Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Black, White, All Shades of Grey

Conceptual Art and Minimalism are represented  at the
Centre Pompidou-Metz with thirty-three Wall Drawings from Sol LeWitt. Chosen among 1200 drawings, they represent the early to late works from the artist, from 1968 till 2007.
The visitor is reminded of the technical feats of such an installation with a video produced during the two months it took to execute the instructions and diagrams from LeWitt. After a careful priming of the walls, the projection of grids are filled with pencil, crayon, inkwash, acrylic paint or graphite to produce a perfect result. A dozen people from the LeWitt studio, thirteen artists, sixty-three students from five local art schools, the manpower required to install the exhibition makes it unique. Each drawing is accompanied by a number, and detailed information concerning the medium, the location where the work was first installed, the name of the drafters who first executed it, the date of first execution and the collection to which the work belongs.The dimensions are not specified, they are site specific.
What about the visit? Like a walk through lines, patterns, designs, sometimes creating dizzying optical illusions, black, white, and greys, the exhibition becomes monotonous, an intellectual experience at best.

photographs by the author

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Art Brut and Psychiatry

Madman, schizophrenic, prisoner, handicapped, deaf-mute, illiterate... at Les Halles Saint-Pierre in Montmartre where the exhibition "Banditi dell'Arte" features works from known or anonymous Italian artists who have in common a total freedom of expression. Without any formal education, they are driven by an uncontrolled inner force to create works of art and their production has been labelled Raw Art or Art Brut.
The exhibition which occupies two levels of the building starts with colorful paintings and sculptures of dragons, alligators, birds. Is the bestiary from Rosario Lattuca 1926-1999, born from his imagination or a state of delirium?
Orest Fernando Nannetti, diagnosed with schizophrenia, carved the walls of the psychiatric hospital in Voltera with the buckle of his vest during the nine years of his confinement. Words and pictures became his way to freedom.  
Well-known Giovanni Podesta is heavily influenced by the Church: crosses, religious themes, red and gold colors cover paintings, sculptures or furniture.  
The media include embroidery to describe naive happy dreamlike scenes or plaster and gauze to shape tortured masks, Versino G uses pieces of the mops he is cleaning the hospital with to fabricate costumes, boots, hats.
Eugenio Lanzi's art is getting a lot of attention from his physician who comments on the pipes made of wood, stones, bones. He notices that the production is repetitive, theme and style are frozen. 
Franscesco Toris, suffering from paranoia and autism, carves his "New World" with the bones left over from the psychiatric hospital's kitchen, without glue or nails. 
Carlo Zinelli, very prolific during his years spent at the psychiatric hospital is represented by several of his paintings. His naive style is recognizable with little personages, symbols, he creates a surrealist world.
On the second level, the exhibition goes on with photographs from giant works, locally famous, like Angelo Stagnaro in Ligura with his "bombo-sculptures", Vincent Brunetti in Puglia, Fiorenzo Pilia with his "Enchanted Garden" in Sardaigna or Filippo Bentivenga in Sicily, with his "Enchanted Castle", forms of Land Art. 
Madmen, geniuses or both? The artists are now recognized and their works make up the permanent collection of the Collection de l' Art Brut in Lausanne.

photograph from the Website
no photographs allowed

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

New Dimensions

 Common objects are becoming art in the latest exhibition Lifelike, brought by the Walker Art Museum to the NOMA. Size, medium, give them a new dimension, literally, and a new status as symbols of our time.
Fifty five artists are represented and in an attempt to organize the works, the curator arranged them into five themes: "Common Objects", "The Uncanny", "Realism into Abstraction", "Handmade Sleight of Hands" and "Special Effects: The Real as Spectacle".
The visitor is greeted by "I Am Amazed", 1971, from Edward Ruscha, and just in the first room, will meet a now classic work from Andy Warhol, "Yellow Brillo Box and White Brillo Box", 1964,
a giant "Paper Bag", 1968, "Legal Pad Sheet", 1967 from Alex Hay, "Eraser", 1967, from Vija Celmins and next to each other  "Cardbird Box II", 1971 from Robert Rauschenberg and "Bread", 1969, from Jasper Jones. Robert Bechtle, a photo realist painter permanently displayed at the K&B Plaza Building on Saint-Charles, is well represented with several works.

Among the plethora of works, some bring emotions and provoke thoughts like "Nomad", 2001, from Gavin Turk featuring a sleeping bag, shaped by the body of the  wanderer or across it, "Newspaper", 1992, from Robert Gobert, a pile of newspapers ready to be delivered, a morning ritual soon to be history like the bottle of milk left daily at the door.
I felt like a voyeur looking at "Crouching Boy in Mirror", 1999-2000, from Ron Mueck. We surprise the boy, modern Narcissus, contemplating his body in the mirror. I find " Bremen Towne" from Keith Edmier, 2006-2007, disturbing. It represents an American dream turned into a nightmare: a kitchen, equipped with cabinetry, stove, sink, colored in a dirty vulgar yellow. It is an exact replica of the kitchen from the artist's childhood home. Jud Nelson's trash bag in marble, "Hefty 2-Ply" is a masterpiece of high and low art. Plastic becomes marble, trash becomes a symbol of our society.

 Well-known artists should bring big crowds and the list includes: Chuck Close with a giant self-portrait, Gerhard Richter, Ai  Weiwei. The latest is represented by a mason jar three-quarter filled with a sample of the 100 millions of the sunflower seeds which were spread on the floor at the Tate Modern, creating an infinite landscape. Size does matter as discussed in a previous blog, and the idea gets lost in this small version. 

The viewer must look carefully to see "Weeds" (2005-2009) from Yoshihiro Suda, or a fly on the wall "Untitled" 2010 from Tom Friedman. .I never thought that a plastic bag could be a piece of art. But the checkered bag worth a few dollars behind a black line at the museum has now the status of art work. What is the price of  "Refugee", 2007, from Susan Collis? It is the traditional, international plastic bag carried by migrants, displaced populations, a symbol of loss. It usually holds the  belongings and dreams of the new nomads. Other works related to the same subject include the luggage from Kaz Oshiro or "Still Life", 2009, from Ugo Rondinone, pieces of cardboard left along the wall, ready for a move.

The last room is taken over by the giant work from Robert Therrien, "No Title (Folding Table and Chairs)", 2007. Visitors are scrambling to avoid the guard and have their picture taken. It becomes a game. Children are running around the display, fairytales become reality at the museum. 
Upon leaving the exhibition, I thought about Duchamp, his works would fit just fine.

photographs by the author:
grandstaircase at the NOMA
"Sunset Street", Robert Bechtle, 1984 (at K&B building)
"Refugee", Susan Collis, 2007