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- 10/17/15--10:13: _Frieze e Frieze Mas...
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- 10/17/15--21:40: _Polish Collective M...
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- 10/19/15--00:30: _你一定要尝试的最佳五种结合式烹饪
- 10/19/15--06:25: _Sevilla en otoño y ...
- 10/19/15--06:51: _Dennis Hopper “Icon...
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- 10/19/15--09:48: _Warhol's Shadows Me...
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- 10/19/15--19:58: _ASIA NOW — Paris As...
- 10/19/15--22:47: _Lawrence Weiner’s B...
- 10/17/15--10:13: Frieze e Frieze Masters: resoconto delle vendite
- 10/17/15--14:12: Les œuvres à ne pas manquer au Frieze Masters London 2015
- 10/17/15--17:05: Les œuvres à ne pas manquer au Frieze London 2015
- 10/17/15--21:40: Polish Collective Monstfur Wins 2015 Stencil Art Prize
- 10/18/15--00:47: Two London Retrospectives Chart Frank Auerbach's Career in Paint
- 10/18/15--01:04: Inside the Fairmont Pacific Rim, Vancouver
- 10/18/15--23:31: “即将到来的新世界（For a New World to Come）：日本艺术与摄影的实验”于日本社会（Japan Society）
- 10/18/15--23:39: Louise Bourgeois at Xavier Hufkens in Brussels
- 10/18/15--23:46: Dealer’s Notebook: Q&A with Gallerist Xavier Hufkens
- 10/19/15--00:30: 你一定要尝试的最佳五种结合式烹饪
- 10/19/15--06:25: Sevilla en otoño y algunas exposiciones que hay ver
- 10/19/15--06:51: Dennis Hopper “Icons of the Sixties” in Paris
- 10/19/15--07:05: Dennis Hopper’s Avant-Garde Art at Thaddaeus Ropac in Paris
- 10/19/15--09:48: Warhol's Shadows Mesmerize at Museum of Modern Art in Paris
- 10/19/15--10:36: Sneak Peek: Outsider Art Fair Paris 2015
- 10/19/15--19:58: ASIA NOW — Paris Asia Art Fair
- 10/19/15--22:47: Lawrence Weiner’s Blenheim Palace Intervention
Polish collective Monstfur has won the 2015 Stencil Art Prize for their hand-cut stencil work “GRIME S0-019” which is painted on a vintage wooden door and features an image that combines a depiction of a skull with a depiction of train.
Monstfur was one of 92 finalists from 21 countries. The collective takes home a $3000 cash prize and a Stencil Art Prize Award Plate by Principal Partner Royal Doulton featuring Pure Evil’s “Marilyn Marlene Dali design.”
Founded in 2006 by two young artists from Częstochowa in the southern part of Poland, Monstfur describe themselves as an “indigenous organism of artland” that subsists on “the byproducts of modern life and the cultural carrion of generations past.”
Drawing inspiration from absurd Polish humour and what they call the “urban dystopia,” Monstfur explores the curious behavious and traditions of humans through the stories of the Everyman and his world of deviations, habits, and weaknesses, as well as his joys and remarkable interests.
The Stencil Art Prize was founded in 2009 as an Australian only prize and expanded in 2013 to include international artists. It is the only large scale prize in the world that exists to recognise and reward stencil artists.
The 92 finalists are on show from October 17-30 at aMBUSH Gallery’s exhibition space on level three of Central Park, The Living Mall in Sydney.
Early this past June, the Finnish artist Jaakko Pallasvuo announced, in an essay for the German quarterly Spike titled “The Nausea of Uploading,” his indefinite departure from the culture of online sharing. He positions himself in the piece as equal parts artist professionally tied to the digital, and young person having come of age with and on the Internet; recalling the more “pure” conditions under which he became involved in forums and social media networks, he says, “I was in the process of making a self. It gave me life.” His idealistic relationship to such platforms continued to develop as his career as an artist coincided with the rise of Jogging-era post-Internet aesthetics. “In 2011,” Pallasvuo writes, “I felt true online.” Now, with post-Internet bookended as a market phenomenon and a sense that his career had become quantifiable in re-posts and likes, Pallasvuo is seeking something else: “I want to make things that are unseen, by design,” he writes. “I want to insist on being a boring and generally insignificant operator.... ‘Deleting your Twitter account’ is the new ‘having a buzzworthy Twitter account.’ I want to whisper, and to lurk.”
Around the same time, Ann Hirsch—a peer of Pallasvuo’s, born two years earlier, in 1985—released a series of 30 short screen-grab videos, made between December 2014 and May 2015, in “It Is I, Ann Hirsch: horny lil feminist,” an online exhibition appearing on the New Museum’s website. The artist’s work in performance and video has previously examined the expression of female sexuality in a mediated or networked context: performing as a contestant on the VH1 dating show Frank the Entertainer in a Basement Affair and a camgirl on her YouTube channel Scandalishious, or revisiting pre-teen chat-room encounters in the script Playground. Here, our protagonist is Ann herself, the titular horny lil feminist, introduced in a Photo Booth video with a floral bedspread pulled up to her chin and a pinhead effect rendering her bespectacled eyes enormous. Ann is very funny, and often appears as a sort of character. In one video she adopts a hint of a Southern drawl as she explains her addiction to tweezing in My Strange Addiction; she takes on the calm tone of a lifestyle vlogger in dental hygiene haul and vaginal hygiene haul; in another, <3genesleeves<3 *valentines special*, she assumes the look of a love-stricken choir nerd as she sits under the aforementioned bedspread and gravely sings a rendition of “Greensleeves,” dedicated to her soon-to-be husband.
Humorous as her presentation may be, we also see a lot of the artist—her vagina, more than once (and in one instance in close-up wearing a pair of glasses), but also other weirdly intimate views, like a montage of awkward teen photos in The Body Complex Part 2, or email exchanges with her mother, and a private wedding-themed Pinterest board in My Little Skinny Jewish Wedding. The videos oscillate between performance and habitual self-surveillance or, at their most self-aware, a winking hybrid of the two. Their very DIY format, the screen-grab video, is key in fostering this strange intimacy. Hirsch captures herself facing the screen—watching and performing for herself as much as for an eventual audience. We also often see her navigate on her desktop, moving between browser tabs and applications, a process that, compared to a traditional montage effect, can feel clunky and even tiresome. But this technique is important in representing the relationship between a woman and her screen as something that ostensibly mediates her intra- and interpersonal connections.
The sarcastic tone of these videos presupposes an understanding of visibility itself as synonymous with inevitable violence and vulnerability—one that goes a few shades deeper than Pallasvuo’s concerns. Ayesha Siddiqi, editor in chief of The New Inquiry, spoke to such concerns in remarks given at the Superscript conference at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis in May. “Visibility in a surveillance state is not power,” she noted, “and all the historical vulnerabilities that have existed for marginalized voices are simply migrating onto digital spaces. And all the exciting and vital work that people are doing to make their lives a little easier to bypass or lifehack all of the deficiency in their workplaces or classrooms or day-to-day experiences by connecting or communicating with each other exists in an ecosystem that’s primed for their continued exploitation, that remains in many ways hostile to them.” In a mediated context, reveling in one’s identity or revealing one’s body is never simply empowering.
Still, in Hirsch’s world, withdrawing from the Web’s inherent visibility doesn’t seem to be an option. There are shades of the desire to be seen in a way you are not, as a sexier or more poised feminine self; there are shades of compulsion, sharing behavior (particularly in its sexualized forms) echoing that addiction to tweezing in which, as she narrates, “what was formerly an extremely painful experience has now become an everyday common experience of me just reaching in and trying to grab the nose hairs.” There are, too, instances of participation in social media as a form of gendered care work, as succinctly theorized by Laura Portwood-Stacer in her 2014 piece “Care Work and the Stakes of Social Media Refusal,” which outlines how an ethical refusal to participate in social media on the grounds that it represents a form of unpaid labor is made complicated in the case of “social media users whose activity and subjectivity as both users and as people at large is directly linked to the work of care”—specifically, women, in a carryover from domestically rooted gender roles. In a stark and, again, tongue-in-cheek humorous change of tone, we see Ann go from gyrating half-nude with a bag on her head in Butterface to updating her wedding invitations and registry in My Little Skinny Jewish Wedding, the latter an old-school form of women’s work into which—despite her Andrea Dworkin-inflected, radically feminist perspective (which she has expressed formally, in her work and adjacent texts, and informally, via online platforms like Twitter and Instagram)—she seems inextricably tied. And in tweet anxiety, we watch her compose a tweet, a process that devolves into a 603-character inner monologue in which she agonizes over stifling the desire to shit talk: “I want to be a good person. I want to be a good social media user. I want to be better,” she writes.
Even amid more riotous or bizarre moments, the backbone of this series is the very sincere undercurrent of a woman figuring out how to be on the Internet—and how, or whether, experimenting with oppositional approaches to this being or becoming can actually create a path to agency. In some sense, control over one’s identity is also at the heart of Pallasvuo’s decision to embrace social media refusal. He laments the ways his artistic identity, in its uploaded form, became overdetermined, that of “more of a columnist than a prophet.” He implies that deciding to be less visible online is a way no longer to “feel insubstantial,” but what really seems at stake is less substance than the ability to self-determine.
For Hirsch, agency has little to do with producing a coherent self. The different personas that comprise her are rife with contradiction. In conclusion: the real ann hirsch, she moves quickly through videos of herself in various postures while explaining the project—first, a pulled-together version with pearl earrings and a sort of BBC accent, inviting viewers to feel “inspired to put a little piece of yourself on the Internet. So many of us are so afraid to just share a little piece of ourself”; then, reclining in a tube top, she relaxes into an exaggerated vocal fry, drawing the project back to her: “I mean, this was about getting over my shit.” She goes on to disidentify herself from the “horny” qualifier, to disavow the project’s feminist potential, and to claim that its real purpose is to document her body before it ages, every proclamation cut off right before it begins to feel definitive. Each “real” Ann seems tailored to respond to some wave within the inevitable wash of criticism that follows a project of this nature—selfie feminism, vagina art, whatever you want to call it.
What makes this project work, in large part, is a generosity toward the compulsions each performance represents, resulting in a sense of possibility mixed in with their many obvious limits. But despite its aesthetic overlap with more utopian Internet-based works that reach toward carving out female-identified or queer space online, the project’s smart deployment of what could be termed tactical visibility doesn’t hinge on optimism. Hirsch’s exploration of agency has more to do with seeking to express a series of contradictory desires and the culturally produced shame by which they are constantly tempered, making visible less some true or essential self than a messy network of female wanting that is simultaneously a product of, and an attempt to stake itself in opposition to, structural misogyny.
A version of this article appears in the October 2015 issue of Modern Painters.
There are “certain painters,” Frank Auerbach mused to me a few years ago, “who painted in a not very distinguished way, then at the point of turning toward abstraction, painted some distinguished pictures.” Kandinsky, Auerbach went on, was a “prime example” of what he meant. But when Kandinsky “crossed over” completely into abstraction, “the paintings became rather mediocre again.” So, the young Auerbach thought, “the thing to do is to cross that border again and again and again.”
He’s been doing so now for more than 60 years. This month a retrospective exhibition of his work opens at Tate Britain in London as well as at Marlborough Fine Art. It will present the work of an artist who, in certain ways, has been astonishingly consistent in what he has done and how he has done it. Auerbach, for example, moved into his current studio in March 1954, and has drawn and painted there virtually every day since. Famously, he hardly ever travels and is even reluctant to leave the corner of London north of Regent’s Park, where he has been established for six decades.
His subjects, too, are almost unchanging. They consist of landscapes, generally within walking distance of that studio, and a handful of people. Catherine Lampert, the author of an outstanding new book—Frank Auerbach: Speaking and Painting (Thames & Hudson)—began sitting for him regularly in May 1978. She still is, for one evening each week, all these years later. The other human subjects of his pictures—friends, family, and lovers—have been equally long serving.
Before his last retrospective, 14 years ago—the opening was on the evening of September 11, 2001—Auerbach reflected ruefully to me about the unremitting pattern of his life: “I couldn’t face the idea of being an employee in a job, but the freedom and the excitement of the activity [of art] have forced me into a far more rigid, seven-day-a-week routine than I would have been in if I had gone into something more sensible.”
Yet along with this restriction, there is great variety and suspense. Each picture, for Auerbach, is a struggle lasting months and years that he often doubts he will win. “It seems to me that one of the differences between interesting and uninteresting painters is that interesting painters start anew every time they paint a picture, and I try to do that.” The corollary of this policy is that it never gets any easier. Each work seems “totally impossible,” but he battles on “until some miracle occurs” (though he often fears that it never will again).
The reason it is so hard is that Auerbach is trying for something extremely elusive. His remark about Kandinsky’s “crossing the border” hints at what this is. So, too, does a comment quoted by Lampert. To her, Auerbach cited a phrase by Robert Frost about his own verse: “I want the poem to be like ice on a stove—riding on its own melting.” A great painting, Auerbach continued, is like that: “a shape riding on its own melting into light and space; it never stops moving backwards and forwards.”
In other words, he is attempting to capture something that is always sliding off in one direction into abstraction, in the other into a figurative image that is predigested, tired, and derivative. Or, as he once put it to me, there are “certain configurations on canvas that feel organic and alive and quivering, and others that seem inert.” When it’s said like that, one begins to see why Auerbach’s pictures are hard to do.
They are also difficult to comprehend. The subjects are not recondite: a naked body on a bed, a human face, a London street, or—in a series of works from the 1950s—the building sites of the capital. But the image is sometimes far from easy to discover, lost as it may initially seem in an immense thickness of paint (in his earlier works) or a flurry of angular brushstrokes.
Lucian Freud, the owner of a magnificent array of Auerbach’s works and a lifelong friend of the painter, once confided to me that he had initially found it hard to read Auerbach’s later pictures. After a while he had got it. I myself found that the paintings by Auerbach hung throughout Freud’s house—holding their own with others by Corot, Constable, and Francis Bacon—acquired almost hypnotic verisimilitude with familiarity.
At first, you might see only a gnarled tangle of pigment. Eventually, however, they produced an overpowering sense not of the surfaces and textures of things, but of their physical presence. This is one of the responses Auerbach is after. “If you are in bed with somebody,” he once explained to me, “you are aware of their substance in some way in terms of weight. I actually think that is the difference between good paintings and less good ones, in whatever idiom.”
The extraordinary aspect of Auerbach’s career, apart from its consistency and dedication, is how early he found himself. He began, through a terrible tragedy as a teenager, more or less adrift in postwar London. Born in Berlin in 1931, he last saw his parents when they said goodbye to him on the dockside at Hamburg in 1939. He sailed to England and was educated at Bunce Court, a progressive boarding school that sheltered a number of refugee Jewish children.
His parents were murdered in Auschwitz in 1943. At 16, on leaving school, Auerbach found himself effectively alone—and very quickly found his identity as a major painter. “I was born old,” he has said, “and I wanted to make a great, dignified, perverse image, a formal image.” His breakthrough was in the summer of 1952, when he was just 21. It came in two pictures. One was a seated nude done from Stella West, his lover for a number of years; the other, a building site near her house. In the former, because Auerbach was painting not an art-school model but a person he knew intimately, he had—as he told the late Robert Hughes—“a much greater sense of what specifically she was like, so that the question of getting a likeness was like walking a tightrope.” He had “a far more poignant sense of it slipping away, of it being hard to get.” Auerbach began the painting “relatively timidly.” Then, “I suddenly found in myself enough courage to repaint the whole thing from top to bottom, irrationally and instinctively, and I found I’d got a picture of her.” This was the template—in its slow gestation, then resolution in a crisis—for all his later works. It is tempting to connect Auerbach’s endless search for stability, his drive to capture the flux of life before it slips away, with the brutal trauma of his childhood. Tempting, but perhaps superficial. As an artist Auerbach is an individual, but he belonged—however loosely—to a group. His elders among postwar figurative painters included Bacon and Alberto Giacometti, both of whom he knew; Freud and Leon Kossoff were numbered among his close friends. For long periods Auerbach himself seemed out of fashion and out of step. Now, increasingly, it is becoming clear that, like Freud and Bacon, he is one of the truly great painters of this age.
A version of this article appears in the October 2015 issue of Modern Painters.
Wendell Castle is restless. That’s the first thing you realize when you enter his sprawling cedar-shingle studio compound—a former wheat- and soybean- processing plant he purchased in the late 1960s—in Scottsville, New York, just a short drive from Rochester. The multilevel, 15,000-square-foot space (one-third of which was added over the years to accommodate Castle’s metastatic operation) is a hub of artistic activity. Everywhere you look there are employees drilling, sanding, computer modeling, or carving his latest—and increasingly massive—art-furniture pieces with big-boy toys, ranging from utterly manual carpenter clamps to a 5,000-pound ABB robot named Mr. Chips. Evidence of Castle’s creative output, six decades’ worth of archives (from his pioneering foray into stack-lamination carving to his early mold-form fiberglass experiments and radical Italian and Deco-inspired ’80s heyday to his new digital breakthroughs) is sprawled about various storage areas and showrooms. And if he needs a break from it all, there’s an on-site sculpture garden, an elevated paddle tennis court, and a small fleet of classic cars, which, depending on the day, might include a 1985 slant-nose Porsche 911 Turbo, a 1949 Mg TC, or his gem, a 1970 robin’s-egg-blue Jaguar E-Type convertible that would make even James Bond drool.
After a short blitz through this fun house, Castle asks if I want to grab lunch. It’s a balmy July afternoon, so we hop in the Jag, cruise over to Main Street, and slide into one of the cream-colored Naugahyde booths at the Scottsville Diner. This wood-paneled, Everywhere, U.S.A., greasy spoon is a study in suburban Americana—where everyone in the joint knows Castle’s name—so it is probably a little jarring to the locals when the godfather of American studio furniture is moved to tears over cheeseburgers and sodas within five minutes of our arrival. This last scene was not part of my plan—typically, you serve up the softballs first and then work around to the potential tearjerker—but there was no damming the flood of emotion after I asked the 82-year-old éminence grise the most perfunctory of studio-visit questions: What made you want to be an artist?
“That’s hard for me to talk about,” says Castle, choking up, his inflamed eye sockets rivaling the lipstick-red rims of his signature Anne & Valentin eyeglasses. His emotion, of course, is understandable: Finding your way from the conservative climes of Blue Rapids, Kansas, to the highest echelons of the blue-chip art world (by crafting fine art furniture, no less) seems all but impossible—then or now. In fact, as a child, the closest Castle ever got to creating sculpture or furniture was crafting soapbox-derby cars, tree houses, and model airplanes with the tools lying around his father’s workshop. A vocational agriculture teacher, the elder Castle educated local farmers on machinery repair and the logistics of crop rotation, as well as basic carpentry and blacksmithing, allowing young Wendell to tag along from time to time.
“He was a jack-of-all-trades, and not very good at any of them, but I was always around people who were making or fixing things,” Castle recalls. While it was assumed that he and his siblings would matriculate at a college, art was never considered a possible career choice. “My parents were adamant about my not being an artist, so I convinced them that industrial design was not art, it was industry, which of course was not true,” says Castle. “My grade school, junior high, and high school had no art classes, so I never had anyone look at my artwork or say I had talent. I did draw, but no one valued it. Whenever I finished drawings, they’d be in the wastebasket by the next day. It never even occurred to me I would ever be interested in art.”
However, in his sophomore year at the Methodist-leaning Baker University in eastern Kansas—a school he did not care to attend—Castle got the opportunity to take an elective. “I selected art for no particular reason, but I was really good at it right off. I could draw people, landscapes, and the teacher took me aside and said, ‘You’ve got to get out of this school.’ I went to the University of Kansas within a month,” he says, a second round of tears welling between his salt-colored mane and goatee. “He basically saved my life.”
Though it’s not a story he often tells, it’s illustrative of his core beliefs in the mysteries of the cosmos and its unlikely Venn-diagram intersections with artistic practice. “My life is random, but I’ve been in the right place at the right time a few times,” observes Castle, who paid for his schooling—after defying his parents’ wishes—by enlisting in the army. “I was on a train to New Jersey to get on a troop ship bound for Korea, but I had gotten very sick in basic training. I had pneumonia, and the train was nearly there, but they put me in the hospital. I was reassigned to Germany, which was a pretty lucky break, because I met a guy who was the battalion artist. I wasn’t aware the battalion even had an artist, but it turned out his tour of duty was almost over, so I applied for his job and he gave it to me. I made signs for an officers’ party or stuff like Keep the Mess Hall Clean and did some illustration for the battalion newspaper. It was a good deal, because when you had an actual job in the army, you didn’t have to pull guard duty.” While the winds of fate may have placed Castle in opportune situations—and out of harm’s way—his indefatigable work ethic and willingness to take risks are the true engines of his storied career.
“I think what the public sees now is the output of someone who has 10 ideas a day multiplied by 365 days a year. He never stops,” says Marc Benda, whose New York gallery, Friedman Benda, has represented Castle over the past decade, a period that some would argue has been the most prolific of the artist’s life. In the past year alone, Castle opened his fifth, and perhaps most ambitious, solo exhibition at the gallery in the spring— preceded by a solo at Carpenters Workshop gallery in Paris last fall—while his work has been all but ubiquitous at art and design fairs from London to San Francisco. Meanwhile, he just published his catalogue raisonné with the Artist Book Foundation; his daughter, Alison Castle, an editor at Taschen, is working on a documentary about her famous father; and this month marks the opening of the first museum exhibition to focus on his digitally crafted, robot-carved chairs, lamps, and tables, “Wendell Castle Remastered,” at New York’s Museum of Arts and Design (MAD). Of course, nobody—not even Benda—expected such epic late-career energy when he first met Castle in 2002.
“At that time, Wendell was considered a towering figure of the 1960s and ’70s, an enormously important person, but people felt he was fading into the sunset,” says Benda. “In the first conversation I had with him, I asked him what he wanted to do, and he told me that he drew every day and had new ideas every day, and all he wanted was to realize those things. Everything else was secondary. I realized very quickly he didn’t just have ideas but groundbreaking ideas that needed to become part of the contemporary-design dialogue.”
Castle never set out to conquer the furniture world. In fact, were it not for a snide remark by a professor in a sculpture workshop at the University of Kansas, he might well have spent his days casting bronzes. “The sculpture studio had some power tools, and I was going to make a simple cabinet to keep art supplies in, more or less a box with a door, and the teacher came along and said, ‘You’re wasting your time on furniture? Get back to making sculpture,’” recalls Castle. “I thought, I’m going to get one over on him. I’ll make a piece of furniture and disguise it as sculpture well enough that he’ll believe it.”
In short order, Castle crafted the Stool sculpture—and then the Scribe stool—with walnut gunstock offcuts from a local factory. Capping the cuts in old piano key ivory and ebony, respectively, the works were functional as seating for only the slightest of users—“They’re not as comfortable as sitting on a fence,” Castle jokes—but their delicate, bonelike design not only won over his instructor but also won prizes and went on to be exhibited around the world. In fact, the dean of fine arts at the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT), Harold Brennan, caught a glimpse of the early work at the Craft Museum in New York and sent a letter to Castle’s tiny Manhattan studio in the spring of 1962, urging him to apply for a teaching job. “The program was very Danish at that point, and they had a Dane running it, and Brennan didn’t think they should be doing Danish anymore. He thought a sculptor would be a good idea, even though I wasn’t very well qualified,” says Castle, who got a position at RIT (where he is currently the artist in residence) and moved to Rochester that summer. Though he had planned to return to the city in two years’ time—and his staying led to a divorce from his first wife— he never looked back. “I liked it; I had a great studio, and I didn’t want to leave. And I liked teaching, the enthusiasm of the students and how they think about things is interesting to me.”
“For a young person, he was very confident in his vision and what he wanted to do, even if he was going off the normal course of action,” says Alyson Baker, director of the Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum in Connecticut, which explored the early part of Castle’s career three years ago with “Wendell Castle: Wandering Forms—Works from 1959–1979.” That early confidence allowed Castle to identify unlikely (if wandering) concepts, processes, and forms. So did, he argues, his lifelong battle with dyslexia. “It was a huge trouble in school, but I realize now that dyslexia is probably beneficial for artists. I think you see things differently than they are,” says Castle. “Misinformation is good.”
If Castle’s gunstock stools served as his opening salvo for translating misinformation into art—most of which succeeds, ironically, by presenting aesthetically pleasing visual conundrums to the viewer—his early foray into stack-lamination carving laid the battle plans for one of the most unlikely careers in contemporary furniture. Rather than carving from a single piece of hardwood, this craft process calls for stacking, gluing, and clamping boards into layered forms that are then carved into a desired shape.
It was cheaper, quicker, and offered more possibilities at a more monumental scale than the classical technique of liberating a form with mallet and chisel from a single block of raw material. While it was unheard-of in a fine art context at the time, it’s now common practice for many star designers, including Julia Krantz, Joaquim Tenreiro, and Jeroen Verhoeven (who uses the process sort of in reverse, famously bonding 741 layers of CNC-cut plywood slices together to make his iconic Cinderella table, one of Castle’s favorite works by a contemporary designer).
“Rather wonderfully, the process was inspired by a manual Wendell had as a kid that showed how to make a duck decoy,” explains Glenn Adamson, director of MAD. “You get this stepwise model duck, and then you shave down the corners. He realized he could make any shape he wanted to using that technique.”
Spurred by the organic forms of modernist icons like Jean Arp, Henry Moore, and Constantin Brancusi, Castle began shaping idiosyncratic pieces from these stacked-oak boards that questioned the very nature, purpose, and potential of studio furniture. A sensual three-person settee floated like a cloud over a single leg (or perhaps ankle) attached to a puddling base. His Wall table resembled a worm supporting itself between two 90-degree planes. He also carved chests for blankets and stereos that resembled ripened produce falling or rising from a stem, and epic seven-foot-tall mahogany and cherry lamps that mimicked the fruit, or tulips and mushrooms, as well as biomorphic desks and tables whose planar surfaces rose like waves from serpentine blocks of stacked white oak and walnut. After exhibiting work in Milan in the early ’60s, Castle began experimenting with mold-cast, color-infused fiberglass—most memorably in his Molar chair and Fat Albert lamps that put an American spin on the work he’d been seeing in Domus by Ettore Sottsass and Joe Colombo. Though they were marginally successful at the time, they are now comeback hits, thanks to a reproduction deal he inked with R & Company in the late aughts. Regardless of the market, they’ve been iconic since their debut: Designer Karim Rashid found the work so intriguing as a teenager that it later served as the inspiration for his “blobject” concept and Blob chair. “These fluid-like objects, created with new materials, spoke about a soft, ethereal, and technological world,” says Rashid, who especially loved Castle’s Molar chair and Cloud shelf. “I always loved the ’70s works that were in the genre of Eero Aarnio, Luigi Colani, Verner Panton, and Olivier Mourgue. This work appealed to me because I have always had an affinity for organic forms that are an extension of us and nature.”
When Rashid was still in diapers, Castle’s work fortuitously caught the eye of maverick dealer Lee Nordness, who curated the seminal traveling exhibition “Objects: USA,” which helped propel craft beyond the mainstream into the realm of fine art. “I was the first craft person he ever exhibited, and he did well with sales,” says Castle, who had a groundbreaking New York solo debut with Nordness in 1968. This early success encouraged Nordness to find other makers and expand the craft contingent of his Madison Avenue operation with the likes of Lenore Tawney, Dale Chihuly, and Peter Voulkos. “It was a lot of freedom because I had made fairly outrageous pieces. They look conservative today, but they were big, bigger than a lot of furniture at the time. In a sense, I never focused my career in terms of making things sellable. I’ve almost done the opposite.”
When Castle finally settled into a rhythm with his stack-lamination process, he essentially blew up his practice (one of many about-faces in his career) in the mid 1970s. At the time, he was teaching a still-life drawing class at SUNY Brockport. “One day I took my sport coat off and threw it over the back of a chair and said, ‘Here’s what we’re going to draw,’” recalls Castle. “I drew it, too, several times, and I noticed that in my drawings, I didn’t try to implicate the fabric’s texture. I just drew the coat and the chair so the chair had the same texture as the coat, and it made me think they could be the same thing. Being a person who worked with wood, I thought, Wouldn’t it be cool to carve that chair and coat out of one thing.” Merging classical furniture forms (coatracks, desk chairs, a demilune table) with still-life objects (keys, coats, hats, gloves) in one solid carved piece, Castle resurrected the Italian Renaissance motif of the woodworking still life by composing elements with an attention to detail reserved for a Dutch Old Master painting or a set design. While these meticulously carved trompe l’oeil sculptures failed to sell during a 1978 exhibition at Carl Solway gallery in New York, they quickly sold out in a subsequent show with Alexander Milliken, and are now highly coveted on the secondary market.
“I understand it now better than I did at the time,” says Castle of the impulse for this foray into realism. “At the time, I wanted my work to be accepted, appreciated, displayed, sold on an equal level with sculpture. Then I said, ‘What’s the opposite of this?’ ”
Castle created some of his most conceptual and technical work in this vein—notably Table with Tablecloth, 1978, and Ghost Clock, 1985, two shrouded forms that feel like the sculptural forebears of David Hammons’s tarp paintings—in the late ’70s and early ’80s, but by then he was already pivoting again to a more decorative, Memphis group–inspired style of highly ornamental (borderline cartoonish) work. Though it was market- driven to a large extent, there are undoubtedly many iconic pieces from this colorful period, including a suite of painted and veneered pieces (chairs, a piano, and a desk), inspired sets of The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, his beloved Star cabinets, numerous rare wood clocks, and his infamous Pope’s chair, conceived after Milliken suggested that Castle make a chair for John Paul II’s 1987 tour of the United States.
“Milliken seemed to think there should be this special chair made for the pope and asked me to do a drawing. The pope saw a drawing, and he hated it and said, ‘I’m not sitting in that,’ ” recalls Castle, with a laugh, as he shows me the disarticulated and extremely dusty chair in his attic, which sort of resembles the Design Star version of the Island of Misfit Toys. “But I went ahead and made the chair anyway. I’ve torn it apart since, but I’ve been thinking I might redo it in some way.” While Benda was thrilled to hear about this idea, Castle doesn’t really acknowledge the period as a success, and it was roundly avoided by both the Aldrich and MAD for their exhibitions.
“I think that certain phases of my work were failures, even though there were some good pieces,” Castle admits. “In the ’80s, when I was doing the so-called fine furniture with the Art Deco influence, I was encouraged by Milliken, and he loved that kind of work and it did sell; it was challenging because of the type of craftsmanship, but in hindsight I shouldn’t have been doing that at all. It’s not always necessarily good to be facile.”
Another regret for Castle during this period was leaving Milliken to work with the collector-turned-dealer Peter Joseph. “Peter commissioned me to do quite a lot of work, then we became more friendly, and then he became upset that Milliken was taking 50 percent of all this work. He thought he was overpaying, and then he came to me and asked if I’d do 100 percent of my work for him,” recalls Castle. At the time, Joseph was opening his own gallery and furnishing a 10,000-square-foot Park Avenue penthouse and a large Southampton estate. “Between furnishing his two homes and the gallery, he said, ‘I’ll buy everything you make.’ That was unfortunate because I liked Alexander Milliken a lot, and he was really pissed that I would do that, but I couldn’t say no because it was almost double the money. But in hindsight it was a good move only financially.”
In fact, it even proved financially troubling after Joseph died of cancer in 1998. The dealer had been arbitrarily inflating Castle’s prices, creating what the artist calls a “false economy” by prearranging to buy the biggest and most expensive piece in any given show—at a greatly reduced price from the retail figure—for himself. “When it all collapsed, it did in almost everyone who showed with him,” says Castle, who had been ramping up his studio apparatus, hiring more and more assistants to meet the demand for the hundreds of pieces (including a now famous library) that Joseph commissioned. The bottom really dropped out after Joseph’s widow, who wasn’t a fan of Castle’s work, dumped nearly all of it on the market at once. “I was competing against myself,” he says. Castle remained in a fallow period for years after, until Benda and his partner, Barry Friedman, came into the picture. “Artists have to be selfish to the point where they are able to create and put out into the world whatever they need to put out, and in Wendell’s case it was the opposite—he wasn’t selfish enough for a long time,” says Benda. In order to resurrect his practice in the wake of the go-go ’80s and ’90s, Castle posed a simple question to himself: What if I had no employees and had to do everything myself again?
“The answer was pretty clear, I would do exactly what I did when that was true in 1962,” he says. “Partly because of my age, I’m not going to be experimenting with too many radically different directions, so I need to focus on what is the best.”
Long before Castle enlisted Mr. Chips, the robot, to do his carving, he presented a seminal work—the Triad chair—to Benda, which was pivotal according to the dealer. “He showed me a lot of drawings, and I was thrilled to be in dialogue with him, but I wasn’t yet on the wagon in the way I was with Ettore Sottsass, whose last show was dedicated to Mondrian. Ettore said he had wanted to do an homage to Mondrian his whole professional life. Wendell was doing an homage to himself,” says Benda. “This Triad chair combined all the virtues of his practice, and it was composed of these volumes that were undeniably him, but it didn’t look like a knockoff of 1965 or 1975; there was something when you looked at it, you knew it was a piece made in 2006. You could trace our professional relationship back to that chair. He started thinking forward again instead of back, harnessing all the things he’d learned before.”
Tacked up on the walls of the various workshops, offices, and showrooms of the Scottsville studio—including Castle’s personal studio, where he still breaks out a file from time to time—you’ll find numerous poster prints of “My 10 Adopted Rules of Thumb.” More gestural than gospel, the notion for the rules originated with a phrase Castle heard during a 1990 artist talk that ventured into Zen Buddhism. He later tweaked the aphorism, which is now known as Rule 10: “If you hit the bull’s-eye every time, the target is too near.” These rules now seem to offer spiritual guidance for his current approach—especially Rule 5: “The dog that stays on the porch will find no bones”—and he’s even planning to add two more when he narrows down the most illuminating koans from a list of 50 he’s been amassing for years.
“He’s a risk taker and he gets bored easily. He always wants a new challenge,” says Adamson, noting that Castle’s willingness to continually move the bull’s-eye certainly played a part in the artist’s decision to buy Mr. Chips four years ago, which in turn prompted MAD to give him a show. “I thought that was so amazing, that at his age he would be expanding his tool kit in this radical way, engaging with these automated digital manufacturing techniques and using a robot as his primary carving tool after all this time; it seemed absolutely astounding to us. The basic idea of the show is: What happens when a maker’s skill goes digital? There’s also the comparison of his early breakthrough work with this new breakthrough—50 years apart.”
Citing Paul McCarthy’s massive walnut bookends as facsimiles, Castle argues the robot has allowed him to explore depth, volume, and interiority to degrees that simply aren’t possible by hand. While Mr. Chips doesn’t increase Castle’s output—programming can actually take longer than hand-carving—it does help with crafting editions made in mirrored unique multiples. It also increases precision immensely. For the most recent Friedman Benda show, “gathering Momentum,” the artist explored (and exploited) his love of ellipsoids, which dates back to early fascination with auto design and illustration, by using phallic, football-like bullets to suspend sensual flower-evoking seating elements that are undeniably sexual in form and title (Above, Beyond, Within; Temptation). He also took a page from William Burroughs with his new Misfit chairs, which are essentially parts cut from two or three separate chairs that are then reassembled to make a new collaged piece. “I wouldn’t even think of making stuff like this in the ’70s because it would have been ridiculous to make a chair that weighs 800 pounds because nobody could move it,” he says. “But I don’t worry about that now because anybody who is going to buy this piece isn’t going to move it anyway.” In other words, rooms are now designed around Castle’s furniture, not the reverse.
“It’s a different language from five years ago,” the artist says. His 2010 series of darkly titled rocking chairs—inspired by the tilted-wheel motion captured in Jacques-Henri Lartigue’s iconic 1914 photograph of a Bugatti race car—radically defied perception, and seemingly gravity, but even they aren’t fast enough to keep up with his latest forms.
“To push the work further, I wanted to work large and bring in these other potential problems, like things having to be disassembled, because you couldn’t get them through the door. The solutions have opened up real possibilities,” says Castle. “We haven’t even scratched the surface of what we can do.”
For MAD, he’ll do his best to push the envelope. He’s constructing a massive lamp that “eliminates the ceiling, kind of this monument to the technology he’s working with now,” says Adamson. There will also be a massive one-seat chair attached to a peanut-shaped chest of drawers, which is currently being assembled in one of the smaller finishing workshops, as well as an epic 16-foot-long dining table called Suspended Belief, only in a plaster-model form at the moment, that floats off a cluster of treelike, eight-foot-tall ellipsoids. He was even thinking of making a 30- to 40-piece total environment—an extension of his two-story 2013 installation, A New Environment, which was based on Environment for Contemplation, the foam-padded, Flokati-lined reflection chamber he made in 1969—but he realized that, no matter how perfectly he selected the wood (he works primarily in ash these days), he would be able to assemble it only once. “You could make it in fiberglass, but I planned to put a chair inside, so there would have to be a lot more happening in that chair; it should be air-conditioned, maybe there’s a TV, some stereo equipment,” says Castle, his mind running wild, as Mr. Chips makes some precision cuts on a chair while his daughter, Alison, films in the background. Going forward, he hopes to work more in glass (he’s currently crafting a series of weighty martini glasses for Corning, which mimic his ellipsoidal chairs) and perhaps do another massive room install, but with his 83rd birthday around the corner, there is no time for anyone else’s vision but his.
“These days I’m thinking this way: I want the things that I make to have a life of great length. Whoever buys whatever I’m making now, they’ll get divorced, move, die, and the things will go somewhere else, so I really want to entertain ideas that have the chance for many lives,” he says, noting that while he wishes this glut of attention could have come a couple of decades ago, he’s perhaps better equipped now to appreciate the adoration. In fact, when he’s home on the weekends, he claims he’ll put on jazz records and dance by himself—when nobody else is looking.
“I love what I’m doing so much. It’s so exciting, so much fun,” he says. “There was always some hesitancy about going too far in the past, but now there isn’t. I have all this wonderful freedom.”
A version of this article appears in the October 2015 issue of Modern Painters.
由 Yasufumi Nakamori，休斯敦博物馆摄影艺术副馆长策划， “即将到来的新世界”极具说服力地展示了博物馆里闻名世界的摄影作品，这些作品扑捉了日本于其最艺术和多产的时期的时代精神。来自休士顿MFA的作品由重要的日本机构审慎贷款，如东京都摄影博物馆，现代艺术在东京国立博物馆和东京工业大学。
甚至在艺术世界里，1968年代表着一个重要的转折点。在这一年里，我们看到由Nakahira 和 Koji Taki组织的“摄影100年：一个日本摄影表达的历史”—为一个记录描述了摄影作为纪实材料与艺术媒介的变迁，同时也是现代日本变化的衡量指数。组织方会不断地走上具有标杆性的后现代摄影艺术的激发。
尽管这个短时间存货的出版刊物仅仅发行了三期，于1968-1969年间，其产生影响却是深远的。它掀起了一阵全新的以“are, bure, boke（模糊，有噪点以及失焦）”为主导视觉语言，被众人所知的摄影师包括Daido Moriyama。
“日本社会画廊早已对日本战后时期摄影和艺术的过程有一个很好的理解，其中包括两个最重要的人物在这次展览的作品，森山大道和昭明户松” 日本社会画廊临时咨询总监Amy Poster说道 。 “1999年，我们展出了世界第一个森山的摄影作品的回顾展， 六年后从户松到纽约。现在我们又荣幸地提出新的学术，在一段共鸣到令人吃惊的程度的今天。 “
“即将到来的新世界”也是最新的一个系列展览，展示了格雷画廊想要表现的重要的战后和当代的日本艺术在纽约的观众。主任林恩贡佩尔特指出，这个展览“延展了格雷画廊在日本前卫主义的各类作品，尤其是在之前没有得到很好地代表的艺术家们 。 ”
格雷画廊此前举办了其他一些类似的开创性的展览，包括“电气化艺术：田中敦子1954年至1968年” （ 2004年） ，敦子是具体派女性艺术家中最重要的成员之一，和“逆性的日本艺术在八十年代（ 1990年） ”，一个能够看到过去十年泡沫经济在日本的发展与产生的展览。
“即将到来的新世界（For a New World to Come）：日本艺术与摄影的实验”于日本社会（Japan Society）正于日本社会画廊展出，至2016年1月10日，以及纽约大学格雷画廊展出至2015年12月5日。
The eponymous gallery of Brussels-based art dealer Xavier Hufkens is one of Europe’s leading galleries for contemporary art. Hufkens opened his first gallery in in an un-refurbished warehouse in the neighbourhood of the South Station (Midi) in Brussel where he developed a reputation for introducing some of the most influential contemporary artists to Brussels – artists such as British sculptor Antony Gormley, Felix Gonzalez-Torres, and Rosemarie Trockel.
In 1992, the gallery moved to a 19th-century townhouse at 6 rue Saint-Georges, close to the Avenue Louise, and in spring 2013 Hufkens opened a second space in the same street, at 107 rue Saint-Georges, in the Galerie Rivoli, a mixed-use commercial development from the 1970. Xavier Hufkens maintains a diverse exhibition programme with solo exhibitions of the gallery artists as well as group exhibitions and special projects.
As he continues to attract international attention with his current exhibition of late fabric sculptures and gouaches by Louise Bourgeois (click slideshow to see images), which is on show until October 31, BLOUIN ARTINFO got in touch with Hufkens and asked him a few questions about art, life, and his experiences as a gallerist.
Name: Xavier Hufkens
Hails From: Brussels
Director of: Xavier Hufkens
Gallery’s Specialty: Contemporary Art
David Altmejd, Harold Ancart, Louise Bourgeois, George Condo, Matt Connors, Tracey Emin , Antony Gormley, Evan Holloway, Roni Horn, Thomas Houseago, Jacob Kassay, Esther Kläs, Malcolm Morley, Alice Neel, Jack Pierson, Sterling Ruby, Lesley Vance, Jan Vercruysse, Danh Vo, Cathy Wilkes, among others.
What exciting shows do you have planned for the remainder of 2015, from August onwards?
We have some fantastic exhibitions coming up over the next couple of months. “Louise Bourgeois: Les têtes bleues et les femmes rouges” is opening in September, where we will be showing her watercolours (Le femmes rouges) along side her textile sculptures (les têtes bleues). In November we will be showing an exhibition of exciting new works by Thomas Houseago.
Describe the vision of the gallery and how the program is developed?
The gallery’s vision has always been very simple, to show quality works of art regardless of the artist’s age, nationality or gender. This open definition has always allowed for interesting and unexpected juxtapositions, with the gallery presenting established artists along side younger emerging ones. With the opening of our second space in 2013, I was able to push this idea one step further with the concept of the double exhibitions- allowing for a more varied and eclectic program.
What have been some of the most significant achievements and landmark moments of the gallery?
Meeting and getting to know artists intimately have been incredible and humbling moments for me personally, however they were also key moments in the gallery’s development and history.
How has the art market changed since you entered the business?
When I entered the art world in the eighties the business of art remained far more local. Throughout the years however I have witnessed the art world’s complete and rapid globalization.
What was the last piece of art that thoroughly impressed you and why?
The Cézanne collection at the Barnes Foundation in Philadelphia, I was particularly touched by the work, Pot de Gingembre, c. 1895. This work seems to exist in a space between the old and the new world.
What has been your most memorable moment as a gallerist?
When I opened the doors to my first gallery in 1987.
If you weren’t a gallerist, you’d probably be….
It has always been a dream of mine to own my own vineyard.
Love. But what is love? An impalpable feeling of happiness…
“Icons of the Sixties” at Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac Paris Pantin showcases the creative talents of the renowned American actor, director, photographer, and painter Dennis Hopper (1936 – 2010). The exhibition features a selection photographs taken by Hopper in the 1960, an emblematic sculpture, a film installation, as well as a group of ephemera and memorabilia, which together provides a fascinating insight into Hopper’s art and his life as a member of the Los Angeles Avant-garde.
At the centre of the exhibition is a selection of 30 hand-signed vintage photographic prints of celebrities and artists including the likes of Jasper Johns, Andy Warhol, Paul Newman, Jane Fonda, and Ike and Tina Turner. Commenting on the revealing and painterly photos, in which he experiments with the use of an irregular black frame, Hopper said: “I had been taking photographs because I hoped to be able to direct movies. That’s why I never cropped any of the photographs; they are all full frame.”
Another highlight is Hopper’s 1967 anti-war sculpture “Bomb Drop” which was entirely restored for the exhibition. Originally created for art patron Betty Freeman, it is composed of plexiglass, neon and stainless steel, as well as a large scale replica of a World War II bomb drop switch. “I made it in a big plastic thing with lights inside and went through the primary colours – blue, yellow, red – and this big phallus with these big balls would go from arm to safe, arm to safe,” Hopper said.
The exhibition also includes Hopper’s film installation “Life After on Canvas” (1997) which documents his 1983 performance at Houston Big H Speedway. Signifying his return to painting and the end of his self-destructive lifestyle, the performance consists of Hopper blowing himself up with dynamite. “I put twenty sticks of dynamite around myself in this race car arena, and I blow myself up, and the dynamite won’t blow in on itself, and I do this performance,” Hopper explained.
— UK Bars Export of Rembrandt Painting: The UK has placed Rembrandt’s portrait of Catrina Hooghsaet under a temporary export ban. For the past 250 years, the 17th-century painting has been on public display in the country, hanging in the National Trust property, as well as the National Museum of Wales in Cardiff and at the Ashmolean. But the private owner has sold it to a foreign buyer, and the masterpiece will leave the country unless a UK buyer matches the £35 million asking price. Culture minister Ed Vaizey said the restriction would keep a “fascinating glimpse into history” at home. “It’s important that paintings, especially one as famous as this, are available for our students to learn from,” he added. The masterpiece has won over many viewers because of the parrot pictured next to the wealthy Dutch sitter; this pet was named in the woman’s will rather than her husband. [Guardian, BBC, TAN]
— Alberto Burri’s Land Art Project Realized: After 30 years, Alberto Burri’s ambitious land art project, “Grande Cretto,” is finally complete and open to the public. The piece is a memorial for the Sicilian town of Gibellina, which fell to an earthquake in 1968. Burri’s piece covers the ruins in white concrete, with furrows along the lines of the original street plan. The artist, who died in 1993, ceased construction after four years, in 1989, and had completed 6,000 of the planned 8,000 square feet. To celebrate the piece’s full form, Massive Attack’s Robert Del Naja and Italian artist Giancarlo Neri have collaborated on a supplementary light and sound installation titled “AUDIOGHOST 68,” consisting of portable radios placed within the piece. Meanwhile, Burri continues to have quite the moment: earlier last week, the artist’s work made a splash at Sotheby’s and Christie’s, as boosted by his ongoing Guggenheim retrospective. [TAN]
— UN May Send “Monuments Men” to Syria: In January, news circulated that the US was looking to re-up its Monuments Men program — and now, that plan may become an international reality, as 53 countries voting in favor of sending UN peacekeepers to protect world heritage sites on Friday. “The Monuments Men model is what’s needed,” said Dario Franceschini, Italy’s cultural heritage minister. He went on to equate “stopping the Nazis” with stopping “the destructive rampage of the terrorists,” calling for “blue helmets of culture” — a reference to the UN’s infamous headwear. Meanwhile, back in LA, the Getty has acquired a set of rare, 151-year-old photographs showing the now damaged Palmyra. [Telegraph, LAT]
— S.F. Fine Arts Museums Chief Scrutinized: As the San Francisco’s de Young Museum recently celebrated its 10th anniversary, a scuffle has erupted behind the scenes within the city’s Fine Arts Museums. It has come to light that the museum board president Dede Wilsey allegedly signed off on a $450,000 payment to a sick staffer without the board’s approval. The apparent misconduct has resulted in an investigation by both City Hall and the state attorney’s office. [SFChronicle]
— Gilbert & George, Plus One: The UK’s artist duo Gilbert & George will perform as a trio, adding Victoria, a transgender nurse, to the group for a performance at the Serpentine Gallery’s 10th annual “marathon,” which takes “transformation” as its theme. “When we heard transformation was the theme, we realized we had our transformation,” George said. “We’ve never worked with another person like this before. On Saturday we will be Gilbert and George and Victoria. This is the first time we’ve had another living sculpture with us.” [Independent]
— D.C.’s Renwick Gallery Prepares to Reopen: David Gleeson, senior exhibition designer at the Smithsonian American Art Museum, is overseeing the $30 million makeover of the Renwick Gallery, reopening next month. “We don’t want to impose ourselves,” Gleeson said of the renovation of the historic building near the White House. “A lot of what we do is sort of behind the scenes, unlike theatrical designs.” [WP]
— China’s UK ambassador Liu Xiaoming noted publicly that Ai Weiwei’s art is “not [his] taste” — which would be essentially harmless, had he not twisted the blade by calling Ai a “so-called artist” and suggesting his work is only popular because of the surrounding political controversy. [BBC]
— Such fun with public performance art in New York these days: French street artists Laurent Boijeot and Sébastien Renauld are living on the street for a month, slowly lugging a set of white pine furniture five blocks per day from 125th Street to the Financial District, while in Battery Park City’s Brookfield Place, 11 performers dressed all in white will stare at passersby and take notes, as part of a piece by Ernesto Pujol. (See? Fun!) [NYT, DNAinfo]
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Using the European debut of Andy Warhol’s “Shadows” (1978-79) paintings as a cornerstone, the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris brings together more than 200 of the artist’s serial works in the exhibition “Warhol Unlimited.”
Exhibition co-curator Hervé Vanel said that 72 of the silkscreened canvases —which are normally on permanent display at the Dia Art Foundation — in “Shadows” hang at MAM in a rectangular room specifically built for the work. The entire exhibition features 102 of the original 108 panels, which were commissioned by Heiner Friedrich and Philippa de Menil. The other six works, Vanel said, “have the same fate as the ‘Jackies’ and are living the life of Warhol’s other serial pieces,” in private collections.
The MAM exhibition presents 30 more “Shadows” panels than are typically displayed. “It’s striking at the Dia,” Vanel said, “but the huge difference for me is the room where we exhibit at MAM is curved.”
Visitors can get up close and personal to examine details in the works, or they can step back and take in the full experience.
“It was really absurd to me to think that the relationship to the work would be contemplative, one work after the other,” said Vanel.
For him, the pieces in “Shadows” create a rhythmic pattern that unfolds like a filmstrip. At MAM, the panels trail off around a curvature, and viewers cannot see where it ends. The effect is hypnotizing and compels visitors move through the space.
From “Flowers,” “Brillo Boxes,” and the “Self-Portraits” to the “Cows” wallpaper, “Maos,” and “Jackies,” the rest of the exhibition turns MAM into a polished Warhol warehouse where visitors can plunge into the artist’s distinctive pop art universe of repetition.
“We tried to show how different levels of culture are constantly intersecting throughout Warhol’s career,” Vanel said. “That’s something that’s rarely or truly never discussed.”
Much of Warhol’s work, especially “Shadows,” Vanel said, looks to itself for gaps and discrepancies, flaws and what seem to be mistakes as points of interest. “The motif is a surface accident,” he said. “Warhol was always looking for those moments where there was too much or not enough ink.”
When “Shadows” made its debut, Warhol said it must be “disco décor,” because there was disco at the opening. Today, Vanel said, “What it remains is a piece that in a gentle way forces us to reconsider our relationship to art and artworks.”
“Warhol Unlimited” is on view through February 7, 2016.