Thursday, December 15, 2011

Color is the subject

When every brushstroke matters, creates dynamic, rhythm and flows, when the color impregnates the canvas, color becomes the subject. Anastasia Pelias latest show "Washed (to the sea and other waters) at the Heriard-Cimino Gallery in New Orleans brings us along the muddy, fertile waters of the Nile river to the shores of her ancestors place in Greece with Poseidon (delft blue, violet deep). She masters the technique of dripping with a subtle play of the brush in Louisiana (Chrome yellow, oriental blue) creating a moss-like world in blue, yellow and green.

Oshun, goddess of fresh water is healing with warm yellow to orange colors, Bayou Sauvage is a drip of violet and golden-green and Mississippi, a neon red, angry. The pigments on the canvas are so concentrated, the colors reflect the light, create depth and vibrate.

The works from Anastasia Pelias are a great study about her preferred subject, from the sea to other waters, in the tradition of the Color Field painting. Looking at Pelias works, a quote from Henri Matisse, a master of colors, came to my mind: "Cutting into colors reminds me of the sculptor's direct carvings".

photograph courtesy of the artist

"Louisiana" (chrome yellow, oriental blue), 72x72 inches, 2011

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Bigger Is Better

Sophie Calle, Christian Boltanski, Claude Viallat, Bernard Venet... all the artists are French for this exhibition "Tour de France/Florida: Contemporary Artists from France in Florida's Private Collections" at the Frost Art Museum on the Florida International University campus in Miami. Two large rooms are filled with art, bought by collectors.
A little piece of Boltanski, a little piece of Sophie Calle... It made me reflect about the impact of the size of installations.

Last Summer, I visited the Galerie Rudolphinum in Prague. The exhibition "Undeniably me" featured, among other works, a room in the palace filled with 547 photographs, in black and white, covering the four walls of one room from floor to ceiling. The portraits of the dead were looking at me in the dark room and my eyes, when accustomed to the darkness, could only see the photographs. Physically immersed in Christian Boltanski's work, I got the full impact of his message.

At the FIAC, his installation lining a wall was moving with the anonymous portraits surrounded by small starry lights. But the lonely photograph with one light, on top of boxes at the Frost was lost in a corner. The single portrait makes the person become family, a crowd is overwhelming and evokes destiny, cultures, history.

I also recently visited the installation of Sophie Calle in New Orleans , part of Prospect.2 in one of the Pontalba buildings on Jackson Square. The visit involved the construction of the artist's story and avidly, I followed the path along the exhibition and became a participant. At the Frost, the photograph with accompanying text was just another framed art work.
Idem for Bernard Venet's works, a small sculpture becomes an object to decorate an office or a living-room.

If Christo, whose latest project is to wrap forty miles of the Arkansas river (scheduled in 2014), wraps the rosebush of a collector, it would tarnish his legacy.
The dimension of the work brings its significance.
Size does matter.

photographs by the author:
"Chases High School 8" Christian Boltanski, 1986-1987

"Monument", Christian Boltanski, 1996

Friday, December 2, 2011

Can art be intoxicating?

About halfway through the visit at the Art Basel Miami Beach fair this year, I felt like intoxicated, it was not by alcohol, but art...and maybe lack of sleep to catch the airplane: more than 200 galleries, 2000 artists. Art fairs are taking a toll on the visitor. The American version of the well-established Swiss Art Basel is celebrating its 10Th anniversary. This year, the galleries have ample space and an area is available for the visitors to rest and even lay on artificial grass for a snooze.

Why visit Art Basel Miami Beach? Rub elbows with the rich and famous? Feel the thrill of power and money? Take a glance at million dollar works? One can come close to a painting from Jean-Michel Basquiat worth 2.8 millions, but it is not one of his iconic graffiti. Farther, a piece from Ai Weiwei is a reminder of the artist and his absence.

Visitors are wandering , groups following guides, taking pictures... no milliardaire in sight. Gatherings happen in front of catchy galleries like L&M with its wallpaper of blue and yellow cows heads or Tony Shafrazi decorated with an installation of stuffed animals (seen above). Some, like The Pace Gallery, stay subdued with a conservative content (as opposed to the display at the recent FIAC in Paris).

This year Kusama's dots are peppered around the fair. Is this sudden fad related to her ongoing exhibition at the Centre Pompidou in Paris?
Chamberlains' small and big sculptures, Tom Wesselmann, Nikki de Saint-Phalle, Fernando Botero, risque works from Linda Benglis, few Joan Mitchell, a small de Kooning, very few Kandinski ... the list goes on. I relish the occasion to be emotionally overloaded by all these works displayed in close proximity. It is exhilarating.

The Beyeler Foundation has an entire booth dedicated to one work from Louise Bourgeois, the sculpture, about communication between individuals or lack of it, entices the visitor to interact with its mirrors and benches, but few take the leap into the sculpture.

I was surprised to see so few South American artists or galleries represent them as opposed to the recent Houston Fine Art Fair, very much in its infancy but inviting galleries from Cuba among others. It seems that the galleries were not taking any risk this year. Overall, the show was big by its size but deceiving by its content.
It feels like Art Basel Miami Beach is about making money, not about promoting artists. Could galleries do both?

photographs by the author:

installation Mike Kelly

"Mr. Kipper" Jean-Michel Basquiat, 1983

Ai Weiwei, 2011


Jonathan Messe