Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Kiefer at St. Louis

I visited the St. Louis Art Museum at the end of July. The Anselm Kiefer - Burning Rods - stood out as an especially compelling piece. Finished in 1987 - it was made with "oil, acrylic, emulsion, and shellac on canvas with ceramic, iron, copper wire, and lead" - 130 1/4 in. x 18 ft. 3 in.

Seeing that I got to wondering where else there might be paintings of Kiefer's - I noticed that there is a show of his at MASS MoCA through October of 2009. I'm looking forward to going.

From the MASS MOCA site:

German artist Anselm Kiefer conjoins matter, history and time in a moving installation of paintings and monumental sculpture opened October 20, 2007, at MASS MoCA. MASS MoCA’s centerpiece Building 4 galleries feature four vast landscape paintings from a recent series never before seen in the United States, two paintings from the 1980’s, and an immense concrete sculpture, Etroits sont les Vaisseaux.

“Among our most important poets of war, in this surprising body of works Anselm Kiefer presents us with poignant moments of color flowering across the ruined topographies of his vast canvases,” said Joseph Thompson, Director of MASS MoCA. “For reasons I still cannot fully fathom, the Connecticut courts have recently required Andy and Christine Hall to remove Kiefer’s elegiac Etroits sont les Vaisseaux from their property. I’ve long admired that particular sculpture – its siting was exquisite – and I was delighted when the Halls offered it on long-term loan to MASS MoCA. That spirited act of generosity was further amplified as we discussed creating a specific installation of Kiefer works keyed to Etroits sont les Vaisseaux. Admirers of Kiefer will find this exhibition revelatory – the relative profusion of color is unexpected, and somehow especially touching because of that fact – and for those who may have missed the wonderful Fort Worth and Bilbao surveys of Kiefer’s work, this focused installation presents a powerful environment in which to become familiar with his recent work. Two earlier canvases with overlapping themes will place this timely new body of work in a broader context.”

Artforum describes Kiefer’s art as “sensuous and mesmerizing images through which … we gain entry to his arcane mindscape of ancient and recent history, philosophy, botany, Nordic myth, National Socialism, alchemy, and Wagner.” The Independent said in a review of Kiefer’s February 2007 exhibition at London’s White Cubes Gallery: “Great art is about transformation. And transforming experience and transforming materials are what Anselm Kiefer specializes in. The contrasting themes of destruction and recreation, violent upheaval and spiritual renewal, underpin much of the artist's work.”

...Rosenthal describes Kiefer’s paintings: “A landscape by Kiefer always fills the field of the canvas, with the horizon line and suggestion of sky minimal. Adding to this sense of claustrophobia, Kiefer’s typical large-scale format imparts a sense of portentous enormity to the experience. Before one of these mighty paintings, the viewer might feel his face pushed against the painted field, or else envision flying over it, though at a very low altitude. The depicted breadth even conveys a sense of the curvature of the earth. Dark in tonality and sometimes shown with fires burning, these often blackened places seem to have only recently been abandoned by human inhabitants. The depictions are at night or at dusk, thereby adding a melancholic sense of foreboding that horrific events have only just subsided.”

...During the early 1970’s Kiefer studied with conceptual artist Joseph Beuys, whose interest in using an array of cultural myths, metaphors and personal symbolic vocabulary as a means by which to engage and understand history inspired Kiefer.....Kiefer describes his own artistic process as stimulated by Beuys’s philosophies: “Painting, for me, is not just about creating an illusion. I don’t paint to present an image of something. I paint only when I have received an apparition, a shock, when I want to ‘transform’ something. Something that possesses me,and from which I have to deliver myself. Something I need to transform, to metabolize, and which gives me a reason to paint.”

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Radical Lace & Subversive Knitting

by Anne Wilson

My daughter, Amelia, and I went to this show, Radical Lace & Subversive Knitting, at the Indiana State Museum. It had been put together by The Museum of Arts & Design in Manhatten and was traveling around.

There was some really great stuff. Like these shovels which were cut out to look like lace by Cal Lane:

The New York Times review was not all that favorable. It didn't like the take offs done in steel, etc. as those things take away from how people really are updating old traditions.

An excerpt:

...Time then for an exhibition celebrating the unfrumpiness of craft, and, sigh, what better institution than one that recently went through its own makeover, changing its name from the American Craft Museum to the sexier Museum of Arts & Design?

The sorry news is that, despite its title, “Radical Lace & Subversive Knitting,” with around 40 works by 27 artists, is not a benchmark for introducing such crafts’ coolness or radicalism to a vast art audience. Rather than exploring transgressive takes on knitting, the exhibition, organized by David Revere McFadden, the museum’s chief curator, devotes most of its space to art that mimics the look or logic of knitting and lace and translates it into different materials.

...Some of the artists address “issues of politics, gender and ethics,” as a wall text puts it, in a general way. Janet Echelman’s giant, hand-knotted nylon net hanging from the ceiling in the museum’s entryway recreates the look of a nuclear mushroom cloud. Freddie Robins’s sinister-looking gray-knit bodysuit, with the words “Craft Kills” emblazoned across the chest, alludes to the airline ban on knitting needles in the post-9/11 era.

The works most in keeping with the show’s politically charged title are more interactive and collective, or more related to performance. For example, Cat Mazza’s collectively crocheted “Nike Blanket Petition,” a campaign against sweatshop practices represented here in a series of photographs, will be sent to Nike’s corporate headquarters.

A video of Dave Cole’s “Knitting Machine” project shows two John Deere excavators wielding telephone poles tapered to look like knitting needles — and missiles — to knit a giant American flag in the courtyard of the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art in North Adams, Mass.

Sabrina Gschwandtner, an artist and founder of KnitKnit magazine, has set up a “Wartime Knitting Circle” surrounded by panels made of industrially knitted photos of Vietnam War protesters knitting, British women knitting woolen covers for World War II hand grenades, soldiers knitting during World War I.

She invites people to join her in knitting “blankets for recovery” for people in Afghanistan and troops convalescing in military hospitals, among other projects. (On the exhibition’s opening day, Ms. Gschwandtner was chatting and knitting with Phyllis Rodriguez, whose son died in the north tower of the World Trade Center on 9/11 and who has since befriended A├»cha el-Wafi, mother of Zacarias Moussaoui, a French citizen of Moroccan descent serving a life sentence after his conspiracy conviction in the 9/11 attacks.

Needlework indeed has a radical past. William Morris, a mainstay of the Royal School of Needlework and the Arts and Crafts movement in England, protested late-19th-century industrial production. Feminist art in the 1970s drew heavily on so-called women’s work, and Rosemarie Trockel’s “knitting pictures” of the 1980s cleverly drew on political themes.

So many more artists might have been included whose work explores the social aspects of knitting and lace or who more radically recast these forms: Simon Perotin, of the punk-doily creations; the artisans in the Church of Craft; Ms. Zittel; Ms. Auerbach;, Mr. Drain; and so on...