Archive for August, 2014

Sculpture | Tony Smith / Suburban Monumental

Friday, August 29th, 2014

Generation, 1965
Cast bronze, black patina
30 x 35 1/2 x 35 1/2 in / 76 x 90 x 90 cm


Tony Smith
Sculpture and Painting
Timothy Taylor Gallery
London | UK
3rd September > 4th October 2014


Emerging from a New Jersey suburb, taught by László Moholy-Nagy, employed by Frank Lloyd Wright, Tennessee Williams his best man, best friends with Jackson Pollock, father of Kiki Smith, and featured on the cover of Time magazine in 1967, the American sculptor, Tony Smith (1912-1980), rose to dizzying heights of international fame. But, through it all, his early background remained with him, because he liked it that way.

As a child, Smith was a frequent visitor at his family’s nearby factory that manufactured, among other things, the ubiquitous American, O’Brien fire hydrants – as featured in photographer Leonard Freed’s famous image. It was perhaps his early experiences there that gave him, in the early 1960s, the confidence to hand over the paper and cardboard maquettes, that were the result of his complex mathematical calculations – his studies of the construction of crystals, and of how octahedrons and tetrahedrons fitted together – to skilled crews of metalworkers, whom he would direct to construct his mammoth sculptures. He would later famously say that he never touched his own sculptures unless photographers asked him to lay a hand on them.

Smith briefly attended painting, drawing and anatomy classes in New York, when, in 1932, after visiting the International Style exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art, which had a such a profound effect upon him, he decided to study architecture in Chicago, where he would be taught by, among other, László Moholy-Nagy. Staying just one year, he left to join Frank Lloyd Wright’s studio in 1938. Starting his own architectural business a few years later, despite receiving several prominent commissions, he became disillusioned with the industry, and returned home, ostensibly – although at one stage he opened a bookstore in Newark – to concentrate on art.


Source, 1967
Cast bronze, black patina
12 1/2 x 31 x 30 1/2 in / 32 x 79 x 77

Light Box, 1961
Cast bronze, black patina
26 1/4 x 20 x 22 in / 67 x 51 56 cm

The Fourth Sign, 1974
Cast bronze, black patina
22 1/2 x 55 1/2 x 38 in / 57 x 141 x 96 cm


He would spend most of his remaining adult life in New Jersey, bringing up three daughters with his wife, Jane, two of whom, Kiki and Seton, would become artists in their own right. There were profound lessons to be learnt in banal suburbia, from the repetition of housing styles and the concrete shapes of elevated freeways, that Smith absorbed and took along with him when commuting into New York City, and which would later manifest themselves powerfully in his art. Meanwhile, in the late 1940s and 50s, he would consort with the writer Tennessee Williams and befriend the abstract expressionists, Mark Rothko and Barnet Newman, becoming especially close to Jackson Pollock – the two born in the same year – who would visit Smith’s studio and make his own small sculptures there. Earlier, in 1945, Smith had designed a chapel in Provincetown, Massachusetts, and, in 1951-52, he and Pollack collaborated on the concept for a church that was to house some of Pollock’s abstract paintings and stained glass, however the project fell through.

Smith switched from painting to sculpture in the early sixties. His rarely seen paintings, some of which will be included in the forthcoming show, Tony Smith: Sculpture and Painting – his first solo exhibition in the UK, since 2004 – at London’s Timothy Taylor Gallery, that precede his sculptural work, anticipate the latter with their instinctive arrangements of form in space. However, he was to abandon their organic and bright shapes for clean geometric lines and the signature, uniform, black finish of his large-scale, steel, three-dimensional pieces, first exhibited in 1964. His first one-man show was in 1966. The same year, his work was included in Primary Structures, one of the most important American exhibitions of the 1960s, at the Jewish Museum, New York City. In 1967, Time magazine called Smith ‘Master of the Monumentalists’, springboarding him to global fame.


Untitled, 1960
Oil on canvas
30 1/8 x 24 in. / 77 x 61 cm


Throughout his career, Smith taught at colleges and universities, including New York University, Cooper Union, and Pratt Institute. Kiki Smith, has said that her father’s work contained deep emotion, and that it was he who opened up the eyes of her and her sister to using whatever they wanted to use, to create their art. And, as intensely personal as his work was, there was something human and inclusive about the way he wished viewers to participate in his works – by moving around them, or passing through the spaces he created under and within them. The same was true of the artist’s attitude to the naming of his pieces. Tau, 1961-1962, for example, looked at from one angle suggests a giant letter ‘T’ – Smith himself was often called ‘T’ by friends and those that worked with him – so the title he gave it is the Greek for ‘T’. Although his sculpture work is often seen to have figurative associations, it presaged and was influential upon the minimal art that followed in the wake of abstract expressionism, with artists such as Donald Judd – incidentally, from the same New Jersey suburban area as Smith – adopting similar industrial manufacturing techniques.

In 1998, the Museum of Modern Art, New York, mounted a major retrospective of Tony Smith’s sculpture, architecture, and painting, which was followed by a European retrospective in 2002, in Valencia, Spain. Later, in 2010, Houston’s Menil Collection, hosted a show of his works on paper. In 2012, marking what would have been Smith’s 100th birthday an outdoor installation was installed in New York’s Bryant Park. His work is included in major international collections, including the Museum of Modern Art, New York; the Menil Collection, Houston; the National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC; the Los Angeles County Museum of Art; the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis; the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, and the Kröller-Müller Museum, Netherlands.

All sculptures © Tony Smith, courtesy Timothy Taylor Gallery, London and Matthew Marks Gallery, which represents the Tony Smith estate.

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All Categories | The Blog Will Return Next Week

Friday, August 22nd, 2014

Untitled #1, Norfolk, UK

Untitled #2, Norfolk, UK

Untitled #3, Norfolk, UK

Photographs by Pedro Silmon, 2014




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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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Art | Daniel Buren in Situ

Friday, August 15th, 2014

Above and below
20 Diamonds for the Façade: work in situ
,
2014
Transparent vinyl, white opaque (blue, green, red, yellow)



Daniel Buren
Catch as catch can: works in situ
Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art
Gateshead | UK
Until 12th October, 2014




Thirty metres high, and extending to the full height of the glazed section of the Baltic’s west elevation, Daniel Buren’s 20 Diamonds for the Façade: work in situ – a series of giant transparent diamond shapes – transforms the exterior of the one time flour mill building, on the Gateshead side of the river Tyne, into a giant stained glass windowed, modern cathedral. Inside, the lift well, stairs and passageways saturated in richly coloured light, the effect comes close to spiritual; a welcome sanctuary on a typically rainy mid-summer’s day on Tyneside.

Not exactly a strong signal, more a constant peripheral blip, Daniel Buren has been on my radar since wandering around Paris on another rainy day in late 1986, I first stumbled across – Les Deux Plateaux, known colloquially as the Colonnes de Buren – the English translation ‘Buren’s Columns’ sounds unexciting, but they are anything but – at the Palais-Royal. Although I knew then that it was one of François Mitterand’s Grand Projects, I wouldn’t discover the title of the work until I began researching this post.

14 Rising Cubes Bas-relief (yellow), situated work 2014
paint, plywood and black tape



2 Rising Cubes Bas-relief (paprika), situated work 2014
paint, plywood and black tape



Notwithstanding his longevity as an artist, it comes as a surprise to read in the Baltic’s press release for their exhibition, Daniel Buren, Catch as catch can: works in situ, that he is ‘ widely considered to be France’s greatest living artist, and one of the most influential and important figures in contemporary art for the last 50 years’. Having exhibited work in some of the world’s major galleries and museums – The Solomon R Guggenheim in New York in 2005, the Centre Pompidou, Paris, in 2002 – as well as representing France 10 times at the Venice Biennale, where he was awarded the Golden Lion in 1986, having realised public interventions in Tokyo and Berlin, and most recently at Monumenta 2012 at Paris’s Grand Palais, the artist nevertheless lacks the omnipresence of close American contemporaries like James Turrell and the late Dan Flavin. And what about French installation artist, Christian Boltanski, isn’t he just as prominent as Buren in the global art world? That is not to say, as this exhibition amply demonstrates, that Buren isn’t worthy of, and is less deserving of fame than Turrell, or Flavin, or indeed Boltanski. His public profile is just somehow less pronounced, his works less familiar.

Catch as catch can: work in situ, 2014
10 mirrors framed with white opaque vinyl, transparent vinyl
(7 colours) on skylights



Graduating as a painter from the Ecole Nationale Supérieure des Métiers d’Art in Paris in 1960, Daniel Buren (born 1938) soon became involved in conceptual art, creating works that drew attention to the indoor, or later outdoor, context in which they were installed. At an early stage, 8.7 centimetre wide vertical stripes, colour or black alternated with white, became his obsession and were to become his signature. Appropriately for the era when neo-classicism took hold among architects in the 1980s, the stripes appeared on the simplified, classical columns that made up Les Deux Plateaux, but although time and architecture have moved on, Buren doggedly persists in including them on or in almost everything he produces.

There’s a rare chance to see a selection of Buren’s reliefs, paintings and sculpture from the past seven years in the Baltic’s Level 3 gallery, which includes the striped, luminous fibre-optic works of his Electric Light series, 2011, as well as a number of astonishingly powerful, geometric, bas-relief wall pieces that bring to mind something of Donald Judd’s work with the square and cube. However, due to the persistence of the stripes, (2 x 8.7cm) in this instance, running up the narrow edges of each piece, these fall short of being truly minimal statements.

Que La Lumiére Soit (Let there be light), situated work 2011
Woven fibre optic, LED (white, green), metal box



It’s a brave man who conjures with North East England’s perpetually changing weather and light conditions, but Buren enjoys the challenge of producing site specific pieces, and has worked with the architecture of the Baltic’s huge Level 4 gallery to realise a single, large scale installation, commissioned specially for and after which the exhibition is titled: Catch as catch can: works in situ. Here, a series of large, square and rectangular, framed mirrors set at an angle to the floor, capture the natural light entering through existing windows set into the roof that Buren has covered in a rectangular pattern made up of coloured vinyl that constantly alter how and where the light falls within the gallery, and the way in which it is reflected in the mirrors, creating an animated, immersive space. Stripes extend along each vertical edge of the mirrors and are reduced to squares on the top and bottom edges, in my opinion, an anachronistic affectation, adding unnecessary clutter.

All images are photo-souvenirs of the exhibition event by Daniel Buren
Photos John McKenzie © DB-ADAGP Paris, courtesy Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art



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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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All Categories | The Blog Team is on Holiday

Friday, August 1st, 2014

Kielder Water from below the Kielder Observatory, Northumberland, UK

Kielder Observatory, by Charles Barclay Architects, completed 2008

Photographs by Pedro Silmon, 2014




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The Blog is about art, architecture, books, design and gardens, 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

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