In the Studio with Magdalene Odundo: “recapturing the spirit of the void”

sculpture

Final day of the workshop. Carrie Johnson, Jamie Wade, Gayla Lenke, Barbara Thompson (Hawaii Crafstmen), Laura Phelps Rogers, Ellen Crocker, Sally Jackson, Tom Gibson, Evan Jenkins (in back, Hawaii Craftsmen), Annie Stiefel (student and Magdalene’s assistant), Magdalene Odundo (instructor), and Erik Wold (studio manager). Photo: Laura Phelps Rogers

Magdalene Odundo’s vessels have a signature beauty and depth. At the Yale Center for British Art exhibition Things of Beauty Growing, she talked about “humanizing the static clay” and “capturing the spirit of the void.” Historically, her handmade vessels may borrow ideas from San Ildefonso Pueblo in New Mexico, from British potters including Lucie Rie and Bernard Leach, and from Greek, Roman, and Nigerian processes. Her work has been compared to Cycladic art, to sculptors including Gaudier-Brzeska, Hans Arp, and Constantin Brancusi, and to painters including Henri Matisse and Amedeo Modigliani and is in over 50 notable museum collections, including the Stedelijk, the Victoria and Albert, the Nelson-Atkins, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and the Smithsonian Institution. Continue reading

Ileana Sonnabend and Arte Povera – Edited by Germano Celant

This exhibition catalog reminds us that performance art and some art made from discarded and daily use objects –and ingenuity — began in the 60s as playful investigations of process, concepts, psychology, and aesthetics. I taught intro to Art History for decades when Germano Celant was a star curator in New York and Europe, also often seen in a 20th Century Art film series discussing process-oriented art — for example, Franz Klein painting nude women blue and rolling their bodies on paper – and why this was art. Many artists in the 60s & 70s, including John Lennon and Yoko Ono and Lynda Benglis, did nude performance art, but it was not necessarily process-oriented. Continue reading

Why Ai Weiwei Addresses Human Rights

Ai Weiwei sculpture

Ai Weiwei Circle Fence, 2017 Powder coated mild steel, polypropylene netting Courtesy of the artist Photo: Timothy Schenck, Courtesy Public Art Fund, NY On view as part of the citywide exhibition Good Fences Make Good Neighbors, presented by Public Art Fund October 12, 2017-February 11, 2018

Ai Weiwei’s Public Art Fund exhibit employs fences as an extended metaphor for increasing barriers around the world. Three large shapes and over 300 smaller art works — bus station shelters, wall art, and lamp post banners — span the five boroughs. One large work, Gilded Cage, is a dome-shaped bird-cage-like soaring structure with about five subway turnstile mini-structures inside. The cage door faces Central Park as its see-through silhouette displays the Plaza Hotel and luxury Fifth Avenue businesses. As we know, even high end companies in Manhattan have entry level jobs for sales clerks and cleaning people. It’s unlikely the lower-paid employees can afford to live in Manhattan. This cage’s transparency reminds us that street vendors and entry-level employees daily work alongside executives and well-heeled customers and clients. Continue reading

Tony Cragg is Happiest in his Studio: “Sculpture is at the cutting edge of material investigation.”

Thicket, 2016. Rusted steel. No. 20280. Courtesy Marian Goodman Gallery

Why is Tony Cragg’s art unlike anything anyone has ever seen? What does it “say” to a range of viewers in Teheran, London, Moscow, Berlin, and New York (solo show Marian Goodman, closed October 14, 2017)? Cragg is modest about his global platform, his knighthood, and whatever else takes him out of his studio, where he is bent on his theory of materiality – creating art that enlarges our mindsets by inventing new forms, processes, and uses of materials. In October, 2017, his traveling exhibit opened at Teheran’s Museum of Contemporary Art, one of the largest contemporary museums in the world. In May, 2018, New York visitors and regulars will find Cragg’s monumental sculpture on Park Avenue.  How did Cragg’s vision boost his practice from early temporary spaces – one  in a Jehovah’s Witness basement —  to his present studio complex in a former army base in Wuppertal, Germany? Read on, and also see http://www.tony-cragg.com/ and www.mariangoodman.com/artist/tony-cragg. Continue reading

Robert Wilson: The World is his Studio

© Maria Baranova

Robert Wilson’s studio, The Watermill Center, is an international think tank and work space that is continuously evolving in its relationships with nature, its art collection and buildings, and the communities it serves. Two among many lessons I learned from my two visits there are that “it takes a village” to fully nurture and nourish every individual artist, and it requires intensive and sometimes grueling work on the part of each artist to realize his/her/their individual and collective dreams. Continue reading

In the Studio: Huy Bui: Structures for Hope and Survival

Sculpture

Plant-in City, Moss, 2012, 48″ x 18″ x 24″, Installation, Huy Bui

The artist Huy Bui says it best:

We are living in precarious times where human greed, stupidity and ignorance threaten the existence of all life on Earth.  It is our moment as humans to reflect on ourselves and confront a destination once thought as fiction that is now our probable future. The sixth extinction is in progress but our potential to problem solve is remarkable.  Our actions and policies in the next generation will determine the fate of species for thousands of years to come, if not millions.   Continue reading

Tanabe Chikuunsai IV at The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Heaven, Wind (title) Boat-shaped flower basket (description), 2014. 66 x 17.5 x 34.5 cm.

The Gate, a floor-to-ceiling curviling tiger bamboo structure by Tanabe Chikuunsai IV, rises up at The Met, its woven, brown-flecked flaxen limbs both hugging the floor and flying into the heavens.  It’s unlike any of the other ninety works on view at The Met. The flowing entrance spires signal a new era for bamboo design, craft, and sculpture. For one, this bamboo has been recycled ten times and was, for example, in a different configuration of rising braided arms at the Museé Guimet in Paris.   Continue reading