No two ways about Paul McCarthy’s exhibition at Hauser & Wirth Los Angeles: it is heavy! Up to 18 tons heavy! In Paul McCarthy’s monumental black walnut sculptures, it’s impossible not to recognize Snow White as we know it from the 1937 Disney adaptation of a German folk story called Schneewittchen by the Grimm Brothers. Yet even back then, there were an animated cartoon and a fairy tale, two versions of the same character. And here, Paul McCarthy is definitely taking Snow White in the dark dark woods of his mind and our society to unravel many of her personalities. So is the simple question “Mirror, mirror, who is the fairest?”.
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?
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.
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.
With the exhibition dedicated to sculptor Richard Deacon debuting today at the San Diego Museum of Art, I was looking forward to some Contemporary Art. Reading around in preparation, what a surprise that Rachel Cooke in the Guardian declared that Richard Deacon’s sculptures reminded her of Gustave Caillebotte’ s Floor Scrapers! Gustave Caillebotte?!! The Impressionist with a photographic eye I am completely obsessed with and on which I have spent the last few weeks writing about for a paper I had to submit?! Now, looking at these two works side by side, can you honestly see it???