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Archive for the ‘What I'm looking at’ Category

I am lucky enough to have seen Mark di Suvero’s sculptures at Storm King Art Center. However, it was a completely different experience viewing them juxtaposed against the Manhattan skyline on Governors Island:

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After feeling the tremors from the Virginia earthquake on Tuesday, New York is now preparing for Hurricane Irene – I never had this kind of weather in England.

NASA’s footage from  International Space Station, 230 miles above the Earth, captures Hurricane Irene over the Bahamas at 3:10 p.m. EDT on August 24, 2011.

Meteorologist Eric Holthaus says Irene may be similar to the 1821 Norfolk and Long Island hurricane, the only hurricane in modern times to directly make landfall in the five boroughs.:

This time around could be worse. Astronomically speaking, we are nearing the new moon, and the time of the month when the highest tides usually occur. What’s more, Irene is currently forecast to affect the New York City area within an hour or so of high tide, the combination of which could add an additional six feet to the already incredible storm surge that Irene will bring. (MarketWatch)

The Book Bench has a selection of great writers describing hurricanes, which includes these lines from Rimbaud’s poem The Drunken Boat:

Now I, a boat lost in the hair of bays,
Hurled by the hurricane through bird-less ether,
I, whose carcass, sodden with salt-sea water,
No Monitor or Hanseatic vessel could recover:

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Spanish sculptor Jaume Plensa has a site specific work in Madison Square Park:

Echo depicts a nine-year old girl from Plensa’s Barcelona neighborhood, lost in a state of thoughts and dreams.

Plensa’s sculpture also refers to an episode in Greek mythology in which the loquacious nymph Echo is forced as punishment to repeat only the thoughts of others. Both monumental in size and inviting in subject, the peaceful visage of Echo creates a tranquil and introspective atmosphere amid the cacophony of central Manhattan.

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You can also see a video of the making of the 44 ft sculpture (YouTube)

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Today I went to see the MOMA exhibition by Francis Alÿs which is very aptly named A Story of Deception.

One of his works, When Faith Moves Mountains, was inspired by a phrase from the bible (Mark 11:23) when he asked  a group of 500 volunteers to move  a 1,600-foot sand dune just  using shovels.

The work is neither a traditional sculpture nor an Earthwork, and nothing was added or built in the landscape. That the participants managed to move the dune only a small distance mattered less than the potential for mythmaking in their collective act; what was “made” then was a powerful allegory, a metaphor for human will, and an occasion for a story to be told and potentially passed on endlessly in the oral tradition. For Alÿs, the transitory nature of such an action is the stuff of contemporary myth. (The Guggenheim)

To go with the piece were some definitions of faith provided by Alÿs, which chime with my own views of religion :

The difference between faith and insanity is that faith is the ability to hold firmly to a conclusion that is incompatible with evidence, whereas insanity is the ability to hold firmly to a conclusion that is incompatible with evidence (William Harwood, Dictionary of Contemporary Mythology, London, 1st Books, 2002)

and

Faith is a means of by which one introduces resignation to the present, as an investment in the promise of an abstract future. This off course is the Catholic church par excellence.

I would also recommend his video Tornado where he literally runs into the eye of the storm :

For Alÿs, the dust storm suggests the imminent collapse of a system of government or of political order. The act of running into the storm, which we see repeated over and over again, also invites interpretation: is the artist no longer able to combat the chaos he encounters? Is he recognising the vanity of poetic gestures at a time of calamity? Or is it only within the chaos that he can challenge the turmoil around him?

Reaching the centre of the storm, the artist is breathless and almost blinded, yet he encounters a furtive moment of peace that could hint at a new moment of possibility. (BBC)

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It was sad to hear of the death of Lucian Freud.  He was my favourite living British artist and I can still remember going to his exhibition at Tate Britain way back  in 2002. The best description of his work is the one from Freud himself that accompanied the show:

“I paint people not because of what they are like, not exactly in spite of what they are like, but how they happen to be.”

The Economist finds a description from Sue Tilley, the 280-pound (20-stone) subject of Freud’s painting Benefits Supervisor Sleeping, which sold for $33.6m in 2008:

He wasn’t cruel—he painted what he saw. What strikes me most is, I look at my fat ankles and my fat feet every morning and I think they look just like that painting. Even the skinny girls don’t look good, do they? He painted out of love.

Benefits Supervisor Sleeping is also one of the paintings in The Guardian’s gallery of Freud’s Life in Pictures.

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To me, the purest beauty is the world of mathematics. Its perfect assemblage of numbers, magnitudes and forms persist, independent of us. The aesthetic experience of the sublime in mathematics is awe-inspiring. It is similar to the experience we have when we confront the vast magnitude of the universe, which always leaves us open-mouthed.

Ryoji Ikeda

The Japanese sound and visual artist’s first US installation at the Park Avenue Armory certainly left me open-mouthed – I have never experienced such immersion in a synchronicity of sound and image:

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I love you more than the taste of your mouth, more that your look, more than your hands, more than your whole body, more and more and more and more than all my love for you will ever be able love and I sign Picasso.”

These are the last words you see as you leave an exhibition of works by Pablo Picasso inspired by his love of Marie-Thèrése Walter. But they do not truly capture the passion of the drawings, paintings and sculptures at the Gagosian Gallery in Chelsea.

The show begins with some photos of Marie-Therese and you then recognise her profile transformed in Picasso’s works in a countless ways.

A 45-year old Picasso encountered his muse when she was just 17 in Paris in 1927. He said:

 You have an interesting face. I would like to do your portrait. I have a feeling we will do great things together.

I fell in love with love with art when I went to see a Matisse exhibition and the paintings were so powerful they hit me with a physical force.

I felt the same sensation in the second gallery which contained two statues surrounded by four walls of stunning pictures – in particular it was heard to drag myself away from the trio of “Femme assise près de la fenêtre”, “Femme assise au conde appuyeé sue le genou” and “Femme nue dans un fauteuil rouge.”

As the exhibition literature says:

 She became the catalyst for some of his most exceptional work, from groundbreaking paintings to an inspired return to sculpture in the 1930s, according her an almost mythic stature and earning her immortality as an art historical subject. Yet her true identity remained a secret from even Picasso’s closest friends. Even after Marie-Thérèse bore their daughter Maya in 1935, Picasso would continue to divide his time between his professional life as the most famous artist in the world, and his secret family life, spending Thursdays and weekends with her and Maya and amassing a trove of love letters and snapshots exchanged while they were apart.

While it is inspiring to see that love can inspire such great art, at the same time it is heartbreaking to find that this love did not last.

Two months after their daughter Maya was born, Picasso attended a movie opening and met his new mistress – photographer Dora Maar.

Unable to go on living now that Picasso was dead, Marie-Thérèse took her own life in 1977, 50 years after they met. (Vanity Fair)

However , as the exhibition makes clear, her spirit lives on.

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