Category Archives: Review

Sounds from Beneath.

Epic, touching and above all, astonishing and beautiful. These are the sounds from beneath the earth, the memory of an era below the surface, a recreation of the devastating sounds produced by a coal mine.

As mentioned before, I recently went to Manifesta ’09 (The deep of Modern, The european Biennial of Contemporary Art) where I saw this really moving and perhaps politically Video by Karikis Mikhail & Uriel Orlow. Working together with an ex-coal miners choir from Kent they recall an vocalise the sounds of underground activity in the coal-mines. The scenery used is the same as were they have worked for almost their entire lifespan. It Resonates with pathos, dignity and emotional force. It’s a tribute a requiem to all those who have spend their time in the mines, for all those who gave their lives.

Which moved me the most is perhaps that the sounds (which are inhumane) are not created by the machinery itself, but by the people who were the driving force of it all.

 

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The least “pop” of all pop-artists.

Robert Indiana (Robert Clark)

Today we celebrate 84 years of love, the birthday of the least ‘pop’ among the pop-artists. Today we celebrate the anniversary of Robert Clark, better known as Robert Indiana. 

Well known for his bold, iconic and simple images, consisting of especially numbers and short words such as “LOVE”, he calls them sculptural poems. The iconography first appeared in a series of poems Indiana had written in 1985, where he stacked the letters LO and VE on top of each other as he would do in a similar way in his famous ‘Love’ series.

These sculptures can be found all around the world and are represented in many languages. They made stamps, musicians inspired their album covers upon it and so on. In this manner he “spreads” out love, all over the globe. He unites people by placing his (similar) work all over the globe (except for the translation).

Robert Indiana – LOVE

Robert Indiana – Ahava (אהבה “love” in Hebrew)

Rage against the machine (Album cover) – Renegades.

Robert Indiana – “Love” stamp

 

“Some people like to paint trees. I like to paint love. I find it more meaningful than painting trees.” – Robert Indiana

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Art and the expression of Meaning (found in music?)

Munich, September 1910. Final rehearsal for the world premiere of Mahler’s Eighth Symphony, in the Neue Musik-Festhalle.

It is well known, that great art was many times inspired by great music. So did Mahler’s music inspire artists like Rodin, Kandinsky and most likely plenty others.   “En plus” it was on this day that for the last time in his lifetime a work of Mahler was premiered; his symphony n°8 (which has been used for the final scene of Faust).

But I’m drifting of, so as said above Kandinsky was inspired by his music. It is crucial to understand that modern art has usually been conceived as an art of creative expression. Therefor it is obvious to believe, to think of art as a reflection of the artist’s intentions. Kandinsky call’s for painting to move away from merely representation of objects toward works that arise from the “inner need”. It is the triumph of subjectivity and therefore a loss in objectivity.

“Kandinsky took music as the model how painting might free itself from objective limits and become more expressive” – This is his desire for a “music of painting”. But why? Well, for some centuries music has been the art which has devoted itself not to the reproduction of natural phenomena, but rather to the expression of the artist’s soul.

A painter who finds no satisfaction in mere representation, however artistic, in his longing to express his inner life, cannot but envy the ease with which music, the most non-material of the arts today, achieves this end. He naturally seeks to apply the methods of music to his own art. And from this results the modem desire for rhythm in painting, for mathematical, abstract construction, for repeated notes of color, for setting color in motion. – W. Kandinsky

W. Kandinsky – Composition 7

Auguste Rodin – Gustave Mahler

A totally different view on Mahler , but non the less interesting is his death mask, now obscured and well forgotten, subdued by photography. It’s the art (or rather was) of immortalizing the death

“A death mask is a wax or plaster cast made of a person’s face following death. Death masks may be mementos of the dead, or be used for creation of portraits. It is sometimes possible to identify portraits that have been painted from death masks, because of the characteristic slight distortions of the features caused by the weight of the plaster during the making of the mold. In other cultures a death mask may be a clay or other artifact placed on the face of the deceased before burial rites.  The best known of these are the masks used by ancient Egyptians as part of the mummification process, such as Tutankhamon’s burial mask.”

Gustave Mahler death mask

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He did not belong amongst them.

 

Ben Shahn – WWII

 

Another day, another birthday (what are the odds but it’s definitely worth trying: happy birthday to you if it’s yours as well). – Happy birthday Ben Shahn, you would have been 114 years old (if you do the math correctly you should find out he was born in 1898, unless I made a mistake). You probably can not see this, nor hear this but non the less here’s your gift (Yes I know, it’s a review).

Ben Shahn is most likely not well-known among you (at least not like you know Rothko, Klee..) but I do believe, although controversial, he made a big difference. You should know that his major works are to be situated in the first half of the 20th century. Which means; the era of the avant-garde (Dada, Surrealism, ..) and later on Abstract Expressionism (WWII) when the  major ‘artscape’ moved from Europe to America (because of the harsh regimes in Europe which suppressed all kinds of (artistic) freedom and therefore creativity). This is the time when a lot of painters, musicians, scientist, etc. had to move or rather flee to America or other non occupied regions. So did Ben Shahn.

“He identified himself as a communicative artist and employed pictorial realities instead of Abstract forms “to discover new truths about man and to reaffirm that his life is significant“. “

As my header might already have suggested, his themes and way of representing them were nothing like those used by the avant-garde, Abstract Expressionists. Whose paintings mostly were highly esoteric, abstract figures were used or/and color won over figure. So you won’t be surprised if I told you he challenged these ‘esoteric pretensions’ of art, which he believed disconnect artist’s and their work from the people, their public.

As an alternative Shahn tried to accomplish an intimate and mutually beneficial relationship between artist and public. He identified himself as a communicative artist and employed pictorial realities instead of Abstract forms “to discover new truths about man and to reaffirm that his life is significant“. But this didn’t mean he was a painter of the proletariat. As you can see on the painting below he did not only paint ‘social problems’ and ‘war-based iconography’. The painting ‘Still Music’ kind of reminds me of Miro, the playfulness of the lines and the rather ‘monotone background’. Whilst the second one -Farewell Luck Dragon- reminds of some landscapes Egon Schiele made or even a bit of Paul Klee.

Ben Shahn – Still Music

Jean Miro – Nocturne

Ben Shahn – Farewell Lucky Dragon

Egon Schiele – Landscape at Krumau

Non the less he also made some stark, dark and ‘bloody-shocking’ pictures:

Ben Shahn – Hunger

Or this one, which depicts on a harsh and bloody way the desolation and loneliness of war by showing a lonely, (most likely) dead soldier.

Ben Shahn – Death on the Beach

And my favorite:

Ben Shahn – Fourth of July

I could go on like this for pages, talking about the wonderful photographs, illustrations and murals he made. Narrating his life and so on. Although I believe that I made my point already telling you this painter had a statement of its own and did not follow any major group or stream as most artists in NYC did that time. He kept his own values and expressed humanity in a pictorial and ‘human’ way, although he wasn’t afraid of the color red, in contrary. It is worth saying that his art could be described as being introspective but non the less he often captured his figures engrossed in their own world.

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The day the world was once more united.

Michael Arad and Peter Walker – 9/11 Memorial

We shall never forget the day the world stood still. We shall never forget those who gave their lives that day. We shall never forget the days after, we shall not ever forget. Many artists around the world contributed to the same cause by building fountains, sculptures even by rebuilding, to make sure we never forget what happened that day. To remind us how fragile our world can be, how only a few can take away the lives of many. How people all over the world united in greave.

Well, I didn’t want to have the reminder sort of in the sky, so that people would forever look at it. I wanted to have – really to create a city from the bottom up. From that foundation, which held, from the democratic power of what the site really is – Daniel Libeskind

Daniel Libeskind, an architect, artist and set designer, who was selected to oversee the rebuilding of the World Trade Centers He titled his concept for the site Memory Foundations, is one of those who made sure we wouldn’t forget by not only building a memorial monument but also by ‘rebuilding’ the site. It is very important to emphasize the fact that Libeskind did not see this project as being an urban one, he saw his master plan as being that which was a place of the spirit, the place were people perished. Therefor it was not a piece of real estate any longer. You could not simply put a building there. Instead he kept the space (where the the towers stood) open and used the site itself as the memorial.

Well, I think one doesn’t really have to invent this memorial space, because it is already there. And it is speaking with a voice and, you know, 4 million of us came to see the site. – Daniel Libeskind

Michael Arad and Peter Walker, whom have built the ‘fountains’. I really do believe that i could not be done better, as Libeskind quoted above, it is not about ‘building’ a memorial, because it is already there. So what they did really emphasizes this thought. They ‘built’ 2 fountains where the towers use to stand (around the fountains all the names of those who lost their lives that day are carved in stone). What made it even more wonderful is the way how they used trees to recreate the shadow the towers would have cast upon the city.

Daniel Libeskind’s Drawing of World Trade Center Site with Memorial Voids

9/11 Memorial – Michael Arad and Peter Walker.

Also artists like Jeff Koons, the most controversial artist alive, made their contribution. He created his tribute sculpture in 2010 and it stands facing the construction of the new site. The work resembles a red flower (which could be free for interpretation). The piece itself is surrounded by an active fountain and raised concrete ring that you could sit on to enjoy and observe the work.

Jeff Koons – Red Balloon animal.

People all around the world made art on this topic. I do not have the means to review and show them all, therefor i’d like to mention them and encourage the world to continue doing so, not only on this topic, but in general. Art bounds, it connects one another. It unites the world.

I’d like to mention one more; Steve Tobin, the artist who made “Trinity Roots”, tells the uplifting story of the 70-year-old sycamore tree that was felled by the intense impact of the collapsing towers across the street from the World Trade Center.  The tree absorbed the shockwaves, which a physicist has compared to those of a small nuclear bomb, and was laying in such a way as to shield historic St. Paul’s Chapel at Trinity Church and its ancient tombstones from falling debris.  The tree, which even took a hit from an I-beam, seemed the only positive story that came out of the tragic events that day.

“The Trinity Root is the most significant work that I shall ever make,” said Tobin.  “I hope that it gives solace to the millions of people who visit Ground Zero from all over the world, and from the community of Lower Manhattan, particularly on the five year anniversary of the day that changed the world forever.”

Steve Tobin – Trinity Root

Memorial stained glass

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Manifesta 09

So a while ago I went to this awesome exhibition; the  European Biennial of Contemporary Art Manifesta 09, which is situated in a old mine site. The place, the artwork, the history, everything was right. If you do live in Belgium or somewhere near enough I highly recommend you go and visit.

“Manifesta originated in the early 90’s in response to the political, economic and social changes following the end of the Cold War and the subsequent steps towards European integration. Since that time, Manifesta has developed into traveling platform focusing on the dialogue between art and society in Europe. Manifesta has become a flexible and mobile structure, capable of continuously changing and reinventing itself. For each edition of Manifesta a new curator or team of curators is appointed who in turn invite artists from around the world to participate.”

I’m hoping to discuss some of the works on them own as soon as possible.
Till then I hope you enjoy some of the pictures I have taken.

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The reclining nude (or naked?).

Henri Gervex – Rolla – 1878

Nakedness reveals itself. Nudity is placed on display. The nude is condemned to never being naked. Nudity is a form of dress. – John Berger

Based upon a poem by Alfred de Musset (1810-1857), this reclining nude which belongs to the early work of Henri Gervex (1852-1829), who’s birthday it would have been today (160), which(his early works) belonged almost exclusively to the ‘mythological’ genre. Although it is (or should represent) a mythological painting, the lady reclining on the bed is most certainly not a Venus (as told in the poem). Based upon the pile of cloths, the half dressed gentlemen standing at the balcony I could imagine her being a prostitute, reclining and resting after a wild a sensual game of love. The gentlemen still looking upon the beautiful lady laying in (his) bed.

Do you regret the age when, in majestic grace, Fair heaven amid the gods made earth her dwell- ing-place ; When Venus Astarte, child of the mighty sea, Rose from the bitter wave in virgin purity? The time, when drifting nymphs lay on the river’s breast, And with their wanton laughter vexed the lazy rest Of fauns stretched out to sleep upon the reedy shore? When in the pool Narcissus his fair image saw, And when great Hercules eternal justice dealt, Clad in his gory mantle of a lion’s pelt; When mocking satyrs swayed the leafy boughs among, Whistling a jeering echo to the traveler’s song? – Alfred de Musset; Rolla

Although most likely not a Venus, she does have the perfect body, heavenly white skin which could refer to the earlier works of Titian. A voluptuous body of a young lady, reclining on a bed, staring directly at the viewing audience and not in a coy manner, almost as if she invites us to join her.

His work (Gervex) is also clearly influenced by Cabanel (1823 – 1889), which was his teacher. Which can be noticed in the same use of lightly, fresh colors, the white and pure skin, even the breasts are almost exactly the same. Thematically on the other hand there are almost no comparisons possible, except for the ‘venus’ which is shown on both paintings. It should be said that both painting’s mythological theme’s were only an excuse to paint a nude. Therefor there is a difference between a ‘naked‘ and a ‘nude‘. Gervex clearly painted a ‘naked’. Titian a nude. 

A. Cabanel- The birth of Venus -1863

Reclining nude (photo)- artist unknown

Berlinde de Bruyckere

I’d also like to show the comparison made with the work of a contemporary belgian artist (which I shall be reviewing later on).

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Undoing a Building.

By undoing a building … [I] open a a state of enclosure which has been preconditioned not only by physical necessity but by the industry that proliferates suburban and urban boxes as a pretext for ensuring a passive, isolated consumer. – Gordon Matta-Clark

Gordon Matta-Clark ; Splitting (1974)

 

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Coast to Coast – Beaufort 04 (4)

Flo Kasearu – Coast to coast

Coast to coast is a installation project that consists of three containers that are converted into ships. They are lying in empty beach of Bredene, in Belgium. These three symbolic objects on the natural, apparently undisturbed coastline prompt thoughts of freight transport and the endless circulation of goods and people. But they also reflect the economic situation: the containers, lost objects, stand empty and useless on the beach.

Flo Kasearu – Coast to coast

Flo Kasearu – Coast to coast

Provocative, reflecting, lost and empty. Coast to Coast is a installation prjoect that consists of three containers, each container is shaped like and therefor converted into a ship. Again (as all sculptures, artworks in beaufort) they interact with the surrounding landscape and somehow feel ‘uncommon’. The three contatiners lying there on the coastline prompt thoughts of freight transport and the endless circulation of goods and people. Lying there totally empty and ‘useless’ they also represent a reflectation on the economic situation.

Flo Kasearu (who the work belongs to), an Estonian artist, well known for her video art (see below) and installations, mostly are placed wide against a specific social background. They concist not of merely criticism but demand for a certain change in society by confronting the ‘viewer’.

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The rise of Modern Iconoclasm.

Search & Destroy – Mekhitar Garabedian

Invading their personal space, tresspassing the natural habitat. Some people feel the urge to destroy or damage certain artworks, sculptures. Simply beacause they don’t belong in their environment. The modern iconoclasm is what they call it. Although I don’t seem to find the name being very appropriate is it’s connotation is much more severe then what is happening now. Especially compared to the destruction of religious artwork and the fear for idolatry (without mentioning the the destruction of the Buddhas in Afghanistan, but i’m not touching that one.

Let’s keep it nearby; In Ghent there’s a contemporary art exhibit in town. It exists of multiple sculptures, installations situated all over town. Therefor it’s not remarkeble that some of these became the victim of ‘modern iconoclasm’. (The same thing happened at Beaufort – see below). As you can see on the picture above, the letter is ‘R’ (Search & Destroy) is missing. The piece has been removed from the installation and thrown into the water. Why they did this, isn’t surely known. One thing is for sure; they took the message a bit too serious.

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