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NYC January 23 & 24, 2014

Carl and I arrived in NYC around 10 p.m. last Wednesday evening, January 22. Carl went back to North Adams on Sunday, January 26, so that he could return to work, and I am staying in NYC – to do my own work, of course! – until Saturday morning, February 1. I intended this post to cover 3 days, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, Jan. 23-25, but I’ve been working for hours now and am running out of time and energy, so I can only cover 2 days, Thursday and Friday. Saturday we went to some galleries in Chelsea and I will tell you about that in a separate post later in the week. Sunday we saw no art, just froze ourselves solid walking through Central Park and then for 47 blocks down 5th Ave. We did go into the NY Public Library for the first time. If you haven’t been there, go. On Monday, today, I spent the day indoors taking care of business and, mostly, writing this blog post. I’ll be going to galleries on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday (Jan. 28, 29, and 30),so watch for more posts.

The first thing we did on Thursday morning, Jan. 23, was hop on the subway and go to the Brooklyn Museum. Our intent was to see the Wangechi Mutu exhibit, which we did and which I will get to. But there was a special exhibit there called The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier. Neither of us thought we would be interested, but, since we were there, we figured what the heck, let’s take a look. We both enjoyed it immensely! Here is what the wall text had to say (edited and rearranged by me):

“A contemporary installation rather than a fashion retrospective, The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier celebrates the daring inventiveness of Gaultier’s cutting edge style. Approximately 140 ensembles made between 1970 and 2013, most have never been exhibited to the public. Gaultier offers an open-minded vision of society: a crazy, sensitive, funny, sassy world in which everyone is invited to assert his or her own identity – a world without discrimination.”

There is a mannequin of Gaultier himself, and he, as well as several of the fashion model mannequins, talk – and even sing. Their faces are projected onto the mannequin heads and, if you suspend disbelief, give you the feeling that they are real and are interacting with you. There is an artist who has done this and I’ve seen this person’s work several times in galleries and museums over the years, but I can’t remember the name. If you know who I’m talking about, please add a comment to this post. I begin the photo section of this post with a few images from the Gaultier exhibit.

And now on to what we went to the Brooklyn Museum to see. Here is what the Brooklyn Museum website says: “Wangechi Mutu: A Fantastic Journey is the first survey in the United States of this internationally renown, Brooklyn-based artist. Spanning from the mid-1990’s to the present, the exhibition unites more than 50 pieces, including Mutu’s signature large scale collages as well as video works, sketchbook drawings, a site-specific wall drawing, and sculptural installations. Born in Nairobi, Kenya, Mutu scrutinizes globalization by combining found materials, magazine cutouts, sculpture,and painted imagery. Sampling such diverse sources as African traditions, international politics, the fashion industry, pornography,and science fiction, her work explores gender, race, war, colonialism, global consumption, and the exoticization of the black female body. Mutu is best known for spectacular and provocative collages depicting female figures – part human, animal, plant, and machine – in fantastical landscapes that are simultaneously unnerving and alluring, defying easy categorization and identification. Bringing her interconnected ecosystems to life for this exhibition through sculptural installations and videos, Mutu encourages audiences to consider these mythical worlds as places of cultural, psychological, and socio-political exploration and transformation.”

Check the Brooklyn Museum website, brooklynmuseum.org, as there are more images and videos and information than what I am giving you here.

Those of you who attended the workshop in Nice might remember that we saw one of Mutu’s works at the Fondation Maeght in St. Paul de Vence. I was impressed by just that one work, the first I had seen of hers. Her varied use of materials in a meaningful and effective manner was what impressed me the most. In this exhibition, it is her collages that I found most impactful. I’m not so sure about the sculpted trees. There were 3 videos, and I think that the trees may have been connected to the video where Mutu is seated in the woods in front of an enormous tree and ceremoniously yet savagely consumes a large chocolate cake. The video screen was laying flat on the floor, and I found that it was difficult to watch that way, and I don’t understand that choice. In general, I find videos too tedious to watch and often only stay for a portion, and that is what I did with this one. A second video is of her walking into the sea singing “Amazing Grace” in her native language. I didn’t find that one so interesting, but, remember, there are very few art videos that do engage me. The third video I watched all the way through and it was the most interesting of the three – but I prefer her collages.

I strongly encourage you to go see the Wangechi Mutu exhibition, especially if you work in collage. It will be at the Brooklyn Museum until March 9.

There was also a small group exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum that had rather a lot of collage in it, so I took some photos of those, too, but only a few of the pieces that included collage. The title of the show is “Unfolding Tales: Selections From the Collection” and this is what the wall text said:

“The works of art in these galleries use the formal elements of color, line, and shape to suggest narratives that reveal themselves directly or disclose themselves more subtly over time. The selection shows that the languages of figuration and abstraction are equally capable of telling tales and evoking the untold. The stories they call forth are shaped by literature,history, film, and current events, as well as sights and sounds encountered in daily life and nocturnal dreams. Together, the works present a wide range of contemporary media and materials, sometimes unconventional.”

The works I’ve chosen to show you from this exhibition are recent works – Thomas’s from 2012, Loveland’s from 2011, Smith’s from 2013, Bigger’s from 2013, and Agematsu’s from 2012. Agematsu walked the streets and collected whatever he found on the ground and put it into these baggies and then mounted them on a shelf. Is this collage? Assemblage? Recycling? Garbage collection? I encourage you to look up any and all of these artists to find out more. I present them here just for purposes of inspiration and curiosity – what are other artists doing?

And that’s just the first day! Only one museum! And all on Thursday, January 23. Whew! Now on to Friday, January 24. Our first stop was at The National Academy Museum & School (next door to the Guggenheim) for the exhibition titled “See It Loud: Seven Post-War American Painters.” It closed on January 26 and I’m glad I didn’t miss it. A friend had told me it was worth seeing, and it was. Included were Leland Bell, Paul Georges, Peter Heinemann, Albert Kresch, Stanley Lewis, Paul Resika, and Neil Welliver. Welliver is the only artist I was familiar with. There was great variety in the approaches to painting and representation and abstraction and it was instructive to see these artists side by side. From the newspaper I picked up at the museum: “In the years after World War II, a group of young New York artists known as the New York School formed the basis for Abstract Expressionism, a school of painting in America that exerted a major influence on international artists. Artists Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning, and Mark Rothko were among the movement’s leaders. In their work, they abandoned formal composition and the representation of real objects and concentrated on instinctual arrangements of space and color. Their goal was to demonstrate the effects of the physical action of painting on the canvas. During this time, the painters in See it Loud were beginning their careers.Their art grew out of abstract currents, but shifted toward representation. They ultimately embraced the possibilities of a dialectical synthesis between these two artistic currents at a time when abstraction and representation were polarized in the art world.” Photos were not allowed, so I have none to show you.

After The Academy Museum, we walked over to The Met to see “Ink Art: Past as Present in Contemporary China,” which will be up until April 6. Be sure to go see it! From The Met’s website: “Featuring some seventy works by thirty five artists in various media – paintings, calligraphy, photographs, woodblock prints, video, and sculpture – created during the past three decades, the exhibition is organized thematically into four parts: The Written Word, New Landscapes, Abstraction, and Beyond the Brush. Although all of the artists have challenged, subverted, or otherwise transformed their sources through new modes of expression, Ink Art seeks to demonstrate that China’s ancient pattern of seeking cultural renewal through the reinterpretation of past models remains a viable creative path.” Check The Met’s website for a more extensive write up. Also, from an article in The Daily Beast by Melik Kaylan (1-5-14): “The curators have set out to show that art in China, even the most purely homegrown Chinese genre of ink-art, is merging with global influences and creating astonishing, vibrant hybrids that both illuminate the native tradition and expand the collective consciousness. At its profoundest,the show awakens us to what is happening to national cultural aesthetics everywhere, including our own, as motifs and symbols and visual paradigms wash back and forth across divides.” I’ve chosen just a few works to show you here – there were so many, it was very difficult to choose. Take a look at my photos, but definitely go take a look at the show itself. AND, to those of you who have been involved in the ongoing discussion of simplicity and complexity in works of art, note that some of the most “simple” and spare works were created using time intensive and repetitive methods that created a complication that became simplified through that very complication.

Jean Paul Gaultier. A mannequin, actually, but a talking one. The face is projected onto a blank mannequin head.

Jean Paul Gaultier. A mannequin, actually, but a talking one. The face is projected onto a blank mannequin head.

She, along with a group of other mannequins, made up a singing chorus, all wearing different ensembles.

She, along with a group of other mannequins, made up a singing chorus, all wearing different ensembles.

The Punk collection.

The Punk collection.

The S&M collection.

The S&M collection.

My photos really don't do justice to the actual impact of being immersed in this whole installation. The woman in front is singing and the backdrop was a constantly changing video and the fashions were each so intriguing and complex.

My photos really don’t do justice to the actual impact of being immersed in this whole installation. The woman in front is singing and the backdrop was a constantly changing video and the fashions were each so intriguing and complex.

Collage? I think so.

Collage? I think so.

Collage? Why not?

Collage? Why not?

Collage? Most certainly. Gaultier began his fashion career very young - this was his teddy bear, onto which he fashioned and attached these newspaper breasts. Thus began a long and steady theme in his work.

Collage? Most certainly. Gaultier began his fashion career very young – this was his teddy bear, onto which he fashioned and attached these newspaper breasts. Thus began a long and steady theme in his work.

Lots of pointy breasts in this exhibit!!

Lots of pointy breasts in this exhibit!!

Can you read this on your computer? I'm working on an iPad mini and it is really small. But, if nothing else, this photo will serve as a segue between Gaultier and Mutu. Actually, the wild inventiveness of the figures of each artist do have something in common, don't you think?

Can you read this on your computer? I’m working on an iPad mini and it is really small. But, if nothing else, this photo will serve as a segue between Gaultier and Mutu. Actually, the wild inventiveness of the figures of each artist do have something in common, don’t you think?

Wangechi Mutu. Sorry, I don't have the titles. I did buy a catalog, but Carl carried it home for me. I will show you a few entire works and several closeups so you can see the complexity of her constructions.

Wangechi Mutu. Sorry, I don’t have the titles. I did buy a catalog, but Carl carried it home for me. I will show you a few entire works and several closeups so you can see the complexity of her constructions.

Closeup: look at how the faces are constructed.

Closeup: look at how the faces are constructed.

Complete work.

Complete work.

Complete work.

Complete work.

Detail.

Detail.

Detail.

Detail.

A "tree" sculpted around a corner made of moving blankets and packing tape, with red undies imbedded here and there.

A “tree” sculpted around a corner made of moving blankets and packing tape, with red undies imbedded here and there.

Detail of tree.

Detail of tree.

Broad view of a portion of the Wangechi Mutu exhibit, with a "tree" sculpted around a column.

Broad view of a portion of the Wangechi Mutu exhibit, with a “tree” sculpted around a column.

Another view with the video to the right.

Another view with the video to the right.

Complete work.

Complete work.

Detail.

Detail.

Detail.

Detail.

One small bit of the video.

One small bit of the video.

Unfolding Tales at the Brooklyn Museum.

Unfolding Tales at the Brooklyn Museum.

Mickalene Thomas, Monet's Salle A Manger Jaune.

Mickalene Thomas, Monet’s Salle A Manger Jaune.

Detail.

Detail.

Detail.

Detail.

Michael Loveland, Utopia House. (photograph, paint, collage)

Michael Loveland, Utopia House. (photograph, paint, collage)

Detail.

Detail.

Shinique Smith, Gravity of Love.

Shinique Smith, Gravity of Love.

Detail.

Detail.

Detail.

Detail.

Sanford Biggers, QC#3.

Sanford Biggers, QC#3.

Detail.

Detail.

Detail.

Detail.

Yugi Agematsu, Zip.

Yugi Agematsu, Zip.

Detail.

Detail.

Detail.

Detail.

Yugi Agematsu, Zip.

Yugi Agematsu, Zip.

Ink Art: Past as Present in Contemporary China.

Ink Art: Past as Present in Contemporary China.

Gu Wenda, Mythos of Lost Dynasties Series - I Evaluate Characters Written by Three Men and Three Women, 1985.

Gu Wenda, Mythos of Lost Dynasties Series – I Evaluate Characters Written by Three Men and Three Women, 1985.

Wu Shanzhuan, Character Image of Black Character Font, 1989.

Wu Shanzhuan, Character Image of Black Character Font, 1989.

Detail.

Detail.

Qiu Shihua, Untitled, 1996. This minimalist painting along with the 2 adjacent works come from Qiu's ongoing series in which barely detectable traces of imagined landscapes only reveal themselves incrementally upon sustained observation. Executed in oil - often on unprimed canvas - each image is created through the application of many layers of dilute, semitransparent paint until the underlying landscape details that Qiu has painted in black or colors all but vanish in the overall whiteness of the composition. Never titled, Qiu's paintings remain purely visual experiences that are evocative of the aesthetic of "serene blandness" (pingdan), highly prized in the traditional literati canon.

Qiu Shihua, Untitled, 1996. This minimalist painting along with the 2 adjacent works come from Qiu’s ongoing series in which barely detectable traces of imagined landscapes only reveal themselves incrementally upon sustained observation. Executed in oil – often on unprimed canvas – each image is created through the application of many layers of dilute, semitransparent paint until the underlying landscape details that Qiu has painted in black or colors all but vanish in the overall whiteness of the composition. Never titled, Qiu’s paintings remain purely visual experiences that are evocative of the aesthetic of “serene blandness” (pingdan), highly prized in the traditional literati canon.

Qiu Shihua, Untitled, 1996.

Qiu Shihua, Untitled, 1996.

Qiu Shihua, Untitiled, 1996.

Qiu Shihua, Untitiled, 1996.

Yang Jiechang, 100 Layers of Ink, No. 1,2,3. Between 1989 and 1999 Yang applied ink to the same pieces of paper, day after day, until the paper was completely saturated. As the paper reaches saturation, the ink takes on a shimmery, luminescent quality, and the paper itself shifts from a two-dimensional surface to a three-dimensional object, merging figure and ground, coming close to sculpture. Though these are the same materials used by literati to make traditional paintings, Yang has reinvented them here, removing entirely the artist's gesture as an index of meaning.

Yang Jiechang, 100 Layers of Ink, No. 1,2,3. Between 1989 and 1999 Yang applied ink to the same pieces of paper, day after day, until the paper was completely saturated. As the paper reaches saturation, the ink takes on a shimmery, luminescent quality, and the paper itself shifts from a two-dimensional surface to a three-dimensional object, merging figure and ground, coming close to sculpture. Through these are the same materials used by literati to make traditional paintings, Yang has reinvented them here, removing entirely the artist’s gesture as an index of meaning.

Yang Jiechang, 100 Layers of Ink, No. 1,2,3. Panel 2.

Yang Jiechang, 100 Layers of Ink, No. 1,2,3. Panel 2.

Yang Jiechang, 100 Layers of Ink, No. 1,2,3. Detail.

Yang Jiechang, 100 Layers of Ink, No. 1,2,3. Detail.

Yang Jiechang, 100 Layers of Ink, No. 1,2,3.

Yang Jiechang, 100 Layers of Ink, No. 1,2,3.

Fung Mingchip, Heart Sutra, 2001. Fung made this pair of hanging scrolls as a meditation on the content of the Buddhist text the Heart Sutra. In both scrolls, Fung has transcribed the same text, but in each case he has taken advantage of the special qualities of paper and ink to intensify the scripture's message, that form and emptiness are one and the same. On one scroll Fung wrote the text in pale ink. On the other, he first wrote the text in water. This text only became visible when he applied a layer of dark ink over it, resulting in ghostlike traces where the water-saturated paper only partially absorbed the ink.

Fung Mingchip, Heart Sutra, 2001. Fung made this pair of hanging scrolls as a meditation on the content of the Buddhist text the Heart Sutra. In both scrolls, Fung has transcribed the same text, but in each case he has taken advantage of the special qualities of paper and ink to intensify the scripture’s message, that form and emptiness are one and the same. On one scroll Fung wrote the text in pale ink. On the other, he first wrote the text in water. This text only became visible when he applied a layer of dark ink over it, resulting in ghostlike traces where the water-saturated paper only partially absorbed the ink.

Fung Mingchip, Heart Sutra, 2001.

Fung Mingchip, Heart Sutra, 2001.

Wang Tiande, Digital No. 02HP01-03, Detail. The bottom sheet of paper is inscribed with columns of random Chinese characters in ink, while the translucent paper on top is burned with random characters written with a cigarette or incense stick. For him, the process resembles that of "burning" information onto digital drives - hence the title.

Wang Tiande, Digital No. 02HP01-03, Detail. The bottom sheet of paper is inscribed with columns of random Chinese characters in ink, while the translucent paper on top is burned with random characters written with a cigarette or incense stick. For him, the process resembles that of “burning” information onto digital drives – hence the title.

Wang Tiande, Digital No. 02HP01-03.

Wang Tiande, Digital No. 02HP01-03.

Wang Tiande, Digital No. 02HP01-03, Detail.

Wang Tiande, Digital No. 02HP01-03, Detail.

Jean Swanson
February 13th, 2014 at 9:24 pm

Well, as you might suspect the artist’s work I responded to was Gu Wenda’s I found Mutu and some others too busy and then the minimalists too minimal. But I was really interested to see what’s going on out there.

Diane Ward
February 3rd, 2014 at 7:31 pm

Thank you Debi!!
You are out there in the art word, sendign beauty and inspiration back to those of us trapped at home, or at work!! You make me beleive that I will never run out of things to explore once I retire. Mutu’s trees really speak to me and I would love to see them in person. Just think, this is just your first day in NYC. Thanks so much for sharing!
Diane

Amy
January 29th, 2014 at 1:01 am

Debi, thanks so much for sharing, it is all amazing work, the Mutu is transfixing how she put the images together and it almost looks translucent. Looks like a trip to Brooklyn is in order

Marie Fortin
January 28th, 2014 at 4:58 am

Debi,
I’m so glad your continuing your blog. The word FEARLESS comes to mind when I look at the photos of the works you’ve chosen to share with us.
I can see what you mean about Mutu’s complexity in simplicity as I zoom in to her work it’s amazing what details she has chosen from magazines to create the larger shape, it’s very provocative.
Jiechang’s 100 layers of ink and Jang’s take on repetition in art is also fearless.
Keep up the great blogging…I really look forward to reading and seeing the photos.
Cheers,
Marie Fortin

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Debi Pendell Artist by debipendell.com