Ruth Hardinger: In the Studio


Ruth Hardinger Sculpture

Layers Rise #1, 2016, concrete, concrete, cardboard, graphite, plaster, marble dust, acrylic, Photos by Robert Lowell

Ruth Hardinger is a passionate environmental activist, and her art-making materials, processes, and forms stem from this. Her studio — about 900 square feet with high ceilings — is filled with different series she has made or is still making. Some will be in a solo show at the David & Schweitzer Contemporary, Bushwick from February 17 –March 12, 2017.  D&S will also exhibit Hardinger’s work at Volta, March 1-5, 2017. Heavy totem-like cement sculptures stand above medium-tall and smaller works; the walls, tables, and floor are covered with beautiful natural rocks and smaller cement and mixed media pieces. Stacks of graphite works on paper and graphite on flattened milk cartons lie in a large mound in one area.  Monumental framed graphite works weighing over 200 pounds each hang high on studio walls, and a giant graphite rubbing titled 72 of 74 commands the back wall. I estimate that the studio holds more than 40 large and small sculptures and more than 200 two-dimensional works. Hardinger has another studio upstate as well. Playwright Edward Albee III (3.12.1928 – 9.16.2016) owned seven of her works. Continue reading

Jes Fan in their Studio: The Miracle of Gender

Jes Fan Sculpture

Jes Fan, Testosoap

Hurry to Jes Fan’s studio at the Museum of Art and Design (MAD) to see the wonders they have been creating between October and January.¹ ⁺ ²  If you like, return February 27 – April 9 to see their exhibition in MAD’s Project Room and plan to see their show at Vox Populi in May/June. Even after my second visit, there was too much to see in the small MAD studio where Fan is a Van Lier Fellow. As I look around, I admire their play with materials, contradictions, and ideas about identity politics, including gender and race. The pink and black barbells and weights are light instead of heavy, twisted or curving instead of straight. Jes is making hanging sculptures out of soybeans, the miracle bean that was a food staple in China since 2800 B.C.  One soybean-encapsuled object is shaped like adrenal glands, which secrete the body’s hormones. A silicone slab form with embedded soybeans is setting in its mold. As Fan lifts it, they relate, “Silicone is a bodily material that stays wet physically.” Nearby two hairbrushes lie sideways, a long swirl of black hair (instead of bristles) connecting the two handles.

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Grand Arts: Visions that Provoke and Disrupt

Grants Arts Sculpture

Rosemarie Fiore, process photo, The Good-Time Mix Machine: Scrambler Drawings, 2004.
Acrylic paint on vinyl, 60 x 60 ft. (Photograph courtesy E.G. Schempf)

Art creation takes more than time and money: it takes research, focus, and many kinds of support/teamwork. That’s one main message in Grand Arts 1995 – 2015 Problems and Provocations. When Glenn Harper assigned me to cover the Grand Arts opening of Pattie Cronin’s Memorial to a Marriage – a Carrara marble, Hosmer-inspired mortuary sculpture in Kansas City, Missouri around 2002, I had heard of Margaret Hall Silva’s arts foundation from artist Jeff Aeling (1996 awardee), but I didn’t realize until I read this book how messy and blindly optimistic Grand Arts was to commission work as revolutionary as Cronin’s Memorial and Sanford Biggers’ Blossom – a piano “born” from a tree, which, on its own, plays a soulful version of Billie Holiday’s Strange Fruit. Continue reading

In the Studio with Peter Gourfain: “peculiar energy” and “cantankerous generosity”


“Who drive Fergus now and pierce woods woven shade.” 1994. Linoprint.

To meet an 80+-year-old artist “doing something I’ve never done before,” I visited Peter Gourfain’s Bedford-Stuyvesant studio in a neighborhood that was low-income when he moved there 30 years ago. The shift to the new style, in which three-dimensional yet abstract heads and hands are collaged together was “sudden and unexpected,” according to the artist.[i]  Continue reading

Rodin’s Visceral Vision

Rodin Sculpture

Rodin surrounded by plasterworks in his studio. Photographed by Eugène Druet Ph.203. 10 × 10 in. (25.6 × 25.2cm).

The new Musée Rodin book does an excellent job of framing Rodin’s multi-faceted legacy. It covers the artist’s beginnings, historical contexts, studio practice, and artistic achievements, including the surprising fact that Rodin failed the École des Beaux-Arts sculpture admissions test three times and largely developed his sculpture practice on his own. Due to space limitations, my review will address three facets not fully fleshed out in this well-illustrated volume: why Camille Claudel’s role is still under-explored;  how Rodin enlarged the platform for sculpture and public art as he ushered in subjects lacking conventional beauty and frontal male nudity; and how his erotic art challenged the sexual taboos of his era (and even our own). Continue reading

In the Studio with Katharina Grosse at Rockaway!


Rockaway! featuring site-specific installation by Katharina Grosse. Image courtesy the artist and MoMA PS1. Photo by Pablo Enriquez.

Katharina Grosse’s red bolts of color on white transform an aquatic building hit by Hurricane Sandy into a new art destination on the Rockaway Beach front at Fort Tilden. Grosse’s uses of color “break all the rules” and literally create a new dimension, turning an old ruin into  a dynamic, color-coded space that interacts with people, sky, grasses, sand, and ocean.  People literally danced in, on, and around Grosse’s new art object as deejays added to the festive mood.  The beach has been converted from a sleepy hideaway without lifeguards near an unused U. S. Army coast artillery post into one filled with bikers, beachgoers, and families. The untitled art is on view through November and is part of the Rockaway! National Parks Service and MoMA PS1 hurricane recovery effort for the Rockaway Peninsula. Continue reading

In the studio with Hadieh Shafie

Hadieh Shafie Sculpture

Hadieh Shafie Studio

Love and passion are secret innersprings that fuel Hadieh Shafie’s art and life. Iranian-born American artist Shafie grew up in Iran. She picked up English during two years in London around ages eight to nine. Upon returning to Iran in 1979 with her seven-year-old brother, she found that Iran had changed; at the airport, all she could see was a “sea of black” clothing, and she thought she was in the wrong country. Shafie and her family then lived for four years under repressive laws in Iran before receiving a visa for a family vacation in Austria. This turned into a trip to visit relatives in America and a new life. Shafie finds parallels between her early life and that of Iranian-born Marjane Satrapi, as told in her graphic novel Persepolis. Continue reading