Archive for July, 2012

Design | Century of the Child

Friday, July 27th, 2012

Century of the Child: Growing by Design, 1900–2000
Museum of Modern Art, NYC, USA
29th July – 5th November, 2012

Century of the Child is a large-scale overview of the modernist preoccupation with children and childhood as a paradigm for progressive design thinking. The rather grown up headings for the seven sections into which MoMA’s new exhibition is divided: New Century, New Child, New Art; Avant-garde Playtime; Light, Air, Health; Children and the Body Politic; Power Play; Designing Better Worlds, are clues to the organisers’ ambitious attempt to examine and make sense of the complex and often contradictory ideas about the place of children in the modern era and the role that 20th century designers, architects and artists have played – and that others over the course of the 21st century might play – in relation to it.
As early as 1900, Swedish design reformer and social theorist Ellen Key published Century of the Child, a manifesto for change – social, political, aesthetic, and psychological – that presented the universal rights and well-being of children as the defining mission of the century to come. The exhibition examines individual and collective visions for the material world of children, from utopian dreams for the citizens of the future to the dark realities of political conflict and exploitation. In this period children have been central to the concerns, ambitions, and activities of modern architects and designers, and working specifically for children has often provided unique freedom and creativity to the avant-garde.

On show are a range of over 500 items – 2D and 3D, large and small – including examples of toys, games, animation, clothing, safety equipment and therapeutic products, nurseries, furniture, books,
playgrounds and school architecture.

Among the early featured items are Alma Siedhoff-Buscher’s Bauhaus nursery furniture, puppets by Sophie Taeuber-Arp. There’s a high chair by Gerrit Rietveld;
a glass, child-sized desk designed by Gio Ponti in 1930 and children’s chairs by Marcel Breuer and Alvar Aalto. Brightly coloured wooden teaching materials commissioned by Maria Montessori in the 1920s are also included. El Lissitzky’s Tale of 2 Squares and Roald Dahl’s The Gremlins 1943 – his first children’s book written for Walt Disney Productions appear, as well as Aleksandr Rodchenko’s poignant photograph, Pioneer Girl 1930.

Examples from the immediate post World War II, baby boom, years illustrate a new focus on less formal school environments and well-designed, safe and non-violent toys. In the aftermath of brutality and devastation, working closely with child psychologists, manufactures and educators, many designers sought to recover a lost innocence embodied in the spontaneity and directness of children’s art, and to emulate the constructive impulse of children’s play. Charles and Ray Eames in California, the influential CoBrA artists in Amsterdam – founded in 1948, who painted directly and spontaneously, like children, and worked expressively, without a preconceived plan – and the 1950s’ Independent Group in London, all epitomized this preoccupation with the child and of trying to look at the world from their perspective. In addition to works by these designers and artists, a school desk by Jean Prouvé is included as well as Lego building blocks, the helical spring toy Slinky and a selection of wooden toys by the Swedish company Brio.

The 1960s through to the end of the 20th century is a period in which children and consumer culture exerted power over each other. Through showing examples of Soviet Bloc space toys alongside Peter Ellenshaw’s 1954 plan of Disneyland, and plastic and inflatable toys by the Czechoslovakian designer Libuše Niklová, the exhibition considers the concept of the child as an autonomous consumer.

In the digital age children often surpass adults’ command of innovative design development in the realms of computer games and communication. In contemporary Japan, a deep fascination with youth is manifested by young girls shaping their identities through fashion, accessories, creative products, comic book and animated heroes. They process the images and text of material culture and mass media in their own ways, often naïvely but sometimes in active subversion of intended meanings and purposes.

Heralding a pronounced progressive or idealistic philosophy, the exhibition curators, in using examples of toys designed and handcrafted by children in a South African village; Jukka Veistola’s UNICEF poster from 1969; the XO laptop from the One Laptop per Child program; Marimekko clothing and do-it-yourself toys and Isamu Noguchi designs for play equipment and his – ridiculed at the time – Riverside Park Playground of 1933, attempt to communicate to us and children that children deserve a better world, and that through passionate public discourse among educators, parents, and politicians, and of course through good design, this world might indeed be possible to achieve.

Images from top

Werner John, Swiss, born 1941
Kinder Verkehrs Garten, Children’s traffic garden.
Poster advertising a children’s traffic school, 1959
Lithograph, 129.5 x 91.4 cm, 51 x 36″.
Printed by Allgemeine Gewerbeschule, Basel.
The Museum of Modern Art, New York.
Architecture and Design Purchase Fund

Helen + Hard AS, Norwegian, established 1996,
Siv Helene Stangeland, Norwegian, born 1966,
Reinhard Kropf, Austrian, born 1967
Geopark, Stavanger, Norway, 2011

Photograph by Emile Ashley. Courtesy of the Architects

Omnibot 2000, remote-controlled robot, c 1985
61 x 38.1 x 35.6 cm, 24 x 15 x 14″.
Manufactured by Tomy (formerly Tomiyama),
Katsushika, Tokyo, Japan.
Space Age Museum/Kleeman Family Collection,
Litchfield, Connecticut, USA

Elizawieta Ignatowitsch, Russian, 1903-1983
The Fight for the Polytechnic Schools is the
Fight for the Five-Year Plan, and for a
Communist Education of the body politic, 1931
Letterpress, lithograph, 51.4 x 71.8 cm, 20 1/4 x 28 1/4″.
The Museum of Modern Art, New York.
Gift of Miss Jessie Rosenfeld

Ladislav Sutnar, American, born Bohemia,
now Czech Republic, 1897-1976
Build the Town building blocks, 1940-43
Painted wood, thirty pieces of various dimensions,
largest smokestack: 18.7 x 5.1 cm, 7 3/8 x 2″.
The Museum of Modern Art, New York.
Gift of Ctislav Sutnar and Radoslav Sutnar

Gerrit Rietveld, Dutch, 1888-1964
Child’s wheelbarrow, 1923
Manufactured 1958.

Painted wood, 31.8 x 28.9 x 85.1 cm,
12 1/2 x 11 3/8 x 33 1/2″.
Manufactured by Gerard van de Groenekan.
The Museum of Modern Art, New York.
Gift of Jo Carole and Ronald S. Lauder.
© 2012 Artists Rights Society (ARS),
New York / Beeldrecht, Amsterdam

Jukka Veistola, Finnish, born 1946
UNICEF poster, 1969
Offset lithograph, 100.3 x 69.9 cm, 39 1/2 x 27 1/2″.
The Museum of Modern Art, New York.
Gift of the designer

Jean Prouvé, French, 1901-1984
School desk, 1946
Enameled steel and oak,
72.4 x 114.3 x 86.4 cm, 28 1/2 x 45 x 34″.
Manufactured by Ateliers Jean Prouvé, Nancy
The Museum of Modern Art, New York.
Dorothy Cullman Purchase Fund

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Art | Mark Wallinger’s SITE at Baltic

Friday, July 20th, 2012

Mark Wallinger, SITE
Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art
Gateshead, UK
Until 14th October

An intriguing and enormous capital letter I, in black on a white ground, covers most of the north side of the art deco Baltic Flower Mills, renovated and converted in 2002 into the Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art, which is celebrating its 10th anniversary this month. The big I has the title: Self Portrait (Times New Roman), 2012 and is in the ubiquitous font that – according to artist Mark Wallinger – is today’s default mode of self representation. Except for the gigantic proportions, this is familiar Wallinger territory, whose Self (Times New Roman), 2010 – an I turned through 360º to form a slim columnar sculpture – was made from glass reinforced polyester, with a wooden base. He’s also produced other 2D typographic Is, Self Portrait (Tahoma), 2008, and in the same year Self Portrait (Kino MT), both in acrylic on canvas, as was Self Portrait (Sim Sum), 2007 and Self Portrait (Lucida Console Bold Minor), 2007. Self Portrait (Freehand 2), 2007 was again produced in acrylic on canvas but this time the artist allowed himself the freedom to paint the I by hand, in three strokes of the brush.

SITE is the Turner Prize-winner’s largest exhibition in the UK for over a decade. Still reeling from the epic scale of the I outside, the thing that hits you inside is the massive gallery space and how Wallinger’s installations enliven its surfaces without otherwise effecting its cavernous, white volume. Everything he has placed/constructed within it is almost entirely flat. His film Construction Site, 2011, having its UK premiére here, shows a strip of shingle beach, an almost flat expanse of blue sea and a uniformly blue sky. It records the activities of three professional scaffolders erecting and then dismantling a scaffold structure the top of which aligns exactly with the far horizon. Shot square on so that all the verticals are vertical and the horizontals, horizontal, it is an attempt at showing, how chance and order – the discipline of the workers, against the unpredictable, ever-changing, natural world – can collide without anyone really noticing – the meaningless of coincidence.

A giant chequerboard covers most of the vast, pale boarded floor; a single piece of shingle occupying each small black or white square. 10000000000000000, 2012 catalogues and compares 65,536 found stones. 10000000000000000 is, apparently, the binary form of the number 65,536 – in decimals, a superperfect number. The piece highlights the futility of attempting to systematise the randomness of nature.

The Other Wall, 2012, in contrast, sees randomness contained in the form of a monumental brick wall comprising, floor to ceiling, one complete side of the gallery. Each brick having been numbered sequentially by hand, prior to construction, then distributed in any old order. Perfect brickwork, meaningless numbering, each defeating the other.

Mark – who doesn’t come across as at all egotistical – in person, greets you from the giant video screen in the café on level 5. In a chatty, relaxed, to-camera film, he talks about the exhibits in the show, the thought processes that led up to them and how the final pieces were assembled. He describes how he was someone who, on his wanderings around central London and beyond, always carried a piece of white chalk with him and had a longstanding habit of chalking his name on walls. Mark, 2012, digital photographic images transferred to Blu-ray, which runs for 113 minutes 14 seconds on a video screen, is the smallest item in the show and documents an endless series of flat, exterior brick surfaces with Mark, almost but not quite identically scrawled in the middle of each. Once again, and this is merely an observation, not a criticism, he had covered similar ground in According to Mark, 2010, which again features Wallinger’s scrawled first name, but this time on the backs of 100 chairs of various design.

Wallinger’s new film Camera Running, commissioned by Great North Run Culture, filmed at the 2011 Great North Run from the perspective of an elite athlete at the front of the race, will premiére at the Baltic on 13th September. It will be open for public viewing on 15th and 16th September, the weekend of the Great North Run 2012.

Images from top
Mark Wallinger
(Stills from) Construction Site, 2011
Courtesy of Anthony Reynolds Gallery London
© The artist

Mark Wallinger
Study for 10000000000000000, 2012
© Copyright and courtesy the artist

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Photography | Freud by Cecil Beaton & David Dawson

Friday, July 13th, 2012

An Artist’s Life: Photographs of Lucian Freud by Cecil Beaton and David Dawson
Sotheby’s London, UK
Selling Exhibition: until 11th August, 2012

It’s probably fair to say that David Dawson’s photographing daily life at Lucian Freud’s studio, and beyond, had its genesis in Bruce Bernard’s photographs of the great British painter. Freud (1922-2011) and Bernard (1928-2000) had been friends since their teens. Curator  and author of fine art and photography books, including his great Phaidon tome Century, Bernard (to whom, incidentally, I owe a debt with regard to my picture editing education – he was picture editor at The Sunday Times Magazine for the first couple of years I was there) sat – or more accurately, stood, in 1992 and sat in 1996 for Freud, having previously had his unusually large head immortalised by the artist in Head of Bruce Bernard, 1985. In the 1990s, Freud, famed for shunning the limelight, uncharacteristically, allowed Bernard, who had been taking photographic portraits of fellow Soho drinkers, artists and luminaries including Francis Bacon and Euan Uglow, to begin photographing him at work in his studio.

Having studied painting at the Royal College of Art – where he was a contemporary of Tracey Emin and Jake and Dinos Chapman – Dawson (b.1960) became Freud’s studio assistant in 1991. It wasn’t until some years later that Dawson – Freud by now used to have a photographer in his studio – picked up his own camera and began to record the day-to-day comings and goings and the work processes happening in front of and around him. After Bruce Bernard’s death in 2000, with unprecedented and now, exclusive, access – Bernard, in any case, having only been a visitor – Dawson was able to capture intimate moments: Freud in deep concentration, Freud applying shaving cream to his face with one of his large brushes (which, although we used it across a double-page spread in Tatler – where I was creative director – I suspect was set up, possibly at the behest of my editor-in-chief, Geordie Greig, himself a regular visitor at Freud’s studio) and to produce images that allow us to see the development of some of Freud’s later paintings.

Freud at Work, Photographs by Bruce Bernard and David Dawson was shown at Hazlitt Holland-Hibbert in 2006. Earlier this year, the same gallery showed Lucian Freud: Studio Life, Photographs by David Dawson. More recently Dawson’s image of Freud painting the Queen was selected for the Whitechapel’s exhibition of works from the Government Art Collection. A selection of Dawson’s pictures of Freud were also shown at the National Portrait Gallery in 2004. Twenty six of these, including those showing the artist painting Hockney and Queen Elizabeth II, and Frank Auerbach visiting the studio, were acquired for the gallery’s collection.

The unlikely juxtaposition of Dawson and Beaton’s photographs in this summer’s selling exhibition of limited edition prints at Sotheby’s, as much as it is revealing about Freud, provides an insight into the characters, aspirations and appetites of both photographers. Dawson comes across as a little shy and somewhat reticent, whereas, by all accounts, Beaton, who produced a prodigious number of self-portraits, was just the opposite.

Sir Cecil Beaton (1904-1980) has a staggering 1,050 portraits in the NPG collection. His career as a portrait photographer took off after meeting the Sitwells in 1926. He signed his first contract with Vogue in 1927 and was associated with the magazine throughout his life. Beaton had been in Hollywood in the 1930s, where he became obsessed with Garbo, whom he continued to photograph throughout her life. He photographed Katherine Hepburn and later Marylin Monroe, of whom he wrote: ‘She romps, she squeals with delight, she leaps on the sofa. She puts a flower stem in her mouth, puffing on a daisy as though it were a cigarette. It is an artless, impromptu, high-spirited, infectiously gay performance. It will probably end in tears.’ During WWII he worked for the Ministry of Information and afterwards took on the additional role of stage designer for film, ballet and opera. In 1965 he was awarded two oscars for his stage production of My Fair Lady. His work has appeared in countless exhibitions and books, the first of which, Beaton by James Danziger – another former Sunday Times Magazine picture editor, now running the eponymous Danziger Projects in New York – was published in 1977, the same year that Sotheby’s acquired the photographer’s estate.

Beaton’s photographs of Freud from the 1950s capture him alone, with friends, with family and with his second wife Caroline Blackwood at Coombe Priory, their Dorset retreat. Although Beaton claimed to be drawn to Freud, whom he described as ‘a true artist and a true Bohemian’ – in some of Beaton’s pictures his subject wears no tie, or if he does it’s ratty and his shirt appears somewhat creased – the painter is portrayed as a clean-shaven, well-quaffed, heroic and brooding figure with movie-star good looks. While Dawson’s photographs are not about Dawson – he often lurks in the background, content to simply tag along behind his elderly master – Beaton had other ideas. While some of his images affect reportage, each one of them is a carefully-controlled portrait. One of these in particular, makes Freud look particularly stiff and awkward as he struggles to look at the camera, in front of the lens of which, Beaton, in one of his surrealist moments, seems to have flung a cyclamen flower and a few leaves – almost definitely montaged in later – that in the final image float above the sitter’s head. At first sight, what appears to be Beaton’s least set up, least theatrical picture of Lucien Freud’s daughter, Annie, 3rd October, 195o, in which she sits on another animal’s back while stroking the nose of a zebra, comes as a refreshing surprise; then one realises that the photographer is playing his usual, for me disappointingly tiresome, games; the zebra is obviously stuffed. Not everyone is as lively as Monroe was but oh, if only Beaton could have allowed a little of the extemporaneous excitement he had captured in his shoot with her to seep into his photographing Freud – as Dawson did so successfully with Kate Moss in Having a cuddle with Kate, 2010… Mind you, some of Dawson’s pictures are more record shot than fine photography: Breakfast at Clarke’s with Stella McCartney, 2008, is just a snap, as is his picture of Bono and Freud breakfasting together. His Lucian Freud and Frank Auerbach at the V&A, 2006, however, has the ease and spontaneity of a Lartigue.

Images from top
David Dawson, Having a cuddle with Kate, 2010
Cecil Beaton, Coombe Priory, Dorset, 1956

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Interiors | Open House

Friday, July 6th, 2012

Open House
Christie’s Interiors Department
Rockerfeller Plaza, New York, USA
Sale: 16th July
Exhibition: 13th–16th July

Accompanied by much razamatazz and brio, relaunched this year, Christie’s Open House is the ultimate biennial ‘cut price’ event of the New York auction scene. I suppose the definition of what constitutes a bargain is relative and with estimates starting at $1,000 and rising to $150,000, this is no car boot or garage sale. Nevertheless, with every post-war and contemporary genre imaginable represented, there’s a great variety of stuff on offer.

Open House is organised by Christie’s Interiors Department and is intended to complement the following day’s Interiors sale. The paintings, sculpture, photographs and works on paper come in sizes to fit every home: small, medium or large and while prices may not suit every pocket, there are certainly good deals to be had. Importantly, as this is after all Christie’s and because everything included is from distinguished collections – MoMA, the Reader’s Digest Association, the Art Institute of Chicago, as well as well-known personal ones – buyers can be sure that each item is of sound provenance.
The works are by big names, cutting edge names, American and international. A good proportion of the pieces/makers/artists are however, obscure and are likely to be unfamiliar so unless one is looking for something specific it might be tricky to know where to dive in. Better then, perhaps to go with an open mind. Take a risk. Act on intuition. Choose something one would be happy to live with, at least for a while.

There is what appears to be at least one item of furniture and a number of sculptures but the vast majority of the 170 items is made up of paintings. You can pick up a Joseph Beuys mounted and framed change of address card for $2-3,000, a Rachel Whiteread drawing for £3-5,000 or pay substantially more for a John Baldessari polaroid diptych priced at £20-30,000.

There’s a lot of colour but in order to make some sort of sense of it all, and for as good a reason as any, I’ve picked out a few items on a monochrome theme that share a vaguely iconic, religious feel and, taking the interiors idea as a cue, might feel at home together.

Works from top
Taller Torres Garcia Studio Chair, 1947
Painted wood
33¾ x 18¼ x 30 in (85.7 x 46.4 x 76.2 cm)
Estimate $2,000-3,000

Cindy Sherman
Untitled, 1975-1997
Gelatin silver print
7 x 5 1/8 (17.8 x 13 cm.)
Estimate $3,000-5,000

Gerhard Richter
Cross, 1997
Steel
7¾ x 7¾ x .5 in (19.7 x 19.7 x 1.3 cm)
Number seventy-four from an edition of eighty.
Estimate $3,000-5,000

John Baldesarri
Ear and Nose: Right Side (Analia), 2006
Polaroid diptych
Each: 28 x 22 in (71.1 x 55.9 cm)
Estimate $20,000 – 30,000 U.S. dollars
All images: Christie’s Images Limited, 2012

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