The grim brothers

Ajay Kurian (b. 1984), details of Childermass, 2017.
Plaster, sulfur, goldstone, steel, epoxy resin, polyurethane resin, custom clothing, screen printed T-shirt, sneakers, spray paint, LEDS and duct tape, dimensions variable.

Childermass, or ”The grim brothers” as I dubbed it because that was the first thing that came to mind, was an installation of haunting figures – children, animals, some of them merged into both, some not human at all, eerily hanging from floor to ceiling in the Whitney’s stairwell during the 2017 Biennial.

June 10th, 2017

 

See || Purr || Listen

Su-Mei Tse (b. 1973) in collaboration with Jean-Lou Majerus
Sound for Insomniacs, 2007

5 Lambda digital prints on semi-glossy photo paper, two stools with integrated MP3 players, screens, and headphones.

For Su-Mei Tse, photographs alone are not enough to capture a cat’s unique personality. Here she presents large close-ups of five different cats, each with an expressive presence similar to traditional painted portraits, along with recordings of each cat purring. 

Because every cat’s purr is unique but they all sooth, relax and may act as natural sleeping pills. Works for me, anytime!

Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum

May 4th, 2017

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Affectionately, MIT.

Where the art of uncovering the mysteries of physical sciences meets with the determination and positive energy of the bright young things of today, groomed to become some of the most distinguished scientists and entrepreneurs of tomorrow. The MIT is not only infusing knowledge into the minds of students, it is educating game-changers. If the MIT were a car, it would have been a Tesla. In fact, I wouldn’t have been surprised had I’d seen one roaming about the premises. I was more taken aback by the monumental work by Sol LeWitt covering an entire corridor. Universities don’t get any cooler than this.

Sentences on Conceptual Art, by Sol Lewitt

  1. Conceptual artists are mystics rather than rationalists. They leap to conclusions that logic cannot reach.
  2. Rational judgements repeat rational judgements.
  3. Irrational judgements lead to new experience.
  4. Formal art is essentially rational.
  5. Irrational thoughts should be followed absolutely and logically.
  6. If the artist changes his mind midway through the execution of the piece he compromises the result and repeats past results.
  7. The artist’s will is secondary to the process he initiates from idea to completion. His wilfulness may only be ego.
  8. When words such as painting and sculpture are used, they connote a whole tradition and imply a consequent acceptance of this tradition, thus placing limitations on the artist who would be reluctant to make art that goes beyond the limitations.
  9. The concept and idea are different. The former implies a general direction while the latter is the component. Ideas implement the concept.
  10. Ideas can be works of art; they are in a chain of development that may eventually find some form. All ideas need not be made physical.
  11. Ideas do not necessarily proceed in logical order. They may set one off in unexpected directions, but an idea must necessarily be completed in the mind before the next one is formed.
  12. For each work of art that becomes physical there are many variations that do not.
  13. A work of art may be understood as a conductor from the artist’s mind to the viewer’s. But it may never reach the viewer, or it may never leave the artist’s mind.
  14. The words of one artist to another may induce an idea chain, if they share the same concept.
  15. Since no form is intrinsically superior to another, the artist may use any form, from an expression of words (written or spoken) to physical reality, equally.
  16. If words are used, and they proceed from ideas about art, then they are art and not literature; numbers are not mathematics.
  17. All ideas are art if they are concerned with art and fall within the conventions of art.
  18. One usually understands the art of the past by applying the convention of the present, thus misunderstanding the art of the past.
  19. The conventions of art are altered by works of art.
  20. Successful art changes our understanding of the conventions by altering our perceptions.
  21. Perception of ideas leads to new ideas.
  22. The artist cannot imagine his art, and cannot perceive it until it is complete.
  23. The artist may misperceive (understand it differently from the artist) a work of art but still be set off in his own chain of thought by that misconstrual.
  24. Perception is subjective.
  25. The artist may not necessarily understand his own art. His perception is neither better nor worse than that of others.
  26. An artist may perceive the art of others better than his own.
  27. The concept of a work of art may involve the matter of the piece or the process in which it is made.
  28. Once the idea of the piece is established in the artist’s mind and the final form is decided, the process is carried out blindly. There are many side effects that the artist cannot imagine. These may be used as ideas for new works.
  29. The process is mechanical and should not be tampered with. It should run its course.
  30. There are many elements involved in a work of art. The most important are the most obvious.
  31. If an artist uses the same form in a group of works, and changes the material, one would assume the artist’s concept involved the material.
  32. Banal ideas cannot be rescued by beautiful execution.
  33. It is difficult to bungle a good idea.
  34. When an artist learns his craft too well he makes slick art.
  35. These sentences comment on art, but are not art.

First published in 0-9 (New York), 1969, and Art-Language (England), May 1969


May 3rd, 2017

Endlessly Repeating

”Josiah McElheny created this mirrored installation with a critical eye on histories of innovation, ornament and display that shaped European Modernism. He hand-blew each glass vessel based on sleek Italian, Austrian, Czech and Scandinavian designs from 1910-90. Then, the precisely positioned them within this polished cube to capture their endless repetition as infinite assembly lines of 20th century elegance.”

Endlessly fascinating.

Josiah McElheny
Endlessly Repeating Twentieth Century Modernism, 2007
Blown mirrored glass, mirrors, metal, wood and electric lighting

Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
May 2nd, 2017

The art of having your head in the clouds

Walking into the galleries of the Linde Family Wing for Contemporary Art, I could hardly believe we were still in the same Museum.  Tara Donovan
Untitled, 2003
Styrofoam cups, hot glue

This undulating lattice of styrofoam drinking cups with glowing hollows and pliable rims was made to expand into the architecture of this particular space. To discover how they react to light and space in transcendent ways, Donovan experiments with huge volumes of manufactured materials. Clustered with an almost viral repetition, the cups above assume forms that both evoke natural systems and seem to defy the laws of nature. ”My work is mimicking the ways of nature, not necessarily mimicking nature” she notes. Here, it might suggest cellular growth or even the density of molecules in rolling clouds. 


Jonathan Borofsky
I Dreamed I Could Fly, 2000
Acrylic on fiberglass and incandescent lamp

Borofsky’s work is driven by the ideals of equality and harmony. Made especially for the wide open spaces of the Linde Family Wing, these flying figures ”are able to rise up and look down upon the whole planet… [they] see and feel that human beings are all connected together and that we are all one – no divisions and no walls.” 


Always a pleasure to discover a work by Borofsky; you can see two more works we came across in earlier trips, in Philadelphia and Baltimore.

Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
May 2nd, 2017

Arthur M. Sackler Gallery |::| ░W░h░e░r░e░ ░A░s░i░a░ ░m░e░e░t░s░ ░A░m░e░r░i░c░a

Together with the Freer Gallery of Art, they form the Smithsonian Museums of Asian Art with permanent collections and temporary exhibitions of Asian or Asian-influenced art, bridging the differences of cultures in a unique way.As unique as ”The Peacock Room”, a magnificent example of cross-cultural art:

”Before the Peacock Room became a work of art by James McNeill Whistler, it was the dining room in the London mansion of Frederick Leyland. Its shelves were designed to showcase the British shipping magnate’s collection of Chinese blue-and-white porcelain. Whistler completely redecorated the room in 1876 and 1877 as a “harmony in blue and gold.” Leyland was far from pleased with the transformation and the artist’s fee. He quarrelled with Whistler, but he kept the room intact.

Charles Lang Freer purchased the room in 1904. He had it taken apart, shipped across the Atlantic, and reassembled in his home in Detroit, Michigan. There, he gradually filled its shelves with ceramics collected from Syria, Iran, Japan, China, and Korea. For Freer, the Peacock Room embodied his belief that “all works of art go together, whatever their period.”

Whistler’s extravagant interior has been on permanent display since the Freer Gallery of Art opened in 1923. Located between galleries of Chinese and American art, the Peacock Room remains a place where Asia meets America.”

Arthur M. Sackler Gallery

April 25th, 2017

Bill Viola: The Moving Portrait @ The National Portrait Gallery, Washington D.C.

The American Art Museum shares its premises with the National Portrait Gallery, both being part of the Smithsonian Institution. First-time visitors may have a hard time distinguishing between the two, but that’s just a minor detail – what’s important is to allow time to enjoy some incredible works of American art, like Bill Viola’s ”The Moving Portrait” exhibit, which was running until May 2017.

I’ve been admiring Viola’s work for years, his use of video technologies, experimentation with portraiture and the fact that he always seems to submerge his subjects in water, an element present in -almost- his entire body of work. But, it was only recently I learned, coming across an interview on Louisiana Channel, that when Viola was 6 years old he fell into a lake, all the way to the bottom, ”to a place which seemed like paradise”. That’s when he learned that “there’s more than just the surface of life” […] and ”the real things are under the surface”. That explains his fascination with water, also evident in ”The Dreamers”, a video/sound installation of 2013:

No water present in ”Man Searching for Immortality/Woman Searching for Eternity” (2013), an installation in two frames, showing an elderly man and a woman, naked, inspecting their bodies with a flashlight.

But water is present with all its mighty force in ”The Raft” (2004), in which 19 perfect strangers unsuspectingly gather in a spot, as if waiting for a bus, when suddenly disaster strikes as torrents of water knock them down, leaving them gasping for breath.  

Bill Viola Interview on Louisiana Channel, including views from ”The Raft”:

National Portrait Gallery
Washington, D.C.

April 24th, 2017

Infinity.dot.Mirror.dot.Rooms@David_Zwirner

The exhibition in Chelsea featured two new Infinity Mirror Rooms, one which could be seen through a peephole (below) and another, where the viewers could walk in (from which yesterday’s ”teaser” photos). There was also a red and white polka-dotted space and a larger one featuring sixty-six paintings from the artist’s iconic My Eternal Soul series and three large-scale flower sculptures.

Immerse into Yayoi Kusama’s mesmerizing, beautiful chaos. You may even discover a kind of order behind this explosion of colour, this pandemonium of patterns and shapes, this sensory overload.

After a while, it all starts to make sense. 

Festival of Life ran through a limited time only, in David Zwirner Chelsea concurrently with an exhibition of Kusama’s new Infinity Nets paintings, in their uptown location. We never made it to the latter.

December, 6th 2017