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Niki de Saint Phalle – Ready To Kill

In 1960 I was a very angry young woman. Angry at men and their power. I felt that they had robbed me of my own free space in which I could develop myself.
 
I wanted to conquer their world, to earn my own money. Angry with my parents who I felt had raised me for the marriage market. I wanted to show them that I was somebody, that I existed and that my voice and my scream of protest as a woman was important.
 
I was ready to kill.

Niki Saint Phalle’s unique brand of feminist art expressed both jouissance and angst in equal measure, and explored the complex and confounding ways in which biology and culture co-construct the female experience.

She was born on October, 29, 1930 to an aristocratic Catholic family as a second of five children; her father André was a wealthy French banker, and her mother Jacqueline Harper was an American, but raised in French.

Soon after her birth, facing with aftershocks of the Black Tuesday, the French wing of the Great Depression, the Saint Phalle’s lost their fortune; her father was forced to close his finance company and they moved to the United States.

From an early age, Niki pushed the boundaries in her personal and artistic life. She attended the prestigious Brearley School in New York, which she found to be a formative experience for her, and a place where she became a feminist.

However, she was expelled for painting the fig leaves covering the genitals of statues on the school’s campus red.

Coming of Age

When she was 18, Saint Phalle eloped with Harry Mathews, a person that she knew through her father.

Both of them were artistically inclined, oversensitive, overtly rebellious romantics, and they bounded together as such. While Mathews studied music at Harvard University, Saint Phalle began exploring painting, and gave birth to their daughter Laura in 1951, when she was 20 years old.

In 1952, the couple moved to Paris, where Mathews continued to study music, learning to become a conductor, while Niki studied theater to become an actress, and she was also modelling for Elle and Vogue.

The following year, Saint Phalle was diagnosed with a nervous breakdown, and hospitalized in a psychiatric facility.

At this point of her life, she had gone through a violent nervous breakdown, caused by the facts she had married young and somehow accepted the conservative values and the lifestyle of her family that she wanted to reject so badly.

Niki was first treated with a barbarous treatment, a series of electric shocks, but luckily, she ended up in the hands of a humane psychiatrist who restored her to mental health.

She was encouraged to paint as a form of therapy; somewhere in between the shocks and analysis, she began doing her first collages, and soon after that her first paintings.

They were so original and compelling, that her husband, following her energetic example, gave up all thoughts of a musician career and began writing for the first time since 1949.

The couple moved to Majorca off the coast of Spain, where their son Philip was born in 1955. During this time, Niki developed her imaginative, self-though style of painting, experimenting with a variety of materials and forms.

During the visit to Barcelona, she was stuck by the work of Spanish architect Antonio Gaudi and his park Güell, which was instrumental in Niki’s early conceptualization of the elaborate sculpture garden she would fulfill much later in her career.

Saint Phalle’s art was also influenced by other various artists such as Paul Klee, Henri Matisse, Henri Rousseau, Pablo Picasso, Jasper Johns, Robert Rauschenberg and Jackson Pollock.

At the end of the 1950s, Niki and her husband moved back to Paris; in 1960, she divorced Mathews, giving him the custody of their children. She met artist Jean Tinguely, with whom she would collaborate artistically; within a year, they had began a romantic relationship, and eventually married in 1971.

Niki Saint Phalle’s first solo exhibition in 1961, punctuated a dynamic period of her early career and she met a number of influential artists living in Paris at that time, whose use of found objects was to have a strong influence on her work.

On show were several of her Shooting Paintings. They were made by fixing polythene bags of paint to a board, and covering them with a thick plaster surface. Viewers were invited to shoot a rifle at the surface, popping the bags and causing the paint to run down the textured white surface.

The process of creating the artwork became a live performative event done in the public eye, and with the public’s participation, challenging traditional perceptions of the artist as a hermetic figure. Shooting Paintings involve the viewer directly and physically in the creation of the work, and leave the resulting image to chance.

In this period, Saint Phalle’s artistic work had become a bold act of defiance, reclamation of space for herself, and for women. She started to articulate these ideas and combining them with other social and political issues‒ amidst an atmosphere of radical ideas, from civil rights, anti-war and anti-violence protests to campaigns for women’s rights and sexual liberation across the West.

Famous Works

The Crucifixion piece, from 1963, an abstracted female figure, is made from found objects and fixed on the flat surface of the wall. It partly resembles to the method of sculptural assemblage, a combination of collage and sculpture that brings in a third dimension by adding elements that project out of a planar, two-dimensional surface.

The work responds to the genre-blending of mid-century abstraction and expresses Saint Phalle’s attitude towards the female condition, which she saw as a highly ambiguous and contentious state.

The figure comprises together suggestions and formal elements of the constructed, biological-cultural stages of womanhood: youthful and sexualized, maternal and abundant, elderly and confined.

The figure has no arms, indicating a lack of female agency and disempowerment within a society that strongly delineates woman’s roles in accordance with diminishing reproductive capacity.

Her most famous and prolific series of works, the Nanas, were inspired by a friend’s pregnancy, her reflections on archetypal feminine forms, and the vexed positions that women occupy in modern, patriarchal societies.

‘Nanas’, a French slang word roughly equivalent to ‘broads’, is a title that encapsulates the theme of the everywoman as well as the casual denigration that closely accompanies the rhetorical grouping of women as a social category.

The Black Venus (1965-67), a large-scale sculpture presents a non-traditional view of the goddess figure and does not conform to the stereotypes of female beauty established by Western classical art, and does not recall sculptural goddess form of the Ancient Western world.

Instead, the figure is large-limbed, black-skinned, actively in motion, and adorned in a colorful, cartoonish bathing costume.

In 1966, she collaborated with Tinguely and Olof Ultvedt on a project for Moderna Museet in Stockholm, Sweden. The trio created a large installation Hon-A Cathedral, the largest nana figure; the installation provoked a strong reaction from the public.

It is a large-scale sculptural work which viewers could enter from the vaginal opening, and could hold up to 150 people at a time. ‘Hon’ is the Swedish word for ‘she’, implying that the sculpture is both a symbol for the every-woman and a cathedral-like space for the worship of woman and femininity.

Its structure references classical architectural theories about the entrance to cathedrals and their metaphoric and symbolic relationship to female genitalia. The feature also presents the woman’s body as a place of exchange and creation, a generative space of new life by way of its exit.

That was also the period when Niki worked on Le Paradis Fantastique, a commission for the French Pavilion at Expo Montreal, Canada in 1967.

While she was working on this project with Tinguely, St Phalle’s lungs were severely damaged by polyester resin toxic fumes. Her favorite material, polyester, was the cause of her recurring health problems.

During the early 1970s, she spent some time in the Swiss mountains recuperating from a serious lung illness. In Swiss, Niki met childhood friend, Marella Caracciolo Agnelli who was a well-connected socialite with a penchant for collecting art.

Saint Phelle told her about her vision of creating elaborating sculpture garden of Tarot symbology. With Agnelli’s help, she acquired a parcel in Tuscany, Italy. In 1978, the foundations were laid, and two years later, the construction of the first sculpture began;

The Empress, an enormous sculptural building designed in the shaped of a sphinx, became her home and studio for the next decade.

Elaborately decorated with mosaics and ceramics on the outside and Venetian glass on the inside, the work maintains the aesthetic of assemblage used in many of her earlier works.

Niki spent many years completely immersed in the creation of her dream place. After nearly 20 years of intensive work, financial and health problems, the garden was opened in 1998. It contained vibrant mosaics and colossal sculptures, based on the Tarot cards symbols.

Tarot is an ancient, venerable set of cards, with picture representations of archetypal, elementary situations upon them. They described existential, human experiences and psychic states. Saint Phalle was deeply convinced that the cards have a considerable meaning.

She saw the Tarot Garden as a site which crosses boundaries into the religious and where everyone is potentially able to have a direct experience of the archetypal content of the Tarot.

The idea came from Antonio Gaudi’s Park Guell, but the garden became much more than a simple variation on Gaudi’s concept. It was her absolute, on-going concern, and a deep, captivating theme for life.

Jean Tinguely died in Switzerland, 1991, and Saint Phalle began to make a series of kinetic sculptures, his chief sculptural medium, to honor his memory.

The Grotto

The Grotto, Hanover (2001-2003), the final instalment in a series of semi-architectural works accessible to public is the last project Saint Phalle worked on before her death.

This particular cave was originally built in the baroque style in 1676 as a place for members of the Hanover court to escape the heat.

Niki was invited to turn the space into an immersive art environment; she created a design in response to the formal qualities of the existing architecture, and maintained the original function of the Grotto.

Grotto consists of three rooms, each decorated in different style. The central room’s (‘Spirituality’) walls feature a spiral of yellow, gold and orange mosaic pieces made of glass and ceramics, along with river pebbles and seashells.

The room on the right is set against a field of dark cobalt blue, inspired by the work of Henri Matisse.

The final room is bright and full of silver shards of mirrors, creating an impression of continuous daylight inside the dark cave. The room features sculptural figures in a range of styles from across Niki’s career, acting as a form of retrospection of her oeuvre.

Death

Niki Saint Phalle died on May, 21, 2002, after six months in intensive care in La Jolla, California. Her death was caused by emphysema, a chronic obstructive lung disease.

Saint Phalle continually disrupted long-held conventions in art; her iconoclastic approach to her identity and society at large made her an early and important voice to both the development of early conceptual art and the feminist movement.

Her work often combined plastic art and performance in new ways, blending and dismantling hierarchies between sculpture, painting and performance in a way that would influence conceptual artists and their thinking toward developing new and hybrid forms rather than refining single-medium-specificity.

 

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François-Auguste-René Rodin – Father of Modern Sculpture

In front of the model, I work with the same desire to copy the truth as if I were making a portrait; I do not correct nature, I incorporate myself into her; she leads me.
 
I can work only from a model. The sign of the human form fortifies and nourishes me.

François-Auguste-René Rodin’s story recalls the archetypical struggle of the modern artist.

He was born on November 12, 1840 in a poor area of Paris’s fifth arrondissement to Jean-Baptiste Rodin, an office clerk in the local police station and his second wife, Marie Cheffer.

Early Life

In 1854, he decided to pursue a career in the arts, attending the Ecole Speciale de Dessin et de Mathematiques which trained boys in the decorative arts.

Due to poor vision, Rodin was greatly distressed at a young age. Unaware of his imperfect eyesight, (he was nearsighted) a dejected Rodin found comfort in drawing, which allowed him to clearly see his progress as he practiced on drawing paper.

By age 14, Rodin had developed obvious skills as artist, and soon began taking formal art courses. While completing his studies, the aspiring young artist began to doubt himself, receiving little validation or encouragement from his instructors and fellow students.

After three years of studying sculpture and drawing, he applied to attend the prestigious Ecole des Beaux-Arts. He was gravely disappointed when the school denied him admission.

While he passed the drawing competition, he failed three times in the sculpture competition; his pursuit of naturalism did not suit the school’s academic style.

After the third rejection, Rodin resigned himself, at the age of 19, to take job in plaster workshops to create architectural ornaments.

His career in the decorative arts working on public monuments provided him with a meager living for the next 20 years.

He continued to make sculptures, and by the mid-1860s he had completed what he would later describe as his first major work ‘’Mask of the Man With the Broken Nose’’ (1863-64).

The piece was rejected twice by the Paris Salon due to the realism of the portrait, which departed from classic notions of beauty and featured the face of a local handyman.

In 1866, Rodin met Rose Beuret, and she remained his lifetime companion despite his numerous affairs.

Around this time, Rodin found better fortune-filling commissions in the workshop of Albert-Ernest Carrier-Belleuse, a commercial sculptor, but the steady work and increased income was disrupted by the Franco-Prussian War in 1870.

A fateful trip to Italy in 1875, with an eye on Michelangelo’s work further stirred Rodin’s inner artist, enlightening him to new kinds of possibilities, he returned to Paris inspired to create and design.

The Age of Bronze

In 1876, Rodin completed his piece ‘’The Vanquished’’, which he called ‘’The Age of Bronze’’, a life-size sculpture of a nude man clenching both of his fists, with his right hand hanging over his head.

A young officer was the model for this sculpture, which provided the first great ‘success de scandale’ of Rodin’s career. The composition and rough surface of the figure were unconventional by academic standards.

The subject also remained obscure- the title only vaguely suggesting classical art- and prompted confusion among critics; rather than clothe his image of man in respected symbolism, Rodin had presented a common man, naked.

The Salon accepted the work, but doubts were raised about its authenticity and many accused him of casting directly from the model’s body; the sculpture appeared so realistic that it was directly modeled from the body of the model.

The allegations were a testament to Rodin’s technical skills, though the suggestion that he had somehow cheated heartily offended the sculptor, who was able to disprove the claim with photographs of his model.

However, the work was validated when it was purchased by Under-Secretary of the Ministry of Fine Arts, Edmond Turquet. Turquet would then commission Rodin to create a monumental bronze doorway for a planned museum of the decorative arts.

The Gates of Hell

As Rodin entered his 40s in the fallowing decade, he was able to further establish his distinct artistic style with an acclaimed, but sometimes controversial list of works, eschewing academic formality for a vital suppleness of form.

In 1880, Rodin began working on ‘’The Gates of Hell’’ an intricate monument partly inspired by Dante’s Divine Comedy and Charles Boudelaire’d Les Fleurs du Mal.

Rodin laboured on this project for over twenty years.

It is believed that Rodin chose to draw on Dante’s Inferno for the subject matter. The monument consisted of various sculpted figures, including the iconic ‘Thinker’(1880), ‘The Three Shades’(1886), ‘The Old Courtesan’(1887), and the posthumously discovered ‘Man with Serpent’(1887).
 
The Thinker is the most famous example.

Deriving from a figure at the top of the sculpture who gazes with melancholy over the hellish scenes bellow him, he represents Dante the author of the Divine Comedy; the figure also represents modern, secular man, strong in mind and body, but lonely and doubtful in the position he has created for himself as master of his own universe.

The Gates of Hell was a deliberate attempt to rival Lorenzo Ghiberti’s famous bronze doors for the Baptistery of Florence Cathedral, the Gates of Paradise (1425-52), the competition for which is often said to have initiated the Renaissance.

Rodin initially planned to split the composition into a series of panels, just as Ghiberti had done, but after looking at images of Michelangelo’s Last Judgment (1534-41), he opted for a more fluid arrangement of figures.

Although Rodin wished to exhibit the completed ‘Gates’ by the end of the decade, the project proved to be more time-consuming than originally anticipated and remained uncompleted.

The Kiss

The years during which Rodin worked on The Gates of Hell coincided with his relationship with Camille Claudel, a young sculptor who joined his studio as an assistant in 1884.

It proved a stormy romance beset by numerous quarrels, but it persisted until Camille’s madness brought it to a finish in 1898. During the years of passion, Rodin made several erotic sculptures of loving couples.
 
The most sensuous of these groups was the Kiss (1884).

The critics gave the sculpture the title, but Rodin originally called it Paolo and Francesca, after the story in Dante’s Divine Comedy about a young noblewoman who falls in love with her husband’s brother.
 
In the story, the couple is killed by the jealous husband, but Rodin focused instead in their loving embrace.

This erotic sculpture was made during the early years of Rodin’s relationship with Madame Claudel.

The Burghers of Calais

By 1899 Rodin had a large studio with several assistants. His work continued to elicit scandal and trouble. ‘The Burghers of Calais’’ a piece from 1889, is a public monument made of bronze portraying a moment during the Hundred Years’ War between France and England in 1347.

The piece includes six human statues, and depicts a war account during which six French citizens from Calais were ordered by monarch Edward III of England to abandon their home and surrender themselves—barefoot and bareheaded, wearing ropes around their necks and holding the keys to the town and the caste in their hands— to the king who was to order their execution thereafter.

‘The Burgers of Calais’ is a portrayal of the moment that the citizens exited the town; the group was later spared death due to the request of Queen Philippa.

The piece was nearly refused for its depiction of the city’s heroes as dejected victims. The figures are arranged all on one level, rejecting the pyramid composition typical of figure groups at the time.

The men look downtrodden, but determined. They are dressed in rags, and their hands and feet are expressively enlarged.

However, their awkward appearance did not suggest the heroic dimension that the town had envisioned, and the sculpture was accepted with some hesitation and compromise.

Monument to Balzac

Similarly, in 1881, Rodin was commissioned by the Society of Man of Letters to create a memorial for the poet Honore Balzac. Instead of taking 18 months to complete the work, Rodin became infatuated with the topic, and completed the commission in 7 years.

Rodin spent years reading Balzac’s poems, finding pictures of him and models who bore a resemblance to the heavy-set man.

Finally, he placed the proud head on top of a body swathed in a huge, shapeless robe and made a mound-like protrusion at his crotch as a reference to his virility.

The commission was ultimately rejected, and after much controversy Rodin decided to keep the sculpture for himself.

After the sculpture of Balzac, Rodin’s pace slowed down, but he had achieved financial success.

Several exhibitions around the turn of the century brought him worldwide renown; exhibitions in Belgium and Holland in 1899, his first retrospective in Paris in 1990, subsequent shows in Prague, Germany and New York.

Unbridled Sentimental Inventiveness

Around 1900, there was a pressing desire to find a new formal approach in sculpture.

The theories of the German sculptor Lehmbruck were symptomatic from this point of view. In his writings, he particularly condemned ‘unbridled sentimental inventiveness’, making explicit references to Rodin’s art.

In 1908, Rodin moved to the now-famous Hotel Biron, the most beautiful 18th– century Parisian mansions, which became his new studio and home of his affair with the Marquise and later Duchess, Claire de Choiseul.

She exercised great control over his life and the sale of his work for seven years, until she was accused of stealing a box of drawings.

Because of her scheming and that of other women around Rodin, friends encouraged him to marry Rose Beuret in January 1917. Rose died two weeks after the wedding, and Rodin passed away on November, 17 of that same year in Meudon, France.

Hotel Biron at Meudon

Before his death he bequeathed all of his sculptures, drawings and archives to the state of France to create a museum in the Hotel Biron at Meudon.

The Museum was opened in 1919; after several years of reconstruction, the museum was reopened in 2015 on November, 12, Rodin’s birthday.

By the time of his death, Rodin was linked to Michelangelo. His reputation as the father of modern sculpture remains unchanged; his many intimate drawings of his models have altered the nature of the traditional respect paid to this eminent artist.

Henri Matisse was influenced by the spontaneity of his drawings, while Cubists and Futurists were fascinated by his sense of motion and the fragmentation of his human forms.

While Rodin’s reputation declined in the decades following his death, his rebellion against academic standards and his vivid expression of the human form planted the seed for a new French sculpture.

To the generation of sculptors coming forward in the 1890s, faced with the conventions of Academic art and the death throes of Realism, Rodin seemed to be the one who had breathed new life into their art form.

The early works of Joseph Bernard, Brancusi, Picasso, Gaudier-Brzeska and Zadkine, all reflect Rodin’s undeniable influence.

We’ll leave you with this video documentary about Rodin.


 

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Kenzo Tange – Osaka’s Pride Shapes The World

” We live in a world where great incompatibles co-exist: the human scale and the superman scale, stability and mobility, permanence and change, identity and anonymity, comprehensibility and universality’’

Born in Osaka, Japan on September 4, 1913, Kenzo Tange was one of the foremost architects of the twenty century.

He was considered a genius for the buildings he designed throughout his prolific career. He designed more buildings in his lifetime than legendary architect Frank Lloyd Wright.

Background

Growing up in the small city of Imabari, on Shikoku Island, he became interested in architecture during high school, but he wasn’t the best math student, so he had to work extremely hard to get into a university.

In 1935, he was accepted to the University of Tokyo’s architecture department. Three years after, he got his first job under Kunio Maekawa, a well-known Japanese architect at that time, who had practiced with Le Corbusier in his Paris studio in the late 1920s.

Due to the World War II, his job did not last long, and, to avoid the draft, Tange had continued his postgraduate studies at Tokyo University and became an assistant professor at Tokyo University in 1946.

During his studies, he won an architectural contest, which earned him solid reputation at the university. He set up his own studio, through which such remarkable architects as Kisho Kurokawa, Arata Isozaki and Fumihiko Maki passed, learned, contributed and flourished.

Postwar Japanese Architecture

He had continued to teach at Tokyo University, becoming a full professor of urban engineering. He retired in 1974 as a professor emeritus, but continued to teach in United States at numerous illustrious colleges and universities.

Postwar architecture in Japan, while widely eclectic and international in scope, has seen its most dramatic achievements in contemporary interpretations of traditional forms.

In general, Japanese architects of the 20th century were fully conversant in Western style and active in developing a meaningful modern style appropriate to Japanese sites.

Before getting his first real break as an architect, Tange worked as an urban planner. In 1949, his first major commission came after he had won an architectural contest for the design of the Hiroshima.

The commission was symbolic: the replanning of the city of Hiroshima after its destruction by Little Boy, the atomic bomb dropped by the USAF B-29 Enola Gay on August 6, 1945.

At the heart of the Hiroshima, Tange helped design Hiroshima’s Peace Memorial Park, its peace centre (1950) and museum (1952), they are among his best known early works.

Peace Memorial Park, located at the epicenter of the atomic blast, contains a museum and monuments dedicated to those killed by the explosion.

The cenotaph for victims of the bombing is shaped like an enormous saddle, resembling the small clay saddles placed in ancient Japanese tombs; it contains a stone chest with a scroll listing the names of those killed.

Kenzo Tange designed the museum and cenotaph and two peace bridges at the park were sculpted by the American artist Isamu Noguchi.

The Peace center, raised on stilt-like, Le Corbusier-style columns, faced by a monument that combined ancient forms and the latest structural technology.

The fusion was a symbol of the new Japan; traditional Haniwa tomb and a concrete hyperbolic parabola resolutely looking to the future while proudly recalling the best of its pre-imperial past.

From here, Tange became an integral component in the rebuilding of Japan after the devastation of World War II.

As Le Corbusier long dreamed of rebuilding the centre of Paris, so Tange worked long and hard on a comprehensive and highly contentious, redesign of his country’s capital city.

In the years that followed, he designed an outstanding series of public buildings, including the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Office (1957), the Shizuoka Convention Hall (1957), city halls at Kurayoshi (1957) and Kurashiki (1960) and the Kagawa prefectural offices( 1958), latter being considered a particularly fine examples of the blending modern and Japanese traditional architecture.

Most of these early structures were conventional rectangular forms using light steel frames.

Brutalism

Tange’s work during the 1960s took more boldly dramatic forms with the use of reinforced concrete and innovative engineering.

He launched Japanese architectural movement, Metabolist school or Metabolism, with his Boston Harbor Project design (1959), which included two gigantic A-frames hung with ‘shelving’ for homes and other buildings.

Led by Tange, Kikutake Kiyonori, Isozaki Arata and Kurosawa Kisho, the Metabolist focused on structures that combined high-tech imagery, Brutalism and megastructures as multifunctional complexes that verge on self-containment.

Their advocacy of such devices as artificial land platforms above cities, which grew out of a desire for economy of land use, revolutionized architectural thinking.

They believed that cities should be built to account for future changes. The solution was modular, prefabricated capsules that could be attached to the core of a main structure.

The Nakagin Capsule Tower in Tokyo designed by Kisho Kurosawa is the perfect example of this very architectural style.

Tange’s plan for Tokyo from 1960 received worldwide attention. He presented a master plan for a floating city in Tokyo Bay at the 1960 World Design Conference; the plan was unlike anything architects had ever seen before.

In practice, it would have meant projecting the city out over the bay, using man-made islands connected by proliferation of bridges, and characterized not by buildings as such, but by eye-boggling concrete megastructures.

Although never realized on the scale Tange had intended, Tokyo, these great concrete concatenations were influential in Western Europe, especially in Britain, encouraging a generation of architects who preferred sheer scale and raw concrete, and were labeled ‘brutalists’ by the critic Reyner Banham.

For many of them, Tange Kenzo was the godfather of 1960’s Brutalism.

His most successful brutalist design, the Yamanashi press and broadcasting centre, was a samurai fortress brought into the late 20th century, as well as a modern concrete megastructure.

Although seems all off a piece, this was a determinedly indeterminate building in the sense that, theoretically at least, its 16 massive cylindrical towers, housing the centre’s services, could be greatly extended, while yawning gaps left between occupied floors could be filled in with future offices and studios as required.

Nowadays, these gaps have been filled in with roof gardens and terraces, adding to the enigmatic and unexpectedly romantic quality of this powerful design.

Yoyogi National Stadium

For the 1964 Olimpic Games in Tokyo, he designed the Yoyogi National Stadium; the two structures featured sweeping curved roofs and an asymmetrical, but balanced design that masterfully assimilated traditional technique.

The structures evoke early agricultural and Shintō architectural forms while retaining refreshing abstraction. Many lauded Tange for the surreal beauty of the stadium.

At the same time, he designed and built the Santa Maria Cathedral in Tokyo.

International Works

In the last half of his career, Tange designed plenty of buildings in Japan, and fulfilled important overseas commissions.

Outside Japan, Tange was overly modern; he was responsible for the design of some of the most notable buildings including embassies and university buildings in Saudi Arabia, Taiwan, Iran, Algeria, the Kuwait International Airport, Supreme Court of Pakistan, Singapore’s National Library, Santa Maria Cathedral in Tokyo, Chicago’s American Medical Association Building, and the master plan for Skopje, the capital city of Macedonia.

In his later structures he built up combinations of smaller geometric forms into an irregular but functionally attentive whole.

Death and Influence

Kenzo Tange died of a heart ailment on March 22, 2005 in Tokyo.

The most significant and influential figure in post-war Japanese architecture, Tange was profoundly influenced by the work of Corbusier.

If Tange began by imitating the late-flowering, sculptural concrete designs of the Swiss-French genius, he gradually went on to create a body of internationally recognized work that was very much his own, fusing the very latest in structural daring with the traditional Japanese forms.

An often profound thinker and respected teacher in Japan, Canada, and the United States, Tange continued working until his last days, although he retired from practice in the 1990s, and imaging how architecture could be convincingly reconciled with the very latest communications and buildings technologies.

He had disliked the willful excesses of postmodern designs in the 1980s, and watched cautiously as a new wave of gratuitous bendy, twisty buildings sprouted from city skylines worldwide in the 1990s.

He was quietly optimistic considering these fashionable affectations to be no more than ‘transitional architectural expressions’, an accusation it would difficult to level at the Yamanashi press and broadcasting centre or the National Gymnasium, Tokyo.

Teacher, writer, urban planner and architect, he is revered not only for his own work but also for his influence on younger architects.

Tange’s constant adaptation of his building designs was praised by many, and he was awarded the Pritzker Prize in 1987. According to the Washington Post, the jury that chose him for the honor ‘’called him a leading theoretician of architecture’’.

 

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Impressionism – Paving the Way for Modern Art

As a first distinctly modern movement in painting, Impressionism emerged in Paris in 1860s, and the end developed chiefly in France during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

Gustave Courbet and the Realist movement first confronted the official Parisian art establishment in the middle of the nineteenth century. The French were ruled by oppressive regime and much of the people were in the throes of poverty.

The art of that time concentrated on idealized nudes and glorious depiction of the nature, and other works of realism. Courbet though that art closed its eyes on realities of life.

In his protest, he financed a bold act, an exhibition of his work, right opposite the Universal Exposition in Paris of 1855, which led to the emergence of future artists.

Salon de Refusés

The same year, 1855, Salon de Refusés / Salon of the Refused was formed in order to allow the exhibition of works by artists who had previously been refused entrance to the official Parisian Salon, the annual, state-sponsored exhibition juried by members of the Académie des Beaux-Arts.

The 1863 Salon de Refusés exhibition caused a scandal, due to the unconventional styles and themes of works such as Manet’s Le déjouner sur l’herbe (1863).

The painting depicts the picnic of two fully clothed men and two nude women, defies the tradition of the idealized female subject of Neoclassicism in the positioning of the woman on the left who gazes frankly out at the viewer.

Édouard Manet

Édouard Manet was one of the first and most important innovators who emerged in the art scene in Paris.

By the late 1860s, Manet’s art reflected a new aesthetic – which was to be a guiding force in Impressionist work- in which the importance of the traditional subject matters was downgraded and attention was shifted to the artist’s manipulation of color, tone and texture as ends in themselves.

He incorporated an innovative, looser painting style and brighter palette focusing on images of everyday life, such as scenes in cafés, boudoirs and out in the street.

His anti-academic style and modern subject matters attracted the attention of the artists on the fringes and influenced a new type of painting that would diverge from the standards of the official salon.

Societé Anonyme des Artistes, Peintres, Sculpteures, Graveurs etc.

In 1874, a group of artists known as the “Societé Anonyme des Artistes, Peintres, Sculpteures, Graveurs etc.”/ the Anonymous Society of Painters, Sculptors, Engravers etc., mounted an alternative exhibition in Paris that would bring about radical break from artistic conventions and launch one of the most popular movement in the history of art.

All the artists had very limited success financially and had few works accepted in the salon exhibitions in Parisian art scene.

Displaying their works in a vacant former artist’s studio, outside the confines of the famous Salon, the Impressionists presented canvases depicting quiet landscapes, scenes of everyday life, full of loose, expressive brushwork to represent fleeting effects of atmosphere and light.
 
In that time, these paintings represented something akin to a revolution in the art world.

 

Radical Shifts

Eschewing both the subject matters and technique of their predecessors, the Impressionists demonstrated that contemporary life required a new language to represent the radical shifts taking place in Parisian society.

The critics responded with both awe and horror; conservative critics denounced the unfinished, sketch-like quality of their paintings, while more progressive ones welcomed their innovative depictions of modern life.

The movement gained its name after the hostile French critic Louise Leroy reviewing the first major exhibition of 1874, seized on the title of Monet’s painting Impression, Sunrise (1873), and accused the group of painting nothing but impressions.

The moniker was embraced by the group, but they also referred to themselves as the ‘’Independents’’, referring to the submissive principles of the Société des Artistes Indépendents’’ and the group’s efforts to detach itself from academic artistic conventions.

Age of the Impressionists

At that time, there were many ideas of what constituted modernity. Scientific thought was beginning to recognize that what the eye perceived and what the brain understood were two different things.

The Impressionists sought to capture the optical effects of light to convey the passage of time, changes in weather and shifts in atmosphere; a split second of life, a sensory effect of a scene – the impression, an ephemeral moment in time on canvas.
 
Their art did not necessarily rely on realistic depictions.

 

Monet

Probably the most celebrated of the Impressionists, Claude Monet, was renowned for his mastery of natural light, painted at different times of day in order to capture changing conditions.

He tended to paint simple impressions or subtle hints of his subjects using very soft brushstrokes and pure, unmixed colors to create a natural vibrating effect.

His ‘’wet on wet’ technique produced softer edges and blurred boundaries that merely suggested a three-dimensional plain, rather than depicting it realistically.

His Vetheuil in the Fog from 1879 is among his finest works, offering a subtle and distinct impression of a figural form. He applied his brush rather quickly to the canvas in order to capture the exact image he wanted before the sunlight shifted or faded away altogether.

This emphasis on the fleeting changes in the natural world was a central aspect of his oeuvre that captures the ephemerality of nature and preserves it within the picture plane.

Monet’s technique of painting outdoors, known as plein air painting, inherited from the landscape painters of the Barbizon School, was practiced widely among impressionists, leading to innovations in the representation of sunlight and the passage of time, which were two central motifs of Impressionism.

Degas

As a highly skilled draftsman and portraitist, Edgar Degas preferred indoor scenes of modern life such as musicians in an orchestra pit, people sitting in cafés, ballet dancers, delineating his forms with greater clarity using harder lines and thicker brush strokes.

L’Absinthe from 1876, by Degas represents a dour scene of two lonely individuals sitting in a café communicates a sense of isolation, even degradation, as they have nothing better to do in the middle of the day.

Degas heavily handled paint further communicates the emotional burden or intense boredom of his subjects. This painting, as well as his other works, alludes to the oppressive atmosphere of the city and the psychological ennui of its inhabitants.

Renoir

Other artists focused on the figure and the internal psychology of the individual.

Pierre-Auguste Renoir depicted the daily activities of individuals from his neighborhood of Montmartre and portrayed the social pastimes of Parisian life, emphasizing the emotional attributes of his subjects, using vibrant, saturated colors, light and loose brushwork to highlight the human form.

In Girl with a Hoop from 1885, Renoir developed a new style he dubbed ‘’aigre’’ (sour), in which he applied thick, elongated brushstrokes complemented by hard lines to portray the young girl in the foreground.

This painting evokes the distinctly carefree mood of much of his work; he focused on representation of leisure activities and female beauty, asserting his disregard for subjects of an overtly critical nature.

Morisot

Berthe Morisot was the first woman to exhibit with the Impressionists. She made rich compositions that highlighted the internal, personal sphere of feminine society, emphasizing the maternal bond between mother and child in her paintings.

Her work, “In a Park”, from 1874, Morisot combines the elements of figurations with representation of nature in this serene family portrait set in a bucolic garden.

In this quiet image of family life, she centered on the maternal bond between child and mother; her loose handling of pastels, a medium embraced by the Impressionists, and visible application of color and form were central characteristic of her oeuvre.

Together with Marie Bracquemond, Mary Cassatt, and Eva Gonzales, she was considered one of the four central female figures of the movement.

Cassatt

Mary Cassatt depicted a private sphere of the home, but also represented the woman in the public spaces of the newly modernized city.

Her work features a number of innovations, including reduction of three-dimensional space and the application of bright, even garish colors in her painting both of which heralded later developments in modern art.

In her work, “At the Opera” from 1880, she depicts the Palais Garnier of the Paris Opera, which was opened in 1875, and served as a focal point for the city’s social life.

The opera, as the painting demonstrates, was not only a site for culture and entertainment, but also for seeing and being seen. The woman’s binoculars are echoed in the man’s binoculars, across the concert hall, directed at her.

Read our in depth article, “Mary Cassatt – Famous Women Artists in History”

Caillebotte

The themes of urbanity are depicted in the work of Gustave Caillebotte, a later proponent of the movement, who focused on panoramic views of the city and the psychology of its citizens.

More realistic in style than other impressionists, Caillebotte’s images depict the artist’s reaction to the changing nature of modern society, showing a flaneur – an idler or lounger who roamed the public spaces of the city in order observe, yet remaining detached from the crowd, in his characteristic black coat and top hat, strolling through the open space of the boulevard while gazing at passersby.

“Paris Street, Rainy Day” from 1877, shows this tendency within his work, through the depiction of the typical urban scene; the panoramic view of the rain-drizzled boulevard presents the newly renovated metropolis, while the anonymous figures in the background emphasize the alienation of the individual within the city.

The painting centers on the apathetic gaze of the male figure, who epitomizes the cool detachment of the flaneur.

Also, his work, as well as the works by Pissaro, emphasized the geometrical arrangement of public space through the careful delineation of trees, buildings, and streets.

By applying crude brushstrokes and impressionistic streaks of color, they evoke the rapid tempo of modern life as a central facet of the late-nineteenth- century urban society.

Unravelling

The Impressionists proved to be a diverse group, but they came together regularly to discuss their work and exhibit. Between 1874 and 1886 the group collaborated on eight exhibitions while slowly beginning to unravel.

Many of the artists felt they had mastered the early, experimental styles that had won them attention and wanted to move on to explore other avenues. Others, anxious about the commercial failure of their works, changed course.

Although the last Impressionist exhibition was held in 1886, the movement remains one of the most popular in the history of Western art.

Considered by many to be the first avant-garde movement of the Modernism, Impressionism served as a springboard for many artistic movements of the twenty century.

Cézanne

If Manet bridged the gap between Realism and Impressionism, then Paul Cézanne was the first artist who bridged the gap between Impressionism and Post-Impressionism.

Cézanne learned much from Impressionist technique, but he evolved a more deliberate style of paint handling and a closer attention to the structure of the forms that his broad, repetitive brushstrokes depicted.

He wished to break down objects into their basic geometric constituents and depict their essential building blocks, and this experiment would prove to be highly influential for the development of Cubism and Fauvism.

Conclusion

As Philip Guston once described Abstract Expressionism as a latter-day ‘American Impressionism’; the surface quality, suggestion of light and ‘’all-over’’ treatment of form in Jackson Pollock’s work, all point to the work of Claude Monet.

Although there are many avant-garde movements that did not take stylistic inspiration from the Impressionists, the group’s rejection of an established, state-sponsored style served as a model for similarly independent exhibition groups throughout Europe during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, such as Wienna Secession or Die Brücke in Germany.

 

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Suprematism Art Movement – What Is It?

I reduced painting to its logical conclusion and exhibited three canvases: red, blue and yellow. I affirmed: this is the end of painting.

– Alexander Rodchenko

Suprematism still remains one of the most radical projects and movements in modern art, a first one of pure geometrical abstraction in painting.

Its name reflects Malevich’s belief that Suprematist art would lead to the supremacy of pure feeling and perception in the pictorial art and be superior to all art in the past.

The Russian Formalists, highly influential group of literary critics, were strongly opposed to the idea that language is a mere and transparent instrument for communication.

They pointed out that words were not easily linked to the objects they denoted; the art could serve to make the world fresh and strange and could make us observe the world from different perspectives.

Kazimir Malevich came to be intrigued by the search for art’s essentials just as the critics and poets were interested in what constituted literature.

According to his believe, there were only delicate links between signs or words and the objects they denote; from that point he saw the possibilities for an absolute abstract art.

Suprematist’s abstract painting was aimed at doing much the same, by removing the real world entirely.

The Suprematists

The Suprematist’s first hints emerged in background and costume sketches that Malevich designed for a Futurist opera Victory Over the Sun, performed in St. Petersburg in 1913.

The piece was written in the behind-the-mind language of ‘ZAUM’ invented by the poets Velimir Khlebnikov and Alexi Kruchonyck. Malevich’s contribution was more conservative: costumes for the actors and some cubo-futurist stage settings.

The sketch for the backdrop of Act2, Scene5 named Study for Décor of Victory Over the Sun (1913), foreshadows the development of Suprematism in its use of a geometric motif.

The drawings still had a clear reference to Cubo-Futurism, but the simple shapes, a visual foundation for Suprematism, appeared repeatedly; rich colors were discarded in favor of black and white. Cubist method was joined to ‘relativity’ and a new form brought to life.

Just as Futurism aimed at a total renewal of Russian culture, so Suprematism claimed to supersede all art movements that had gone before it.

This design for opera marked a major break with theatrical convention, since they were neither decorative nor did they illustrate a realistic scenes, such as a room or a landscape.

In 1915, Kazimir Malevich formed the Suprematist group along with artists Ivan Klyun, Mikhail Menkov, Kseniya Boguslavskaya, Ivan Puni and Olga Rozanova who joined him.

The movement was greeted with enthusiasm. It represented the first decisive break with Western painting tradition- a new form for a new revolutionary society.

Developed during the time preceding the Russian Revolution, Suprematism believed art to be capable of a tremendous catalytic power.

The short span of time in which the October Revolution of 1917 also opened up new possibilities for avant-garde experiments in Russian art brought forth a tremendous wealth.

Kazimir Malevich considered realism as a distraction from the transcendental experience that the art was meant to evoke.

Suprematism can be seen as the logical conclusions of Cubism’s multiple perspectives and reduced forms and Futurism’s interest in moving.

The Suprematism’s works feature an array of geometric shapes suspended above a light-colored or white background.

The variety of shapes, angles and sizes creates a sense of depth in these compositions, making these appear to be moving in space.

The Black Square

The Black Square (1915), once described as Malevich’s’ living royal infant’ has usually seen as a major landmark in the history of abstract art, a point of beginning and a point of ending.

Between 1915 and 1930s Malevich’ would paint four versions of it. It is said that the last version was carried behind his coffin during his funeral.

This work, a first version depicts a purely black square against a thin border of white, obscuring any sense of normal perspective or space.

The square- the face of a new art, became a figurehead and represented the birth of a new movement. It rallied artists and critics in support of the new style, but many others accused it of nihilism.

Alexandre Benois, an artist and critic, attacked it as a ‘’sermon of nothingness and destruction’’.

Much of what this work once initiated continues to have repercussions to this day; it stands at the beginning of the twentieth century like the gate that Modernism entered through.

For the first time, a single work of art called forth the idea of the ‘end of the painting’

Kasimir Malevich published the Suprematism’s manifesto ‘From Cubism and Futurism to Suprematism in Art’ in 1915. He claimed to have passed beyond the boundaries of reality into a new awareness.

The motifs in Malevich’s paintings constricted to include only the square, circle and rectangle. Sometimes, critics have interpreted these motifs as references to mystical ideas.

Some of Malevich’s pronouncements seem to offer support for this; he said that he had destroyed the ring of the horizon and escaped from the circle of things, but in fact, he scorned symbolism: the motifs were only building blocks, the most fundamental and archetypal elements in painting- the zero of form.

The progression of Suprematism was devided into three stages: black, colored and white. The black phase was the ‘zero degree’ of painting, marking the beginnings of the movement.

The colored stage, Dynamic Suprematism, focused of the use of shape and color in order to create the sensation of movement in space, pursued in depth by Alexander Rodchenko, Ilya Chasnik and El Lissitzky.

Eight Red Rectangles from 1915 is an example of the second, more dynamic phase, in which primary colors began to be used.

The ambiguous composition-on the one hand the rectangles can be read as floating in space, as if they were suspended on the wall, on the other hand, they can also be read as objects seen from above.

Later, Malevich criticized this more dynamic phase of Suprematist movement as ‘aerial Suprematism’ since its compositions tended to echo pictures of the earth taken from the skies; in this sense, he departed from his ambitions for a totally abstract and non-objective art.

Personality

Olga Rozanova was one of the first artists who applied her own personal interpretation to Suprematism.

Her interest in fabrics led her to focus on textural effects, straying from the primary palette to use more feminine and softer colors.

The piece names Color Painting or Non-Objective Composition from 1917 reveals Rozanova’s ability to employ delicate tonal contrasts; it was a prelude to the style of Mark Rothko.

El Lissitzky’s lithograph Beat Whites with the Red Wedge from 1919/20 is one of his well-known works from his Suprematist phase.

It uses shape, positioning and color in keeping with the Suprematist principles, particularly with the dynamic stage of the movement.

The use of pointillist shading and lettering shows the evolution of his personal style. In addition, the poster reveals propagandistic intension in its representation of the struggle between the conservative ‘white’ and revolutionary ‘reds’ in Russia.

The white stage was the culmination of Suprematism, exhibited by Kazimir Malevich during the Tenth State Exhibition: Non-objective Creation and Suprematism in 1919.

Malevich’s painting named White Square on White (1917-18) can be seen as the final stage of his ‘transformation in the zero of the form’; the form has almost literally been reduced to nothing.

The pure white of the canvas has negated any sense of traditional linear perspective, contemplating its ‘infinite’ space. The picture is bled of color, the pure white making it easier to recognize the signs of the artist’s work in the rich paint texture of the white square.

This masterpiece dispensed with form entirely, representing ‘the idea’; it provoked responses from other artists that led to new ventures such as Alexander Rodchenko’s experimentation and exploration of the roles of specific materials in his Black on Black series from 1919.

The movement’s spiritual undertones increasingly defined it, as time went on.

Although these put it in jeopardy following the Russian Revolution in 1917, the tolerant attitude of the early Communists ensured that its influence continued.

However, the attitudes had changed by the late 1920s, and the movement lost much of its popularity at home, especially after being accursed by the Stalinists.

Between 1919 and 1927 Malevich stopped painting altogether; following a long hiatus, he even returned to representational painting. He devoted himself to his theoretical writings.

Malevich’s esoteric concepts precluded the movement itself from gaining widespread appeal, but their implications have been far-reaching in the field of abstract art.

His desire to create a transcendental art is an aspiration one can trace in much later abstract art; for instance, it is present in the ideas Wassily Kandinsky fundamentals in his book Concerning the Spiritual in Art (1912) and the Theosophy-inspired geometric abstraction of Piet Mondrian.

Spread

The introduction of Suprematism to the West was well-received (exhibition in Berlin, 1927), sparking interest throughout United States and Europe.

El Lissitzky played a key role in the promotion of Suprematism outside of Russia and also used Suprematist concepts and forms to great effect in architecture and graphic design, which helped to establish the Constructivist movement.

Malevich’s achievement remains enigmatic over ninety years after he drew four lines on a two and a half foot square canvas and filled in the resulting area with black paint.

Suprematism became an important point of departure for the art forms of abstraction and geometric reduction; today its connection to a political position seems just as significant as its formal innovation.

As a story of refusal and of failure, Suprematism also became one of the most important reference points for Moscow’s conceptual art from the eighties on.

 

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Lyrical Metaphora by Marc Chagall

Only love interests me, and I am only in contact with things that revolve around love.

Marc Chagall never aligned himself with any single movement, but his influence is as vast as the number of styles he assimilated to create his work.

Many of his peers pursued ambitious experiments that often led to abstraction, but Chagall’s distinction lies in his steady faith in power in figurative art, one that he maintained despite absorbing ideas from many different avant-garde movements.

As a prime example of a modern artist, Chagall mastered multiple media including oil painting, gouache painting, murals, watercolors, etching, ceramics, theater, drawing, stained-glass work and costume design.

Background

He was born on July, 7, 1887 to Feige-Ite and Khatskl Shagal in Liozna, near Vitebsk, in Russian Empire, today Belarus. He was raised in a Hasidic family and attended local Jewish religious school where he studied the Old Testament and Hebrew.

During this time, it was obligatory for Russian Jews since discrimination policies prohibited mixing of different racial and religious groups.

During his early schooling, Chagall adopted the habit of copying and drawing images from book, which developed into an emotional relationship with art, and eventually the choice to pursue it as a life career.

He began to learn the fundamentals of drawing, but more importantly, he absorbed the world around him, storing away the imagery and themes that would feature largely in most of his work.

To continue his studies, in 1906, he moved in St Petersburg and enrolled at the Zvantseva School of Drawing and Painting. There, he briefly apprenticed under the artist and set designer, a devout Jew himself, Leon Bakst.

He is believed to have encouraged Marc Chagall to introduce Jewish themes and imagery in his work, a practice that was pretty unpopular at this time in the Russian Empire.

Paris

At the impressionable age of 23, speaking no French, Chagall moved in Paris in 1910. It was the time when Cubism was emerging as the leading avant-garde movement, and young artist aligned himself with the new movement.

Chagall responded to the stimulus by rapidly developing the poetics and seemingly irrational tendencies he had begun to display in Russia.

Under the influence of the Impressionist, Post-Impressionist and Fauvist pictures, he gave up the usually somber palette he had employed at home.

In his early work, Chagall is obviously adopting dynamic composition and the abstract forms that characterized much of Cubism; yet, he came to reject the movement’s academic leanings infusing his work with touches of emotions and cheerful colours.

In the Paris Through the Window (1913) the figure in the bottom right looks both ways, the couple bellow the Eiffel Tower seems to be split apart.

On first glance, the picture may recall one of Robert Delaunay’s many fractured portraits of the Eiffel Tower rendered in the Orphic Cubism style.

But, Chagall has no intention to dissect the view or the subject. Instead, he searches for beauty in details, creating ‘ sur-naturalist’ elements, such as two-faced head and floating human.

The end result is a balanced and visually appealing snapshot of Paris.

In his Parisian period, Chagall often used subject matters from memory in his paintings; subjects included weddings, pastoral village scenes, fiddlers playing on rooftops.

He kept close to his heart his home town of Vitebsk; the figures seem to float freely in the sky- Chagall’s lyrical and melancholic signatures of his far-away home.

Fusing his own personal, a dreamlike imagery with hints of the fauvism and cubism, Chagall created his most lasting work. The four years of his stay in Paris are often considered Chagall’s best phase.

In the piece I and the Village (1911), abstraction is at the heart of this piece, it exists to decorate the picture rather than invite analysis of the image.

This very approach: a blend of the figurative and modern, with a light, whimsical tone, would make the artist influential and famous.

Bella

During one of his visits to Russia Chagall fell in love and became engaged to the writer Bella Rosenfeld. Chagall met Bella, the daughter of a wealthy Russian jeweler, in 1909 in St Petersburg when she was 19 and he, seven years her senior, was attending art school.

In 1914, Chagall enjoyed a well-received exhibition of some 200 works in Berlin, all of which he would never recover. After the show, he returned to Vitebsk with plans to marry Bella.

The same year, the two did marry, but the outbreak of the World War I stopped their plan to move back to Paris. For the next nine years The Chagalls would remain in Russia.

Her wife came to be a subject of many of his paintings. For instance, in the Belle with White Collar (1917) woman figure and her demure face stand over a lush pastoral landscape, larger than life, may have been inspired by the traditional subject, The Assumption of the Virgin Mary.

This piece, while vibrant and expressive, stands as a lasting example of Chagall’s mastery of more traditional subjects and forms, yet he no less maintains the faintest of sur-naturalist elements throughout.

Few years after the war’s outbreak the Bolshevik Revolution (1917) occurred, an event that obliged Chagall to remain in Russia. He was given the political post of Commissar of Arts for Vitebsk.

In his new post Chagall undertook various projects in the region, including the founding of the Academy of the Fine Arts in 1919. Despite these endeavors, differences among his colleagues eventually disillusioned Chagall.

This teaching position conflicted with his nonpolitical nature; his overall work ethic and pace lessened due to the tense climate. In 1920, he relinquished the position and moved his family to Moscow, the post-revolution capital of Russia.

In Moscow, he was commissioned to create costumes and sets for various productions at the Moscow State Yiddish Theatre, where he would paint a series of murals titled Introduction to the Jewish Theater.

Paris Pt. 2

By the 1922, however, Chagall found that his art had fallen out of favor, and seeking new horizons he left Russia for good. And, the next year, after years of scraping by in Moscow, Vitebsk and other towns, Chagall and Bella moved back to Paris.

In the heart of the Green Violinist (1923-24) is nostalgia for the artist’s rustic village. Fiddlers on rooftops were a popular motif of Chagall’s, stemming from his memories of Vitebsk.

This very motif also reflects the artist’s deep devotion to his Jewish cultural roots; his subject who may represent the prophet Elijah is an extension of the rooftop, indicated by geometric shapes in his pant legs and by windows.

In the coming years of World War II, Europe was occupied; Hitler’s Third Reich reigned over a large portion of the continent, including Vichy France where Chagall and his family were living.

It is said that Joseph Goebbels personally ordered the artist’s paintings to be burned. Singled out during the cultural ‘’cleansing’’, undertaken by the Nazis, Chagall’s work was ordered removed from museums throughout the country.

Several pieces were subsequently burned, and others were featured in a 1937 exhibition of ‘’degenerate art’’ held in Munich.

Chagall is well known for his religious and Biblical motifs and subjects, but Christian symbolism present in White Crucifixion (1938) is surprising given Chagall’s devout Orthodox Jewish background.

In this piece, Jesus wears a Jewish prayer shawl, and whilst he suffers on the cross, Jewish figures on all sides of him suffer as well fleeing from marauding invaders who burn a synagogue.

This work is a clear indication of Chagall’s faith and his response to the rise of anti-Semitism in Europe at this time.

In that difficult time in which many artists were forced to seek refuge in the United States, in 1941, thanks to Chagall’s daughter Ida and some people from the art world, Chagall’s name was added to a list of European artists whose lives were at risk and in need of asylum.

In June, 1941 Bella and Chagall arrived in United States.

Just before the war in Europe was about to close, Bella Chagall died from a viral infection, and Chagall’s hometown Vitebsk had been razed during the German invasion of Russia.

Devastated and crippled with grief, Chagall’s work lessened dramatically.

The Real Notebook

After his wife’s death, Chagall kept her notebook, which he illustrated for the next 20 years, sketching on the blank pages and surrounding Bella’s writings with colourful posthumous portraits of her and the two of them together.

In one sketch Bella is depicted in a patterned dress with a bowl of fruit, while another drawing shows her with dark circles around her eyes, possibly depicting her final illness.

In probably the most moving image, Chagall, with a blue face and melancholy expression, is settled at his easel, contemplating a red painting of himself and Bella, on hand reaching out to touch the canvas with his other hand to his heart.

The 85-page notebook, which Chagall illustrated between 1944 and 1965 while he spent time living in New York and the south of France, also includes several self-portraits.

Described as ‘’unique’’ by art experts, the intact collection is extremely rare as Chagall dismantled most of his sketchbooks and sold drawings individually.

Chagall never truly made New York his home, consequently, in 1947 the widower returned to France and settled in the southern city of Vence. After few years, he remarried to Valentine ‘Vava’ Brodsky in 1952.

Later Life

He continued making artworks, but his later canvases are remarkably different than his better-known earlier works.

His subjects and colors appear more melancholy, his brushwork became increasingly lyrical and abstract, almost reverting back in time to Post-Impressionist motifs.

The crowning achievements of the last two decades of his life were a series of large-scale commissions; in 1960, it was stained-glass windows that represented twelve tribes of Israel, these were installed at the Hadassah University Medical Center in Jerusalem, than memorial window Piece for the United Nations in 1964, The America Windows installed at the Chicago Institute for Art, 1977.

Chagall’s commissions for murals also defined his late career; ceiling of the Paris Opera House in 1963, as well as The Sources of Music and The Triumphs of Music for the Metropolitan Opera in New York in 1966.

Marc Chagall passed away on March, 28, 1985 in Saint-Paul, France, at the age of 97.

Chagall’s legacy reveals an artistic style that is both entirely his own and a rich amalgam of prevailing Modern art disciplines.

His repertory of images, including melancholy, clowns, massive bouquets, flying lovers, biblical prophets, fantastic animals and fiddlers on roofs, helped to make him on of the most popular major innovators of the 20th century School of Paris.

He presented dreamlike subject matter in rich colors and in a fluent, painterly style that, while reflecting an awareness of artistic movements such as Fauvism, Cubism, Expressionism and even abstraction, remained invariably personal.

Although critics sometimes complained of facile sentiments, uneven quality, and an excessive repetition of motifs in the artist’s total output, there is agreement that at its best it reached a level of visual metaphor seldom attempted in modern art.

 

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Arte Povera – The Movement, The Message

The birth of an artistic movement is preceded by a mysterious evolution that is made up of a set of ideas that are refined and expressed by actions and works.

Arte Povera, one of the most influential avant-garde movements, emerged in Europe in the 1960s. In its general sense Arte Povera, an Italian term meaning impoverished, poor art, allegedly derived from the poor theatre of the Polish film director Jerzy Grotowski.

More specifically, it refers to a group of avant-garde painters and sculptors based in Genoa, Turin, Milan and Rome from the mid-1960s onwards who produced a provocative fusion of Assemblage, Minimalism, Conceptual Art and Performance Art.

The movement grouped the work of Italian artists whose most distinctly recognizable trait was their use of ’found objects’ including simple, commonplace materials, such as soil, bits of wood, clothing, rocks, rope, paper.

While avoiding a signature style and promoting diversity as a positive value, these artists produced works mainly consisting of photography, sculptures and installations.

In addition, the diversity of the creations of these artists made this movement recognize that no one’s method sustains all projects, and for this reason, an unrestrained creativity formed the common ground between Arte Povera artists.

Arte Povera

In 1967, the art critic and curator, Germano Celant coined the name ‘Arte Povera’ and curated the movement’s first exhibition which was staged at Galleria La Bertesca in Genoa.

The same year, he published a manifesto for the movement: Arte Povera: Notes for a Gerilla War. He proposed a guerilla warfare art against the rich world that he considered to be represented by certain contemporary trends such as Nouveau realism.

Gradually, he would abandon this political dimension in order to transform this movement in some kind of conceptual-minimal art.

In the same manifesto he also wrote about ‘a desire to escape the bounds of a social system that rewards conformity and limits experience, and argued that this system forces artists into producing bourgeois objects for an art market that requires the stability of the assembly line’.

With this declaration, Celant associated the Italians (and himself) with a new movement in art and put forth definition of Arte Povera. These and other pioneering texts and shows created a collective identity for Arte Povera, and promoted it as a revolutionary genre, liberated from convention and the market place.

Raw and Real

Arte Povera artists employed a vast array of raw materials, such as rags, coal, hessian sacks, wood , soil, seeds and vegetables, as well as manufactured items, glass and metal.

These materials were framed, hung or applied to walls, metal sheets or various surfaces. Artists made no attempt to change the natural colors of the materials.

Their work was a reaction against the modernist abstract painting that had dominated European art in the 1950s. In addition, the group rejected American Minimalism, particularly, what they perceived as its enthusiasm for technology and its scientific rationalism.

By contrast, they presented absurd and comical juxtapositions, often of the old and the new, or the highly processed and the pre-industrial. They conjured a world of myth whose mysteries could not be explained in an easy way.

Although Arte Povera is most notable for its use of found object and everyday materials, materials which contrasted with the apparently industrial sensibility of American Minimal Art, the movement employed subversive avant-garde tactics – performance and installations- unconventional approaches to sculpture.

In order to reconnect art with life, the Italian Arte Povera strove to evoke an individual response in each of their art pieces, stressing an interaction between object and viewer that was purely original.

Germano Celant and the Arte Povera Artists

Germano Celant was a key figure in the formation and success of Arte Povera, and in this respect Arte Povera is typical of avant-garde groups that have been given momentum and cohesion by a single voice.

Celant’s interpretations of the artists associated with the movement have remained prominent and important, and he stressed the Italians’ interest in individual subjectivity.

For instance, Michelangelo Pistoletto’s work often dealt with relationships. His early mirror works, which confronted image and self, explored concepts of identity.

His The Minis Objects series was developed around the idea of art that was only completed through the addition of human interaction. In the piece, Structure for Talking While Standing / Minus Objects (1965-66) it can be seen how the structure connects to the viewer, allowing for a place to rest the arms and feet.

Also, a dialogue was a concern to the artist; Celant once described his related work, the simple metal construction ‘Structure for Standing While Talking’, from 1965-66, as a medium to create a personal dialogue between art and viewer, free from any preconceived notion.

Giovani Anselmo’s early work relied on human interaction to fully experience the art, which was loosely constructed in order to react to the slightest touch. He worked as graphic designer and began to experiment with the arts in his free time.

His Untitled (1968), sometimes referred to as Eating Structure, comprises a small block of granite attached to a larger, plinth-like block by means of a head of lettuce and a length of wire.

If the lettuce is allowed to dry out, the smaller block will fall, therefore, the sculpture has to be ‘’fed’’ with lettuce to maintain its structure.

Its concern with gravity and balance echoes some of the interests of American Post-Minimal Art through its comic tone, and its use of such mundane materials, is typical of Arte Povera’s evocation of rural and poor life.

Pino Pascali’s 32 Square Meters of Sea, from 1967, brings together the artificial and natural. Containers hold quantities of dyed water that replicate the variegated tints of the ocean, alluding to the effects of light and motion.

The industrial materials and geometric shapes used to produce the sculpture echo American Minimalist sculpture, through artist’s use of a simple natural materials, the water in this case, betrays its origins in the concerns of Arte Povera.

Although Piero Manzoni was not considered a true member of the Arte Povera group, his work reflects the principles of the movement,

His Artist’s Shit, no.4, from 1961, supposedly containing 30 grams of excrement, reprises such famous avant-garde provocations as Marcel Duchamp’s presentation of a urinal as a work of art (Fountain, 1917).

Ninety cans were produced, labeled and canned in an identical manner, mocking the practices of mass production and consumption, satirizing the reverence usually accorded to artist’s work.

Celant’s most dramatic pronouncement, and probably reflected his hopes for the implications of Art Povera was saved for the igloos of Mario Merz.

He said that he performed a constant sacrifice of the banal, everyday object, as though it were a newfound Christ. Having found his nail, Merz became the system’s philistine and crucified the world.

Mario Merz, the oldest of the Arte Povera artists, was a painter in an Abstract Expressionist style, but with the new movement he was given the opportunity to start his career anew.

In the Giap’s Igloo (1968) the first of his signature igloos, Merz uses a phrase, taken from a Vietnamese military general: ‘Se il nemico si concentra perde terreno se il disperde perde forza’/ If the enemy masses his forces, he loses ground; if he scatters, he loses strength.

Merz’s igloos provide a focus for his preoccupation with the necessities of life- food, shelter, warmth-though, as here, they contain neon tubes that suggest more modern and sophisticated experiences, such as advertising and consumption.

Arte Povera and Radicalism

Arte Povera was closely linked to the political radicalism emerging across Europe, which eventually culminated in the street protests of 1968. In order to understand better the real purpose of such movement, one must analyses the cultural context of Italy in the 1950s and 1960s.

The country was going to a period of industrialization as the Miracolo Italiano/ the Italian miracle. The consumerism was finding its way into Italian society and advanced technologies were rapidly being introduced.

The optimism for this progressive wave was then suddenly interrupted in the mid 1960s when the economy recession set in.

Workers and students were continuously protesting in all Europe and America and this brought other social and cultural movements and beliefs such as a hippie counter-culture and a new sexual liberation.

In that context, Arte Povera was no longer referring to the use of ‘poor’ materials, nor to a critique of a consumer society, but to the concept of ‘impoverishing’ each person’s experience of life freeing oneself from layers of ideologies and preconceptions.

Thus, the main principles of Arte Povera were few, but very clear: a work of art is attitude transformed into form, thanks to a wide range of materials; the art should be a way of achieving truth and authenticity; any medium, location or technique can be used since everything can potentially become a work of art; finally it should engage with social concerns and also reject the ideology of a consumer society.

A Brief Unity

Despite growing popularity the Arte Povera movement dissolved in the mid 1970s as the individual styles of the Italian artists continued to grow in different directions following their own paths. However, their brief unity had already made its mark on the history of art.

Germano Celent succeeded in carving out a place for Art Povera within the neo-avant-garde.

By illustrating a relationship to Italian classicism, Futurism and to more contemporary styles such as Land Art, he lent the movement a place in what could be seen as a living tradition.

Over forty years later, the works of the Arte Povera are more alive than ever since they still attract the interest of many since their meaning is still relevant.

In the case of Pop Art, to stay contemporary, artworks seem to be inevitably aged, such as the Worhol’s paintings, particularly those of the myths of the 60s like Marilyn Monroe and the Beatles, that now seem to be a piece of history.

On the contrary, Arte Povera may just be one of the few things of the Twenty Century that managed to survive until now. The reason might be the fact that Arte Povera is not just an avant-garde movement, but it is something complete in itself.

In addition, it continues to be central to the idea of art as an experience, prior the knowledge and this might well be the reason why ordinary people who are not so much interested in art, can also feel the simplistic experience of this movement.

 

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Mersad Berber – The Famous Bosnian Artist and his Sacred Themes

Mersad Berber, one of the greatest and most distinctive Bosnian painters and graphic artists, was born on January, 1, 1940 in Bosanski Petrovac, a small town in western Bosnia in former Yugoslavia.

Few months after his birth, due to the large massacre in Petrovac in the 1940s, the Berber family arrived to Banja Luka as refugees to escape the fighting as the World War II spilled over into the Balkans.

Background

Berber’s father had a hair salon for women in the centre of Banja Luka, and his mother was a gifted weaver, one of the greatest in Bosnia.

She worked in the tradition of Bosnian carpets, which have deep Anatolian roots, and she established school for carpet weavers at the end of her life.

The young Berber inherited his mother’s artistic talent; his skills as a draftsman became apparent from a young age- from his early adolescence he was producing remarkable drawings and painting on paper.

In 1959, Mersad Berber began his formal art education at the Academy of Fine Arts in Ljubljana, Slovenia.

According to his own word, he owed permanent gratitude to several of his professors; Bozidar Jakac, a classic of Slovenian graphic art, and Zoran Krizisnik, a brilliant curator and founder of the famous Ljubljana International Biennale.

Krizisnik included him in the Yugoslavian selection when he was a second year student, and his etching master Bozidar Jakac, with whom he learned etching privately, alongside his studies at the Academy.

In 1961, his works were exhibited at the Ljubljana Graphic Arts Biennale, one of the prestigious art events of the period, along with works by the leading graphic artists from all over the world.

Berber’s early drawing and prints demonstrated the influence of the academy in terms of technique, and, in the other hand, his interest in expressing cultural traditions using a modern visual expression in terms of subject matter.

He received the prestigious Prešern Award for his work.

Post Graduate

In 1963, the young artist started a postgraduate course in graphic arts in professor Rika Debeljak’s class. His choice of that very technique was to significantly mark his entire opus.

Since 1965 and his first solo exhibition at the City Gallery of Ljubljana, the career of this remarkable artist has been on sharp rise.

The artistic scene in former Yugoslavia, also in that of Tito’s successor Slobodan Milosevic, had been characterized not by anything resembling Soviet Socialist Realism but by a tepid adherence to middle-of-the-road modernist styles.

Very few artists managed to create reputations for themselves outside their own region. Berber’s success in breaking out of this situation was altogether exceptional.

In 1978, Berber received a teaching at the Academy of Fine Arts in Sarajevo, and set a a studio there. By that time, he had already achieved considerable international recognition, mainly as a graphic artist.

War

This comfortable existence and professional career was abruptly torn apart by the wars that broke out Yugoslavia in 1990’s, just over a decade after the death of Marshal Tito, who had held that region together.

During the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina 1992-1995, Berber’s house and studio were destroyed.

The Berber family escaped in Croatia on a UN transport plane. In order to rebuild his life, he created a new studio in Zagreb, and another one in Dubrovnik. However, memories of the war continued to haunt him, but provided material for his art.

A wide array of Berbers’s works range from the deep, opaque whites influenced by his travels to Bosnia’s fairy-tale landscapes to the dark and terrible pits of Srebrenica.

His inspiration mostly originates from the mystical world of Bosnia, its Ottoman past, and the tragic venture of its people.

Inspired by the masters of European fine arts from the Renaissance to Art Nouveau, with the artists such as Velazquez, Ingres or Klimt, as well as Yugoslavian painters Vlaho Bukovac and Gabrijel Jurkic, Berber’s work infuses intricate talent and expressive powers.

Berber’s work gives a good idea of the breadth of his cultural interests, but the frequent fragmentation of the images also makes it clear that these are the product of an extremely contemporary sensibility.

His paintings, etchings and prints include elegant female portraits, based on High Renaissance prototypes, with which he challenged the 16th century masters of the Venetian school; painting of horses which recall his love for the peasant life of the Bosnian countryside; paraphrases of Velazquez, which express his profound admiration for the great Spanish master.

Homage, Horses, and Suffering

Throughout his career, he made cycles of paintings which chronicle homages, events and dedications. His works are characterized by the intermingling of ancient motifs with a modern and contemporary commentary.

He employed a very wide variety of artistic techniques, from the most traditional to the most contemporary.

For instance, he made a couple of small animated films, and was fascinated by the possibilities offered by new techniques of digital printing, sometimes producing prints of enormous size.

In most of the Berber’s works, the central metaphor is the horse figure, a key symbolic animal which has many different representations and meanings in various cultures.

In Berber’s own words, this figure is not that of an impressive horse, it is a toiling packhorse from the mountains of Bosnia, having deep ties to all aspects of life, signifying hard labor and marriages, wars and funerals.

The expressive capacity of this horse, its suffering and its imperfect beauty represent the biography of Bosnian people.

Innovator, Cultural Historian

Berber is known for his mixed technique large canvases, but he differs from the European masters from whom he derived his inspiration by virtue of innovative approach to composition and his unique themes.

His paintings frequently do not deal with single image but with conjunctions of images, in some cases places side by side, but in others layered one on the top of the other.

He felt a strong allegiance to the values of Italian Renaissance art, because of its resemblance to the art of the Italian Pittura Colta movement, which derived from the later work of Giorgio de Chirico.

Yet, Berber’s paraphrases of elegant images of classical nudes, some of them are direct quotations from the work of David or Ingres, and of Renaissance portraits, were often interspersed with figures in old-fashioned Balkan dress.

His religious and literary references were also strong and complex. Some of his most impressive works offer directly Christian images, for instance the figure of Christ being taken from the Cross.

Others were inspired by the Sarajevo Haggadah, one of the most important Jewish medieval manuscripts in existence and now the chief treasure of the restored Sarajevo National Museum (Zemaljski Muzej).

In his work he reflects the full scale of the complexity of his country’s multi-layered cultural history as the pioneer of the generation of young graphic artists who opened up the local art scene to global trends.

Depicting Tragedy

Towards the close of his life, Mersad Berber made an impressive series devoted to the brutal massacre at Srebrenica, the genocide and the worst crime of the Balkan wars, in which over 8,000 Bosnian Muslims, mostly boys and men, were slaughtered by units from the Army of Republika Srpska, under the command of general Ratko Mladic.

The artist regarded the tragedy at Srebrenica as the “big, ancient, sacred theme of hymns” and laboured for years to depict it in his works, collecting forensic reports, newspaper photographs, video recordings, documents and books, and visiting Potocari and Srebrenica countless times.

These series became elegies not only for those who had died, but also for the death of multiculturalism, which had survived in the Balkans for centuries despite all ethnic and religious animosities.

Death

Mersad Berber died from heart attack on October 7, 2012 in his home in Zagreb.

Nearly forty years of his artistic activity Berber spent as a true Homo Universalis. As an excellent drawer and illustrator, Mersad Berber was occupied with graphic art, painting, graphic and poetic maps, tapestry, illustrations.

He also worked in theatre scenography, created movie posters for movies, such as those by Kusturica; his costume and scenography design came to life in theatres in Sarajevo, Zagreb, Ljubljana and Washington.

He exhibited all over the world, from London to Madrid, New York to Moscow, Jakarta and New Delhi, and received approximately 50 awards. Some scholars and experts consider him to be one of the greatest post-Classic artists in the world.

Ethical Identity

Today, Mersad Berber is one of the most famous graphic artists in the world, who was also included in the Tate Gallery Collection in 1984, makes the aesthetic and ethical identity of his homeland recognized to the million of people.

He deserved his celebrity reputation because he made heroic efforts to get with the history of the region he was born and lived in with his own personal relationship to that history.

With his unique talent that lets him forge connections between different cultures and tradition, and his intelligence that penetrates the depths of historical experience, Berber brought together styles spanning the range from antiquity to the contemporary era in a manner that was very much his own.

 

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Yugoslav Monuments – An Essay on Art and the Rhetoric of Power

A monument is namely a public phenomenon; the public is the commission which reasoned it and which it is dedicated. The physical open space in which a monument exists is technically the only possible medium of the socio-psychological sphere which the monument is intended for: the spiritual reality of its milieu.
 
Publicness is the monument’s true nature; this is where the monument grows, stands or fails: in publicness lies all the magnificence or nothingness of the monument. If it lacks this public dimension, the monument is just a mass, sometimes a good sculpture or something else but always a misunderstanding that disappears with the monument’s removal
.

Eugen Frankovic, The Publicness of Monuments

A French historian Pierre Nora writes that memory attaches itself to sites. Monuments and memorials are indeed such sites. When we try to rewrite today the art history of Yugoslav sites of remembrance, we are facing a depressing fact: such a history has actually never been written.
 
The absence of valuable art historical and theoretical texts about political and cultural monuments erected on former Yugoslav territories does not mirror the absence of monuments.

Both the first (1918-1941) and the second Yugoslav state (1945-1991/1992) manifested a real greed for commemorations and genuine passion for spatialization of collective memories. Any such project, however, necessitated the implementation of a particular politics of remembrance and these politics are depended on what is imagined as ‘collective identity’ of a community, a nation, or a state.
 
American historian John R.Gillis stresses that both memories and identities are often attributed the status of unchangeable ‘material objects’.

He dismantles this conception, states that we need to be reminded that memories and identities are not fixed things, but representations or constructions of reality, subjective rather than objective phenomena. Therefore, we are constantly revising our memories to suit our current identities.

Public monuments, both those dedicated to political figures and men of culture, are instrumental in these revisions: those which do not suit to ‘’new identities’’ must be removed in order to make place for new monuments which now spatialize newly constructed identities.

A discourse about political memorials, or any other public monument, we can establish today, radically differs from the usual comprehension of monuments traditionally discredited as “art on command” or “art on commission’”. As artworks commissioned by public agency – a national community, a veteran organization or even a state, monuments are believed to be in ‘service of’ a given power, which they should ‘illustrate’.

However, when examining monuments as visual representations, we (should) understand the monument as the site in which power becomes constituted. American art historian David Summers argued that ‘’substitutive images’’ (the representation of rulers) and the space in which they are used, are ipso facto realization of power, not expression of power, but actual form taken by power in one or another place and time.
 
Monuments, like other types of visual representations we encounter in the public sphere, such as posters, documentary and feature films, postage stamps and press photographs, play, thus, a constitutive and nor merely a reflexive, after-the-fact-role.

A discourse on memorial sites in two Yugoslav states is not unique. It does not differ much from other countries: since the least the French Revolution, the treatment of public monuments point to the fact that image-making is as old as image-breaking.
 
Making and breaking are also characteristic of the Yugoslav memorial productions, whereby it should not be forgotten that both Yugoslav states and many of the post-Yugoslav ones were founded after wars.

The Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenians known as the ‘’ three-name nation’’ (troimeni narod) was founded in 1918 after the First World War. Newly built monuments were meant to establish public memory of war heroism and suffering, but this memory, alas, could be instituted only in some parts of the freshly reunited state, actually composed of war winners and war losers.
 
When this state became a ‘one-name nation’ (jednoimeni narod) and was accordingly renamed the Kingdom of Yugoslavia (1924-41), it started to promote the ideology of unitary Yugoslavism, which was constituted not only by dictatorship but also via monuments to Yugoslav kings of Sebian Karadjordjevic dynasty: Peter I ‘’the Liberator’’ (died at 1921) and Aleksandar ‘’the Great Unifier’’( assassinated in 1934).

Between 1923 and 1940, some 215 monuments or memorial marks dedicated to the deceased rulers had been erected all over the Yugoslav kingdom. None of these monuments survived, but the sculptors who designed them ( Ivan Mestrovic, Lojze Dolinar, Frano Krsinic, Antun Augustincic and Sreten Stojanovic) did.
 
All of them would again become engaged in the production of memorials in ‘new’ Yugoslavia.

 

The Second Yuguslav State

The second Yugoslav state, proclaimed on 29, November 1943, was also a state born of war. After 1945, the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia indulged yet again in a statue-mania, which now spatialized the memory of a just war and victory over fascism.
 
Gained by transnational and multi-ethnic partisans’ forces, it fostered ‘’brotherhood and unity’’ of all Yugoslav people/nations. Thus emerged new memorial sites populated with numberless monuments which, as any such public objects in the world, replayed a collective memory that, since 1945, became institutionalized as ‘their’ history: this was the history of the winners, and winners are keen on selective memories.
 
In spatializing this memory-as-history, Yugoslav monuments exploited various regimes of representation.

Around 1952-55, the battle between Socialist (mainly academic) Realism and modernism in Socialist Yugoslavia ended with the victory of modernism. Hence, as of the 1960s, the major Yugoslav memorials commemorating ‘’fallen soldiers’’ and ‘’victims of fascism’’ obtained abstract, i.e, modernist shapes; however, parallel to these productions initiated and founded by the Association of Veterans of the People’s Liberation War (Savez Boraca Narodnooslobodilackog rata), monuments based on figurative representation continued to be built all over Yugoslavia till the late 1980s, and often supported by local veterans organizations.
 
Even if those monuments based on iconic or realistic representations of human bodies (as a rule male bodies) may appear to offer an easier identification and reception by ‘’people’’ , abstractly shaped memorials continue to connote the same ideology: a lack of humanism (understood as the absence of bodily representations) brought about the presence of huge abstract sculptures called organic bodies ( as a rule based on phallic shapes such as obelisks, cylinders, erected forms) which connoted again a rhetoric of power, and last but not least –militarism.

A thematic shift occurred in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Whereas ‘’revolutionary sculptures’’ produced till then restaged the war victory and defeat of fascism, later modernist memorial productions, built on the ‘’sites of the Revolution’’ tended to incept the memory of war as socialist revolution: this happened some thirty years after the war, when memories of it started to fade and meant little to younger generations.
 
In additions, memorial complexes, designed by artists and/or architects such as Bogdan Bogdanovic, Dusan Dzamonja, Miodrag Zivkovic, and erected on the natural sites where partisan’s victories took place, imply yet another aspect: they suggest revolution to be a natural process.
 
Therefore, one should abandon a traditional dualism between representational/ figurative and non-representational/abstract procedures. Instead, one should ask in which ways monuments actively performed a spatialization of Communist ideology, whereby the division between iconic and non-iconic representation hardly plays a role.

Since the rise of nationalist ideologies in Yugoslavia of the late 1980s, the antifascist tradition became exposed to collective amnesia, and in most, if not all, post-Yugoslav states it is almost completely negated, if not totally erased.
 
The devastation and destruction of Yugoslav ‘communist’ monuments occurred not only during the Yugoslav wars of the 1990s, but also later. New monuments erected, or re-erected, in post-Yugoslav sovereign states commemorate heroes and victims of war (1991-1999), but not only them.
 
Each nation-state built its own monuments which now constitute nationalist ideology viewed through the eyes of victimization and national suffering under ‘’foreign power’’ (as a rule neighboring nation/state), under ‘’communists’’ and even under the international community.

Memories re-enacted in political monuments and memorials put up on Yugoslav territories in the twentieth century are generally memories of violence and, linked to it, militarism. However, it would be historically wrong to assume that representation of and reference to violence is specific for monuments erected in bellicose and brutal Balkan region.
 
In addition, as in other parts of the world, monuments themselves are as often as not exposed to violence.

American art historian W.J.T. Mitchell, in his article The Violence of Public Art, differentiates two types of violence directed against monuments and other public works of art. One is ‘’the official’’ violence of police, juridical or legislative power, as was the case of the post-1989 removal of the ‘’Communist Pantheon’’, which was in the main based on parliamentary decisions.
 
The other is ‘’unofficial’’ violence performed by angry masses. He asked several questions: Is public art inherently violent, or is it a provocation to violence? Is violence built into the monument in its own very conception?
 
Is violence simply an accident that befalls some monuments, a matter of the fortunes of history? In this context, he reminds us that monumental productions are generally dedicated to one theme: Much of the world’s public art-memorials, monuments, triumphal arches, obelisks, columns, and statues-has a rather direct reference to violence in the form of war or conquest.
 
From Ozymandias to Caesar to Napoleon and Hitler, public art served as a kind of monumentalizing of violence, and never more powerfully than when it pre
sents the conqueror as a man of peace, imposing a Napoleonic code or a Pax Romana on the world.

Hungarian art historian, Katalin Sinkó, who discusses the removal of the monuments undertaken by the Communist regime in her native country, stresses probably the most significant aspect of the monuments’ disfigurement: The destruction of statues as a ritual act proves significant only in an environment which understands and acknowledges the meaning of such symbolic acts.
 
Accordingly, in the early days of the Yugoslav Kingdom, all signs of Austro-Hungarian monarchy were removed; those monuments to the Karadjordjevic dynasty which did not fall under occupying forces in the Second World War were promptly defaced after the 1945 by the communist authorities; after the violent disintegration of Yugoslavia, the emerging nation-states started to acquire their new identity by revising (nationalist) memories, engaging thus in a ‘’ memory work’’ which is as Gills points out, like any other kind of physical labor , embedded in complex class, gender and power relations that determine what is remembered/ or forgotten , by whom, and for what end.

The main question is still here: Are there elements of reconciliation in today’s culture of monuments in the Western Balkan? Whereas it appears somehow logical to built Memorial of the Murdered Jews of Europe, 2006, in Berlin, the question is where it would be ‘’logical’’ to erect a memorial to the victims in Srebrenica.
 
In Belgrade, of course. But, who would (date to) built it there? Monuments, cannot offer reconciliation, but people, sometimes can.. In a public performance held in Sarajevo 1998, the Croatian artist Slaven Tolj drank for some 20 minutes Bosnian sljivovica and Croatian grappa, mixing them.
 
The subtitle of his performance read: ‘’Waiting for Willy Brandt’’.

We keep waiting…

SYMBOLIC SIGNIFICANCE OF MONUMENTS IN BOSNIA AND HERZEGOVINA

Following the Second World War and the victorious National Liberation War over fascism, the myth of both revolutionary justice and the true will of the Communist Party of Yugoslavia to determine the course of history have been legitimized.

The victory also underlined the prospects of small nations, such as South Slavs, to decide their own future, to create a state and to be triumphant over a much stronger enemy. The victory, thus reconciled two myths: the myth of uprising and the myth of revolution.
 
The National Liberation War signified a conquest over invaders, and therefore, the victory substantiated the ability of South Slavs to constitute a state rooted in principles of ‘’ brotherhood and unity ‘’. The war also signified the effort to create a new society and a new class consciousness.
 
For that very reason, socialist realist art in former Yugoslavia, through ‘’ sacral places’’ such as monuments, sought to create the myth that would become underline the idea of revolution, the idea of creating a new man.
 
The monuments were used mostly commemorated fallen soldiers. They were also used to articulate a spirit of optimism and collective will directed towards a utopian classless society. The spirit of the deceased ought to inspire both those who have survived the war and new post-war generations to further pursue revolutionary accomplishments in peace.

The common practice was to build monuments dedicated to national heroes-such as a monument to the boy –fighter Bosko Buha who was portrayed standing over an open book, holding a gun in one hand, and a bomb in the other.
 
Totalitarian regimes often insist on youth mobilization as it stands for a new perspective. The official ideology, thus, particularly focused on the heroic death of a minor in order to establish the myth of a new generation that through death and suffering is building a new tomorrow.
 
The bomb in his hand and the rifle on his shoulder embody the young fighter’s will to create a new future in which radical fighting against the enemy symbolizes the realization of an utopian truth and universal justice for all South Slavic people.
 
The open book over which he stands symbolizes awareness of collective solidarity and a new future built through labor, combat and knowledge. The monument was set up at the Jabuka Mountain close to Prijepolje in western Serbia, the place where he was killed.
 
The spirit of the place and the worship of fallen fighters represent one of the most distinct rituals among Balkan nations: the cult of the ancestor. It denotes a static timeless past for which the living must repay the dead, whereas the fallen fighter symbolizes a new future and a new utopian reality which the survivors need to build.

Close to the monument of Bosko Buha stands another one commemorating soldiers who fell during First World War I. in the 1900s, Serbian nationalists, with the intention of deconstructing and devaluating the communist myth of the fighter, built right next to it a monument dedicated to Serbian soldiers who were sympathetic to fascist forces and killed by Partisans.
 
This highlights a grotesque union of Balkan ideologies of the 20
th century that aimed to attain legitimacy through blood and sacrifice. Despite seeming grossly incompatible, they held one common trait: a symbolic representation of the eternal spirit of ‘’our fallen fighters’’ through monuments which regenerate ‘’ political truth and justice’’.
 
Here, not only different ideologies but also borders of newly created states succeeding Yugoslavia meet: Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Montenegro. Consequently, the political body and the ‘’ brotherhood and unity’’ between the people and the South Slavic state community, all of which Bosko Buha had fought and died for, has fallen apart.
 
Even though his sculpture has fortunately not been torn down, it has been stripped of its symbolic meaning; a political assassination took place!

In the context of Bosnia and Herzegovina, the symbolical presentation of the National Liberation War had a great significance because its main battles and offensives were fought on the country’s territory: also, in 1943, the new Yugoslavia was established in the second session of the Anti-Fascist Council of People’s Liberation of Yugoslavia (AVNOJ) in the northern Bosnia town of Jajce.
 
The multiethnic life in Bosnia and Herzegovina alone seemed to reflect a ‘’miniaturized Yugoslavia’’, even the geographic centre of Yugoslavia, marked by a stone sculpture, was located near Sarajevo and Zenica cities.

In the late 1980s and 1990s, rising ethno-nationalistic fantasies have focused on ‘’under-mining communism’’. The reason why people massively adopted these ethno-nationalistic fantasies was primarily the political emptiness, a vacuum created by the fall of communism.
 
In this period, monuments that embodied communist tradition were often demolished. This destruction in itself had a double meaning: it sought to erase the communist past in order to make room for new identities and, at the same time, it marked the return to a pure ‘’ancient tradition’’.

However, while condemning communism as a utopian construction, nationalists turned towards an even greater illusion: a utopia that is no longer bound to the future but to the past. Thus the myth of creating a utopian future during communism has been replaced with the ethno-nationalistic myth of returning to the past.

Precisely because of the Bosnia and Herzegovina, as a representation of a ‘’miniature Yugoslavia’’, the consequences following the collapse of the social system and the Yugoslav idea of ‘’brotherhood and unity’’ were more tragic there.
 
One of the reasons why the war between the ‘fraternal’ nations was so blood-soaked is that the community began to fall apart internally, and the ideology which people believed in socialism with a human face-was abandoned.
 
This inner decay gave rise to ethno-nationalistic fantasies and identities that were based on exclusion and the denunciation of once ‘fraternal’ nations as hostile, criminal ones. Neighboring nations started to disown their own past and began finding an enemy within themselves.
 
Thus ‘brotherhood and unity’ between fraternal national turned into fratricide: the murder of the brother.

In this inextricable web of transition processes during 1990s, monuments and citizens in Bosnia and Herzegovina seemed to share a common fate: monuments were demolished and, at the same time, citizens were killed and imprisoned in concentration camps.
 
The demolition of monuments signified the collapse of the old political community while the emergence of new monuments pointed to the creation of a new political imagination and a new identity. Thus the transition from socialism to ethno-nationalism was reflected in the symbolic power of monuments and it was also reproduced in them.

In the winds of war that swept over Bosnia in the 1900s, not only were communist monuments destroyed in the name of ethno-national policies, but also any cultural heritage that now represented an enemy in ‘our nation’ was removed: the Old Bridge and Orthodox cathedral in Mostar, Ivo Andric sculpture in Visegrad, Aladza Mosque in Foca, Ferhadija in Banjaluka, John the Baptist Church near Jajce… The perpetrators of these acts were running away from themselves, from their own past, seeking refuge in a mythical past of holy kings and ancestors, who they believed would protect and renew their own national identities.

Even though the fate of Yugoslavia’s disintegration with all its tragic consequences, became fully visible during the war in Bosnia and was perhaps most notably woven into monuments in the country, not all of the monuments were expressions to constitute political authority in times of war.
 
On the contrary, they also symbolize a manifold tradition of diverse cultures that did not form in opposition to each other, but through subtle intertwining and constant interaction which had characterized the way of life in Bosnia for centuries.
 
The famous Old Bridge in Mostar, which was destroyed during fighting in 1993, did not simply represent the identity of the nation, but it rather opened a place for everyday encounters of manifold, intertwining identities from diverse nations.

Ultimately, the question arises as to how trauma experienced by the victims during the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina can be expressed through monuments? In which way can a sculpture commemorate the innocents that perished in the past without fostering the impression that crimes ate the only paradigms to be embedded within the collective memory?
 
Nowadays, no great ideology exists that could give meaning to the victims as part of a vision of future progress and improvement. Hence monuments that could form a new political consciousness are not built anymore.

However, a need of the people- of those who survived and feel remorse- still exists to express closeness to those who have perished. A rare example is the memorial cemetery in Potocari, close to Srebrenica.
 
Through the simplicity of its smooth stone and the names of the deceased written onto it, reflects some sort of relation of the living towards the dead. It does not emphasize the lament over the Srebrenica genocide but rather expresses an overwhelming pain that in its ineffability exceeds rational imagination and understanding.
 
In this way, the monument eludes any narcissistic awareness of collective victimization, the kind of which, unfortunately, is all too often part of the ritualized and populist discourse of the political and religious elite in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The current socio-political climate is marked by the Dayton Peace Agreement of 1995 that ended, or better froze, the war and represents an intersection of contradictory processes that are reflected by newly built monuments.
 
On the one hand, national aspirations exist regarding the separation of territories and their annexation to neighbouring countries, namely Serbia and Croatia. Thus, in the south-western Bosnian town of Tomislavgrad, stands a monument showing the medieval Croatian King Tomislav.
 
The monument embodies a mythical past aimed at legitimizing national sovereignty over a certain territory as well as state autonomy. Therefore, the medieval king represents neither elitism that rises above the working class, nor does he embody any aristocratic or divine nobility.
 
Instead he illuminates the origin of exclusive national will, the power of national unity and harmony. On the other hand, the general commercialization of society stultifies the meaning of public good, leading to the arbitrary placement of cheap symbols and superficial memorial inscriptions.
 
An example is the sculpture Multi-Ethnic Man, a donation from Italy that was placed in the Svjetlost Park in central Sarajevo. In its banality and impersonality, the sculpture seems to deny the very idea of multi-ethnicity.

In order to create a new political community, or a new unity in Bosnia and Herzegovina, it is necessary to consider all lines of separation and the symbolical power that has divided people and which is expressed by monuments and sculptures.
 
Then, finally, it may be able to let out the cathartic cry of liberation from the bloody past and thereby at the same time embody the sense for new multi-ethnic unity.

 

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What Is Installation Art? Description, History, and Prominent Artists

Today we will be discussing installation art, in terms of defining what it is / can be, some history behind it, and then we have a list of the most well known and famous installation artists.

Table of Contents

Famous Installation Artists You Should Know About Why We Need Installation Art

Let’s dig in…


What is Installation Art?

An art installation is a three-dimensional visual artwork, often created for a specific place (in situ) and designed to change the perception of space.

The term “installation”, which appeared in the 1970’s, generally applies to works created for interior spaces (ie. gallery, museum); outdoor works are more often referred to as public art, land art, or, to put it roughly, humans intervening on an environment and putting their “stamp” on it.

That said, an outdoor piece can most certainly be considered an “installation” of sorts, but, typically, installation art is most often found within an indoor space, as some artists would prefer to contain their creative statement to the context of a room, which is simple enough for a viewer to comprehend.

The installation, once constructed, is most often expressed in such a three-dimensional setting as has been mentioned: within a room, where the artist includes the environment as part of the work, or other factors, which distinguishes their work from simply hanging a 2-D piece.

The 3-D work is put into a situation and makes use of the off-field, a dimension that is not immediately visible to the person who is watching: the mere fact of including it as a “spectator” calls for notions of participation, immersion, and theatricality.

The space of the installation can be closed (eg limited to a waiting room, a kitchen, etc.) or open (for example a bridge, a wheat field, a square, a street, a city etc.): thus, Land art tends today to be redefined by the yardstick of the concept of installation.

Finally, an installation can be either:

  • mobile (or re-mountable);
  • permanent (or fixed);
  • ephemeral (or temporary).

The installation can most often be assimilated to a sculpture but it can not be reduced to it. One speaks of hybridization and mutations.

It also makes it possible to explode the notion of volume: the installation can be understood as an object of reduced size to a very large space (eg. Monumenta).

Specificity: Some installations are designed for (and depending on) a particular exhibition location.

Interaction: in some cases, the public is led to interact with the installation or even the artist himself.

The distance between the public and the work is more or less abolished; in some cases there is participation, the public penetrates within the perimeter proper to the work, engendering new types of relations between creation, creator, and viewer.

The scenography: some works invite a course, a path and propose different stages or sensorial sequences.

Here is a work by Yoko Ono called “Cut Piece”, from 1965.  Watch the video and see what meaning you can derive from this work.

This brings us to the point about art, and what is exactly the point of it all?  Is it to create enjoyment for the viewer / person experiencing the art, or is it simply to provoke thought?

As you probably know, if you like art, you must also be aware that there are those of us who just don’t really enjoy art, and, in particular, art that isn’t extremely easy to understand the meaning of at a glance.

Art which challenges the viewer, which installation art can often be, can often elicit feelings of strong dislike or confusion from the person witnessing it.

This begs the question, “What makes for good installation art?”  For surely not all installation art is created equal, just like any kind of creative output.  Are there no standards?  Is it all just purely subjective?

We spoke recently to University of California professor Jennifer Gonzalez, who has studied installation art in depth, and has even written a book about installation art called Subject to Display: Reframing Race in Contemporary Installation Art.

subject to display jennifer a gonzalez

Jennifer offers the following tidbit, “Like any art form, good installation art transforms the way we see, feel or think about the world.”

Of course, everyone sees art differently.  Some people aren’t comfortable having their thoughts challenged or provoked.

However, assuming you would like to understand installation art better than you already do, let’s take a trip back in time.

We will now look at the history of installation art, and some context as to how this often misunderstood sub-genre of art came about.


History of Installation Art

The term “installation” is relatively new in its use and in its definition as an artistic concept.

In 1958, the artist Allan Kaprow spoke of the “environment” to describe his productions, which consisted of the creation of a room requiring the intervention or the situation of the spectator and the place in a sort of happening, later described as “performance.”

In the same year, French artist Yves Klein invited the public to visit the Iris Clert gallery space in Paris to present his latest work, the “Exposition du vide”: floor, ceiling and walls painted white, all lit by a bluish light.

Playful, participative and mobile dimensions are already present in these avant garde works.

In retrospect, contemporary artists themselves are part of a genealogy, which, at the turn of the 1920’s, saw the appearance of certain artists (alone or in groups) capable of organizing, presenting and staging their productions in a non-conformist way.

Art theorists situate this phenomenon in the context of movements such as Dadaism and Surrealism: for example, Marcel Duchamp, who is the designer of the International Exhibition of Surrealism at the Galerie des Beaux-Arts in Paris, or the Merzbau by Kurt Schwitters, two artists who, however, worked in the secret of their workshops.

In 1969 the public discovers Given, Duchamp’s last work, begun in 1946 and completed in 1968: the artist described it as a “demountable approximation” and is accompanied by ” a specification, which makes it, in theory, “remountable”.

The first “ephemeral” installation, designed to be destroyed after a brief exhibition, was realized in 1956 in Barcelona by the Catalan poet Joan Brossa.

In Japan, the Gutai group was expressing itself through neo-dadaist performances and forms of installations.

In 1958, Wolf Vostell realized an installation, The Black Room ( Das schwarze Zimmer ), and exhibited in 1963 at the Smolin Gallery of New York an installation called 6 TV De-coll / age.

Depending on their fashions and arrangements, in a setting that has its own dynamics, the installations use traditional media such as painting , sculpture , photography , but more often more recent media such as projections (film, video), sound, lighting.

An artist like Nam June Paik was the first to use a mixed technique, combining television, video, sounds and lights in Exposition of Music – Electronic Television at the Parnass Gallery in Wuppertal in 1963.

Artists of the Fluxus and Lettrist group also expressed themselves through temporary installations, more or less provocative.

In the early 1980’s, interactive visual and sound installations appeared, using analogue and digital means, such as Jean-Robert Sédano and Solveig de Ory .

Beginning in the 1990s, the installations use computer tools either to drive the effects or to form the main medium, with artists like Perry Hoberman, David Rokeby, or digital and immersive with Jeffrey Shaw or Maurice Benayoun.

Now we shall take a look at some of the more famous, and sometimes infamous, installation artists the world has seen thus far…


Famous Installation Artists You Should Know About

Installation artists are not always the most well-known artists many students of art history will come across when studying art, which is strange, since installation art is some of the most groundbreaking and often hard-to-miss artistic statements that can be made.

Take, for example, this digital installation piece by Kyra Schmidt, which dominates an entire landscape.

Schmidt-Kyra-digital-art

As mentioned previously, the distinction between this art being considered “installation art” and “land art” comes down to the artists’ statement of their own work, and the viewers’ perception as well, since the artist clearly isn’t going to be present to guide each viewers’ opinion as to how to define what they are seeing.  The art, in other words, speaks for itself, and, in a real sense, doesn’t care what the viewer thinks of it.

To beleaguer the point a bit more, Robert Smithson’s “Spiral Jett” could be seen as land art, or installation art, or an earthwork sculpture, but it also simply is.

Installation art is such a powerful medium because it is often more than 2-D, reaching into the realm of experience-based media that affects us in a different way from a painting, or other types of media. 

The point of much installation art is to express something truly epic, or a feeling that can only be felt in the world or context of that particular piece.

The list of popular and, in fact, legendary installation artists is not a short one.  As a student of art, and as someone obviously curious about the creative process, I hope you enjoy this list of the most famous installation artists of all time that everyone should know about.  (*It is, of course, up to you to determine whether or not you agree that they should be on this list, and it would be interesting to hear your opinion in the comments below)


Yayoi Kusama

yayoi kasama

Yayoi Kusama is a Japanese contemporary artist who is well-known for her extensive resume in the arts and her long list of exhibitions and permanent installations.

She started achieving success in the 1950’s, and is now one of the most famous Japanese female artists, recently making the Time Magazine list of the 100 most influential people.

A very colourful person in life, Yayoi’s art immerses the viewer in an experience that takes them well beyond the bounds of the ordinary, usually involving polka dots in some way.

In Infinity

In 2017, the Hirshhorn Museum in Washington, DC opened up an exhibition celebrating her 50 years of work, and that same year, a museum named after her was instituted in Tokyo.

Her exhibitions are considered a must-see experience.

Watch this trailer for Kasuma (Infinity), about the artist.

Read our feature article, “Yayoi Kusama: Polka Dot Madness

Up next…Ai Weiwei.


Ai Weiwei

ai-weiwei

Ai Weiwei is an artist from Beijing, China. He is a filmmaker, visual artist, installation artist, author, and architectural artist. He is, or at least was, an extensive blogger, finding a place to express his vitriolic commentary on the Sina Weibo platform in the early micro-blogging days of the internet.

His most notable works include teaming up with architects to design and create the Beijing National Stadium for the 2008 Olympics, but make no mistake, this man’s legacy cannot really be summed up in just a couple of big pieces.

beijing olympics

Ai Weiwei is a human-rights activist that has been publicly vocal about his distaste for the Chinese government.

In fact, Ai has been embroiled in several controversies over his long and storied career, including a tax scandal, and being arrested.  He always seems to have the government nipping at his heels.

ai_weiwei_life_cycle_marciano_art_foundation

Despite being at odds with his own government for things he says or does, he is the recipient of many awards over his lengthy career, including the Appraisers Association Award for Excellence in the Arts and the Amnesty International’s Ambassador of Conscience Award.

Here is an interesting interview with Ai Weiwei that will give you an idea of who this man is.

Up next…Damien Hirst.


Damien Hirst

damien-hirst Portrait

Damien Hirst is an English artist and art collector. His most notable work that seems to be his big (though perhaps improbable) “hit” is called The Physical Impossibilities of Death in the Mind of Someone Living, which is a large tiger shark suspended in blue formaldehyde in a tank, created in 1991.

Here’s a video featuring this catchily-titled piece, with discussion between Beth Harris, Sal Khan and Steven Zucker.

This shark piece is quite notorious by now, and elicits many different reactions from onlookers.  Is it beautiful?  Is it horrifying?  It depends on who’s looking at it, and their mood on the time, not to mention their own relationship with the subject matter imposed on the viewer by the artist: death.

Hirst is a two-time Turner Prize recipient. Some of his other works includes the recreation of a chemists studio, called Pharmacy, Away From The Flock, which was a dead sheep in formaldehyde and The Dream, which was a unicorn suspended in formaldehyde.

the dream damien hirst

And just when you thought you’ve seen it all when it comes to unicorns suspended ominously in tanks of formaldehyde, there’s also this…

the broken dream damien hirst

A central theme of Hirst’s work is, as you may have guessed by now, …. death.

Visit: http://www.damienhirst.com/

Up next…Kara Walker.


Kara Walker

bio_box_walker_kara_16x9

Kara Walker is an American silhouette and installation artist who has instructed at Columbia University.

Her exhibitions have traveled all over the United States and Paris, being held in museums and the ARC/Musee d’Art Moderne de la ville de Paris.

Kara Walker's 'Virginia Lynch Mob'

She has held 4 other solo exhibitions, and has been commissioned for other public art installations, including her most famous, A Subtlety. 

A Subtlety

Her artwork depicts themes surrounding race, gender, equality, violence, sexuality and identity.

She is the youngest recipient of the MacArthur fellowship, which is a grant for those who show exemplary talent and initiative in their field.

Visit: http://www.karawalkerstudio.com/

Up next…Doris Salcedo.


Doris Salcedo

doris salcedo

Born in Colombia, Doris Salcedo is a visual artist most known for her usage of commonplace items in her work.

She is the recipient of The Guggenheim Fellowship for Visual Arts, a prestigious grant for exceptional work in the arts, along with many other renowned awards.

doris salcedo art

She has shared that her approach to creating installation art is: “The way that an artwork brings materials together is incredibly powerful. Sculpture is its materiality. I work with materials that are already charged with significance, with meaning they have required in the practice of everyday life…then, I work to the point where it becomes something else, where metamorphosis is reached.”

015_Salcedo_DIG-web

Check out this video, where Doris talks about the nature of her work.

Read our feature article, “The Impressive Doris Salcedo”

Up next…Judy Chicago.


Judy Chicago

judy chicago

Judy Chicago is an installation and feminist artist that hails from the United States. Since her first exhibition in 1965, Judy has had a longstanding career.

Her most notable installations are The Dinner Party, International Honor Quilt (shown below), The Birth Project, Powerplay and The Holocaust Project.

international honor quilt

She has permanent exhibitions in museums all over the world and has published 8 books.

Watch the following video if you want to learn more about this “troublemaker”…

Visit: http://www.judychicago.com/

Read our feature, The Life and Art of Judy Chicago for more info

Up next…Olafur Eliasson.


Olafur Eliasson

olafur_eliasson_photo_jacob_jorgensen

Olafur Eliasson is an artist that is well known for his inclusion of the elements to make the viewer’s experience exceptional.

He is a Danish-Icelandic artist who primarily works with light, air temperature, wind, and water to enhance his installation pieces.

olafur eliasson

Since his first solo exhibition in 1993, he has received critical acclaim for his pieces. He has held exhibitions all over the world, including in Germany, Korea, London and Brazil.

studio olafur eliasson

Watch this interview with Olafur Eliasson to learn more about the artist, on the occasion of his retrospective opening at the Tate Modern.

Visit: https://www.olafureliasson.net/


Bruce Nauman

bruce nauman

Bruce Nauman is an artist from the United States that is well versed in many different art forms. His work spans drawing, sculpting, working with neon and more.

There is an undeniable sexuality to his work that, when combined with the somewhat crude, universalized advertisement-like overtones in his work…the sort of eye grabbing modernity…that make the viewer subject to a wide array of reactions and emotions.

bruce nauman

Since his first exhibition in 1966, his work has become widely known. His work has been featured in numerous prestigious museums, including Documenta, the Whitney Biennial and the Venice Biennale.

Bruce-Nauman-Double-Poke-in-the-Eye-II-1985-2

He is the recipient of 8 awards and accolades, and is generally celebrated as a progressive artist the world over, going by the credo that “the true artist helps the world”.

Read more about Bruce here: https://www.moma.org/artists/4243


Joseph Beuys

joseph beuys

Joseph Beuys was a German artist who practiced all forms of art. His art philosophy was “extended definition of art” and the idea of social sculpture as a gesamtkunstwerk, which means a work of art that uses all art forms, or tries to.

In other words, he once covered himself in a blanket and got in a room with a coyote to see what would happen.  The title here was “I Like America and America Likes Me”.  Well, it sure does!

Joseph-Beuys-I-like-America-and-America-likes-me-1974-René-Block-Gallery-New-York

His impressive body of work includes visual, installation, and performance art, but he also contributed in an academic way, with art theory.

the pack

He also had an impressive list of exhibitions that have been held posthumously.  

Here is a short video asking the question, “Who is Joseph Beuys?”

Up next…Allan Kaprow.


Allan Kaprow

Allan-Kaprow-profile-555x312

Allan Kaprow was an American artist best known for his installation art and paintings.

He described his philosophy on art as “concrete” or using commonplace materials like “paint, chairs, food, electric and neon lights, smoke, water, old socks, a dog, movies” to make an impact.

un-art

He studied art and philosophy in school, and began teaching. He created a series of well-known installations called the Happenings, as a mixture of performance and installation art.

Allan-Kaprow-1

Here’s a video from 1988 in NYC that delves into some of Allan’s interesting happenings, and what they involved.

Visit: http://www.allankaprow.com/


Why We Need Installation Art

So far, we’ve discussed famous installation pieces, artists, and the background of the medium. Installation art has been disruptive in such a short amount of time and has given us some incredible artists with impactful work from all over the world. 

Yayoi-Kusama-Pumpkin

But why is installation art influential? What about it makes it a necessary form of conceptual art? Well, there are three main reasons why we need it: critical thinking, inspiration, and emotion. 

Critical Thinking

When you ask an installation artist the meaning behind their work, it’s often intense and thought-provoking.

For example, Doris Salcedo focuses her installation pieces around the themes of death, war, violence, and violence against women in her home country of Colombia.

Judy Chicago focuses her work on Feminist issues, and her piece “The Dinner Party,” is critically acclaimed and world-renowned.

These themes are underlying, and they’re abstract compared to the pieces themselves, which means audiences have to think critically about what the subject matter they’re ingesting.

doris salcedo

The ideas and the impact of them are more important than the installation itself, as the artist is presenting a message in a way that makes people think. 

Installation art aims to shift the focus from the literal visual representation of a piece to what the conceptual meaning is behind it.

Reworking how we consume art requires critical thinking and a shift in subjective perspective among individual viewers.

While the themes are not always immediately apparent, the artist is deliberate in every aspect of the piece. There is no texture, medium, or detail that is not intentional in a piece of installation work. 

controversial installation art

Over and above critical thinking, installation art fosters a dialogue between viewers. It sparks a conversation among critics and other artists in the installation community.

It creates an experience for the audience, more so than a painting or sculpture. Installation art breaks boundaries in many ways.

“If a traditional work of art allows us to appreciate the craftsmanship of the artist, an installation allows us to experience the ‘artwork’ and perhaps even rethink our attitudes and values.” – Encyclopedia of Art

Inspiration

Installation pieces are not confined to the walls of museums and galleries.

Some pieces, like Yayoi Kusama’s outdoor sculptures, Ai Weiwei’s “Good Fences Make Good Neighbors,” or Arnaud Lapierre’s “Ring – Chain,” are all beautiful examples of artwork that are in public spaces.

good fences make good neighbours

It’s inspiring to be living your daily life and come across a large-scale piece of artwork that makes you ponder. Artwork that makes us question, deliberate, and inspires us is a gift. 

The idea that anything is possible through art is exciting. As a creator, there are no limits. Creating art is ingrained in our being, which is why it inspires us so.

An installation piece provides a different kind of experience for someone, and each person looks at it and interprets it a little different. 

Installation art can inspire change. So many artists explore heavy themes that are deliberately brought to the attention of their audience that they may not otherwise have been aware of.

These pieces of art inspire people to continue to spread awareness and create change in their communities. 

Installations are typically temporary, which helps convey the concept of attachment.

famous installation art

In Buddhism, the idea of attachment is the cause of all suffering. We take with us our memories, and nothing else, so installation art can help inspire us to be less attached. 

“Any form of art is a form of power; it has impact; it can affect change – it can not only move us, it makes us move.” – Ossie Davis

Emotion

Installation art can have some dark themes behind its creation. Cultural issues, political issues, war, death, oppression, and other subjects that aren’t necessarily easy to discuss.

The goal behind installation art is to evoke emotion and conversation and to bring light to issues that are important to the artist.

For example, artist Damien Hirst focuses a lot of his artwork around death. His use of dead animals suspended and preserved with formaldehyde called “The Physical Impossibilities of Death in the Mind of Someone Living,” is intended to make audiences feel a bit uneasy or uncomfortable. 

Being able to assimilate the experience of an installation piece makes it all that more special. It creates an intimate moment between the viewer and the artwork in a way that a painting or more traditional piece can’t.

Ai-Weiwei-Sunflower-Seeds-via-juxtapoz-com

This moment only grows more profound when the installation piece is interactive, or the viewer becomes a part of the story. 

“I think art, more than anything else, helps humans to synthesize emotion and to synthesize parts of ourselves, so therefore, as an artist, I feel a responsibility to try and facilitate that synthesis.” – Jennifer Nettles

Why is Installation Art a Need?

Installation art transcends aesthetic preference, since typically it uses materials that are mundane and ordinary, and goes straight for symbolism and meaning.

It demands critical thinking and emotion of its viewers, and it inspires other artists to create. It creates meaningful connections between the artist and the audience, mainly if their work is speaking for those who do not have a voice. 

In the history of art, conceptual art is relatively new, but that doesn’t demean its significance and authority in the art world. Installation art is an experience, and it’s a necessary medium in our society.

Whether you’re personally a fan of this art style or not, there is something to be said about the impact it can have on us when it’s created with care. 

“All of the significant art of today stems from Conceptual art. This includes the art of installation, political, feminist, and socially directed art.” – Sol LeWitt

Conclusion

Each of these artists listed are extremely talented and well-known individuals in the installation art community, and now, hopefully, you will have a better understanding of installation art in terms of its context in the art world, place in history, and possibilities you may wish to pursue if you were questioning whether or not painting or drawing is the medium for you.

Again, leave a comment if you wish.

“Just as the development of earth art and installation art stemmed from the idea of taking art out of the galleries, the basis of my involvement with public art is a continuation of wall drawings.” – Sol LeWitt

Sources:

http://www.visual-arts-cork.com/installation-art.htm

https://www.theartstory.org/movement/installation-art/

https://www.artsmanagement.net/Articles/Why-Art-Matters-Art-and-Critical-Thinking,3984

https://www.ehow.com/how-does_4603057_art-express-emotion.html

https://www.bocadolobo.com/blog/art/must-see-outdoor-installations/

https://aesthetics.univie.ac.at/research/art-emotion/

http://houston.culturemap.com/news/arts/08-20-12-major-art-leaders-tell-how-art-inspires-them/

https://www.thenation.com/article/how-art-inspires-change/

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