nierendorf, Peggy Guggenheim, Justin and Hilde Thannhauser, and Giuseppe Panza di Biumo–as well as through opportunities that resulted from the institution’s increasingly international focus in more recent decades. The Guggenheim today encompasses venues on two continents: the museum in New York, the Peggy Guggenheim Collection in Venice, the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao, the Deutsche Guggenheim in Berlin and the Guggenheim Hermitage Museum in Las Vegas. This volume is published on the occasion of a major exhibition at the Kunst-und Ausstellungshalle der Bundesrepublik Deutschland, Bonn, and the Kunstmuseum Bonn. With its comprehensive presentation of masterworks from the Guggenheim’s extended holdings, it provides insight into Modern and Contemporary art movements–from Impressionism to Cubism, Surrealism to Abstract Expressionism, Pop art and Minimalism to the most recent developments–and the distinctive features of the collection. The selection emphasizes the Guggenheim’s ongoing commitment to acquiring the work of particular artists in depth, including Vasily Kandinsky, Paul Klee, Pablo Picasso, Robert Rauschenberg, Richard Serra and Matthew Barney, among many others.
Robert Gober: The Meat Wagon
Over the course of the past two decades, Robert Gober has established himself as one of the most provocative artists of his generation. Perhaps his best-known works are site-specific installations, of which The Meat Wagon is the most recent--part intervention and part critical reinterpretation of the museum as exhibition space. In assembling it, Gober delved deep into the diverse holdings of The Menil Collection for work to intermix with his own pieces, selecting some 40 items, most of which make their display and publication debuts here. The Meat Wagon not only changes key issues that underline conventional museum display, including the relationship of artist to curator and object to context, but also explores the unusually personal context of The Menil Collection: Gober's title is derived from a phrase in the codicil to John de Menil's will. The book includes over 70 object and installation photographs, a checklist and an in-depth interview with the artist.
Olafur Eliasson: Photographs
At once an installation artist and photographer, Olafur Eliasson is noted for conceptual works based on architecture, science, and natural phenomena. Through his installations--composed of materials such as ice, water, light, and metallic crystalline structures--and photographic series of landscapes, he generates a close connection between the phenomenology of things and their surroundings. His work sets out from human perception and, as he himself puts it, "questions the way we see and all the different systems of seeing." This first survey of Eliasson's photographic works focuses on an aspect of his oeuvre that has heretofore been marginalized, contextualizing his photographic projects within his broader scheme and within the history of contemporary art.
Neue Sachlichkeit: New Objectivity in Weimar Germany
Ubu Gallery presented an exhibition of paintings, drawings, photographs and prints, which explored a movement that, while defining an era, still defies definition. “Neue Sachlichkeit” or “New Objectivity” can be seen as a return to “realist” traditions provoked by the subjectivity of Expressionism and emotional emptiness of non-representational movements, which led to disenchantment in artists’ circles throughout Germany and its satellites during the height of the Weimar era. Emerging primarily in provincial cities during the turbulent years that followed World War I, New Objectivity sought clarity and definition through “matter-of-fact” observation of material reality. The movement’s aim was straightforward, but the lack of a cohesive ideology or specific aesthetic confounds any precise characterization of Neue Sachlichkeit. Ubu’s exhibition presented works from the many groups associated with Neue Sachlichkeit, including the “Cologne Progressives,” the “Hannover Realists,” and the “Young Rhineland” so as to address the full measure of its tendencies.
Artists in the exhibition included Max Beckmann, Hans Bellmer, Karl Blossfeldt, Gottfried Brockmann, Heinrich Maria Davringhausen, Rudolf Dischinger, Otto Dix, Ernst Fritsch,Carl Grossberg, George Grosz, August Heitmüller, Heinrich Hoerle, Karl Holtz, Karl Hubbuch, Hanns Kralik, Franz Lenk, Jeanne Mammen, Otto Möller, Ernest Neuschul, Gerta Overbeck-Schenk, Herbert Ploberger, Anton Räderscheidt, Max Radler, Franz Radziwill, Albert Renger-Patzsch,Franz Roh, August Sander, Christian Schad, Rudolf Schlichter, Georg Scholz, Franz Seiwert, Eddy Smith, Niklaus Stoecklin, Max Unold, Bruno Voigt, Karl Völker, Nicolai Wassilieff, Erich Wegner, Kurt Weinhold, and others
Luisa Lambri: Locations
At a glance, Luisa Lambri's photographs of architectural interiors might appear to be yet another example of the austere, depopulated spaces found in so much of today's photo-based work. They are, however, eminently different in both conception and execution, at once deeply personal and ethereal rather than wholly impartial and concrete, suffused with a delicacy and intimacy that is diametrically opposed to the stark realism found in the works of, say, Thomas Ruff or Candida H fer. Since Lambri initiated what has become a sustained engagement with architecture and photography in 1997, she has endeavored to strike a subtle balance between objectivity and subjectivity, creating interpretations of spaces rather than documents of them, eliciting something minimal, abstract, and nonspecific that is imprinted by memory and desire in the process. For her project at The Menil Collection, Lambri has been commissioned to photograph Menil House, the home designed by Philip Johnson for John and Dominique de Menil in 1951, as well as The Menil Collection designed by Renzo Piano in 1987. These will be presented along with a selection of her previously unpublished projects.
Kazimir Malevich: Suprematism
In 1915, Kazimir Malevich changed the future of modern art when his experiments in painting led the Russian avant-garde into pure abstraction. He called his innovation Suprematism--an art of pure geometric form meant to be universally comprehensible regardless of cultural or ethnic origin. His Suprematist masterpiece, White Square on White (1920-27), continues to inspire artists throughout the world. Focused exclusively on this defining moment in Malevich's career, Kazimir Malevich: Suprematism features nearly 120 paintings, drawings and objects, among them several recently discovered masterworks. Organized Menil Chief Curator Matthew Drutt, the book includes previously unpublished letters, essays and diaries, along with essays by international scholars, who shed new light on this popular figure and his devotion to the spiritual in art.
From Picasso To Pollock: Modern Art from the Guggenheim Museum
From Picasso to Pollock highlights the history of the aesthetic vanguard from early Modernism through Abstract Expressionism. With distinctive focus yet remarkable comprehensiveness, From Picasso to Pollock unites the major artists and developments of the first half of the twentieth century through significant examples of non-objective, Cubist, Surrealist, Expressionist and Abstract Expressionist painting and sculpture. A deep and broad assembly of masterpieces has been chosen from the Guggenheim’s formative collection, and through it the viewer may perceive the era of Modern art emerging in all its diversity and complexity. Included here are reproductions of and short texts on seminal works by Brancusi, Braque, Chagall, de Kooning, Delaunay, Ernst, Fontana, Kandinsky, Klee, Léger, Malevich, Matisse, Miró, Modigliani, Mondrian, Popova and Schiele. Narrative biographies on a number of these artists are included, as well as a short, illustrated history of the collection by Lisa Dennison. From Picasso to Pollock is the second in a trilogy from the Guggenheim which highlights the greatest strengths of the museum’s collection. The first title, Moving Pictures, showcased contemporary photography and video, and the third, Primary Forms, considered Minimalism, Conceptualism and their more contemporary progeny.
Anna Gaskell: half life
Anna Gaskell is prominent among a generation of artists who emerged in the late 1990s and have redefined the landscape of contemporary art, building upon cinematic strategies pioneered a decade earlier by artists such as Cindy Sherman and Laurie Simmons. Gaskell and others of her generation have invented an entirely new discourse, one in which narrative is disrupted, lacking closure and connectivity. Gaskell goes further yet, creating bodies of work that appear to tell stories but confound one's ability to draw clear connections between the different images within a given series. In Half Life, a new project commissioned by The Menil Collection, Gaskell draws inspiration from stories like Rebecca, The Old Nurse, and The Turn of the Screw, to create an installation of video and photography that plumbs the dark recesses of the human psyche, embodying a sense of fear, isolation, and uncertainty. Accompanied by the first published biography and bibliography on the artist, as well as an interview and essay by Matthew Drutt, curator of the project, with contributions by Niall Mackenzie and Francis McKee.
Vik Muniz: Model Pictures
While visiting The Menil Collection, Vik Muniz, creator of what he calls "photographic delusions," happened upon the museum's exhibition planning room, which contains a small-scale model of galleries filled with tiny copies of artworks from the permanent collection--museum curators use these models in planning installations. Fascinated, Muniz took digital pictures of the maquettes and, for the exhibition Model Pictures, held at The Menil Collection in spring 2002, enlarged them to the scale of the original works of art that they represent. For the book Model Pictures, a conceptual extension of the exhibition, he shrinks his photographs of the maquettes to their miniature size, or 1:12 of the original artworks.
“Trouble in Paradise: Caesar’s Cosmic Garden by Ronald Jones”
Aussendienst, exhibition catalogue, City of Hamburg: 2001
This article focuses on one of many projects in a year-long city-wide exhibition entitled Aussendienst. Jones's "Cosmic Garden" took as its model a similar medieval garden that had been planted by a Catholic woman in the concentration camp at Auschwitz. Near the main train station, Jones's garden evokes the memory of those deported from Hamburg during the Nazi era.
Guggenheim Museum Collection: A to Z (second, revised edition)
Thannhauser: The Thannhauser Collection of the Guggenheim Museum (2001)
Amazons of the Avant-Garde; Six Russian Artists: Alexandra Exter, Natalia Goncharova, Liubov Popova, Olga Rozanova, Varvara Stepanova, and Nadezhda Udaltsova
Exhibtion catalogue, Deutsche Guggenheim Berlin; Royal Academy of Arts, London; Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice; Guggenheim Museum Bilbao; Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; Tretiakov Gallery, Moscow. July 9, 1999 – March17, 2001
Some of the most outstanding exhibitions organized by the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum have been those that have presented the art of the Russian avant-garde. In Amazons of the Avant-Garde: Alexandra Exter, Natalia Goncharova, Liubov Popova, Olga Rozanova, Varvara Stepanova, and Nadezhda Udaltsova the work o six legendary Russian women artists is poignantly explored, offering a refreshing look at this important period of art. Celebrating the vital role that each artist played in the formation of the radical art of the Russian avant-garde, the book looks at the evolution of the Russian painting from the 1900's through the early 1920's. It brings together the brilliant masterpieces of the period, including many that have not been in the West since they were created. The work of these pioneering women artists is expressed as tremendously influential in the world of the Russian avant-garde and important in capturing the Modernist as a whole.
Bill Fontana: Acoustical Visions of Venice
Mary McCarthy once wrote: "The things of this world reveal their essential absurdity when they are placed in a Venetian context." Indeed, Venice is a city that defies comparison to more conventional settings. It has an aura that is at once enigmatic and utterly fantastic. Instead of a modern skyline, it rises out of the water like a city from another era. Its early mornings and late evenings are often shrouded in fog while echoes of distant sounds reverberate subtly across its waterways and piazzas, drifting into our consciousness like voices from the past.
Artists and writers have long celebrated Venices otherworldly character, largely deliberating upon the citys panoramic views and shimmering light. However, its most arresting quality in a contemporary context is its uniquely "transparent" acoustic signature. Devoid of automobiles, helicopters, and other modes of transportation whose incessant roar is synonymous with the modern city, Venice has an unparalleled acoustical clarity. The sounds of everyday Venetian life pedestrian footsteps, voices, church bells, pigeons, gondolas, water taxis, water buses, and ferriescreate an impressionist soundscape untarnished by the background noise common to urban environments.
Bill Fontanas Acoustical Visions of Venice is a live audio collage of sounds collected from 12 key sites within the city that celebrates this distinctive sonic character. Using microphones concealed at strategic points selected both for their acoustic richness as well as for their historical and cultural significance, Fontana has created a dynamic, multi-layered, collective impression of these different locations by transmitting their sounds simultaneously in real time to a single site: the Punta della Dogana. From here, one finds the most commanding views of the city and its landmarks: the bell towers of San Marco and San Giorgio Maggiore, the Doges Palace, the Giardini.
The result allows us to hear as far as we can see in some cases extending even further reversing the way we normally experience the balance between these two senses. This reversal, which is intensified by the shifting modulation of different sounds becoming more prominent at any given moment, disrupts the equilibrium that otherwise defines our relationship to sound and vision and renders uncertain even our most basic assumptions about time and space. Like poetry, whose rearrangement of speech into carefully metered cadences heightens our awareness of languages subtleties and transitions, Fontanas arrangement of "found sound" into carefully orchestrated compositions translates the quotidian into something lyrical and redefines our comprehension of the world around us.
While he has worked in the genre of sound sculpture since 1974, Fontanas explorations of the compositional aspects of ambient sound (as opposed to electronic sound) date back to the 1960s. Influenced by Marcel Duchamps strategy of the found object, he realized that the relocation of a sound from its source into a new context would radically alter its perception and effect. Shifting a sounds point of origin and its point of reception manifests itself as a sculptural phenomenon because it influences our sense of physical space. It also entails a powerful relationship to music, which has the capacity to alter our spatial perception through auditory sensation. Working with public spaces in major cities around the world, Fontana has distinguished himself by grafting the sounds of non-urban sites into the citys fabric, refocusing our experience of the acoustical environment and undermining our reliance on visual cognition.
One of his more renowned commissions, Sound Island, occurred in 1994 in Paris where he enveloped the Arc de Triomphe, at the center of a notoriously frenetic traffic circle, in the white noise of the ocean crashing along Frances Normandy coast, thus obliterating the sounds of the city. The installation was especially poignant as it was created for the 50th anniversary of the D-Day landing at Normandy and the liberation of Paris.
While Acoustical Visions of Venice similarly transforms our experience of a familiar urban landmark, it differs significantly in that its reordering of auditory sensations is drawn exclusively from Venice itself. Moreover, the realization of the work during the Biennale highlights the contrast between Venices customary sonic serenity and the dizzying melange of languages, events, and energies produced by the ebb and flow of the international art community. Thus, Fontana posits himself as both archaeologist and diarist, mining the citys enduring history as he chronicles its transformations in the present day.
Matthew Drutt; Associate Curator for Research, Guggenheim Museum, New York
The Art of the Motorcycle (1998)
Published on the occasion of an exhibition at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, in the summer of 1998, this work aims to capture the spirit of the motorcycle and the passion and excitement it has aroused in film, literature, television, and on the road. It depicts 100 models from the first - the 1885 Daimler Einspur - to recent concept bikes. Among those selected on both technical and aesthetic grounds are the 1894 Hildebrand & Wolfmuller 1500cc, the pivotal BMW R32, the late-1920s four-passenger Boehmerland/Czechie, the popular 1950s Honda 50 Super Cub, the quintessentially American 1977 Harley Davidson XLCR, and the Ducati 916. Each bike is described in detail, and the book also contains essays which discuss motorcycle-related films, fashion, life-style and history. Co-edited by me and Thomas Krens.
Motorcycle Mania: The Biker Book (1998)
I wrote this book as the popular culture companion to The Art of the Motorcycle, which was a more sober look at the vehicle from the standpoint of the history of design and technology. By contrast, Motorcycle Mania dealt with motorcycle gangs, tattooing, fashion, films, and other cultural phenomena thaht grew up around bikers and biking in popular culture. It was the Dionysian approach as opposed to the Apollonian view of the show's catalogue.
Simultaneous Expressions: Robert Delaunay’s Early Series
in Visions of Paris: Robert Delaunay’s Series, exhibition catalogue, Berlin: Deutsche Guggenheim Berlin, October 21, 1997 – January 15, 1998 and New York: Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, February 21 – May 24, 1998
The opening exhibition of the Guggenheim's new venue in Germany, this exhibition for the first time examined in depth the three main series of paintings that preoccupied the artist early in his career. Organized by curator Mark Rosenthal, my essay examined Delaunay's preoccupation with the idea of seriality and how his cubism evolved into an entirely abstract idiom nearly devoid of reference to objectivity.
Max Beckmann in Exile
Max Beckmann (1884-1950) left his native Germany in 1937, the day after the Nazis opened their infamous "Degenerate Art" exhibition, in which as many as 20 of the artist's works were shown. Never to return home, he spent 10 productive years in Amsterdam before leaving for the United States, where he went on to create some of the most powerful works of his career.The catalogue to an exhibition organized by curator Matthew Drutt of Beckmann's work on view from October 9, 1996 to January 5, 1997, at the Guggenheim Museum SoHo -- the first at an American museum in over a decade -- this book explores, in essays and color reproductions, the artist's fruitful years in exile. Drutt provides an overview of his exile years and the circumstances that forced him to flee Germany. Art historian Barbara Stehle-Akhtar discusses the critical reception of Beckmann's work in the United States and its stylistic development during this period. Scholar Reinhard Spieler probes Beckmann's nine completed triptychs, his sweeping masterpieces that express both the mood of the times and the artist's own worldview. Fellow emigre Stephan Lackner provides a reminiscence of his friendship with and support of Beckmann. Completing the volume are a personal interpretation by contemporary artist Eric Fischl of Beckmann's first trip-tych, Departure, as well as writings by Beckmann that eloquently convey his thoughts on aesthetics and creativity.
A Temple of Spirit: Frank Lloyd Wright’s Designs for the Guggenheim Museum
In June 1943, Frank Lloyd Wright received a letter from Hilla Rebay, the art advisor to Solomon R. Guggenheim, asking him to design a new building to house Guggenheim’s four-year-old Museum of Non-Objective Painting. The project evolved into a complex struggle pitting the architect against his clients, city officials, the art world, and public opinion. Both Guggenheim and Wright would die before the building’s 1959 completion. The resulting achievement, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, testifies both to Wright’s architectural genius and to Rebay and Guggenheim’s adventurous spirit.
Wright made no secret of his disenchantment with Guggenheim’s choice of New York for his museum: “I can think of several more desirable places in the world to build his great museum,” Wright wrote in 1949 to Arthur Holden, “but we will have to try New York.” To Wright, the city was overbuilt, overpopulated, and lacked architectural merit. Still, he proceeded with his client’s wishes, considering several locations before settling on the present site on Fifth Avenue between 88th and 89th Streets. Its proximity to Central Park was key; as close to nature as one gets in New York, the park afforded relief from the noise and congestion of the city.
Nature not only provided the museum with a respite from New York’s distractions but also leant it inspiration. The Guggenheim Museum is an embodiment of Wright’s attempts to render the inherent plasticity of organic forms in architecture. His inverted ziggurat (a stepped or winding pyramid of Mesopotamian origin) dispensed with the conventional approach to museum design, which led visitors through a series of interconnected rooms and forced them to retrace their steps when exiting. Instead, Wright whisked people to the top of the building via elevator, and led them downward at a leisurely pace on the gentle slope of a continuous ramp. The galleries were divided like the membranes in citrus fruit, with self-contained yet interdependent sections. The open rotunda afforded viewers the unique possibility of seeing several bays of work on different levels simultaneously. The spiral design recalled a nautilus shell, with continuous spaces flowing freely one into another.
Even as it embraced nature, Wright’s design also expressed his unique take on modernist architecture’s rigid geometry. The building is a symphony of triangles, ovals, arcs, circles, and squares. Forms echo one another throughout: oval-shaped columns, for example, reiterate the geometry of the fountain and the stairwell of the Thannhauser Building. Circularity is the leitmotif, from the rotunda to the inlaid design of the terrazzo floors.
The meticulous vision took decades to be fulfilled. Originally, the large rotunda was to be accompanied by a small rotunda and a tower. The small rotunda (or monitor building, as Wright called it) was intended to house apartments for Rebay and Guggenheim but instead became offices and miscellaneous storage space. In 1965, the second floor of the building was renovated to display the museum’s growing permanent collection, and with the restoration of the museum in 1990–92, it was turned over entirely to exhibition space and rechristened the Thannhauser Building in honor of one of the most important bequests to the museum.
Wright’s original plan for the tower—artists’ studios and apartments—went unrealized, largely for financial reasons. As part of the restoration, a 1968 office/art-storage tower (designed by Wright’s son-in-law William Wesley Peters) was replaced by the current tower, designed by Gwathmey Siegel and Associates Architects, LLC. This structure provided four additional exhibition galleries and, some thirty-five years after the initiation of construction, completed Wright’s concept for the museum. In 2001, the Sackler Center for Arts Education opened to the public. Located just below the rotunda, this 8,200-square-foot education facility includes the Peter B. Lewis Theater, part of Frank Lloyd Wright’s original architectural design for the building.
Some people, especially artists, criticized Wright for creating a museum environment that might overpower the art inside. “On the contrary,” he wrote, “it was to make the building and the painting an uninterrupted, beautiful symphony such as never existed in the World of Art before.” In conquering the static regularity of geometric design and combining it with the plasticity of nature, Wright produced a vibrant building whose architecture is as refreshing now as it was more than half a century ago.