The struggle in all artistic pursuits

Franz West
Sisyphos sculptures
Gagosian, Davies Street, London, UK
June 8 – July 27, 2018

In Greek mythology Sisyphus or Sisyphos was the first king of Ephyra, who was punished by Zeus for his deceitfulness and proudness and forced to roll a heavy boulder up a steep hill, only for it to roll down when it nears the top, repeating this action for eternity.

The last art exhibition there was at the Gagosian in Davies Street, London, by Franz West (Vienna, 1947 – Vienna, 2012) referred to the myth told above. The show ended last week, so you’ll have to see these artworks somewhere else they travel to. But, I wanted to share them with you nevertheless, because I think that the sculptures are beautiful and I like the photos we did when we performed at the art space.

Belonging to a generation of artists exposed to the Actionist and Performance Art of the 1960s and 70s, Franz West rejected the idea of a passive relationship between artwork and viewer. He investigated the dichotomy between private and public, action and reaction, both in and outside the gallery, and used everyday materials and imagery to examine art’s relation to social experience.

The Sisyphus myth the artist referred to with this show at the Gagosian gallery is an exploration of the unrelenting frustration of the creative process, the struggle involved in all artistic pursuits that artists and creative people in general are so familiar with.

Franz West unconventional sculpures often require an involvement of the audience, so they are the perfect example of artworks The art berries like to perform with. The ones where the artist encourages the interaction and don’t see our performance as an interference in their work. Having said that, I do believe that everyone should be free to interact with art and enjoy the arts as they please, as long as the artworks are respected. And that is indeed one of the missions of The art berries project.

For the photos displayed here we played with the notions of hide and exposure frequently touched by the artist in his career. Also by lying on the floor, we seem to be resting from the Sisyphean creative struggle. Only for a moment!


La lucha en todas las actividades artísticas

Franz West
Esculturas de Sísifo
Gagosian, Davies Street, Londres, Reino Unido
8 de junio – 27 de julio de 2018

En la mitología griega, Sísifo o Sisyphos fue el primer rey de Ephyra, que fue castigado por Zeus por su comportamiento engañoso y su orgullo, y obligado a rodar una pesada roca por una colina empinada, solo para que ruede cuando se acerca a la cima, repitiendo esta acción por toda la eternidad.

La última exposición de arte que hubo en la galería Gagosian de Londres del artista Franz West (Viena, 1947 – Viena, 2012) se refería al mito mencionado anteriormente. La muestra terminó la semana pasada, por lo que tendrás que ver estas obras de arte en otra galería o museo al que viajen. Pero, quería compartirlas contigo, porque creo que las esculturas son bonitas y me gustan las fotos resultantes de la interacción con las esculturas en este espacio.

Perteneciente a una generación de artistas expuestos al Actionist y Performance Art de los años 60 y 70, Franz West rechazó la idea de una relación pasiva entre obra de arte y espectador. Investigó la dicotomía entre lo privado y lo público, la acción y la reacción, tanto dentro como fuera de la galería, y utilizó materiales e imágenes cotidianas para examinar la relación del arte con la experiencia social.

El mito de Sísifo al que el artista se refirió con esta exposición en la galería Gagosian es una exploración de la frustración del proceso creativo, la lucha permanente que rodea a todas las actividades artísticas con las que los artistas y las personas creativas en general estamos tan familiarizados.

 

Las esculturas no convencionales de Franz West a menudo requieren la participación de la audiencia, por lo que son el ejemplo perfecto de obras de arte con las que nos gusta hacer un ‘performance’ a The art berries. Aquellas en los que el artista fomenta la interacción y no ve nuestro ‘perfomance’ como una interferencia en su trabajo. Habiendo dicho eso, creo que el público debería ser libre de interactuar con el arte y disfrutar del arte como le plazca, siempre y cuando se respeten las obras de arte. Y esa es de echo una de las misiones del proyecto The art berries.

Para las fotos que se muestran aquí, jugamos con las nociones de ocultar y mostrar que con frecuencia tocó el artista en su carrera. También al tumbarnos en el suelo parece que descansamos de la lucha creativa de Sísifo. Sólo por un momento!

Franz West - TheartblueberryFranz West - big sculpure

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.

August Sander-entrance

August Sander-old ladies

August Sander-corner view

August Sander - artist

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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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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