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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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Via The Infrastucturist, James Ogle’s time lapse piece on New York City:

He has made lots of other equally fantastic videos.

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The American Folk Art Museum transformed the Park Avenue Armory’s 55,000-square-foot Wade Thompson Drill Hall with the installation of 650 red and white American quilts. They are all on loan from Joanna Semel Rose who requested the free exhibition as a gift for New York when her husband asked her for what she wanted for her 80th birthday.

“The title ‘Infinite Variety‘, though evocative and accurate, belies the sheer magnitude and and poetry of Mrs Rose’s accomplishment. The lyrical installation conceived by the New York-city based Thinc Design tosses these hundreds of quilts into space like so many playing cards, where they hover weightlessly, seemingly frozen in midair.”

Maria Ann Conelli, executive director, and Stacy Hollander, senior curator, American Folk Art Museum

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What I really fear is time. That’s the devil: whipping us on when we’d rather loll, so the present sprints by, impossible to grasp, and all is suddenly past, a past that won’t hold still, that slides into these inauthentic tales.

The Imperfectionists, Tom Rachman

Christian Marclay’s 24-hour video The Clock was acclaimed as one of the cultural highlights of 2010 when it was shown in London, so I was very excited when it came to New York.

In fact, I was so excited that I broke two of my rules – I woke up early at the weekend and I was prepared to queue. In fact, I  waited for nearly three hours to get into the gallery on a February morning that was so cold that it started to snow. But I have to say The Clock was so fantastic that I would do it all over again.

Marclay has trawled through thousands of films and TV programmes to find scenes that reflect the passage of time and spliced them together so they unfold in real time over 24 hours – 1.15 in the afternoon in the video matched the actual time in New York.

It’s hard to explain the hypnotic effect of the video as you watch the time pieces on the screen. You are aware that something dramatic will happen on each hour, or half-an-hour, or quarter-of-an-hour, but at the same time, as in real life, you are aware that time is unstoppable and the bigger picture will continue to flow on regardless of the ripples created by these individual events.

The BBC News had a piece on the video which gives some idea of the experience. I only watched The Clock for a few hours one Saturday afternoon but would have loved to seen the whole 24 hours.

The New York Times had the same feeling:

Time is a kind of music, music is a kind of time, and Marclay — who’s worked with music for much of his career, as a turntablist, conceptual artist and filmmaker — seems to understand this implicitly. A 24-hour video composed of nothing but people all over the world, in many languages and from the beginning of moving images to now, tied to time, resenting it, making friends with it, sweating it or ignoring it or dying from it, becomes the mother of all jams.

The screen action in each viewing, for me, ran along the same rhythms: the clock’s rhythm and Marclay’s sequencing rhythm. And, in some sense, the heartbeat. It becomes a movie about mortality; it becomes a movie about staying alive.

The Economist met with Marclay towards the end of the two years it took him to edit his masterpiece – which puts my three-hour wait into perspective. Just as his video puts time, and life, into perspective.

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