Thursday, October 30, 2014

Moving Towards Equality

"I believe that gender is a cultural fiction, not a biological given. But while there have been many achievements in the last 20 years, racism and sexism are still rife. . . . Those things have to become detached. But until we are able to detach gender from the ways we are in the world, it’s important for us to move towards equality. Moving towards equality is what the word feminism means. Until we’ve achieved that, we can’t give up the word. Feminist design is an effort to bring the values of the domestic sphere into the public sphere; feminist design is about letting diverse voices be heard through caring, relational strategies of working and designing. Until social and economic inequalities are changed, I am going to call good design feminist design."  ~Sheila Levrant de Bretteville (in an interview with Ellen Lupton, Eye Magazine, Issue 8, 1992)
I agree with Sheila Levrant de Bretteville that gender is a cultural fiction.  A short way of saying that treating someone differently because of their gender has been invented by culture.
Sheila Levrant de Bretteville, Pink, 1973, installation photo by Brian Forrest
the at WACK! Art and the Feminist Revolution
Geffen Contemporary MOCA March 4-July 16, 2007
Just as treating anyone differently because of any perceived deviation from the "norm" is an invention of culture.  There is no normal, there's just us.  Why all the fuss?
©Sheila Levrant de Bretteville-Biddy Mason Wall in LA
Here is another quote from that interview:
"I will never, never, never forget to include people of colour, people of different points of view, people of both genders, people of different sexual preferences. It’s just not possible any more to move without remembering. That is something that Modernism didn’t account for; it didn’t want to recognise regional and personal differences.  People who have given their whole lives of supporting the classicising aesthetic of Modernism feel invalidated when we talk about the necessary inclusiveness, but diversity and inclusiveness are our only hope. It is not possible any more to plaster over everything with clean elegance. Dirty architecture, fuzzy theory and dirty design must be there."
©Sheila Levrant de Bretteville-NY Subway
Here is another quote I really liked from the interview with Ellen Lupton:
"There is a prevalent notion in the professional world that only if you have eight or more uninterrupted hours per day can you do significant work. But if you respond to other human beings – if you are a relational person – you never really have eight uninterrupted hours in a row.   Relational existence is not only attached to gender by history – not by genes, not be biology, not by some essential ‘femaleness’. A relational person thinks about other human beings and their needs during the day. A relational person allows notions about other people to interrupt the trajectory of thinking or designing . . . . The kinds of work habits that are part of this public sphere – that deny relational experience – are precisely the ones I want to challenge. Feminism has allowed me to challenge them; thinking about myself as a woman has allowed me to challenge them. When women are in the workplace, women do as the workplace demands it. Part of feminism is about bringing public, professional values closer to private, domestic values, to break the boundaries of this binary system."
There is a lot to know about Sheila Levrant de Bretteville - much more than I have time to write about here.  I had fun researching her art and philosophy and life today.

Here is another transcribed interview in a Yale magazine that is really good too.


Hope you are enjoying this last Thursday before daylight savings goes to winter on Sunday.


'Til Tomorrow!

~Alex

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Tee Corinne

Tee Corinne is next on the list of artists featured in the WACK! Art and the Feminist Revolution show in 2007.

I think of Corinne as more of a writer type artist than a visual type artist.  Much of her visual artist work was photography and photographs manipulated in Photoshop.
©Tee Corinne- Self Portrait at 46
I think a lot of her work was done in the spirit of making more people accustomed to the visual imagery of women who loved one another both emotionally and sexually being together both with and without clothes.
 
She used color in her Photoshop manipulated work to convey emotion and mirroring in her earlier photos for visual interest...as I think she was making erotic art but wanted it to be esthetically pleasing - as opposed to pornographic.  She also wanted to protect the identities of her models.
©Tee Corinne
To me, Corinne's most important contribution is her use of art and photographs to celebrate the beauty of all parts and all types of the female form.  Her models were of all shapes, ages, ethnicities and physical abilities. 

I don't know if this was her intent but perhaps she was trying to make society face the physicality of all woman, not just what is considered most appropriately beautiful by some or "the media." 

It could be that if we can look more easily at every body than perhaps we can see more easily that we are not that exterior - but are - instead, what resides inside.

If you are interested in more information about Tee Corinne, here is a link to the transcript of an interview she did with Barbara Kyne

Hope you are having a good Wednesday. 

'Til tomorrow!

~Alex

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

The Artist is a Lonely Person

At lease, according to Brazilian artist, Lygia Clark.  She is next on the list of artists featured in the WACK! Art and the Feminist Revolution show in 2007.  I like her work because it (at least her later works) encouraged those viewing her work to also interact with it and I believe she a very important artist because of that.
From the DAN Galeria exhibition: ©Lygia Clark, 1960
This is nothing new to art these days, but back in the 60's and 70's interactive art, especially anyone coming to an art show being encouraged to manipulate a work on display (thereby being, in a sense, a collaborator to the work) was new concept.

©Lygia Clark-bisos
I have drawings of sculptures I will make that have participatory elements to them and I'm excited about the future creation of those.  I encourage people to touch my sculpture at shows.  This is one of the most amazing aspects of sculpture - I believe - sculpture allows us to not only have a visual experience but  a tactile experience of a work of art.

Lygia Clark took the idea of touching artwork to a whole new level and even believed that her art could improve the human condition.
©Lygia Clark - Canibalismo
She may have understated the simple and complex fact that art - most any art - improves the human condition (if only for the artist who creates it) and overstated what her art accomplished - but I haven't experienced her work first hand, either.  If I had gone to Moma's major retrospective of Clark's work earlier this year, I might have felt differently.
©Lygia Clark-The I and The You
This article written on Artnet News is a wonderful perspective about Lygia Clark herself and her work written by Ben Davis.  And also in BBC Culture written by Jason Farago.  So if you want to know more about the contributions of Clark and her work, these are a good read with more written references cited.
©Lygia Clark-Sensorial Mask
Tomorrow I will talk about the next artist on the list.  She once referred to herself as "one of the most obscure famous artists," Tee Corinne.

'Til tomorrow!

~Alex

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Inspiration Sunday

Happy Sunday to you.  For Inspiration Sunday today I have quotes from the artists featured in the WACK! Art and the Feminist Revolution show that I talked about last week.  Hope you enjoy the quotes and hope you enjoy your end of the week and that this will help inspire you to start your week off on the best path it can be on.

And, I thought I'd put in a joke today...just because.  :)

It's an old joke.
"Be industrious: the more one works, the better one succeeds. The harder the task, the more honorable the labor. The more a man praises himself, the less inclined are others to praise him."  ~Theresa Hak Kyung Cha-Dictee Opening pg 8

"I don't know if I am that conscious of it, but some people say that our films have a tendency toward dirty laundry. The films say it like it is, rather than how people want it to be. Maybe it is my character that tends to want to do that, because I think the visual arts [artist?] in me wants to say the same kind of thing. So I don't know if I consciously did it; I think it is just my own spirit." ~Camille Billops
The Stone House, a Blues Legend
A merger of art, prose and poetry
illustrator Camille Billops
"It murmurs inside. It murmurs. Inside is the pain of speech the pain to say. Larger still. Greater than is the pain not to say. To not say. Says nothing against the pain to speak. It festers inside. The wound, liquid, dust. Must break. Must void." ~Theresa Hak Kyung Cha-Dictee Opening pg 3

"Everybody has a form of tribalism. My sister got the look from Black men because she had a Puerto Rican boyfriend. If she were on the street with two little nasty children needing a daddy, they wouldn’t pay attention. It’s male tribalism that sees women as property." ~Camille Billops

"I would like to be cast as a humanist, someone who made a statement that was relevant to art history and the way we perceive ourselves and things."   ~Lynda Benglis
©Lynda Benglis
"When I was in Berkeley everybody was carrying a little red book—Mao's red book—and when Warhol produced his portrait series of Mao in a very aestheticized way, it was a shock—a good shock."  ~Dara Birnbaum

"Things happen in this country because you’re dark. Not necessarily because your hair’s nappy, but because you’re dark. That’s the first thing they see. . . .It will be hard to say, “I’m just a person.” No, you don’t get to be “just a person” here, you have to have a camp. And if it’s going to be with white people, you have to really be white. Nothing funny here. See, with Black America, there’s a legal definition. 1/32 Black blood, that means a great, great-grandmother Black—you are Black. That is only in this country, because of slavery. . . . From what I’ve seen in other cultures of color, very similar systems are at work. It’s racism within the group and that’s very powerful. So white people are not the only players on the stage. If you don’t admit to your own racism, how do you expect to keep telling white people about theirs?"  ~Camille Billops

"From the "Woodstock Nation" on, there was a brief moment when you actually felt that a large alternative group existed—that there were millions of "us" out there. But this was incredibly idealized. . . . I can remember Tom Wolfe lecturing . . . .It was a turnoff to see the author of Radical Chic in a totally white suit that looked so elitist to us, especially because he then represented the total opposite of a blue-collar worker. And he said, "You think that you are so different. Look at you. You are all so alike—what you are reading, how you are dressing." The coding within that "alternative" society was as defined and strict as in the society we were rejecting." ~Dara Birnbaum

"All work is some form of sensitizing oneself to the environment. It causes us to recognize ourselves and become self-conscious. We perceive in many different levels all at the same time. You can’t divide the intellectual and the sensual."  ~Lynda Benglis
©Lynda Benglis-North South East West
Irish Museum of Modern Art in Dublin
"She says to herself if she were able to write she could continue to live.  She says to herself if she would write without ceasing.  To herself if by writing she could abolish real time.  She would live.  If she could display it before her and become its voyeur."  ~Theresa Hak Kyung Cha-Dictee pg. 141
Tomorrow is Monday and I am finding that Monday is a very busy day normally.  If I have time I will post - if I don't (like last week) I won't.  But I will post for sure on Tuesday.

'Til then!

~Alex
 

Friday, October 24, 2014

The Dream of the Audience

"There is an ancient Indian saying that something lives only as long as the last person who remembers it. My people have come to trust memory over history. Memory, like fire, is radiant and immutable while history serves only those who seek to control it, those who douse the flame of memory in order to put out the dangerous fire of truth. Beware these men for they are dangerous themselves and unwise. Their false history is written in the blood of those who might remember and of those who seek the truth." ~Chris Carter from The Blessing Way X-Files transcript 
Theresa Hak Kyung Cha was born in the capital city of South Korea in the 1950's and immigrated to the United States when she was 11 years old.


Giant history buff that I am (not) ...I learned today that Korea was occupied by the Japanese from 1910 to 1945 and the Koreans were not permitted to speak their own language during this period of time.  Korea has a long history of fighting within it's own country and multiple occupations from other countries.  The Koreans say they are the people of (a Korean word that translates into something that means grief and suffering and despair).

Cha used words and language with art to make her own messages.  Aware that words and language are used to control people, I believe she used words as art as a way to make people think about allowing themselves to be controlled in this way.

Her most famous work is titled "Dictée" which translates from French as "dictation" or "dictate".

“The main body of my work is with language,” Cha wrote,” before it is born on the tip of the tongue.” 

Theresa Hak Kyung Cha-Earth (1973)

Here is a quote from Cha's book, Dictée:
You return and you are not one of them, they treat you with indifference. All the time you understand what they are saying. But the papers give you away. Every ten feet. They ask you identity. They comment upon your inability or ability to speak. Whether you are telling the truth or not about your nationality. They say you look other than you say. As if you didn’t know who you were. You say who you are but you begin to doubt. They search you. They, the anonymous variety of uniforms, each division, strata, classification, any set of miscellaneous properly uni formed.
Shortly after Dictée was published, just before it was publicly available, she was murdered in New York City.  She was 31 years old.  Her book is required reading in contemporary literary classes in many universities and her art works, in a diverse range of media, have been featured in touring exhibitions throughout the years.

A documentary of her life and work is in post-production right now.  Why not make a contribution to it's funding?  Just click on the orange Make a Contribution button below to do that and you can learn more about Cha, her life and work (and the film) by going to this site.

Tomorrow, I am taking a blog writing day off.  Sunday is, of course, Inspiration Sunday.  Monday, I will be writing about the artist, Lygia Clark, whose work is a major reference for contemporary artists dealing with the limits of conventional forms of art.  Judy Chicago was next on the list, but I wrote about her in this earlier post.

See you Sunday!

~Alex

Thursday, October 23, 2014

A Wonder Woman Blast from the Past

So.  As you may or may not know, I've been researching each artist listed as having been in the WACK! Art and the Feminist Revolution show in 2007 and I am now to the artists on the list who's last names begin with the letter "B".

Today the artist I am learning more about is a video artist, Dara Birnbaum.  It isn't really my thing to talk about video artists, as I have said before.  But for all you video artists who might be interested I decided to stick with it this time.

I found some good resources about Birnbaum and I will share those with you.

From The Feminist Art Project website, which - I very much hope you will explore further:
Who is The Feminist Art Project?
The Feminist Art Project brings together feminist artists, curators, authors and art critics, teachers and other art and museum professionals across cultural backgrounds, generations and widespread locations to refocus public attention on the significant achievements of women artists and the Feminist Art Movement. TFAP’s policies and initiatives are overseen by its National Coordinating Committee. TFAP Regional Coordinators across the globe are spearheading activities in their regions. TFAP’s Program Partners are committed to increasing the visibility of feminist art and to promote The Feminist Art Project.
From this site was the image below.  Important to include I think because - if you've never been to a museum and experienced a video installation -
you cannot really get the idea of what it might be like just looking at a You Tube video on your computer.

Speaking of You Tube videos.  James Rowland made this video about Dara Birnbaum that is a good overview of her work.
 


Next on the list of artists on the WACK website is Louise Bourgeois but I have already devoted a post to talking about Louise and if you haven't read it yet just click here

I wrote that post back when I was attempting to devote a certain day of the week to a certain subject.  Alas, that much self- imposed structure never seems to work well for me :}.

So - tomorrow we are progressing in our list past the artists who's last names begin with the letter "B" to the artists who's last names begin with the letter "C".

Theresa Hak Kyung Cha is who we will talk about tomorrow.

Wishing you a fantastic Thursday!

'Til tomorrow!

~Alex

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Be Yourself

The artist today is Camille Billops.  And the title of my blog today is in honor of Camille.  I don't know how to really explain how I feel about this artist.  It's complicated.

She is a visual artist and a filmmaker and she has created some pretty interesting films.  One called The KKK Boutique Ain't Just Rednecks and more personal films such as Older Woman and Love,
© Camille Billops
and Suzanne, Suzanne. which is about her niece's heroin addiction and abusive father.  Her movie
© Camille Billops - from Suzanne, Suzanne
 
Finding Christa won the Sundance Film Festival’s Best Documentary in 1992, Finding Christa is a memoir of Billops’ decision to give her daughter up for adoption at the age of 4 and what happened when she reunited with her daughter 20 years later.  In an interview for BOMB Magazine she says:
Finding Christa is a plea for women to think about their choices. You should never let anyone take those choices away from you. The control words for women are moral words. They will call you a whore if you want to stand out on the street, just to find out the news. You can’t hang out on that street. Men will circle and drive you away from the public space. So I was always curious about that. I am a feminist, but some of the white women, like the Kate Millets and that group who wanted to go to Iran to liberate the women behind the veil; I said, “Put your ass out on the streets, see how liberated you are. Check out that corner, you need a submachine gun.” But we don’t know the end of this yet, it’s been a very interesting exploration. . . .People see it as bravery, I think of it as a cleansing. A lot of men want to wrestle you to the ground, make you say you’re sorry: “Aren’t you happy you found her?” They’re saying, “Aren’t you going to make this up and repent? And be a real mother now that you have a chance?” An old friend of mine who never got married—he was saying, “You must do this for her, and you must do that.” And I said, “I don’t take that from childless men.” They want you to be a good girl. But many people are thinking people. And it does make people think.
Speaking about coming up with the idea for the KKK Boutique she says about her and her husband Jim's thinking process:
     For the KKK: Boutique, we were going to have our friends come over and talk about their individual racism. But they’re all older and tight, closed and guarded. I was talking to kids at the Chicago Arts Institute, and maybe because certain sadnesses have not happened to them, they were much more open. I told them that we don’t have permission to talk about our racism because it’s such a shameful thing. You’re not supposed to have it. It’s too bad, we should treat it like TB. Suppose you were ashamed to have tuberculosis, like it used to be. I talked about my racism. I said, “Look at it this way. It’s a bad servant, it does not deliver what you want it to deliver. The person you hate does not go away, the situation does not go away by hating, and you are reactive and put your body in a very stressful situation, and if you do it over a period of time, you will come down with diseases. You blow all your energy.”
     People come here with preconceived attitudes. They have those attitudes in their own country about color and class. I saw it all in Egypt: the light-skinned people walking in and the dark ones holding the door open. And in Taiwan, all the girls have gloves on and little white hats on, because they don’t want to get dark. One student was out in the surf, wading around out in the ocean, hiding under an umbrella. I said, “You’re not going to get dark, the sun’s down.”
     In this country, we always talk about the black and white of things. Black people accusing white people, and in between, we all just do each other as dirty as we can. Black America has a hard time with other minorities, because they see them as between them and the prize, which they feel is their due because of slavery. So, we want to talk about and address all the dynamics of this, but we also want to deal with the madness of things like . . . why do poor whites become Neo-Nazis? They are one of the most ignored groups in America. The upper-classes always call poor white people “trash.” So how do they get your attention? By acting out, becoming Neo-Nazis, Klansmen, the Aryan nation, the White People’s Party, Skinheads. And then their counterparts, who get to go to Harvard, just keep you out of the club and out of the neighborhood. And out of the power at the cocktail parties. Are they any different?
© Camille Billops
Camille Billops and her husband, James Hatch
Very good points about racism I think...feminism too.  But mostly I admire Camille Billops because it seems that she made it a point to just be herself.  Knowing how imperfect she is and how perfect that could be.  She did her best to try to raise her daughter and wasn't so egotistical to believe that she could do it best and loved her child enough to want the best for her...and loved herself enough to want what was best for herself.  She didn't say, "this is how I should be" but rather "this is who I am and what I am called to do."
© Camille Billops-Three Headed Fountain (1969)
Hope you enjoyed learning about this artist with me today and that you are having a very good middle of the week.

'Til tomorrow!

~Alex

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Art: A Confrontation in Time

No post yesterday.  I know.  I was biologically invaded by a flu shot on Sunday and have felt 'meh' ever since.  Today I am forcing myself to post this.  Really, the only cure for 'meh' is Create in my Studio - which is where I will be heading in short order.

The artist of the day is Lynda Benglis (warning - photos in link not suitable imagery for children or the workplace...IMHO) and I like her because it seems like she just played with materials that she thought would be interesting and just did what she felt she wanted to do with them and see where she could take them.  She played - and artists should play, I think.

Since I'm feeling so ...you know.  I decided to find a good interview and put in photos of the works mentioned...where I could find them. 

So.  I hope you enjoy this and are having a very good Tuesday.
*********************************************************
Marina Cashdan: You moved to New York from Louisiana in 1964. I understand you considered yourself to be an abstract artist. Does that still hold?
Lynda Benglis: I realize increasingly that I’m not completely an abstract artist or a so-called post-Minimalist. My work has always been either connected to events in my life, process, subjects or strong associations. It was Jeremy Gilbert-Rolfe who first mentioned that he thought of my work as being symbolic or associative.

MC Only a few years after you arrived in New York, you were turning heads with your wax ‘paintings’ and latex pours, for example Night Sherbet (1968),
Contraband (1969),
Embryo II (1967),
and the ‘Pinto Series’ (1969–70). What attracted you to these materials?
LB They’ve all been used as a surface for human skin. Latex and rubber masks, wax effigies and wax in ritual. I was also interested in the fact that most of these materials derive from nature.

MC You often speak about having been part of a group of artists who were wondering what to do and what the future was. Was this a response to that same question? Were you inventing, or reinventing something?
LB When I came to New York I was part of a close circle of artists who were asking questions about where art was going and what art could be. For my part, I think I was reinventing a process within painting; I was making my own paints with pigmented rubber and then later with pigmented polyurethane. I had this feeling that I wanted to stretch the image, to have the image confront the viewer rather than have it lie on a surface (i.e. canvas) or a board.

MC You talk about your early works as ‘little bombs’. Did these reflect your life experiences then?
LB They were bursting with energy! New York was larger than life for me then, because I had grown up in rural Louisiana, and even New Orleans appeared rural compared to New York. I found myself focusing on splashes on the sidewalk or the power of huge trucks passing as I was on my bicycle. And I absorbed that kind of energy. I wanted to give it back in response to something that was going on in a linear way – ideas that had to do with the development of painting and sculpture.


MC Is Robert Pincus-Witten’s term for your work, ‘the frozen gesture’, a misnomer, because your work feels more like it’s living, an act as opposed to a confined object?
LB Well ‘the frozen gesture’ was something that I think both Yves Klein and Franz Kline had done. Symbolically, Klein jumped out the window: he was involved with gesture, process (his ‘women brushes’ painting with their bodies) and the symbolic (sponges soaked with his paint on monochromatic blue canvases). Kline took the gesture and made it iconographic. Frank Stella said that Kline was one of his favourite artists, so I think Stella himself took the canvas, the stretcher bars, and turned them on their side to make them painted objects, as did other artists who were using materials and geometry. They were presenting something that was, in a way, rebellious and sometimes simplistic, and it was called Minimalism. I saw that and understood it in the context of where art could go, but for me it was a statement that seemed very rococo. It was way out on a limb. I felt that art had to have more content, a multiplicity of meaning and associations. And even many of those so-called Minimal artists broke out of their own self-created mould!

MC In Dave Hickey’s recent essay ‘A House Built in a Body: Lynda Benglis’s Early Work’ (2010), he writes: ‘As a friend of mine remarked at the time, foreshadowing the dildo photograph: “If she’d only been a guy, it would have been less intimidating.” But she wasn’t a guy […] and male artists have always been welcoming to female artists – except for artists like Lynda Benglis, Hannah Wilke, Bridget Riley and Joan Mitchell whose sheer talent and erotic charisma scared the hell out of everybody, women included.’ Do you think there’s an alpha female quality to your work that at the time scared your peers, not only referring to the 1974 Artforum advert but in the ‘erotic charisma’ and, more so, ‘sheer talent’ that they saw in your practice?
LB It’s only a person’s interior and exterior that is different. I think we all have both male and female qualities. Even my dog Pi is an alpha female, so she expresses herself in a very positive energetic way and some people like to define it as male or female – aggression is male and passivity is female – but these are both human and animal traits, and the world is made up of that. That’s in our psyche and it’s a balance in the works and in nature that you can’t easily categorize.

MC For those who may not have considered such things, did this confrontation and playfulness challenge even your peers? And has your work moved from that challenging position to one that’s more spiritual and contemplative? If so, was this conscious or unconscious?
LB I think that one context in which to explore that particular work is my addressing and confronting feminism. I was asking myself: ‘What are the questions that I should ask of this movement and myself and what I feel about it?’ The ideas that I proceeded to develop are not so politically conscious and have to be experienced on a different level. I’m inventing new processes in the making of sculpture and painting; I’m redefining how we see and think about form, so it’s a formal pursuit and not a pursuit about feminism and political thinking. It’s about the development of ideas and feelings that have a progression in my personal context. One might see it one way or another according to your time or what you experience when you look at the work – no one can control that. I can’t control it. The museums can’t control it. If art were so pure that it might have a kind of ultimate control within the context of the artist then it would be just pure thought.

MC Since the 1970s, you’ve spent a lot of time in India and you have a house in Ahmadabad. Can we talk about your relationship to the country?
LB Robert Rauschenberg and Bob Morris recommended that I visit India. Rauschenberg was very close to Merce Cunningham, and the dancers from the 1964 Venice Biennale were going there, so he went to India after he won the Grand Prize at Venice. The family that he visited was very involved in the arts, dancing and science, and so I was very much taken with the place, because I had a context in which to experience it. Before this invitation I might have been afraid to go to India because I had no context. I wouldn’t have gone because it was the ‘thing to do’.

MC And the same for Sante Fe, New Mexico, where you also have a house and have spent a lot more time recently. Have these different environs grown into your work, as in your life?
LB They’ve allowed me to open up the field of thinking because thinking and art, as in science, is open-ended. It’s inductive and it allows me to consider other possibilities.

MC Can you talk about your glass works from the 1980s and how they relate to your knots from the ’70s? There seems to be a relationship there.
LB I wanted to see if glass could be formed with my hands and tied into a knot. I could do it because of the space-age technology with gloves. Later I developed this idea of the concave/convex form in glass and cast it; it seemed like jelly on the wall. I found that because of this form – this hemisphere – the surface of the images seemed to float and almost disappear. I took this half-round idea and developed it in metal sculpture and in the pigmented polyurethane as well.

MC D’Arrest (2009),
shown in your Cheim & Read exhibition last year, was hypnotizing and, as you said, jelly-like. The brilliant orange colour seemed to really take to the material, almost jump out from it, and similarly for the other pigmented works.
LB Yes! These forms accepted the light in an interesting way. This light came kind of within the form; it got absorbed.


MC It was the same with the phosphorescent works from the ’70s. The light is in the form, an entirely different quality to when the pigment is elevated.
LB Absolutely. And what was interesting about those forms in phosphorous was that when you looked at them, they were constantly moving. That’s the same with the present polyurethane textured forms. We experience something in our bodies that is proprioceptic; we experience it in our whole body – you feel what you see and you are ‘charged’. It’s an exchange of energy.


MC Yes, you often speak about proprioception (‘the unconscious perception of movement and spatial orientation arising from stimuli within the body itself’) and I feel that exists also in your early works Pinto (1969–70) and Totem (1971)
as well as more recent bronze fountain works. I practice yoga and those works make me think of deep breathing, the idea of seeing the colours of breath moving up and down the inside of the body. This brings to mind another work, Phantom,
which will be shown at the New Museum for the first time since it debuted at the Union Art Gallery at Kansas State University in 1971. Why was one part of this five-part installation separated?
LB I did it in the context of a wall 15 metres long and there were five pieces. For some reason, one of the pieces was sold and the owner didn’t want to let it go. It could not be shown without the fifth piece. But it’s only a relic now because it’s not within the context of the space that I created it in and it looks less interesting – like digging up an urn. Recently I received an apologetic card from the offspring of the widow who didn’t want to part with the fifth element.


MC Speaking of urns, ceramics were a big part of your work in the ’90s and 2000s, playing to your interest in how our perception of form changes through texture and surface, and overlaying or casting various materials or textures and surfaces.
LB Working with clay was a big part of my understanding about what I wanted to achieve with form – basically a more organic form. I was also playing with the idea that surface and texture can also describe form: we see the surface and the texture of things and we complete or feel the form. I thought that sculpture had begun to imitate life too much and sculptors had forgotten about the life of the surface and the life of the form itself. They weren’t asking questions anymore and often people were just working too logically: we do this, we do that, we react this way and we get a sculpture. And are we just imitating a form? And I did some of that, too, in question. But for Migrating Pedmarks
and Cloak-Wave [both 1998] I made a form underneath with plaster and burlap and then made these undulating clay forms over it, as if I was water or earth finding my sense of balance on another kind of surface. And that’s what I did with the polyurethane when I did the installation for the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis [one of six monumental pours made for various institutions in 1971]. Those were largely made with plastic and an understructure made of chicken wire and wood covered with polyethylene.

MC But isn’t there also an element of divine intervention, so to speak; allowing something other than what’s intended to intercede, especially in using some of the materials that are less rigid and so not as easy to control?
LB I think Jackson Pollock, Helen Frankenthaler and Morris Louis were really playing with this idea of the accident. They were just more responsive, or maybe Pollock was. But actually it’s really a marriage between the conscious and the unconscious that occupies the creative mind. I find what the materials can do and within that context there is that decision-making. In the beginning I romanticized it; and you can say what you want, it is still confined by the format. I saw visions of clouds yesterday; you couldn’t imagine how complicated they were on all horizons. That’s one reason I love New Mexico! The kinds of images of the clouds are infinite. I think we deal with an infinite imagination! This is how the artists must get the God-complex! However, the artist is always dealing with the bounds of the material and the unbounded nature of the universe and of the imagination – and trying to mark the time. Whether you comprehend it or not, you don’t understand it all. It’s infinite.

MC You’ve spent much of your career outside New York in the last three decades (even though you still have your apartment on the Bowery). I wondered if you feel that New York is insular?
LB I think ideas generate and regenerate when artists are with each other and I think these are very important moments of an artist’s life. I still feel that New York is a great city for seeing and hearing things. Those moments in time that I had as a growing artist I couldn’t have had anywhere else.

MC So when Hickey talked about other female artists who challenged the art world in the 1970s, like Wilke, Riley and Mitchell, was he also talking about a particular type of work that marked a time? And is this time lost? Is this underground nature, so to speak, gone nowadays?
LB I think people are definitely drawn to nature, even until death. These works were not popular but people are always drawn to the questions that life offers. I think the Internet is a waste of time. The computer can be non-functional. And just the fact that you’re constantly battling something and you think you’re in communication but you’re really not …

MC And how do we use all this information available to us?
LB Exactly. How do you use it? Hickey’s really asking how do you use it in a way that’s a personal gesture? How can it be recognized? Everybody has his or her own handwriting but how do you develop it in a way that’s communicating? It’s about focus and communication.

MC What are you working on at the moment?
LB I’ve recently made some African masks in glass. The African mask has supposedly long been of interest to collectors and artists since Cubism, which was a proposition that New York’s Museum of Modern Art expounded in the 20th century. From the time I was doing the knots, I was making an organic Cubist statement; the planes were in a sense not planes. It was a linear organic statement, one of curved planes. These particular masks that I bought from the man who sells them from a truck in front of the Whitney Museum are classic images of what might be thought of as an African mask. They interested me not so much for their complexity but for their statement about the African mask: they were for the ritual and about the ritual, created by the tourist industry, and the seller was very cognizant of the Cubists referencing African art. I find that art is made about art and continues to develop certain ideas and what gave me pleasure about these forms was that they were both classic and simplistic at the same time. So I said: ‘I’ll take these classic, simplistic forms and make something else from them’. Why not? Why not regenerate the tribal, you know! [laughs] And so I did that with the glass blowers at The Museum of Glass at The Tacoma Museum.
Lynda Benglis-Robeline (Detail)



MC For visitors to the show at Museum of Contemporary Art or the New Museum, is there something you hope they will take with them?
LB I hope when someone looks at or feels the work they take with them a kind of physical moment that becomes a special kind of confrontation in time, that’s all. When art speaks to you it’s both a physical and mental exchange that the viewer has. It’s a pure moment, it’s a transition of time, it’s timeless, don’t you think? True art and the response is timeless.

 

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Looking forward to hopefully feeling better tomorrow.  Next on the list is the Berwick Street Film Collective which I will not be talking about.  But after that on the list is award-winning artist, filmmaker, and author/publisher Camille Billops and I'm looking forward to that.

'Til Tomorrow!

~Alex





Sunday, October 19, 2014

Inspiration Sunday

Welcome to Inspiration Sunday.  I hope you have been enjoying the weekend.
 
I have some quotes from all different kinds of artists for you today.  Some you may not have heard of so I have some links attached to their names, so if you have any further interest.
 
I hope this will give you some inspiration for this coming week!

It takes a certain maturity of mind to accept that nature works as steadily in rust as in rose petals. ~Esther Warner Dendel
I don't express myself in my paintings.  I express my not-self.  ~Mark Rothko
Mark Rothko Room - Tate Modern
I have discovered that the unasked-for accident can be the salvation of what you are doing.  ~Stephen De Staebler 
Stephen De Staebler - Winged Victory
The further I go, the sorrier I am about how little I know:  it is this that bothers me the most.  ~Claude Monet
I have never liked the middle ground - the most boring place in the world.  ~Louise Nevelson
Louise Nevelson - Shadows and Flags - NYC 1977
Only just now awakening after years of materialism, our soul is still infected with the despair born of unbelief, of lack of purpose and aim.  ~Wassily Kandinsky
Wassily Kandinsky - Flood Improvisation
Something awful happens to a person who grows up as a creative kid and suddenly find no creative outlet as an adult.  ~Judy Blume
Art thaws even the frozen, darkened soul, opening it to lofty spiritual experience.  ~Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
I begin to feel an enormous need to become savage and to create a new world.  ~Paul Gauguin
Paul Gauguin - Washerwomen at Roubine du Roi
The artist himself may not think he is religious, but if he is sincere his sincerity in itself is religion.  ~Emily Carr
Emily Carr - Kitwancool
Tomorrow I will continue along with my research of each artist listed as having been in the WACK! Art and the Feminist Revolution show in 2007 and I am now to the artists on the list who's last names begin with the letter "B".

I hope you enjoy the last few hours of your weekend.

'Til tomorrow!

~Alex

Saturday, October 18, 2014

The Change Has To Come From Deep Within Us

As promised yesterday, a portion of that transcript (where I read yesterday's short quote).  It's from an interview between Timothy Cahill, editor of Art Conservator magazine and Mary Bauermeister.  The whole interview can be seen here, the part that intrigued me is below:

In Europe I was a strict nonfigurative artist. We, the postwar generation, did not trust anything our forefathers represented anymore. We started from scratch: bombed cities, everything we were made to believe in had been proved to be an illusion. Our grandfathers, fathers, cousins and older brothers did not return from the war, or if they did, they were broken. Broken limbs, broken hearts, broken ideals—for the rest of their lives they were verstummt, silenced, in a traumatic, paralyzed sense.

Now, that was not because they had “lost the war.” There is always a loser and a winner in battle. It was the awakening, the realization [of] what they had given their lives [for] and taken the lives of others. The soldiers were not aware of the Hitler regime’s human crimes. Only after the war had they seen the photos of the concentration camps.

So we grew up in these desperate, hungry times, and to paint figures, landscapes, still lifes, at least to me and my closest artist friends, seemed ridiculous.

Also, as a child I saw around every living being a colorful moving aura (even around so-called dead things like stones), so when I saw Art, paintings of reality, I missed the color field.

Later, when my visionary childhood vanished away through schooling and teaching, when I had to learn the reduced interpretation of the world, I refused.  

Before I knew what-for, I resisted the normative dogmas of what one does, thinks, feels, or what one does not.  An ambiguity, a multi-dimensional, integral understanding: things are not either/or. They are 1+1=3. Non-dualistic.

That’s why, later in my artistic life, I was so happy to have found the optical glasses, which, when put over my written statements in my lens-boxes would distort and change and make relative my statements. They were not meant as absolute truth, they were “in-between” results of a thinking and feeling process.

So, back to my early art life. Whatever I had started as an artist was not considered art when I did it. My early cloth material “sheet-lightsheets” were regarded as female "knitting” crafts;
Mary Bauermeister-GroBes Lichttuch

my stone pieces as pure nature. 

Mary Bauermeister-Untitled



 
My experiments with colors (phosphors) which load themselves with light and fire [. . .] in darkness to vanish altogether (blue, red, yellow, violet disappearing at different speeds), were considered “chemistry”; my use of magnets in art pieces was physics.
Mary Bauermeister-Quadrupel
Four Stone Pictures on Magnetic Plate
256 variations possible-34x34cm



 
I resisted art teaching more-or-less successfully. I only followed an inner drive to express what was not yet there, in reality or thought. To make art was more a finding, searching process that a knowing.


Then in 1962 I had my first one-man show in the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam. The director, Jan Willem Sandberg, had seen a “concept composition” which I did as a student in [composer Karlheinz] Stockhausen’s composition class, Score for Visual Artists.


What the interpreters of music do, play the notes of the composer, I brought into the field of art. The plan was part of a multimedia gesamtkunstwerk, so many artists from all fields could interpret the score. This strange piece of concept interested Sandberg and I had my first show.


At the same time in the museum there was a little show of American art—[Jasper] Johns, [Richard] Stankiewicz, [Alfred] Leslie and [Robert] Rauschenberg’s goat. I was so flabbergasted by this piece, and I knew, where this is called Art, I will and want to be!
 
Robert Rauschenberg-Monogram (a symbol of lust)?

 
I went to Sandberg’s office [and] asked him to buy one of my show’s pieces, so I could afford a ticket to America. He did, and I ended up in USA October 1962. Six months on Long Island, [then] 1963, New York, National Arts Club, to which I transported all kinds of natural material, stones, sand, pebbles, tree trunks and many “ready-trouvier”—that’s what I called my found objects, which I hung on the wall of my first New York show, Galleria Bonino, 1963-64, as an homage to Marcel Duchamp (who I consider my teacher, and who liked my work very much.)

I stayed in New York and did many shows, was bought by many museums, and interrelated with the Art Scene, the artists and the critics.  In the United States I gave up my resistance to figurative elements.

You cannot illustrate something absurd or abnormal without reference to something else. So surrealism needs realism to play with and against (like atheism needs theism)—to make a drawing of a piano where the keys are “out of order” and the pianist has six fingers on one hand, four on the other: multi-meaning, ambiguity, indeterminism.

So I gave into figurativeness, and I also could not resist becoming politically involved—Bob Dylan’s songs, Joan Baez, the Vietnam War, money, greed, inhuman exploitation, together with a clean, anesthetic morality. The Cold War, the “fellow traveler,” the “yellow danger,” the Chinese, were the evil ones—an enemy was always needed to distract from one’s own shallowness. Pop Art as a warning, making banalities the subject of art.

From 1968 to 1971 I did several pieces with figurative elements, drawings with political themes and titles, which show my intentions: (1) Don’t defend your freedom with poisoned mushrooms,1964, hinting at the atom bomb mushroom cloud, dedicated to John Cage, a pacifist and enthusiastic mushroom hunter, whose work I had performed in 1960 with Cage, [Merce] Cunningham, [David] Tudor performing.



Mary Bauermeister-Don't defend your freedom with poisoned
Mushrooms - original drawing maybe?(source in German-no translation)

(2) I’m a pacifist, but war photographs are too beautiful, 1966, hinting at the beauty of colors of liquid bombing, dropping colorful phosphors from attacking airplanes and setting fires in the cities a [conventional] bomb could have never achieved.

As most of the German old cities had wooden roofs, a whole street would burn in seconds and no [escape] was possible. We lived in the forest near Cologne and watched these bombs at night. How can something so beautiful like these colors be so destructive? The piece is in New York with Mrs. Bonino [. . . ].

No fighting on Christmas,1967-68, subtitled, “Kill for freedom, fight for peace.” [. . .] (4)China Tinte “Import Forbidden”,1967-68, a sculpture which is now on consignment with Achim Moeller Gallery, New York. (5)Yellow Flowers, 1968, an assemblage of many elements, a standing box, a collage of yellow shapes which look like flowers from a distance, but up close turn out to Chinese people hurting each other.(Moeller has one of these flowers with the China Tinte piece.)

(6) US Asian hero, 1968, and (7)The Great Fallout Society, about 10 pieces, lens-boxes, which I did in 1969 and do not have any or only a few documents. The Great Fallout Society, “fallout” = atomic waste, and the other meaning of our whole Western decadence.
[Here are some photos of one of those lens-boxes] 


this from the "Collections Database Five Colleges and Historic Deerfield Museum Consortium"
The intriguing details of Bauermeister’s lens box encourage viewers to look closely and puzzle at it from multiple angles. The arrangement of conical and spherical forms and stones is inhabited by a grotesque population of sketchy, monstrous heads, clusters of inked eyeballs, and caricatures of American political figures from the Vietnam War era, including conservative Illinois Senator Everett Dirksen, and President Richard Nixon, who took office in 1969. The work’s title refers to the social reform programs instigated during Lyndon B. Johnson’s Presidency that were never fully implemented — a circumstance that critics ascribed to the escalating costs of the Vietnam War. The multilingual patches of “yes” and “no,” mathematical equations, and strings of phrases describing the “germ-free…drugged society” that appear throughout #175 convey Bauermeister’s view that the government’s interest in Vietnam had tainted American society. Together, the text and images suggest that the state distorts reality such that nothing can be taken for granted or at face value.
-Written by Katherine Eisen, Class of 2012
#175 The Great Society - Detail 1
#175 The Great Society - Detail 2
#175 The Great Society - Detail 3

Are we as humans, the way we behave, not ourselves the fallout, the poison, the “mistake” of evolution? Are we at the verge of collective suicide? and if yes, why? Is the human experiment still valid, meaning does it lead to a peaceful, harmonious integration of spirit and matter—“the sons of God saw the daughters of the earth . . . ” [Gen. 6:2] and we the result of this marriage.

Can we tame our reptile brain and stop fighting—can we bring this experiment to a fruitful end, or do we end ourselves in atomic, ecological, economic disasters?

All these influences were urgent in the late Sixties. The Hippie Movement. The Student Revolt. The anti-dogma, [. . .] anti-establishment protests. And above all, “Mr. Clean, Mr. Proper,” keep it antiseptic, as long as it’s germ-free: a symbol of moral cleanliness, self-importance, arrogance, hubris.

Oswald Spengler, in “Can we be saved?”

Yes we can, but not from outside. The change has to come from deep within us.

These were the thoughts I had when creating "The Great Society".

The title meant, of course, in an ironic or sarcastic way (although my sarcasm is never nihilistic—the beauty of sunshine, the serenity of love, the innocence of children, the desire to contact the absolute—the depths to which humans can reach in their search always for one hope.

The bottle is half-full, not half-empty).

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I hope you have enjoyed this and are having a wonderful Saturday.  For more on Mary you can see a lovely article written about where she is living here.

Inspiration Sunday is tomorrow of course.

'Til then!

~Alex