Sunday, September 30, 2012

Rothko's Thoughts by Rothko

The book written by the painter Mark Rothko in 1940-41 (maybe started as early as 1936) and published by his son Christopher in 2004 "The Artist's Reality, Philosophies of Art" is short but dense. Written by the artist to define his thoughts about art in general, art history, artists, philosophy, sociology of art, he also discusses the foundations of Beauty and Myth. Ultimately, Rothko appears haunted by the question formulated in his introduction to the chapter titled Art as a Natural Biological Function: "Why paint at all?".

The painter stays mute about his own path or works and the reader will find only a few references to abstract.
The book is a catalyst for Rothko's search and ends abruptly without a conclusion... Rothko kept painting.

photographs by the author:
"Untitled" (The Subway), 1937, Mark Rothko
"Untitled", 1949, Mark Rothko

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Marketing Pop

...or Soup.

Andy Warhol can be in your kitchen this Fall with the launch of a limited edition of Campbell tomato soups sold exclusively at Target to commemorate the first paintings of the now famous "Campbell Soups Cans". At the time, the Campbell soup company considered suing the artist...and now promotes the soup, thanks to the artist.

Warhol is everywhere this season, starting at my neighborhood art gallery, Pop is in the air. The gallery offers an interesting exhibition featuring the works of local artists, like Jeffrey Pitt, Sarah Ashley Longshore next to well-known artists like Keith HaringAndy Warhol, Robert Rauschenberg. I could buy a silkscreen of Jane Fonda or Marilyn Monroe. ( respectively 68,000 and 160,000 dollars).
Now what about the market? Confusing.
The Andy Warhol Foundation is getting ready to put more than 350 paintings, 1000 prints, thousands of drawings for auction (flooding the market), in an effort to raise money.

An exhibition just opened at The Metropolitan Museum of Art: "Regarding Warhol Sixty Artists, Fifty Years" explores the impact of Warhol on contemporary art.

photograph by the author

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Visual Medley

Summertime, a random walk in New Orleans brings me to the K&B Plaza. For months...years, I have been driving by, every day, on my way to work. The building, occupied by offices, was purchased by the art collector Sydney Besthoff and some pieces of the collection are on display for the public. Of course, most of the outdoor sculptures from the Sydney and Walda Besthoff collection can be seen at the NOMA's sculpture garden
The small Plaza stays cool in the shade of a few trees, refreshed by the mist from Isamu Noguchi's sculpture-fountain, " The Mississippi",1961. "The Bird" (for Charlie Parker),1979, from Charles Ginnever looks like a giant blue piece of origami. With a steep angle of attack (aeronautical term), the sculpture appears unstable and heavy and at the same time ready to fly and soar in the blue sky. The iconic piece represents the work made by Ginnever in the 1970's. The sculptor stated "The sculpture is not made to trick anybody. It's just that [in] the way they are placed, they challenge our perception."  A sculpture from George Rickey swings in the wind and frames the clouds. Like in any collection, there are odds and ends, a sculpture from Tony Cragg"Sinbad", 2000, appears discarded in the background. Arthur Silverman's sculpture "Interlocking boxes", 1978, from Arthur Silverman, a local surgeon-sculptor is given a prime spot in front of the building. The visitor can sit in the shade on "Three Hand and Foot Bench".
In the entrance hall, two soundsuits from Nick Cave, 2011, (recent acquisitions) greet the visitor. Loud, colorful, they represent the "New Orleans Mardi Gras" spirit and clash with a minimalist sculpture from Nicolas Schoffer, "Chronos 8", 1986, and a white marble sculpture from Nicolas Neri " Carrara Figure #2", 1979 faced by a succession of randomly selected works: a bronze from Renoir , "Bust of Venus", 1915, next to a sculpture form Lin Emery, "Variations", 1978, a kitschy clock from the furniture designer Wendell Castle, "Bird Clock", 1984. Then, right and left, two narrow passages are cramped with paintings, sculptures mainly from the 70's and 80's. Three photo realists painters are featured with "Sunset Street", 1984, Robert Bechtle , "Bond's Corner Spring", 1975, Tom Blackwell , "Pullman", 1974, John Baeder. Sculptures scattered along the walls,  organic like "Sunburst", 1964, from Harry Bertoia or Michel Malpass, clash with "Sunbird", 1982 from Nikki de Saint-Phalle. Two paintings from Charles Bell complete the display (I may have forgotten a few names).
 The randomness of the display transforms the visit into an adventure. I had to squat to get a better look at some pieces, under the eyes of amused office workers behind their glass doors.

photographs by the author:
"The Mississippi", 1961, Isamu Noguchi
"The Bird" (for Charlie Parker). 1979, Charles Ginnever
"Pin Ball #3", 1984, Charles Bell
"Sunbird", 1982, Nikki de Saint-Phalle
"Three Hand and Foot Bench"

Monday, September 3, 2012

Moving Sculptures

Sounds of bells awake the Ogden Museum of Southern Art on a Saturday morning. Lin Emery's sculptures are on.  The automatons come alive with their servo-motors humming. The artist is well-known for her kinetic sculptures powered by water, magnets or wind.
"Breaking News", 2002, a large installation, fills a whole room. Protesters on the left, a tense group driven forward with fighting energy, on the march, are facing soldiers, straight and ready, in a tight formation on the right. They stand on each side of a body of water represented by a mirror surrounded by a red lining, symbol for blood. In the background hands are turning right, left, right, left, below white banners. Under the bridge of hands the ground is made of  Penrose tiles decorated with words in different languages. Littering the floor, they are meaningless and powerless. The subject of the work is dark and bloody and throws off the viewer. One expects automatons to be fun , a music box, a bird for a clock, not to show a battlefield or allegories to represent the Media and its inefficiencies. The shadows on the wall multiply the participants and animate the whole space.

Next room, "Acolytes", 1990-1992, feels incongruous. 
The four priests are part of a larger installation called "Sanctum"  and used to stand outside the temple, guardians of a sacred ceremony. Undisturbed, they rise and fall, up and down,  kneel, stand, kneel, stand, respectable, projecting their halos on the walls, but part of the work and story is missing.

A kinetic wall installation (2005) creates shapes and the sculpture redesigns itself  with a repetitive shape and rhythm. It is the closest  work to another kinetic sculptor's concept, George Rickey.
Across, the "Flower Drum", 1985, is producing the bell-like sound which fills the museum. The flower opens and closes, symbol of the cycle of life.
The exhibition confirms that, for me, Lin Emery's most powerful message is contained in her giant outdoor sculptures, " borrowing the forces of nature".

photographs by the author
"Breaking News", 2002
"Acolytes", 1990-92
"Flower Drum". 1985