Thursday, October 27, 2011

Here and There

A random walk brought me to the Academy of Fine Arts uptown the day of Art for Art's Sake in New Orleans, the traditional first Saturday in October. The works from Brent Barnidge were displayed in one room and made me think of Raymond Mason, another sculptor of crowds. Two weeks later at the Tuileries Garden in Paris, I thought about the exhibition I just had seen at the Academy.

photographs by the author:

"All On A Mardi Gras Day" Brent Barnidge

"La Foule" Raymond Mason, 1963-1965

Monday, October 24, 2011

"Off" FIAC

The side shows during the FIAC were a great surprise, I visited Slick and also Paris Elysees...there are many more exhibits in Paris during the four frenetic days.

Slick Art Fair, located between the Palais de Tokyo and the Museum of Modern Art of the City of Paris included 44 galleries this year, young galleries presenting emerging artists. Among the artists, I noticed Xavier Deshoulieres represented by the gallery Virgil de Voldere in NYC, oil on canvas, representing shadows of landscapes and Jean Denant with his "Mappemonde", a sculpted mural.

For the first time, I decided to visit Art Elysees, located along the Champs-Elysees in temporary tents. Sixty galleries and I found it more fun to visit than the FIAC. I discovered a serie of drawings from Jean Cocteau, works from Kupka, Gutfreund, Soulages, Cesar, Hans Hartung, Tom Wesselman, Picabia, Murakami and more, with the provenance clearly stated. The gallerists were available and ready to discuss the works with the visitors. It was a mix of real treasures mingled with tacky works like these presented by the Stephane Jacobs Gallery in Paris under the title "Arts d'Australie" inspired by aboriginal techniques.

I had a great time going through the tents.

Many red dots on the walls, I felt like buying...a small... also add... maybe...

Maybe next year!

photographs by the author:

oil on canvas, Xavier Deshoulieres, 2011

"Composition aux papillons", Picabia, 1924-26

"Sleeping 2000", Takashi Murakami

"Smoker Study", Tom Wesselman, 1977

Friday, October 21, 2011

Is the FIAC shrinking?

As usual, the FIAC is located at the Grand Palais this year, but it has lost its other venue at the Cour Carree du Louvre, traditionally reserved for the "young galleries": 194 galleries in 2010, only 168 this year, with a decrease in size of 1020 square meters according to Le Monde.

The visit reflects these numbers. The booths are smaller and difficult to navigate due to the lack of space and the galleries have less works on display. Of course, all the big names are here, including White Cube, Marian Goodman Gallery, Gagosian Gallery, Gladstone Gallery... some are trying to stand out like The Pace Gallery with its end of the world atmosphere or the Gmurzynska Gallery with a booth designed by Karl Lagerfeld. But these are the exceptions rather than the rule and most are minimalist with white walls trying to use the space at its best.

What about the works? Jean-Luc Moulene was well represented with several galleries showing his photographs of everyday objects presented under a new light. He has been compared to Jeff Wall but I could not find the simplicity and depth of Wall's works. I noticed one piece from Sophie Calle who is also at Prospect.2 in New Orleans. Most of the works with red dots were small to medium sized, from well-known artists, like Pierre Soulages, Dubuffet, Nicolas de Stael. David Zwirner Gallery offered a great display of Dan Flavin's work red, white and blue dedicated to the citizens of the Republic of France on the 200th anniversary of their revolution (1989). Anish Kapoor was also omnipresent with small sculptures.

A special area, was dedicated to the young galleries but again the limited space had a direct impact on the number of works and artists. Cyprien Gaillard, the winner of last year's Marcel Duchamp prize was represented with a few works, small framed compositions related to the works displayed currently at the centre Pompidou for his exhibition titled "UR". One work from Pae White was playing with reflections and colors... decorative.
The three contenders for the Marcel Duchamp prize 2011 were on display in a special area and I favored Samuel Rousseau for his sci-fi composition, technically very interesting, ready to take off. It helps rekindle the dream of other planets, other worlds...but Mircea Cantor won this year with is installation "Fishing Flies".

This year I spent six hours to visit the FIAC, the previous years, my visit lasted two days.
It felt like they were two FIACs, one for the "grand public" like myself and another for the "in crowd" before and after hours. The gallerists were not trying to do business. It was already done.
Next year, we are told, the space will be bigger. Of course, everybody hopes that the economic outlook will be brighter. Still, art is a great investment... to be enjoyed even if it looses its value. With stocks, you are left with bare walls.

photographs by the author, from top to bottom:

"Complex Forms, Structure VI, Sol Lewitt, 1990-91

display, The Pace Gallery

The Nightgown", Frank Stella, 1991

"Brave Old New World", Samuel Rousseau, 2011

View of the FIAC

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Outdoor FIAC

This year, the FIAC has chosen several sites to exhibit the outdoor sculptures. The day before the FIAC's opening, I visited the Tuileries Garden and left the visit at the Jardin des Plantes to the Parisians.
At the entrance, rue de Rivoli, I was greeted by three nudes from Anthony Gormley. Tourists were making pictures of their wives next to the sculptures, accompanied by a few salacious remarks. The sculptures, isolated, are loosing their significance in this setting. The installation in New York City was powerful, giving a new dimension to the site.

Methodically, I started from the bottom of the Tuileries, and was immediately surprised by the few works on display compared to the past years. "La Somme des Hypotheses", a work from Vincent Mauger, ecological, is pleasing to look at but brings little controversy. The biggest talk should be about the sculpture from Adrian Villar Rojas, an Argentinian sculptor well-received in Paris. A long round, plastery piece, ending in the artificial pond interrupts my walk. It represents the ruins left from a future civilization and brings a reflection about the end of humanity. The work is short lived and will be destroyed at the end of the exhibition. Not too cheery.
Farther down the path, a sculpture made of copper is shining in the sun, abandoned, flat, rendered lifeless by the clouds ("We The People, Dan Vo, 2011).
A work from Navid Nuur is a distant cousin from Robert Tannen's, well-known artist in New Orleans: a stone brought by the gallery from Amsterdam. The only gesture from the artist is spraying metal dust on the top of it... another story about time and decay. A sculpture from Urs Fisher, Swiss artist now living in the United States is defying the laws of gravity, between abstract and figurative.
A shiny metal sculpture crafted by the automobile constructor Renault for Jean-Luc Moulene. "Body" is hardly a new idea, already explored and developed by Californian artists. Tomorrow, indoor FIAC.

photographs by the author
"Another Time II", Anthony Gormley, 2006
"La Somme des Hypotheses", Vincent Mauger, 2011"Poems for Earthlings", Adrian Villar Rojas, 2011"Body", Jean-Luc moulene, 2011
"Rivieres", Vincent Ganivet, 2005

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Another side of Pop art

La Halle Saint Pierre in Paris specializes in representing Art Brut, Popular Art and Art Singulier and in collaboration with the magazine HEY! presents the exhibition "HEY! Modern Art & Pop Culture", a group exhibition with sixty-five artists and 170 works.
On the first floor, the dark space creates a mysterious, cult-like atmosphere and each artists works are displayed in a small area to avoid confusion.

The works of two artists meet the definition of Raw Art due to the material used. Pierre Bettencourt with burlap and stones composes primitive wall frescoes depicting naked females in languid poses and Philippe Dereux (1913-2001), friend of Dubuffet, is using bark and other dry organic material to compose decorative pieces. The works from Murielle Belin who lives in Nancy retained my attention. Her oil on wood have the darkness of Bosch works, depicting females with a white glowing skin, exanguinated, beheaded, mutilated, hanging. The only color is a streak of red blood. The black frame is as important as the painting with a black silky background and a name written under the painting, like a Saint in a church. She also reinvents her own bestiary creating birds like her Guinea fowl but with a small human head. Christ on the cross in a small composition is a dessicated frog. Are these inspired by visits in the churches of Eastern France?

The works can have an ecological undertone like this installation of fur coats attached to a ventilator and breathing slowly like revived animals (Neozoon). They can be bizarre with an installation of found objects from Stephane Blanquet or sickening like the work from Henry Darger found in his apartement after his death. His watercolors depict children in a Walt Dysney world but the story is a Grimm tale where the monters are adults abusing them.

Tatoo art is well represented with a whole room dedicated to the works of Titine K-Leu and several other artists.

The top floor represents several comic strips artists producing studies in psychology like Ludovic Debeurre, Gilbert Shelton Mezzo and also graffiti works. I should put "comic" because the subjects are anything but funny, dark humor sometimes.
It could seem ambitious to present so many artists from different backgrounds and different cultures (few Americans like Kris Mars from Minneapolis, South Koreans with Yu Jiinyoung) but the exhibit flows well due the concentric space which allows a walk through the building.

As a final thought, the exhibition represents artists without formal training (most of them), listening to their fantasms, fears, angsts. We discover that they are universel.

top photograph by the author

no photographs allowed in the building
photographs from the site La Halle Saint Pierre

Monday, October 10, 2011

From Rotterdam to America

The book about Willem de Kooning, "de Kooning, An American Master" by Mark Stevent and Annalyn Swan is thick with approximately 700 pages , including forty chapters, notes, old photographs in black and white, documentation, index and 21 color reproductions of his works from 1921 to 1987 to illustrate the different periods of his production.The life of de Kooning is so filled during its 94 years, the authors had to divide it in periods. Starting with "Holland" narrating his youth followed by "The Immigrant" with the arrival and establishment of the artist in his new country. This leads to "Recognitions" and ultimately his dream becoming true "An American Master". He then moves to the "Springs" starting a new chapter of his life ending with "Twilight".

The book is enthralling with everyday stories about de Kooning and other artists which enlighten the bigger story, the birth of abstract expressionism in New York. I can visualize the artists, understand their interactions like it happened yesterday. I can walk Downtown in NYC and find the places where it happened, the bars, galleries, hanging around artists studios. The reporting is a direct account and the sources are well recorded at the end of the book. De Kooning, rootless, trying to establish himself in America, the evolving friendships with Gorky, Franz Kline, Soutine and in the process, the history of American art told through a captivating story.

It takes an Olympian flavor, with the artist climbing to fame, his struggles, his apogee and then, the slow downfall, unavoidable from alcoholism and dementia. It brings the full dimension of the artist whose legacy takes a historical significance.
De Koooning who travelled to America as a stowaway on a British freighter would love the title "An American Master". The book won a Pulitzer Prize and The National Book Critics Award.

Till January, the MoMA presents de Kooning: a Retrospective .

photograph Wikipedia

Sunday, October 2, 2011


Ladislav Sutnar (1897-1976), a Czech-American artist coined the term "Joy-Art" to describe a series of nudes he called "Venuses". In the late sixties, the 65 years old artist, well-known graphic designer, returned to painting (he studied at the Academy of Applied Arts in Prague and was a painter). This Summer, the exhibition at the Rudolfinum in Prague displayed his nudes for the first time.

Sutnar fled the Nazis who had invaded his country and stayed in New York City at the occasion of the World's Fair in 1939. By the time these works were produced, he had assimilated the American culture and condensed its spirit (the artist's vision of it) in these paintings. His commercial designs were influenced by the Bauhaus, De Stijl and Russian Constructivism and he applied minimalism to technology, freeing space to maximize the process of information. The deconstruction of his paintings shows simple shapes juxtaposed to build the subject. They influenced Tom Wesselman's nude paintings.

Lining the walls of four palatial rooms, the giant canvasses are awakening the dark walls. The voluptuous, round curves of the subjects, the pink, lime, red white and blue Americana colors, the exuberant sexuality of the nudes represent another side of Sutnar with his concept of new art for the 21st century: punchy, aggressive, joyous, carefree, vibrant.
The exhibition is pleasant to go through and does not require great intellectual insight or emotional input. The Venuses are flashy, superficial, decorative and represent an advertisement for the Western culture Sutnar embraced. They are in stark contrast with the works from his peers who stayed in East Europe which can be seen at the Kampa Museum across the river.
Colors, shapes, Pop art, "Joy-Art".

Photographs by the author:

"Venus/ All the Way to USA" Ladislav Sutnar, 1968

"Venus/In a Petite Boutique" Ladislav Sutnar, 1968

"Venus/ In Orbit/ On the Top of the World" Ladislav Sutnar, 1967