Democratic testimony of a past time

August Sanders
Men Without Masks
Hauser & Wirth, London, UK
18 May – 28 July 2018

This is the first time I cover an art show without including us, The art berries, on the photos. When I saw this art exhibition I realised that it was worth sharing it, but it’s not the type of exhibition where an art performance would be pertinent. The pictures of August Sander speak for themselves.

I first discovered the work of this German photographer at Tate Modern and I became immediately interested on his work. Hence, I was glad to see that the gallery Hauser & Wirth London is showing this summer an art exhibition of August Sander’s work called ‘Men Without Masks’, which comprises images made from 1910 to 1931.

Sander was born in the German mining town of Herdorf and discovered photography while working at a local slagheap. He went to assist a landscape photographer working there for a mining company, and by 1909 he had opened his own studio in Cologne. By 1910, he had already established himself as a successful photographer in a profession that had only recently become a viable form of work.

Sander discarded the then prevalent pictorialist approach in favour of recording as many details of his subjects as possible. Enlarging a photograph using smooth, glossy paper typically reserved for technical images, he created a portrait that was extraordinarily detailed. This technically exact approach, enhanced by a straightforward perspective and the use of natural light became Sander’s personal signature, as he started cataloging Weimar Germany and his citizens.

As Sander explained: “Nothing seemed to me more appropriate than to project an image of our time with absolute fidelity to nature by means of photography… Let me speak the truth in all honesty about our age and the people of our age.”

Sander’s conceptual approach started from the idea of the ‘home album’, with which the artist photographed the peasants of his native village and proceeded to sort them according to their essential archetype. He produced the iconic 12-photo ‘Portfolio of Archetypes’ that features stoic farming men and women in single, double, and group portraits.

This work evolved into his decades-long project ‘People of the 20th Century’, now considered a seminal photographic work. Falling into seven distinct groups, People of the 20th Century shows ‘The Farmer’, ‘The Skilled Tradesman’, ‘The Woman’, ‘Classes and Professions’, ‘The Artists’, ‘The City’ and ‘The Last People’.

The individuals captured by Sander’s lens went from farmers to industrialists, secretaries, aristocrats and even homeless and disabled people. All were photographed in the same objective manner regardless of occupation or social class. He set out to depict the faces of his world with eloquence and empathy.

When we look at these portraits we seem to be travelling back in time, as we can appreciate the unrepeatable details and the sitter’s idiosyncrasies. The people in his portraits told their stories through their clothing, accessories as well as through their expressions, gestures and poses. Sander’s uses his lens as a way to classify the reality that surrounded him at the time and allow us now to discover Germany’s ethnic and class diversity from that period in time.

In 1942, after World War Two, Sander left Cologne and moved to the countryside, where he did very little photographic work. He died in Cologne in 1964.


Testimonio democrático de un tiempo pasado

August Sanders
Men Without Masks
Hauser & Wirth, London, UK
18 May – 28 July 2018

Esta es la primera vez que cubro una exposición de arte sin incluirnos a The art berries en las fotos. Cuando vi esta exposición de arte me di cuenta de que merecía la pena compartirla, pero no es el tipo de exposición en la que un art performance sería pertinente. Las fotos de August Sander hablan por sí mismas.

Descubrí el trabajo de este fotógrafo alemán por primera vez en Tate Modern y de inmediato me interesé por su trabajo. Por eso, me alegré de ver que la galería Hauser & Wirth London está mostrando este verano una exposición de arte de la obra de August Sander llamada ‘Men Without Masks’ que comprende imágenes realizadas desde 1910 hasta 1931.

Sander nació en la ciudad minera alemana de Herdorf y descubrió la fotografía mientras trabajaba en un escorial minero local. Fue a ayudar a un fotógrafo de paisajes que trabajaba allí para una empresa minera, y en 1909 había abierto su propio estudio en Colonia. En 1910, ya se había establecido como un fotógrafo de éxito en una profesión que recientemente se había convertido en una forma de trabajo viable.

Sander descartó el enfoque pictorialista entonces predominante por otro en favor de registrar tantos detalles de sus sujetos como fuera posible. Ampliando una fotografía con papel liso y brillante, normalmente reservado para imágenes técnicas, creó un retrato extraordinariamente detallado. Este enfoque técnicamente exacto, realzado por una perspectiva directa y el uso de la luz natural se convirtió en la firma personal de Sander cuando comenzó a catalogar a la Alemania de Weimar y sus ciudadanos.

Como explicó Sander: “Nada me pareció más apropiado que proyectar una imagen de nuestro tiempo con absoluta fidelidad a la naturaleza por medio de la fotografía … Permítanme decir la verdad con toda honestidad sobre nuestra tiempo y la gente de nuestra tiempo”.

El enfoque conceptual de Sander partió de la idea del ‘álbum raíz’, con el que el artista fotografió a los campesinos de su pueblo natal y procedió a clasificarlos según su arquetipo esencial. Produjo la icónica ‘Portfolio of Archetypes’ de 12 fotografías que presenta a hombres y mujeres granjeros de apariencia estoica en retratos individuales, dobles y en grupo.

Este trabajo se convirtió en un proyecto que le llevó décadas llamado ‘People of the 20th Century’, ahora considerado un trabajo fotográfico seminal. People of the 20th Century se divide en siete grupos distintos: ‘El granjero’, ‘El hábil comerciante’, ‘La mujer’, ‘Clases y profesiones’, ‘Los artistas’, ‘La ciudad’ y ‘Los últimos’.

Los individuos capturados por la lente de Sander pasaron de agricultores a industriales, secretarias, aristócratas e incluso personas sin hogar y discapacitadas. Todos fueron fotografiados de la misma manera objetiva independientemente de la ocupación o clase social. Se dispuso a representar las caras de su mundo con elocuencia y empatía.

Cuando miramos estos retratos parece que estamos retrocediendo en el tiempo al apreciar los detalles irrepetibles y la idiosincracia de los modelos. La gente retratada contaba sus historias a través de su ropa, accesorios y sus expresiones, gestos y poses. Sander usa su lente como una manera de clasificar la realidad que le rodeaba en ese momento y nos permite ahora descubrir la diversidad étnica y de clase de Alemania de ese período en el tiempo.

En 1942, después de la Segunda Guerra Mundial, Sander dejó Colonia y se mudó al campo donde hizo muy poco trabajo fotográfico. Murió en Colonia en 1964.

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August Sander - artist

Binding to change perceptions

Seung-taek Lee
White Cube – Mason’s Yard, London, UK.
25 May 2018 – 30 June 2018

The art raspberry and I visited the White Cube at Mason’s Yard in London last week and discovered the work of Seung-taek Lee, a Korean interdisciplinary artist who’s best known for conceptualising in the notion of “anti-concept” or “anti-art”. Trained as a sculptor, he has worked as a performance artist and is one of the first generation pioneers of experimental art in South Korea.

Since the beginning of his career as an artist in the late 1950s, Lee worked independently from the dominant art scene in South Korea, while most artists and art critics followed western art trends as the only way to survive. He claimed these artists were unaware of their own identity and started experimenting in order to understand the true nature of Korean modern art. Having said that, his artworks from the 1960s and 1970s have been associated to art movements such as Land Art, Arte Povera and Post-Minimalism.

This art show at the White Cube Mason’s Yard gallery in London is Lee’s first solo art exhibition in the UK that comprises artworks from the 1960s until today and reveals his interest in materiality and cultural identity.

One of the main characteristics of his art practice involves the binding of found objects, natural or existing architectural structures, as a means of suggesting the transformability of their inherent material properties. This feature can be appreciated on works that seem completely different from each other. In fact, the art exhibition spreads between two floors, and at first sight the artworks at ground level seemed to come from a different artist to the ones placed at basement level.

At ground level, all artworks look organic and close to nature. Various sculptures are made of granite, a material used widely in Korea for outdoor monuments for its durability. Lee’s artworks look  soft and even sensual. Some of them are placed at floor level, without a plinth, so they seem more accessible. With  two other works, he ties small pieces of granite with rope or wire to confuse the viewer’s perception.

As Lee has declared at some point, the work’s visual impact comes from the “tension between the wooden bar, precariously hung from two thin cords, and the clusters of bifurcated stones that effectively conjure a sense of gravitational pressure”.

The art berries’ photo of one of these works with The art raspberry immediately below the stones accentuate this feeling of threat from the stones and vulnerability of the model.

At this level, we could also see framed works made of ropes on canvas referred to as ‘canvas drawings’. The artist used the ropes as an alternative to the usual lines drawn on paper, and the knots and loose ends of these works acquire a more tactile nature.

Lastly, at basement level, we could see the recreated monumental vinyl structures from the 1960s with striking bright colours. Originally, they were first made of sheets of cheap, factory produced vinyl and has been recreated for this exhibition using urethane vinyl of greater durability but similar look. They clearly contrast with the neutral and organic colours of the ground floor gallery. However, the enveloping and the bound or tied subject remains central to Lee’s art practice here as well. I enjoyed performing with the big vinyl structures. The quietness of this floor surrounded by dim lighting invited to mindfulness.

The ‘binding’ of objects is an artistic strategy and symbolic gesture of subversion used by Lee that not only destabilise the viewer’s perception but it also questions the existing form, the intended function and meaning of the bound object.


Esta es la primera entrada que hago en español. Espero que esto sirva para acercar la escena artística en Londres al mundo hispano parlante.

Amarrar para cambiar percepciones

Seung-taek Lee
White Cube – Mason’s Yard, Londres, Reino Unido.
25 May 2018 – 30 June 2018

The art raspberry y yo visitamos la galeria White Cube en Mason’s Yard en Londres la semana pasada y descubrimos el trabajo de Seung-taek Lee, un artista interdisciplinario coreano que es más conocido por conceptualizar en la noción de “anti-concepto” o “anti-arte”. Formado como escultor, Lee ha trabajado como performance artist y es pionero del arte experimental en Corea del Sur.

Desde el principio de su trayectoria artística a finales de los cincuenta, Lee trabajó independientemente de la escena artística dominante en Corea del Sur, mientras que la mayoría de los artistas y críticos de arte de entonces seguían las tendencias de arte occidental como la única forma de sobrevivir en este campo. Lee pensaba que estos artistas desconocían su propia identidad y comenzó a experimentar para comprender la verdadera naturaleza del arte moderno coreano. Dicho esto, sus obras de arte de los años sesenta y setenta se han asociado a movimientos artísticos como Land Art, Arte Povera y Post Minimalismo.

Esta exposición de arte en la galería White Cube Mason’s Yard en London es la primera muestra en solitario de Lee en el Reino Unido que comprende obras de arte desde la década de 1960 hasta la actualidad y revela su interés en la materialidad y la identidad cultural.

Una de las principales características de su práctica artística consiste en atar objetos encontrados, naturales o estructuras arquitectónicas existentes, como forma de sugerir la capacidad de transformación de sus propiedades materiales inherentes. Esta característica se puede apreciar en trabajos que parecen completamente diferentes entre sí. De hecho, la exposición de arte se extiende entre dos pisos, y a primera vista las obras de arte de la planta baja parecen provenir de un artista distinto a las que hay en la galería del sótano.

En la planta baja, todas las obras de arte parecen orgánicas y más cercanas a la naturaleza. Varias esculturas están hechas de granito, un material ampliamente utilizado en Corea para monumentos al aire libre por su durabilidad. Las obras de arte de Lee se muestran suaves e incluso sensuales. Algunas de ellas son colocadas  en el suelo, sin pedestal, haciéndolas parecer mas accesibles. Con otras dos obras, ata pequeños trozos de granito con cuerda o alambre para distorsionar la percepción del espectador.

Como Lee ha declarado en algún momento, el impacto visual de la obra proviene de la “tensión entre la barra de madera, precariamente colgada de dos cuerdas delgadas, y los cúmulos de piedras bifurcadas que efectivamente evocan una sensación de presión gravitacional”.

La foto que incluye a The art raspberry inmediatamente debajo de las piedras acentúa esta sensación de amenaza de las piedras y la vulnerabilidad de la modelo.

En este nivel, también pudimos ver obras enmarcadas hechas de cuerdas sobre lienzo denominadas ‘dibujos en lienzo’. El artista utilizó las cuerdas como alternativa a las líneas habituales dibujadas sobre papel, y los nudos y cabos sueltos de estas obras adquieren una naturaleza más táctil.

Por último, a nivel del sótano, pudimos ver las estructuras de vinilo monumentales recreadas de la década de 1960 con llamativos colores brillantes. Originalmente se hicieron de láminas de vinilo de fabricación barata y se han recreado para esta exposición utilizando vinilo de uretano de mayor durabilidad pero de apariencia similar. Contrastan claramente con los colores neutros y orgánicos de la galería de la planta baja. Sin embargo, la característica fundamental en la obra de Lee en esta exposition sigue siendo la practica de atar o envolver distintos elementos. Me gusto hacer este performance con las grandes estructuras de vinilo. La iluminación y tranquilidad de esta planta invitaba a la meditación.

La practica de atar objetos es una estrategia artística y un gesto simbólico de subversión utilizado por Lee que no solo desestabiliza la percepción del espectador sino que además cuestiona la forma existente, la función y el significado del objeto atado.

Seung-taek Lee-stones

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Seung-taek Lee-vinyl yellow

1932: A year of renewed creativity

Current art exhibition: Picasso 1932 – Love, Fame, Tragedy
Tate Modern, London, UK.

8 March – 9 September 2018

I’m delighted to cover the first ever solo exhibition of Pablo Picasso at Tate Modern and what is certainly the blockbuster art show of the season here in London. I believe that Picasso was one of the most relevant figures in the arts in the 20th century, and a great artist who kept exploring new artistic avenues all his life.

I liked the curating work done for this EY exhibition at Tate Modern, as I did like the one done at The National Portrait Gallery at the end of 2016 based on “Picasso Portraits“. I found the latter was excellent to showcase the artist’s capacity to redefine the portrait with each woman in his life.

Picasso said once that “The work one does is a way of keeping a diary.” The current art exhibition at Tate Modern is like a diary that takes visitors on a month-by-month journey through 1932; a year that’s been called his ‘year of wonders’ for how relevant it was from a personal and career perspective.

In his personal life, he was 50 years old and his marriage with Olga Picasso (previously Khokhlova) was under strain. The affair he was having with the significantly younger Marie-Thérèse Walter, a young woman of 22, offered him a escape and a source of inspiration for much of his work in this period. Walter is the central presence in this exhibition and who inspired him to reach a new level of sensuality with his paintings.

From a career perspective, this was the year that cemented Picasso as a celebrity within the art world. A group of Paris dealers competed to launch the first ever retrospective of his work, when retrospectives of living artists were still unusual. Matisse’s retrospective at the Galeries Georges Petit in 1931 had been a rare exception and Picasso wanted to have his own too. He even declined offers from the MOMA in New York and the Venice Biennale to have his own retrospective at the Galeries Georges Petit, which happened in June 1932. Picasso took full control of the show to avoid giving too much power to his dealers. But, then he didn’t attend the opening, choosing to go to the cinema instead. That art show cemented his celebrity status and offered the first hint of having a new woman in his life.

He escaped to Boisgeloup with Marie-Thérèse Walter in July and August, and his style became faster and more fluid. She was a great swimmer, so he used this fact to showcase similarities between women and sea creatures with a strong surrealist influence.

This art exhibition presents also some of the drawings he did in charcoal in 1932. Some of them in canvas as they were works in their own right, not preparatory studies. For some paintings, he liked focusing on line and shape rather than in colour. I was lucky to see the fantastic “Picasso Black and White” exhibition held at the Guggenheim in New York in 2012, which explored the fantastic use of black and white he did throughout his career. It’d be good to see a similar art show like that in London sometime soon.

Towards the end of the show, we could see the series of drawings and paintings inspired by classical themes, both secular and religious, such as the Crucifixion, by Matthias Grunewald’s Isenheim Altarpiece and  scenes of reclining nudes and flute players, mostly associated with surrealism. Although he was sceptical of group membership of any kind. The flute players in purple and green reminded me of Chagall’s figures with a whimsical and magic touch.

The year that started with sensuous exuberance progressed into a more darkened mood after Marie-Thérèse fell very ill after swimming in the river Marne. His paintings reflected scenes of rescue and struggle. What’s more, he became increasingly anxious about the political situation there was in Europe at the time with populist nationalism and totalitarian regimes, which would eventually finish with tragedy first in Spain and then all over Europe.

Some of Picasso’s most iconic and loved works like ‘Nude woman in a red armchair’ from the Tate collection, ’Girl before a mirror’ from The Museum of Modern Art in NY or ‘The dream’ are displayed in this show . Also, I enjoyed to see two of the sculptures shown in this show created in Boisgeloup, a big bust of Marie-Thérèse and the ‘Cock’ that was a rare example among all the female figures he made; it shares the sweeping curves with them and includes a profile beneath the tail feathers. The original plaster was cast in bronze in 1952. One of The art berries’ pictures captures the ‘Cock’ and adds another profile to it.

I enjoyed this exhibition because at a time in which critics were questioning his ability to create new work, he once again redefined the tradition of western art with a new style full of sensuality, fluidity and vibrancy. Something only a great artist can do.

Fashion notes:
Raspberry wears a dress from COS stores.
Blueberry wears a shirt from Cynthia Rowley and a vintage jumper.
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Art creation as an ongoing process

Past art shows: Giorgio Griffa. A continuos becoming.
Camden Arts Centre, London, UK.
26 January – 8 April 2018

We visited this art exhibition in March this year and got really inspired by the paintings presented by Giorgio Griffa (1936) at the Camden Art Centre. Griffa is an Italian abstract painter who lives and works in Turin and has been closely related to Arte Povera, which stands for ‘poor art’. This is a movement that appeared in Italy in the 1960s and with which artists sought to radically redefine painting by incorporating throwaway or ‘poor’ materials into their work.

Griffa believes in the ‘intelligence of painting’ and allows for every element of the process to influence and form his work, from the type of brush he uses to the nature of the canvas or the dilution of the pain.

Griffa’s approach is performative and time-base, as he assures that painting is “constant and never finished”.

 

His sources of inspiration are quantum energy, time-space mathematics, the golden ratio and the memory of visual experience since time immemorial. The body of work he presented at the Camden Arts Centre spans his career as an artist from the 1960s through to today and it was curated by artist and curator Stephen Nelson.

I found this exhibition visually striking and very much of my taste. The use of bold and primary colours over unstretched raw canvas was reinforced by the white background of the walls. As soon as I went through the door I felt I was entering the artist’s individual universe. The simple shapes and materials he uses on his paintings resonate with me; as if the artist had found a series of universal symbols and shared them with the rest of the world.

Performing as The art berries, we added another layer to these art exhibition and I dare to say that Griffa would approve of this addition to his work, not only for what it brought of improvisation and time-base performance, but also for the “constant and never finished” approach he likes to use on his paintings.

 

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The plasticity of a surreal dream

Past shows: Karla Black, Stuart Shave/Modern Art
17 Nov – 16 Dec 2017

We attended this exhibition in November last year and really liked discovering Karla Black’s new body of work. With this exhibition she attempted to emphasise the importance of mark-making in her practice, which combined with colour and light connects her sculptural practice to painting.

Moreover, she concentrated specifically on one of the many sculptural problems that preoccupies her: how to preserve the precious, formal aesthetic decisions she makes, within the precariousness of the informal materials she favours. Many of the works in the exhibition were conceived and realised within the gallery space. As she’s asserted in the past, her sculpture is absolutely non-representational.

“There is no image, no metaphor,” Karla Black said.

In the first room, there were free standing sculptures made of Vaseline mixed with paint, then sealed between glass screens. In addition, we found hanging sculptures in the same materials and in clay, wool and spray paint across the whole show. In the second room, there were floor artworks of a pink fluff material and thin sculptures made of Johnson’s baby oil bottles, crystal glasses and wax.

Karla Black lives and works in Glasgow. She was born in Alexandria, United Kingdom in 1972, and completed an MA in Fine Art at the Glasgow School of Art, Glasgow, in 2004. In 2011, Black’s work represented Scotland at the 54th Venice Biennale, and was the same year nominated for the Turner Prize. Her work has been the subject of solo exhibitions at multiple galleries in the UK and abroad.

Black’s works for this exhibition were fragile and evocative. The plasticity of the materials she used for this exhibition, as well as the pastel and shinny colours she employed on most of these artworks remain in my mind as part of a surreal dream.

 

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Connected to the universe

Past shows: Thomas Ruff, Whitechapel Gallery
27 Sept – 21 Jan 2018

This exhibition was the artist’s first major London retrospective and was curated by Whitechapel Gallery Director Iwona Blazwick. It included his more recent works from 1979 to 2017 and was organised thematically. Some of the themes explored included questions of scale, the cosmic and the everyday.

Known for taking a critical, conceptual approach to photography, Ruff explores themes as diverse as utopianism, suburbia, advertising culture, pornography and surveillance. The German artist began his career in the 1970s as a student at the renowned art school Staatliche Kunstakademie in Düsseldorf, and from the 1970s to today has worked in series for which he uses different image-making technologies. He presented 18 series for this art exhibition.

“I just think that with one photograph you cannot explain the whole world, you have to make more photographs.” Thomas Ruff.

I didn’t visit this exhibition, but the other berries did and took some brilliant photos that I am sharing with you here. You can see pictures of everyday life mixed with some cosmic views of the universe taken in a huge scale. Raspberry and Blackberry performed alongside Sterne (Stars) (1989–92), photographs taken by a high-performance telescope at the European Southern Observatory, and you can think about what a small part of the universe we are and how connected we are to everything else. 

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