This is the story of a 100-year old “Living Room” in Williamsburg. An old lady used to live in the apartment but one day, the landlord got the place back, still filled with objects left behind, after life had moved on. Quite good timing for Mr. Landlord, for he had issues at a nearby property he leased to artist Miriam Cabessa. Miriam’s studio was plagued with leaks, requiring more than quick fixing. The landlord suggested she moved temporarily into this nearby apartment so that a plumbing overhaul could be done at her studio. What could have been a big hassle for Miriam turned into an immersive exploration of her art practice. I say practice in the same way one talks of practicing yoga or meditation. Because yoga and meditation are so much more than an exercise class you go to. Miriam settled in her new abode, unpacked her black paint and brushes. Then she paused. She breathed in all the visible remnants from the former tenant: a vintage suitcase, an armchair, a serving tray. Miriam paused, full of breath and started cleaning and tidying, yet unable to erase or let go. So she started to paint over it all, slowly, […]
Was Lucio Fontana an artist solely expressing the angst and physical scars left by the ravage of war when he decided to slash one canvas or perforate another with tiny holes? Or were Fontana’s holes and slashes some sort of visual openings onto a new world, a brave new world where limits were pushed back to leave war as far behind as possible? If at first sight these scars may look threatening, almost morbid for some, I think they actually have more to do with life than death. Surprisingly, Fontana started as a sculptor. Three-dimensionality and the importance of negative space were part of his formative vocabulary but his very personal obsession lied with spatialism, or the creation of space. As Sculpture only occupies space, this medium failed to fulfil such endeavour. Yet am I the only one to see an early “slash”, an opening in this early Olympic Champion from 1932? What about these tiny little holes in Spatial Ceramic (1953) juxtaposed with this Concetto Spaziale (1949)? In the 1950’s, at a time when the “Space Race” between the Soviet Union and the US was raging, Fontana’s personal quest became none other than a breathing space for minds traumatized […]
Let’s talk about Vasarely. Does his name bring psychedelic forms and colors shifting in front of your eyes? Or if you are French, do you think of the Renault logo? Yes, Vasarely designed it with his son in 1972! Are you ready to experience powerful optical illusions from an OpArt genius? If you are in Paris, you are in luck as a big retrospective opened this week at Centre Pompidou. If you are based elsewhere, let me take you on a visual and colorful tour, sharing my visit of the Fondation Vasarely from last October. Born in 1908 in Hungary, at the age of 20 Victor Vasarely became a student of Graphic Arts under Alexander Bortnyik who had set up a school in the spirit of the Bauhaus. Mondrian and his Neoplasticism, Malevich and his Constructivist approach but also Ostwald’s Color Theory were studied and practiced upon by young Vasarely. These theories and artistic movements all informed Vasarely’s approach to Applied Art. Yet in 1930, he decided to move to Paris to put his graphic talent at the service of Advertising rather than Art. This is telling you already that Vasarely looked beyond what he perceived as the narrow world […]
Lapis lazuli found on a Medieval woman’s teeth smashes the preconception that illuminated manuscripts were solely the works of monks. Nuns may have been much more involved than is commonly believed, bringing women artists to the fore from much earlier on. A recently published artnet article talks of lapis lazuli and its residue on teeth being due to inhaling during pigment grinding or licking a paint brush during manuscript illumination. Such exciting art decoding in this great read. For me it also reopens the subject of materiality in art, a theme I spent much time researching in the context of my Oxford Art History Studies last year. For those of you interested in going a bit deeper, I am sharing excerpts here. Some forms of early medieval art gave much emphasis on corporeality – quite literally in the case of reliquaries where saintly body parts were enshrined in bejewelled cases of gold and silver. Yet when looking at divine figures in Byzantine icons such as the early Christ Pantocrators, what un-mistakingly signals the divine is less their corporeal representation than the striking materiality – the preciousness of materials used – covering Christ’s body with a mantle of gold and precious […]
One quarter mile was the exact distance between Robert Rauschenberg’s house on Captiva Island and his artist studio. As a distance, it is neither long nor short; more like a healthy buffer or decompression zone to move between personal and professional spaces without bringing the frustrations of one into the other. But I have to wonder, does this concept really work for Rauschenberg, an artist who famously declared acting in the “gap” between art and life?
Frédéric Amat is a Barcelona-based artist creating striking murals. It was a real treat to encounter them during my recent trip to Barcelona and I must admit they have been hard to shake off my visual memory. Thanks to my dear friend Natalia, I was able to set up a remote interview with Frédéric to shed more light on his inspiration, processes and projects. Reinventingrid: Let’s start with Mur d’Ulls (2011). You installed 1000 ceramic eyeballs onto the facade of Hotel Ohla and these eyeballs are all directed in many different directions. Is this about our society being under street surveillance and the fact that we are watched in many ways without realizing? Is this a theme you are preoccupied with and trying to fight it with art instead of real surveillance cameras? Frédéric Amat: Your commentary about surveillance is very clever, and it is one of the evocations present in this work but not the only one. Back in the days, this building was a department store, then a police station and today it has been converted, again, into a hotel at the junction of two of the busiest streets in Barcelona. My project was to resolve the skin […]
Seeing two Miró tapestries making the news for being restored in record time to make the opening of a focused exhibition in Venice after the Serenissima suffered one of its worst floods in years, reminded me of all the beautiful tapestries I have recently had the privilege to put my eyes on. Perhaps we too often think of tapestries as an antiquated art form, hovering on the walls of darkened galleries, so I am hoping to change your view just a little, after I share a few of my recent art adventures in pictures. But before we get to this beauty…
I flew half way around the world, from California to the French Riviera. Why?? You’d be very right to ask. The weather is just as great, the food a bit better but the same Le Grand Bleu experience awaits. If you must know, I went there because of…soccer! Along the way I explored many museums and countless foundations. One of them is Fondation Carmignac, on the island of Porquerolles. A corporate foundation created in 2000 by Edouard Carmignac, it boasts a colorful contemporary art collection and supports the Photojournalism Award which rewards an investigative reportage each year. Nested on the island of Porquerolles, the vistas are breathtaking. Enjoyed during an artful treasure hunt in the gardens where monumental site-specific sculpture installations are scattered, Mediterranean landscapes also come round from the gallery space, perfectly framed by ribbon windows à la Le Corbusier. I found it impossible to resist the azur of the Mediterranean sky set against the delicate greens of shrubs and pines. Porquerolles being an island, the water theme is omnipresent in both the architecture of the Fondation space and the artworks in the collection. The movie The Big Blue comes to mind often, particularly as the open skylight of […]