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Friday, 13 January 2012

Richard Mosse: Falk Visiting Artist | Weatherspoon Art Museum | Greensboro | North Carolina





Irish photographer Richard Mosse is known for his restraining and highly aestheticised views of sites associated with violence and fear, such as his 2008 depictions of the war in Iraq, and his large-scale photographs of aeroplane crash sites. For his new series, Infra, Mosse used Kodak Aerochrome - an infra-red film designed in the 1940s to assist the U.S. military in detecting camouflage - to photograph the people and landscape of the Eastern Congo. The film reveals a spectrum of light beyond what the human eye can perceive, turning the lush, green landscape of the Congo into a bubblegum pink. The photographs investigate the severe circumstances within which the people of the Eastern Congo live and draw our attention to the complex social and political dynamics of this region of the world.

Richard Mosse: Falk Visiting Artist, 14/01/2012 - 15/04/2012, The Weatherspoon Art Museum, University of North Carolina, Greensboro. weatherspoon.uncg.edu

Aesthetica in Print
If you only read Aesthetica online, you're missing out. The December/January issue of Aesthetica offers a diverse range of features from The Way We Live Now, which is on at the Design Museum, London, to Anselm Kiefer opening at Tel Aviv Museum of Art, to a look at Danser Sa Vie at Pompidou Centre, which examines the place dance holds in art history. Plus it comes with its very own DVD of short films from the Aesthetica Short Film Festival.

If you would like to buy this issue, you can search for your nearest stockist here. Better yet call +44 (0) 1904 629 137 or visit the website to subscribe to Aesthetica for a year and save 20% on the printed magazine.

Captions:
1. Richard Mosse, Taking Tiger Mountain (Infra series), 2011, digital c-print, 72 x 90 in., Private collection. Courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York.
2. Richard Mosse, Better Than the Real Thing (Infra series)", 2011, digital c-print, 48 x 60 in., Private collection, Courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York.
3. Richard Mosse, Ruby Tuesday (Infra series), 2011, digital c-print, 48 x 60 in. Private collection, Courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York.
4. Richard Mosse, General Février, North Kivu, Eastern Congo (Infra series), 2010, Cibachrome print, Courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York

Thursday, 12 January 2012

Working Papers: Donald Judd Drawings 1963 - 93 | Sprüth Magers London


Text by Bethany Rex

A new exhibition of 33 drawings by Donald Judd (1928-94) opens tomorrow at Sprüth Magers London. Covering nearly the entire period he made three-dimensional work, the show is curated by Peter Ballantine, who since 1969 has specialised in almost all aspects of the artist's work. Peter Ballantine discusses Judd's radical type of delegated fabrication and his own connection to the work.

BR: To someone who might be an architect but doesn’t know a lot about Judd, can you just talk briefly about what you see as the essence of Judd from a design standpoint?

PB: It's a huge question, but let me try to answer it as follows: architects often especially understand Judd intuitively because he is so much about space and how to create it with objects (or architecture), the higher quality the object (or architecture) the higher quality the space. Imagery is the enemy of three-dimensionality. All artworks are of course functional, most usually expressive, which involve some form of symbolic claim (this is that, this is not this, etc.). A Judd objects' functionality is not expressive but performative (to make space). Compromise of an object, especially, for example, by damage (added detail) is the problem it is in Judd because these marks so quickly become (interpreted as) imagery, which is essentially two-dimensional.

BR: In a similar way could you explain briefly what you think Judd was referencing when he spoke of ‘manifold space’?

PB: The space Judd is concerned with is not a pre-existing volume of air but an ambitious, high quality artistic/architectural space that has to be created by the existence of an equally high quality object. Judd writes that in art/architecture, like geometry and physics, no object, no space. Compromised object, weakened space. The ways objects can be compromised is a long list.

BR: The debate surrounding this delegated fabrication that you speak of has been rekindled recently with David Hockney’s snipe at Damian Hirst ("All the works here were made by the artist himself, personally.") What is your opinion on the use of assistants by artists?

PB: My experience is with Judd, so it's probably best if I restrict my answer to him. Moving from making his works himself to delegating the work (including many of their practical decisions) to small traditional sheet metal or carpentry shops, was an essential part in moving what had been sculpture to a situation where the works became true objects. What objectness is is a long discussion, but there are many things objectness isn't. It's doubtful that any artist-made 'object', even if the artist were, say, a union machinist, can ever achieve being an object in the sense Judd means because of the presence of the artist's 'hand', with interpretation as expression. Fine if that's what the artist intends, not fine if part of your project is an art without illustrated external content.

BR: It’s interesting that the largest (and most formal) drawings in the show were made after the actual works the drawings document had already been completed. What do you think Judd’s aim was with these drawings?

PB: To record his work in the only non-photographic way possible, and on his own terms. Judd might not have been the only artist opposed to photography of art, especially three-dimensional art, but he was very aware of its many famous flaws - its subjective/fictional aspects (likelihood of being manipulated), its deeply anti-empirical nature (distrustworthiness as evidence). Worst of all is colour photography, which claims more equivalency to its subject. In some ways, resistance to being able to be adequately represented by photography isn't a bad indicator of quality for three-dimensional art. On his own terms means slightly incomplete or otherwise 'sabotaged' picture-making, to 'guarantee against' conventional representation, a major issue for him, and the chief reason he abandoned painting in 1961.

BR: How do you think Judd would respond to this exhibition given his empiricism and standpoint that art should never include any arbitrary elements?

PB: One the one hand, I don't see this exhibition as including arbitrary elements. It's actually rather tightly focused on Judd's drawing's tight relationship with the three-dimensional work and how it got made (the title Working Papers is a reference to this). About the other question, about arbitrary elements in his art, arbitrary, random and 'found' need to be carefully compared and contrasted, but it needs to be pointed out that 'found' elements play (found objects, colors, materials, number systems, etc.) were an important way around composition and other forms of expression. Found objects, for example, were Judd's entré into sculpture.

BR: You speak of “how things can go wrong when the artist is not there to defend or explain himself”. Are there any other specific examples of exhibitions you’ve come across where the display and handling are what you would see as unauthentic?

PB: An obvious example, and one your readers might have seen, is the use of what Judd called pedestals with some of the early floorpieces at the Tate's 2004 Judd retrospective, something Judd always completely banned, because they instantly neutered whatever space a floorpiece had been able to create around itself, , turning a piece into a 'museum piece' (if that term is used in the same way here—implying no longer being able to function, artifact-ness, should be removed from previous circulation ), altering the height of the object above the floor, and exhibiting, in effect, two boxes (one by Judd one by a museum designer. The list goes on and on, but suffice it to say that Judd would never have allowed it.

Peter Ballantine will give a talk about the issues of Judd drawing and fabrication at the Courtauld Institute of Art's Kenneth Clark lecture theatre on Friday, 17 February at 7pm.

Working Papers: Donald Judd Drawings, 1963 - 93, 13/01/2012 - 18/02/2012, Sprüth Magers, 7A Grafton Street, London. www.spruethmagers.com

Aesthetica in Print
If you only read Aesthetica online, you're missing out. The December/January issue of Aesthetica offers a diverse range of features from The Way We Live Now, which is on at the Design Museum, London, to Anselm Kiefer opening at Tel Aviv Museum of Art, to a look at Danser Sa Vie at Pompidou Centre, which examines the place dance holds in art history. Plus it comes with its very own DVD of short films from the Aesthetica Short Film Festival.

If you would like to buy this issue, you can search for your nearest stockist here. Better yet call +44 (0) 1904 629 137 or visit the website to subscribe to Aesthetica for a year and save 20% on the printed magazine.

Caption:
Donald Judd, Untitled, 1968, black marker in white paper
© Judd Foundation. Licensed by VAGA, New York/DACS, London 2012.
All photos by Stephen White.

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Installation & Interactive Monuments | Brook Andrew: Travelling Colony | Carriageworks | New South Wales


Text by Ella Mudie

This is not the sort of behaviour typically encountered in an art installation. In the foyer of Sydney's inter-disciplinary performance venue Carriageworks, seven hand-painted caravans are being poked and prodded by curious audiences. Visitors duck their heads as they step into each van, look around inside to check out the tatty, retro 1970s décor then sit back on the vinyl lounges. Hyperactive children are climbing the furniture, inspecting the cupboards and testing the taps. From the outside, the boldly decorated exteriors of the vans recall the precise, geometric lines of Op Art but in fact Travelling Colony, a major new installation by renowned Australian indigenous artist Brook Andrew, is emblazoned with the striking black, white and primary coloured jagged stripes of Andrew's ancestral Wiradjuri patterns.

There's a certain novelty in turning caravans into artworks. But for Andrew, both play and physical engagement form signature components of his often large-scale installations where entertainment acts as a starting point for a deeper engagement with more complex concerns frequently centred around issues of “race, consumerism, and history.” Here, the peripatetic makeshift home of each caravan is transformed into a site for a mini multi-media oral history project with televisions inside screening interviews with a cross-section of locals, or people with connections to, the surrounding suburb of Redfern, which since the 1970s has figured as a key urban hub of Australian indigenous culture and activism.

Redfern, says one interviewee – Lily Shearer, is where Aboriginal people “became citizens in our own country,” citing the community-based instigation of indigenous health, legal and housing services as among its greatest achievements. The films presented here record residents' personal reflections upon the suburb's tumultuous history, its highest and lowest points, its significance to contemporary indigenous culture and reactions to its current contested evolution into a more gentrified inner-city suburb. What emerges as a common thread in the responses is an appreciation of the powerful role that theatre, performance and art has played in Aboriginal empowerment and self-determination. It's fitting, then, that Travelling Colony also forms the centrepiece of Black Capital, the Sydney Festival's three-week celebration of indigenous theatre and culture.

Visitors will find Andrew's caravans moored in the Carriageworks foyer until early March but as part of the Sydney Festival First Night launch party last weekend, Travelling Colony took to the streets for a more nomadic manifestation. As festival goers wandered Macquarie Street, passersby stopped outside the caravans to form an impromptu audience for a motley crew of gypsy circus performers who emerged from within the caravans to erupt into an enthralling routine of acrobatic stunts and festive dancing. There was exuberance and joy in their energetic melding together of various cultural styles, from Flamenco and Irish jigs to traditional Indonesian dance and modern Krumping, yet also a vague sense of unease simmering beneath the spectacle. Where had this unlikely mix of entertainers been plucked from, what circumstances might have brought them together?

A probing and critical enquiry into history typically belies the dazzling surfaces of Andrew's work and here a darker story of exploitation is referenced although not overtly stated. When the circus was transplanted from England to the Australian colonies in the nineteenth century, a shortage of available performers led circus proprietors to 'adopt' juvenile Aborigines into their troupes. Beneath the spectacle of Andrew's hybridized modern incarnation of the travelling circus is a nod to the little acknowledged fact that, as academic Mark Valentine St Leon writes in his essay, The Erosion of Aboriginal Identity in Circus, the “induction (or adoption) of children into 'apprenticeships' (however spurious) remained an established practice in Australian circus as late as the 1920s.”

By retrieving a buried chapter of the story of colonisation in Australia, Andrew reanimates and brings it into the present for contemporary debate. Yet his approach is far from didactic and at Festival First Night, the circus performances were lively, generous and fun. Ultimately, the extent to which audiences engage with the historical undercurrents of Travelling Colony will vary greatly. Some visitors to Carriageworks will stick their heads into the caravans for a quick peek out of curiosity and move on. Others will sit, listen, and absorb the thought provoking stories and messages contained in the films inside. Either way, all will experience in this vibrant, multi-faceted and compassionate installation an encounter with history not as something remote and finite but as protean and actively informing the continuous present.

Brook Andrew: Travelling Colony, 08/01/2012 - 04/03/2012, Carriageworks, Redfern, NSW, Australia. www.carriageworks.com.au

Aesthetica in Print
If you only read Aesthetica online, you're missing out. The December/January issue of Aesthetica offers a diverse range of features from The Way We Live Now, which is on at the Design Museum, London, to Anselm Kiefer opening at Tel Aviv Museum of Art, to a look at Danser Sa Vie at Pompidou Centre, which examines the place dance holds in art history. Plus it comes with its very own DVD of short films from the Aesthetica Short Film Festival.

If you would like to buy this issue, you can search for your nearest stockist here. Better yet call +44 (0) 1904 629 137 or visit the website to subscribe to Aesthetica for a year and save 20% on the printed magazine.

Caption:
Brook Andrew Travelling Colony
Installation view courtesy of Susannah Wimberley

Monday, 9 January 2012

Art, Ideology and Political Ideals | Asier Mendizabal | Raven Row | London



Text by Travis Riley

Entering Asier Mendizabal’s solo show at Raven Row, the friendly greeting of the gallery receptionist is perfectly complemented by, what seem to be, two mock-worn, ornamental park benches. They are entitled Hard Edge #5 and #6 (both 2011), and look very much at home in a white-walled foyer. The sham wood effect is produced by several sheets of affixed MDF, the dark glued edges imitate the appearance of a wood-grain, albeit much too uniform to be natural. Angled swathes have been cut from the sculptures, giving the impression of use, but the cuts are symptomatically precise. These works are emblematic of what is to come in the show. Overtly deliberate in their presentation, they imply a play on abstraction, with direct reference to Modernist sculpture, but also exhibit a system of signs that allows multiple possible meanings or functions. Through the employment of visual, cultural, and ideological symbols, Mendizabal intends to call attention to mass-participatory, sub-cultural, and political ideals.

In the next room, it is La Ruota Dentata [The Cogwheel] (2009) that really breaks the ice. Industrial in appearance, La Ruota Dentata is a large-scale sculpture made from concrete surfaces and an iron frame. It appears to be the skeletal structure of an incomplete cog, containing only its top three teeth. The form of a cogwheel symbolically speaks of collectivism and labour, but its fragmentary form gives a sense of expectation, the omission goes unexplained. The main body of the sculpture is leant up against a platform, causing it to face outwards, angled from the corner of the room, consuming the open space before it, and generating a directional gaze to another piece of wheel-like equipment. Untitled (Targu Jiu) (2010) is a concrete cast of a large tyre from a piece of heavy machinery. The tyre is deprived of air, its central gap, and consequently, of any sense of functionality.

Throughout the exhibition Mendizabal juxtaposes his more abstract sculptural forms against more immediately political work hung on the walls. In this room, contrasting with the representations of machinery, there are: a set of prints from Mendizabal’s Figures and Prefigurations (2009) series, showing images of ideological crowds and rallies obscured by templates of early Modern photomontages, Bigger than a Cult Smaller than a Mass (2006) a direct presentation of a series of sixteen flags concealing a wall of newsprint behind them, and an essay giving a coherent theoretical reference point from which to view the show.

The essay presents and contextualises quotes from a letter written by Jorge Orteiza. The letter was addressed to the judges of a 1952 sculptural competition, run through the ICA, for a sculpture as a monument to “The Unknown Political Prisoner”. Along with the Medizabal’s own remarks concerning the objectionable subject matter, the essay allows quotations from the letter in question to address an argument conveying the issues of abstract sculptures potential to provide apt political representation. Needless to say, the topic sits very comfortably within the themes of the surrounding work.

Given the heavy contextualisation of the exhibition literature and two further essays presented alongside, it is possible to get so caught up in the series of references as to miss Mendizabal’s strongest suit, his remarkable sculptural intuition. In Le Trou (The Hole) (2009) he converts bathroom tiles and Styrofoam into a free standing tiled surface, that appears absurdly two-dimensional when viewed from the front. Its conceptual reference points, from French cinema, and a Basque prison escape (made clear in the exhibition literature) add a political dimension to the work, but cannot be perceived in any way from the fabric of the sculpture. Although conceptually interesting, they ultimately detract from the piece’s curious material value.

Further proof of Mendizabal’s sculptural deftness of touch is Know Your Rights (2009). The sculpture consists of an aluminium frame covered with rectangles of plasterboard. It takes the strictly symmetrical shape of a recumbent ‘K’, and fills one of the gallery’s small rooms. Although, the jutting diagonals of the structure don’t reach far from the floor, the leaning angles draw the spectator into the sculpture, giving a heightened sense of spatial awareness, almost to the point of vertigo. It is illusively simple in form compared to the other sculptures, but its use of the materials and aesthetics of modern construction mean it retains an immediate reference point despite its abstraction.

In many of Mendizabal’s works, what is omitted is as important as what is shown. The missing two thirds of La Ruota Dentata, the newspaper hidden behind the flags of Bigger than a Cult Smaller than a Mass, and the ink showing through from the reverse of the page in his beguiling prints, entitled Assemble (this is the way its done) are all accomplished examples of this motif. Further to this, the very deliberate curation of the individual pieces is admirable. Series of works are not presented together, but separated across the three floors of the gallery, aiding a coherent, correlative reading of the work as a whole, and providing much more contrast and intrigue along the way. Contrarily, throughout the show, too much information is given too soon. The works are strong enough in their own right for the viewer to be given the chance to read them independent of the provided material. Go and see the show, but maybe take the essay home with you to read later instead.

Asier Mendizabal, 08/12/2011 – 12/02/2012, Raven Row, 56 Artillery Lane, London. www.ravenrow.org

Raven Row will host Asier Mendizabal in conversation with Pablo Lafuente, an editor at Afterall and curator at the Office for Contemporary Art Norway, and Alex Sainsbury, Raven Row's director, to talk about his current exhibition and practice on Wednesday 18 January at 7pm. This event is free but booking is essential as space is limited. Please email info@ravenrow.org to reserve a place.

Aesthetica in Print
If you only read Aesthetica online, you're missing out. The December/January issue of Aesthetica offers a diverse range of features from The Way We Live Now, which is on at the Design Museum, London, to Anselm Kiefer opening at Tel Aviv Museum of Art, to a look at Danser Sa Vie at Pompidou Centre, which examines the place dance holds in art history. Plus it comes with its very own DVD of short films from the Aesthetica Short Film Festival.

If you would like to buy this issue, you can search for your nearest stockist here. Better yet call +44 (0) 1904 629 137 or visit the website to subscribe to Aesthetica for a year and save 20% on the printed magazine.

Captions:
1. Bigger than a Cult, Smaller than a Mass (one, two backdrops), 2006
Fabric and newspapers
Collection of Patric San Juan, Bilbao
Photo: Marcus J.Leith
2. La Ruota Dentata (The Cogwheel), 2009
Iron and concrete
Museo Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid
Photo: Marcus J. Leith

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