Archive for May, 2013

Interview | Christian Lutz, Photographer

Friday, May 31st, 2013

mouth2mouth interview | sam stourdzé, director, musée de l’elysée
christian lutz | photographer

Born in Geneva in 1973, Christian Lutz studied photography at the Ecole supérieure des Arts et de l’Image, ‘The 75′, in Brussels. Winner of numerous awards, his work has been exhibited worldwide and frequently published. Initially following the tradition of documentary photography, he soon adopted a highly individual, cinematographic style that gave his work a certain distance to reality. Lutz is represented by the agencies VU’ in Paris and Strates in Lausanne.

Protokoll, the first series in the project, started in 2003 when you began photographing the apparatus of federal politics. Ten years later, how would you assess your itinerary?
Actually, I am the kind of person who prefers to look forward rather than backward. And I’ve come to realize that my work on the issue of power is not yet quite finished. It was initiated in 2003 by coincidence, without any real initial intention; I didn’t tell myself ‘Well, how about working on the notion of power!’ It was only over time, as my work asserted itself, that I realized why I was doing it and why I wanted to carry on. Power operates everywhere, in the private sphere, in human relations, between nations, among peoples; it is at the heart of countless processes in society. This is an issue that obsesses me and which is in fact an excuse to talk about our world and the interactions between individuals and systems. I thought I would come to terms with it through this trilogy, but I still have some way to go, as the issue of power opens up new fields of exploration.

All three components of the Trilogy – political, economic, and religious powers, are exhibited for the first time at the Musée de l’Elysée. What tensions or reflections do you intend to create by juxtaposing the series?
My assumption is that power is always staged, as if power needed some form of theatricality to exist: protocol, representational codes, uniforms and role play, decorum, the forms of power that I have observed in the three series presented today all express themselves through external signs. But they are so obvious that they allow for breaches and give a glimpse of details, urging you to take a closer look, to reach beyond appearances. In all three series, there is this permanent tension between what is being observed and the grey areas, the hidden, the unspoken.

Several images in the series In Jesus’ Name have been censored. How do you intend to show the void of censorship?
From my point of view, censorship did not create a void, it created a surplus. In other words, I consistently refuse to explain my images or to caption them, in order to avoid imposing a unique interpretation and a manipulation of the imagination. Captions freeze the poetical and suggestive space carried within a photograph; which does not mean that photographs can be made to say anything and everything, especially when we’re talking about a series or a book, as in this case. But an image must breathe, and leave some space to the beholder. Yet, in order to achieve the ban on the book, the lawyer of the plaintiffs wrote out his own interpretation of my images. In doing so, he kills them in a way. So I had two options: either to let go and admit the defeat, or give a new impetus to the series In Jesus’ Name by foiling the situation, exploiting the new power that is being imposed on me, that is, the power of the judiciary.

You discovered the judiciary power though your appearance in court. Could this constitute a fourth component to your project?
Yes, but I would not say that it would be a fourth component. It would rather be an outlet project, stemming from a situation I didn’t chose. This sequel will link together the three previous series and will probably shed a different light on them. It is likely to be a narrative rather than a photographic project. To tell the truth, I still don’t really precisely know; the legal proceedings are pending and I still have some difficulties figuring out what I could do with this. But what is certain is that as an artist, I cannot let things happen without finding an artistic outcome to this restriction on the freedom of speech.

Images from top
From the series In Jesus’ Name, 2012

From the series Protokoll, 2007

From the series Tropical Gift, 2010

All images ©Christian Lutz from the exhibition
Christian Lutz, Trilogy
Musée de l’Elysée
Lausanne, Switzerland
5th June – 1st September, 2013


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Architecture | Álvaro Siza: Buildings as Sculpture

Friday, May 24th, 2013

Álvaro Siza
Complete Works 1952-2013
Philip Jodidio
Taschen
Hardcover, 500 pages

Álvaro Siza tells a story about his first being impressed by architecture when, at the tender age of 10, he travelled with his family from their home town of Porto, Portugal, on a trip to Catalonia. In Barcelona one evening his brothers took him to Antoni Gaudí’s Sagrada Familia, which frightened him. The following day, however, taken to see Gaudí’s Casa Milà, he observed that although the building seemed to him to be a sculpture, it had the same elements – doors, locks, windows – as any house. ‘It impressed me very much, how those normal things I knew in my house could be put together to make a something else.’

For his own architecture, Siza received a formidable number of awards, among them; the European Community’s Mies van der Rohe Prize in 1988 and the Praemium Imperiale in Japan in 1997, the 2009 RIBA Gold Medal, and the Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement at the 2012 Venice Architecture Biennale. His work is strongly rooted in the modern movement, nevertheless he has a subjective approach, and continually seeks out alternative interpretations of modernism. He is noted for approaching each project with sensitivity to context without relinquishing the autonomy and strength of the new construction. In designing the Serpentine Gallery Pavilion in 2005, Siza sought to guarantee that the new building, while presenting a totally different architecture, established a dialogue with the Neo-classical gallery. While the resulting structure, based on a simple rectangular grid distorted to create a dynamic curvaceous form comprised of interlocking timber beams, mirrored the diminutive scale of the Serpentine building and made coherent use of the landscape between the two structures, it also achieved a contiguous relationship with the surrounding Park.

Siza studied at the University of Porto School of Architecture from 1949 until 1955, and opened his first practice in the city before completing his studies in 1954. Many of his best known works are in Porto: the Boa Nova Tea House (1963), Porto University’s School of Architecture (1987-1992), and the Serralves Museum of Contemporary Art (1997). During the 1980s, he undertook increasingly larger institutional projects in Portugal, including The Teachers Training College at Setubal (1991). Siza designed the Santa Maria Church in Marco de Canavezes, Portugal (1997) and the Portuguese Pavilion at Expo ‘98 in Lisbon, (with Eduardo Souto de Moura). But he had started building abroad in 1983 with the Schlesisches Tor Apartments in Berlin, Germany. In 1994, he returned to Germany to build the Vitra factory at Weil-am-Rein, the same year he designed the Centro Galiziano (Museum of Modern Art) in Santiago de Compostela, Spain. Between 1995 and 2009, in collaboration with Rudolf Finsterwalder, he worked on an architecture museum on Hombroich island, near Düsseldorf, Germany.

There’s a very touching video on YouTube, shot in 2004, of an animated converation between a 71-year-old Siza and Oscar Niemeyer ‘the man who built Brasilia‘, 21 years his senior, who died in 2012. The film is without subtitles and the two giants of architecture are speaking the Portugese language common to both, but from the drawings and buildings each sketches in the air with fingers, hands and arm movements one senses that their understanding of one another and their subject is on a higher plane than the mere spoken word. Commissions to build whole cities from scratch are few and far between, and although Siza, now 80, internationally famous and with a glittering career behind him, has come closer than many – he was awarded the Pritzker Architecture Prize in 1992 for coordinating the renovation of the Chiado area of Lisbon that was almost completely destroyed by fire in 1988, and since the mid-1970s has produced numerous designs for public housing – he hasn’t been given that particular job yet. On a smaller scale, in 2000 Siza began coordinating the rehabilitation of the monuments and architectonic heritage of Cidade Velha founded by the Portugese in 1462, on Santiago, in the African Cape Verde islands archipelago, which is now a Unesco World Heritage site.

Taschen’s heavily-illustrated, large format monologue, Álvaro Siza: Complete Works 1952-2013, by prolific author Philip Jodido, is available via the publisher’s website at £99.99/ €99.99.

Images from top
Meteorological Center of the Olympic Village, Barcelona, Spain, 1992

Iberê Camargo Foundation Museum in Porto Alegre, Brazil, 2008

Santa Maria Church and Parish Center in Marco de Canaveses, Portugal, 1997

All photos ©Duccio Malagamba

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Photography | Studio Erwin Blumenfeld

Sunday, May 19th, 2013

Blumenfeld Studio: New York, 1941-1960
Somerset House
London, UK
23rd May – 1st September, 2013

Day and night I try, in my studio with its six two-thousand watt suns,
balancing between the extremes of the impossible, to shake loose the real from
the unreal, to give visions body, to penetrate into unknown transparencies.

Erwin Blumenfeld (1897-1969)

With around 100 colour photographs as well as archive material from fashion magazines, this show at Somerset House focuses on the work Erwin Blumenfeld – one of the most influential, innovative and sought-after fashion photographers of the 1940s and 1950s – produced at his studio in New York.

Born into a Jewish family in Berlin, Blumenfeld began taking photographs when he was just ten years old. His first job was as an apprentice dressmaker, but between 1916 and 1933 he produced dadist montages in Germany, where he was closely associated with George Grosz, before moving first to Holland, then to Paris in 1936, where he met Cecil Beaton, who got him an introduction to Vogue. However, as a result of his publishing bitingly mocking collages of Adolf Hitler, Blumenfeld spent the occupation years in a concentration camp, eventually fleeing Europe with his family for the United States in 1941. In New York he worked in the studio of Martin Munkacsi until his own career started to flourish. Taken up by Russian emigré art director Alexey Brodovitch, who was fostering  the development of an expressionistic, almost primal style of picture-making at Harper’s Bazaar, Blumenfeld continued to work for Vogue, gaining him a reputation as the highest paid freelance photographer in New York. He went on to produce advertising campaigns for top cosmetics clients such as Helena Rubinstein, Elizabeth Arden and L’Oreal.

Blumenfeld had a passion for the female form, which he expressed through headily erotic images in which mirrors, gauzy fabrics, screens, wet silk and elaborately contrived shadows and angles were used to enhance or discreetly mask the body. He became a master of complex studio photography and developed sophisticated techniques of solarisation and superimposition that, even today, continue to influence photographers. The renowned fashion photographer Sølve Sundsbø recently commented: ‘Blumenfeld was shooting 60 years ago what the rest of us will be shooting in 10 years time’.

Images from top
City Lights

Support for the Red Cross
American Vogue cover, March, 1945

Grace Kelly
Cosmopolitan, 1955

Spring Fashion
American Vogue, 1953

All images ©The Estate of Erwin Blumenfeld


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Art | Savador Dalí’s ‘FruitDalí’ Series

Friday, May 17th, 2013

Impressionist and Modern Art
Bonhams
London, UK
Sale: 18th June, 2013

Fourteen Salvador Dalí originals, exhibited just once since they were commissioned in 1969 by publisher Jean-Paul Schneider, are expected to fetch £40,000-70,000 each at Bonhams Impressionist and Modern Art sale in June.

At first glance, the paintings could be mistaken for conventional decorative prints, but for the ‘FruitDalí’ series, Dali appropriates traditional nineteenth century botanical lithographs, painting over them and adding characteristically fantastic embellishments.

Anyone who has ever drawn a pair of spectacles on a face in a newspaper or magazine photograph will recognise the spirit in which Dalí subverts the every day original subject matter, sometimes, as in Erotic grapefruit, imbuing it with an overtly sexual charge, while elsewhere he creates a metamorphorsis of vegetable and human that brings to mind Edward Lear’s (1812-29) more bizarre work, or those of Swiss children’s book illustrator, Ernst Kreidolf (1863-1956).

Salvador Dalí images from top
Prunier hâtif (Hasty Plum), 1969
Gouache over 19th century botanical lithographs

Fruits troués (Pierced Fruit), 1969
Gouache over 19th century botanical lithographs

Pamplemousse érotique (Erotic Grapefruit), 1969
Watercolour, gouache and 19th Century stipple engraving


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Photography | Gio Ponti’s Photographer, Giorgio Casali

Sunday, May 5th, 2013

Giorgio Casali: Photographer / Domus 1951-1983
Architecture, Design and Art in Italy
Estorick Collection of Modern Italian Art, London, UK
22nd May, 2013 – 8th September, 2013

Italian Photographer Giorgio Casali’s (1913-1995) career took off in the 1950s when he wittily photographed Gio Ponti’s iconic super-light Superleggera chair, held up in the air with a single finger by a female model, for Domus magazine. Architect and universal talent, Ponti, founder and sometime editor of italy’s famous and very influential mid-century style bible loved the photographer’s joke, which marked the start of a collaborative relationship between the two that would endure for 30 years.

Defined by their economy, elegance and, where appropriate, playfulness, Casali’s photographs reveal his skill in presenting his subject – object or building – to its best advantage.

The images on show in Giorgio Casali: Photographer / Domus 1951-1983 at London’s Estorick Collection, span some 40 years of the photographer’s career and range from architecture – Ponti’s elegant Torre Pirelli (Milan, 1956) and Taranto Cathedral (1971) – to photographs of two celebrated lamps designed by Achille and Pier Giacomo Castiglioni – Arco (1962), pictured above, and Ipotenusa (1975). They bear witness to the extraordinary explosion of creative energy and innovation in post World War II Italian culture, making this exhibition of interest not only to designers and architects but also to anyone who recognises the power of the photographic image to capture the essence of an era.

Images from top
Office complex for Editoriale Domus in Rozzano,
designed by Studio DA and Studio Ponti, Fornaroli, Rosselli, 1971
Digital print on aluminium

Superleggera chair, designed by Gio Ponti, 1952
Manufactured by Cassina
Digital print on aluminium

View from inside an apartment in Florence, designed
by Gae Aulenti, 1971
Digital print on aluminium

Arco lamp, designed by Achille and Pier Giacomo Castiglioni, 1962
Manufactured by Flos
Digital print on aluminium

Photos Università IUAV di Venezia – Archivio Progetti, Fondo Giorgio Casali


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Sculpture | Ruth Asawa: Line as Form

Friday, May 3rd, 2013

Ruth Asawa: Objects & Apparitions
Christie’s Private Sales
Rockefeller Center
New York City, USA
Exhibition 6th -31st May, 2013

Associated with the formulation of modernism, the concept of line as form is an ineffable paradox that was first explored at the Bauhaus in the 1920s and early 30s. Unlikely then, in 1947, for high-school graduate Ruth Asawa, to stumble upon a language that expressed the complex notion in the looped-wire baskets used for selling eggs in Mexico’s markets. But the promising and curious student, born in 1926 of Japanese immigrant parents, who had grown up during The Great Depression and began studying drawing and painting with professional Japanese artists in the internment camps, where she and her family were confined during World War II, had already travelled to Mexico two years earlier to study Spanish and Mexican Art, and by the time her return visit came around had come under the influence of former Bauhaus master Josef Albers and architect Buckminster Fuller, both teachers at Black Mountain College in North Carolina, where she had enrolled. ‘The artist must discover the uniqueness and integrity of the material’, Albers had explained, and intrigued with the idea of experimenting with wire as a medium, Asawa began to loop and twist it in a similar fashion to the Mexican basket makers, producing 3D forms – essentially, drawings in space – made from a single continuous wire. ‘I was interested in wire sculpture because of the economy of a line,’ Asawa said, ‘making something in space, enclosing it without blocking it out. It’s still transparent.’ Many of these sculptures were designed to be hung from the ceiling, and later Asawa hit upon the idea of creating transparent forms within the transparent forms, increasing the complexity and playfulness of her creations.

It wasn’t until 1953 that Asawa began exhibiting her work – in the meantime having been married and given birth to two of the six children she would have by 1959 – in solo and group shows at the San Francisco Museum of Art, The Whitney Museum of Modern Art and at The Museum of Modern Art in New York. By this time she had met and formed a life-long friendship with legendary photographer Imogen Cunningham (1883 -1976). Cunningham, famed for her images of flowers, nudes and industrial landscapes, sensitively captured the sublime lightness and fluidity of Asawa’s work in still life compositions. She produced many pictures of the artist working, as well portraits in which Asawa becomes an element inextricably enmeshed with the sculptural forms of her creations.

In the 1960s, Asawa received major commissions to make public art and in 1970, her work was exhibited in the American Pavilion at the Osaka World’s Fair. So well-established as an artist was she by the early 70s that her sculpture and paintings began being shown in a string of retrospectives at important US venues – San Francisco Museum of Art (1973), Fresno Art Center (1978 and 2001). Asawa is reprented by the Rena Bransten Gallery in San Francisco. Virtually unknown in Europe, in New York, her work can be found in major collections including that of the Solomon R Guggenheim and Whitney Museum of American Art; Objects & Apparations is her first major solo show in the city in over 50 years. Forty-eight works, including sculpture and works on paper – for sale or for private loan – will be presented in a show that takes place in the elevated setting of the 20th floor of 1230 Avenue of the Americas, at Rockefeller Center. Christie’s will offer the sculpture Untitled, above, from the Ruth Asawa Family Collection at their May 15th Post-War and Contemporary Art evening sale.

Imogen Cunningham photographs from top
Ruth Asawa, Sculptor, 1956
(Ruth Holding a Form-Within-Form, 1952)

Untitled
Hanging, six-lobed, multi-layered continuous form within a form
Estimate $250-350,000 (£160-225,000)

Ruth Asawa 2, 1957

All photos: archive pictures ©Imogen Cunningham
Courtesy Christie’s New York

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