Yoko Ono at the MoMA

In late 1971, Yoko Ono announced an exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art — a one-woman show titled Museum Of Modern (F)art. When visitors arrived at the museum, however, there was little evidence of her work. Outside the entrance, a man wore a sandwich board stating that Ono had released a multitude of flies and that the public was invited to follow their flight within the museum and across the city. Now, over 40 years later, Yoko Ono: One Woman Show, 1960–1971 surveys the decisive decade that led up to that unauthorized exhibition at MoMA, bringing together approximately 125 of her early objects, works on paper, installations, performances, audio recordings, and films, alongside rarely seen archival materials.

The exhibitions is organized chronologically, with thematic currents, providing multiple ways for visitors to navigate the exhibition. It brings together works that invite interaction, including Painting to Be Stepped On (1960/61), and Ono’s groundbreaking performance Bag Piece (1964), together with her earliest works, which were often based on instructions that Ono communicated to viewers in verbal or written form. At times poetic, humorous, unsettling, and idealistic, Ono’s text-based works anticipated the objects that she presented throughout the decade, including Grapefruit (1964), her influential book of instructions; Apple (1966), a solitary piece of fruit placed on a Plexiglas pedestal; and Half-A-Room (1967), an installation of bisected domestic objects. The exhibition also explores Ono’s seminal performances and films, including Cut Piece (1964) and Film No. 4 (1966/67). At the end of the decade, Ono’s collaborations with John Lennon, including Bed-In (1969) and the WAR IS OVER! if you want it (1969–) campaign, boldly communicated her commitment to promoting world peace.

“Yoko Ono: One Woman Show, 1960–1971″ is curated by Christophe Cherix and Klaus Biesenback and will run until 7 September 2015.

The Blogazine – Images courtesy of the MoMA 
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Colour as Life: Sonia Delaunay at Tate Modern

Sonia Delaunay (1885–1979) was a key figure in the Parisian avant-garde, whose vivid and colourful work spanned painting, fashion and design. A new exhibition at Tate Modern presents the first UK retrospective to assess the breadth of her vibrant artistic career, from her early figurative painting in the 1900s to her energetic abstract work in the 1960s. This exhibition offers a radical reassessment of Delaunay’s importance as an artist, showcasing her originality and creativity across the twentieth century. Born in Odessa and trained in Germany, Sonia Delaunay (née Stern, then Terk) came to Parisin 1906 to join the emerging avant-garde. She met and married the artist Robert Delaunay, with whom she developed ‘Simultaneism’ – abstract compositions of dynamic contrasting colours and shapes. Many iconic examples of these works are brought together at Tate Modern, including Bal Bullier 1913 and Electric Prisms 1914. Her work expressed the energy of modern urban life, celebrating the birth of electric street lighting and the excitement of contemporary ballets and ballrooms.

The EY Exhibition: Sonia Delaunay shows how the artist dedicated her life to experimenting with colour and abstraction, bringing her ideas off the canvas and into the world through tapestry, textiles, mosaic and fashion. Delaunay premiered her first ‘simultaneous dress’ of bright patchwork colours in 1913 and opened a boutique in Madrid in 1918. Her Atelier Simultané in Paris went on to produce radical and progressive designs for scarves, umbrellas, hats, shoes and swimming costumes throughout the 1920s and 1930s. Clients included the Hollywood star Gloria Swanson and the architect Erno Goldfinger, as well department stores like Metz & Co and Liberty. The exhibition reveals how Delaunay’s designs presented her as a progressive woman synonymous with modernity: embroidering poetry onto fabric, turning her apartment into a three-dimensional collage, and creating daring costumes for Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes.

The diverse inspirations behind Delaunay’s work are also explored, from the highly personal approach to colour which harked back to her childhood in Russia, to the impact of her years in Spain and Portugal where she painted The Orange Seller 1915 and Flamenco Singers 1915-16. The show also reveals the inspiration provided by modern technology throughout Delaunay’s career, from the Trans-Siberian Railway to the aeroplane, and from the Eiffel Tower to the electric light bulb. It also includes her vast seven-metre murals Motor, Dashboard and Propeller, created for the 1937 International Exposition in Paris and never before shown in the UK. Following her husband’s death in 1941, Sonia Delaunay’s work took on more formal freedom, including rhythmic compositions in angular forms and harlequin colours, which in turn inspired geometric tapestries, carpets and mosaics. Delaunay continued to experiment with abstraction in the post-war era, just as she had done since its birth in the 1910s, becoming a champion for a new generation of artists and an inspiring figure for creative practitioners to this day.

Rujana Rebernjak – Images courtesy of Tate Modern 
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Boomerang: Pascale Marthine Tayou

As you enter the Serpentine Sackler Gallery, you are taken over by an accumulation of objects, assembled from a diversity of materials, found elements and visual icons. This aesthetic of abundance and aggregation is characteristic of Pascale Marthine Tayou’s work, through which he questions power, status and inequality in today’s world.

Born in Cameroon in 1966, currently living and working between Ghent in Belgium and Yaoundé in Cameroon, Pascal Marthine Tayou is a self-taught artists, who approached the art world after studying law. Tayou began exhibiting in the early 1990s – a time of political and social upheaval across West Africa, with works often produced in situ, renowned for combining found and discarded objects and materials – often sourced locally – with a skilled and playful sense of craftsmanship.

The show at Serpentine Galleries, titled “Boomerang” is Tayou’s first solo show in London. The exhibition includes new work made specifically for the Serpentine and introduces audiences to a range of works that demonstrate the artist’s unique ability to combine issues of individual and national identity and global consumption. The gallery is populated by a diverse mix of sculptural forms that demonstrate Tayou’s unique visual language based on archetypes, made and found objects and traditional craft. Mysterious human forms and fantastical beasts – such as the 100 metre snake of Africonda – incorporate materials such as cloth, wood, plastic, glass, organic matter and consumer waste combined with an artisanal skill. The exhibition runs until the 17th of May 2015 at Serpentine Sackler Gallery in London.

Rujana Rebernjak – Images courtesy of the Serpentine Galleries 
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From Abstraction to Life: Adventures of the Black Square

In 1915, Kazimir Malevich first showed one of his suprematist paintings, titled “Black and White. Suprematist Composition” at the exhibition “The Last Futurist Exhibition of Paintings: 0.10” in St Petersburg. Malevich’s painting of a black square on white background established a radical rupture with the past by setting forth the notion that “the visual phenomena of the objective world are, in themselves, meaningless; the significant thing is feeling, as such, quite apart from the environment in which it is called forth”. “Adventures of the Black Square: Abstract Art and Society 1915 – 2015”, an exhibition currently on show at the Whitechapel Gallery in London, reads that specific moment as a crucial event that would forever change both art and life.

Understood as an act of subversion of established hierarchies, a rebellion against rigid social norms and a proposal for change, Malevich’s ‘black square’ is the starting point of a reflection on points of intersection between society, politics and abstract art through a period of 100 years, from 1915 until today. Divided into four different thematic sections – Communication, Architectonics, Utopia, the Everyday – the exhibition aims at showing how abstract art permeates different spheres of ‘reality’, precisely as it questions, or abolishes, the established relationship between ‘realness’ and representation. The ground floor of the exhibition, thus, departs with works that shape each of the exhibition’s themes, such as Lyubov Popova’s Painterly Architectonic, Gustav Klutsis’ loudspeaker stands, or Sophie Taeuber-Arp’s wall hangings. These seminal works are, though, only a small part of the curators’ narrative on the intersection between art and society. The show, in fact, presents a rich structure as it showcases design, painting, photography, film and video, sculpture, performance, textiles and participatory work. Therefore, Max Bill’s painting sits near a wall upon which images of Bauhaus’ students having lunch on the school’s terrace are projected, while Anni Albers’ “Hanging” builds a dialogue with Italian magazines of the first half of the 20th century.

Yet, as the exhibition progresses, the radical impulses of the beginning of the century are slowly substituted by a diluted vision of abstraction in art. Concentrated on gestures, social action and the political, the second half of the exhibition sets a different understanding of abstraction. Works such as Amalia Pica’s “Memorial for Intersection #2” or Sarah Moriss’ “Beijing” focus on the act of social and political subversion itself. But as art evolves and engages with society through its media and formats, it seems to have built a distance, a critical reflection and a fundamental division of art and life, perhaps bringing it far from what the initial ‘black square’ intended to achieve.

“Adventures of the Black Square: Abstract Art and Society, 1915-2015″, curated by Iwona Blazwick and Magnus af Petersens will run until April 6th 2015 at the Whitechapel Gallery in London.

Rujana Rebernjak – Images courtesy of the Whitechapel Gallery 
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Making Fleeting Art

Making art is a process; therefore it involves considerations and choices, besides a dose of good instinct and mere talent. An essential part of this process is reflecting about materials used to create an artwork, whose properties can affect and often determine the way it is conceived and physically built, as well as how it eventually looks. Handling any material requires a specific know-how and every material owns a distinctive semantics and language that contribute to express the artist’s poetics. Stones, marbles, bronzes are all intended to endure forever and recall concepts of stability and strength. Most of the time we think about art as something thought to last as much as possible in order to get its intrinsic value recognised, but that’s not true for some modern and contemporary artists, who focus their research on the transience and deterioration.

With a great originality in choosing the constituents destined to be destroyed, transformed or simply vanish, such as perfume, gunpowder, chemical elements, animals, food and other organic matters, these artists challenge the established art world – actually their works are difficult to preserve and store, therefore being theoretically difficult to sell – to emphasize the ephemeral nature of life and the fragility of living beings. As already done by the Dada followed by European and American artists of the ‘50s and ‘60s, as well as the by now world famous movement of Arte Povera (literally poor art) and the Relational Art/Aesthetic of the ‘90s, these artists look into the concepts of Vanitas and Entropy reflecting on the instability and change through spiritual, religious and socially connoted acts and symbols exploited to result in more or less temporary creations. Here is the primordial energy of Joseph Beuys’ (b. 1921-1986, Germany) fat and eggs and artist’s shit by the brilliant Piero Manzoni (b.1933-1963, Italy); the carefully arranged explosions of Roman Signer (b. 1938, Switzerland) and the voltmeter-linked potatoes by Victor Grippo (1936-2002, Argentina).

The food is very often a key factor in this type of art and we experienced it in several, original ways, which could be appealing or disgusting. There are many examples of food oriented artworks, like the case of the Bed made with slices of white bread by Antony Gormley (b. 1950, UK), or the most recent Chocolate Crucifixes by Egle Rakauskaite (b. 1967, Lithuania) both somewhat related to the Eucharist; or again the candies by Félix Gonzáles-Torres (b.1957, Cuba – 1996, US) and the chocolate used by Jana Sterbak (b. 1955, Czech Republic) to transform the only heavy-duty elements of human body – the bones – into something fleeting. Alchemy-inspired experiments, which avail themselves of chemical processes and natural elements like combustion, evaporation, oxidation, fire, water, wind and earth, mix up with leaves, branches, insects, spices or perfumes, guide the research of artists like Dennis Openheim (b. 1938-2011, US), Gilberto Zorio (b. 1944, Italy), Pier Paolo Calzolari (b. 1943, Italy) and younger Anya Galloccio (b.1963, UK) with her sweeps of roses under glass, Damien Hirst (1965, UK) and his animals in formaldehyde, Wim Delvoye (b.1965, Belgium) and his excrement machine, Tom Friedman (b.1965, US) and Urs Fischer (b. 1973, CH) with their figures of sugar, toothpaste and wax up to the scented metal by Roger Hiorns (1975, UK). The list could be much longer.

The flow of time, randomness, growth and consumption are some of the numerous meanings behind the act of making perishable art: constantly explored issues that hold their deep interest and seem not to use up their expressive solutions.

Monica Lombardi 
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Daily Tips: Julio Le Parc’s Kaleidoscopic Art

Argentinian-born artist Julio Le Parc (1928, lives in France) is known for creating artworks that dynamically animate and transform space through light. Featuring seminal installations and interactive works from the early 1960s to the present day, Le Parc’s playful and mesmerising exhibition at the Serpentine Sackler Gallery in London transforms the exhibition space and actively involves visitors. The exhibition highlights the different dimensions in Le Parc’s works, from his politicised drawings and interactive works to his iconic light installations. Experimentation with light as well as the physical involvement and visual stimulation of the spectator have been crucial throughout Le Parc’s career. The visitor’s participation is both passive and active, with the exhibition design reminiscent of an amusement arcade and its numerous booths.

The Blogazine 
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Peter Doig | When Painting Transcends Time

The art world has wondered a lot about the power of painting to renew itself and remain up-to-date. This heated debate can be hardly be understood without looking at leading figures of this unlimited media. Peter Doig (b. 1959, United Kingdom) is definitely among the artists who will earn a place of honor in the Olympus of 21st century painting, not least due to his astounding quotations at international auctions.

Like Luc Tuymans or Elizabeth Peyton, among other artists of the generation, Doig avails himself of other media such as photography, using pictures, other paintings, books, or films in order to collect traces of memory, fragments of the past, subsequently used as starting points for new narrations. A first glance at Doig’s work captures the attention through intensity and beauty of its landscapes, whether urban or natural, exotic or ordinary, colourful or pale. These landscapes represent real places where Doig has lived (Canada, England, Trinidad) mingled with imaginary elements, which turn canvases into both descriptive and symbolic stories. The force of nature is very often balanced by human figure that plays a crucial role in the artist’s poetic: it could be an isolated subject, a lonely, soul-searching individual contemplating his reflection in the water or wandering in the snow; sometimes the figure stands out on the scene, at other times it blurs into the landscape. But the human figure is always a kind of a catalyst that drags the public into the artist’s work, as if they empathized with something weirdly familiar. The apparent harmony of colour structure hides a contradictory sense of melancholy and mystery, seeking an imaginative involvement that, if supported, can present a non-conventional journey for all the viewers.

Recognizing the suggestive genius of this brilliant artist, Fondation Beyeler presents an exhibition of his most important oil paintings and experimental works on paper, as well as a monumental new mural, which will run through March 22nd 2015 in Basel, Switzerland. Unmissable!

Monica Lombardi – Images courtesy of Fondation Beyeler 
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Lawrence Carroll | Ghost House

This week, once again, art will enliven the heart of Bologna with the usual annual date with Arte Fiera, a long weekend devoted to modern and contemporary art, returning for its 39th edition from 23rd to 26th January. As we wait for the yearly event, why not take advantage of the wide calendar of exhibitions and cultural initiatives thought not just to accompany the fair, but also to help visitors discover numerous museums and sites of art in town. In accordance with this interesting programme, Mambo – Museum of Modern Art of Bologna hosts the retrospective of the talented Australian-born, American painter Lawrence Carroll (b. 1954, Melbourne).

The exhibition entitled “Ghost House”, curated by Gianfranco Maraniello, presents about sixty works created from the ‘80s up to the present that retrace the artist’s career without following any chronological order. Displaying the affinity with other great artists such as Sean Scully and in particular the Bolognese master Giorgio Morandi, Ghost House (title loosely base on Robert Frost’s poem) is a good occasion to approach Carroll’s poetics, his study of objects and their positioning in the space that gives rise to multiple combinations and interpretations, as well his intimate dimension where everyday life entities reveal the complexity and uncertainty of reality. Carroll’s way of processing paintings turns them into sculptural forms characterized by stratifications of white colour and mixed materials that carry weaves and imperfections like cracks and folds on uneven surfaces. The exhibition path shows different types of work through which Carroll expresses contents and experiences: from the earliest “Cut Paintings”, paintings from which pieces of canvas are cut and put back together, or the “Stacked Paintings”, an accumulation of painted canvas and wood, to the “Calendar Paintings”, attached to the wall in a way that recalls the pages of a book, passing through to the big “Sleeping Paintings”, composed of different pieces of canvas with cut out niches covered with painted pieces of cloth and the metaphorical “Light paintings”, which incorporated light sources and call back the issue of light, always present in the artist’s personal artistic research.

Lawrence Carroll’s “Ghost House” will run until April 6th 2015. The show is accompanied by a catalogue with texts by curator, art critic and professor Angela Vettese.

Monica Lombardi – Images courtesy of Antonio Maniscalco 
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Blue Times at Kunsthalle Wien

Scattered across Kunsthalle Wien’s hall lay a symphony of blue objects, surfaces, thoughts and ideas, bringing together a cosmology of meanings. Blue Times, a group exhibition featuring more than 30 international artists, presents positions dealing with the uses and meanings of the colour blue in different eras and contexts. Through investigating the specific iconology of the colour blue, the exhibition sets forth transversal ways of approaching the world of art, of images and of representations: How can we use a colour as a way of seeing, as a way of understanding our socio-political histories? The exhibition presents two positions: one that mirrors the overwhelming character of blue, and the other, correlated position, investigates its socio-political function as it shifted towards a certain conformist politics of representation.

The artists included in the show represent these two positions: for British artist and filmmaker Derek Jarman, blue is a filter in absentia: touched by the HIV virus, he was not able to see the colour blue anymore. He dedicated pop odes to the colour, particularly in the eponymous film Blue. Of course, French artist Yves Klein’s famous International Klein Blue (IKB), which shifted the discourses of the authenticity of the pure idea and the validation of art as creation. Liam Gillick, on the other hand, is not interested in colour and form as such but as legacies of abstraction, as relics of modernist art theory and claims for universality. Most often, American artist Lawrence Weiner’s composed texts describe physical instructions, processes, structures and materials. However, the in-situ piece Out of the Blue plays with the immaterial dimension of the colour blue as well as its presence in or infiltration into our idiomatic language to convey mood and emotions, and can be read as an ironic comment on the whole exhibition endeavour. In a more literal way, EU (2011–2014) by Dutch artist Remco Torenbosch features utterances of different blue shades that circulate in the monolithic European Union, presumably symbolising alliance. Under the title China (2012), Lebanese artist Raed Yassin exhibits a series of seven porcelain vases investigating Lebanon’s struggle to come to terms with the aftermath of its civil war, a struggle marked by uneasy amnesia.

In the West, the omnipresence of blue in the domain of public design and private comfort is rooted in its psychological reception: the European eye apparently considers it to be the most pleasant colour. Hence, blue is both the perfect instrument to control minds and bodies and a tool to trace gender, class and political belongings. Blue is the anti-communist colour par excellence. Blue was also chosen as the colour of the European Union, selected to symbolise unity in difference, as well as the capacity to unite in consensus. Therefore, colour is first and foremost a social matter, a range of codes and values that are marked historically and geographically. Through colour, taboos and prejudices circulate and influence us, our environment, our language and our imaginary.

Rujana Rebernjak – Images courtesy of Kunsthalle Wien 
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Shirin Neshat, A Nomadic Artist Between Two Worlds

Shirin Neshat (b. 1957, Iran. She lives and works between her Iran and New York) is a visual artist who works with photography, calligraphy, poetry and filmmaking, recognised for her sharp and seductive way of depicting the Islamic culture and the Iranian world, examining their thorny narratives and issues. Neshat’s poetics unifies the pains of being an exiled Iranian woman, missing her family, and the experience of an artist grown and living in the Western world, humanly and conceptually tied to both situations. She is a kind of ambassador – or an interpreter – of different customs, who traces with an empathetic approach the relationships between diverse, often divergent, societies. Focusing on the role of women in the Islamic world, Neshat makes use of female subjects to tell us about their, and her own, socio-political battles; to point out women’s innate strength and to accept their weaknesses; to fight the stereotypes and reveal the importance of the essence of being. Her work goes beyond the established boundaries, stressing universal themes and values.

Thinking about Islamic women one cannot avoid noticing a sense of oppression but, at the same time, we also recognise their sensuality and even their eroticism hidden behind the veil. From the “Women of Allah” (1993-97) – black and white pictures of veiled women and close ups of parts of their bodies covered with lines of contemporary Iranian poetesses –, to the video installation “Turbulent and Rapture”, after which Neshat won the Golden Lion at the 48th Venice Art Biennale in 1999, getting to “Women without Man” (2009), Silver Lion at 66th at the Venice Film Biennale, the artists brings always into question the contrast between the religious devotion and political diligence of these women, their oppression, but also their reactions and natural instincts. What comes out are portraits, not just polemic discourses, of women, who capture attention for their capacity of making all these different elements coexist in a unique, coherent representation.
Shirin Neshat’s works are now on view at the Mathaf – Arab Museum of Modern Art with an exhibition entitled Afterwards, curated by Abdellah Karroum, which will run through February 15th 2015.

Monica Lombardi 
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