Archive for December, 2012

All Categories | Past Forward

Friday, December 28th, 2012

Christian Marclay – The Clock
MoMA
New York City, USA
Until 21st January, 2013

David Bowie Is
Victoria & Albert Museum
London, UK
23rd March – 28th July, 2013

As we look forward to the David Bowie Is retrospective at London’s V&A in 2013, Christian Marclay’s film, The Clock, ticks away the remainder of 2012 at MoMA in New York, where it opened last week.

Completed in 2010 – already three years old – a monumental icon of contemporary art, The Clock, for which Marclay won a Golden Lion for best artist at the Venice Film Festival in 2011, is cleverly constructed from 24 hours-worth of clips from the past 100 years of cinema, almost all including a clock or a watch. Perhaps the film and the Bowie show can be taken as signs of the times. Certainly, referencing and re-assessing the past was a theme during 2012 and indications are that the trend is set to continue.

If we pause to consider, true innovation is a pretty rare thing and, while there’s no current lack of it, the flow remains uneven by nature. In comparison, art and design history – recent and ancient – is vast and has left an enormous, carefully refined legacy, much of it eminently worthy of our attention, reconsideration and reinterpretation, some of it recyclable.

Amsterdam’s Rijksmuseum reopens its doors in April 2013 following an ambitious 10-year renovation programme. Already launched, the very forward-thinking Rijks Studio initiative, makes a digital collection of 125,000 items from the museum’s historical collection accessible to all for free. Members of the public are invited to create their own works of art by downloading high-resolution images and using them in a creative fashion, copyright free.

Editor of the British edition of Harper’s Bazaar, Justine Picardie is the author of several acclaimed books including Coco Chanel: The Legend and the Life (HarperCollins, 2010). Talking about her first proper issue (January, 2013), she explains her preoccupations with Chanel, Vreeland, Dior, et al, as an exploration of how understanding the past is a way to move forwards. And it’s important to get it right. Opinions differed on the October launch of Hedi Slimane’s debut collection for Saint Laurent – the label’s original inspirational concepts still present, but updated and made inimitably Slimane’s own, were seen by some as underwhelming.

The (London) Royal Academy’s Building the Revolution: Soviet Art and Architecture 1915-1935 ran over into January, 2012. Reviewing it, The Guardian reminded us that the Russian avant garde which emerged out of the futurist cafés and cabarets of the mid-1910s was probably the most intensive and creative art and architectural movement of the past century. Sergei Tchoban (with partner Sergei Kuznetsov) of SPEECH Techoban/Kuznetsov, designed the astonishingly futuristic and much-praised Russian Pavilion that caused such a stir at the 2012 Venice Architecture Biennale in August. The entirely QR-coded environment – an homage, conscious or otherwise, to the square: architectural cornerstone of a few thousand years standing, but currently out of favour in a world of curvilinear structures – addressed the country’s future while referencing early 20th century influences. Italian Futurism, 1909-44, will run at The Guggenheim in New York from in 2014. When it appeared, in 1909, the original Futurist Manifesto, that had inspired the Russians, called for the demolition of museums and libraries; Foster + Partners recently mooted $300 million renovation of the New York Public Library in Manhattan, intended to begin with the eviction of 1.2 million books, provoked more adverse reaction than it bargained for. Similarly, London’s uncompromising tall and dynamic Shard, inaugurated in July, caused an immediate sensation, but earned a chilly reception from some quarters for its apparent lack of sensitivity towards the existing cityscape.

Steeped in ancient tradition, the Olympic Games has brought the modern world some its most daring, groundbreaking and well-considered architecture, product design and graphics. The London 2012 Games – modest in terms of scale by comparison to recent predecessors – didn’t fail to deliver more of the same. Among other items, the event’s Olympic torch designed by Barber Osgerby, was buried in a time capsule as part of the ground breaking ceremony for the new Design Museum that will be installed in the former 1962-built Commonwealth Institute, after its rigorous but nevertheless sympathetic redevelopment by John Pawson. Elsewhere, Herzog & de Meuron, architects of the Beijing 2008 Olympics‘ astonishing ‘Bird’s Nest’ stadium, and designers of the Serpentine Gallery Pavilion 2012 (with Ai Weiwei), recently completed the Parrish Art Museum at Southampton on Long Island. ‘Our design for the Parrish is a reinterpretation… of the traditional house form,’  said Jacques Herzog, ‘…something very specific, precise and also fresh.’

This month at Christie’s in New York a lacquered and painted wooden screen made by Eileen Gray in the 1920s, sold for over $1.8 million. Paris, where Gray spent most of her life, hosts a retrospective of her unique work at the Pompidou Centre, starting in February. American photographer, Man Ray, also spent the greater part of his life in Paris. Man Ray’s Portraits is at London’s National Portrait Gallery in February, while Bill Brandt: Shadow and Light will run from March to August at MoMA. It takes Inspired curating with a new and interesting perspective, combined with creative presentation to make exhibitions and events based solely on archival content current and vital.

Frieze Masters was launched in October by Amanda Sharp and Matthew Slotover, co-founders of Frieze. The new fair, coinciding with, and within walking distance of Frieze London, in Regent’s Park, was based on the idea of applying a contemporary approach to selling pre-21st-century art, from ancient to modern. The inaugural six-day event, in which 90 galleries from 18 countries took part, was attended by around 28,000 international visitors and was a massive hit. Sales were brisk; one of the most significant reports was of widespread contemporary collectors’ interest in historical work and vice versa. Not surprisingly, Frieze Masters will happen again in 2013 and is set to become a regular fixture.

The apposite title of the V&A’s forthcoming show, David Bowie Is, recognises that the David Bowie phenomenon, so influential over the past 40 yearts, is important historically but also as a source of inspiration for today’s and tomorrow’s innovative thinking. Set in motion, sequences from it cast out on to the internet, it’s unlikely that The Clock will ever stop.

Images from top
Original photography for the Earthling album cover, 1997,
Frank W Ockenfels 3

Union Jack coat designed by Alexander McQueen in collaboration with
David Bowie
© Frank W Ockenfels 3, 1997

Video still from The Clock, 2010, Christian Marclay
Single-channel video with sound, 24 hours
©Christian Marclay. Courtesy Paula Cooper Gallery, New York

Tell us what you think
The Blog is about art, architecture, gardens, books, design and anything else that currently interests us which we think might interest you

The publishers of The Blog insist that all images supplied for publication in our posts are cleared for that use before being sent to us. Whether pictures are sent to us as email attachments or made available as downloadable files, any responsibility for fees which may, under any circumstances, fall due, must be borne by the source supplier

Share this post
Facebook Twitter Linkedin

Home | Season’s Greetings

Friday, December 21st, 2012

This week, due to seasonal illness, The Blog is taking a temporary rest from publication.

Image
Aalto Vase in repose, 2011, photographed by Pedro Silmon

Tell us what you think
The Blog is about art, architecture, gardens, books, design and anything else that currently interests us which we think might interest you

The publishers of The Blog insist that all images supplied for publication in our posts are cleared for that use before being sent to us. Whether pictures are sent to us as email attachments or made available as downloadable files, any responsibility for fees which may, under any circumstances, fall due, must be borne by the source supplier

Share this post
Facebook Twitter Linkedin

Design | Modernism and Stained Glass

Friday, December 14th, 2012

Important 20th Century Decorative Art & Design
Christie’s, New York,
Rockefeller Plaza,
New York City, USA
14th December 2012

The Avery Coonley Playhouse windows, circa 1912, with their buoyant circles and patriotic flags, that stand out for their distinctive, asymmetrical composition and vibrant color, are considered Frank Lloyd Wright’s masterpiece in glass. The building, a small structure created by Lloyd Wright to serve as a school for Queenie Ferrie Coonley to educate local children, was a short distance from the Coonley’s home in Riverside, Illinois, that Wright had previously completed for the couple in 1908. Just one of the 40 original windows – sadly, all of them were removed in the 1950s to be replaced by replicas – that ringed the main school room and were designed to encourage a spontaneous, playful air, is included in Christie’s Important 20th Century Decorative Art & Design sale. His use of bright red, green, blue, orange and black glass was, by all accounts, inspired by a passing parade, complete with confetti, balloons and American flags. The European abstract art movement, including the paintings of Sonia and Robert Delaunay and Wassily Kandinsky, which Wright saw in Paris on his European sojourn in 1909-1910, that included a trip to Vienna, significantly influenced the designs.

A stained glass revival had been triggered in Holland in the 1850s, when William Morris’s ideas gained currency there, and a domestic demand emerged for non-figurative, decorative art that accorded with strict Calvinist principles. Via the De Stijl movement founded in the Netherlands in 1917, this late 19th century trend would evolve into abstract stained glass panels. That year, leading member, Theo van Doesburg, completed a set of five identical windows, strikingly geometrical in style, whose motif was abstracted from skating figures, for a house designed by fellow member, Jan Wils. In 1918, Van Doesburg began collaborating with another member, architect JJP Oud, on his first municipal housing blocks at Spangen, designing stained glass panels for each apartment – some are still in place, others, inevitably, as van Doesburg’s reputation as an artist grew and his work became much sought after, were sold off. Later, in 1934, another significant Dutch architect, Jan Kuyt, designed intricate stained glass skylights for his V&D Department Store building in Amersfoort.

From the same early period, Josef Albers’ Red and White, 1923, created for that year’s first Bauhaus Exhibition in Weimar – sadly, since destroyed – was a stained-glass window that was granted a title, in the style of an artwork.

Of course, stained glass had been around for many centuries before the early modernists, recognising its potential, took hold of it and adapted it to suit their buildings, in the process turning it into an art form. And, although its popularity during the 20th century swung in and out of fashion, it never really went away.

In a note on an early drawing of the Glass Pavilion – the pineapple-shaped temporary building that German expressionist architect, Bruno Taut, erected at the Cologne Deutscher Werkbund Exhibition in 1914 – a prismatic glass dome structure of concrete and glass, he said he made it in the spirit of a gothic cathedral. Inlaid coloured glass plates on the façade acted as mirrors. Inside, there were floor-to-celing, coloured glass walls and a glass-treaded metal staircases led to the upper projection room that showed a kaleidoscope of colors. But when, some 40 years later, Le Corbusier built Chapelle Notre Dame du Haut at Ronchamp in France, between 1950 and 1955 – in which daylight enters via a system of openings covered with glass, much of it coloured – the architect was keen to maintain that his glass had no connection to stained glass, which he considered a form of illumination too closely bound to archaic architectural notions, with particular reference to Romanesque and Gothic art.

At Fondation Maeght, Saint Paul de Vence, on the French Riviera, a small chapel, next to the main building, has stained glass windows designed by Braque in the 1960s. More contemporary examples include a stained-glass window installed at Damien Hirst’s Pharmacy restaurant in Notting Hill, London, during the 1990s.

Two other windows by Lloyd Wright are included in the Christie’s sale, alongside a skylight and panel made by Louis Sullivan in 1890 for the Auditorium building, Chicago. Meanwhile, a set of four square windows (26.9 x 26.9 cm) of graphic, abstract design, in opalescent, cathedral and slumped glass, produced in 1880 by American painter and muralist John la Farge, and estimated to sell at $8,000 – 12,000, are on offer at Sotheby’s, New York, in their Important 20th Century Design sale on 15th December.

Images from top
Window from the Avery Cooonley Playhouse, Frank Lloyd Wright, circa 1912
(Detail, the complete framed panel is also shown above)
Leaded glass, with original oak window frame, 61 x 97 cm
Estimate $200,000 – $300,000

Photo © Christie’s Images Limited, 2012

Tell us what you think
The Blog is about art, architecture, gardens, books, design and anything else that currently interests us which we think might interest you

The publishers of The Blog insist that all images supplied for publication in our posts are cleared for that use before being sent to us. Whether pictures are sent to us as email attachments or made available as downloadable files, any responsibility for fees which may, under any circumstances, fall due, must be borne by the source supplier

Share this post
Facebook Twitter Linkedin

Art | Lucy Williams’ Pavilion

Friday, December 7th, 2012

Lucy Williams: Pavilion
Timothy Taylor Gallery
London, United Kingdom
Until 11th January, 2013

The patina of age that gently creeps across more traditional buildings, imbuing them with a sense of cosiness, doesn’t sit happily on many surviving 20th century modernist buildings – it probably won’t, as they begin to age, on those of the 21st. The effect is somehow alien to the utopian concept underpinning each structure, and besides, it doesn’t suit the concrete, glass and steel materials. Artist Lucy Williams has set herself the task of looking back at the original buildings and via intricately-constructed, scaled-down and not quite 2D representations of the whole or details, encouraging us to re-engage with them, even to re-love them.

Pavilion, her show at Timothy Taylor’s Mayfair gallery, presents 16 new pieces, most of them arranged on a ceiling-high modular, wooden structure that references the work of Bauhaus director Walter Gropius and later modernists architects, whose buildings inspire her work.

Born in Oxford in 1972, Williams studied fine art at Glasgow School of Art and got a postgraduate diploma at the Royal Academy in London, in 2003. Her first solo show had been in London in 2001 and a succession of others quickly followed in 2004, 2006, 2007 and 2010 at McKee Gallery, New York. In 2007, Beneath a Woollen Sky, featuring a series of  mixed media images of modernist buildings, some of which sat below blue tapestry skies in which white clouds blossomed, was her first solo show at Timothy Taylor. Her work has appeared in numerous group shows, most recently in Building Blocks: Contemporary Works from the Collection, Museum of Art, Rhode Island School of Design, Providence, Rhode Island, USA, and in Point of Entry: The Space Between Art and Architecture, Galerie Pfriem, Lacoste, France.

She works in shallow bas-relief. In the early days, when her pieces were spare and mostly monochromatic with occasional primary and secondary colours added, calling to mind Ed Ruscha’s architecturally-inspired images from the 1960s. As she developed, becoming more confident, more daring in the subject matter she was prepared to tackle, the colour gamut broadened, the textures and techniques becoming more involved. These days, her panoply of materials includes Plexiglas, bubble wrap, balsa wood, cork, pebbles, wool, mortar, piano wire and coloured paper, but might insert sections of embroidery, too, sometimes calling on friends to help out with larger areas.

Some of the buildings she has depicted no longer exist but, in any case, she prefers not to visit the sources of her inspiration: ‘I quite like it that I’m offering my own version of what the place is like. I don’t need a 360-degree view to be able to re-create it,’ she has been quoted as saying, ‘Often, visiting a building only gets in the way.’ Instead, she scours the library of London’s Royal Institute of British Architects for period photographs to use as reference.

At Timothy Taylor, an almost 3m wide collage depicting Jean Dubuissonʼs early 1960s, apartment complex in Paris’s Maine-Montparnasse area – dubbed an example of brutalism – for which Williams hand-cut thousands of coloured paper fragments, is the centre-piece. Aside from this, the other items in the exhibition are relatively small in scale and, had it not been for the clever device of the wood structure that achieves the effect of amplifying and extending them, may well have been lost in the cavernous gallery void.

No figures appear in any of the works. In Seagram Building, 2012, the façade is reduced to an almost abstract orange and grey grid, interrupted by the precisely cut wooden slatted blinds and assiduously realized plants in the empty offices within. City Hall, 2011, is little more than the dark zig-zagging shape of a staircase in profile overlaid on a geometrically patterned, lime, dark green and yellow, tessellated wall surface. The colours may sound loud but are never lurid, more often sudued. Elsewhere the subject matter originates from architects and designers who created their own softened versions of modernism, including Eric Lyonsʼ 1950s very humanly-scaled Parkleys, part of the Span housing scheme at Ham Common in London. Subtle and elegant, the star of the show is Williams’ rendering of the Sonneveld House – a family home – minus the family – built by architects Brinkman and Van der Vlugt in 1933, in Rotterdam, which she overlays with the finely-cut, filigreed silhouette of a tree.

Soulful and reinvigorating they may be, but despite the home-spin techniques and the rendering in warm colours that restores the structures she chooses to their unblemished origins, Williams’ finished pieces are not overly prettified, nor steeped in nostalgia. They flirt with the viewer but instead of cosying up and allowing us to get too close, each maintains an ambiguous, impenetrable distance, and its this quality that makes them special and is, ultimately, their USP. Within a few days of opening, the exhibition was almost completely sold out.

Images from top
City Hall, 2011
Mixed Media

The artist, Lucy Williams
Photographed by Adam Shapland

Seagram Building, 2012
Mixed media

The display structure
Todd White Art Photography, London


Tell us what you think

The Blog is about art, architecture, gardens, books, design and anything else that currently interests us which we think might interest you

The publishers of The Blog insist that all images supplied for publication in our posts are cleared for that use before being sent to us. Whether pictures are sent to us as email attachments or made available as downloadable files, any responsibility for fees which may, under any circumstances, fall due, must be borne by the source supplier

Share this post
Facebook Twitter Linkedin