Posts Tagged ‘Donald Judd’

Design | Functional Sculpture

Friday, May 15th, 2015

Philippe Hiqily,
Henri Samuel chair,
designed 1975,
2004 edition

Sotheby’s estimate:
€20,000 > 30,000

Design, Vent du soir /
Design Day Sale
Paris | France
Exhibition 15 + 16 + 18 + 19 May 2015
Sale 19 May 2015


Design 20e siècle /
20th Century Design

Paris | France
Exhibition 16 + 18 May 2015
Sale 21 May 2015

Charlotte Perriand,
Free form table / desk,
designed 1956.
Steph Simon edition c 1960
Solid saple wood.
Christie’s estimate:
€120,000 > 180,000

Along with everyone else in the Sculpture Garden at MoMA, you can sit, looking cool – imagining you’re a sculpture yourself – on sculptor Harry Bertoia’s sculptural Side chairs. But you can’t do it indefinitely, because, if we’re being completely honest, they aren’t really that comfortable, especially if the little pad that prevents the supermarket trolley style grid from embedding itself into your bottom, is missing. On the Knoll website – they produce and market Bertoia’s furniture – it says that Harry, who was primarily a sculptor, ‘found sublime grace in an industrial material, elevating it beyond its normal utility into a work of art.’ But surely, since chairs, and, for that matter, any other item of furniture must be functional, the Side chair is disqualified from ‘art’ status. Does it matter one way or the other?

Georges Jouve,
Mirror, c 1955
Glazed ceramic.
Christie’s estimate:
€8,000 > 12,000

Jean Prouvé,
Table, c 1939
Painted and folded sheet steel.
Christie’s estimate:
€80,000 > 100,000

It would seem that Donald Judd, who created sculpture that looked like furniture and furniture that might be art, thought it did. An extract from a 1993 Judd essay called It’s hard to find a good lamp reads: ‘…[S]omeone asked me to design a coffee table. I thought that a work of mine, which was essentially a rectangular volume, with the upper surface recessed, could be altered. This debased the work and produced a bad table, which I later threw away. The configuration and the scale of art cannot be transposed into furniture and architecture. The intent of art is different from that of the latter, which must be functional. If a chair or a building is not functional, if it appears to be only art, it is ridiculous… A work of art exists as itself; a chair exists as a chair itself.’

Serge Mouille,
Pair of wall sconces with
Saturn motif, c 1957
Black + white lacquered metal
Sotheby’s estimate:
€4,000 > 6,000

Pierre Chareau,
Desk MB 405 + stool SN 3, c 1928
Wrought iron and rosewood
veneer desk + wrought
iron and rosewood stool
Sotheby’s estimate:
€250,000 > 350,000

On the other hand, as Design Museum Director Deyan Sudjic said in his 2008 obituary about the great Italian designer/architect Ettore Sottsass: ‘We live in a world which values the useless ahead of the useful, which celebrates art, untainted by the least hint of utility, above the ingenuity of design that is burdened by function, and creates a cultural hierarchy to match. It was perhaps the greatest achievement of Sottsass’s long and remarkable career that he made this distinction irrelevant.’

Zaha Hadid’s designs for amorphous benches and stools are intended to blur the line between utility and sculpture. Like her architecture, their streamlined curvaceousness isn’t purely functional, nor is it merely decorative. They are functional pieces, in that they are meant to be sat on, but just having them around enlivens a space and raises the spirits, rendering them objects of desire.

Eugène Printz,
Modernist console, c 1931
Palm wood veneer
Sotheby’s estimate:
€30,000 > 50,000

Many of the – in theory – functional, and sought after items being sold in the forthcoming Christie’s ParisDesign, Vent du soir /Design Day Sale, and in Design 20e Siècle / 20th Century Design at Sotheby’s Paris, including those shown here, were designed in the modern period, but, ironically, their sculptural qualities a result of their creators’ uncompromising searches for authenticity, they could easily be taken as examples of the rule-breaking that came to be a defining characteristic of postmodernism.

All images courtesy Christie’s and Sotheby’s, respectively.
Donald Judd quote © Judd Foundation.

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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 which may, under any circumstances whatsoever, fall due, must be borne by the source supplier

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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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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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Books | Art School Archive

Thursday, November 21st, 2013

Paul Winstanley: Art School
Text by Jon Thompson with an interview by Maria Fusco
Published by Ridinghouse, 2013
288pp, Hardback

The relatively permanent studios belonging to established artists have little in common with those in which, year after year, an endless succession of British undergraduate fine art students work towards achieving their degrees. Each summer, in preparation for a fresh intake, art school studios are cleaned out and white-washed over, leaving little trace of their previous occupants – those having now or long since, through talent or good fortune, become successful, famous; others who fell foul of mediocrity or plain laziness; those who lost interest, the failures – so that nothing but the anonymous emptiness of the spaces themselves remains.

The substance of this nothingness became the subject matter for artist Paul Winstanley. His art school photographs, taken at over 50 colleges throughout England, Scotland and Wales during the summers of 2011 and 2012, are unsensational. Shot in straightforward documentary style, he refers to them as an archive. Their palpable silence, their sameness as much as their differences, draw the viewer’s curiosity to examine them closely and to compare them, one with another, while publisher Ridinghouse’s new book Paul Winstanley; Art School allows us to consider them in total as a body of work.

Having exhibited his paintings since the 1970s, Winstanley taught part-time during the 80s and 90s at Falmouth then at Goldsmiths, London. In some ways, through these photographs he is perhaps tracing the course and experiences of his own educational journey. Born in 1954, he attended Lanchester Polytechnic – now Coventry University – from 1972-73, then from 1973-76 was at Cardiff College of Art, after which he went to the Slade School of Art (1976-78). But it was during his teaching years that the idea began to germinate. At the time, however, involved in paintings of interiors – TV rooms, lounges, waiting rooms – that were institutional in nature, he put the concept to one side. Returning to it later, he began to consider the empty studio spaces as empty potential, which led to his visiting a few colleges, ostensibly, to take some reference photographs. He had often used photographs before to assist with his paintings, however, now realising the documentary value of photography and its suitability for recording the fine detail of the locations that he wished to show, unaltered, exactly as he found them, decided to make it the actual medium for the project.

An exercise in minimalism, Paul Winstanley: Art School is sensitively-designed. Its matt varnished cover, in putty and grey hues, the sparse elements in the photograph suggesting a shallow bass-relief, bring to mind details of the disused ex-US Air Force base and town buildings bought and recommissioned by the late artist Donald Judd – now administered by the Chinati Foundation – at Marfa, Texas, for use as gallery spaces and offices. The inside pages are without folios – a simple list of the British cities Winstanley visited providing the only clue to the locations of the uncaptioned pictures that follow, all of which are shot with rigidly identical perspective and reproduced in the same, upright format. A blank page on the left of a double-spread, is (I think) the only indication that the images of one art school are finished and another begun. While the main section of the book is printed on a luxuriously-heavy, white, smooth-coated stock, with semi-gloss varnish over each picture, at the back the essay by Jon Thompson and interview by Maria Fusco, both appear on lightly cream-tinged uncoated paper.

Coinciding with the publication of the book, the exhibition Art School, which includes new paintings and photographs by the artist is running at the Kerlin Gallery, Dublin, Eire until 7th January, 2014.

Paul Winstanley photographs from top
Art School 96, 2011–12
Art School 136, 2011–12
Art School 50, 2011–12
Art School 224, 2011–12

All photos ©Paul Winstanley. Courtesy the artist and Ridinghouse, London
All taken at f2.8 with a Cannon 5D Mark 2 camera, using a 24-70mm lens in natural light, where possible

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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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Show & Auction | Lucio Fontana, The Last Futurist

Friday, November 18th, 2011

Modern & Contemporary Art and Identita’ Italiana

Sotheby’s Milan, Exhibition until 22nd November, 2011
Auction 22nd & 23rd November, 2011

‘And what is there to see in an old picture except the laborious contortions of an artist throwing himself against the barriers that thwart his desire to express his dream completely?’ – Extract from The Futurist Manifesto, first published in France’s Le Figaro in 1909.

Much as the Italian Futurists, whom he would have been aware of in this youth, Lucio Fontana (1899-1968) was perhaps seen as getting rather carried away by his own enthusiasm when in the 1950s he declared: ‘I make holes; infinity passes through them; light passes through them, there is no need to paint.’

This is the man who slashed his own canvases and slit open his sculptures. I’d like to use the occasion of this Sotheby’s auction in Milan, in which six of his works go under the hammer, alongside paintings and sculpture from many of Italy’s most revered 20th century artists, among them: Giacomo Balla, Arturo Martini,Giorgio de Chirico, Massimo Campigli, Mario Sironi, Alberto Savinio, Renato Birolli, Luigi Ontani, Gastone Novelli and Domenico Gnoli, to extrapolate a theory I have developed concerning Lucio Fontana.

Fontana, was born in Argentina of Italian immigrant parents, his father being a sculptor. He was in Italy studying engineering when WWI broke out and fought in it. Afterwards he studied sculpture in Milan but soon returned to Argentina before settling once more in Italy. Despite having, with some Italian artist friends, gone to Paris – like de Chirico had, more than a decade before – to join one of the many factions of modern artists there – the Abstraction-Création group – contradictorily, his first one-man abstract art show having happened the year before, Fontana’s sensitive, equine, figurative bronze Bozzetto per i ‘Cavalli che seguono la Vittoria’, 1936, (above middle, and included in the sale) dates from this period. It’s interesting to note, though, that these horses are moving, not static, and the younger one is a little ahead of its parent. 1939 finds Fontana back in Argentina where he founds a private academy and with some of his students writes the Manifesto Blanco, demanding the synthesis of artistic genres and the renunciation of traditional art materials. It recognised that: ’We live in the mechanical age. Painted canvas and upright plaster no longer have a reason to exist.’ In their place, his idea was to merge technology and art to create something entirely new and more suited to the time. Back in Milan in 1947 he wrote another manifesto: Primo Manifesto dello Spezialismo, demanding a new form of space-oriented art. At the time his concept would have seemed improbable and grandiose: to synthesize space, sound, colour, movement and time into a new kind of art.

In 1949, his fiftieth year, Fontana punched holes through painted canvases and created his first spatial environment: an experiment with shapeless objects painted in fluorescent colours illuminated by ultra-violet light to be viewed in a darkened room. Seemingly manifesto-mad, in the 1950s he wrote another three of them and continued to conduct further experiments, slashing and perforating his paintings and sculptures, and even including neon lights, memorably at the 1966 Venice Biennale where he installed an ultra-violet light-room and a violet neon-room. His uncompromising Concetto spaziale, Attesa,1964 (above top, and in the sale), is perhaps the most bald and direct of his attempts to shock the viewer into the realisation that he is not looking at a flat plane. In slashing the canvas he attempts to bring the background – the wall behind – into the painting, giving it another dimension, making the painting into an object or sculpture. Earlier in the century, the Cubists had of course already experimented with this idea but Fontana wanted to push it further. Around about this time, many of his pieces were named Concetto Spaziele, the pierced sculptural form (above bottom, and in the sale) is one of them; here his object is to blur the difference between a solid, rounded, bean-shaped object and a hollow one, thus allowing the inside as well as the outside surface to have a presence.

Looking beyond the limits of the picture, exploring space and science fiction to connect the new art to the dramatic technological and social changes taking place in the middle of the 20th Century, Fontana’s outlook was enormously influential. Ahead of his time, with so many vague and unformed but interesting ideas, it is fair to say that his spatial concept foreshadowed installation and environmental art and his promotion of gesture as art prompted performance as art. A long list of artists emerging in the 1960s and later all owe him a great debt, among them: Donald Judd, Dan Flavin, Jenny Holzer, James Turrell, Laurie Anderson, Bill Viola, Christo, Fiona BannerMartin Creed

We will sing of great crowds excited by work, by pleasure, and by riot; we will sing of the multicoloured, polyphonic tides of revolution in the modern capitals; we will sing of the vibrant nightly fervour of arsenals and shipyards blazing with violent electric moons; greedy railway stations that devour smoke-plumed serpents; factories hung on clouds by the crooked lines of their smoke; bridges that stride the rivers like giant gymnasts, flashing in the sun with a glitter of knives; adventurous steamers that sniff the horizon; deep-chested locomotives whose wheels paw the tracks like the hooves of enormous steel horses bridled by tubing; and the sleek flight of planes whose propellers chatter in the wind like banners and seem to cheer like an enthusiastic crowd. Extract from The Futurist Manifesto, 1909.

Lucio Fontana may well have been the last Futurist.

Works from top
Concetto spaziale, Attesa, 1964
Bozzetto per i ‘Cavalli che seguono la Vittoria’, 1936
Concetto Spaziale, Undated

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Design | 21st Century Boys

Monday, May 16th, 2011

Barber Osgerby
Industrial design studio

I obviously haven’t been paying attention. Edward Barber and Jay Osgerby’s eponymously-named design company has been around for quite a while but I must admit to not having heard of it until I shot some portraits – as a predominantly garden and plant photographer, a departure for me – of architects, Adam and Irenie Cossey and their children to go with those I’d already done of the interiors – another new departure – of their beautiful home in London’s Islington. Two of the Cossey kids, love the Barber Osgerby-designed Home dining table almost as much as their parents, see below.

Irenie Cossey, who trained as an architect had been involved – via the specialist retail interior design practice Universal Design Studio on aspects of the new Mulberry flagship store in London’s Bond Street – with Barber Osgerby and had several items of their furniture, including the elegant, Corian-topped dining table for Isokon Plus. I came across the duo again quite recently when I discovered that their polypropylene Tip Ton chair for Vitra, above, was a big hit at this year’s Milan Furniture Fair.

I’m writing this and have done some retrospective research as much for my own education as that of any of The Blog’s followers so, if you already know all of this stuff, just skip the next paragraph….

Looking at the list of their achievements on their simple but well-designed website, I can’t believe Barber Osgerby escaped my attention for so long. They founded their partnership as long ago as 1996 after studying architecture at the Royal College of Art, London, of which I’m also an Alumni. Isokon Plus produced their Loop chair the following year and their Flight stool in 1998. Features on them and their work began appearing in 2002 in The Observer and Telegraph magazines and in the FT. They were awarded a major arts prize in 2004 that led to a commission to design new pieces for the De La Warr Pavilion in Bexhill on Sea and more magazine appearances: Sunday Times Style, Arena, Blueprint. Maybe I missed those issues. Over the next few years, features on them appeared in a diverse number of UK and international magazines, including: GQ Style, I.D., The New York Times, Abitare, House & Garden, Vogue, but I somehow still didn’t get wind of them. These were followed by more coverage in the stylish Numéro and Wallpaper* magazines, Esquire and The World of Interiors. The list goes on…as does the list of clients they have produced collections for: Cappellini, Magis, Vitra, Venini, Swarovski, Flos and Established & Sons, among others; they have also collaborated with Sony. Examples of Barber Osgerby’s work form part of the permanent collections of the V&A Museum, London; the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; the Design Museum, London; the Art Institute of Chicago and the Indianapolis Museum of Art. What’s weird is that many times, on my way to the RIBA bookshop in London to flick through the latest magazines, I’ve walked past and admired the bespoke, futuristic reception desk that they designed in 2008.

The aesthetic quality of a product is integral to its usefulness because products we use every day affect our person and our well being. But only well-executed objects can be beautiful – Dieter Rams

When Marcel Breur put the curves into Bauhaus furniture, whether he admitted it or not, he wasn’t sticking entirely to the accepted wisdom handed down via Adolph Loos, who got it and adapted it from its original source the American architect, Louis Sullivan, responsible for establishing the shape of the tall steel-framed skyscraper in Chicago, that ‘form follows function’. Breur was aware that beauty, albeit a 20th Century, stripped-down version of the notion was also an essential ingredient of design. What instantly appeals to me about Barber Osgerby’s work is that, just as great designers like Dieter Rams, Achille Castiglione and Vico Magistretti followed this same modernist ‘tradition’, each interpreting it to their very personal aesthetic, similarly the design duo are doing the same in our 21st Century. Their bold use of black and white juxtaposed against primary and secondary colours probably derives – perhaps subconsciously – from the Bauhaus via Richard Rodgers hi-tech architecture. On a more extreme level, in terms of colour, parallels can be drawn between its use in their product and the way that Donald Judd’s brightly coloured box sculptures set against his own bare sheet metal works and the severity of Carl Andre’s ‘no compromise’ minimalism made the genre approachable, opening the door for Jonathan Ive’s groundbreaking, minimalism minus the chill factor, approach at Apple.

Tip Ton, pictured above, durable, stackable, requires zero maintenance and can be used in any environment. The chair is light and made from low cost recyclable plastic; inexpensive to produce it should be available at an economical price. As well as the resting position of a normal chair, it tilts forward 9 degrees on the sledge-like ‘floor skid’ bases that connect the front legs to those at the rear. This type of position adjustment was previously only available on the more expensive office chairs with mechanical systems that allow the seat to move forward. The action is designed to straighten the pelvis and spine and improve the body’s blood flow. It looks pretty good, too.

Needless to say, I’ve only just discovered that Edward Barber & Jay Osgerby are designing the Olympic Torch for the London 2012 Games. What’s more, a monograph of the studio’s work will be published by Rizzoli and launched next month in New York at the International Contemporary Furniture Fair.

You can view my images of the Cossey house interiors at Arcaid Images

What do you think of Barber Osgerby’s design work?

Please leave a comment

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