Archive for January, 2013

Auction | René Gruau

Friday, January 25th, 2013

Christie’s Interiors – Style & Spirit
London, South Kensington, UK
Sale: 29th January, 2013
Viewing: January 26th-29th

If you missed the wonderful Dior Illustrated: René Gruau and the Line of Beauty show at London’s Somerset House in 2010, or, if you were fortunate enough to see it but came away aching to own one or more of Gruau’s chic and uncompromisingly graphic, highly collectible, original artworks, here’s your chance. Amongst a mixed bag of almost 400 lots that includes items as diverse as a very handsome pair of mid-20th century German, steel, 10 x 8 field binoculars by Busch (Estimate £2,000-4,000), and a pre-17th century composite elephant bird egg from Madagascar (Estimate £5,000 – 8,000), the catalogue for the forthcoming Christie’s Interiors – Style & Spirit sale, lists four Gruau’s, all at fairly affordable prices.

Images by René Gruau, from top
Point d’exclamation, circa 1950
Gouache on paper, signed
Estimate £2,000-3,000

Le masque, circa 1950
Gouache on paper, signed
Estimate £1,500-2,000

Lady in red, circa 1970
Ink and gouache on paper, signed
Estimate £4,000-6,000

Model for glove, circa 1950
Gouache and ink on paper, unsigned
Estimate £3,000-5,000

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Photography | Margaret Bourke-White in Berlin

Friday, January 18th, 2013

Margaret Bourke-White: Photographs 1930 – 1945
Martin Gropius Bau
Berlin, Germany
18th January – 14th April, 2013

The cover photo of the first ever issue of Life magazine (November, 1936) was by Margaret Bourke-White (1904-1971). In the 1920s, like other women photographers, writers, artists and editors who broke into the male-dominated professional world, lighting the way for women’s liberation – Lee Miller, Gertrude Stein, Dorothea Lange, Georgia O’Keeffe, and Imogen Cunningham, among others – Bourke-White had been ahead of her time.

She wanted to be the ‘eyes of the age’, and had ‘an unquenchable desire to be present when history is being made’, as she put it. She had the knack of being in the right place at the right time and, aggressive and relentless in her pursuit of pictures, she was prepared to go far further than most to achieve her goal.

One of the first photojournalists, her career began in 1927 in Cleveland, USA, where she photographed the city’s steel mills. She travelled to the USSR when the first five-year plan was being implemented – becoming the first Western photographer to document post-revolution Soviet industry. Bourke-White documented the drought of 1934 in the USA, the German invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941, and the Allied bombing of Germany – she became the first woman to go on a bombing mission, in 1943, at a time when women were not allowed in combat zones, gaining herself international celebrity status. Present at the liberation of the Buchenwald concentration camp and the Leipzig-Mockau forced labour camp, her photograph The Living Dead of Buchenwald went round the world. Soon after she was in India recording the release of Mahatma Ghandi from prison, in 1946, and then in South Africa documenting the effects of labour exploitation during the 1950s.

The focus of the Martin Gropius Bau Margaret Bourke-White: Photographs 1930 – 1945 exhibition is on the pictures the photographer took in the 1930s and 40s in the former Soviet Union, former Czechoslovakia, Germany, the UK and Italy and consists of 154 photographs, letters and periodicals. Some of her word-picture sequences for the photo magazines Fortune and Life are on view as well as extracts from her correspondence with the likes of Winston Churchill and Georgia O’Keeffe.

Images from top
Russian worker on the turbine shell of the Dnejprostroj-hydro-electric power plant Soviet Union, Saporishya (today, Ukraine), ca 1930
Masters by Getty Images
©Time & Life/Getty Images

The Reverend Spiegelhoff from Milwaukee and American GIs at the mass in the Cologne cathedral, April 1945
Syracuse University Library Collection, New York
©Time & Life/Getty Images

Russian film director Sergej Eisenstein being shaved on the terrace of Bourke-White’s studio in the Chysler Building, NYC, 1932
Syracuse University Library Collection, New York
©2012 Estate of Margaret Bourke-White/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY, USA

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Art | Wolfgang Laib: Buzzing!

Friday, January 11th, 2013

Wolfgang Laib
The Museum of Modern Art
New York City, USA
23rd January – 11th March, 2013

Laib Wax Room
The Phillips Collection
Washington DC, USA
From 2nd March, 2013

Just now Wolfgang Laib is a very busy bee, indeed. Currently under construction, his largest 5.5 x 6.5/18 x 21 ft, pollen-based installation to date, Pollen from Hazelnut, is on show at MoMA in New York from later this month. The Laib Wax Room, which, when it opens in March at Washington DC’s Phillips Collection will become his first permanent installation piece. Each represents a substantial and formidable amount of work.

Laib, still lives in the small village of Metzingen in South Germany where he was born in 1950. Since the 1970s, he has produced sculptures and installations marked by a serene presence and a reductive beauty, often made from one or a combination of two materials, accumulated from natural elements that have been selected for their purity and symbolic associations – including milk, marble, pollen, rice, and beeswax. Nourishment and preservation, the cycles of life and death, give and take, the ephemeral and eternal are his chosen themes.

Creating his first pollen field in 1977, Laib has since collected pollen from spring to summer, on a yearly basis, in the forests and meadows near his home. He has been amassing the hazelnut pollen used in the MoMA installation since the mid-1990s. His solitary and physically demanding, ceremonial endeavor, involves his manually harvesting pollen from one plant at a time. He sees where he collects the pollen as something very different from how it is seen in the gallery ‘– a real concentrated experience without any distractions, nothing else,’ but he also invites the public to consider the original location and the cycle of the installation’s production. For presentation, Laib sieves pollen directly onto the floor, creating a ground of radiant colour. Ann Temkin, chief curator of painting and sculpture at MoMA, told The Washington Post that Laib’s pollen piece has the possibility of transforming MoMA’s busy atrium, a crossroads of the urban art world, ‘into a place of silence, contemplation and nature.’

Laib’s art embodies the encounter of Eastern and Western cultural references and traditions. Aesthetically it is close to Land Art and Minimal Art, and informed by oriental philosophy, he repeatedly uses the cone form and rectangle, as well as stylised motifs of houses. As a teenager, Laib had started travelling with his parents to India. While studying medicine – he qualified as a doctor in 1974 – he also studied Sanskrit, philosophy and religion, especially Buddhism and Jainism. Out of frustration at the limited nurturing power of medical science he decided to become an artist, basing his work on the recontextualisation of natural materials as a vibrant celebration of life. Having soon found international success Laib has since exhibited incessantly and become one of the world’s foremost and individual contemporary artists, his work forming part of the collections of major galleries around the globe. He is represented in New York by the prestigious Sperone Westwater Gallery, where he shares company with the likes of Richard Long, Julian Schnabel, Bruce Nauman and William Wegman. In Europe he’s with the equally formidable Galerie Thaddeus Ropac. Laib established a second studio in India in 2007.

Laib creates contemplative works that he himself describes as challenging – both for himself to create and for those who choose to experience them. In March, to install the Laib Wax Room in a little upstairs space of the original Phillips house, Laib will melt 20 blocks of beeswax – totalling approximately 400 kilos/882 pounds – at a constant temperature to achieve a uniform golden hue. Using a spatula, a knife, an electric heating gun, and a warm iron he will apply the wax methodically, in a 2.5cm/1in layer onto the walls and ceiling of the 1.8 x 2 x 3m/6 x 7 x 10 ft space. Visitors to the tiny, peaceful chamber, lit by a single bare light bulb, high above the buzzing streets of Washington DC, will be enveloped by the comforting scent of beeswax, in a permanent setting far away from the hives from which it was collected. In a 2001 interview with Sculpture Magazine, asked about the idea of permanence, relating to his work being so far temporary and constantly re-created, Laib explained: ‘Exhibitions are important, and I love to do them. But then after some time, you also think that you would like some place that stays. And that is something that I’ve dreamed about for a long time.’

Images from top
Wolfgang Laib sifting hazelnut pollen, 1992
Courtesy Sperone Westwater Gallery, New York

Wolfgang Laib installing the Sperone Wax Room wax room in the home of Gian Enzo Sperone in Switzerland
Courtesy of the artist

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Photography | Nadav Kander’s Nudes

Friday, January 4th, 2013

Nadav Kander: BODIES. 6 Women, 1 Man
Flowers
Cork Street, London, UK
11th January – 9th February, 2013

Six women and a man are stripped of their clothes, their bodies coated in white marble dust and photographed in awkward poses, contorted and twisted or bowed. First impressions might be that there is something Freudian (Sigmund, but also Lucian) about Nadav Kander’s new exhibition, BODIES. 6 Women, 1 Man, at Flowers. But the ‘bodies’ featured, that reference the forms of classical and renaissance nudes, while attempting to modernise the genre and negate sexual connotation, are intended as a tool for philosophical investigation, rather than psycho-analysis. And, while the honesty with which the human subject is treated might be suggestive of Lucian Freud’s approach, the latter was preoccupied with portraying the actual person, not in using them for some ulterior end; Kander’s objective is to invite the meditation and self-reflection customarily associated with religious iconography and tomb sculpture.

In 2008 Kander produced his series, Obama’s People – 52 portraits of Barak Obama’s incoming team – a commission for the New York Times magazine. More recent portraits include a series for the National Portrait Gallery exhibition, Road to 2012. His work is included in several public collections and he has exhibited internationally at venues including Musee de L’Elysee, Lausanne, Museum of Photographic Arts, San Diego, Museum of Applied Arts, Cologne, Kennedy’s Museum, Berlin, The Photographers’ Gallery, London, Palais de Tokyo, Paris and Herzilya Museum of Contemporary Art, Israel.

In a recent interview for Unseen Amsterdam – where some of the Flowers exhibition images were first shown – Kander, was asked why the BODIES. 6 Women, 1 Man photographs appear, pictorially at least, so radically different from his previous output. ‘What I’m most interested in is the human condition,’ he replied, ‘what it means to be human, and showing things in the most bare detail.’ He went on to explain that while the nude work may seem a departure from his well-known Yangtze, The Long River, 2009 series – for which he was awarded the prestigious Prix Pictet – it is similar too. ‘They are both about paradoxes.’ Kander’s aim is to reveal and conceal. He presents his subjects as shameless yet shameful, and plays off ease against unease, beauty with destruction. The nude work, he says, is a real distillation of this approach.

Images from top
Elizabeth with hand on shoulders, 2010
Self portrait, 2009
Mengxi lying away, 2010
All photographs ©Nadav Kander, courtesy Flowers, London


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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

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