Posts Tagged ‘India’

Art | Nasreen Mohamedi Meets Taca Sui in New York

Friday, March 18th, 2016

Nasreen Mohamedi, Untitled, c 1975
Ink and graphite on paper
Sikander and Hydari Collection

Nasreen Mohamedi
The Met Breuer
18 March > 5 June 2016


Taca Sui: Steles – Huang Yi Project
Chambers Fine Art
31 March > 28 May 2016

Taca Sui, Tomb of Prince Lu #2, 2015
Archival pigment print on baryta paper

One relatively young and having established his reputation fairly recently, the other being afforded posthumous, retrospective acclaim, parallels, contrasts and coincidences exist between their respective work and the life stories of two Asian artists of different generations, who almost certainly never met, but have shows opening in New York.

Indian modernist Nasreen Mohamedi (1937–1990) was brought up in Mumbai, often, like New York, described with the epithet ‘the city that never sleeps’. Fine art photographer, Taca Sui was born in Qingdao, like New York, albeit smaller, a port city of skyscrapers. In the mid-1950s, Mohamedi would travel to London to study at Central Saint Martin’s School of Art, while having attended the Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing in 2003, Taca went to the United States to continue his studies in 2005.

Taca Sui, Pagoda of Six Harmonies, 2015
Archival pigment print on baryta paper

Nasreen Mohamedi, Untitled, c 1975
Ink and graphite on paper
Sikander and Hydari Collection

The work of both artists is essentially monochrome, but whereas painter, photographer and draughtswoman Mohamedi, influenced by Russian suprematist Kazimir Malevich – a founding father of abstract art – among others, made non-representational paintings, semi-abstract photographs and drawings that bear no relation to Indian traditional art, Taca, who left college to assist American abstract expressionist painter Ronnie Landfield – well-known for his use of vibrant colour –produces work that is strongly rooted in China’s landscape, his images relate to geographic locations suggested in classical Chinese literature and are tied to the history, myths and religious traditions of ancient Han culture.

The calmness of mood in Taca’s work, and the reduction of the elements that make up each image, brings to mind Japanese minimalist Hiroshi Sugimoto’s photography, but the artists’ approach to and treatment of respective subject matter is entirely dissimilar. More redolent of the Italian futurist architect Antonio Sant’Elia’s drawings, Mohamedi’s graphic work has drawn comparisons with that of minimalist sculptor Carl Andre. It would be a mistake to label either Mohamedi or Taca as minimalist.

Nasreen Mohamedi, Untitled, c 1972
Gelatin silver print
Kiran Nadar Museum of Art, New Delhi

Taca Sui, Feilai Peak, 2015
Archival pigment print on baryta paper

On the road to success: their work transformed by their experiences abroad, neither artist completely abandoned their own country for life in the west. Nasreen Mohamedi, having worked for a time in Europe and after spending time in Bahrain, travelled extensively through India, Iran and Turkey, visiting Japan and the USA, before returning to India in the early 1970s to teach in the Faculty of Fine Arts at MS University in Baroda (now Vadodara), while Taca Sui is now based in both Beijing and New York.

Joined in spirit, located in disparate areas of New York, Nasreen Mohamedi opens today at Madison Avenue’s The Met Breuer on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, while Taca Sui: Steles – Huang Yi Project starts in two weeks’ time at Chambers Fine Art in Chelsea, afterwards the shows run concurrently.

All Nasreen Mohamedi images courtesy The Met Breuer
All Taca Sui images courtesy Chambers Fine Art

Tell us what you think
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

Share this post
Facebook Twitter Linkedin

Photography | Margaret Bourke-White in Berlin

Friday, January 18th, 2013

Margaret Bourke-White: Photographs 1930 – 1945
Martin Gropius Bau
Berlin, Germany
18th January – 14th April, 2013

The cover photo of the first ever issue of Life magazine (November, 1936) was by Margaret Bourke-White (1904-1971). In the 1920s, like other women photographers, writers, artists and editors who broke into the male-dominated professional world, lighting the way for women’s liberation – Lee Miller, Gertrude Stein, Dorothea Lange, Georgia O’Keeffe, and Imogen Cunningham, among others – Bourke-White had been ahead of her time.

She wanted to be the ‘eyes of the age’, and had ‘an unquenchable desire to be present when history is being made’, as she put it. She had the knack of being in the right place at the right time and, aggressive and relentless in her pursuit of pictures, she was prepared to go far further than most to achieve her goal.

One of the first photojournalists, her career began in 1927 in Cleveland, USA, where she photographed the city’s steel mills. She travelled to the USSR when the first five-year plan was being implemented – becoming the first Western photographer to document post-revolution Soviet industry. Bourke-White documented the drought of 1934 in the USA, the German invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941, and the Allied bombing of Germany – she became the first woman to go on a bombing mission, in 1943, at a time when women were not allowed in combat zones, gaining herself international celebrity status. Present at the liberation of the Buchenwald concentration camp and the Leipzig-Mockau forced labour camp, her photograph The Living Dead of Buchenwald went round the world. Soon after she was in India recording the release of Mahatma Ghandi from prison, in 1946, and then in South Africa documenting the effects of labour exploitation during the 1950s.

The focus of the Martin Gropius Bau Margaret Bourke-White: Photographs 1930 – 1945 exhibition is on the pictures the photographer took in the 1930s and 40s in the former Soviet Union, former Czechoslovakia, Germany, the UK and Italy and consists of 154 photographs, letters and periodicals. Some of her word-picture sequences for the photo magazines Fortune and Life are on view as well as extracts from her correspondence with the likes of Winston Churchill and Georgia O’Keeffe.

Images from top
Russian worker on the turbine shell of the Dnejprostroj-hydro-electric power plant Soviet Union, Saporishya (today, Ukraine), ca 1930
Masters by Getty Images
©Time & Life/Getty Images

The Reverend Spiegelhoff from Milwaukee and American GIs at the mass in the Cologne cathedral, April 1945
Syracuse University Library Collection, New York
©Time & Life/Getty Images

Russian film director Sergej Eisenstein being shaved on the terrace of Bourke-White’s studio in the Chysler Building, NYC, 1932
Syracuse University Library Collection, New York
©2012 Estate of Margaret Bourke-White/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY, USA

Tell us what you think
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

Share this post
Facebook Twitter Linkedin

Design & Architecture | George Nakashima

Friday, June 8th, 2012

Important 20th Century Design
Sotheby’s, New York, USA. 13th June, 2012
Important 20th Century Decorative Art & Design
Christie’s, New York, USA. 14th June, 2012
20th/21st Century Design Auction
Rago, New Jersey, USA. June 16th & 17th, 2012

Previews for all the above start 9th June

Rather oddly, because designers and architects in the UK are pretty well-informed about modernism and modernists in general, the name George Nakashima, rarely comes up. Indeed, London’s Design Museum design library has no listing for him. A search on the website of the Royal Institute of British Architects, which is far from the parochial organisation its name might suggest, bore no fruit, however, the Victoria & Albert Museum has a single, fine, though rather modest, 1956 Nakashima chair in its collection.

A rare aluminium chair – one of only four ever produced – is the centre-piece of an historic collection of seven items of furniture designed by Gerrit Rietveld, going under the hammer at Sotheby’s, New York. Also in this relatively small sale, comprising just 68 lots, is an equally rare Tiffany Studios Dragonfly table lamp, along with interior stained glass windows by Frank Lloyd Wright, a Josef Hoffman bentwood Sitzmaschine, an Archibald Knox ‘Tudric’ pewter champagne bucket, a Fish lamp designed by Frank Gehry in 1983, and 13 separate lots – some comprising single pieces – all by George Nakashima.

Four Nakashima items appear amongst a total of 134 lots on the listing for Christie’s Important 20th Century Decorative Art & Design sale, the next day.

Just a few days later, across the Hudson River and dwarfing the Sotheby’s and Christie’s sales, New Jersey auction house Rago, in a 2 -day, weekend sale, is offering a total of 1,100 lots. Sunday, the second day is all about modern furniture and lighting with items from a long list of iconic names, among many others: Arne Jacobsen, Charles & Ray Eames, Florence Knoll, Frank Gehry, George Nelson, Gio Ponti, Hans Wegner, Isamu Noguchi, Ludwig Mies Van Der Rohe, Poul Kjaerholm, Shiro Kuramata, Wendell Castle and once again, George Nakashima, who is represented by 31 separate lots.

Assuming you are in funds – these would have to be plentiful, average lot prices range from around $6,000 to around $200,000 – with the possibility of acquiring a total of 48 lots of Nakashima items, should you be thinking about starting your own collection of his furniture, now’s your chance!

On the other hand you might ask: who is George Nakashima (1905-1990)? He is simply a very interesting and important figure in 20th design. On a farmlike compound near New Hope, Pennsylvania, Nakashima, his family, and fellow wood-workers created exquisite furniture from richly grained, rare timber: tables, desks, chairs, and cabinets to grace the homes and executive boardrooms of the likes of the late Nelson Rockefeller, Columbia University and the International Paper Corporation.

Born in the shadow of the USA’s Mount Olympus, in Spokane, Washington State, across the Puget Sound from Seattle, Japanese-American Nakashima grew up in the forests of the remote Olympic Peninsula – largely unmapped until 1900. After studying first forestry then architecture in Washington, in 1930 he received a Master’s from Massachusetts Institute of Technology. However, in 1928, he had won the Prix Fontainebleau from L’Ecole Americaine des Beaux Arts in France and, after a brief time working as a mural painter on Long Island, decided to spend time in Paris before launching himself on a journey that took him to Japan. In Tokyo he found work with Czech-born Antonin Raymond, who had set up an office there. Raymond had emigrated to the United States in 1916, where he had assisted Frank Lloyd-Wright. His buildings in Japan reveal that his understanding of and respect for Japanese tradition informed his modernist sensibility. Raymond, was to prove a strong influence on his young assistant, Nakashima, as was Sri Aurobindo, the philosopher, yogi, guru, and poet, who he would encounter in Pondicherry, India, where George was the onsite architect for the first reinforced concrete building in the country. When war broke out Nakashima returned to the States, where he and his family were incarcerated at Minidoka, Idaho. He was released in 1943 with the help of his former employer Raymond and for a period worked on his ranch.

In India Nakashima had begun to find ways of working with wood and with his new-found philosophy developed ‘…a devotion to discovering the inherent beauty of wood so that noble trees might have a second life as furniture’. While in the internment camp he learned woodworking from a Japanese carpenter and left with the firm intention of establishing a woodworking studio, which he soon after accomplished at New Hope, Pennsylvania. The studio went on to become a huge success, employing some of the world’s finest craftsmen and producing unique and outstanding, highly-collectable, modern furniture. Among many awards from prestigious institutions, Nakashima received the Third Order of the Sacred Treasure from the Emperor and Government of Japan in 1983 in recognition of the cultural exchange generated by the shows he produced in Japan from 1968-1988. His work was widely exhibited, however, the late 1980s retrospective Full Circle, which opened at the American Craft Museum in New York, was to be his last.

Mira Nakashima-Yarnall, George’s daughter, has been creative director of the Nakashima studio since 1990, which continues to produce her father’s classic furniture designs and to produce her own work as well. She lives with her family at the studio compound in New Hope.

I wonder what’s going on though, because even more oddly, George Nakashima, who designed furniture for Knoll, isn’t listed on the MoMA on-line index, either.

Images from top
George Nakashima bending wood, 1940s

Conoid Bench, circa 1974
From the Japanese House, The Mr. and Mrs. Nelson A. Rockefeller Residence, Pocantico Hills, New York, circa 1974. American black walnut and hickory with one East Indian rosewood key
Sotheby’s estimate $150/200,000

Interior of the Conoid Studio at New Hope, circa 1960

Fine turned-leg dining table, 1958
English walnut, black walnut, rosewood, brass label
From a private collection
Rago estimate $35,000 – $45,000

The Minguren Museum
(Arts Building) from the Cloister at New Hope, which
was originally dedicated to showing artist, Ben Shahn’s work. Unfortunately he died in 1969, shortly after his inaugural exhibition here. Cloister guest rooms were a manifestation of Nakashima’s devotion to the monastic tradition, however, they also house the heating unit, bathroom, kitchen, and storage space, which were not included in the larger building. A large rock at the far edge of the pond is said to have inspired Nakashima to erect this building here.

Long chair, circa 1974
Executed specifically for the Japanese House of Governor and Mrs. Nelson A. Rockefeller, designed by Junzo Yoshimura. Walnut with cotton webbing.
Christie’s estimate 30,000 – 50,000 U.S. dollars

Walnut dresser, 1962
From a private collection
Rago estimate $6,000 – $9,000

All furniture images, courtesy of the respective auction houses. All other images, courtesy of George Nakashima, SA, or George Nakashima Archive. Special thanks to Soomi Hahn Amagasu for her help with this blog post

Please leave a comment
Look out for The Blog’s posts on art, architecture, gardens, books, design and anything else that interests me and I think might interest you
Share this post
Facebook Twitter Linkedin