Archive for May, 2016

Exhibitions | Moholy-Nagy: Future Present Plus

Friday, May 27th, 2016

Photogram, 1926
Gelatin silver photogram
Los Angeles County Museum of Art,
Ralph M Parsons Fund
Photo © Museum Associates/LACMA



Moholy-Nagy: Future Present
Solomon R Guggenheim Museum
NYC | USA
27 May > September 2016



Construction AL6 (Konstruktion AL6), 1933 > 34
Oil and incised lines on aluminium
IVAM, Institut Valencià d’Art Modern, Generalitat



We were taking a look at the Bauhaus and specifically the work of MOHOLY-NAGY, whose surname our enthusiastic art teacher spelled out for us in large capital letters on the chalkboard – I know now he didn’t know how to pronounce it properly. He’d also dispensed with his subject’s first name, László, which he was probably on similar uncertain terms with. This was in the late 1960s when detailed information on 20th century avant garde art and artists was relatively sparse, and a few years prior to the last major retrospective of László Moholy-Nagy’s (1895 > 1946) work in the United States.

The Solomon R Guggenheim Museum, describing their forthcoming Moholy-Nagy: Future Present retrospective, which includes some 300 works by the Hungarian painter, photographer, typographer, film-maker, theorist, Bauhaus professor (1923 > 1928), director of the short-lived New Bauhaus in Chicago, and founder of Chicago’s Institute of Design, gathered from a wide range of international sources, explains that despite his prominence during his lifetime, few previous exhibitions have conveyed the experimental nature of Moholy-Nagy’s work – his enthusiasm for industrial materials, his radical innovations with movement and light. This may be so in the US, but in Germany the Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt showed some of the same experimental pieces, albeit a smaller selection, in 2009.

Room of the Present (Raum der Gegenwart),
Constructed in 2009 from plans
and other documentation dated 1930

Mixed media
Installation view: Play Van Abbe – Part 2:
Time Machines,
Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven,
April 10 > September 12, 2010
Photo Peter Cox, courtesy Art Resource, New York



B‑10 Space Modulator, 1942
Oil and incised lines on perspex in original frame
Solomon R Guggenheim Museum, New York



Dual Form with Chromium Rods, 1946
Perspex and chrome-plated brass
Solomon R Guggenheim Museum, New York
Photo Kristopher McKay
© Solomon R Guggenheim Foundation, New York



Exhibitions such as these are important and provide vital opportunities for seeing carefully-curated and well-presented original works in the round and at full scale, and each brings something new that extends our understanding of a particular artist’s oeuvre. Related lectures and films are often presented and extensive catalogues produced that serve to extend the event itself and bring in additional revenue for the venue. It’s also true to say that, since the 1960s, and especially since open-access historical archives have been made available online by many institutions, in recent decades research facilities available to the general public (as well as teachers) have improved beyond measure. As a prelude to visiting a show, or as a post-visit extension of it, whereby we build on our experiences and impressions, each of us – with a little effort – is now in a position to examine complex artists such as Moholy-Nagy – everyone tends only to use his surname and has learn how to pronounce it correctly via the internet – in great detail and with relative ease.

The Moholy-Nagy Foundation was set up in 2003, and has a comprehensive online image database featuring work in every medium he experimented in, as well as dependable biographical details and a photo library. There’s more, too, presented from other viewpoints at Bauhaus Online and elsewhere on the sites of galleries and museums where exhibitions of his have been presented.

By viewing exhibitions, reading publications and looking at website information about the artists who worked before, at the same time, and after the period in which Moholy-Nagy was active, it’s possible to see what influenced him, how he related to and influenced others, and to place him in an accurate and broad historical perspective. For instance, perhaps it was coincidental, but although the Calder Foundation site claims that Alexander Calder, following a visit to Piet Mondrian’s studio made his first wholly abstract compositions and invented the kinetic sculpture in 1930, Moholy-Nagy’s kinetic sculpture Light-Space-Modulator, designed in 1922, was exhibited for the first time in Paris, also in 1930. And, while MoMA’s site explains that Man Ray claimed to have invented the photogram (christening it the Rayogram) in Paris in 1921 – although the practice had existed since the earliest days of photography – less than a year later, Moholy-Nagy was making his own photograms. Argentine-born Italian artist Lucio Fontana founded the Spazialismo (spatialism) movement in 1947, stating in its manifesto that art should embrace science and technology, but it’s not difficult for us to discover elsewhere that this principle, had been the cornerstone of Moholy-Nagy’s practice since he drew his first inspiration from the Russian constructivists in 1918.

In the 21st century exhibitions such as Moholy-Nagy: Future Present at the Solomon R Guggenheim Museum, once viewed as self-contained events, have come to represent points of both arrival and departure for those wishing to educate themselves about art.

All artworks created by László Moholy-Nagy
© 2016 Hattula Moholy-Nagy/VG Bild-Kunst,
Bonn/Artists Rights
Society (ARS), New York
All images courtesy © Solomon R Guggenheim Foundation, New York


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

The Blog’s publishers 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 that may, under any circumstances whatsoever, fall due, must be borne by the source supplier

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Design | Olivetti’s Anti-Machine Ethos

Friday, May 20th, 2016

Poster for the Valentine typewriter,
Designed by Walter Ballmer, 1969
Courtesy Associazione Archivio
Storico Olivetti, Ivrea, Italy



Olivetti: Beyond Form and Function
ICA Fox Reading Room
London | UK
25 May > 17 July 2016



Olivetti Showroom, Venice, Italy
Designed by Carlo Scarpa, 1958
Both photos Marco Ambrosi
Courtesy of Navone Associati, Milan



My first typewriter was an Olivetti Praxis 20 Electronic Typewriter, designed by Mario Bellini in 1983. At the time I couldn’t type. I bought it because I admired its sculptural beauty. Even now, having used computer keyboards for some 30 years I remain a one finger typist. If not for Olivetti’s pioneering and beautifully designed products and their attention to the environments in which they were sold and used – hailed as the precursors to the user-friendly Apple products that began to appear in the late 1990s and and the Apple stores that followed – it’s possible that the world may not have taken up desktop and personal technology quite so swiftly or as readily as it has over the past three decades.

Polymath Ettore Sottsass, who was responsible for designing the bright red Valentine portable typewriter (above) – produced by Olivetti from 1969 to 1975 – once remarked: ‘When I began designing machines I also began to think that these objects, which sit next to each other and around people, can influence not only physical conditions but also emotions. They can touch the nerves, the blood, the muscles, the eyes and the moods of people. Since then I have never designed a product in the same way as I would design a sculpture, and I have been utterly obsessed with the idea that by designing an object or a machine I would be setting off a chain reaction of which I understood very little.’

Poster for the Divissuma 24 calculator
Designed by Herbert Bayer, 1950s
Courtesy Associazione Archivio
Storico Olivetti, Ivrea, Italy



Olivetti Lettera 22, poster
Designed by Giovanni Pintori, 1954
Courtesy Associazione Archivio
Storico Olivetti, Ivrea, Italy



Adriano Olivetti had established the importance of design as a pillar of the company founded by his equally forward thinking father in 1908 in Ivrea, Italy, that was growing at a phenomenal rate. As the company expanded and occupied more and more space within the city, hiring some of the country’s leading architects, the philanthropically-minded Adriano built carefully planned new neighbourhoods with abundant green space and compact apartment blocks to accommodate the expanding workforce. Arguing that because workers inside must see the mountains and valleys where they come from, and that people outside the factory should be able to observe what was going on inside, the new factory buildings were built almost entirely of glass.

In the 1950s designer Australian designer Gordon Andrews and FHK Henrion, a key figure of British post-war design, were asked to create the Olivetti London Kingsway showroom, and in 1957 Adriano commissioned architect Carlo Scarpa to design the showroom in Venice – opened in 1958, restored in 2011 – on the basis that it would be a space designed to show the products, but also to showcase Scarpa’s talent as an architect.

Sottsass was brought on board as a consultant in 1958, and in 1959 Adriano’s son, Roberto, insisted that he be allowed to design the Tekne, which would transform the typewriter into the first systematically conceived business machine. That same year Olivetti won the prestigious Compasso d’Oro with the Elea 9003, the first Italian electronic calculator (computer). Under Roberto Olivetti’s aegis, with the engineer, Mario Tchou, and using his ‘anti-machine machine’ approach, Sottsass’s relationship with the company thrived and he went on to create a series of technically innovative products that thanks to his love of pop art and interest in beat culture looked and felt very much of the moment.

Olivetti Showroom, Barcelona, Spain,
Designed by BBPR, 1965
Photo F Català Roca
Courtesy of Navone Associati, Milan



Numerous other well-know designers, architects and artists including Gae Aulenti, Louis Kahn, Le Corbusier, Mario Bellini, Milton Glaser, and Herbert Bayer were commissioned by Olivetti, who had also established a commercial art department within the company in 1937. From 1940 to 1967 this was led by the innovative and versatile Giovanni Pintori whose approach and aims: ‘I have always believed in the strength of simple ideas and the demand for clear, immediate language that is accessible to everyone. This doesn’t mean that the language of graphics is downgraded to the most common taste. Just the opposite: it means that the language intends to improve average tastes,’ sum up the progressive cultural ideals at the heart of the company’s ethos: a model that still resonates today.

Olivetti: Beyond Form and Function at the ICA Fox Reading Room presents Olivetti’s design work from the mid-20th century.

All images courtesy the ICA


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The Blog’s publishers 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 that may, under any circumstances whatsoever, fall due, must be borne by the source supplier


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Art | Edward Kienholz: Five Car Stud

Friday, May 13th, 2016

Edward Kienholz
Detail of Five Car Stud, 1969 > 1972
Mixed media tableau
Dimensions variable
© Kienholz
Courtesy L A Louver, Venice, CA
Photo © Tom Vinetz 2011



Kienholz: Five Car Stud
Fondazione Prada
Milan | Italy
19 May > 31 December 2016



Edward Kienholz
Five Car Stud, 1969 > 1972
Mixed media tableau
Dimensions variable
© Kienholz
Courtesy L A Louver, Venice, CA
Photo © Tom Vinetz 2011



The American artist Edward Kienholz died in 1994 and was buried in a 1940 Packard coupé. The forthcoming presentation at Fondazione Prada of his ghoulish Five Car Stud installation feels something like an exhumation. The artwork, produced between 1969 and 1972, having been first exhibited in 1972 at Documenta 5 in Kassel, and the subject of great controversy at the time, barely shown in public thereafter, was buried deep within a private collection in Japan for almost forty years.

Five Car Stud is a life-sized reproduction, complete in every harrowing detail, of a night scene of brutal racial violence. Lit by the headlights of four cars and a pickup truck, set in an isolated location, a black man portrayed with a double face – one expresses sadness and resignation, the other terror and rage –  has been knocked to the ground. Four white men wearing gruesome masks, pin him down as another prepares to castrate him. While his terrified son looks on from the passenger seat of his car, a sixth masked man stands guard with a shotgun. Shocked and powerless, a white woman – the victim’s date – is forced to witness his ordeal.

Everyone has heard of the beat generation writers – William S Burroughs, Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac – but beat generation artists such as Edward Kienholz (1927 > 1994), who shared the literary movement’s ideals of rejecting materialism and the creation of explicit portrayals of the human condition, are perhaps less familiar. Kienholz grew up in Washington State and never attended art college. By working at various times as a nurse, bar-owner, car dealer, handyman (his truck carried the inscription Ed Kienholz – Expert), he gained experience and insights that would provide invaluable inspiration for the ‘art of repulsion’, based on realistic, re-imagined situations, he wanted to create.

Having relocated to Los Angeles in 1953, adopting assemblage as his medium Kienholz embarked on a creative route that led him to make small-scale ‘tableaux’ such as O’er the Ramparts We Watched, Fascinated (1959), which is included in this exhibition. Not included, but as forceful, visceral and grimy as Burrough’s prose, Kienholz’s The Beanery (1965) forms part of Amsterdam’s Stedelijk Museum collection, and is a life-sized reconstruction of a decaying bar on Santa Monica Boulevard. The artist applied a special paste – a mixture of beer, rancid fat, urine, mothballs and cigarette ash – to his creation to give it the authentic stink. In terms of ambition it can be seen as a portent to Five Car Stud.

Edward & Nancy Reddin Kienholz
The Bronze Pinball Machine with Woman Affixed Also, 1980
Mixed media assemblage
© Kienholz
Courtesy L A Louver, Venice, CA



Edward & Nancy Reddin Kienholz
Jody, Jody, Jody, 1993-94
Mixed media tableau
© Kienholz
Courtesy L A Louver, Venice, CA



Like many of the later twentieth century art genres, assemblage had its roots in cubism and dada. Indeed, Kienholz’s work first gained national exposure when it was shown alongside that of European artists Picasso, Kurt Schwitters and Marcel Duchamp, among others, in The Art of Assemblage at New York’s Museum of Modern Art in 1961, after which he began to gain international recognition. However, in terms of content and treatment, Kienholz’s approach had more in common with the German Neue Sachlichkeit artists’ Otto Dix and George Grosz’s unforgiving depiction of Weimar Society and the First World War. By 1970, his 11+11 Tableaux exhibition was being presented in Stockholm, Amsterdam, Düsseldorf, Paris, Zürich and London.

From 1972 onwards, Kienholz worked in exclusive collaboration with his wife, Nancy Reddin Kienholz. Constantly travelling between their homes in Hope, Idaho and Berlin, and later Texas, the couple produced shockingly thought-provoking pieces such as in The Bronze Pinball Machine with Woman Affixed Also (1980), in which a woman’s spread legs and exposed vagina cast in bronze are attached to a pinball machine, the female body relegated to an object of sexual entertainment. The artwork Jody, Jody, Jody (1994), inspired by a single real life event, is nevertheless a comment on general attitudes toward child abuse. Both pieces (shown here) will be shown in Milan.

Their human scale, and composition – leftover bits of mannequin dummies, threadbare clothing, or plaster casts of real human bodies, and real wristwatches – render Kienholz’s installations unnervingly realistic. The viewer may experience repulsion or sympathy but is instantly transformed into a voyeur, participation is mandatory and unavoidable.

Following restoration Five Car Stud appeared in 2011 and 2012, first at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and then at the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art in Denmark. Today it is part of the Prada Collection, and is being shown for the first time ever in Italy in this eponymously titled show at Fondazione Prada.

All images courtesy Fondazione Prada


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The Blog’s publishers 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 that may, under any circumstances whatsoever, fall due, must be borne by the source supplier


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Photography | Kathy Ryan: Modern Times

Friday, May 6th, 2016

Office Romance, 5:39 p.m. October 30, 2014



Office Romance, 9:15 a.m. August 14, 2014



Office Romance, 9:43 a.m. September 23, 2013



Kathy Ryan
Office Romance
Howard Greenberg Gallery
New York City | USA
Until 19 June 2016



To say that Kathy Ryan knows her subject inside out is an understatement. She shot every image in this exhibition inside the New York Times building – the workplace she loves. But the visual subjects that matter to her are not restricted to architect Renzo Piano’s landmark structure (built 2000-2007); although nowadays her more appropriate title is director of photography, Ryan has been chief picture editor of The New York Times Magazine since 1987.

Office Romance, 10:32 a.m. September 17, 2015



Office Romance, 9:54 a.m. November 20, 2015



Office Romance, 9:59 a.m. August 11, 2013



Ryan is one of the few who commission and select photography for prominent editorial publications who have become legendary. Echoes of legendary photographers’ work – Man RayLaszlo Moholy NagyBerenice AbbotErwin Blumenfeld – are evident in hers, and serve as evidence of the gamut of her visual knowledge. Here the atmosphere pays homage to painter Edward Hopper, there the minimal treatment is reminiscent of some of Frank Stella’s stripe work. However there is nothing nostalgic in her pictures, which were first published on her Instagram feed (kathyryan1 with 96K followers); she has a great talent for commissioning new and interesting contemporary photography, often from unexpected sources, in particular from artist photographers such as Taryn Simon and Thomas Struth, among many others. Kathy Ryan’s own pioneering spirit is reflected in these intimate images from her everyday world.

Each 6 x 6 inch (15.25 x 15.25cm) image produced as an archival pigment print on 14 x 11 inch (35.55 x 27.95cm) paper for Kathy Ryan, Office Romance at Howard Greenberg Gallery, was photographed on Ryan’s iPhone. Office Romance was published in book form by Aperture in 2014.

All images courtesy Howard Greenberg Gallery


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

The Blog’s publishers 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 that may, under any circumstances whatsoever, fall due, must be borne by the source supplier


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