Making air solid

Past art shows: Rachel Whiteread, Tate Britain
12 September 2017 – 24 January 2018

Rachel Whiteread is one of Britain’s leading contemporary artists and my favourite from the YBA group. The latest art exhibition she had at Tate Britain, London, a few months ago revealed the trajectory of her career over three decades from 1988 to date. Time in which she’s been casting the so-called “negative spaces” using a variety of materials such as plaster, resin, rubber, concrete, metal and paper. But what are Whiteread’s “negative spaces”? The air that surrounds our daily experience or the inner world of objects. We find them in our house, in toilet paper rolls, beneath chairs or inside the mattress we sleep on every night. She makes these “negative spaces” solid with her sculptures.

The original idea comes from the US artist Bruce Nauman work titled “A Cast of the Space Under My Chair” (1965-8) that Whiteread referenced in this art exhibition with her “Untitled (One Hundred Spaces)” (1995) showed across the south part of the Duveen galleries at Tate Britain; 100 casts of the underside of chairs in changing shades of coloured resin and with their own flaws. Whiteread, however, has gone further.

Her work ranges in scale from the modest to the monumental and plays with paradoxes such as capturing human wear and experience with geometric white shapes and minimalism.

Tate Britain showed Whiteread’s most important large scale sculptures such as “Untitled (Book Corridors) 1997-8” and “Untitled (Stairs) 2001”, both of which I captured on two photos here, alongside her more intimate works with domestic objects such as tables, boxes or hot water bottles. And then, in the middle of the art show stood “Untitled (Room 101)”: the plaster cast of the BBC office, demolished in 2003, which inspired George Orwell’s torture chamber in Nineteen Eighty-Four.

I first discovered Whiteread as an artist in 2005 and became intrigued with her work. She then populated the Turbine Hall at Tate Modern with a huge labyrinth-like structure entitled “Embankment” made from 14,000 casts of the inside of different boxes. She chose the form of a cardboard box because of its associations with the storage of intimate personal items and to invoke the sense of mystery surrounding ideas of what a sealed box might contain.

Born in London in 1963, Whiteread studied painting at Brighton Polytechnic and sculpture at the Slade School of Fine Art. She was the first woman to win the Turner Prize in 1993 and went on to represent Britain at the 1997 Venice Biennale. She first came to public attention with the unveiling of her first public commission “House” in London’s East End in 1993. A concrete cast of the interior of an entire Victorian terraced house with imprints or doors, windows and fireplaces in great detail. The house only stood for a few months before its demolition, but heralded Whiteread’s life-long project as an artist: fusing domestic narratives with brutalist architecture and minimalism.

Rachel Whiteread exhibition at Tate Britain was curated by Ann Gallagher and Linsey Young. The exhibition was co-organised with the National Gallery of Art, Washington, curated by Molly Donovan, where it will be shown in autumn 2018, and will also tour to the 21er Haus Vienna and the Saint Louis Art Museum.

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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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The poetry in traditional crafts

Past shows: Martin Puryear at Parasol unit, London
18 Sept – 6 Dec 2017

It’s not often that I discover artists like Martin Puyear. I was truly interested on the body of work he presented at the Parasol Unit gallery in Shoreditch, London, end of last year, and really inspired by it. His abstract works are finely hand-made from wood and bronze and the use of craft methods and natural materials on the sculptures he creates shows a great respect to skilled craftsmanship. He proves that abstraction isn’t separate from traditional techniques and in fact it’s more relevant than ever. To me, this exhibition brought back the spirit of the Arts & Crafts Movement promoted by William Morris and Ruskin in the XIX century, with the joy of craftsmanship that it inspired and the natural beauty of materials.

Furthermore, with his works Puryear also explores social history and makes a very subtle political statement. In addition to the sculptures, the printmaking works presented on this gallery on the first floor offered a different perspective of the wood and bronze sculptures.

This exhibition was curated by Ziba Ardalan and was the artist’s first solo show in London. It presented over 30 works of sculpture and works in paper and spans 40 years of the artist’s practice. In the ground floor gallery there were large-scale works, such as the “Big Phrygian”, 2010–2014. This five-foot tall cedarwood sculpture, painted bright red, resembles the distinctive shape of a Phrygian cap, which is a soft conical cap with the top pulled forward. People of ancient Eastern Europe and Anatolia wore such caps, which in the modern world have come to signify the pursuit of liberty.  This contrasted with the iron sculpture “Shackled”, 2014, which recalls the shackles worn by slaves when they were taken to America.

The African-American began exploring traditional craft methods in his youth, studied a BA in the States and went to spend two years as a Peace Corps volunteer in Sierra Leona, where he learned local woodworking techniques. Following this time in Africa, he spend two more years (1966-68) studying at the Royal Swedish Academy of Arts in Stockholm before returning to the US to attend Yale University in 1971, where he received an MFA in Sculpture. His work is widely exhibited and collected both in the United States and internationally.

“I value the referential quality of art, the fact that a work can allude to things or states of being without in any way representing them.” Martin Puryear.

For The art berries, performing with these works was like merging with nature. Almost like when an architect thinks about how to integrate his design within the surrounding landscape, but with a more humble approach of course! We hope you enjoy the photos! 

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A peek at the Californian mountains

Past shows: Ed Ruscha at the Gagosian gallery, London
“Extremes and In-betweens”
Oct 5 – Dec 17, 2016

This is an art show we visited more than a year ago and it’s not currently on. But I’ve decided to start my blog with it because it was very inspiring for me. It made me realised what I wanted to blog about and therefore, I owe it a first post here.

I first encountered Ed Ruscha’s work at Tate Modern and have been interested since. He’s called by many the Magritte of Los Angeles and one of the longest living pop artists. He produced all the works for this exhibition in 2016, and it was Gagosian’s first show of Ruscha’s paintings since an exhibition at its Rome gallery in 2014-15.

The novelty of this show is that the words appearing on the artworks were presented in logical sequences and in diminishing or augmenting typeface over a sand background in most of them; and with blue skies over the mountains of California in some other works, combined with a circled selected view that suggests we are having a peep in, but not part of this idyllic scenery.

As per the press release published by Farah Nayeri for The New York Times, Ruscha said about his works at the opening: “I’m not trying to wrap things up or make final statements or capture anything in a big way,” he said. “It’s more like, whatever the voyage is, that’s where I am. I’m just traveling along the tops of things, not trying to bring an answer to anything, necessarily, but just to keep making pictures.”

With the comments above, it appears to me that he doesn’t want to be categorical with these artworks, but exploratory with visual images as well as with words. A search done from a rather logical perspective.

The photo with raspberry adds a new layer to these artworks. She seems to be enjoying the solitude of these mountains and looking at us from within the scenery itself.

 

Welcome to The art berries blog

The art berries is an art collaboration between me and other friends, who are also art enthusiasts. I’ll be the person posting here, but the other art berries have also a key role in attending the art shows, performing and contributing with art ideas for the photos. We hope you feel as inspired when you see the photos as we did when we took them.

Feel free to contact us and perhaps send us a photo of you visiting an art show with you in the picture. We’ll do a picture selection every month and post the ones we like the most. We hope you enjoy this blog and the arts you see around!