Monday, November 8, 2010

Cao Fei

I noticed that Cao Fei had been considered for a big art award - so I looked her up. She was born, lives and works in Guangzhou, Guangdong Province,China. She has been in the Venice Biennale, the Taipei Biennial, the Moscow Biennale, the Fukuoka Triennale . She wants to be a bridge between art and pop culture. She works in video, performance, photography, installation and

RMB City 5, 2008, digital c-print, 120 x 160 cm

She is especially know for her RMB City. From ARTFORUM (China):

The architectural apotheosis of the Chinese city built in a virtual world. Developed by Chinese artist Cao Fei, RMB City offers an intense China experience. Combining the surreal with the virtual, critique with commerce, RMB City is an exercise in suspension that uses a dimensional distortion of architecture to create something which is described as “a city.” A place impossible to live in, but potentially an interesting one to invest in.

The other thing is the COSPLAYERS (costumed players). From

In cosplay — slang for “costume play” — people emulate the appearances of fictional characters. Cao Fei’s extensive series began by following Guangzhou youths, dressed like their favorite Japanese manga heroes, romping through their hometown. Gilded and winged outfits hearken to the future and far-away cultures, but gray cement overpasses and towering skyscrapers prevent any escape from the struggling city. In her more recent series, Cao Fei casts older Beijing residents in the same absurd roles and inserts them into typical street scenes.

Complementing these imaginative tableaux, Cao Fei chronicles the artistic creations of her peers in her Alternative Archive blog and further explores virtual reality in her Second Life blog via the avatar China Tracy. With her characteristic insight and wry wit, Cao Fei captures a generation caught between fantastic optimism and reality.

Statement about COSPLAYERS from
This cinematic work is an experiment that employs a surrealistic plot to give COSPLAYERS (young people dressed as game characters) the ability to traverse the city at will, and to engage in combat within their imaginary world. They expect their costumes will grant them true magical power, enabling the wearer to transcend reality and put themselves above all worldly and mundane concerns.

All COSPLAYERS are very young, with dreams in their heads, spending all their waking hours in the virtual world of video games from a very early age. Hence when they eventually grow up, they discover they are living a life style frowned upon and rejected by society and family members alike. With no channels open to express their feeling and aspirations they resort to escapism and, becoming alienated and out of touch, they turn into ever more unbecoming characters. However, in that moment when they are turned into genies, chivalrous knights, fairy princesses, or geeks, the pains of reality are assuaged, even if the "real" world they are standing on has not changed to the slightest.

In recent years a group of COSPLAYERS, growing up in and around China’s coastal cities, have been confronted by both the traditional values of the Chinese education system and subjected to the pull of invading foreign cultures in the new century. As a group of adolescents who refuse to grow-up, they choke themselves with passionate impulses and an undisguised infatuation with personal fancies, expressed through ways and manners only they can understand and be comfortable with.

Info about some of her works can be found at Alternative Archive.

I suppose it figures that art work that employs the internet, film, etc. would be considered the best new thing. I like the aspect of internet art that it is available to anyone.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Sylvia Sleigh

Working At Home (1969)

From the New York Times:
Sylvia Sleigh, the British-born artist who put a feminist spin on portrait painting, died on Sunday at her home in Manhattan. She was 94.

"Ms. Sleigh, who came to prominence as part of the surging feminist art movement of the 1970s, turned traditional portraiture on its head by presenting the male nude posed as a reclining Venus or odalisque, although she also painted both sexes, clothed and unclothed," writes William Grimes.

She was born in Wales in 1916, studied at the Brighton School of Art, lived in London for about 20 years and moved to the US in 1961.

Through her work with the Ad Hoc Committee of Women Artists and Women in the Arts, as well as her exhibitions with the SoHo 20 Gallery and A.I.R., she emerged in the 1970s as a prominent artist with an audacious take on traditional art history.

Not only were the sex roles reversed, but her paintings also wittily cast her all-too-human subjects in situations reserved for the gods of antiquity in Renaissance art.

Turkish Bath (1973)

Rosano Reclining (1974)

Annunciation (1975)

It was interesting to see the paintings posted with the NYT article - and the gardens that she included as part of her paintings - such as in "Annunciation". I don't remember seeing those before. A nice mix of flowers/gardens and people. I've just started adding people into my own paintings. I'm much more comfortable painting nature - having done so for years - but I enjoy the challenge of painting people, and it certainly changes the environment. People can overpower the painting, because of the way we, as people notice the people more. But it is evident in her paintings that she was very interested in the gardens. It's also interesting to see the figures in the modern dress of the day - the cut-offs.

A.I.R. 1978

This would be a good painting to show with the Zoffany piece - when doing art history. The A.I.R. group portrait (AIR = Artist In Residence).

I noticed her best work was done in her 50s :)

Monday, October 4, 2010

Susan Sze

I was surfing along and came across this at the Villiage Voice:
Sarah Sze's Return of the Real
The sculptor conjures a low-budget cosmos.
By Christian Viveros-Fauné

Stuck between a recession and a recovery, the art world is predictably game for eating and hoarding cake, too. A perfect example of the current cupidity is Dan Colen's windily hyped exhibition at Larry Gagosian's big tent......Other gross-out manifestations of the art world's gluttony include, according to a recent Wall Street Journal article, the return of "the collector-cum-investor" (again?) and the upcoming October rehanging of Jeff Koons's 1990 porn paintings (not again!). Second servings of gut-busting excess, developments like these compare to excellent art as Marie Antoinette's high spirits do to Bishop Desmond Tutu's compassion. Expressions of sheer vulgarity, they conversely magnify the work of artists whose generosity exposes the lie that contemporary art is a members-only club for rich, superficial, faddish assholes.

The present antidote to piggish tidings is Sarah Sze's blooming, bounteous installations of stuff we regularly overlook, which she effortlessly transforms into far-out Lilliputs and down-to-earth Space Odysseys. A modest character—despite being a MacArthur Fellow—Sze has long pointed the way to Whitmanesque freethinking through her interpretations of democratic consumerism. Cast from the bins at Target, Walgreens, and Home Depot, her sculptures convey both the epic and mundane integrity of Leaves of Grass.

Sze came seemingly out of nowhere in the late 1990s as a full-blown original artist. Since then, she has been marshalling disposable objects such as matchsticks, water bottles, and office supplies to make three-dimensional paintings that double as sculpture, and sculptures that look like all-over Jackson Pollock paintings. Using shop-bought debris to confect experiences of visual overload, she has essentially made a metaphor of life's disorders...

Sarah Sze
Tanya Bonakdar Gallery
521 West 21st Street
Through October 23

I like Sze's work best when she incorporates space into them. Those are the ones that have more of the Jackson Pollock sense about them. Some of her pieces have more of a sense of a messy desk. The ones that I like are the ones where it seems that gravity is defied and there is all of this stuff of life floating around, yet interconnected.

_______________________Her 360 (Portable Planetarium) does this.

I prefer the practice of going to recycling places or Goodwills, Restores etc., to get all of the "stuff of life" to assemble - rather than buying up a bunch of new crap from Targets and Walgreens. Some things may be too difficult to find used - but it adds nothing of value to the pieces for them to be part of the cycle of buying a bunch of unnecessary Stuff.


While I enjoy Tara Donovan's work - often installations, as well - one thing I like about Sze is the huge variety of things that she uses in each piece. It's interesting the way in which Donovan will use just plastic cups, or sheets of paper piled up to suggest a landscape. But in a way, Sze's work seems more natural, even though she also uses man-made stuff, because of the variety of textures and materials.

And while one can enjoy seeing the photos of the works, these are works to be experienced. Walking around and considering how they look from many angles and distances, etc. is part of the fun. With the ease of images that we can get on the internet and other media, art such as this keeps galleries and museums relevant.


Last evening I watched the movie, Séraphine. The movie is about Séraphine Louis, known as "Séraphine de Senlis"(1864–1942), a French artist who was mostly supporting herself by cleaning, and who was also passionate about painting. She felt she had a divine inspiration. She was self-taught and painted in "modern primitive" style.

In the movie, Wilhelm Unde moves into a house that Séraphine had been cleaning - through an arrangement with the landlady. The landlady scorns Séraphine's paintings, but Unde loves them and buys many of them. He also gives Séraphine money, and at various points in the movie is shown to be supporting her so that she can paint instead of clean.
L'arbre De Vie (The Tree of Life)_________________

In the movie - the situation is presented such that Unde appreciated her, but was not able to get her a show because of the economy - and so the community never did know of her or appreciate her. It was all him. In the movie, all the money she got (besides cleaning) seemed to come from him.

It sounds like the real story is that he did discover her, was able to find venues for her work, and get her into shows, and that she developed a degree of prominence and financial success with her art through the shows.

The rewriting of the story to make Unde her sole benefactor and supporter does Séraphine (and I think all women) a disservice. It reminds me of the Aristotle prescription for theatre where women are not to shown as being clever or brave or independent. It doesn't fit the narrative that men such as Aristotle wanted to have for women in society. So Séraphine is shown as being totally dependent on Unde and then becomes mentally ill, is hospitalized and he is the only one to look after her (besides the hospital staff) then as well.

Unfortunately, this is not all that unusual. The movie about Camille Claudel was similar in that Camille was fine as long as Rodin was around, but then fell apart, went insane and died. Camille Claudel was more successful in real life than the movie indicated.

I blame it on Aristotle and everyone who blindly follows his ideas (whether they know they are doing that or not - the status quo). It would be a step in the right direction, and a boost for women's equality, if movies about women (esp. biographies) would show the women as being as successful as they were/are.

Seraphine's paintings may be found at the Musée Maillol in Paris, the Musée d'art de Senlis, the Musée d'art naïf in Nice, and the Musée d'Art moderne Lille Métropole in Villeneuve-d'Ascq. Last year there had been an exhibition "Séraphine Louis dite Séraphine de Senlis" at the Musée Maillol in Paris.

Thursday, September 23, 2010


Arahmaiani's Artist Statement:
To be a feminist means one must face formidable challenges from the conservatives and the fundamentalists. Conflict happens because the religious conservatives and fundamentalists don’t want to loose the legitimacy of their power! And the second challenge is the impact of globalization, where the woman and her body tend to be exploited. Her body may be bought and sold in the cheap labour market. The authorities and the global economic decisions makers often stand on the side of the conservatives and the fundamentalists in their attitude towards those groups who are weak.

Arahmaiani is from Bandung, Indonesia (b.1961). Her work has been exhibited internationally such as at the Asia-Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art, Queensland Art Gallery, Brisbane, Australia, in 1996; the Bienal de La Habana, Havana, Cuba, in 1997; the Biennale d’Art Contemporain de Lyon, France, and Werkleitz Biennale, Germany, in 2000; the Sao Paulo Bienal, Brazil, the Kwangju Biennale, South Korea, in 2002; and the Venice Biennale in 2003 and at the Global Feminisms exhibit at the Brooklyn Museum in 2007. She does performance art, painting, drawing, installation, poetry, dance, and music.

From Nafas Art Magazine:
Arahmaiani is a key figure in the current art scene in Indonesia....Her father is an Islamic scholar and her mother is of Javanese Hindu-Buddhist extraction. Already their daughter’s name was a compromise. She readily explains that "Arahma" goes back to the Arabic language meaning „loving“, and „iani“ comes from „human being“ in Hindi. Her upbringing saw the coexistence of both convictions: whereas her father provided a strict Islamic culture and instruction, her mother’s family enabled her to learn Javanese dances, songs, legends, poetry, and custom....Arahmaiani considers that her natural inclination to play the role of a mediator between the worlds is anchored in her origins....

In addition, it is part of Arahmaiani’s ethos as a female artist to use her public presence in order to attract attention to violence against women in general and to female discrimination in Indonesia’s Islamic society in particular. A fundamental aspect of her criticism of the prevailing interpretation of Islam is that men derive their claim to sole authority in decision taking from it. She acts against religion as a rigid set of rules and defends her right to her own interpretation as an individual and as a woman....

After the attacks of September 11, 2001, however, Arahmaiani felt prompted to combine/complement her critical attitude towards Islam with a fight against its general stigmatization. When she is intent on trying to make people mostly of the Western world understand that the majority of Muslims are just as peace-loving as themselves, she does not consider that she is defending this religion, but simply pure common sense.

Some of her paintings have been of Mickey Mouse and Daffy Duck in commentary about the USA and some it's actions (she was confined in LA while trying to travel to Canada in 2002 - what with being from a Muslim country). She also has done performances where she invites people to write on her. Her more recent landscapes are painterly gray landscapes with words. From a description of a 2005 exhibition at Valentine Willie Fine Art, Bangsar, KL:

The paintings will be supported with photographs of Iani’s body/text works, by Bernice Chauly, and an interactive performance at the opening. The link to the three components of the exhibition is text. In the paintings, Arahmaiani has laid words across the landscapes, discussing cultural and social issues and adding that provocative element which is her benchmark. The issue sitting beneath the work is exploitation of the art market.

Video of Arahmaiani at the Global Feminisms at the Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art at the Brooklyn Museum in 2007.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Gillian Ayres and Therese Oulton

____________Gillian Ayres

______________________Therese Oulton

Gillian Ayres and Therese Oulton are British painters who paint rather expressively. Gillian Ayres was born in 1930 - her paintings reflect more the influence of Abstract Expressionism - she started out being inspired by Jackson Pollock. Therese Oulton was born in 1953 and her work is more neo-expressionist along the lines of Anselm Kiefer- in that more depth in shown, and the newer paintings also incorporate landscape in an expressionistic manner. Both artists use thick paint and textures.

Gillian Ayres - Tachiste Painting No.1 1957

Gillian Ayres - Antony and Cleopatra 1982

From the Tate online:
'Anthony and Cleopatra' was painted in the artist's studio at Llaniestyn, North Wales in the winter of 1981-2. It contrasts with the densely worked surfaces of her paintings during the 1970s. Ayres has explained that she wanted to achieve a sense of the sublime through the scale of markings. It also differs from other paintings of the early 1980s in having a yellow ochre ground rather than a white ground. The reason for this was that she was snowed in for several days and was unable to purchase any white lead. As usual, the title was given after the painting was completed. Ayres's titles do not describe the subject of the paintings. Rather the titles have a 'resonance' which relates to the character of each work.
(From the display caption September 2004)

A roomful of Ayre's at the British School at Rome


Therese Oulton - DISSONANCE QUARTET NO. 3 1986

From the Tate Online Oulton is quoted:
a series of oil paintings called ‘Dissonance Quartet’ which I showed in Vienna while I was living in Vienna. The reference was to Mozart's ‘Dissonance Quartet’. It was the idea that the ‘Dissonance Quartet’ does not end on a tonic resolution; and it was the idea of taking something of wholeness, like harmony or the circle, and then emptying that of its usual connotations. At the time, my particular concern was to take given meanings and see if they were still workable, or whether the weight of meaning was too great to use any more...

In the series things were turned inside out, and body metaphors, I think, began to creep in ... I began to like where the armour-plating became the flesh, so it was kind of turned inside out. There was often a kind of ribbing that could have been something protective. And the surface is bowed out like a Counter-Reformation Mannerist type of painting.

Therese Oulton - Untitled No.3 2007

Some of Therese Oulton's paintings merely suggest nature, but many of her later works (as can be seen at the Marlborough Gallery site) look like views from airplanes. Many with cites and roads suggested, some with shorelines. The landscapes look rather cut-up- in that there is the sense that human buildings have altered the landscapes. Some of her newer ones are oil on aluminum - most are oil on canvas.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Judy Chicago & Feminist Content

Judy Chicago created art with content and meaning at a time when content and meaning were being scorned. It's no surprise to me that the art with content and meaning is the more survivable. In retrospect it's nice to have some idea what people were thinking in a certain time.

In the 70s - when the historically disenfranchised were finding and creating unique modes of expression - the mainstream art world was saying that there was nothing to say.

__________________Judy Chicago's Dinner Party, now at home in the Brooklyn Museum, addresses Female agency and the problem of erasure throughout most of recorded history. I am acutely aware of exceptional women who have been "forgotten" (on purpose) and the effect that that can have on women's identity. I especially appreciate the Dinner Party and that it does have a home in Brooklyn, where I can visit (I've been there once so far, and expect to return).

From Women, Art and Society (Whitney Chadwick):

In 1981, Griselda Pollock and Roszika Parker argued that the iconography of Judy Chicago's Dinner Party, specifically it's vaginal imagery, was retrograde because it set itself up for exploitation: It is easily retrieved and co-opted by a male culture because [it does] not rupture radically meanings and connotations of women in art as body, as sexual, as nature, as object for male possession."

____________________So it's interesting to see how the art is perceived nearly 30 years later. At the time, I think the "vaginal" imagery seemed more "shocking". In retrospect, and actually seeing all of the plates - the art is not as sexual as it may sound. Many of the plates look more like flowers than vulvas. Just as much phallic art does not look so much penile, as suggestive of the form.

To Pollock's and Parker's that the art be "easily retrieved and co-opted by a male culture", for one thing, I don't think that is the case (with this - but I agree that it easily can be with more obviously sexual art), but for another, with the main gist of the art being about women's history and lost contributions, if the art is such that it can be integrated into male culture and art history - then all the better. Not only will Judy Chicago and feminism have it's place in history, so will many of the women who are represented with place settings.

There are such great references on so many levels - women having a place at the table (often denied) while women having been the ones to set the table and create the atmosphere, often taken for granted, often anonymously. That it was a group project with many women involved is also an important part of the piece, what with that being how women have often worked historically.

Recently, Through the, another group of women working with Judy Chicago, has created a K-12 curriculum to help teachers use the Dinner Party as a learning vehicle. Much of this has all come about within the last 5 years. For quite awhile in between - the Dinner Party was in some sort of historical limbo (and in storage).

You never know how something in the present will be perceived in the future. Though whether a major museum anoints something as worthy is one huge part, and whether it is taught in schools in another. That women's art is represented to the extent that that they are in Museums is due the efforts of many, many women pushing for that - yet the under-representation sadly persists.

I love the Guerrilla Girls poster that reads, "When Racism and Sexism are no longer fashionable, What will your Art Collection be Worth". So far, white male art still has a stranglehold on most of the American art world. When I visited the MOMA a few months ago, I thought is was ridiculous how many Piscassos were hanging compared to the number of pieces by women. I would definitely rather see more art by women - I would not miss not seeing many of the Picassos. As the same GG poster states, one of those Jasper Johns (or Picassos) for 17.7 million would buy one each of app. 65-75 well known women artist's art. I would guess that there were something like 10 times as many Picassos (not to mention all of the other male art) as there was art by women.

I agree with Griselda Pollock, that male art should not be perceived as gender-free, while women's art is considered the "other", as if male art represented people and female art only represented women. If there is any sense of equality, the view of the world by women should be represented equally with the art by men. Museum directors (even some women ones) still hold on to the idea that the art by men is the influential art, while the art by women is not. But that is so, only as long as they make it so.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Ana Mendieta

Prior to the 60s, women were advised to divorce art from female experience and self-awareness. During the 60s, various artists were breaking out from these restraints. Marisol, Eva Hesse, Faith Ringgold, Betye Saar. Other artists such as Louise Bourgeois, Louise Nevelson, Alice Neel and Frida Kahlo finally started getting the attention they long deserved.

Ana Mendieta (American, born Cuba 1948–1985) came on the scene with her performance - earth/body images in 1972 - having studied intermedia at the University of Iowa. Some artists had been making monumental earth works and others had been making performance pieces with their bodies - and Mendieta made an interesting link with her earth-body pieces. Some of her pieces refer to prehistoric goddess imagery, many are about re-connecting humans and nature.

Grass On Woman - 1972 - Lifetime color photograph___________

In 1973, Judy Chicago (who will be speaking in Evansville next Monday) and Miriam Shapiro asked the question, 'What does it feel like to be a woman?" The art world had been so focused on the male point of view, that it was something to think about for women. Some women thought (still think?) that any male/female differences are a matter of socialization and are not real. But even then, there are different sensory issues, the ability to give birth, etc.

Imagen de Yagul -1973 - Lifetime color photograph___________

“I have been carrying on a dialogue between the landscape and the female body (based on my own silhouette)… I am overwhelmed by the feeling of having been cast from the womb (nature). Through my earth/body sculptures I become one with the earth… I become an extension of nature and nature becomes an extension of my body…” - Ana Mendieta

Silueta Works in Mexico - 1973-78 -C-Print

"One beach sculpture consists of red bouganvillea blossoms in the shape of the artist’s body with arms raised. The incoming waves have washed away the lower part of the figure. For those familiar with Santeria, the symbolism is clear: Chango, a principal orisha, always is represented by the color red. His mistress is Yemayá, orisha of the ocean, whose frothy waves represent her lacy petticoats. Mendieta’s art shows Yemayá’s petticoats covering the legs of Chango, whose arms are raised in surprise or delight. Like the ocean, Yemayá represents both a loving and wrathful mother; they say you can take shelter from your enemies under her skirts, but if you provoke her anger, there is nowhere you can hide." (Virginia Miller Gallery)


Mendieta was among the first to reconnect with ancient concepts such as the Tree of Life. The Tree of Life goes back to some of the earliest of civilizations in and around the Middle East and Indus Valley. Some have speculated that the Tree of Life and Mother Goddess concepts traveled from India through or around Europe to Scandinavia and Ireland and even to the Americas. There are similarities in art, ideas, and rituals that connect Old India with Old Celtic / Viking and Aztec. The Tree of Life was a symbol that connected life and death, earth and sky.

Tree of Life - 1976 - Lifetime color photograph

Hirshorn Show
Virginia Miller Gallery Show

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Mercedes Matter

Mercedes Matter - 1934
Mercedes Matter (1913-2001) was one of the founding members (at age 23 as Jeanne Carles) of American Abstract Artists in 1936. Other founding members included: Josef Albers and David Smith. Louise Bourgeois, Lee Krasner, Louise Nevelson joined later, as did many other well-known abstract artists.

She got work with the WPA, dated Arshile Gorky (when he was still a non-citizen and couldn't work for the WPA), studied with Alexander Archipenko & Hans Hoffman, and met Lee Krasner in jail. Mercedes and Lee were arrested for participating in a strike in 1935. Matter worked with Fernand Leger on murals.

1943-45 she spent in California, married to Herbert Matter and had a baby. She returned to NYC in 1946.

"Then it was the Cedar Bar and The Club itself. All kinds of nonsense went on about membership, about how to pick members, whether women should be admitted. There was quite a fuss about making Mercedes Matter the first female member of The Club and things like that"
-Leo Castelli

Matter wrote:
"The Artists’ Club was formed in which I was the one female original member in a very male dominated situation. However, the Club became a most unique and wonderful thing including artists of the widest divergence from Edwin Dickinson to Phillip Guston, Bradley Tomlin to Joan Mitchell, with the composers and writers as much a part. The Cedar Bar during those years was perhaps the best part of my education. As de Kooning said, “Art is something you can’t talk about and you talk about forever.”

"Influenced by the artistic precepts of Hofmann, Matter was a proponent of painting directly from nature. Her works are characterized by vigorous angular marks and geometricized rhythms. Many of her pieces represent a unique fusion of advanced gestural abstraction and a sensitive perceptual observation of landscape and still-life motifs." - Figge

The paintings that she created in the 30s are compared to Gorky's (of course he could have just as easily been influenced by her). Matter's painting above from 1940 suggests DeKooning's "Woman I" done in 1950. Mercedes Matter certainly seems to have been an influential figure in the Abstract Art genre - and yet I had never heard of her. The does not include her on their site, and she is absent from many accounts of art of the times.

She started teaching at the Philadelphia College of Art (now called the University of the Arts), Pratt and NYU. She was a visiting critic at Antioch, Brandeis, Cincinnati School of Art, Kansas City Art Institute, Maryland Institute, Yale University, Skowhegan and American University in Washington.

She was in groups shows:

American Abstract Artists, 1936-42

Stable Gallery, annual shows, 1950’s

Peridot Gallery, early 1950’s

Tanager Gallery, annual exhibitions, 1950’s and many others

In recent years her work has been seen in show such as "Pollock Matters" and "From Hartley to Hofmann
Provincetown Vignettes, 1899-1945"

She had her first one person show in 1956 at the Tanager Gallery.

It was apparently typical for women not to get one person show for years after their male peers had. (In an LA Weekly article, Doug Harvey suggests the reason for her late one-person show was her inability to commit to a solo show earlier.)

from 1962___________________

There is a retrospective of her work which is on it's last leg at the Figge Art Museum in Davenport Iowa - through January 2,2011.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Leonor Fini, Leonora Carrington, Louise Bourgeious - Surrealism

I have toyed with surrealism some. I like the opportunity to express ideas and emotions that could not be similarly expressed in pure abstraction or pure realism.

From what I've read of the surrealist movement, however, it was dominated by misogynistic males. I saw a show in Copenhagen (2009) that was the most anti-female art that I have ever seen in a museum. It gave me the creeps.

It is interesting to learn in Frida Kahlo's biography that while she spent some time with the Surrealists in Paris- that she didn't care much for their theorizing. She was not interested in being considered a part of their group.

I am finishing the book, Women, Art, and Society by Whitney Chadwick (many images from the book can be found here). In the book, there is an image, supposedly by Leonor Fini called Sphinx Regina which I like (a close-up of nature with bones)- but it is so unlike anything else that I see that was done by her (mostly women with little background)- that I don't think it was by her. At the very least, it is not representative, from what I can tell.

___________________Leonor Fini
Red Vision

___________________Leonor Fini Grande___________________

Fini's paintings tend toward the ghostly / spiritual.

___________________Leonora Carrington Labyrinth___________________

There is an University of Albany Museum site featuring several 20th century women (based on an exhibition) that has an image by Leonora Carrington (born England 1917, lives in Mexico) - Big Badger Meets the Domino Boys. Fortunately I looked up some others by her - because that one did not seem representative, either. But it did not seem so completely differnt and it may just be a different stage in her life. Carrington also paints images that suggest spirituality.

___________________Leonora Carrington Voteaza___________________

Louise Bourgeious (1911-2010) was an artist who dabbled in many looks - usually with an organic orientation. I like her surrealistic Femme Maison paintings. (I also like her gigantic cast spider).

___________________ Louise Bourgeious Femme-Maison___________________

From the Tate Modern site:

Femme Maison means ‘housewife’: literally, ‘woman house’. In these paintings, as in so much of her work, Bourgeois shows the home as an essentially female place, in which she can explore ideas about female identity. She said the Femme Maison ‘does not know that she is half naked, and she does not know that she is trying to hide. That is to say, she is totally self-defeating because she shows herself at the very moment that she thinks she is hiding’.

___________________Louise Bourgeious Femme-Maison___________________ (from 1945-6 - when her children were little. she also did a later version in marble)

Unlike Fini and Carrington, Bourgeious' images of the Femme Maison (as well as much of her other art) seem to deal more with life than the supernatural.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Art Seen in NYC - 2010

Ceramic shapes in a Japanese Gallery in Chelsea.


These are from various galleries in Chelsea - June 2010. I especially liked to see the abstract textured paintings - some of which suggested landscapes. There were, interestingly, a lot of drips... and expressionism.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

"The Death of Nature"

"The Death of Nature" is a book by Carolyn Merchant (1980).

The book is about people turning toward a mechanistic view of nature - esp. in the 1600s. The founding of the microscope was one element. People gaining more of an understanding of how nature works. Prior to the microscope - the general idea in the West was that in reproduction women contributed matter, while men (supposedly being superior) contributed "spirit" or "energy". It might have partly been a result of men falling off the pedestal they created for themselves that contributed to the shift.

Prior to that - nature was thought of in more anthropomorphical terms - as "Mother Nature", "Mother Earth". And people had more concern over the consequences of extracting resources. As if it would hurt the earth. Ecological concerns go way back hundreds of years to when people were polluting rivers from iron making and one thing or another. There have always been those who were disturbed by damage to natural environment.

In the 1600s - one of the main power sources was lumber - turned into ships that then could travel around the world in trade or in aids to war. The toll on the trees in England and in France became a concern and conservation measures had to be implemented.

Also - industries were polluting England so much that some were sent over to New England - much like Americans have sent industries to Mexico or China.

But the main idea was the problem of a mechanized world view and the subsequent lack of concern for the environment. It became easier for people to think of the earth as resources to extract, to make money from. The idea that people could have control over nature - that order and power could be imposed. The more people thought of nature in those terms - the easier it was to exploit.

There were some who wanted to hold on to ideas that matter was one thing - but spirit and God were another. Even Newton - with his scientific understanding didn't want to let go of God completely. There seemed to be a sort of balance that people wanted to adopt - the mechanistic world - that God WANTED people to exploit - to control. This allowed people to feel OK about what they were doing with their capitalistic endeavors.

Even today - the concept that this world is a temporary world on one's way to paradise is a way to allow people to muck up the earth - because it doesn't really matter - it's "Fallen", anyway.

If people can realize that this world is absolutely awesome - those who live here now (or at any time) should feel compelled to keep it that way for future generations. No generation of people should ever figure that THEY have the right to live in luxury while destroying the planet for the future. That would be a big step. It doesn't require that people believe or don't believe in God - it just requires that everyone realizes how awesome the world is - and that nobody would want to screw it up for others alive now or later.

Everyone should be able to accept that global warming, pollution, etc. will affect everyone. While it will hurt some more than others - no-one should figure that they can stay above the fray. We are all in this together.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Selections from IU-Bloomington MFA shows 2010

a few paintings

these photographs were very interesting - flattened skin - rather changes the way you might think of bodies...

sculptural ceramics installation