Friday, October 25, 2013

All Masters

At Frieze Masters London one will find paintings from Seventeen Century Dutch artists like Brughel the Elder or the Younger and works from modern and contemporary masters like Joan Mitchellde Kooning, Monet or Giacometti. Museum pieces are on sale for private collectors and can be approached, photographed and appreciated  by a flock of art amateurs like me. The one-hundred and twenty galleries have a busy few days in London.
This is the second year that such an event takes place at Regent's Park, the site of Frieze London and this show adds another dimension to the yearly event. A sculpture garden is also organized on the premises. 
There is art for everyone and I just stayed a long time in the area filled with sculptures from Naum Gabo and drawings from Malevich, pieces of art history.
Several sculptures from Lynda Benglis born in Lake Charles, Louisiana, were on sale, confirming the rank of Master to the now internationally-known artist. Jean-Michel Basquiat, popular among collectors was also represented by several galleries. Surprisingly, I saw only two Kandinsky at the Gallery Thomas... maybe I missed others among the busy displays.
Gerhard Richter was present with several "squegees" and I found in a gallery two of his early paintings on photographs. Wifredo Lam had a prominent place with a gallery dedicated to his work.
Why mix ancient and modern art? Recently, The Ménil Collection in Houston presented its permanent collection under this angle, with modern paintings and sculptures scattered among its Byzantine art, offering a stimulating dialogue between the works, which can be looked at with different perspectives and eyes.
The afternoon-long visit is a unique experience filled with adventures along the aisles, an unforgettable walk in the white tents.

photographs by the author

"Bolero", Lynda Benglis, 1992-1993
"Untitled", Wifredo Lam, 1958
"A Calm with a States Yacht and other Vessels in  a crowded harbor Scene", Willem Van de Velde The Younger, 1655

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

One hundred and forty galleries in five hours.

Where? At the Frieze Art Fair in London gathering galleries from China to South Africa, Beirut, New York...and of course London.

Regent's Park is easy to reach by bus or tube and with a quick access to the white tents, the visit started on a "good foot" which is important for a fair goer. Of course, I could not avoid the comparison with the FIAC which opens this week in Paris at the Grand Palais. There, the building provides a great setting for the exhibitors with the light filtering through its high glass vaults but the wait can last several hours even with tickets in hand.
At any art fair, the number of galleries is overwhelming and I usually follow the rows one by one, booth by booth. Of course, well-known galleries can be spotted by the crowd mulling around them. This time,White Cube is mobbed by mothers and children looking at a taxidermy piece from Damien Hirst, idem for Gagosian which has chosen to be an amusement park with works from Jeff Koons. The YBA's are still going strong and bringing crowds. There is fun for adults as well. They can walk into the two way mirror sculpture from Dan Graham at Lisson gallery or make photographs of themselves reflecting in a ...wait, not Pistoletto but Gavin Turk.

But fairs are also an occasion to surprise and galleries compete for the visitors' attention, sometimes in strange ways. A gallery from Milan was staying in semi-darkness with shining plastic puddles on the floor. German galleries brought their big names and Neo-Expressionism is in full swing with the upside-down paintings from  Georg Baselitz whose works are getting a renewed interest.
The Argentinian sculptor Adriàn Villa Rojas' is downsizing and his end of the world sculptures now can fit in a collector's backyard. Two years ago, a giant pipe made of crumbling cement, his preferred media to remind us of the fate of civilizations, crossed the Tuileries Garden during the FIAC.
Visits are always an adventure and one could find among the female artists a few photographs from Sophie Callé, a small painting from Joan Mitchell in the greens and oranges, provoking sculptures from Sarah Lucas. The list goes on, a piece from Murakami, a full-length caricatured self-portrait in gold metal, an hyper-realist work from Ron Mueck, two giant paintings from Chris Ofili... 
The prize for the "cringe provoking" gallery went to Stevenson, a South African gallery presenting the work from Meschac Gaba, baby clothes hanging along the wall, decorated with provoking words close to an installation from Andreas Angelidakis hinting at Metamodernism.
Otherwise, I found the show subdued and conventional. The only live performance was presented by the gallery Michael Werner: a circle of priest-like actors drawn in a circle, whispering to one another.
No Champagne's corks were popping in the aisles.

photographs by the author:

"Clutch VIII" Antony Gormley, 2010
"Sunny side up" Urs Fischer, 2012
View of the Gagosian gallery with works from Jeff Koons.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Far East in East New Orleans

For its first international exchange, The Front invited four Ginza Art Lab members from Japan. The show was still undergoing some last minutes touches Saturday afternoon when I visited for a preview.
Tonight, I was told, fog will fill the street room and the two sober signs hanging on the wall will be fading in the clouds but this cannot soften the message: "Silence Is Violence" and "Invisibleness Is Violence". At a time when text is overtaken by images, simple sentences become powerful slogans. The words, visually activated by their bright colors, depersonalized by the use of bar codes, hit hard. They are a reflection on the inertia that paralyzes a country following the Fukushima nuclear disaster whose consequences are still not fully known. But the silence and invisibleness are becoming part of the disaster itself, perpetuating the decay. Silence becomes a message of loss and defeat. But wait... is Taisuke Morishita referring only to Fukushima?
In the second room, two videos from Keiko Kamma displayed on two opposite walls treat the same theme and keep the conversation going. A peaceful white and black video of flowers and leaves falling in a stream is interrupted by short sentences: "keep the silence, no one knows" or "break the silence" upside down. One can almost hear the water looking at the poetic soothing scene but the text interrupting the images is a message of quiet destruction.
The third room was still in preparation but Jomi Kim's theme of absence, decay and transience came out loud and clear, translated through a pile of clothes abandoned on a rack.
An installation from Syuta Mitomo fills the fourth room. In his endeavor to break the silence from crowds, he developed a social practice which involves the public's participation as seen on a video. His final work assembles blue and red Keith Haring-like figures overcrowding a circle, a closer look reveals their differences. Some are more adventurous, climb up the wall and their shadows add a mysterious dimension. A new vision of the crowd is emerging from the work. A shift from "we are all equal, united and melt in a crowd which becomes powerless" to "we are in a crowd but all different and can act as individuals in concert to build and make changes". A simple project, very powerful with another vision of the future.

The Front succeeded in reaching a new landmark, an international exchange program.

photograph by the author:
Installation from Syuta Mitomo                                

Monday, October 7, 2013

Up and Downtown

Uptown, at the Carroll Gallery on the Tulane campus, Jennifer Odem transforms the symbol of comfortable, stable domestic life, a decorative accessory for objects, sculptures or curios into strange lively creatures. Crochet and lace become sculptures and in the process, the traditional heirlooms get a new look becoming tri-dimensional  organic figures haunting the gallery. The make-over involves plaster and the unmistakably feminine, soft media is shaped into a plasticky, shiny, indestructible material, a transformation from a domestic to an industrial world. The white or black colors give an ethereal, ghostly feeling to the mysterious characters possibly born in a fairy tale. Odem's paintings along the walls complete the show.

In the same venue, two adjacent rooms are filled with works from graduate students enrolled  in the painting program at the  Newcomb Art Department working in collaboration with students from the music composition program at the Lumière Université Lyon 2 in France. In 1922, Moholy-Nagy created the famous Telephone Paintings. The progress in technology allowed this project to be realized through the transmission of live videos. One of them shows Bonnie Maygarden whose recent exhibition at The Front was commented upon in a recent blog. Equipped with her protective mask, she folds plastic sheets, circles the canvas and sprays fluorescent paints on it. The musical background provides a tempo to the action painting, adding tension to the process. Music and visual arts have been sources of inspiration back and forth for artists. Time, distance, borders are no longer impediments to their collaboration.

Downtown, Coup d'Oeil, Art Consortium is hosting a special guest, Jessica Goldfinch. The artist treats a somber subject, children and war.  Her paper doll like pieces are not toys, they are miniature replicas of children's prosthesis. The collateral victims of wars inspire also the paintings. Reds, black, dark colors, create a dramatic background for the tiny prosthesis which become a symbol of the ongoing tragedy.

photographs by the author:

"Continental Riser", 2011-2013, Jennifer Odem
Video: Collaboration Lyon-Nouvelle-Orleans
Model #L-0004, 2013, Jessica Godfinch