OriginalArt https://originalart.xyz Best Artists of all Time, Original Artwork Art Prints for Sale by Artist, Art Deco Nouveau, Arts Crafts, Art to Wear, Arts and Crafts, Art Set Portfolio Sun, 15 Sep 2019 13:22:41 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.2.3 https://i1.wp.com/originalart.xyz/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/cropped-cropped-Art-160-x-160-1.png?fit=32%2C32&ssl=1 OriginalArt https://originalart.xyz 32 32 120691142 Maurizio Cattelan Golden Toilet Sculpture Stolen from Exhibition in England – – ARTnews https://originalart.xyz/maurizio-cattelan-golden-toilet-sculpture-stolen-from-exhibition-in-england-artnews/ Sun, 15 Sep 2019 13:22:41 +0000 https://originalart.xyz/maurizio-cattelan-golden-toilet-sculpture-stolen-from-exhibition-in-england-artnews/ Maurizio Cattelan, America, 2016, installation view at Blenheim Palace, London. TOM LINDBOE/COURTESY BLENHEIM ART FOUNDATION Just a few days after it went on view to the public in England, Maurizio Cattelan’s 18-karat golden toilet has [...]

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Maurizio Cattelan, 'America,' 2016.

Maurizio Cattelan, America, 2016, installation view at Blenheim Palace, London.

TOM LINDBOE/COURTESY BLENHEIM ART FOUNDATION

Just a few days after it went on view to the public in England, Maurizio Cattelan’s 18-karat golden toilet has gone missing.

In a statement posted on Twitter on Saturday morning, Blenheim Palace said that Cattelan’s America (2016) has been “stolen” from its current exhibition of the artist’s work, which opened on Thursday and is scheduled to close on October 27. On its website, Blenheim Palace said it was closed for the day, following what it described as an “unforeseen incident.”

Edward Spencer-Churchill, the founder of the Blenheim Art Foundation, which mounted the show, said in a statement, “We are shocked and saddened by this news and are working with the Police to restore the artwork to the exhibition as soon as possible.”

A representative for the Blenheim Art Foundation said that it did not have a comment from Cattelan.

Cattelan’s current show at Blenheim Palace, “Victory Is Not an Option,” features a number of new works, including a 39-foot-tall replica of the arm of a Joan of Arc sculpture in Paris and an installation of Union Jack flags that line a walkway. America, which appeared briefly in an 18th-century domestic setting that clashed with the sculpture’s golden sheen, had been one of the show’s most touted pieces. According to NBC News, the toilet is valued at $1 million.

America debuted in 2016 at the Guggenheim Museum in New York, following a five-year period in which Cattelan produced no new work. In its initial presentation, the toilet was functional. During its eyebrow-raising first showing, Guggenheim curator Nancy Spector offered to lend the work to the White House, after explaining that the museum couldn’t loan a prized Vincent van Gogh work that cannot travel. (The White House declined her offer.)

On Twitter, Blenheim Palace said, “We are saddened by this extraordinary event, but also relieved no one was hurt.” The palace said local police were investigating the theft and urged people to come forward with leads. Hours later, the Guardian reported that a 66-year-old man had been arrested in connection with the theft.

Dominic Hare, the CEO of Blenheim Palace, said in a statement, “We hope against hope that we can recover this precious work of art. It is deeply ironic that a work of art portraying the American Dream and the idea of an elite object made available to all should be almost instantly snatched away and hidden from view. We hope that the wonderful work of our dear friend Maurizio Cattelan becomes immortalized by this stupid and pointless act.”

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Norah Stone, Prominent Bay Area Collector and Philanthropist, Has Died at 81 – – ARTnews https://originalart.xyz/norah-stone-prominent-bay-area-collector-and-philanthropist-has-died-at-81-artnews/ Sat, 14 Sep 2019 13:22:36 +0000 https://originalart.xyz/norah-stone-prominent-bay-area-collector-and-philanthropist-has-died-at-81-artnews/ Norman and Norah Stone in January 2019. ©PETER PRATO Norah Stone, a prominent philanthropist and art collector in San Francisco who, along with her husband, Norman, has ranked on the ARTnews Top 200 Collectors list [...]

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Norman and Norah Stone in January 2019.

©PETER PRATO

Norah Stone, a prominent philanthropist and art collector in San Francisco who, along with her husband, Norman, has ranked on the ARTnews Top 200 Collectors list each year since 1995, died on September 6 at age 81. The cause of death was cancer. Charles Desmarais first reported the news in the San Francisco Chronicle.

The Stones, who began collecting art in the early 1990s, were known for their eye-catching—and at times outlandish—complimentary outfits. They were inspired to become art collectors through their interactions with John Caldwell, a curator at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art throughout the 1980s until his death in 1993. Both Stones would serve on SFMOMA’s board of trustees over the years.

For the couple, who married in 1986, collecting was a joint effort. “Collecting brings us closer together,” Norah said in a 2016 interview with Architectural Digest. “You won’t always agree, but you know you have to make decisions. That’s life really.”

As part of a survey conducted by ARTnews with its Top 200 Collectors in 2017, the Stones pointed to a few prized works as the cornerstones of their collection: Joseph Beuys’s Vitrine with Plateau Central (1962–80); Jeff Koons’s Large Vase of Flowers (1991), as well as his Balloon Dog (1996); a version of Marcel Duchamp’s L.H.O.O.Q., in which the artist has drawn a mustache on a reproduction of the Mona Lisa, plus a trio of the Dadaist’s “Erotic Objects” that is related to the artist’s famed final work, Étant donnés. Their first purchase as a couple was John Baldessari’s A Painting That Is Its Own Documentation (1966–68).

“We never intended to collect pretty pictures,” Norah told SFGate in 2000. “We’ve never shied away from collecting difficult pieces. I not only like to be challenged, I like to challenge other people.”

Indeed, the Stones’ approach to collecting differed drastically from their peers in the Bay Area, particularly Doris and Donald Fisher, the founders of Gap, whose collection of postwar art focused in-depth on specific artists, many of whom are white, male, and represented by blue-chip galleries. (Much of the Fishers’ 1,100-work collection has been part of a 100-year loan to SFMOMA since its reopening in 2016.) “Don Fisher had a delimited perspective for his collection that was very much his own,” Thea Westreich, the Stones’ longtime art adviser, told ARTnews.

When the Stones were starting out, San Francisco was a “very conservative community that collected only what smelled, looked, and felt like art,” Westreich said. “The Stones really wanted to know what was happening in the world now. They loved the unusual art that paved new territory, and asked provocative and compelling questions.”

The couple’s approximately 1,000-work collection runs the gamut of contemporary art. Though conceptual art, from its grandfather Duchamp to later practitioners like Beuys, form the core of their holdings, the Stones also collected across a spread of styles, mediums, and approaches, picking up works by Donald Judd, Vito Acconci, Robert Gober, Mike Kelley, Matthew Barney, Alex Israel, Hito Steyerl, Liz Deschenes, Seth Price, Amalia Ulman, Aaron Flint Jamison, and Anna Uddenberg over the years.

When the couple first started building their collection, their intention always was to donate it to a museum, preferably SFMOMA. In the SFGate interview, Norman said, “We realized that these objects weren’t going to be available to the museum unless some people like us bought things that would end up going to public institutions. This is not for sale. It’s not an investment.”

Norah Sharpe was born in 1938 in Alberta, Canada, where she studied nursing before moving to the Bay Area to work in hospitals during the 1960s. She also volunteered to supervise the nursing staff at the Haight Ashbury Free Clinic in San Francisco when it opened in 1967. Later in life, Norah earned a law degree from the San Francisco Law School and worked as a corporate attorney.

She met Norman Stone, a psychotherapist who was the son of a Chicago insurance billionaire, on a blind date in 1984, and they married two years later. Early in their relationship, Norah realized that Norman took special care in the way he dressed, often outlandishly. This extroverted garb would become their signature style, and the couple could be spotted wearing their unusual clothes at art fairs, biennials, and beyond. In a 2012 interview with the San Francisco Chronicle, she recalled Norman asking her, “Don’t you realize that every day is a costume party?” It was that approach, she said, “that gave me permission to be creative and wear what I wanted to wear, not what other people thought I should wear.”

“The same dedication to buying art went into buying fashion,” said Westreich, who noted that Norah had a passion for the color red. “It was thought through and considered.”

Together Norah and Norman Stone would go on to build one of California’s most important collections of contemporary art, and it would span their home in San Francisco’s tony Pacific Heights neighborhood and Stonescape, their 17-acre property in Napa Valley purchased in 1991 that includes an active vineyard, a farmhouse, and large-scale sculptures, including a Cady Noland log cabin and a James Turrell installation centered around an infinity pool.

To install the Noland work at Stonescape, the Stones had to design an asphalt road that leads only to the cabin, per the artist’s request because Noland likes “the smell of hot asphalt in the summer,” the Stones said in a recent unpublished interview with ARTnews. (The property has gravel roads otherwise.) To find the perfect spot, Norah drove around the property with Noland. Norah recalled that “each time while [we] were driving, Cady said, ‘I get carsick on curving roads.’ ”

And like the art collection, the Stones were always ones to create a sense of fanfare about art and about life. “If you watched how they lived, dressed, ate, even—ordering dinner was a theater production—everything was high on drama,” Westreich recalled. “They are as curious as any two people I’ve ever worked with, who were always willing to see more, learn more, and do more.”

Westreich continued, “Norah had a passion for art, fashion, and life in general—a huge appetite for living and the energy to do it. It’s almost impossible to embrace that someone so alive and vibrant is gone.”

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Bridget Riley’s Razzle-Dazzle Career https://originalart.xyz/bridget-rileys-razzle-dazzle-career/ Sat, 14 Sep 2019 13:22:32 +0000 https://originalart.xyz/bridget-rileys-razzle-dazzle-career/ Even for those familiar with modernism’s history in the latter half of the 20th century, the story of the life of the British painter Bridget Riley and the development of her work is not very [...]

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Even for those familiar with modernism’s history in the latter half of the 20th century, the story of the life of the British painter Bridget Riley and the development of her work is not very well known. Now, though, Paul Moorhouse’s well-researched, lucid new biography, Bridget Riley: A Very Very Person (Ridinghouse, 2019) may help reveal to a broad audience the full scope and richness of her unusual, distinctive oeuvre, which was recognized in the 1960s as the embodiment of Op Art.

A former senior curator at London’s Tate Gallery and National Portrait Gallery, Moorhouse first met Riley, who was born in 1931, around the time he was organizing a small retrospective exhibition of her work at the first of those two institutions.

That presentation, in 2003, followed a 1998 show at Abbot Hall Art Gallery, a small museum in the Lake District in northwestern England. During a recent telephone interview, speaking from his home in London, Moorhouse recalled that the Abbot Hall exhibition had “marked a turning point in Riley’s career, for she had been eclipsed, and not much had been heard about her or her art for more than two decades until that time.”

His new Riley biography, he notes in its introduction, is a response to “a dearth of information about the artist herself” that characterizes the existing literature about her career and the innovative works of geometric abstraction for which she is best known. Subtitled “The Early Years,” it covers the period from Riley’s birth in London through her breakthrough onto the international art scene in the mid-1960s.

Bridget Riley, “Movement in Squares” (1961), synthetic emulsion on board, 48.5 x 47.72 inches, Arts Council Collection, Southbank Centre, London; © 2019 Bridget Riley; all rights reserved (photo courtesy of National Galleries of Scotland)

Moorhouse writes that, although “the perceptual experiences” that Riley’s abstract paintings generate “are self-contained, it would be a mistake to assume that their significance is only optical.” Like Pablo Picasso’s biographer, John Richardson, or, more recently, Jed Perl, the author of the first-ever, in-depth biography of Alexander Calder, Moorhouse digs into the details of his subject’s life story in order to comprehend her interest in art and her approach to making it, as well as the character of what she created.

For Moorhouse, the key to understanding her dynamically patterned, optically dazzling paintings lies in the recognition that, as he observed in our recent conversation, “even though her abstract works feel so self-contained, they are rooted in personal expression and express a personality.”

His book aims to bring together the story of Riley’s life and that of her singular art, which evolved out of her earlier, intensive engagement with drawing and her exploration of the Impressionists’ pointillist technique, and to show that they are inseparable. To gather the information he needed in order to analyze such an indelible, life-and-art connection, he began interviewing Riley in depth in 2014.

“We met at her home in London every Friday,” he told me, noting that, as his encounters with the artist progressed, Riley, who was going through a personal break-up, said of their regular chats, “This really is helping me.” He described Riley as candid, but he added, “She is very intense and does nothing by half measures, and may be seen as an uncompromising person. Her powers of recollection are astonishing.” When the artist was a little girl, one of her grandmothers described her as “a very very person.”

Ida Kar, “Bridget Riley” (1963), vintage bromide print, National Portrait Gallery, London (courtesy of Ridinghouse)

Moorhouse gleaned from Riley a vivid sense of her childhood years in London and in a cottage in coastal Cornwall, in southwestern England, where Bridget, her younger sister, her mother, and her aunt, a woman who had studied art at Goldsmiths’ College in London and had been “something of a flapper, complete with bobbed hair and an emancipated outlook on life,” rode out the tense years of World War II while the future artist’s father, Jack, a printer, served in the military. For the women and girls, it was a time of anxiety and making-do, but young Bridget reveled in her immersion in nature, enchanted by the sea and the textures of the earth.

Moorhouse writes, “By the time she started school, Bridget was already a very difficult child. At an early age she had begun to be uncooperative, refusing to eat and being generally stubborn. […] Determined and obstinate, [she] did well at school but did not enjoy the learning environment.”

However, “in her nature studies she was said to be very interested and observant,” and her teachers recognized that she was artistically inclined. Later during the war years, the Riley sisters were sent to a Roman Catholic boarding school, where Bridget, sorely missing her seaside home, felt restless and out of place.

Riley’s father, who had become a POW in Southeast Asia, survived the experience and returned safely to England. Reunited, the Rileys moved back to a house in which they had earlier resided in Boston, north of London, where Bridget set up an art studio. For the teenager, Moorhouse writes, “drawing became a developing passion and provided a focus for exploring her interior life.”

Bridget Riley, “Over” (1966), emulsion on board, 40 x 40 inches, National Galleries of Scotland, purchased 1974; © 2019 Bridget Riley; all rights reserved (photo courtesy of National Galleries of Scotland)

“One of her earliest efforts was a picture depicting the explosion of an atomic bomb,” Moorhouse writes, but she also drew buildings, gardens, still lifes, and portraits. Riley went on to complete her secondary-school education, reluctantly, at another boarding school, where she sometimes got into trouble and was punished. However, she also found encouragement in the teaching of a young art instructor, Colin Hayes, who had attended the Ruskin School of Drawing in Oxford and was a protégé of Kenneth Clark, a former director of the National Gallery in London.

Riley learned a lot from Hayes, who admired the work of Rembrandt, Renoir, Bonnard, and Matisse. About his teaching method, Moorhouse writes — in an observation that sounds quaint in the face of today’s still-persistent, if worn-out, postmodernist “appropriationist” gestures and dogged rejection of technical proficiency — that “[c]entral to his approach was the principle that in order to fully comprehend a subject it was necessary to draw it.”

Although Riley’s parents were concerned about her material security as a woman in society, they accepted her decision to try to enter an art school and were suitably supportive when she landed a place at Goldsmiths’ College, where she began studying in 1949. She was 18 years old. However shy and immature she felt at first there, she also felt at home. Moorhouse writes, “The prospect of embarking on a life with art as its focus felt positive and celebratory, almost a luxury. Later she recalled, ‘I wanted joy.’”

At Goldsmiths’, she had hoped “to develop the means of responding to visual experience in pictorial terms,” but she was disappointed by the character of the instruction she received. Years later, as Moorhouse notes, in the catalogue of an exhibition of her early portrait drawings at the National Portrait Gallery in London, in 2010, Riley herself recalled that she had felt “unable to get to grips with some of the real problems of painting,” such as, for example, how to get started in the first place.

Moorhouse goes on to recount how Riley fell in with art-school cool kids and learned about the bohemian lifestyle, steeped herself in modernism’s developments, and tried her hand at various genres. She also became romantically involved with one of her former teachers and traveled with him to Europe to view, in person, masterpieces in some of the continent’s most venerable museums.

Ida Kar, contact sheet showing Bridget Riley inside her sculptural work, “Continuum” (1963) photographic print, National Portrait Gallery, London (courtesy of Ridinghouse)

Still, Riley continued to slog through an agonizing, almost immobilizing struggle — even during later studies at the Royal Academy of Art — to make art she could genuinely call her own. Her goal: to create work that would capture the soul-stirring sensory exhilaration that had long marked her engagement with the world.

Her breakthrough came, as such discoveries often do, unexpectedly, at the beginning of the 1960s, as some drawing experiments with simple shapes in black and white, repeated and methodically manipulated, yielded stunning patterns. They were sensuous and teased the eye.

Moorhouse writes that Riley already had been taken by the notion “that something as rudimentary as a line contained within itself seeds that could evolve into sophisticated and subtle arrangements.” In time, he notes, looking itself became her subject. The conceptually simple, carefully crafted paintings she produced eventually became known as Op Art, a label she disliked. They represented, Moorhouse writes, “a new way of working characterised by absolute clarity, total purity of form and, in terms of its making, an objective, disciplined empiricism.”

In the autumn of 1961, Riley literally stumbled into the poet and art dealer Victor Musgrave’s Gallery One in London, an encounter that led to her first solo exhibition there and the launch of a career in which her razzle-dazzle creations seized the attention of enthusiastic collectors — she had to hire assistants to produce her paintings, since she could not make them fast enough herself to satisfy demand — and, ultimately, of the art world across the Atlantic, too. Her rising stature was cemented by the prominent inclusion of her work in The Responsive Eye, an exhibition at New York’s Museum of Modern Art in 1965 showcasing new art forms that explored optical sensations.

Bridget Riley, “Blaze I” (1962), emulsion on hardboard, 43 x 43 inches, private collection; on long-term loan to National Galleries of Scotland, 2017; ©2019 Bridget Riley; all rights reserved (photo courtesy of National Galleries of Scotland)

The British critic David Sylvester pretty much nailed what Riley was up to when he wrote about her debut solo show at Musgrave’s in 1961. Her work’s “proposing and disposing of order” appeared to be “no mere game with optical effects,” he observed, but rather a dramatic “interplay of feelings of composure and anxiety.”

American critics were less appreciative. Some dismissed Riley’s paintings as all surface play, without thematic depth, but some of her fellow artists from the MoMA exhibition, including Josef Albers and Ad Reinhardt, savored her innovative achievements.

For better or worse, Op Art became another emblem of the swinging Sixties, even if Riley’s star faded (in those lean years, “I was eating paper” she told Moorhouse), only to shine again some two decades later, thanks largely to the promotional efforts of the recently deceased London art dealer Karsten Schubert, who recognized its uniqueness and hipness factor.

Moorhouse’s book traces Riley’s creative journey through the period of the 1965 MoMA show; he is now working on a sequel that will cover the later decades of her career. Right now, through September 22, the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art in Edinburgh is presenting Bridget Riley, a retrospective featuring signature examples of the artist’s Op Art paintings, along with rarely seen earlier works and later canvases, in which she explored color and pattern.

“Riley created a way of working that she almost exclusively occupies,” Moorhouse told me, adding, “She made art of her time that is highly idiosyncratic and, historically, she holds a highly individualistic position. She created a language to which she has remained steadfastly faithful.”

Bridget Riley: A Very Very Person (2019) by Paul Moorhouse is published by Ridinghouse.

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An Artist Looks Hard at Painful Images https://originalart.xyz/an-artist-looks-hard-at-painful-images/ Sat, 14 Sep 2019 13:22:26 +0000 https://originalart.xyz/an-artist-looks-hard-at-painful-images/ Installation view of Diana Cherbuliez: Trigger Warning at Grant Wahlquist Gallery (all images courtesy of Grant Wahlquist Gallery) PORTLAND, Maine — Trigger Warning, the title of Diana Cherbuliez’s second solo show at Grant Wahlquist Gallery, [...]

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Installation view of Diana Cherbuliez: Trigger Warning at Grant Wahlquist Gallery (all images courtesy of Grant Wahlquist Gallery)

PORTLAND, Maine — Trigger Warning, the title of Diana Cherbuliez’s second solo show at Grant Wahlquist Gallery, immediately places the viewer on guard, as it signals that he or she is in for some provocation. The words position the artwork smack dab in the middle of the zeitgeist in America, in a society where our eyes are glued to our iPhones and social media accounts, where disasters occur on a regular basis and are fodder for our cultural anxieties and voyeurism.

Trigger Warning gathers work from several different series developed over the last few years. It presents a remarkable diversity of subject matter and materials. The title piece, from 2019, is a cotton t-shirt with an X-ray on the front of a hand with a nail embedded in it, taken from a manual on nail gun safety. Cherbuliez gives no trigger warning for those of us averse to painful images to avert our eyes. This is the kind of dark, sometimes caustic humor she employs.

Installation view of Diana Cherbuliez: Trigger Warning at Grant Wahlquist Gallery

On another wall hang three pairs of boxing gloves, each titled “Concussion” (all 2019) designed to look like Facebook’s iconic “like” button. Here, the artist targets the way we deploy our thumbed approval in virtual interactions: like punches, swiftly, mechanically, thoughtlessly. Made of vinyl, fabric, foam, elastic, Velcro, and thread, the gloves attest to Cherbuliez’s formidable fabricating skills. She is consistently meticulous and inventive in her creations — she once made a small female figure out of dust collected for a year from under her bed. Yet these perfectly constructed mitts represent a new level of manufacturing, like coveted signature basketball shoes.

Installation view of Diana Cherbuliez: Trigger Warning at Grant Wahlquist Gallery

Accompanying the t-shirt and gloves are 15 miniature mannequins distributed throughout the gallery space, mostly on the floor. Cast in rubber in shades of brown and cream from carved wood originals, their tiny eyes fixate on cellphones they hold in both hands. They lie on their backs or curl on a chair or do a split while focusing on their devices. The title of the 2019 series, Their selves 1-15, implies a kind of existentialism, as in, “We exist, therefore we text.”

Two photographic series draw on Cherbuliez’s worldwide web wanderings. Following a trip to see Robert Maillart’s Salginatobel Bridge in Schiers, Switzerland — a reinforced concrete arch considered a wonder of engineering — the artist took to Google Earth to explore the road that connects to the Alpine valley crossing. In so doing, she happened upon a woman in a remote valley seemingly looking at the Google camera and then away. The artist grabbed the images and printed them, creating a kind of portrait of the disquiet of our surveillance world.

The other photographic series consists of four internet screen grabs of the warehouse in Oakland, California where the Ghost Ship artist collective was headquartered; the building burned down on December 2, 2016, killing 36 people — the deadliest fire in that city’s history. (On September 5, 2019, the trial of the two people accused of negligence in the fire ended with an acquittal and a no decision.) Cherbuliez, who lived in the area while attending San Francisco Art Institute, went online to look at the building shortly after the fire and encountered distorted and fragmented views of the neighborhood, apparently caused by others making the same search. She cached many of the images and printed some of them. The photographs are eerily beautiful, the landscape transformed into shimmering and broken vistas. As critic Brita Konau observed in the catalogue for the exhibition Maine Women Pioneers III at the University of New England Gallery in 2012, Cherbuliez “is always capable of seeing myriad sides to the dilemma of being in the world.”

Diana Cherbuliez, “Oogle” (2019), two archival inkjet prints and custom frame, 9 x 14.5 inches each, ed. 3 + 1 AP

Near the center of the gallery, set on a low square pedestal, is an older work, “Gift” (2000), comprised of a hand, armored with match strike plates and holding an apple made of beeswax and matchstick heads. The piece resembles a prop from a knights-of-old movie but suggests other trigger warning associations: for instance, Eden’s forbidden fruit about to burst into flames or a fiery ball hurled at an adversary.

In the corner of a separate space on the third floor of the building, Cherbuliez has arranged a cluster of odds and ends left over from her fabrication work for the current show, including various body parts and casts, some suspended from the ceiling. Again, the work calls for a trigger warning as the detritus recalls images of earthquakes and other disasters in which bodies are partially buried under rubble.

Installation view of Diana Cherbuliez, “What I made of what I made to make what I made” (2019), molds and associated detritus, dimensions

Cherbuliez lives and works on the rather remote island of Vinalhaven (where the late Robert Indiana once held court) in Penobscot Bay in the Gulf of Maine. Critics have attributed her extraordinary, labor-intensive creativity to her relative isolation and yet, as Trigger Warning makes clear, she is very much connected to the here and now — and she reflects it in her exciting, thought-provoking work.

Diana Cherbuliez: Trigger Warning continues at Grant Wahlquist Gallery (30 City Center, 2nd Floor, Portland, Maine) through September 28.

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An Unlikely Matchup of Paper and Steel https://originalart.xyz/an-unlikely-matchup-of-paper-and-steel/ Sat, 14 Sep 2019 13:22:23 +0000 https://originalart.xyz/an-unlikely-matchup-of-paper-and-steel/ Eva Hesse, “No title” (1954), ink on paper, 11 x 8 5/8 inches, Allen Memorial Art Museum, Gift of Helen Hesse Charash (all images courtesy Hauser & Wirth) They sounded like an odd pairing when [...]

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Eva Hesse, “No title” (1954), ink on paper, 11 x 8 5/8 inches, Allen Memorial Art Museum, Gift of Helen Hesse Charash (all images courtesy Hauser & Wirth)

They sounded like an odd pairing when the announcement arrived: Eva Hesse and John Chamberlain, featured in the exhibitions, Forms Larger and Bolder: EVA HESSE DRAWINGS and John Chamberlain Baby Tycoons, at Hauser & Wirth’s uptown townhouse.

While they are clearly separate shows, their proximity nonetheless sets up inevitable — if unintended — comparisons between two artists who seem to share little more than an ingrained rebelliousness.

Neither of the exhibitions feature textbook examples of the artists’ oeuvres: Baby Tycoons is the name of a series of small, brightly colored sculptures welded from steel scraps, which Chamberlain began in 1988 and continued until his death in 2011; Forms Larger and Bolder is a mini-retrospective of Hesse’s works on paper, from teenage juvenilia and student croquis through a working drawing she made in 1970, the year she died.

“John Chamberlain Baby Tycoons” at Hauser & Wirth New York, installation view;
© 2019 Fairweather & Fairweather LTD / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York, photo: Genevieve Hanson

The artists were born nine years apart — Chamberlain in 1927, in Rochester, Indiana, and Hesse in 1936, in Hamburg, Germany. Chamberlain was a World War II veteran who served in the US Navy from 1943 to 1946, and Hesse, at the age of two, escaped Nazi Germany with her sister Helen (who donated the drawings in this show, along with many other works and documents, to the Allen Memorial Art Museum at Oberlin College), sent by their parents to the Netherlands on a Kindertransport train; the family was reunited in New York in 1939.

Chamberlain studied at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and later at Black Mountain College in Asheville, North Carolina, where he befriended the poet Robert Creeley. In a 1978 interview in Niagara Magazine (reprinted in the catalogue for the exhibition, Chamberlain, at Kunsthalle Bern in 1979), Creeley described the young Chamberlain as being “deeply respectful of De Kooning [but] contemptuous of sitting at his feet.”

Chamberlain’s subsequent sculpture embodies the smoldering attraction/repulsion expressed in Creeley’s statement. Its gestures mimic and even parody de Kooning’s emotional arcs, while its careful assembly — required by its weighty, unyielding materials — unmask the sleight of hand perpetrated by the older artist, whose paintings were much more measured and deliberate than their swipes and splatters suggested.

The abundance of crushed car parts in Chamberlain’s work aligned it with Pop Art’s manipulation of consumerist culture, while the single-mindedness of its formal and material constraints has earned the artist a place in Dia:Beacon’s pantheon of mostly male Minimalist masters.

John Chamberlain, “COUP DE VERY” (1992), painted and chromium plated steel, 10 x 9 1/4 x 7 inches; © 2019 Fairweather & Fairweather LTD / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York, photo: Thomas Barratt

In other words, Chamberlain’s aesthetic was an accretion of influences and techniques that gathered its juices from anywhere and everywhere, and ended up occupying an indefinable stylistic cusp.

Hesse’s equally indefinable art, on the other hand, was one of negation and refusal, of razing art to its foundations and starting over from scratch. One of her better-known statements, written for the catalogue of a group exhibition at the Finch College Museum of Art in 1969, reads:

I remember I wanted to get to non-art, non connotive [sic], non anthropomorphic, non geometric, non, nothing, everything, but another kind, vision, sort.

What is unspoken in the matchup of the 17 years’s worth of Hesse’s drawings (1953-1970) and the 16 years’ worth of Chamberlain’s sculptures (1992-2008) is that each in its own way constitute a last testament — works executed during the final one-and-a-half decades of the artists’ lives.

For Hesse, whose untimely death from a brain tumor at 34 still haunts historical memory, that brief period was all she had, from adolescence to the end, the flare of a meteor’s tail. The works, understandably, are all over the place — diagrams, cutouts, collages, thumbnail sketches, life studies, scribbly abstractions, with media that included gouache, watercolor, ink, graphite, colored pencil, and crayon.

Eva Hesse, “No title” (1969), ink and graphite on paper, 8 7/8 x 5 7/8 inches, Allen Memorial Art Museum, Gift of Helen Hesse Charash

While some of the works are immature or otherwise miss the mark, the most compelling seem to spring from restless spates of experimentation that dance as close to the abyss as the landscape drawings of Arshile Gorky, shown in the same gallery space nearly two years ago.

By the time he started the Baby Tycoons, Chamberlain had packed in more than a half-century of exploring forms, materials, and techniques, and it shows. His process is assured, his touch consistent. The bent, clustered, and twisted forms, painted in bright, contrasting colors, are blossom-like miniatures of the heavy metal sculptures that put him on the map.

But their stylistic finesse, a world away from the junkyard aesthetic of his early work, is also an implicit acknowledgment of the impossibility of turning back the clock, of deprogramming muscle memory to reintroduce awkwardness, uncertainty, or naiveté into the handling of the steel. 

They are all beautiful, often too beautiful — sleek and sensuous and sure-footed — and in this way they call to mind the baroque metal reliefs that Frank Stella began in the mid-1980s, a few years before the first of the Tycoons. But the best of Stella’s work from that period revels in a quantum of insanity, of too-muchness, of the artist losing control of the process. Chamberlain’s pieces, by contrast, keep their elbows and knees tucked in, sitting tastefully in the center of their plinths.

Eva Hesse, “No title” (1968), pencil on ruled notebook paper, 8 7/8 x 6 inches, Allen Memorial Art Museum, Gift of Helen Hesse Charash

Hesse’s drawings are anything but polite or tasteful. Except for her student sketches of nudes — classically composed contour drawings that evince a tactile sense of form — and a listless foray into still-life photograms, these works all display various degrees of wrongness, often exhilarating, sometimes simply off the mark. She is at her strongest when she’s romping through combinatory, contrary, and contradictory ideas with a vehemence that abandons stylistic consistency and regards formal notions like composition as an afterthought instead of a starting point.

All of the drawings are titled “No title,” because Hesse disliked the usual term, “Untitled,” which she felt implied indifference, and she was never indifferent. If she wanted to assign a title to a piece (more likely a sculpture than a drawing), she would search for the exact descriptor or phrase: “Cool Zone,” “Eighter from Decatur,” “Domamaboomba” (all 1965).

The thingness that Hesse applied to her titling process ripples throughout her drawings, most patently in the working sketches she made between 1967 and 1970. These are all annotated and numbered, and while some are recognizable from the sculptures they anticipated, others are not. (It would have been useful if the gallery had found an unobtrusive way, perhaps via an app, to connect the drawings with their related objects.) But despite their practical intent, they are never technical or schematic, but roam the page along the liquid passages of thought.

Eva Hesse, “No title” (1965), ink and graphite on paper, 7 1/2 x 7 1/8 inches, Allen Memorial Art Museum, Gift of Helen Hesse Charash

Even more striking are the framed sets of shaped, cutout ink-and-graphite drawings from 1965 that are simultaneously studies for sculptures, standalone graphic forms, and objects in themselves. They resemble pneumatic apparatuses at once erotic and lethal, suspended between surrealism and science fiction, drawn with a loopy hand that balances the rigorously volumetric with the flamboyantly cartoonish.

Other drawings take a more abstract turn, with lines and shapes colliding in a gravity-free zone that evokes Gorky and graffiti, eerily foreshadowing the graphic inventiveness of Jean-Michel Basquiat, another artist gone too soon. An earlier body of work, from 1962, incorporates drawn-over slips of paper, many with star shapes, pasted down on the surface into sculptural reliefs spattered with scintillating color.

Forms Larger and Bolder: EVA HESSE DRAWINGS offers a glimmer of the spirit, in all of its messiness and hesitation, refinement and self-possession, that made the artist a beacon for successive generations. Her complex and nuanced forms embraced and disrupted the geometric and biomorphic, ignored the distinction between mind and heart, and exalted the act of making. She rejected both specific and broad claims about her art, delving instead, as she stated in a 1970 Artforum interview, the “whole absurdity of life.” And that’s what makes it click.

Forms Larger and Bolder: EVA HESSE DRAWINGS and John Chamberlain Baby Tycoons continue at Hauser & Wirth (32 East 69th Street, Upper East Side, Manhattan) through October 19. Forms Larger and Bolder was organized by Barry Rosen and Allen Memorial Art Museum Assistant Curator, Andrea Gyorody. Baby Tycoons was conceived and installed through a close collaboration between the John Chamberlain Estate and the Hauser & Wirth gallery team.

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