Ai Weiwei at Meijer Gardens

Ai Weiwei sculpture

Remains (detail), 2015. Courtesy of Ai Weiwei studio.

“How does he manage to do it?” One wonders.  It’s not just that Chinese artist and activist Ai Weiwei can work with media as varied as cast iron, steel rebar, porcelain, wood, or Legos, but that somehow the finished works are beautifully crafted and always embedded with carefully considered layers of meaning.  The exhibition Natural State at Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park brings an impressive cross-section of his recent work to the heart of America’s Midwest, and amply demonstrates Ai’s uncanny knack for seamlessly integrating craftsmanship with concept.  Continue reading

Rodin’s Human Experience, and Our Own

Rodin Sculpture

Three Shades, by Rodin. Photo courtesy of the Portland Art Museum.

I tend to prefer abstract sculpture— however, even in more representative work, there is plenty of abstractness to find and appreciate. Take the Rodin exhibition currently at the Portland Art Museum. Subtitled “The Human Experience,” the exhibition certainly showcases the representational aspects of Auguste Rodin’s masterful bronze works. The 52 bronzes in the show are almost entirely of human forms, and are curated so that the viewer learns about the process by which the sculptor produced the works both in detail and at scale. In re-using aspects of previous works, Rodin allowed particular characteristics of the human form to span across his oeuvre, and the viewer can immediately sense these pieces of humanity— hands, torsos, heads, limbs— extending throughout the gallery, like memories or ghosts of the many models that the artist employed to create these testaments to the human form. Continue reading

Rauschenberg at Tate Modern, London

Robert Rauschenberg Sculpture

Robert Rauschenberg Installation View. Photograph courtesy Tate Photography
© Robert Rauschenberg Foundation, New York

The first time I saw the film Casablanca, I must have been about twenty years old. I was sitting in my grimy student flat watching it on an old computer with my friend, when they turned to me part way through and said something strange. The film was incredible, they acknowledged, but the dialogue was making them cringe. Casablanca of course is now, and probably forever will be, famous for its incredible wealth of iconic lines. From Rick’s sad lament about ‘all the gin joints in town’ to perhaps the zenith of the picture’s dialogue as he and Ilsa say goodbye at the airport, it is responsible for some of the most memorable exchanges and suave one-liners of any film in history. But in reality, my friend wasn’t really commenting on the dialogue in Casablanca as much as the subsequent dialogue around the film. So much of it has become fodder for parody, imitation or even just general praise that even its most ground breaking moments have become over-worn clichés for many, making it hard to encounter the original film without a lot of distracting baggage. It begs the question, how does one say something interesting, original or relevant about work which has long been established as part of the canon? Continue reading

Tying the Knots of the World

Françoise Grossen Sculpture

Installation view of ‘Françoise Grossen Selects’, 2016. Photo by Butcher Walsh.
Courtesy of the Museum of Arts and Design.

The more I think about fiber arts, the more enamored I become with it as a form of sculpture. Visiting the Françoise Grossen Selects show at the Museum of Art and Design put this motion into overdrive, as I explored the variety of things that might be done using solely rope. Continue reading

Irina Korina at Gallery for Russian Arts and Design, London

Destined to be Happy Sculpture

Copyright Irina Korina taken from ‘Destined to be Happy’ installation shot, GRAD 2016.

Destined to Be Happy is a new site-specific installation by Russian artist Irina Korina that deliberately forgoes a specific narrative or reading in favour of a host of dynamic and evolving associations. Entering the gallery through a side alley, the viewer moves through a dark tunnel which then opens out into a kind of maze, framed by curved corrugated steel panels and burnt out trees. Silver confetti is scattered across the wooden floor of the space while industrial plastic, occasionally bowed under by pockets of water, frames the ceiling. The walls are also draped in plastic, giving the space the strange aura of a construction site, perhaps a half finished retail space. The most visually striking element of the exhibition is the six large figures assembled atop the protruding legs of mannequin dummies, identified in the exhibition text as The Globe, The Tear Drop, The Fire, The Heart, The Rainbow and The Meteorite. A soundscape composed by Sergey Kasich adds an ominously shifting sonic palette to the installation, where elements slowly merge into one another, thereby blurring the line between fragments of identifiable found sound and digital abstractions. Continue reading

Art As Experience

Witness Sculpture

Installation view, Witness, MCA Chicago. July 2, 2016 – February 19, 2017. Photo: Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago.

I’m increasingly realizing that most art can only be experienced in person; the expansive and visceral terrain of a Jackson Pollock canvass, for example, its paint in places measuring nearly a half-inch thick, is entirely lost in translation when transposed into a deadened image in a book (and I can forgive someone for finding Pollock underwhelming if they only ever encounter him in diminutive digital or print reproductions).  At Chicago’s Contemporary Museum of Art is a strong pair of exhibitions which emphatically make the point that art is, at its essence, experiential.  Together, they demand viewer interaction and emotional response. Continue reading

Toxic Seas

sculpture


Institute For Figuring’s Crochet Coral Reef project, 2005–ongoing. Photo courtesy of the Institute For Figuring

Margaret and Christine Wertheim’s coral reef crocheted project has been shown all over the world, but the current exhibition of their work and that of their many worldwide collaborators at Museum of Art and Design’s Crochet Coral Reef: Toxic Seas show is one of the best that I’ve seen. Continue reading