Posts Tagged ‘Guggenheim Museum’

Exhibitions | Modernism Before Modernism

Friday, September 21st, 2018

Hilma af Klint, Group IV,
The Ten Largest, No 7,
, 1907,
from untitled series

Tempera on paper
mounted on canvas

Hilma af Klint, Group IX / SUW,
The Swan, No 17, 1915,
from the SUW/UW Series

Oil on canvas

Hilma af Klint, Group V,
The Seven-Pointed
Star, No 1
, 1908,
from The WUS / Seven-
Pointed Star Series

Tempera, gouache
and graphite on paper
mounted on canvas

Hilma af Klint:
Paintings for the Future
Guggenheim Museum
New York City | USA
12 October  >
3 February 2019
Guggenheim Museum


Stones to Stains:
The Drawings of Victor Hugo
Hammer Museum
Los Angeles | USA
27 September >
30 December 2018

Modernism didn’t just happen. It had a history. Full of surprises, and running more-or-less concurrently, these two exhibitions present a fascinating and provocative insight into what happened prior to the emergence of the modernism that we’re all very familiar with.

In 1906, several years before Wassily Kandinsky painted Cossacks – one of the first, widely-recognised, purely abstract works – Swedish artist Hilma af Klint had already begun to create radically abstract paintings. More than half a century earlier French poet, playwright, novelist Victor Hugo had produced a remarkable body of works on paper, which were often indicative, rather than representative of subject matter and that anticipated modernism’s diversity of approach to technique and materials.

Victor Hugo, Abstract
composition with
, c 1864 > 65

Brown ink and wash on paper.
© Bibliothèque
nationale de France

Victor Hugo, Planet, c 1854
Brown ink and wash
over charcoal with white
gouache on paper.
David Lachenmann Collection

Victor Hugo, Silhouette
of a castle struck by
, c 1854 > 57

Stencil cut from
card, with charcoal,
brown ink and wash.
© Bibliothèque
nationale de France

Sharing an interest in the spiritual with Kandinsky, Kazimir Malevich and Piet Mondrian, among other pioneering modernists, who all sought to surpass the restrictions of the physical world, af Klint was a devotee of Theosophy.

They were rarely seen in public during his lifetime but Hugo (1802 > 1885)  produced over 3,000 graphic works that vacillate between the depiction of landscapes and architecture and the rendering of abstract forms and stains. Often relinquishing composition to chance, he would soak or turn the paper, or allow the ink to pool into serendipitous shapes. He employed stencil and collage and incorporated impressions of a variety of materials such as lace, leaves and even his own fingertips. Hugo may have seen and been influenced by the work of British artist, JMW Turner (1775 > 1851), who, having concerned himself more with surface and light than subject matter, has himself been hailed as a proto-modernist.

Convinced the world wasn’t ready for them, Hilma af Klint (1862 > 1944), who left behind around 1300 non-figurative works, exhibited nothing during her lifetime and stipulated in her will that her paintings should not be shown until 20 years after her death. They were exhibited for the first time in 1986, in Los Angeles.

Hilma af Klint: Paintings for the Future is at the Guggenheim Museum in New York, while Stones to Stains: The Drawings of Victor Hugo will be on show at the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles.

Images courtesy the Guggenheim Museum and the Hammer Museum, respectively

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Art | ZERO

Friday, October 3rd, 2014

Piero Manzoni, Achrome, 1961
Fibreglass wool in artist’s box
Solomon R Guggenheim Museum, New York
Gift, Manzoni Family, 1993, 93.4225
© 2013 Artists Rights Society (ARS) / SIAE Rome

ZERO: Countdown to Tomorrow, 1950s–60s
Guggenheim Museum
New York City | USA
10th October 2014 > 7th January 2015

However much we deplore them and the death and destruction they represent, wars are often the catalysts for new developments in art. Wars, in terms of art, therefore, have a positive as well as a negative value. Before them comes the art of anger, protest and propaganda; during, the art that strives to represent the truth of the situation – from whichever viewpoint the artist is in sympathy with – after, comes the art created out of the need to move on; an experimental period, which can be a tremendously productive one.

Otto Piene, Light Ballet (Light Satellite) (top)
and Light Ballet (Light Drum), 1969
Chrome, glass, and light bulbs
Moeller Fine Art, New York
© Otto Piene
Photo courtesy Moeller Fine Art, New York

Born in the decade when the US government, in its bid to lead the way in the ‘conquest of outer space’ called its pioneering satellite program ‘Vanguard’, ZERO (1957 > 1966) was established in Europe by Düsseldorf-based artists Otto Piene and Heinz Mack. Piene explained that by naming the group ZERO, their aim was to suggest ‘pure possibilities for a new beginning, as at the countdown when rockets take off… the zone in which the old turns into the new.’ It would focus on light, movement and space, while closely examining the relationship between man, nature and technology.

In a disfigured country, still reeling from the shockwaves of World War II, in which Germany had been at the epicentre, the core group, later joined by another German, Günther Uecker, fostered connections among artists but stressed individual authorship. It was to attract a related network that would span continents, linking artists in Germany, Italy and The Netherlands to others in Brazil, Japan, and North and South America. ZERO sought to annihilate all forms of representation within art in order to celebrate the possibilities inherent in ‘nothingness’: to move beyond the confines of the canvas and so attempt to penetrate the mysterious concept of the fourth dimension. Fire, earth and air would figure prominently in their artworks. Through connected artists such as Yves Klein – who also became a member of French art movement Nouveau RéalismeJean Tinguely, and Lucio Fontana, ZERO would re-define painting, explore the monochrome, and serial structures, and produce artworks made from flames and smoke, filling whole galleries with their environmental works, they would turn to the deserts and skies as viable sites for art. Highly influential, one 1961 show, ZERO: Edition, Exposition, Demonstration, held both inside and outside Galerie Schmela in Düsseldorf, in which performers marked out a ‘Zero zone’ with white paint around other participants, blew bubbles and launched a balloon into the night sky was witnessed by artist Joseph Beuys – who had his first one man show that year and started to give action-performances in 1963 – and Nam Juin Paik, Korean founder of video art.

Yves Klein, Untitled red monochrome (M 63), 1959
Dry pigment in synthetic resin on board
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York
Gift, Andrew Powie Fuller and Geraldine Spreckels
Fuller Collection, 1999, 2000.28
© 2013 Artists Rights Society (ARS),
New York / ADAGP, Paris

Lichtraum; Hommage à Fontana / Light Room: Homage to Fontana (1964) , being shown for the first time in the United States, in the forthcoming Guggenheim exhibition ZERO: Countdown to Tomorrow, 1950s > 1960s, is an installation containing a projection of a painting by Lucio Fontana, and individual contributions by Mack, Piene, and Uecker, as well as the only two works produced in collaboration by the trio. The piece is particularly significant as an expression of the genesis of the group’s philosophy. In 1949, Fontana, the man who later dismissed Jackson Pollock – generally regarded as the most forward-thinking painter of the early 1950s – as merely ‘post-impressionist’, had written, ‘I assure you that on the moon… they will not be painting, but making spatial art.’ ‘Spazialismo,’ as he christened his own movement, established in 1947, he explained, ‘would be an art contained in space in all its dimensions.’ In 1956 > 57, also anticipating the ZERO movement’s aims, another Italian artist and later group member, Piero Manzoni had determined to find a means of expressing the power of the subconscious via the creation of completely subjectless work that emphasised the surface and materials as the only focus of the piece.

In his book, Space Age Aesthetics (2009), author Stephen Peterson tells us that in the year of Lichtraum’s creation, philosopher Marshall McLuhan wrote ‘There is no longer any sense in talking about the artist’s being ahead of his time. Our technology is, also, ahead of its time,’ which could be taken to signify, whether or not it was true, that the writing was already on the wall for ZERO’s demise that followed, two years later, in 1966.

Heinz Mack, New York, New York, 1963
Aluminium and wood
Private collection
© 2013 Artists Rights Society (ARS),
New York / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn
Photo Heinz Mack

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Architecture | Kultur:Stadt (Culture:City)

Friday, March 8th, 2013

Kultur:Stadt (Culture:City)
Akademie der Künste
Berlin, Germany
15th March – 26th May, 2013

After the Wall fell and reunification followed, the re-establishment of Berlin as a cultural centre, would be a symbolic act as important to the German people as rebuilding its capital. The Altes Museum, inaugurated in 1876, was reopened after substantial renovations in December 2001. The event marked the end of the first stage in the masterplan to renovate the city’s Museumsinsel (Museum Island) – declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1999. The formidable, five-building museum complex, devised in 1841 was finally completed in 1930. A few years later, 70% of it lay in ruin.

The venue for Kultur:Stadt (Culture:City), The Akademie der Künste (Academy of Arts), lies elsewhere the city. This ambitious exhibition and associated lectures, film screenings, concerts, sound installations and conferences, will take a critical eye to the relationship between the architecture of culture and the social reality of the 21st century, and aims to show the impact of art and culture on cities from a worldwide perspective.

Some of the most spectacular and innovative building projects of our age: Guggenheim Museum, Bilbao, 1993-1997, by Frank Gehry; Tate Modern, London, 1994-2000 and The Tate Modern Project, 2004-2016, by Herzog & de Meuron, and the Guangzhou Opera House, 2002-2010 by Zaha Hadid Architects, will be put under scrutiny. In an effort to determine what lessons have been learned, their historic predecessors: Sydney Opera House, 1957-1973 by Jørn Utzon; Kulturhuset, Stockholm, 1965-1974 by Peter Celsing Arkitektkontor; Centre Pompidou, Paris, 1971-1977 by Renzo Piano and Richard Rogers, will be studied closely. In contrast, the inspection of community-generated projects, at the opposite end of the financial scale, like Detroit Soup also forms part of the agenda. Set up three years ago by Kate Daughdrill and Jessica Hernandez, Soup describes itself as a public dinner and collaborative situation. A democratic experiment in micro-funding, it functions as a hub bringing together various creative communities in Detroit. Around 40 people sat down at the first dinner – numbers now average 225 per month. The project has moved from funding artists in need of a little money to get a project underway, to a wide variety of community activities that have included cleaning up public parks. Visitors to the exhibition will be able to study initiatives such as The Centre Pompidou Mobile, launched in 2011, a touring exhibition that uses an adaptable, collapsible, tent-like structure to bring the experience of visiting a national collection of art to those remote from cultural centres.

The often criticised European Capital of Culture scheme was started in 1985 with the idea of creating opportunities for cities to generate considerable cultural, social and economic benefits, to help foster urban regeneration, and to change their image by raising their visibility and international profile. More than 40 cities from Stockholm to Genoa, Athens to Glasgow and Cracow to Porto have so far been designated. The effectiveness of the scheme will be discussed and evaluated, via examples such as Kunsthaus Graz, built in 2003 by Peter Cook and Colin Fournier.

The architecture of libraries as ‘Spaces of Information’ will also be considered, amongst them the Seattle Central Library, Washington, USA, designed by a team led by Rem Koolhaas and Joshua Prince-Ramus. Described by the influential Arch Daily website, as ‘more than a mere library, but an enhaced public space around knowledge,’ SCL represents an attempt at re-defining the traditional concept of a library by organizing itself into spatial compartments each dedicated to, and equipped for, specific duties. In an age where information is accessible anywhere, it makes curatorship of content the key component to making the library vital.

Ironically, by 2025, when renovations are due for completion, unless those responsible keep a very close eye on developments and adapt accordingly, the debates raised by events such as Kultur:Stadt (Culture:City) may have transformed our ideas about the form our cultural institutions should take to such a degree that the Museumsinsel will already be moribund.

Images from top
Seattle Central Library, USA, 2004
Architects OMA/LMN
Office for Metropolitan Architecture in joint venture with LMN
Photo Philippe Ruault

Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris, 1977
Architects Studio Piano & Rogers
Architects Renzo Piano and Richard Rogers
Photo courtesy RPBW, Renzo Piano Building Workshop

Kunsthaus Graz, Austria, 2003
Architects Peter Cook and Colin Fournier
Photo Universalmuseum Joanneum/Christian Plach

The Guggenheim Museum Bilbao, Spain,1997
Architect Frank O Gehry
Photo David Heald
©The Solomon R Guggenheim Foundation, New York

Centre Pompidou Mobile, France
Architects Patrick Bouchain and Loïc Julienne
Photo Loïc Julienne

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