I ♥ JOHN GIORNO at Palais de Tokyo in Paris

“In the early 1960s, I had the good fortune of meeting a lot of artists. Andy Warhol, Jasper Johns, Robert Rauschenberg, John Cage, Trisha Brown and Carolee Schneeman. These artists and painters were the real influence on me, as a poet. Whether it was a performance or a painting, they did what arose in their minds, and made it happen. It occurred to me that poetry was seventy five years behind painting and sculpture and dance and music. I said to myself, if these artists can do it, why can’t I do it for poetry?” This is one of the opening lines that characterizes the new exhibition at Palais de Tokyo in Paris, dedicated to the life and work of American poet John Giorno, conceived by his partner, Swiss artist Ugo Rondinone as a work in its own right.

“UGO RONDINONE : I ♥ JOHN GIORNO” is structured in eight chapters, each representing “a layer of Giorno’s multifaceted work”. Taken as a whole, they reflect how he works and help us to understand the dual influences that American culture and Buddhism had on his life and art. Giorno, in fact, is an iconic character in Andy Warhol’s early films who found inspiration in the appropriation of found images by Pop artists and captured the real-life colloquial language of advertisements, television, newspapers and street slang. A leading figure in the lineage of the Beat Generation, he revived the genre of ‘found poetry’ and worked to make poetry accessible to all.

Whether they are recorded on an album, painted on a canvas, delivered on stage or deconstructed in the pages of a book, Giorno considers poems as images that can be endlessly reproduced using different technologies. ‘In the age of sampling, cut and paste, digital manipulation of text, appropriation as art form – which finds its peak in hip-hop and the textual orgy of the World Wide Web – the world is finally catching up with techniques and styles that Giorno pioneered several decades ago.’ Combining poetry, visual arts, music and performance, the exhibition reveals the significant influence of Giorno’s life and work on several generations of artists who have portrayed him, from Andy Warhol’s cinematic masterpiece Sleep (1963) and its remake by Pierre Huyghe, to R.E.M, Rirkrit Tiravanija, Elizabeth Peyton, Françoise Janicot, Verne Dawson, Billy Sullivan and Judith Eisler.

The Blogazine 
Share: Facebook,  Twitter  

Camille Henrot at Metro Pictures Gallery

From questioning family relations to questioning authority, Camille Henrot takes over Metro Pictures Gallery with a series of drawings and sculptural works. Her works construct a view of dysfunctions and felt inadequacies inherent to the interpersonal dynamics of any given social group, be it as citizens or family members, pointing out familiar social anxieties that are often brushed off as insignificant “headaches” or “hang-ups” and suggest a connection to more severe psychological and sociopolitical concerns.

Henrot’s new watercolor drawings represent anthropomorphic animal figures to illustrate unjust, unfair and abusive scenes taken from sources ranging from mythology to gossip blogs. The imagery recalls the disturbing actions and remorseless characters familiar in cartoons and comics. Similar to those genres, Henrot employs human-like animals with a sparring and winsome style, which in Henrot’s drawings evokes Modernist painters like Matisse and cartoonists such as Saul Steinberg. In one drawing, a happy couple stands casually as their unborn child bursts from inside the belly of a parent—the figure’s sex left undefined—to reveal it’s grimacing face, while in another, a pelican father stands with a snide expression in his eyes as he eats his young.

The exhibition demonstrates the expansive breadth of her artistic output and far-reaching intellectual pursuits; Henrot absorbs and filters the vast and cacophonous amount of information so readily available today with striking agility and adeptly incorporates select elements into her works. In the exhibition, she includes a sculptural zoetrope, a ceramic sculpture based on pre-Colombian artifacts, and an installation of simplified telephones conceived by the artist to function as uniquely programmed self-help hotlines, which the artist developed in collaboration with writer Jacob Bromberg. Exemplary for the exhibition as a whole, with this work Henrot questions who within a society is an authority, why we accept them as such, and asks why we submit to being held hostage to these systems while waiting for a desired outcome.

The Blogazine – Images courtesy of Metro Pictures Gallery 
Share: Facebook,  Twitter  

Discovering Frank Stella at the Whitney

What is the role of major public museums? Among others, to bring those artists that might have been neglected by both the mainstream or niche cultural tendencies to the forefront of public attention. It was precisely this consideration that led to one of the most anticipated art shows of the season – Frank Stella’s retrospective at the recently opened, Renzo Piano-designed, Whitney Museum in New York. As it goes, when the Museum’s curators asked what major artist hasn’t had a retrospective in a long time – as questionable as it might seem as a curatorial strategy – ‘the surprising answer, among others, was Frank Stella,’ according to Michael Auping, the chief curator at the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, one of the minds behind the exhibition. As the artist’s most comprehensive retrospective to date, Frank Stella: A Retrospective brings together his best-known works installed alongside lesser known examples to reveal the extraordinary scope and diversity of his nearly sixty-year career.

Approximately 100 works, including icons of major museum and private collections, will be shown. Along with paintings, reliefs, sculptures, and prints, a selection of drawings and maquettes have been included to shed light on Stella’s conceptual and material process. Throughout his career, Stella has challenged the boundaries of painting and accepted notions of style. Though his early work allied him with the emerging minimalist approach, Stella’s style has evolved to become more complex and dynamic over the years as he has continued his investigation into the nature of abstract painting. Although the thrust of the exhibition is chronological, the artist, who has been closely involved in the installation, has juxtaposed works from various periods allowing some rooms to function as medleys. The presentation highlights the relationships among works executed across the years, suggesting that even the most minimalist compositions may invite associations with architecture, landscapes, and literature.

Frank Stella: A Retrospective underscores the important role Stella’s work plays within the art historical framework of the last half century. It provides a rare opportunity for viewers to discover the visual and conceptual connections within the extraordinarily expansive and generative body of work of an artist restless with new ideas. “A Stella retrospective presents many challenges,” remarks Michael Auping, “given Frank’s need from the beginning of his career to immediately and continually make new work in response to previous series. And he has never been timid about making large, even monumental, works. The result has been an enormous body of work represented by many different series. Our goal has been to summarize without losing the raw texture of his many innovations.” The exhibition will remain on show until 7 February 2016.

The Blogazine – Images courtesy of the Whitney Museum 
Share: Facebook,  Twitter  

Between Digital and Material: Ai Weiwei in London

Taking into account the sheer size of installations filling the monumental rooms of the Royal Academy in London, it is quite difficult to comprehend how much of Ai Weiwei’s work actually relies on the immateriality of the digital world. And yet, this exhibition cannot but point to the Chinese artist’s dependence on the ‘online’ world – be it as a tool that allows him to maintain a relationship with the outside world in the moment of his reclusion, be it as the central subject of his monumental explorations. The first survey of Ai Weiwei’s work in the UK, the show maintains a dynamic balance between the physicality of the installation and the immaterial, yet closely interwoven, digital world.

Working in a variety of different contexts, Ai Weiwei, in fact, transforms materials to convey his ideas, whether in wood, porcelain, marble or jade, testing the skills of the craftsmen working to his brief in the process. Sculptures such as Surveillance Camera, 2010 and Video Camera, 2010, both masterpieces in craftsmanship, monumentalise the technology used to monitor, simultaneously rendering it useless and absurd. For this exhibition, Ai Weiwei has created new work, including site specific sculptural installation of monumental Tree displayed in the Annenberg Courtyard, consisting of eight individual trees, each measuring around seven metres tall. The installation was funded through a Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign, where £123,577 was raised; the largest amount ever raised for a European art project on Kickstarter.

Citing Duchamp as ‘the most, if not the only, influential figure’ in his art practice, Ai continues to engage with creative tensions between complex art histories, conceiving works with multiple readings in the process – and often building tension between political powers in China. In fact, the opening of the exhibition marked Weiwei’s first trip outside the country in four years. Ai Weiwei’s show will remain on view until 13 December 2015 at Royal Academy in London.

The Blogazine – Images courtesy of the Royal Academy 
Share: Facebook,  Twitter  

Art for Everyone: From William Morris To Bob and Roberta Smith

A Georgian building in Walthamstow – an east London borough – dating from about 1744, the “Water House” was once the home of William Morris, artist, writer, designer, socialist, and one of the most influential figures of 19th century arts culture in Britain. The Water House is now better known as William Morris Gallery, a space dedicated to preserving and disseminating Morris’ legacy – both by looking at his own life and work, as well as by offering a compelling context for contemporary artists to show their work. Knowing even fairly little about Morris’ ethos, it doesn’t come as a surprise, thus, to see Bob and Roberta Smith’s show open at the Gallery.

“Art is Your Human Right” – an unambiguous and appropriately compelling exhibition title – is a show that follows Bob and Roberta Smith’s campaigns against the British government’s downgrading of art education. In a visually rich and engaging installation, the artists – whose real name is Patrick Brill – asks questions and offers statements on the value of art in everyday life for the widest strata of society. From work directed specifically at the former secretary for education Michael Gove that asks “where are our future designers architects craftsmen/women engineers technicians software designers and mathematicians going to come from if no one can draw?” to genuinely convincing statements such as “Art Makes People Powerful”, Bob and Roberta Smith engages in a direct and playful dialogue between life and art.

Combining film, placards, sculpture, banners and even his slogan-covered campaigning van (Brill launched the Art Party for the latest parliamentary elections), this exhibition makes the case for creativity: all schools should be art schools; music makes children powerful; art is your human right. “Art is Your Human Right” runs until 31 January 2016 at William Morris Gallery.

The Blogazine – Images courtesy of William Morris Gallery 
Share: Facebook,  Twitter  

From Global to Local – the World Goes Pop

What is there to know about pop art that we haven’t already seen before? One of the most iconic art movements of the 20th century, pop art is widely associated with personal and professional exuberance of Andy Warhol, or ironic, repurposed cartoon images of Roy Lichtenstein. And yet, one must wonder whether their apparent obsession with the banality of the everyday is really the only language that pop art knows how to speak. A new show at the Tate Modern in London aims to dispel the understating of pop art as a largely North American movement, instead showing how the iconographic, visual vocabulary of pop art was appropriated around the world – from Japan to Brazil, from Yugoslavia to Spain – in the 1960s and 1970, and used to tackle issues that reach beyond critical engagement with consumerism.

“The World Goes Pop” greets you with a brightly coloured room that states that “pop was never just a celebration of Western consumerism, but was often a subversive international language for criticism and public protest across the globe.” This initial statement is further explored through thematic rooms that deal with politics, domesticity, bodies, feminism and public protests, along with three sections dedicated exclusively to the work of Eulàlia Grau and Joe Tilson, Jana Želibská, and Cornel Brudaşcu. Using well-known visual devices of US-crafted pop – and sometimes even referencing its most famous works – artists gathered in this exhibition explored issues related to political dominance of the US, the position of the female body in popular culture and the role of female figure in society, the blurry relationship between censorship and propaganda, civil rights movements, or political dictatorship.

A cacophony of references, between commercial messages and overt political critique, “The World Goes Pop” shows how artists used this visual language to “critique its capitalist origins while benefiting from its universal mass appeal and graphic power” to discuss issues that were relevant to specific geographical context in a very specific historical moment. “The World Goes Pop” runs until 24 January 2016.

The Blogazine 
Share: Facebook,  Twitter  

Art Watch: The Broad Museum Opens in L.A.

As celebrities walked down the red carpet in Hollywood under sweltering September heat for Emmy awards, downtown Los Angeles had its own celebration for an entirely different art-related occasion – the opening of its latest contemporary art museum. The Broad is the new L.A. art destination, hosting a rich collection of contemporary art assembled by philanthropists Eli and Edythe Broad over more than 40 years. Devised by architectural superstars Diller Scofidio + Renfro – just as its neighboring, Frank Gehry-designed Walt Disney Concert Hall – the three-story museum features 50,000 square feet of exhibition space on two floors – taken over for its inaugural exhibition by 250 artworks among which can be found the work of Jasper Johns, Robert Rauschenberg, Ed Ruscha, Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, John Baldessari, Mark Bradford, Jeff Koons, Barbara Kruger and Kara Walker, that best represent the Broad collection’s view of a half century of contemporary art.

The exhibition begins with classic 1960s works by Andy Warhol, as well as a luminous gallery of Cy Twombly painting and sculpture, and will track the Broad collection’s strengths through the decades. The installation continues in the first-floor galleries, bringing the journey through contemporary art to the present with some of the most recent acquisitions and artworks such as Yayoi Kusama’s immersive Infinity Mirrored RoomThe Souls of Millions of Light Years Away and a colorful, epic 82-foot-long painting by Takashi Murakami, a meditation on the recovery of Japan from the catastrophic 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami. Concentrated installations of art from New York’s East Village and Soho scenes of the 1980s reflect the Broads’ passionate immersion in that era as collectors. Highlights from the collection’s incomparable paintings by Jean-Michel Basquiat are prominently featured, as are strong representations by Cindy Sherman, drawn from The Broad’s largest collection in the world of her works; Sherrie Levine, including Fountain (Buddha), 1996, her appropriated version in cast bronze of the porcelain urinal that Marcel Duchamp famously and notoriously exhibited in 1917 as Fountain; Barbara Kruger’s iconic Untitled (Your body is a battleground) from 1989; as well as works by Jack Goldstein and others.

Works from the 1980s and 1990s highlight the Broads’ intensive and sustained engagement with artworks containing tough social and political content, found in the work of artists like David Wojnarowicz, Cady Noland, Kara Walker, Anselm Kiefer and Mike Kelley. The collection’s abiding interest in sometimes biting, confrontational imagery critical of some of the most traumatic passages and challenging issues in American and European modern history plays a major role in the installation. Anselm Kiefer’s masterwork Deutschlands Geisteshelden, addressing the recovery of Germany from the ravages of World War II, is shown in relationship with German artist Joseph Beuys’ multiples, selected from the Broad’s 570-work Beuys multiples collection, the most comprehensive set of these key works in the Western U.S. “As vast as the inaugural installation is, very few galleries show the full depth of our holdings in the work of any given artist,” said Heyler. “This gives the public just a hint at the totality of the collection—and a reason to come back many times to see fresh rotations, new acquisitions and more in-depth special exhibitions.”

The Blogazine – Images courtesy of the Broad 
Share: Facebook,  Twitter  

Soundscapes: Giving Voice to Art

Can apparently mute artworks speak? Anyone has probably experienced the effect of a powerful work of art, causing the surrounding world to cease to exist, only to focus on the what the artwork spoke in the most intimate of ways, to us. This, somewhat inexplicable, capability of works of art to speak that particular language of our mind (or soul?) is the subject of an exhibition titled Soundscapes at the National Gallery in London. Quite literally the exhibition gives voice to the works of art from National Gallery’s collection by commissioning musicians and sound artists to respond to a painting of their choice through a sound installation.

The work of Nico Muhly, Susan Philipsz, Gabriel Yared, Jamie xx, Chris Watson, Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller is thus displayed in a soundproofed room in the exhibition space in which their chosen painting and their new sound or musical piece is installed. These encounters between the visual and the sonic offer visitors an opportunity to experience and think about paintings in an entirely new way: to hear the music within the painting, and to see the visual within the music. Ambitious in its approach, this cross-disciplinary exhibition aims to celebrate the National Gallery’s collection and demonstrate how masterpieces from the collection continue to inspire living artists today. By allowing familiar paintings to be encountered and contemplated from a new angle, visitors will be encouraged to rethink their perception of the selected paintings and explore wider conversations about how we experience art and the affinities that exist between music and painting.

The Blogazine 
Share: Facebook,  Twitter  

Two Centuries of Display: Summer Exhibition

Held for the past 247 years, the Summer Exhibition at the Royal Academy is a direct heritage of 18th century fair-like approach to displaying art. Its premises are simple and clear: artists submit their work through an open call, which is then evaluated by a panel of judges and displayed in the institution’s imposing galleries. While this exhibition model has defined how art was disseminated and approached in the past – and is enacted in different biennials, which amass artistic production in out-dated national pavilions – its relevance for contemporary art must be questioned today.

This is the prerogative with which one approaches this edition of the Summer Exhibition, which opened on the 8th of June at Burlington House. This year, the show was coordinated by Michael Craig-Martin, whose “distinctive creative vision” guided the display of works in “room after room bursting with variety, colour and remarkable new work by leading and emerging artists” selected from a pool of 12,000 entries. The final number of displayed work amounts to around 1100 individual artworks loosely arranged in groups based on different media and disciplines. The sheer extent of the show allows for its definition as the ‘most democratic art exhibition’, which conditions both its modus operandi as well as positions its ultimate goal.

Each gallery was hung by a member of the selection committee – Norman Ackroyd, Olwyn Bowey, Gus Cummins, Jock McFadyen, David Remfry, Mick Rooney, Alison Wilding and Bill Woodrow – who arranged works according to a common thread, ranging from themes like ‘radical landscape’ to rooms dedicated specifically to sculpture. Craig-Martin’s choice to use bold colours, enhances the visual impact and guides the visitor through often crowded displays.

But is the Summer Exhibition really democratic, and why should that even be relevant today? In a time of elusiveness, continuous redefinitions of the term and tumultuous national and foreign policies, the very use of the word democracy is charged with political meaning – theoretically positioning this exhibition in a context that it does not seem to live up to. While the richness and diversity of work – ranging from established artists like Anish Kapoor to Ron Arad, blended with young artists and a number of Royal Academicians – allows for a plurality of meanings, discussions and concerns, the fair-like background of the exhibition conditions its ultimate goal – selling work. Thus, can an open call really constitute the premise for ‘democracy’ in art? It most likely can’t.

The Blogazine – Images courtesy of the Royal Academy 
Share: Facebook,  Twitter  

Agnes Martin at Tate Modern

Has the moment finally arrived for women artists of the past century to take over the spotlight from men? Tate Modern this year seems devoted to reaffirm the role of women in art, first with a compelling exhibition on Sonia Delaunay, and now with a massive retrospective devoted to the doyen of conceptual art, Agnes Martin. Martin, known for her geometric, meticulous paintings, is put in context by exhibition curators as “one of the pre-eminent painters of the twentieth century”, thus her work is explored in relation to artists like Ellsworth Kelly, Robert Indiana and Lenore Tawney.

With a willingness to discover the origins, permutations and inspiration of the subtle poetics that characterized so much of Martin’s work, the exhibition reveals Martin’s lesser-known early paintings and experimental works from this period including The Garden from 1958. It charts her experiments in different media and formats with found objects and geometric shapes, before she began making her inimitable pencilled grids on large, square canvases which would become her hallmark. Even though the desire is to paint a comprehensive, elaborate narrative on Martin’s work, the show also brings together seminal examples of here signature works from the 1960s such as Friendship 1963, a gold leaf covered canvas incised with Martin’s emblematic fine grid.

From her birth in in 1912 in Macklin, Saskatchewan, Canada, to her position on the New York art scene, to her final move to New Mexico by 1940 ( following a nubbier of other artists and writers such as DH Lawrence, Edward Hopper and Mark Rothko who had all been drawn to visit the area), the exhibition challenges how we understand Martin’s work. While often associated with Minimalists and an influential figure to those artists, Martin’s restrained style underpinned a deep conviction in the emotive and expressive power of art influenced by Asian belief systems including Taoism and Zen Buddhism as well as the natural surroundings of New Mexico. But even for those who don’t feel like delving too deep into meanders of philosophy and art theory, seeing Agnes Martin’s work will be a pleasure to the eye and, more importantly, the mind. The exhibition remains on show until 11 October 2015 at Tate Modern in London.

The Blogazine – Images courtesy of Tate Modern 
Share: Facebook,  Twitter