Archive | December, 2011

Anselm Kieffer: White Cube, Bermondsey

22 Dec

White Cube Bermondsey is pleased to present a new exhibition of work by the internationally renowned artist Anselm Kiefer. Staged across 11,000 sq ft of gallery space, ‘Il Mistero delle Cattedrali’ is the largest presentation of Kiefer’s work ever made in London.

The title of the exhibition is taken from the esoteric publication by Fulcanelli (published in 1926), which claimed that the Gothic cathedrals of Europe had openly displayed the hidden code of alchemy for over 700 years. As with all Kiefer’s work, allusions are never literal but reflect an ongoing interest in systems – mystical and material – which have evolved over centuries. Both title and exhibition reflect Kiefer’s longtime fascination with the transformative nature of alchemy: ‘The ideology of alchemy is the hastening of time, as in the lead-silver-gold cycle which needed only time in order to transform lead into gold. In the past the alchemist sped up this process with magical means. That was called magic. As an artist I don’t do anything differently. I only accelerate the transformation that is already present in things. That is magic, as I understand it.’

All of the large-scale canvases on show use landscape as its starting point. Thereafter, Kiefer works on each of them rigorously and with intense physicality and some of the canvases are exposed to the elements. In addition, for this exhibition, many of the large-scale works have undergone an accelerated process of oxidisation. Consequently, images that may be seen to evoke the sublime are themselves subjected to the subtle but immense power of natural forces. ‘You have to find a golden path between controlling and not controlling, between order and chaos’ Kiefer has observed. ‘If there is too much order, it is dead; if there is too much chaos, it doesn’t cohere. I’m continually negotiating a path between these two extremes.’

As well as the over-arching theme of alchemy, Kiefer continues to wrestle with various history, notably twentieth century Germany. Among the most striking and monumental of all his recent motifs is that of Tempelhof Airport in Berlin. Finally closed in 2008, it is among the most charged and culturally loaded of buildings. Built in 1927 on land once belonging to the medieval Knights Templar, the airport was redesigned in the following decade as part of Albert Speer’s master plan for the Nazi reconstruction of Berlin. The vast complex was intended as Hitler’s gateway to Europe and as a symbol of his ‘world capital’, Germania. It was never finished but witnessed military activity during the Cold War and was seen by many as a forerunner of the airports of the late twentieth century, in its grandeur and ambition. In Kiefer’s vast canvases, Tempelhof is transformed into a latter day cathedral, or a mystical site of aspiration, of absurdity, even apocalypse.

Anselm Kiefer was born in 1945 in Donaueschingen in Southern Germany. He has lived and worked in France since 1991. Exhibitions of his painting, sculptures, drawings and installations have been staged extensively over the past four decades and his work is included in the world’s most prestigious public and private collections. Recent projects include the Grand Palais, Paris and Guggenheim Bilbao. In 2007 Kiefer became the first artist to be given a permanent commission to install work at the Louvre, Paris since Georges Braque some 50 years earlier. In 2009 he created an opera, ‘Am Anfang’, to mark the 20th anniversary of the Opéra National de Paris. In November 2011 he opened ‘Shevirat Ha-Kelim’ at the Tel Aviv Art Museum, the inaugural exhibition in the Herta and Paul Amir Building.

An illustrated catalogue with an essay by Jay Winter will be published in spring 2012.

via ArtSlant – December 9th – February 26th, 2012, White Cube, Bermondsey, ANSELM KIEFER.

The Power of Making: Victoria and Albert Museum,

22 Dec

ArtSlant – September 6th – January 2nd, 2012, Victoria and Albert Museum,

“Power of Making is an exhibition about the breadth and depth of craft’s presence in modern life. The featured objects have been selected to highlight both age-old skills and contemporary techniques, from traditional stone walls to machines that can make other machines. Each exhibit demonstrates refined craftsmanship, meticulous control or ingenious application.

The exhibition is structured in groups of objects that share certain attributes. Some have been created using related techniques or materials. Others are connected by their appearance, or by their makers’ motivations.

There is no set path to follow. Power of Making is intended to encourage exploration and imagination, in the open-ended spirit of the works on display.

Types of making

Makers use numerous different skills and techniques to shape their materials. All these techniques may be considered as falling into one of just three types.

Adding techniques connect, layer or combine materials. They include welding, soldering, veneering, weaving, embroidery and painting.

Subtracting techniques remove materials. They include cutting, carving, engraving, drilling and grinding.

Transforming techniques alter materials themselves. They include throwing clay, blowing glass, forging metal, and baking. The transformed states may be temporary or permanent. Irreversible transformations occur in processes like vacuum forming, stereolithography and casting.

Every object in this exhibition has been made by adding, subtracting or transforming material, or by combining these processes.

Learning a skill

Too many people never get a chance to experience the highest levels of making. Most can make something, at least at an amateur level, and many reach a professional standard. But there are many layers of expertise beyond that. It may take years to attain complete mastery.

At every stage in the learning process, a maker’s relationship to materials and tools changes dramatically. What may at first have been frustrating becomes pleasurable. Makers start to think through their materials and skills, almost unconsciously. Once they learn how to use and care for a tool, makers might start modifying it, or even invent a new tool to replace it. In all these ways, learning a skill is a way of opening up future possibilities and challenges.

In the zone

Advanced skills may take a long time to learn, but the feeling of being ‘in the zone’ can be experienced by anyone – from a four-year-old to a master artisan. When you are absorbed in making, things happen that you didn’t plan. The experience is intuitive, like sport, and it can be meditative, like music.

This sensation of effortless flow is a reward in its own right, but it is also a situation of intense learning. Makers who are immersed in what they are doing build on existing skills and discover new ones. Innovations in making happen, more often than not, when they are least expected.

Making new knowledge

All knowledge about making was once new. Someone, sometime, had to formulate it. But there is a big difference between established, ‘traditional’ forms of making and those which are innovative. Both are crucially important, and both can be expressive, but they serve different purposes.

Traditional ways of making have accumulated over generations. They are passed down from person to person, often through apprenticeships, and learned through repetition. Innovative making is less rehearsed, and may be less reliable. But it is more exploratory, with the potential to open up dramatic new directions. This can involve redirecting existing skills, or creating new ones from scratch.

All knowledge, even the most traditional, can be new for any individual. But some knowledge is new in the world. This exhibition celebrates both these types of discovery.

Thinking by making

Many people think that craft is a matter of executing a preconceived form or idea, something that already exists in the mind or on paper. Yet making is also an active way of thinking, something which can be carried out with no particular goal in mind. In fact, this is a situation where innovation is very likely to occur.

Even when making is experimental and open-ended, it observes rules. Craft always involves parameters, imposed by materials, tools, scale and the physical body of the maker. Sometimes in making, things go wrong. An unskilled maker, hitting the limits of their ability, might just stop. An expert, though, will find a way through the problem, constantly unfolding new possibilities within the process.”


Eva Rothschild

20 Dec

The Irish artist Eva Rothschild (born 1972, lives and works in London) is one of the most important protagonists of a generation of young artists dealing with the formal aspects of sculpture. Influenced by minimalism of the nineteen sixties and seventies, Eva Rothschild’s works convince through their tension-filled combinations of such diverse materials as leather, paper, Plexiglas, wood and metal.

Eva Rothschild has already exhibited internationally, including the impressive spacial site-specific 2009 installation “Cold Corners” at Tate Britain. The exhibition at Kunstverein Hannover is the first presentation of her work in Germany.

The fragile and linear formal vocabulary of Eva Rothschild’s sculptures and objects convince through their compositional clarity and strictness. The graphic linearity of her installations creates a fascinating impression of three-dimensional drawings in space.

In Rothschild’s object worlds, the history of abstract art, and hence the tradition of elementary forms such as circle, cone, square and triangle, encounters the puzzling and meaningful aura of the material. Rational minimalism meets emotional mysticism. The artist’s works consequently contain references to subcultures and the fetishization of the autonomous object: like archaic ritual atifacts, woven leather objects hang on the wall or as a group in space. Paper pictures with long rug fringes recall the leather jackets and rug culture of a romantically transfigured hippy world, formally re-dissolving the pieces’ abstract appearances. The overlapping of systems and worlds of meaning is particularly clear when Eva Rothschild interweaves two model images each for her woven paper works. In “Hand and I” (2003), a pair of eyes is thus pictorially entwined with an esoterically tinged corona.

The artist succeeds in making the spiritually-laden works of the early avant-garde equally visible in her pieces as concrete art’s claims of sociopolitical relevancy and the aesthetic pervasion of everyday life. The autonomous elementary form of minimalism encounters the potentially utopian, spiritual “image material” it finds in the environment of the esoteric and recent social utopian models.

Eva Rothschild subverts modernist insignias with irrationality, emotionality and contentual irritation that endow the works with a peculiar melancholy, an ambivalent potential between visionary progress and reactionary withdrawal. Her works’ subtlety enmesh the viewer in questions regarding pictures as objects of use and the use of pictures.

via Kunstverein Hannover.

Manifesta Journal | around curatorial practices

20 Dec

Manifesta Journal | around curatorial practices.

Anthony Gormley: Two States

20 Dec

You come in from the privileged vistas on the terrace at the back of Harewood house, through a small arch and into a rectangular white walled gallery.

The ritual space is charged. The tension of the massive architecture presses down on the smooth rounded pillars. We are under a wealth of West Indian sugar, a sub-hall beneath a sweet pile of grandeur from the 18th Century. Children have played here. Wet dogs and muddy boots, now clean but still echoing. Servants have walked through, maybe slaves?

 

And yet this place doesn’t hold the irony of Shelley’s Ozymandias – that collapsed power in the sand. Here it is “look on my works and celebrate”. The Imperial power has surrendered slowly and gently. Out of the sands of the Empire emerge two rusty sentinels. They confront each other respectfully, they recognize their long term decay, they know they will stand for generations before their blocks are broken into the archives of future archaeologists. They are not two states, but one pulsing circuit, carefully balanced magnets in the field of presence.

 

Anthony Gormley’s work is, like all effective sculpture, about the fine art and craft of tension, the dichotomies within the material, and the relationship of the finished piece to the environment within which it dwells. The ‘Two States’ are not the two figures, but the historical states of the past and the historical states of the present. The stately home and the post-stately guests. Here there is a state of rusty angular blocks, there, at each corner is the state of round pillared stone. The figures are calm, reflective, introvert, contained. The doric columns are proud, reaching up, extrovert, muscular.

 

Gormley’s work is modernist. In this work the cubism could be criticised for being too literal. I prefer to think of it as a generous cubism. Although on-guard, these two figures are welcoming. All they ask is a certain respect. A longer look does lead to deeper questions. Where did the muscles go? This is a state of structural integrity, a built-up-from-the-ground struggle with gravity. This is abstract bone-work, spinal developmentalism. And therefore human.

 

A what is common to both states? Dignity. Somehow we stand tall, despite the balancing act of boxes that we are. We look more like these sculptures than we might initially think. Our blood is ferrous. We will one day rust. We will come to see ourselves across the room. We might realise that life has been held up for us: there are pillars in place, built by others, maybe polished by us, maybe maintained, but generally unnoticed.

 

This is how we stand, without plinth or platform. This is how we are, stripped back beneath the skin and bone, vertically vulnerable. In this room we are pared down to lintels, lines and invisible ligaments. Our body-room is one of compression and load-bearing.

 

We enter and leave in different states.

Berger on Cezanne

18 Dec

Some quotes from John Berger’s recent Guardian Article on Cezanne’s Paris retrospective:

“During his journey as a painter, I believe his state of mind changed eschatologically, his thinking becoming more apocalyptic. From the very beginning, the enigma of the substantial obsessed him. Why are things solid? Why is everything, including ourselves as human beings, made of stuff? In his very early work, he tended to reduce the substantial to the corporeal: the human body in which we are condemned to live. And he was acutely aware of what being flesh meant: our desires, our blind longings and our aptitude for gratuitous violence. Hence his repeated choice of subjects such as murder and temptation. It was perhaps better that the black box be kept shut.

Gradually, however, Cézanne began to expand the notion or sensation of corporeality, so that it could include things that we do not normally think of as having a body. This is particularly evident in his still lives. The apples he painted have the autonomy of bodies. Each apple is self-possessed, each has been held in his hand and recognised as unique. His empty porcelain bowls are waiting to be filled. Their emptiness is expectant. His milk jug is incontestable.”

“….during the last 20 years of his life, Cézanne begins to apply those swabs of colour to the canvas, not where they correspond to the local colour of an object, but where they can indicate a path for our eyes through space, receding or oncoming. He leaves more and more patches of the white canvas untouched. These patches are not mute, though: they represent the emptiness, the hollow openness, from which the substantial emerges.”

“Cézanne’s conviction that what we perceive as the visible is not a given but a construction, put together by nature and ourselves. “The landscape,” he said, “thinks itself in me, and I am its consciousness.” He also said: “Colour is the place where our brain and the universe meet.””