Sunday, February 20, 2011

Henry Moore, Reclining Figure 1951, Bronze, Jardine Tulliers, Paris. By craniv boyd

Henry Moore, Reclining Figure 1951, Bronze, Jardine Tulliers, Paris. By craniv boyd


A woman is made out of bronze and she lies resting, fatigued having lived the life of one of the baby-boomers born in 1951. She is a child of the postwar era and reclines frozen for most to see outside Musée de l'Orangerie transfixed not by television and popcorn but by the hand of English sculptor Henry Moore.


What Peit Mondrian did for trees and the urban grid of Manhattan in his canvasses, Henry Moore has done to the human figure in clay then bronze, a distillation, a process of refinement and abstraction, a focusing not the way a camera would but the way a existentialist philosopher would on the essence of woman. The reclining figure bears strong resemblance to the sculptures of pre-Columbian Aztec and Maya peoples, they retain in their materials the old world tradition of lost wax and bronze casting, rather than hewn from stone. The choice of materials is one of duration and substance, bronze a medium of sculpture, and one used by artists and crafts people from times that predate attic Greece.


Reclining figure is dated in appearance. 20th century modern art vintage, it is firmly nineteen fifties, a work that borrows from the classical period of Picasso, yet reaches beyond and captures and affirms a kind of feminine humanity that is devoid of pulchritude. Moore's figure is not sexy or sexualized it is a woman who is, undisturbed and stationary in a moment of inactivity. Moors figure is strong in her absence of man, solid looking and durable, somewhat other womanly reality than a waif being abducted in marble also in the same garden, but further back. Moore's reclining figure could be a citizen of the mythical city of women, educated and taking a pause from utopian life-style where one was allowed to improve ones prospects. By contrast the mythical waif being abducted by a centaur a few hundred meters east and closer to I.M. Pei's glass pyramids is and looks like a sexual victim, and possible inspiration for Marquis de Sade's behavior and attitudes towards women. In the U.S. judges and law makers question the influence of misogynist "lyrics" of gangster rappers and Marilyn Manson on today's young, what about 17th century sculptures influence on the minds of the youth of that day? Does a heroic Baroque or Rococo illustration of abduction in over life-size marble encourage or deter sadism in men towards women?


Henry Moore and his representation of the female form contain no such misogyny, they portray and present the female form as an enduring character, epitome of stability, a Demeter figure rather than a Venus, an Ur type, a woman of agelessness and timelessness, striking in the removal of personal facial landmarks and mimesis of digits and feet so as to distinguish Reclining Figure from this specific individual as opposed to that one: Henry Moore in effect has established his own personal 20th century ideal of woman. The gender of the figure is apparent, yet somehow also kept at bay, both within the title and the soft contours of this human form. Reclining Figure is soft looking does a soft looking nature presume the feminine sex. There is something proto feminist about the title, to create a Bronze statue of a woman and title it figure as opposed to woman, to withhold the ostentatious claiming of gender in words in the naming of the work, to leave the form of the work to communicate its content.


The vintage look of a bronze representation of the female form in sculpture by an artist active in 1950's England and a representation of an artist active in England in the 2000's working with the same material (bronze) and subject: (the female body) can tell us something about how we view art or how some individuals view art. Henry Moore has made a work that synthesizes his accrued knowledge of the history of art and his awareness for the art of his contemporaries his work reclining figure is that a personal human scaled work earnestly produced for the most part by the hands of Moore himself. Recent visitors to Skidmore Owens & Merrill modernist building of the Lever House in midtown Manhattan, would have seen an approximately 6 meters high woman of bronze in the courtyard enclosed by the colonnade there. A tall woman with her leg taking a tentative step forward, one might ask what does a giant woman have to fear what cause for reticence in her posture? The artist to ask would be Englishman Damian Hirst, his answer to your question concerning the pose of the tall woman could be done hypothetically wordlessly, he would turn to you and pull a crumpled up photograph of a Degas sculpture of a young Ballet dancer he kept in his back pocket. You would then see that the pose of the 6 meters colossus woman was identical to Degas fin de siecle modest presentation of youth. You could see the way that Damien Hirst synthesizes the history of art, anatomy as medical doctors are familiar with it by mimicking an anatomy dummy. Hirst returns to a recurrent theme he employs, that of the mother and child. Damien Hirst's contribution to the space near the lobby of the Leaver house was Degas, looming over spectators at 6 meters high, pregnant in the third trimester with and the spectators could know this not only by the girth of the colossus, but by the cutaway section that showed the skull of the mother, her facial ligature her fatty mammary tissue and the healthy fetus within the mothers womb. This current sculpture was most certainly not executed by the artist's own hand, it has the impersonal authorless accurate touch of the plastic anatomy dummy with removable organs. It is comical in the way that things not commonly seen together are humorous, the odd couple of the impressionism of Degas and the anatomical accuracy of Medical school. Humorous is not quite the adjective immediately applicable to the sculpture of Henry Moore, perhaps given a foreign context or odd juxtaposition Henry Moore's sculpture could appear droll, Reclining Figure is a serious work made by a serious artist one palpates this rigor not from the scale of the work, which is modest but through its form and contents. Seeing Hirst's sculpture of a woman, one is accosted by formal bombast in the sheep's clothing of sensationalism and the aesthetic sensibility of the ad man. To present a big woman that draws inspiration from recent celebrated art history, French impressionism, and to increase the scale of the art object so that it must be good because of its super size. One is faced with an educational totem of woman that looks like a frightening taboo when looking at Hirst's sculpture. With Moore awe is a feeling imbued with subtle means, "woman is" whispers the work through a voice cultivated and distant, awe becomes awful in the colossus that was on avenue of the Americas, work that screamed in a horse cockney "look at my witty approach to motherhood and French impressionism!"


 Reclining Figure now 59 years old could very well be women born the same year, leaning back and resting after the hippy dippy 60's and disco 70's resting and watching. By craniv boyd. 

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Giuseppe Penome (b.1947) Les Arbre Des Voyelles 1999, Jardine Tulliers, Paris. By craniv boyd.

Giuseppe Penome (b.1947) Les Arbre Des Voyelles 1999, Jardine Tulliers, Paris. By craniv boyd.


If a tree falls in the first arronndissement in Paris will you hear it? If it is a large uprooted tree cast in bronze you will see it, but a passing glance by a passerby walking in the garden adjacent the Louvre may not be enough to notice this large-scale and monumental exemplar of sculpture from an Italian artistic movement committed to unmonumentaliltey, arte povera.


What most winter visitors to the Jardine Tulliers will notice is that there is a tree trunk without leaves in a state of repose in a small plot of green with other still living trees growing but also without leaves. The dead tree trunk looks like a mistake the overworked landscape architect has not had time to correct in preparing to plant new flowers for the onset of spring. Moving closer, or returning the next morning or the morning after that, one will notice that the dead tree has remained unmoving and it does not seem to bother anybody. Looking even closer visitors are greeted by two plastic plaques, one with a walking silhouette of a human with a big red "X" over him/her, modern hieroglyph for "do not walk on grass" the second plaque is that of the description of an art work, this familiar type of plaque in this garden that accompanies the numerous 17th and 18th century marble statues, is strikingly rendered unfamiliar in its placement next to a work that bears no resemblance to the appearance of the other art in the same garden.


Giuseppe Penome has cast a tree with roots and tall branches in bronze, it was commission and installed at the turn of the millennium. Arbre des Voyelles is an understated powerhouse of an artwork. It is cleverly camouflaged dead tree amongst the living trees, and in its scale it is a gesture of minimalism and realism, to cast an overlooked life-form of earth that until recently was both misunderstood and underestimated, trees. Yes appreciated as raw material and natural resource for wood, paper, fuel and construction material, overlooked as the proverbial lungs of the earth's atmosphere.


The woods have been here for a long time, and humankind has often in his and her art chosen to represent him and herself, instead of portraying plant life. Plants the neighbors and cohabitants of Triassic and Jurassic ages, the Dinosaurs walked in jungles and those jungles were made of living trees. Westerners have been rather late to the game of understating the vital role plants have on our Planet we have not made so many art works to celebrate the plants we rely on.


Arbre des Voyelles has tall branches that extend out, touching the trunks of five living trees that are in the same plot of land in the garden. It is as if the large bronze art tree is sharing its strength and power with the trees still living, perhaps it is the inverse, that the living trees donate their energy to the bronze tree forming a circuit, the bronze tree was made from a tree that was once living, a tree that had to bee uprooted cleaned trimmed and sculpted of course before it was cast in a foundry. Penome's tree is part of a unit, a work that still lives, other trees have been cast in bronze before, like a large tree trunk of drift wood, cast by artist Julian Schnabel in the permanent collection of architect Phillip Johnson. Schnabel's driftwood tree is large and is treated with a finish of stark white paint, to offer a strong loud color contrast between nude bronze and white paint. His drift wood sculpture does honor the plants of the world, but it speaks much more towards the oceans random destructive force and power to wash a massive dead tree up on a beach in long island. That sculpture is in Johnson's New Canaan Connecticut compound, it rests outside an underground viewing gallery for the late architects private art collection. Both big bronze trees are near a museum of a sort, however Penome's tree is more accessible due to its central metropolitan location, his is an expression of the silent power of the trees and their life cycle. If a tree falls in the forest it can become fertilizer and mulch for the seedlings to come, it gives of itself to those trees that come after it. By craniv boyd

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Saâdane Afif Prix Marcel Duchamp 2009 Anthologie De L’Humour Noir 15 September 3 January 2011 Centre Pompidou, Paris. by craniv boyd.

Saâdane Afif Prix Marcel Duchamp 2009 Anthologie De L'Humour Noir 15 September 3 January 2011 Centre Pompidou, Paris. by craniv boyd.


Did you see the exhibition of the winner of the art collector's prize this year?


Oh you mean the prize that was established a few years ago by an association of current art collectors who want to raise the profile of French current art abroad?


Yes that is the prize that I am talking about, did you see it?


Yes I did but the art work, I dunno… it seemed like an inside joke to me…


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Was it not Marcel Duchamp who once said that if Picasso lived in Africa and not 20th century Paris, he would not be Picasso? We are presented with an anthology of black humor, we are presented with a coffin made by an unknown African Ghanaian crafts man who could make your casket look like a rolls Royce or a hummer if you paid him enough to do it. We are in a room with many essays lining the walls and a candy colored naïve looking scale model of Renzo Piano's structure for the Pompidou Center, this model is a coffin and perhaps the corps inside is another casualty of overdose from excessive viewing the dangerous cocktail of text heavy conceptual art and irony.  Look for the coroners report for the post mortem of "death induced by boredom" in the exhibition literature. There was an international jury of James Cottrel, Gilles Fuchs, Dakis Joannou, Kasper Konig, Charlotte Laubard, Jacqueline Matisse-Monnier, and Alfred Pacqement who had the tall task to select a winner for France's answer to the United Kingdom's Turner Prize.


The work is best described as institutional critique without the critique, when an artist like Saâdane Afif, travels all the way to Ghana, West Africa, to commission an unnamed African crafts person to create a coffin in the likeness of the museum where the occidental developed world based artist is showing and celebrated. No the winner of the Prix Marcel Duchamp has cleverly worked in that time honored American postindustrial revolution tradition named "outsourcing". Travel to the developing world and pay the local crafts people to create the hand labor that is exotic and a childlike elegy of a western modern art museum, which the crafts person from Ghana is unlikely to have visited prior to this commission. Likewise utilize the intellectual capital and resources and outsource via a commission of the "white collar" skilled office work from various western based educated intellectuals with high-speed Internet connections, this is the work produced via the method of outsourcing, art work that at first glance looks like tongue in cheek commentary on modern art institutions, but on closer investigation is made in the kind of detached ironic and calculated manor employed by a creative executive at Nike, where western ideas collide with the unnamed un credited other who actually fabricates the objects, and the people who write about the art in this case as an addendum included in the visual display of the exhibition are also western, or developed world based rather than the developing world labor.


Strange that unlike Great Brittan, France would elect to name its prize to accrue the foreign notoriety of its artists, after a conceptual maverick artist who preemptively left France for the United States and New York City, before New York City was the locus of the Avant Garde. Why not name an art prize that is trying to be like the turner prize after a French painter contemporaneous with J M W Turner who worked with larger formats and anticipated modernism and painted abstraction, France has some of those guys don't they? With the choice of an artist who was almost an anti artist the founders of this prize for current art are more cutting than the cutting edge. By craniv boyd.      

Gabriel Orozco 15 Septembre 2010- 3 Janvier 2011 Centre Pompidou, Paris. By craniv boyd.

Gabriel Orozco 15 Septembre 2010- 3 Janvier 2011 Centre Pompidou, Paris. By craniv boyd.


A former colleague of mine, a Mexican American painter and sculptor took me to see work of artist Gabriel Orozco for my first time back in 2003 at a solo exhibition he had with his New York gallery Marian Goodman on east 57th Street. For some perspective, Marian Goodman is that same gallery that will host the New York solo exhibition of a painter like German born Gerhardt Richter after he has had a retrospective at the MoMA a few blocks south of the gallery on west 53rd street. At the time when my colleague and I went to the exhibition I was confused, by the name of Orozco, I was expecting to see murals and Paintings from the 1930's onward, half remembering the compatriot and fellow muralist painter of Diego Rivera, Orozco yes José Clemente. Gabriel Orozco is of no relation to José Clemente Orozco. Some people have mistakenly assumed, like I once did, that his father a Mexican muralist who worked under David Sisqueros, was related to Diego Rivera or José Clemente Orozco because of his name, Mario Orozco Rivera.  After I got past the confusion of names back in 2003, I saw the art in a large white cube space above the hustle and bustle of central midtown Manhattan. There were several bone like structures suspended from fishing line from the ceiling, the work was large and ambitions installation that looked strangely amphibian and had nothing ostensibly to do with neither, Mexico, politics nor painting.


Two years later in Venice Italy is was provided with the second opportunity to see Gabriel Orozco's work, included in part of the curated group exhibition section of the Venice Biennial. What I saw then was a series of abstract paintings that looked like Venn Diagrams in primary colors and selected metallic like silver leaf and gold leaf. By 2005 I had flipped through enough magazines dedicated to covering current art to know that when the occasion would arise to frequent a museum, or gallery exhibition, with the name Gabriel Orozco included, I could expect to see a cast of minimal Nation-less internationalist art, artwork found expressed in small gestures in big white cubes that reproduced well photographically in the image laden magazines about minimalist internationalist nation-less artwork.


It is five years since I saw Gabriel Orozco's paintings in an institutional show, and the dimly lit street level south gallery of the Pompidou reads as a melding between serious museum retrospective, and solo gallery exhibition. In the exhibition literature we are informed that the decision to have the exhibition hall of Sud left open like the Neue National Gallerie of Berlin by Mies van der Rohe, was a decision the artist arrived at. Is Orozco an exacting kind of artist who may possess a need to control or augment the environs where his art is shown? There is nothing wrong with exactitude and artistic preferences, but why stress about how the exhibition is arranged in the museum, is that not purvey of museum personnel? Would it not behoove an artist to make more of a substantial looking art, one where placement and exhibition design is not tantamount or central to understanding or appreciation of the artwork?


Seeing a selection of Gabriel Orozco's work from the 1990's onwards one is given the feeling of entering a brand of cryptic science-hall display where there is little to no scientific proof being made. It is the feeling that visitors and observers of Danish artist Olafur Elasson could have as well, from viewing a kind of internationalist, experiential artwork that also looks sexy in a photograph. At the commence of the exhibition there is a work made from clay it looks like a heart and is made from the artist simply closing his hands in the wet fecund tropical Central American earth and letting it dry. This natural process of creativity is fetish zed in a documentary photograph of the artist's bare chest, holding the simple work he has made. Art can be so simple. Some people believe that a celebration of un-monumental artwork like the early work of Gabriel Orozco is an outgrowth and reaction towards the art market downturn that New York felt in the late 1980's and early 1990's. But that hypothesis is complicated.


Early on Orozco made simple work out of cheap materials that was both poetic and looked good in a photograph, when he was a younger man at the start of his internationally celebrated art career. Sometime later he made more sensational type work that was in addition to being simple, poetic and easy to document and reproduce mechanically, had bonus shock value of being made from controversial materials, such as a human skull. This puts Orozco in the same relative niche category of current living artist working with human body parts to which English born artist Damien Hirst is also a member. There could be an ethical discussion of when a person clearly had to die in order to provide the materials for a work, is it still art? In Hirst's case the human skull is diamond encrusted, and in Orozco's case the skull is painted in a black and white harlequin pattern.


Later on, as seen in the open-plan retrospective at Pompidou's gallerie sud, one gets the sense of a gallery represented artist who became known for shocking art biennial spectators with an empty cardboard shoe box as his sole contribution to the biennial, who turns to painting once he has a big internationally recognizable name, and large exhibition curriculum vitæ. Difficult to collect current artwork made out of cardboard boxes some what less unwieldy to show sell and collect geometrically abstract paintings in primary colors that look by and large the same because of structure format and content or relative dearth thereof, at the said artists New York midtown gallery for current museum tier art.


Towards the end of the time line we are presented with impossible objects from the wondrous cabinet of nonfunctional product design. A small car that is life size but has only one seat, a kinetic mobile that spins around like a ceiling fan in summer trailing white cloth streamers for a hermetic silent gymnastics celebration.  Spectators can enter a room that is in a container. The room itself is a monumentally un-monumental work, yes it is a big heavy expensive installation, but the interior of this space is so codified in drab and plain office space it begs the question, do I need to go to a museum to be reminded of how terrible the interior décor of the large faceless corporation where I work every day is looking? When art and the artists who make it can take the public to new wondrous unfamiliar places with the objects that they craft, how nice is it to force people back into a representation or parody of the spaces and objects they dread, like the high rise office building or the small automobile. By craniv boyd