Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Cy Twombly

Across the main building from The Menil Collection, the Cy Twombly Gallery also designed by Renzo Piano, houses more than thirty paintings and some sculptures from the artist. It is a permanent collection.

The space is well used and the paintings (some could be called murals due to their size) line up the walls without being cramped. Walking through the gallery, the viewer can take some distance and slowly comes closer to the works which are coming alive under the well controlled soft light.

What appeared to be a delicate, playful work of lines and "cheery" colours (bright pink, yellow, blue), becomes a tortured, hesitant work of words, half erased and rewritten, lines punctuated by long slashes of thick coats of paint partly covering another graffiti. The pink becomes dramatic, a colour of pain ("Analysis of the rose as a sentimental despair"). The strokes of the brush which appear light and gentle from afar, are heavy, brutal when getting close to the canvas.

Cy Twombly writes on one painting: "In his despair he drew the colours from his own heart."

This sums up my lasting impression after this visit.

The artist was recently commissioned to paint a whole ceiling for the "Salle des Bronzes" at Le Louvre. This heavy composition is a poor reflection of the Cy Twombly I just met in Houston.

photograph from artdaily.org

photographs were not allowed at The Menil Collection

Monday, March 29, 2010

The Menil Collection

The major building, conceived by Renzo Piano hosts permanent and temporary collections.

Some time needs to be spent going through the permanent collection, the items displayed maybe small in quantity but are of great quality: arts from Africa, the Pacific Islands, Pacific Northwest Coast, classical Mediterranean civilizations, small sculptures from Eastern Turkey, the Cyclades Islands. I am not an expert but got some education visiting the "Musee de l'Homme" or Musee du Quai de Branly" and appreciated this area of the building. The visitor gets to travel, not only geographically, but also in time with the Byzantine and Medieval collections followed by Modern and Contemporary Art.

Each object (paintings, sculptures, artifacts) is well displayed like collections of masks or this panel "Thunder bird and whale" from the Pacific Northwest.

As the visit progresses, one meets Modern Art. The setting creates a space dedicated to each artist with a De Chirico room, Max Ernst room, Magritte room, etc...

Here and there, Maurizio Cattelan surprises the visitor.

The Surrealist movement is well represented with an added room full of diverse objects which have a common feature: they were inspirations to artists from that movement. The exhibit is titled "Witness of a Surrealist vision". The dark space and the cramped display makes us feel like discovering a long forgotten attic. This causes a visual overload which the Surrealists would have found conducive to creativity: associations, visual puns, oppositions, hidden art. A small catalogue is available for the visitor . I preferred to leave my eyes guide me through this rich collection.

A temporary exhibition "Leaps into the Void: Documents of Nouveau Realist Performance" is set up in an area where one can see the famous photograph from Yves Klein and a copy of the newspaper the artist had produced at the occasion with several sculptures from Yves Tanguy and Nikki de Saint-Phalle.

My only regret: one day was too short to visit the Menil Collection.

photograph from the Menil Collection's website

Friday, March 26, 2010

Surprises in Houston

Choices have to be made this week-end in Houston, from the Menil Collection to the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, a lot of ground to cover. There is also FOTOFEST2010 BIENNIAL, a biennial international meeting held in Houston, Texas, started in 1986 to promote photography. This year, the calendar of events stretches from March the 12th till April the 15th and is made of workshops, exhibits, discussions, parties, lectures...the program is very busy. I did not plan to attend and will skip altogether the event which brings a crowd in town.

The Menil Collection is the first stop...and turns out to be several visits: the main building built by Renzo Piano hosting the Menil Collection and temporary exhibitions, the Rothko Chapel, Cy Tombley Gallery, Dan Flavin Installation at Richmond Hall and the Byzantine Fresco Chapel Museum. The buildings are located in a sprawling neighborhood, South of downtown Houston, within walking distance of each other.

The day will be filled.

photograph by the author

Monday, March 22, 2010

Clean bills

Mel Chin is one of the artists featured in the last publication of the International Sculpture Center (Sculpture:March 2010, Vol.29#2). Among other subjects, the artist explains in the article his ongoing project related to New Orleans, "The Fundred Dollar Bill Project/Operation Paydirt" started after the disaster that struck the city in 2005.

Schoolchildren will draw $100 bills called "Fundreds". Three Millions of these "Fundreds" will be collected and delivered to Congress to be converted in real dollars which will be spent to clean lead-contaminated soil in New Orleans. This would become a landmark: when art becomes a public health project!

In the interview, the artist not only appears genuinely preoccupied by the hardship in the community, ecology, world politics, he does this with humor and is trying to stay "free", avoiding the entrapment of the art world.
I will quote him: "the moment that you're captured by some other possibility, the moment when you discover art that's new to you, other philosophies, other music- those moments are very rare, but they transform you. Art can change who you are."

Hope this project comes to fruition.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Spring and Sculpture Garden

After being closed for a few months, the Sculpture Garden at the NOMA reopened yesterday. Braving unusually cold temperatures and wind , I walked through the garden, sat in the pale sun, enjoying the visit one more time.

The sculptures are displayed along the paths, under the centuries-old oaks, and become part of the scenery like this sculpture from Arman sitting in the middle of the artificial lake. It is called "Pablo Casal's Obelisk"

"Three Figures and Four Benches" from George Segal integrates also the surroundings. The sculpture is so realistic that I felt like talking to the personages sitting on the bench.

Many well known artists are represented , like Oldenburg/Van Bruggen, Jean Michel Othoniel, Allan McCollum, Louise Bourgeois, Jean-Robert Ipousteguy, Rene Magritte, and others.

The walk always brings new thoughts and impressions, depending on the seasons or the mood of the viewer.
"Spider" Louise Bourgeois

This is a free visit which should not be missed when staying in New Orleans.

photographs by the author

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Male nudes in Manhattan

Antony Gormley's sculptures were on display at the Armory Show...

He is now invading Manhattan's sky with 30 sculptures of male nudes. It is not Spiderman hovering over our heads.
The sculpture I came close to at the show was impassible, stiff , expressionless.
Is it a new David?

Maybe Manhattanites will look up at the sky.

photographs by the author

Friday, March 5, 2010

Pier 94 and Pier 92

The Armory Show is under way. The two piers where the event is taking place are dedicated to different venues. Pier 94 is occupied by galleries representing younger artists. Pier 92 stages international galleries specialized in Modern and Contemporary Art and the secondary market for artists already well known.

289 galleries!(this does not include the exhibits at Art Shows opening at the same time like Pulse, Red Dot, Scope New York, and more)

The first impression is overhelming, but this fades rapidly as the visit goes on. The galleries are looking for attention and the display is sometimes eyecatching. Nicole Klagsbrun Gallery chose the color of one of the artists, Adam Mcewen, to decorate the booth.

Visitors make photographs of Joachim Schonfeld's installation.

These are just a few examples.There is an air of "art tourism", with a lot of visitors walking by, just enjoying the show.

There is also serious business going on and deals are being made.

At Pier 92, it is a pleasure to look at works from well known artists.

and many more...

Overall, the visit is pleasant, with areas to rest, have a delicious snack and/or drink.

It is about looking at art and talking about art, a lot of it.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

"Skin Fruit"

The New Museum in the Bowery is hosting an exhibition curated by Jeff Koons, titled "Skin Fruit".

All the pieces on display belong to Dakis Joannou's private collection. He also happens to be a trustee at the museum and the conflict of interest is fueling some controversy.

The museum is located in an upcoming area of the Bowery and the building itself is keeping its stand on the block, its austere shape somewhat softened by the white color of the building.

The exhibition occupies four levels of the museum and the lobby, with more than one hundred works. It will be opened till June the 6th.

The theme relates to the human body and to be somewhat facetious, a lot of hairs are involved (artificial and real human hairs), as an example, Robert Gober's sculpture seen above.

A sober installation from Maurizio Cattelan, obsessed with death, fills a whole room. About ten sculptures of corpses, each covered by a shroud which delineates soft shapes of the bodies, are well aligned in a room, on one row. It is very solemn. The white marble from Carrara is beautifully sculpted and one feels like touching it. At intervals, a singer standing in a corner of the room, repeats a song a Capella followed by some text. It is very mournful.

Another work from Cattelan is displayed in a small backroom. A wax replica of a dead man in his black suit lies in a casket. He is serene in his deep sleep. It is so realistic that I caught myself speaking in a low voice, and I realized that the casket was filled with all the deceased I cherish.
Fitting the theme, a giant from David Altmejd is towering high in one room. I thought of the Grimms' Fairytales. The giant is made of plaster, mirrors shaped like crystals, fake moss, a squarrel is climbing on his back, and the torso is empty, eaten away: a very primitive giant, still standing but decaying, vulnerable.
Jeff Koons includes one of his sculptures in the exhibition "One Ball Total Equilibrium Tank" as pictured above.It looks odd in this exhibit, peripheral.
Tim Noble & Sue Webster present "Black Narcissus", a black sculpture made of a wormy interlace of penises. This apparently disorderly heap, in the light of a projector, becomes the shadow of a greek double profile on the white wall.
Two chocolate towers from Terence Koh are decaying slowly on the fourth floor, and add an olfactive experience to the visit.
Many more artists are represented. I found the quality of the art somewhat uneven. But who knows, the future will tell us...
This exhibit is pleasant to visit. It is not overwhelming, at the same time, filled with interesting encounters.
The photograph is a copy from the New Museum's website. No photographs were allowed.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010


C. J. Ducasse wrote in "The philosophy of Art" about the art viewer. He/she should be: "Listening for feeling impact."