Sunday, December 19, 2010

Katrina at the O

The Ogden Museum of Southern Art in New Orleans (the O) is presenting an exhibition titled: "One Block: A New Orleans Neighborhood Rebuilds" by Dave Anderson.
One more exhibition about Katrina and its aftermaths, really? I saw some photographs on the website and decided to go anyway...I am glad I did.

The photographs are centered around one block of the lower 9th Ward in New Orleans and its rebuilding after the hurricane.
The subjects are people I meet in New Orleans daily, confronted with their worst fear: loosing their homes, which is more than walls, it is their history, their only refuge and legacy, a home.
The photographer is catching them in their despair, but knows also how to bring humor like in "Mystery Chicken", a pair of chicken parading in the street totally out of context, or "James on a Ladder", the prank pic we would do of a member of the family to laugh at during a later reunion.

Augustine and Stacy on each side of the fence one white, one black, and so close, united in the same story, the same tragedy.
Then, a lighter note, the child playing in the grass, oblivious.
"Maxine Blue" or "Maxine at Dusk", Maxine devastated, still alive , already gone.

The new houses appear bright, so defiant , better than before, but empty. Where are the scratches done over the years, where are the souvenirs, A lifetime has been cleaned and there is no going back. It is poignant, life will never be the same.

The photographer in this sobering exhibition catches a resume of countless lives.

photographs by the author

Thursday, December 16, 2010

The Duchamp School

Carrying on my business one recent day (in Paris), I went to the BHV, where I last expected to find an art exhibition, but the title gave me a hint: "Courant d'Art au Rayon de la Quincaillerie Paresseuse." (approximately:Flavor of art at the lazy hardware department)

On the top floor, at " l'Observatoire du BHV", the (not too busy) shopper could take a few minutes to look at the works from fifteen young (and not so young) artists but all alive, made under the duchampian approach of the "ready-made" objects.

I noticed the French adjective to define works derived from Marcel Duchamp 's ideas: "duchampien" now also used in English, duchampian.

I thought about it and found that if we look at every object of our daily life as potential art, life becomes complicated. An object is an object. The esthetic (color, shape, decorations...) can be improved, the function should not be compromised.

Duchamp had a genial idea at the time, and became famous because of it.
The next step is the work from Arman with his
Accumulations, Coleres and more. He destroys, multiplies the object, and in the process gives it a new dimension, creating a work of art. The object cristallizes emotions and the artist interacts with the object.
Duchamp, indeed... the School of Duchamp ? Cute idea from BHV, great advertisement and a nice stroll for the not too busy shopper. But I do not need so many locks on my bicycle, one will suffice.

photographs by the author

"Sans titre", 2010 John M. Armleder

"Marcel Brancusi, Demultiple Marcel", 1987, Gerard Collin-Thiebaut

"Sans titre", 1999-2010, Richard Fauguet

Monday, December 6, 2010

on Art and Artists

A few days ago, I came upon a book written by the artist Raymond Mason (1922-2010) "At Work in Paris: on Art and Artists." The painter who became a sculptor was born in England and lived in France for most of his productive life.

In this book, Mason talks about artists he met, interacted with, admired ...or not. The final product is a great medley of characters from Giacometti to Balthus, along with Picasso, Duchamp, Matisse and more, also the Who's Who of the time, including art collectors, gallery owners and art critics. The book is a candid report of daily, sometimes mundane conversations, in-depth analysis of the works from artists like Rodin, Giotto, Jacques-Louis David, also here and there texts related to Mason's works, written for exhibitions catalogues.

Several chapters are dedicated to Giacometti. Mason had great respect for the artist, 20 years older, who he considered one of his masters. His writings make us also appreciate the man, modest, generous with others, detached from daily preoccupations and money, driven by his work.

The notes related to Balthus are enlightening for me, I never understood the artist. Mason states that his first meeting with Balthus changed his life and he recognized "the second pillar, with Giacometti, on which a new art of the figure and the figurative world could be built."

Dubuffet is described as heartless, Picasso cruel and superficial, Cartier-Bresson optimistic...

One day, Giacometti interrupted Mason: "You are just a mondain."
A few photographs of the works from Mason made me reflect about the writer...His work appears populist and he was trying to be understood and appreciated by all viewers, regardless of their backgrounds. The sculptor is a great critic of other artists but has little insight about his own productions. At some point he compares his works with Giotto's.

Mason was not afraid and made his opinions known, discarded Minimalism and embraced figurative art reintroducing colors to sculptures.

The book is entertaining, it starts like a biography, but very quickly becomes a succession of sometimes disconnected short chapters. The author knows how to sprinkle some humour and makes us reflect about art.

"La Foule Illuminee" Andre Mason

"Girl at a Window" Balthus

"Walking Man II" Alberto Giacometti

"The Departure of Fruit and Vegetables from the Heart of Paris, 28 February 1969" (1969-1971) Andre Mason

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Along the Vltava river

The walk to the Kampa Museum located on the bank of the Vltava river in Prague is very romantic, especially a month ago, with all the colored foliage. The island is a park, and the building hosting the museum has a long history starting in 1393. It used to be a water mill, of course was damaged during wars, burned, was rebuilt...and after more recent incidents was finally acquired by the City of Prague which allowed the museum to open in 2003. It looks like the week-end residence of a rich aristocrat, with its main building hosting the permanent collections and the Stables exhibition hall, the temporary exhibitions.
Meda and Jan Mladek, Czech-American collectors, contributed to most of the permanent collection, which includes more than 200 works from
Frantisek Kupka (1871-1957) and sculptures from Otto Gutfreund (1889-1927). These two Czech artists' works occupy two levels of the museum and are displayed in a chronological order. Kupta's path is a history of the abstract movement and the Parisian life. I discovered Gutfreund and his cubist sculptures like "Don Quixote" (1911-12), or Cellist (1912-13), dynamic, full of character, powerful. It is poignant to look at his post-war works, academic, emotionless, like the artist had disappeared from his works. He was well-known then, professor at the College of Decorative Arts in Prague. He drowned in the Vltava river in 1927.
The permanent collection of Central and Eastern European artists is rich with hundreds of paintings, sculptures, drawings from Polish, Czech, Slovak, Hungarian artists from the 60's to the 80's and later years. Several donors added works to this already rich collection, including George Soros.

In the Stable exhibition hall, next to the museum, a temporary exhibition was dedicated to Ladislav Novak (1925-1999), who is an original Czech artist. An action painter of a kind, he created "Decollages", "Fumages" and the famous "Froissages", creating a dreamlike world. A fairy like, lonely character is the center of a story, and annotations in French are inscribed with a pencil at the bottom of the works, giving clues about the character depicted. The works could be the illustrations for a book.

One cannot escape the history surrounding these works. Most artists , living in exile or in hiding, could not be silenced and this museum is a testimony to the power of their creativity.

A quote from Jan Mladek is encrypted on the entrance of the Kampa Museum: " If a nation's culture survives, so does the nation". The Czech Republic should fare well.

"Madame Kupka among verticals" (1910-1911) Frantisek Kupka
"Don Quixote" (1911-1912) Otto Gutfreund

photograph by the author:
"Rose" (1978) Ladislav Novak
view of one room, permanent collection at the Kampa Museum

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Gloom and doom

The CAC (Contemporary Art Center) in New Orleans is presenting a collection of mainly paintings, few installations and sculptures with nature as a theme, selections from the Frederick R. Weisman Art Foundation.

The colorful display occupies the first and second level. Featuring numerous artists, the different style's works are of uneven quality. After walking through the exhibition, two thoughts came to mind. Digital photography has changed the vision of contemporary artists. The influence is overwhelming with painters like Torban Giehler with "Mont Blanc",2002, (link is to "Matterhorn", same technique), Jack Goldstein or Timothy Tompkins with his sculpture "Highway 89A". Integrating digital photography in the process of their works, the artists are transforming the landscapes into patchworks.

Another message from this exhibition is that nature is not a benign, nurturing mother earth. Nature is wild, scary. The background for the blue, white flowers is bloody red in "Klenator Draculas", 1977, from Billy Al Bengston, the sunset is cold-violet not warm-orange in "Vrindaban", 2003, from Andy Moses, twigs are dry, threatening.
Cindy Wright's butterfly is bringing bad omens. Where are the fruits, the green pastures, the calming scenes a la Corot?

The new paysagists are seing violence, destruction, gloom.
Are they predicting other disasters?

Are we still living in harmony with nature?

top photograph: view of the First Floor Gallery at the CAC
"Klenator Draculas", 1977, Billy Al Bengston
bottom photograph: Massoud Yasami "On the Edge #5", 1988

Saturday, November 13, 2010

"Decadence Now: Vision of Excess"

The title is promising and the exhibition quite ambitious.

Located in the Rudolphinum (Prague, Czech Republic), one of the oldest concert hall, hosting the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra, the Gallery focuses on contemporary art and, for this exhibition, on decadence in art going back over the past 30 years.
Upon crossing a vast hall, climbing a staircase to reach the gallery, the visitor is overwhelmed by the quiet, heavy atmosphere and plunges into the first room, a collection of self-portraits from well known artists like Maplethorpe, Cindy Sherman, Catherine Opie, David Wojnarowicz, Joel-Peter Witkin, Damien Hirst to name a few.
Deformed bodies, inflicted pain, degradation of the self, the photographs are disturbing.
Four more themes are the subject of the exhibition: Excess of the Body: Sex, Excess of the Beauty: Pop, Excess of the Mind: Madness, Excess of the Life: Death.

One feels repulsion, horror, fascination and intense emotions. All taboos are transgressed and the artists have reach a point beyond which there are no limits.
The media used for some works evokes pain , death, like the artist's blood for "Dessin au Sang #1" (1997) from ORLAN, Erwin Olaf' s academic portraits of princesses with blood splashing across their angelic faces or Geza Szollosi's work with "Project Flesh" (2004), which includes a female pelvis in formol.
Religion with "Saint Sebastian" (1978), "Was the Jesus Heterosexual" (2005) from Gilbert and George, "Veronica wipes the Face of Jesus" (2004), the Stations of the Cross Series from David Bailey and Damien Hirst, or pornography with Jeff Koons's "Blow Job-Ice", 1991, are followed by the last room occupied by works related to death.
At some point, I feel saturated. To rekindle the interest, I try humor, but this does not work, the subjects are very serious indeed.
Yes, it is disturbing, remote because in a museum, but close because of the subjects brought up by these works. We can all agree on the quality of the exhibition, bringing together great works.
"Room #13" is an extension to the theme Excess of Beauty, located across the street at the Museum of Decorative Arts and presents decadence in fashion and design. It is definitely weird with a collection of dolls complete with their death certificates.
More decadent exhibitions are taking place, at the Brno house of Arts with works of Joel-Peter Witkin, at the Gallery of West Bohemia in Pilsen with works of Ivan Pinkava, at the DOX gallery in Prague with works of Gilbert and George...

The booklet advertises decadent movie festivals, conferences, concerts, discussions...

Wednesday, November 10, 2010


Destination Prague and no time to prepare for the trip.

Upon my arrival, I was glad to find a copy of The Prague Post, a weekly publication in English. The list of galleries, museums, restaurants, bars, concert halls and more is exhaustive. I will not be able to attend all these venues. The choice is difficult.
To discover the city, I walked: Nove Mesto, Mala Strana, the old castle, Stare map is falling apart.
From "John Lennon Peace Wall" in Mala Strana, the Memorial to the victims of Communism or a recent landmark like the dancing house from Frank Gehry which catches the eyes of the visitors along the river, to castles, churches, Kafka's house, the walk becomes a history lesson.

from top to bottom:
the dancing house from Frank Gehry,
the Memorial to the victims of Communism from Olbram Zoubek, sculptor and the architects Jan Kerel and Zdenek Hoetzel
"John Lennon Peace Wall"
photographs by the author

Monday, November 8, 2010

Larry Clark in Paris

The latest exhibition of Larry Clark's works is creating a heated debate in the media and the art world in Paris. The city of Paris which owns the Musee d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, has decided to forbid the entrance to minors ( below 18 years old in France.) In an interview for Beaux Arts Magazine, the artist himself states that he was stunned by the decision and that he has no problems showing his photographs to his own children.

The exhibition titled "Kiss the Past Hello" starts with a display of photographs made by Clark's mother. She had some talent, documenting dog shows, family events, a homey, warm world with a Rockwellian flavor.

Without transition, the viewer is plunged into the dark world of drugs with "Tulsa" (1971.) The photographs, all in black and white and of a small format, line up the wall and the procession is slow, every viewer wants to be confronted with the images. We take turns to look at these scenes, taken in Tulsa, Oklahoma, documenting Clark's friends shooting drugs: a dark background, bright lights, needles.
The second room is lined up with bigger format photographs with "Teenage Lust" (1983) and are mainly related to sex: close photographs of phallus's and vagina's without surrounding, just anatomical pieces or sex acts sometimes perverted like in "Brother and Sister" (1973). The pictures, without poetry, like a documentary, hit the viewer.

The next room has photographs in colors, depicting poor Latino neighborhoods, and introduce us to the world of poverty and marginalisation.

Clark's subjects do not inspire pity. He brings up the conflicts of teenagers experimenting with drugs, sex and guns. Their acts are not perversions, they are confusion, search and sometimes just games.

The question remains, censorship, yes or no? Should we forbid teens to go to the museum? The Mairie de Paris is afraid of being sued. What about putting a disclaimer at the beginning of the exhibition and warn the viewer? Parents could decide if they want to bring their children. Teenagers would be also warned.
Teens are not allowed to look at a document showing their peers living through their darkest times. I can imagine teens running out of the exhibition to shoot drugs and have sex! Instead, it could be a great starter for discussions between generations.

The great retrospective, fifty years of the artist's work with more than 200 photographs brings the crowd to the museum. Pornography or paedophilia? These words have been used. I do not agree, the photographs are a testimony, photojournalism.

Larry Clark is a mere observer... like his mother. Just different subjects!

the photographs of Larry Clark are available on numerous sites

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Rootless artist?

A whole exhibition is dedicated to Gabriel Orozco at the Centre Pompidou, Galerie Sud. Finally, it is the occasion to view the work of an artist who, so far, as been difficult for me to understand. Orozco lives several months per year in Paris, but spends time also in New York City and Mexico City. Born in Mexico, he claims to be rootless , rejects the idea of regional or national identity and does not have a studio. He is known for his interactive works like "Ping Pond Table" (1998).

We are warned before entering to obey the orders given by the guards, two persons dressed in Mexican policemen uniforms, part of a performance called "Imported Guards" (2010). Is it supposed to be humoristic? The room appears dark and colorless (other than three to four paintings as above). I read again and again about the artist's statement, the transformation of the everyday object to make it reach a new artistic dimension. Duchamp? One step further?

The brochure describes also three lines: the floor, the market tables and the walls. I started to walk along the walls, and looked at photographs, drawings and paintings, without emotions, including in front of the photographs of the work called "My Hands Are My Heart" (1991), showing the hands of the artist molding clay to the shape of a heart in front of the torso of the artist, symbol-cliche.

On the tables, surrounded by a black line on the floor as described in the brochure, the viewer can look at a testimony to "ten year's sculptural experiment". I found that the residues of ten years of research were not that exciting: socks stuffed with papier mache looking like sad vegetables, ("Two Socks", 1995), a game of chess but skewed "Horses Running Endlessly" (1995), sculptures in terra-cotta evoking the relationship to the body, and constantly a guard in uniform warning the viewer not to cross the line. The visit becomes frustrating. Was this the goal? The visitor cannot interact with the works, they are staying out of reach. I thought "French Flies", (2010) was funny. Numerous flies flattened, each on a little piece of white clay, swatted by the artist last Summer when he was spending some time in the French countryside.

The third part, with the objects on the floor is definitely worse, maybe the objects are bigger: "La DS" of course is on display but the viewer cannot approach it. Then the objects succeed each other lying on the floor or hanging from the ceiling: shoebox (Empty Shoe Box, 1993), a running fan with toilet paper whirling around ("Toilet Ventilator", 1997), an elevator modified to fit the artist's body (Elevator, 1994), three arms in clay (Three Arms, 2005) , a torso (Torso, 2004) and more... all these objects modified by the artist to generate a new space and surprise the viewer.

The walls are transparent and I see the astonished passerbys taking a glimpse. I feel some relief upon leaving the Galerie Sud.

No photographs were allowed.
Photograph by the author made at the FIAC, "Trebol Time" (2005)

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Back to the FIAC

OK, OK, I was still recuperating from the time zone changes the other day. I went back to the Grand Palais and had a great visit today, even after waiting more than one hour, sometimes under the rain with a valid ticket in my pocket. The crowd would not bulge.
I did some shopping, why not a small Chamberlain in my office, a Cy Twombly for the waiting room, a Joan Mitchell for the entrance. Donald Judd would match my furniture in the living-room.
Of course I am jocking...but I am dreaming, and like many visitors, making pictures, our way of owning part of these chefs- d'oeuvres. Sometimes there is a small red dot on the wall, but not too many, and usually they are near works from well-known artists.

Like the other visitors, one more look...till next year.

short notes, on the road
photographs by the author
right: "Chicago Caryatid #4", 1979, Lynda Benglis
left: "Abat-jour #2", 1919, Man Ray

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Around the FIAC

The long week-end at the FIAC in Paris includes a visit to other art shows like SLICK, Show Off, Art Elysees, Access and Paradox and more.

As a tradition, I spend a few hours in Le Marais and this time visited Access and Paradox, rue Vieille du Temple.

The exhibition located in the indoor market is a mixture of galleries, associations, private and public institutions with 32 stands. The artists represented are from France, Iceland, Sweden, Norway, Germany, and one artist from Sarajevo. UNESCO is involved in this project as part of the program "2010, International Year for the Rapprochement of Cultures."

The presentations were very interesting indeed, but I will not detail each of them which would be tedious. A gallery from Norway has an installation and performances, unfortunately, these are scheduled, and time is precious during the FIAC, I could not wait.

I noticed the work from Luc Kheradmand with "Agonizing Memories", 2009-2010, presented by a young gallery (ISDEAD) which is relocating in Belleville in a few months (work is in progress).
It is a collection of documents from 50 computer viruses which have contaminated the Internet from 1980 till 2009, selected by the artist because they give a glimpse into the personal history of the authors or the history of cyberculture.The work is composed of two parts, a book and the viruses stored on memory cards (follow the link on "Agonizing Memories" to look at it.) Most of the quotes on the book are poems like the virus LOVE-LETTER-FOR-YOU.TXT, citations, complaints. The artist is building "an archeology of the future."

Lina Scheynius, a swedish photographer, made me feel like a voyeur. Through a peephole I could look at white and black photographs of her daily life, one per day, for a year, some very personal, each a page of her photographic diary.

Another event was taking place on the first floor: "Art by Telephone". Fourteen artists mailed the material needed to build their work. On the receiving side, two curators are following the instructions from the artists, by videoconference, and build the work. The telephone used in the past by Laszlo Moholy-Nagy in 1922 is now the Internet and I can see (briefly) one artist on the screen. Unfortunately, technology can be tricky and the picture disappears. The sound is almost inaudible at times and the show appears quite desorganized... I never had a chance to see the artist's production.

no photgraphs were allowed

Thursday, October 21, 2010

1/2 FIAC

Today, I visited the FIAC at the Grand Palais. Compared to last year, the crowd was sparse. Was it because of the strikes in Paris? If I had not read the papers I would not have noticed the disruptions, at least in my area.
The gallerists appeared morose and the visitors were not buying.
Space is plentiful. Last year, a mezzanine was adding square footages and well-known galleries had created a sanctuary-like structure, surrounded by private guards to show their best pieces.
Overall, the galleries did not bring great treasures this year, but mainly small minor paintings from well-known artists, sometimes straight from the seller, still hanging in questionable frames.
Noticeable were works from Louise Bourgeois, who died this year, Joan Mitchell and Lynda Benglis, also two works from Jean-Michel Basquiat. A great restropective of the artist is taking place at the Musee d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris.
This is my first impression, usually the right one.
I still have to visit the other half, at the Cour Carree du Louvre. I may even go back to the Grand case I missed something.

short note, on the road...

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The King of the streets

Waiting for the opening of the FIAC tomorrow, I could not miss the exhibition "Basquiat" at the Musee d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris. A retrospective of Jean-Michel Basquiat 's works (1960-1988) planned for his 50's anniversary.

The story of his short life is centered mainly around Manhattan where he became known for his graffitis signed SAMO. The early graffitis begin the exhibition, with their primitive symbols and drawings, arrows, suns: cave art in the street. As we progress along the rooms, the technique changes and the colors become brighter and brighter, till they reach a caribbean flavor, with the subject often drawn in black on sharp reds, oranges, yellow, blue backgrounds. The paintings are violent and the language becomes personal with symbols like the crown. The artist paints everything including old refrigerators, wooden panes, bags, with ferocity. He is translating the violence of the street on the canvass and becomes the voice of the anti-establishment and presents himself as a paria. Through his paintings, he makes the kings of the street become part of the art world.
A number of paintings refer to the anatomy of the human body, like "Skull", 1981. The artist describes the horror of being, a skull with black content and bones like a cage or a prison. Using what he calls his "cultural memory", he offers a glimpse into the underworld where kings get their heads cut off and pictures himself as a young derelict.
The works of Jean-Michel Basquiat are noticed and soon are hanging on the walls of the galleries. His message becomes political, the words are changing: liberty, skinheads, asbestos, negroes... He creates "Slave Auction", 1982, "Undiscovered Genius of the Mississippi Delta", 1983 and "Revised Undiscovered Genius of the Mississippi Delta". The only light painting is "Self-portrait with Suzanne", 1982, with pastel colors and a happy subject.
The works loose their spontaneity. The association with Andy Warhol is not a success for Basquiat. He has become a member of the new establishment but his voice is chocking. One more time, he tries to reach his roots and compose paintings with subjects related to Voodoo, african masks. The result? an advertisement like "Zydeco", 1984 or the caricature of an african-american on gold background "Gold Griot", 1984. His preoccupation with death becomes overhelming and he composes one of his last piece called "Eroica II", 1988. The colors are flat, heavy and the composition has lost all energy.
The king of the street is no more.
The retrospective is very extensive with 100 paintings, drawings, objects. But some viewers cannot be reached. The german couple next to me shakes their heads, and the lady from the 16th arrondissement honestly declares that she will never understand. The giant fishhook on "Revised Undiscovered Genius of the Mississippi Delta" is not a threat to the catfish, but to african- americans who used to be hung from trees. How can we understand the graffitis without walking in some areas of NYC?

Jean-Michel Basquiat was so young when he died twenty two years ago, if...

photograph by the author: ENOB, Jean-Michel Basquiat, 1985 at the FIAC

Monday, October 18, 2010

Tantrums, Accumulations, and more...New Realism

In Paris, the first visit on my list: Arman (1928-2005) at the Centre Pompidou. I was curious to see a restropective of the artist who made the news when I grew up. Would I find his works provocative? irrelevant?

The visit brought me along the artist's path, from his Allures, his Cachets in the 1950's and 60's to the last piece called The Day After, 1984. The exhibition was presented by themes and more or less chronological order. Poubelles, Coleres and Coupes, Accumulations, Art Industry. The object is shattered, recreated, accumulated and acquires a soul in the process, brings the emotion: repulsion in front of the Poubelles Organiques (Organic Garbages), horror when looking at the Accumulation of gas masks titled "Home Sweet Home", 1960, discomfort in front of the "Portrait-robot of Eliane", a morbid display of her personal belongings. The "Portrait-robot of Yves Klein" , his friend, is touching, a judo uniform, an old tie, a crumbled letter, a blue page, a leaf, like relics in the transparent square box. The works can bring a smile, "Kill them all and let God sort them out" an accumulation of insects sprays or serious thoughts, "The Massacre of the Innocents", an accumulation of broken dolls.

With his Tantrums or Rages, the artist destroys the object, and I still cannot understand why so many instruments inspired this violence: banjos, mandolines, violins, cellos, pianos, trumpets... I understand the broken televisions, tables, cars...

Along the works, great videos from the artist can be looked at, also a very special document, the manifest of the New Realism signed by Arman, Yves Klein, Restany and others.

The last section (1980's) shows Arman, painter again, using colors with the same rage. He throws the paint directly on the canvas, walks on it, smashes the tubes. Some of his late works appear fake, Arman becomes a caricature and like any artist repeating himself, his message becomes flat like in "Hello Jackson" 1990, "Starry Night", 1995 or "Desert Bike", 1991.

The exhibition finishes with one of his darker work: "The Day After" made in bronze, a remake of his Combustions from the 1970s: a show of the anguish caused by the destruction of a civilization represented by the object which represents that it?

I highly recommend this exhibition, the curators have ensured that all the major works of the artist are included and presented in an interesting context.

Arman still surprises me. His message is relevant today. The headline news are about crowds burning cars in France, adolescents destroying the objects which define the daily world they resent and feel powerless to change.

photographs were not allowed

bottom photograph from the author: "La Victoire de Salemotrice", 1967, Accumulation Renault

Monday, October 11, 2010


The preparation for a trip to Paris starts on the Internet. The art scene is busy in October. From the 21th till the 24th, the FIAC brings together 194 galleries and 3500 artists at the Grand Palais and Le Louvre with works exposed along the Jardins des Tuileries.

Just around the corner, an exhibition of Monet's works takes place also at the Grand Palais.

The Musee d'Art moderne de la Ville de Paris is showing a retrospective of Jean Michel Basquiat's works and the Centre Pompidou has two outstanding exhibitions one dedicated to Arman and the other to Gabriel Orozco.

Takashi Murakami is at the Chateau de Versailles.

And more... I have to visit ADDICT Galerie, and a number of galleries in "Le Marais" area and I have been invited to a photographer friend's new studio!

Strikes are on the horizon and may change some of my plans...but walking in Paris is not that bad after all.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Love in the Garden

With its title and the invitation's photograph, what a program for the yearly event at the Sydney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden.

As a member of the New Orleans Museum of Art, I get invitations to balls, dances with local bands, movies, and now yoga sessions, Tai Chi and Chi Kung (?) in the galleries. Museums are creating programs, some of them I find questionable , to bring patrons.

This evening, I chose to attend the function. It is the occasion to look at the sculptures in the light of the flickering torches against the dark background of the night.

The music from the band and the culinary surprises provided by the finest restaurants in New Orleans make the visit very enjoyable.

The sculptures are taking another dimension and some become islands of lights, others become phantoms in the bushes. Their shadows mingle with the trees, and the garden becomes a new adventure.

The giant spider from Louise Bourgeois is trying to build a web around one of the tables and Segal's bench glows under the light.
I would not miss a walk in the Sculpture Garden at night... I do not think that I will attend the yoga session at the Museum.

photographs by the author

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Dali: The Paintings

My latest reading is heavy. Before my visit to the High Museum of Art in Atlanta, which latest temporary exhibition features Dali, I started to read the book produced by Robert Descharnes and Gilles Neret. "Dali: The Paintings."

Composed of two volumes, Part I (1904 till 1946) and Part II ( 1946 till 1989), it includes 1648 illustrations and tells the great story of Dali. It contains extensive quotes from Dali's "Secret Life". The book is full of anecdotes which allow us to understand the complex human being and his conflicts.
The reporting of everyday events, like the story of his inspiration for the "Soft Watches" (the idea struck Dali one evening after eating camembert for dinner), never becomes mundane. We learn about Dali's anxieties, including his difficult relationships with women. His first meeting with Gala, who became is wife, is touching, and like any love story is unique. A detailed account of Dali's life including his relationship with his father, his friends, his financial difficulties and more, helps the reader understand the complexity of the man and the artist who was often called a genius and often misunderstood (he enjoyed both).
The reader can follow the maturation of the artist through his different periods, presented in the context of the art movements of the time with the history of his life in the background.
The book is also an extensive compilation (not a catalogue raisonne) of the artist's works with enlightening comments from the authors.

Some of the quotes from Dali's Secret Life :

" As a child I adored that noble prestige of old people, and I would have given all my body to become like them, to grow old immediately! I was the anti-Faust. Wretched was he who, having acquired the supreme science of old age, sold his soul to unwrinkle his brow and recapture the unconscious youth of his flesh! Let the labyrinth of wrinkles be furrowed in my brow with the red-hot iron of my own life, let my hair whiten and my step become vacillating, on the condition that I can save the intelligence of my soul."

"One day it will have to be officially admitted that what we christened reality is an even greater illusion than the world of dreams."

And many more...

Dali was looking for eternity...his work is timeless.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

The High...

... is the Museum of Art in Atlanta. Named after the High family who donated the land on Peachtree Street. The High is located in Midtown and is easy to spot: a congregation of white buildings added over the years.

Richard Meyer (1934), who favors the color white, designed a 135,000-square-foot building in 1983. Two new buildings were added in 2002 to expand the museum's size to 312,000 square feet. The architect for this project is Renzo Piano (1937).
The color white is the only common feature between the buildings. The curvy building from Meyer otherwise clashes with the angulous shapes from Renzo Piano. Piano's style, who built the Menil Collection in Houston, is recognizable, but due to its scale, the buildings looks like vast, windowless, graceless hangars. The one level museum in Houston, also white, has a mediterranean flavor and the system of panels to filter the sunlight brings an extra nautical or aerial touch. Adding to the coldness of the High is the grey cement courtyard as opposed to the fresh green lawn in Houston.

Walking through the entrance, the visitor is surprised by the brightness of the surroundings and the vast space of the atrium which spreads from the first floor to the skyway level, white with a touch of blue through the glass ceiling (the day of the visit).

At each level, balconies overlook the central area, and a gently inclined walkway brings the visitors to the different levels.

The three buildings (the Stent Wing, the Wieland Pavillion, the Anne Cox Chambers Wing) are connected by glass bridges.

To the left, "Mouth #15" Tom Wesselman, 1968

There is no shortage of space for the permanent exhibition. Large walls and wood floors, the setting is ideal. However, the visit was short due to the lack of interesting collections. European, American paintings, sculptures, crystal, furnitures...the collections are sparse and made of minor works .

The goal of my visit was to see the temporary exhibition "Dali: The Late Work". The works were crammed on the walls or in the corners. The rooms were packed, full of visitors brought by this unique exhibition showing some rarely seen works. They were unable to take the few steps back and forth necessary to appreciate the visual effects of some of the paintings (for example: "Fifty Abstract Paintings") and feel the full impact of the monumental compositions like "Santiago El Grande". The temporary exhibition was not given the space it deserves.

The High has a lot of space, what about the content?

"The Shade" a sculpture from Rodin is a gift from the french governement to the High. 106 Atlanta arts patrons who died in an airplane crash at Orly airport in Paris in 1962.

"House III" Roy Lichtenstein, 1997 decorates the side of Meier's building.

photographs by the author

Monday, September 6, 2010

"Academic Surrealist or Surrealist Academician"

The High Museum of Art in Atlanta presents a well publicized exhibition titled: "Dali: the Late Work.". On display are the works produced during four decades (1940's till the 1980's) by the prolific artist. It could be called his post-Surrealist period ( he was banned from the Surrealist movement in 1934).

The first room is an introduction with photographs from Philippe Halsman showing the artist in various poses. The photographs from the series "The Cosmic Dali" are well-known with "Dali Atomicus" (1948), "Mid Summer Night's Mare" (1949) among others, a total of fifteen photographs to wet our appetite.

The second room is occupied by ten small paintings executed between 1930 and 1940, at a time when Dali was part of the Surrealist movement. Theses paintings represent for me the Dali I know the best. I came to see the late works.

Finally, the visitor reaches the subject of the exhibition. The gigantic canvasses, including "Madonna of Port Lligat" 1950, "Santiago El Grande" 1957, "Christ of St John of the Cross" 1951, "Assumpta Corpucularis Lapilazulina" 1952 have not been displayed in the United States since the 50s. A mixture of Surrealism and Classicism, they define the religious period of the artist. Dali mixes his own symbols (horns from rhinoceros, eggs from ostriches) and religious symbols. Gala, his wife becomes the virgin Mary. Pope Pius XII encouraged Dali to pursue his search for religion, the painter became an iconoclast in the process.

The technique of the artist is flawless. For the "Christ of St John of the Cross" , he uses chiaroscuro. The special angle looking at Christ from above makes the viewer feel like being God looking at the crucified subject who himself is looking down to the fishermen, representing us, the viewers.

The visit continues with Dali's preoccupations: genetic, atom, the search for eternity are the subjects of the works, lithogaphs, prints, paintings. He mixes art, science and some charlatanism.

A small room is dedicated to Dali, the illustrator: "Don Quixote", "Ten recipes for Immortality", "The divine Comedy" . These lithographs are well known, a reminder of the quality of the artist. The prints are technical masterpieces.

Random portraits of famous personages can be seen in a corner, also, in the same area, a few jewels and Dali's game of chess, his experimentation with holography, two videos for tired visitors, more photographs from Halsman. This section of the exhition does not flow well. It is just "put together".

Dali is also the precursor of Pop art. "Portrait of my Dead Brother" 1963, "Fifty Abstract Paintings" 1963, "The Sistine Madonna" 1958 are crammed with among other works the sculpture titled: "White Eagle" 1974. Unfortunately, the space is very crowded, and this visual experience is hampered by the size of the room.

And then, it is over. The special Dali store is right there, one can buy fake mustaches, cups with Dali's portrait, jewels...

As a whole I was deceived by the exhibition...not by Dali. The rarely seen works deserved a better setting. The High Museum of Art is not short of space and could have used three times the square footage for this exhibition to give it its full impact. It would also allow a better flow of the crowd.
Dali, Don Quixotte

photographs are reproductions from the book: " Dali: The Paintings" from Robert Descharmes and Gilles Neret, made by the author

1. "St. James of Compostela", 1957
2. "Landscape at Port Lligat", 1950
3. illustration for "pages choisies de Don Quichotte de la Manche" by Joseph Foret, 1957

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Blue mountains

This Summer, what about a trip to... Knoxville, TN.

The Dogwood Festival is in full swing, bringing artists from different backgrounds: musicians, sculptors, actors, painters.

Knoxville is putting on a show. Marketplace is filled with visitors and the crowd applauds a piece of Shakespeare played by local comedians. Downtown is thriving.

Sculptures are lining the streets and the parks.

Crowds of parents and children are making family pictures next to the sculptures, finding a background, a space to inhabit.

This is a giant step for this city which appears to ignore the economic downturn.

"Tower of Remembering" Robert Pulley
"Gilding the Lily" Duke Oursley
"Threaded" Isaac Duncan"
"Wrapped around you" Davis Whitfield
"Prism Arc with Folded Circle" Carl Billingsley
"The Storyteller" Mike Rolg

photographs by the author

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Listen to Jazz and look at paintings

Music from Ted Nash and the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra inspired by paintings: "Portrait in Seven Shades".

The musician selected seven painters including Monet, Dali, Matisse, Picasso, Van Gogh, Chagall and Pollock. Seven videos were made at the MOMA, they can be viewed on YouTube.

No comments, just listen...and look.

Thursday, July 8, 2010


The exhibition at NOMA titled "Swamp Tours: Exploring the Louisiana Contemporary Collections" made me reflect on the subject of Art versus Folk Art.

It is a medley of works bringing together "unusual and unexpected acquisitions" from the NOMA.
The artists represented include David Butler, Clementine Hunter, Lynda Benglis, Noel Rockmore, Ida Kohlmeyer, Jeffery Cook... and more. There is art and folk art. Well, where do we draw the line?
I tried to find the elements of folk art, is it its utilitarian, decorative? Is it it's reflection of more primitive mythology and fears? Does it represent a smaller community?

Art work is intellectually driven, significant, representing a society, a civilization.

It is also the viewer.

It is a fascinating subject and I am not to write a thesis,... just thinking... This exhibition is very interesting indeed , sometimes whimsical. A flavor you would not find anywhere else, complete with the gourmet turtle soup I had for lunch at the museum's cafe.

photographs by the author

Sunday, June 27, 2010


This Summer, the NOMA presents 40 artists with two characteristics in common, they are women and from Louisiana. The works cover the period from 1965 till 2010. The two rooms dedicated to this exhibition appear cramped, filled with sculptures and paintings.
There is art for every taste, Surrealist, Realist, Abstract... from known and not so well known artists.

The exhibit is interesting because of its diversity, which also makes it difficult to absorb.

Among all the artists, I noticed the work from Jesselyn Benson Zurik (1916), "the Madonna of the Chair", 1980. It is an interesting minimalist sculpture but it is already a late work for the Minimalist movement.

Another original work from Ida Kohlmeyer retains the attention. "Mythic Throne", 1986, combines painting and sculpture. One can find a flavor of New Orleans but also an early combination of high and low art which made Takashi Murakami well known in the 90s till the present.

Rayne Bedsole is represented by a collage of a silhouette againts a dark background. Her works make me dream. I especially like her boats, symbols of voyages, including the ultimate voyage. Her use of symbolism blends the Mythology of different cultures to create works telling the universal story of Mankind.

One of the limitations of such exhibition is that it presents a very narrow window of some artists career. For example, Lynda Benglis, a prolific artist, who expressed herself with strong messages to fight for women's representation, deserves a better display than one sculpture.

Of course, one of Lin Emery 's kinetic sculpture "River Tree" was at the center of the room. Her metal sculptures, with nature as the subject, are well-known in New Orleans.

Even with some informations about the artists printed next to the works, this exhibition stays superficial. Using a musical term, the works are too discordant to be appreciated in such closeness. One can ask the goal of the curator: to show a great number of women artists in Louisiana? Unfortunately, it just resembles another end of the year College or art school exhibition.

photographs by the author