Saturday, January 22, 2011

Basquiat Musée D’art Moderne de La Ville de Paris 11 Avenue du Président Wison by craniv boyd

Basquiat Musée D'art Moderne de La Ville de Paris 11 Avenue du Président Wison by craniv boyd

Director: Fabrice Hergott Curators: Dieter Buchhart and Marie-Sophie Carron de la Carriére.


The barefoot Haitian in Armani holding a paintbrush is seated, one foot propped up on an overturned chair. The man on paint stained concrete floor looks at his photographer from the distant time of nearly 30 years ago, and is captured for relative posterity, and for the cover of a New York magazine, dread locked guardian of cool, a youth cut down prior to his prime, shadow sentinel between the camera and his paintings of Griot.


Basquiat at the Musée D'art Moderne de La Ville de Paris, is the saddest exhibition of paintings that I have seen for a long time. The 1985 commissioned portrait for the New York Times Sunday Magazine is the same photograph used for the exposition announce, it is blown up and reproduced faithfully and indefatigably over the posters in adverts in the metro in Paris, and the ubiquity of this image of the man whom German painter Daniel Richter called "the last Jackson Pollock", continues inside the museum in the form of a 6 meters high blow up enlargement of the magazine cover on the wall at the end of the exhibition. It is so big that a man standing 180cm can stand under Basquiat's foot on the chair in the photograph. As a viewer the exhibition public traverses a long 45 minute wait in the cold winter air 11 euros admission fee and for their trouble a copy of the photograph of Basquiat is given to them at the entrance, again used as a cover, this time of the bilingual exhibition plan and guide.


The years between 18 years of age and that of 28 years and opiate over-dose in 1988 are the years covered by the work in the show. What ensues are 12 stations of the life of the1980's nihilistic New York bohemian. The different rooms of the exhibition are of the different creative periods in Basquiat's short protean life, they read like a curriculum vitæ of artist exhibitions, begging the question of how much was or was not the oeuvre of Basquiat influenced by the galleries he was with at the time. For the organizational purposes of this biographical exhibition the groups of Basquiat's paintings, drawings and prints are bracketed by the art dealers who showed his work. Rather than elucidating Basquiat's own creative trajectory, or shift in subject matter, the exhibition organizers elect to bring to the fore the big name "branded" art dealers who sold Basquiat's work in the 1980's. Framing the artistic output of Basquiat's life thus can lead one to believe that the periods of Basquait's creative development correlate with who showed his work. That his art dealers were responsible, the stewards for the genius of Jean-Michel Basquiat. It diverts attention from inherent meaning present in the artist's work or the possible postmodern symbolism and iconography there and leads the public into the relatively uninteresting discussion of the Art world. We are led through:1 the birth of Samo ,2  "new york /new wave", 3 the studios, 4 Annina Nosei Gallery 1981-1983, 6 fungallery, east village, New York, November 1982, 7 Drawings, 8 Bischofberger Gallery, Zurich, 1983, 9 Larry Gagosian Gallery, Los Angeles, 1982-83/Mary Boon Michael Werner Gallery, New York May 1984, 10  The Warhol-Basquiat Collaborations, 1984-85, and room 12 the last years. Of these rooms the only rooms that are undeniable titled after the artists own creative processes are, 1 the birth of samo, 3 the studios,7 drawings and 12 the last years. It is surprisingly comically remiss to mount a major exhibition about the life of an artist, a posthumous retrospective that does more to honor the living art dealers of the dead misguided genius Haitian artist, than the work of the dead artist himself.


When the work speaks for its self it screams in a voice of pain. Many of the paintings in this exhibition are generously on loan to the Musée d'art Modern de le Ville de Paris, from several private collections many in the U.S.A, some private collections are dubiously private, or some are blatantly for sale, such as a painting on loan to the museum curtesy of major auction house Soetheby's. Dubiously private in the way that when a known and famous art dealer for 1980's painting displays work from their private collection of the very commodity they are renowned and lauded for selling, 1980-s neoexpressionist painting. How private can the private collection of Bishofberger be after all would there not be a truly enormous price tag some where deep behind the canvas? How private can his collection be if a heading for a room in the same exhibition tells the public that he has an Art Gallery. All that considered it is quite a rarity to see all of this work from a mythical hyped artist shown in one exhibition. Not many artists dead at the ripe age of 28 are having one of their former colleagues direct a self-financed independent feature film with cast of: David Bowie, Gary Oldman and Dennis Hopper acting, like painter Julian Schnabel did with his 1995 Film Basquiat.


The burden of heritage: in his short and problematic 8 year creative public run on the bank of a career that Jean-Michel Basquiat had between the years of 1980- and 1988, the year of his death, Basquiat created or left behind a legacy. No next of kin as publicly known yet, but a myth of the young urban black artist. As a homeless teenager in New York City with a burgeoning drug habit and no high school diploma, Basquiat was able somehow to land a movie role starring in the now cult classic Downtown 81, soon later he was "discovered" by New York City's art commissioner Henry Geldzahler, and critic/artist Rene Ricard around the time of his inclusion in the Greater New York exhibition at alternative art venue P.S. 1. The street urchin moved to the basement of his first art dealer where he then lived a charmed life of a gifted drug addicted. Money, materials, and space to work with and in a constant stream of collectors buying every painting in sight via the convenient studio visits organized by his handler Nosei, to boot.


In America, Basquiat because of his celebration in the media, proof of which one can look to the 1985 cover of The New York Times Magazine (also in a vitrine behind glass at this current museum spectacle), becomes more of a household name than that of Horace Pipen, who is also an African American auto-didact artist painter but lived a much longer life, one with less media hype and celebration. Horace Pipen has the occasional honor of black history month or the odd U.S. postage stamp reproduces a painting of his or a public television will make a documentary of his life, about how his experiences fighting on the front in the First World War filtered into his naive paintings. This could be seen as a kind of state supported for the art of a historically disadvantaged African American artist. Pipen's work although in several prominent public museum collections is not one to be on the cover of catalogues for the fashionable evening sales of rival auction houses Christies and Soetheby's. There has yet to be made a bio-picture with all star cast romanticising the life and times of Horace Pipen.


For many young African American male artists, people unfamiliar with art and marginally familiar with the household names of art in the past 30 years will ask: "are you familiar with the work of Basquiat?" if providing said people with the information that you are an artist. Much worse when working in a method that is expressionistic it the comment that "your work looks like Basquiat!" which is sadly is a compliment when compared to "you look like Jean-Michel" What kind of a sad role model when the most known and lauded of American artists of color is an uneducated drug addicted wild child of the 1980's. The most known hetero American male white art success stories like Chuck Close, Brice Marden, or Richard Serra, all went and got their Masters in Fine Arts from a certain ivy-league art school in New Haven Connecticut.  Why is it that there are not nearly enough celebrated educated African American African or Caribbean artists who are widely known to the American or global public? Why should a young male artists of color feel the need to fit in some kind of a pre fabricated nihilist pattern of bohemian artist ala mode of Morrison, Hendrix, Parker, Joplin or for that matter Ribaud or Baudelair? What accounts for the fascination that French or Americans have for la vie boheme? Why should artists suffer? In the myth of suffering and nihilism that some artists make into their true life's work is a meaningful enduring art created? What are the boundaries between hype and history? In the speculative interest in purchasing a Basquiat painting what are collectors really supporting, is it the estate of Jean-Michel Basquiat, or is it the already deep pockets of the art dealers who propped up an promoted a talented drug addict from a hard working middle class immigrant family who of his own volition dropped out of private school and lived on the streets of New York? Why invest in one more major art exhibition lauding the work of a dead bard, than supporting instead of hyping for instance the voices of those artists still living, artists with promise or better yet accomplishments?


What made me so sad personally about this exhibition was that so many young people were coming to see work of an artist who took an incredulous amount of many drugs and in that addictive dark behavior did not allow himself to nurture whatever talent he had to share with the world. I was hurt by a representation of American art by this controversial choice of artist that represents the art scene of New York as primarily decadent and debauched. I cannot bring my self to say "Basquiat on Avenue du Président Wilson take it down!" but I can say I am not happy to see it up, because although a special honour to see such an extensive retrospective mounted on Basquiat, seeing all his work collected together at once one is skeptical of not the authentic life, mind or hands that produced this art but of the strength or generosity of the artworks themselves. One questions the merits of his Xeroxed drawings painted over, or of an artist with a heroin habit that paints a picture that announces "man dies" one month, then takes an overdose of a street drug cocktail the next month. A self-actualizing artist as prophet whom many important collectors have collected, whom many important art dealers have dealt, because these rich people say his work is relevant and have said so for the past years during his life and after his death does that make it so? by craniv boyd


Carte Blanche á Adam McEwen Fresh Hell/ 20/10-16/01. by craniv boyd

Carte Blanche á Adam McEwen Fresh Hell/ 20/10-16/01. Avec: Bas Jan Ader, Barbara Bloom, Jonathan Borofsky, Angela Bulloch, Maurizio Cattalan, Anne Collier, Martin Creed, Gino De Dominicis, Walter De Maria, Jessica Diamond, MatiasFaldbakken, Isa Genzken, Geert Goiris, Dan Graham, Philip Guston, Raymond Hains, David Hammons, Georg Herold, Martin Kippenberger, Michael Landy, Hanna & Klara Liden, Nate Lowman, Sarah Lucas, Ana Mendieta, Henri Michaux, Reinhard Mucha, Bruce Nauman & Frank Owen, Michelangelo Pistoletto, Rob Pruitt, Steven Shearer, Roman Signer, Agathe Snow, Rudolf Stingel, Rosemarie Trockel, Valie Export, H.C. Westermann, et des oeuvres du Musée de cluny MNMA, Paris, Palis de Tokyo 13 av. Du President Wislon, Paris. by craniv boyd


When 37 artists of the current generation get together and include medieval statuary in glass vitrines what do you expect? Imagining the successful internationalist set of artists who are active in London, England New York City, United States of America, or Berlin, Germany together in a bright spacious white cube next to one another in a spacing that at times feels Spartan and at times feels minimal, Imaging this and you will have a feel for fresh Hell at Palais du Tokyo in Paris.


Perhaps you were at the Palazzo Grassi in Venice in 2007 around the time of the Venice Biennale, if you saw the exhibition there then, you could have a kind of time warp and flash back moment when walking through Carte Blanche, curated by artist Adam McEwen, for some of the artists in the Grassi show then are some of the usual suspects in the exhibition in the 16th arrondissement in Paris now. Like Rudolf Stingel, or David Hammonds, for example. This feeling of time travel is only further heightened when viewing the works of either artist, yes different works were exposed at both institutions years and kilometers apart, but when you see a dingy looking silvery wall with scratched in lettering at the commence of Fresh Hell, it is for all intensive purposes another installment of the installation Stingel had at the Palazzo Grassi, more of the same is the feeling one has for the work of David Hammonds too, when having a 2007 flashback in late 2010, induced by seeing urban detritus, broken car windshield made to be a back board for a basketball hoop with a old hooded sweatshirt hood detached and pinned to the museum wall, or the work he contributed then, in Venice, a sort of Quihxiotian quotidian, arranged out of found urban materials, a limp hooded figure with a lance on a kind of broken bicycle. There is nothing wrong with consistency and the power of brand recognition of certain current artists, I only mention this strange phenomena of seeing the same or similar groupings of art makers over a period of years at the institutional level, what makes for a good fun or fresh group show dynamic is one where Hammonds or Stingel are in the mix.


Was it not Jackson Pollock who said that his painting was nation-less? Not that his paintings were un-American, but more that the idea of nationhood in painting, would be a kind of super regionalism from which he was attempting to sceed himself from. The regionalism his teacher, painter Thomas Hardt Benton, practiced was old fashioned, why not the provincial of the idea of an American painting too after all Pollock was interested in painting not jingoism. Similarly this multi artist installation, Fresh Hell is multi national without feeling national, yet there is a variant of a new, New York international Provencals art at play here.


Some of the artists in the show are entrenched in the New York scene, seeing this grouping of artists would not be so strange in a New York City gallery like that of Michelle Maccarone, or the now defunct Rivington Arms, both were at one point in the much a talked about Lower East Side Manhattan region. Seeing Nate Lowman, post minimalist post ironic jokesy "paintings" that are dirty stained duck canvass next to a collaborative video loop by the Swedish Born Liden sisters titled Techno Battle, one gets a strong feeling of New York sceanester artists. The artists them selves are kind of young and easy to party with, good looking and occasionally have photographs taken of themselves by tabloid photographers for reasons of romantic involvement with one of the former national television stars, Olsen Twins. Lowman has mounted exhibitions with Dan Colon good friends and colleagues with the Late Dash Snow, yes these artists have had some kind of a working and partying camaraderie that extends beyond their gallery collaborations endless vernnissage parties and opening night dinners, guilt by association in times when easy funny concepts and detached minimalist-esque looking work are heralded as the relevant art made by the younger generation. A painting that is relevant in its commentary of abstract expressionism but is all the same an oil painting of bird excrement, or a painting that looks like a Morris Louis or a Helen Frankenthaler stain painting, but is produced by walking over the canvass with dirty shoes, instead of spilling acrylic paint. A kind of angry white young male attitude towards the art of previous generations of artists working with painting, wry reactionary critique of modernism by making fun of Jackson Pollock or Helen Frankenthaler, instead of committed development of a new voice or method and way of painting, mockery in art where generosity would be nice to feel instead.


The video shot and on display by the Liden sisters is a kind of energetic punk rock low fidelity society commentary. Two masked women in a remote deserted Swedish playground throw then burn the idols of consumerist worship, ie the ipod and macintosh laptops. This kind of funny yet simpleminded video (which could have been edited in consumer software like imovie instead of the more technical, avid or final cut pro,) could definitely be a type of product placement for the very object they destroy and burn during the video. The whole self conscious low fidelity and ironic approach speaks to a concept heavy kind of work that is light on concept, an oxymoronic artwork that is detached and reminiscent of the current art academies in its super low production value, and speed and ease of execution. A video work that could bee shot in less than half an afternoon before the local bars open in Hissingen. The work looks like the work being made in top tier fine arts programs the world over, but its low fidelity quality is part of what makes it cheap to transport, insure or install all positive when your production budget for an exhibition of contemporary art is next to zero euros.


The curator of the exhibition miss-places Walter De Marias high Energy Bar, the object in the recessed is a distant and foreign energy drained work, overshadowed and sapped by this over-curated exposition, one barely feels the power of the de Maria, and could hardly guess this is the same author of the Lightning Field near Marfa Texas, nor the Broken Kilometer in New York. The viewer needs the wall text to be told of the work's merits, so out of place next to super positive wallpaper of "Yes" by Agathe Snow. The methodology behind the curating of this exhibition that takes few risks becomes strangely apparent, the biggest "names" of the exhibition are the ones with the most physically substantial and present works, Sara Lucas with an excellent sculpture of a helmet in a burned chair with helmet made entirely of filter cigarettes, courtesy of her London gallery, the late Martin Kippenberger with his paintings and a large metal sculpture, courtesy of either gallery or private collector, the wall text at the beginning of the exhibition tells the public that this show is intended to take a tour into the mind of the working artist and draw a new and relevant connection between post minimalist internationalist practices, and 14th and 15th century Gothic arts, also shown in the same exhibition courtesy of the Musée Cluny, the intentions of the curator fall quite flatfooted producing an exhibition viewing experience that is largely generalist, stratified like a contemporary art fair, unfocused. Hard as it is to harm a work of art by showing it to a patient public, through this casual grouping one feels this nonchalance of curatorial decision making ultimately and unfortunately detrimental to the understanding and appreciation of the works of the artists exposed. by craniv boyd

Elles@centrepompidou Musée National D’Art Moderne Collections Contemporaines, Centre Pompidou, Paris. by craniv boyd

Elles@centrepompidou Musée National D'Art Moderne Collections Contemporaines, Centre Pompidou, Paris. by craniv boyd


Jacksine Pollok, or Marcella Duchamp are these the names of modern artists whom you recognize? If you say yes chances are that you have been to the permanent collection of the national museum of modern art to see elles@centrepompidou.


Perhaps the exhibition title is reminiscent of an email address, please do not be alarmed by this, for contrary to first impressions given by the title it is a serious survey of the holdings of women artists and artists who happen to be women in the Centre Pompidou, curated by Camille Morineau curator at Centre Pompidou. No I do not think that you could email well you could but I don't know if there would be a response or a free thick exposition catalogue waiting for you if you try, but there is a large and heavy doorstopper catalogue as a companion of this survey of modern and contemporary.


Simplicity as a rubric for curatorial organization: perhaps when mounting a large survey show inclusive of many artists who have principally two things in common first their gender, women and second their vocation, artist, simple principals can be your savior when deciding which of what 80 or so artists to put next to the other in the same room. Following this logic, the largest most known and sculptural artists are together at the entrance, artists working with the color red are in one room, artists working with text are in another, politically charged activist type works are grouped in the hallway where there will be a large "hit-rate", artists working with performance and video documentation of their own nude or semi nude bodes are in another room close to the beginning of the survey, the abstractionists are in another room further back, artists and designers working with the home and what is domestic are some where in the middle and at the end we have immaterial a kind of ad hoc grouping of those prominent artists whose works were not clearly enough of one of the other aforementioned groupings to be included in one of the earlier rooms.


Seeing a Guerrilla Girls poster that is a political pastiche of a masterpiece French painting at the Louvre's Denon wing. Ingres Odalisque is the subject of many, diverse mechanical reproductions in this age, as a fake painting for the home popular in the 1950's in Nordic countries, and numerous posters and texts books. Yet now in Paris when you can see the real thing in all its glory in the Denon wing, while trying not to get trampled by the Holiday hoards rushing by with audio guides dangling from their necks to see the mythical Mona Lisa in the same wing. It is different, different still when utilized as feminist activist propaganda lesson in the hands of the Guerrilla Girls, the Odalisque is still naked but now her head is that of a Gorilla, she is photographically reproduced in grey-scale sans background and is offset buy garish high contrast yellow purple and black colors with boldface type that begins, I paraphrase, "Do women have to be naked to get into a museum? 3% of all artists in the permanent Collection of the Metropolitan Museum in New York are Women but 80% of paintings of women in the same museum are Nudes" It is good that at least one of the worlds major institutions for modern and current art is collecting and exposing and promoting art in the institutional critique vein. Yet some how this kind of comical approach of the Guerrilla Girls that errs on the dogmatic can seem misplaced in an exhibition with mostly women artists in a permanent museum collection. On a side note one wonders if the Guerrilla Girls work critical of a major New York art institution, purchased by the major national collection for modern art in Paris, a capital that had or has a longstanding rivalry with New York City as the relevant art capital for the avant-garde. This work is including a strong reference/departure point of a painted French national treasure. 


Viewing industrial design of Kartell in the context of art museum. Kartell is popular for its plastic domestic objects, transparent "Ghost" chairs designed for Kartell by Philippe Starck were all the rage in pre-bankruptcy 2007 Iceland, and of course elsewhere on the globe too. To learn that Kartell is like the Ikea of Italy but founded by an Italian woman, with a passion for design instead of a Swedish man with a passion for design. The viewers are shown her functional yet beautiful objects for modern life in the kitchen. It is a more practical, accessible application of a machine for living idea of Le Corbusier. After all we all cannot live reasonably together in the Villa Savoy at the same time. But an orange plastic dish for your butter, that is something most modern occidental urban dwellers could afford should they choose to. The tendency of modern art museums, like MoMA or Pompidou to include modern industrial design contemporaneous with their art collections in exhibitions is strange. Yes all arts are related and there should be more awareness for the creative aspect of product design. Yet products no matter how novel remain just that, products. It is not a problem for MoMA to sell replicas of design artifacts in its gift shop. Likewise it is also not scandalous to have a design gift shop on the ground floor of the Pompidou flanking the long line for ticket sales to the Museum. But would it be controversial, or is there demand even for replicas of popular art works from the permanent collections of either of these museums? I guess it is just easier to sell design objects to people than modern art. In the broadening of the discourse of art witnessed in the past century, museums of modern art have gone into a kind of identity panic. Do we remain exclusively fine arts, or do we include under our umbrella of Modernism the new decorative arts "design"?


Seeing Eva Hess work with fiberglass and a series of paintings and sculptures by Louise Bourgeois in the same room. To view the works of tragic figure of modern art Eva Hesse is a rarity. Kudos to the Pompidou for collecting her work and a seminal work at that, her influence on installation art is still felt today, cocoon like structures, which could be mistaken for Kiki Smith sculptures. The Hallmarks of a great collection are not so much in the quantity and diversity of artists but I think rather in the quality depth and intensity with the artists collected, to have a series of paintings by one artist instead of only one master piece. Seeing a cycle of paintings about how the body feels anxiety in different parts of the body by Louise Bourgeois, one is reminded of the stylized representation of anxiety in Lars Von Treir's film Antichrist. Bourgeois, as a woman is interested in more parts of a woman's body than those of pulchritude, genitals, butt and chest area.


The rare pleasure of seeing a Marina Abromovic work without Marina Abromovic herself in it. Seeing Marina Abromovic's can be an inspired experience. More often than not you will see her with her work in some form be it grainy documentation photographs of 1970's performances or her in real-life sexagenarian and still going strong with extreme endurance pieces that occasionally involve self-flagellation, incising a pentagram with a razor blade on her own abdomen with an audience or lying naked on a bed of solid ice, a room with a view she lived in the gallery in specially constructed structures for the duration of the show, at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Memorial Museum she reenacted earlier performances seven easy pieces, in tribute to the other performance artists of her generation, and in her sensationalistic retrospective at the MoMA last spring where she stayed seated unmoving for the duration of he exhibition, waiting to share her energy silently with museum spectators, in a amalgamation of celebrity, performance guru, hype, theme park ride, cult status eschewed through countless eulogizing in the new art academies. All this considered it is great to have the opportunity to see her work where she is not the work herself. Instead these three basic minimalist pedestals feed the narcissistic impulses of today's people yet at the same time give insight to what exactly Abromivic is striving towards and feeling during the enactment of her performances. Resting flat on ones back on the bronze shelf with a square pink quartz pillow to put your head on, you feel odd, to be lying in a public space yet not asleep, to be getting rest with out shutting your eyes. To be seated then on a perch of bronze like some kind of living art work and feel a kind of comfort and vertigo simultaneously. Completing the circuit by standing on the same kind of shelf the same materials, the same proportions with a different alignment one does it all Abromovic style, by standing, sitting, and lying down, the most basic states of repose for a human being.


Seeing Jenny Holzer lionized with her Inflammatory Essays series all at once on one wall.  Those familiar with American civics with know that the right of free speech is protected under the first amendment, whereas that of inflammatory or inciteful speech is not protected, the saying of do not shout 'fire!' in a crowded theatre, strange yet fitting that Holzer would adopt that French tradition of afficée in her early days, and what she would choose to placard all over the then rough and tumble streets of 1980's New York would be self titled as Inflammatory that special type of speech restricted by the constitution and supreme court of the United States. These placards are provocative but I strongly doubt if they really are legally speaking, incendiary. They do not directly tell the spectator to go out and break the law, or defect to the soviet union ect, there is a mock radically about this work, self proclaimed activism that somehow is moderately leftist, written rants that strike the viewer to have more of the issues of formalism at heart than a lucid political protest agenda. Yes it is art, the author of these inflammatory essays remains an enigma, one senses gender inequality issues as being important for the author but the reader cannot say from the essays alone that the writer is a man or a woman.


elles@centrepompidou is a refreshing experience in museum attendance, because it is an in depth charting of the modern condition in the works of women who are making art now. One would want to see more exhibitions of this nature with greater frequency all over, especially in New York City. Somehow the more women who are shown making art can be encouraging for other artists, regardless of gender because women are presenting ideas and face other forms of bias and confront other stereo types than men commonly do. If you are a Museum with a large holding in modern art made by women, why not show all that work in a large exhibition this year or sooner rather than later? Is it not great to provide youngsters with other career choices than pop star, Lawyer, or Medical Doctor? by craniv boyd

Nancy Spero 13 Octobre 2010- 10 Janvier 2011, Centre Pompidou, Paris. by craniv boyd

Nancy Spero 13 Octobre 2010- 10 Janvier 2011, Centre Pompidou, Paris. by craniv boyd


As a new Yorker there is something thrilling about coming to Paris and seeing the art work of a late New York based artist who is fairly under exposed at the institutional level in New York proper. Likewise it is special when the New York based artist exposed at the National Museum for Modern art in Paris is a woman, active for decades and critical radical and activist without standing on a soapbox so to speak while creating art work.


Nancy Spero reads the large banner hanging on the side of Renzo Piano's iconic playful postmodern structure without skin. She is the artist with the show and it is a privilege to see it. On the floor of the permanent collection of the Centre Pompidou, in the galleries for graphic arts there is a thorough exposition of a life committed to art. Visitors are welcomed to the show of in a hall of photographs, snapshots and portraits of Spero as a young artist, a large photograph of a young intellectual of the beatnik generation complete with smoldering cigarette in hand, onwards to views of the artists studio, work family photos, photos of the artist protesting sexist exhibition policies at the MoMA in NYC ec cetera a rich life with art shown in chronological order, this in itself I can imagine is highly inspiring for people, to see how to live a happy fulfilling life as an artist and have a husband and children, without making a fuss about it. 


Onwards towards the work, displayed in rooms that progress chronologically from work that is anti American aggression, in protest of the Vietnam War. Next a synthesis of the "Old" and "New" worlds in the Codex Artaud, a codex being a form of illuminated manuscript favored by pre Columbian Central American civilizations, and French actor and author of a theory of the abject Anton Artaud. Words like F*?!, or S*?!, appear in this series yes it is shocking, despite that these vulgarities are part of a larger investigation about base aspects of human nature.


What painter James Rosenqvist attempted to express with pop art means in his large format F1-11 about 60's America an the fighter jets the defense industrial complex produced, an eclectic pop imagist allegory of post War American life Spero does on with a smaller format and broader leans. Nancy Spero's magnum opus, Azur (cri du coeur), traces representations of women in the arts from the start of mankind to the postmodern capitalist condition. It is as if the artworks of humans were pluralistic open and accessible to all in a sort of grand relay race throughout the ages. Seeing the varied forms of representation of women by our ancestors presented in tandem with our relatively limited contemporary feminine iconography one can wonder are we truly the society and system who is tolerant of feminism? If we are so tolerant of women and their abilities why elect to represent them as merely exotic dancers or bound victims as Spero presents them in Azur at the end of the 39-paneled frieze on paper. Why not represent feminine nature as something to be feared like people of the Indus valley did with their Goddess Kali who also makes a cameo in Azur sometime in the middle of the work.


Seeing this epic work Azur is special, it is inclusive and in its inclusion of the voices of our own human collective history as seen in crafted objects, the visual selected dialogue between the ways women are depicted both provokes accepted forms and inspires new ways to show femininity. by craniv boyd

Willem De Kooning Standing Figure (1969-1984) Bronze, Jardine de Tulliers, Paris. by craniv boyd

Willem De Kooning Standing Figure (1969-1984) Bronze, Jardine de Tulliers, Paris. by craniv boyd


There is a three meters high blob of bronze occupying a place in the grass of a garden of Paris's first Arrondissement. But don't worry the bronze is not molten it is not moving and does not pose any threat to those masses of tourists and Parisians who visit the large garden between the Louvre and Place de la Concorde.


I hazard to say that this is the best public sculpture that I have seen in an urban setting for a long time. Strange that the best public sculpture would come from the hands and mind of that great New York School modern master painter Willem De Kooning, instead of an artist working exclusively with sculpture. It is quizzical that this powerful and ominous Standing Figure possesses attributes and an aura of the hand held or intimate being a work of large stature. This comes from the nature of its creation. De Kooning made a clay sketch for this sculpture with his hands, most likely when the artist was residing in Rome at the end of the 1960's. Then later in the early 80's there was interest for his 3 dimensional works this small standing figure, was enlarged from the pocket sized macquette to its current size and cast in bronze. One sees proof of this faithful enlargement of the artist's hand in the form of a thumbprint the size of an adult human's head.


Standing Figure is not really a human, yes it has arms of sort, thin skinny arms that extend themselves outwards, reaching, yes standing figure supports its self with legs, a kind of thick stumpy legs, and perhaps standing figure has a head too, one of the large oblong faceless variety. Standing Figure is weirdly humanoid, startlingly familiar and bizarrely foreign all at once. This is a strikingly simple achievement of genius for De Kooning, artist who straddled both worlds of figuration and abstraction for years in a quest for Freedom. It is frightening to think of what kind of movements this behemoth would have if it could be ambulant.


Viewers of De Kooning's Standing Figure, who have also seen Urs Fishers Retrospective at the New Museum on the Bowery in Manhattan, will recognize the familiar process of blowing up a hand made piece of clay to over life size scale in aluminum or stainless steel in a Chinese metal foundry. In De Kooning's work there is no apparent overwhelming presence of commentary on Globalism, irony or razzle-dazzle sensationalist installation tactics, as was the case with Swiss born, Brooklyn Based Fischer's exhibition at New Museum. By Razzle-dazzle I mean, blowing up a hand made clay macquette in a Chinese foundry and hanging the large amorphous blob that weighs a lot from a chain attached to the ceiling so that the sculpture rests a mere few centimeters from the floor. Hanging as opposed to standing, the sculpture that hangs is made with an attitude of just because instead of because I can. These two artists who elect to do in affect the same type of process, are vastly different, one sees the painterly mastery of materials and communion aspect in De Kooning's work Standing Figure, made by a mature artist who was deeply in awe of the dignity of humankind. One can observe also the occasionally photo based eclectic ironic wry sensationalist installation practice leading up to Urs Fishers bombastic yet random just because sculptures with sophomoric overtones he exposed at the New Museum and elsewhere in the art world. One sees clearly in the aura of the artwork what is meant as an elegy and what is meant as a pun.  by craniv boyd

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Jean- Léon Gérôme (1824-1904) L’Histoire en spectacle Musée d’Orsay, Paris. By craniv boyd.

Jean- Léon Gérôme (1824-1904) L'Histoire en spectacle Musée d'Orsay, Paris. By craniv boyd.

"Are you not entertained?" one can almost hear Russell Crowe's character from Gladiator screaming in the arena, when one is observing the French academic paintings of Gladiators in the arena by Jean- Léon Gérôme, at the Musée d'Orsay. I should correct myself, one thinks of the Ridley Scott movie of the early aught's Gladiator when viewing the over life size broadside promotion out side the museum entrance, observing the same painting that was reproduced is startling for it is much smaller in size than one would expect and far more total and succinct in cinematic scale than one would assume from looking at the detail that was blown up for promotional purposes.

American viewers will be struck by the familiarity of many of these paintings that they would see in this special retrospective at the Orsay, the familiarity is in part because several of the paintings are there on loan agreement between Orsay and public museums in Arizona, Ohio, New York, and the Washington D.C. Area.

Sometimes French academic painting gets a bad rap in the progress myth associated with the birth of modernism, I mean what kind of painting is more relevant and congruent with the achievements of the American masters of the 20th century Jackson Pollock and De Kooning, is it French impressionism and fauvism that reacted towards the salons of fin de seicle Paris or is the stodgy and stifling academic representational establishment that the impressionists were reacting against? Painting in a way that anticipates later movements in art could be seen as progressive, and painting in a way that is representation could be misconstrued as reactionary, lets not dwell on being reductive.

The literature at the beginning and end of the retrospective posits that Jean- Léon Gérôme is an important painter because of his novel approach to imaging history, with the moment after the big biblical or historical event, and in his unanticipated influence on that enfant terrible art form of the cinema. We are shown a film still from an Italian historical silent film made in 1913 about the heyday of the Roman Empire. The blocking of the actors, set design and camera angle matches a modest size painting of Jean- Léon Gérôme about the same subject. 

Gérôme paints a myth of Pygmalion. As a child I was familiar with this painting, it is in the public collection of the Metropolitan Museum in Manhattan. It shows the mythical sculptor embracing his creation Galatea in the studio in the kiss that transformed her from marble to flesh. In Gérôme's painting of this mythical event we the viewers are taken to the studio as this metamorphosis occurs. Galatea's posterior is a ruddy hue she is turning her upper torso to kiss her maker, her calves and ankles still remain fused and pale hewn out of marble. It is like she is thawing right before our eyes. Seeing this painting now at the Orsay in context of the artist's timeline, one realizes more clearly that the Pygmalion myth is about the fruits of creative labor. Jean- Léon Gérôme was not really painting Pygmalion's mythical attic workshop, but his own Parisian Atelier. You know this by seeing other paintings of the sculptor's studio in the other rooms of the exhibition, the pose that Galatea in the painting is coming to life from is in fact a modified version of a sculpture from life that Jean- Léon Gérôme made himself. It was revelatory to see the Pygmalion and Galatea painting as preface to Jean- Léon Gérôme's sculptural creations.

Gérôme paints a seated bard. It is amazing to look at a French academic painting that parleys in the color theory of modernists like De Stijl. Jean- Léon Gérôme painting of a seated bard hits all the high notes of both high contrast, the super dark skin of the minstrel, and primary color contrast, with the light acid pink robe that shrouds the ageless man, the seductive teal and blue ornate Islamic tile work on the wall he leans against, and the battered banana yellow slippers that are next to the man. Jean- Léon Gérôme is able to capture a kind of realism in this mans vacant yet other worldly stare it is a representation of a skilled ordinary person who was certainly not to be found then resting on the Parisian Boulevards. 

Gérôme paints an image of the slave market. Orientalism was big when the French academic painters had their height. Jean- Léon Gérôme was traveling often and extensively to the middle east, and with the use of photo graphs taken by his traveling companions he was able to recreate an invent scenes of quotidian life in the orient. The slave market seems to be a popular subject for Gérôme, with its naked and half naked women lined up and on display, the images are almost a kind of soft titillation for the male market who purchased art in Paris. The only male slaves displayed in these snapshot like paintings are cowering eyes averted in some corner posing no threat to the viewer of the painting, a man most likely who may or may not like to fantasize himself with enough werewithall to purchase a "slave" himself. 

Gérôme paints the moment after Christ is executed. This is the moment that we have seen in western religious painting over and over with varying degrees of gore for centuries. One could almost believe that this moment could only be expressed in one way only, a frontal shot with Jesus center and the two other victims and transgressors flanking him. Jean- Léon Gérôme is startling original in his portrayal of this important religious cultural moment, but choosing to show the moment afterwards, when the deed has been done, and every one is tired and on their way how, Jesus on the cross is made known to the viewer as a shadow in the dirt on the lower right hand corner of the framing. This painting is so new and fresh because of its composition, it takes something so known erring on the cliché and then disrupts it, by refusing to show us Jesus and the climactic moment of his Crucifixion we are left with both an anticlimax and a wry suggestion we could represent known events in other ways than commonly accepted. By craniv boyd.

Mondrian / De Stijl 1er Décembre 2010- 21 Mars 2011, Centre Pompidou, Paris. By craniv boyd.

Mondrian / De Stijl 1er Décembre 2010- 21 Mars 2011, Centre Pompidou, Paris. By craniv boyd. 

A master of modernism and a the movement he came from. A Dutch painter with a distinct style whose work is easily parodied, written off as "my five year old could…" Mondrian / De Stijl, at the Pompidou center offers a timeline of the movement behind the painter and the man and painter behind the iconic geometric paintings like Broadway Boogie Woogie

When I was younger my father would say to me that many modernist painters who painted in abstract ways were not only capable but also highly skilled at representational forms. These painters could paint a portrait of you that was a likeness with ease if they wanted to. Why then make the choice to make a work so distilled so refined that bears little recognizable resemblance to the quotidian. It comes in part from a belief in arts higher purpose. 

Mondrian / De Stijl is a very instructive exposition that gives a historical and philosophical context to early 20th century Dutch modernism. Visitors to the De Stijl section of the exhibition will be greeted and welcomed by a lush and viridian large format landscape oil painting in pastel-like candy-colored hues of the flat Dutch landscape. The quality of the large painting is awe-inspiring and it is a modern answer to that time honored tradition that the people of the low country have of landscape painting. The author of that work is Mondrian; he is also author of a portrait of a child hanging on the same wall, also in fauvist candy colors. The Mondrian who made these paintings had not become the same Mondrian that Star Trek character android Data loved. Data being a computer in human form would naturally have an affinity for a paintings that look geometric and were expressions of fineness and simplicity. 

The De Stijl section of the exposition, takes the works of the artists and architects of De Stijl and traces their common interests in the Theosophical and art nouveaux movements, and how they collectively developed together to create a new art in Holland, an art that looked less and less like Alfonse Mucha or a Paris Metro Station. Mondrian also figures prominently in the rooms devoted to De Stijl, yet here he his contextualized, his work is shown together with the other artists architects and designers who became enamored with primary colors black and white and geometric abstraction.

We are offered rooms with architectural schematics and plans for color coordinating the windows of public buildings in orange green and purple, we are offered stained glass in red yellow blue and black and white, by various artists of the movement. Seeing this one is given the idea that for Mondrian the process of abstraction was about more than just painting. 

This becomes apparent in the Mondrian retrospective section of the exposition. The viewer is offered a scale recreation of Mondrian's Paris Studio prior to his emigration to New York. The Studio of Mondrian is the 20th century's forgotten Merzbau. Mondrian was not living in an apartment in Paris, he turned his apartment in Paris into an artwork he could both live and work in. walking through this space one gets a chill, it is like taking a step into the mind of Mondrian walking in his work space and living space in the approximate way he would have left it, it gives a new meaning relevance and import to Mondrian's work. He was in affect living in his paintings, more or less. Stepping into the bookstore of the exposition, there are two volumes of the artists writings in French published in conjunction with this retrospective. By craniv boyd. 

ARMAN 22 Septembre 2010- 10 Janvier 2011 Centre Pompidou, Paris. By craniv boyd.

ARMAN 22 Septembre 2010- 10 Janvier 2011 Centre Pompidou, Paris. By craniv boyd.

It is great to see a retrospective of France's competitor and contemporary to Robert Rauschenberg, Arman, master of art informel. Arman is the real deal and seeing his artistic trajectory and development over the course of 7 large halls at the Pompidou is a treat. It gives an alternative view to the story of modernism. Today there is a connection between the art of post war 1960's Paris and New York and lets say the art that came after it, the art of 1980's New York or art of 1990's London. 

Arman started painting. Painting in a way that was formalistic and in-debited to Jackson Pollock, the American who broke the game wide open by hitting the ball out of the part with autumn rhythm. What Arman was doing in the late fifties and early sixties was however cerebral, it became a method of pattern making and the same process that produced Arman's paintings of the time was recorded for relative posterity on a 16mm film, were are Arman is drawing in the wet sand on a beach in France. A naked young Blond woman also appears mysteriously and relatively in a non-secquetor style in the film on display along side with these early paintings. Another film collaboration with an experimental film director Jacques Brissot, juxtaposes all over black and white non-objective painting with Aerial photography of bombed out European cities. The rapid jump cuts blur the lines between random violence of warfare and destruction and random yet structured creativity of non-objective painting. The fact the both things, bombed out cities and black and white "all over" painting end up looking the same, begs us to ask the question, is the human organism really capable of creating something that is truly non representational. Or is post war art a reaction and depiction of the unprecedented trauma and wide scale destruction caused by world war two? 

While Yves Kline was still living Arman and he would collaborate and associate together. Arman used the paint international Yves Kline Blue in some of his works at the time. Then he got really interesting, taking a kind of hiatus from painting and depicting and representing the modern moment through the refuse of the cities. In a brilliant promotional act Arman rode around in a dumpster in the streets of Paris collecting trash in a suit. Dressed in the costume of the 1960's everyman, he took the trash, became the grandfather of dumpster diving as we know it today, developed an advanced proto relational aesthetics practice, and challenged the status quo. Arman then went on to work in depth with informal art, focusing his collection of trash into portraits of individuals, Specific street corners on a particular day, and cities. People and places became identifiable and recognizable by the objects they discarded. Seeing these works now of the things 1960's Parisians threw away then, mostly things that would still be considered trash today for example an empty cardboard box of feminine hygiene products, one gets a picture of sameness. Yes, trash objects them selves remain trash objects today, disposable packaging, but the look of the packaging and the ephemera has changed drastically. 

What is so important about Arman and many artists is that his artwork is and was ahead of his time, his trash works were a critique of capitalism and consumerism not a mere celebration of it, he places used and discarded objects in vitrine to ask the question why and what happens if we continue like this? There is not the same kind of reverence for consumerism that is present in Jeff Koons work of the New and Pre New, where Hoover vacuum cleaners are encased in plexi-glass and lit with neon. There is not the same totem worship in Arman's work with Damien Hirst lexicon like medicine cabinets from the impossible pharmacy. Arman does not seem to think that this plethora of consumerism is healthy for mankind nor the Planet. His art and moral and political leanings make him a pre green party environmentalist. By craniv boyd.

Der Berliner Skulpturenfund “Entartete Kunst” im Bombenschutt. Berlin, Neues Museum. By craniv boyd.

Der Berliner Skulpturenfund "Entartete Kunst" im Bombenschutt. Berlin, Neues Museum. By craniv boyd.

The Germans are known for their history. Recent events and developments of property in "mitte" the most central of Berlin's locations have uncovered an archaeological find of sorts. Several small sculptures were found in the debris of a plot of land known as Konigstrasse 50. Experts were able to identify the work as art confiscated by the Nazis. The art works were part of the Degenerate art exhibition a traveling exhibition the Nazis mounted during their regime. These rediscovered sculptures were cleaned up and placed in a hall of the Neues Museum.

What kinds of art can survive the bombing of the allied forces during World War Two? What happens to art after it is covered by brick apartment building knocked over by a bomb? What happens to art after it is buried in obscurity and during the course of its entombment it bears witness to three regime changes from Fascism to Communism to Euro Democracy. Sculpture. The small statues survived, all of the paintings burned up when the bomb hit in the 1940's.

The Nazis took these art works from the artists who made them and put them in a traveling propaganda show against modernism and expressionism in art. They used the sculptures as props and set decoration in their moralistic propaganda narrative films at some point the Nazis hid the artwork in a storage space that was later hit by a bomb. For many years these statues were believed lost.  

The work in the exhibition is so small and delicate, so harmless and so personal it makes one wonder what possible threat the Nazis could have seen in work like this. Why make all the fuss about confiscating and demonizing and storing artwork. It makes no scene to place all of these "Degenerate" art works in an exhibition and then show this work to people all over Nazi Germany? If they didn't want people to know about degenerate artwork who not just ignore it?

What can be so threatening about a small Terra cotta sculpture of a clothed pregnant woman? Why confiscate a stylized portrait of a young actress? Is it because the portrait is showing no ears and no hairline of the one portrayed? It is strange to think that the Nazis who murdered and terrified so many would be afraid of an expressionist representation of a mother holding a baby weighing less that 15 kilos and being less that half a meter tall. 

Deeply saddened by the oppression of artists by the Nazis, powerfully encouraged by the lasting communicative power of art objects themselves. Stunned by the quiet strength of works lost for decades and found again. Inspired by the simplicity of the small statues that survived. Touched by the magic of personal artistic expression. Thrilled at the uncovering of these works, the care and attention given to preserving, restoring, celebrating, discussing and displaying these works. The public discussion of the "Entartete Kunst" exhibition ensuing from the surprising recovery of lost works from that show. By craniv boyd.