I see a lot of Art but this was something else – for my eyes and my brain. Civilization Iteration by Chinese artist Xu Zhen questions the extent of novelty in the world at large and the art world specifically. His work shows classical statuary from East and West joined where each singular head would have looked proud and tall as cultural representative of their civilization. Such a “head on / head off” collision is a striking comment on the circular nature of human creativity. Yet, in a world gone global, can civilizations fusing into each other lead to a potential loss of cultural meaning?
Picasso, the artist who changed so much about Art then to bring us the art we know now, may owe it all to seeing a few dusty African masks at the Musée d’Ethnographie du Trocadéro shortly after he arrived in Paris in 1900. I say “may” because in typical Picasso fashion, after declaring this visit showed him the path to painting, he fully rejected any African Art influence later on in his career. Today, Picasso would find it hard disputing the impact of Primitive Art on his oeuvre if he could witness the astonishing work Quai Branly Museum put in documenting their Picasso Primitif exhibition, on show in Paris until July 23rd, 2017. In 1907, Picasso saw African masks as a tool “to help people avoid coming under the influence of spirits…to help them become independent”. Exactly what he was looking for to “exorcise” himself from the artists who came before him. Picasso was about to explore a way to render expressions rather than impressions (been there…) or even pictorial accuracy (done that!).
Sorry, I keep thinking about Koons since last week’s blog…which might be a hopeful sign that there is more than meet the shiny surface of his gazing balls, who knows? I am still bothered by Koons slapping a blue ball on a Manet, Turner or Géricault masterpiece copy and calling it art (on view at Gagosian Beverly Hills until August 18th). But when he does it again on his Masters handbags at the Louis Vuitton store around the corner, the unease becomes aesthetic repulsion mixed with admiration for the shameless business calculation. Luxury handbags are still a lower price point than artworks, it’s a marketing dream Made in Heaven. But what about Art? Is a Vuitton bag with a cheap copy of the Mona Lisa on it a piece of art worth $4000? Visually, how different is it from the souvenir tote bag you can buy at the museum gift shop? What’s missing is any respect and modesty when listening to Koons’ interview for Vuitton. He has no qualms adjoining a shiny JK monogram on an equal footing to the Vuitton one (disclaimer: I do not own any Vuitton handbags). The fact that he lacks the 155-year brand history and capital […]
Wow, Jeff Koons! Looking at the rolled stainless steel perfection of the Celebration series (Balloon Dog, Rabbit and Flowers), people forget how this material can be incredibly difficult to work with on a monumental scale. These pieces are strikingly bold and visually fun. But are they really? I am usually left with a big question mark after viewing Koons works, as if the structural hollowness of these works verged on emptiness. Is there any meaning beneath the aesthetic kick? I so wish it could pop and reveal something! Anything! You could say I set myself for a tough contrast during a recent trip to Los Angeles, but I recommend viewing two exhibitions which actually deal with similar themes and are the subjects of my posts this week and next: Jeff Koons at Gagosian Beverly Hills and Lauren Greenfield’ Generation Wealth at the Annenberg Space for Photography. One shocked me, challenged me and made me think about past, present and future. The other was just, quite literally, full of air…Trust me, I really tried finding some meaning in the use of readymades by Jeff Koons. So here it goes…
Do yourself a favour, go see a point of view from Saudi Arabia that’s mainly ignored by the media these days. Pause by Abdulnasser Gharem is at LACMA. Rush to it before it closes on July 2, 2017. Here is why… September 11, 2001 changed the world as we knew it, for all of us. And here it is, creeping in, the “us” which goes with, or rather against, “them”. The self-perpetuating lack of understanding feeding only more violence. That knee-jerk reaction of protecting ourselves by closing off when we are in a state of shock and feeling under attack. We can’t begin to understand what happened and is still going on to this day… Don’t you wish we could hit Rewind and Stop? Erasing the bad dream… Instead, hit Pause at LACMA and look intently at Abdulnasser Gharem ‘ s powerful perspective. Gharem is from Saudi Arabia. He is a Muslim, an Arab, a lieutenant colonel in the Saudi army and he discovered that two of the 9/11 hijackers were old classmates.
In the 1960’s, Yayoi Kusama’ s Infinity Nets were her very personal response and contribution to a New York art scene populated by Jackson Pollock’s drips, Barnett Newman’s zips, Rothko’s Color Fields… But as seen in a recent post, Kusama’ s nets were born out of her hallucinatory visions, her Abstract Expressionism being an artistic fighting mechanism against psychological self-obliteration. A self-declared “obsessional artist”, Kusama lives her art inside her own head and seems to breathe it onto canvas and soft sculptures. It was only a matter of time before using small finite rooms became another visual expression and representation of her troubled psyche. It started around 1965. Kusama’ s Infinity Rooms are small yet they open up an infinite sense of space as mirrors reflect lights, objects and viewers in all directions.
Over the last few weeks, it’s all been monumental scale with the works of Yayoi Kusama or Richard Deacon (still showing at SDMART until July 25, 2017 – click the link for more info). Today, let me shrink your world to the size of a netsuke 🙂 Netsuke are very small in size (1-1.5 inch / 2.5- 3.8cm, think smaller than your thumb) and yet they are probably more exquisite in details than anything I have ever seen. Even the world of jewels that I know so well can look static and stiff compared to the movement and life that netsuke convey. During my recent trip to Japan, I visited the Kyoto Seishu Netsuke Art Museum. With netsuke being so small, forget about grand scale architectural landmarks: the word “museum” takes on a very different connotation. I entered the only surviving samurai house in Kyoto, dating from 1820. I stepped back in time, or rather stooped.