Sculpture – Art & Antiques Magazine For Collectors of the Fine and Decorative Arts Tue, 09 Jul 2019 01:51:43 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Sculpture – Art & Antiques Magazine 32 32 Heart of Glass Wed, 29 May 2019 22:31:18 +0000 Continue reading ]]> The Yale University collection of American glass illuminates the history of the medium, from artisanal exuberance to modernist innovation and beyond.

Toots Zynsky, Spring Grass II, Amsterdam, 1983

Toots Zynsky, Spring Grass II, Amsterdam, 1983, fused soda-lime filet de verre, 14 x 31.8 x 33.3 cm.

Featured Images:(Click to Enlarge) Gimmal Flask, N.J., 1820–40 Pocket Bottle, 1764–70 Wimshurst Influence Machine, made Germany, retailed Philadelphia, circa 1890 W. L. Libbey & Son, Vase, East Cambridge, Mass., 1883–87 Mt. Washington Glass Company, Royal Flemish Ewer with Lion and Arms Decoration Toots Zynsky, Spring Grass II, Amsterdam, 1983

The modern tradition of art glass originated in the United States, but long before there was a Dale Chihuly or a Harvey Littleton, creative energies were being poured into the crucibles of American glassmakers. While positioned as artisan work for practical use rather than art for art’s sake, earlier American glass displays a vast aesthetic range and an attention to form and color that was meant to bring delight to lives both simple and refined.

However, the idea of collecting glass objects in a formal way never entered American minds until quite late in the day, toward the end of the 19th century. In the aftermath of the centennial celebrations of the Republic in 1876, an awareness began to develop with regard to the historical value of objects that had previously been thought of as just “old stuff.” The concept of “antiques” crystallized as collectors raided attics and curiosity shops for new-found treasures, very much including glassware. Into the early 20th century, antique glass was pursued more for its historical value than for its aesthetics, although that would soon change.

One of the most important pioneers of glass collecting in this country was Francis P. Garvan, a prominent Yale-educated lawyer and government official who lived in New York. He and his wife, Mabel Brady Garvan, came into a tremendous fortune when her father, an Albany, N.Y., industrialist, died unexpectedly in 1913. Although Garvan had already started collecting American antiques, he went into high gear after receiving this inheritance, which enabled him to operate in the same sphere as a select few “super-collectors” in the field, such as Henry Ford, Henry Francis du Pont, and Ima Hogg. Garvan was aided in this pursuit by an art advisor, the glass scholar Rhea Mansfield Knittle. She traveled the country scouting pieces for Garvan to acquire as well as enhancing his enterprise with her research and connoisseurship skills. Garvan also made savvy acquisitions when the collections of his predecessors were sold off at auction, such as those of Edwin AtLee Barber and Frederick William Hunter.

At his death in 1937, Garvan’s collection went to his alma mater, with which he had established a donor relationship some seven years earlier. At the Yale University Art Gallery in New Haven, Conn., it forms the kernel of and original inspiration for a comprehensive American glass collection that extends to modern and contemporary art. These holdings have recently been epitomized in book form as American Glass: The Collections at Yale, edited by John Stuart Gordon, the Benjamin Attmore Hewitt Associate Curator of American Decorative Arts at the Gallery. Through 155 carefully chosen objects, photographed, catalogued, and explicated, American Glass tells the rich story of the medium in this country, from 18th-century mold-blown vessels to 19th-century pressed glass, glass in technology, stained glass, and the studio glass of our own time.

Also drawing on Gordon’s research is the exhibition “A Nation Reflected: Stories in American Glass,” which will be on view at the Yale University Art Gallery through September 29. Co-curated by Gordon and six Yale students, it presents 130 objects in thematic arrangements that shed light on American material culture and design history through the prism of glass. The Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History loaned some objects to the show in order to extend the narrative to include Pre-Columbian objects like an obsidian knife from Central Mexico and the raw materials of glass art such as a raw opal from Nevada, which is a form of silica, the same substance that makes glass.

In Garvan’s day, early American glass was virtually synonymous with the name of Henry William Stiegel, a German-born glassmaker who emigrated to Pennsylvania in 1750. His American Flint Glass Manufactory introduced leaded glass to this country (“flint” is a misnomer in that this process for high-quality glass started in Europe with ground flint introduced into the mixture, but in this country the term referred to leaded glass without any actual flint). Stiegel, a self-made tycoon with a big personality who was known as “the Baron,” dominated the glass industry in late colonial times and was the first American glassmaker to get his own monograph, which was written by the scholar-collector Frederick William Hunter in 1914, just as Garvan was getting started. A notable Stiegel piece from the Garvan collection is a pocket bottle or flask for carrying small amounts of liquor. It was made—not from leaded glass—around 1764–70, and its rich purple color comes from an admixture of manganese. The bottle’s rippling diamond-like patterns were achieved by blowing the glass into a mold that pressed a design into it.

In the early 19th century, flint glass technique became even more elaborate, with an emphasis on cutting rather than pressing the patterns. Benjamin Bakewell, a Pittsburgh entrepreneur, acquired a failing glassworks and turned it around with high-grade production and clever marketing. A clear blown-glass vase, sparkling with prism- and pillar-cut facets, shows Bakewell’s ambition to create pieces that could stand alongside the best products of the European glass industry. A version of the vase at Yale was made in 1825 and gifted to the Marquis de Lafayette in appreciation of his aid to the American Revolution. It was engraved with a view of Lafayette’s home, La Grange, and the grateful French nobleman remarked that its “clearness and transparency might have been admired even by the side of the glass of Baccarat.”

From the next generation comes a piece with simpler technique yet a bold aesthetic statement. A leaf-pattern compote from either Pennsylvania or New England, circa 1850–70, in the Garvan collection, is made from pressed glass, but in thick pieces with almost modernistic forms rather than the delicate look of earlier pressed glass. Here aesthetic followed technology; by the mid-19th century, pressed glass had evolved to the point where it did not have imperfections that had to be hidden by intricate surface patterns. The boldness of this piece is heightened by the dark purple color that recalls vessels from Classical antiquity made of carved porphyry; here the hue was created by a combination of manganese, iron, cobalt, and nickel. The overall form of the compote is suggestive of the Italian Renaissance, in keeping with the Renaissance Revival movement of the period.

By the third quarter of the 19th century, a self-conscious art-glass concept had come into being in the U.S. The Sicilian Vase, a two-handled amphora-like vessel made by the Mt. Washington Glass Company in South Boston, circa 1878–80, evinces a combination of Classicizing historicism and ahead-of-its-time color experimentation. The pink, purple, blue, and green explosions of color over a black base make one think of the 1980s rather than the 1880s. The Sicilian Vase was apparently a response to public interest in recent excavations of Roman ruins, particularly at Pompeii, and the advertising copy somewhat hyperbolically described it as “manufactured from the Lava flows of Aetna.”

In the Beaux-Arts era, stained glass rose to prominence, spearheaded by Tiffany Studios. The Yale collection includes some truly spectacular examples, such as Education, the 30-foot wide Mary Hartwell Lusk Memorial Window (1885–92). This allegorical celebration of the life of the mind was designed by Louis Comfort Tiffany for Yale’s new Chittenden Library and named for the donor’s late daughter. In the center panel, angelic female figures with haloes labeled with abstractions such as “Devotion” and “Truth” are foregrounded by male figures quoted from Raphael’s School of Athens. In the left-hand panel, Lusk herself is portrayed surmounted by the word “Art” and backed by three angels whose haloes proclaim “Form,” Color,” and “Imagination.” Made before Tiffany had set up his own glass furnace, the window has glass sourced from various makers, including the Opalescent Glass Works of Kokomo, Ind. Among the other stained-glass treasures in Yale’s collection is Cherry Blossoms against Spring Freshet (1882–83), by Tiffany’s rival John La Farge, who referenced Japanese painted screens in this work.

The Yale collection, and the exhibition, do not limit themselves to these lofty heights of art—glass’ role in the history of American technology also gets its due, and considering the centrality of technology in American culture, that is very appropriate. The objects on view include a pair of green-glass spectacles from Philadelphia, circa 1825; an Edison light bulb from 1884–88; a Type H Triode made by the De Forest Radio Company in 1925; and a contraption from around 1890 called a Wimshurst Influence Machine. This was an electrostatic generator for amateur scientists to use in the home, made in Germany and sold in Philadelphia, consisting of a rotating glass disc bearing metal brushes, all mounted on a mahogany base. Glass’ importance in early photography is testified to by a framed ambrotype of the Peralta family of Oakland, Calif., taken around 1855–59. Daguerreotypy, which popularized photography in the 1840s, was eventually superseded by processes like ambrotypy that used glass plates coated with light-sensitive emulsions to form a negative image. And the show includes low-tech objects for everyday use made of glass, like a blown and etched-glass oil lamp with gilt bronze on a marble base, made in Sandwich, Mass., circa 1860–75, and an engraved green lead-glass salad dressing bottle made by T.G. Hawkes & Co. in 1916.

Modernist design enters the glass world in the 1920s and ’30s. An engraved Mariner’s Bowl made by Steuben Glass Inc. and designed by the sculptor Sidney Waugh in 1935 deploys classical mythological motifs in a spare and stark composition worthy of the Machine Age. A plate designed in the late 1940s shows the influence of geometric abstraction. Its maker, Maurice Heaton, an independent craftsman who was a veteran of the industrial design industry, favored plate glass to which he would apply powdered enamels either freehand or with stencils.

Abstraction is taken farther in a piece by studio glass pioneer Harvey Littleton. His Exploded Green Vase (1965) revels in the unpredictability of the glassblowing process, capturing forever the moment when, as Littleton blew too much air into the pipe, a planned vase form was transformed into something more interesting. The resulting piece, which manages to look both liquid and jagged at the same time, is a kind of Abstract Expressionism in glass. A more Pop Art approach to studio glass is seen in Marvin Lipofsky’s California Loop Series #2 (1969–70). The idiosyncratic, asymmetric yellow and orange shape, made up of colored bottle glass and uranium glass partly coated with electroplated copper, is playfully biomorphic.

Among the most recent pieces in the Yale collection is Hitch (1985), an abstract, uncolored work by Lynda Benglis, an artist who began outside the studio glass community and then came to work at the Pilchuck Glass School in Stanwood, Wash. Benglis extended her practice of pouring and dripping latex into sand-cast lead glass. Here she manipulated the hot glass after removing it from the mold, creating an effect of viscosity and slow movement. And testifying to glass’ pictorial and representative potential, Josh Simpson’s Mega World (1991) uses pulled and lamp-worked soda-lime glass heightened with gold and silver leaf to create a model of the blue and green globe of Earth. Simpson, who is known for his glass planets, says he was inspired to make this one by seeing photos of the Earth from space taken by Apollo astronaut Jim Lovell.

Whether or not the conservative antiques fanatic Garvan would have appreciated such works has to remain an open question, but without a doubt the breadth of the Yale collections shows that American glass has always been and continues to be blown, poured, and molded into as many shapes as the human imagination can conceive.

By John Dorfman

Ruth Asawa: Divine Wire Wed, 24 Oct 2018 23:07:24 +0000 Continue reading ]]> Ruth Asawa’s material-driven sculptures spanning 60 years are on view at the Pulitzer Arts Foundation.

Ruth Asawa, Untitled (S.130, Freestanding Vessel Form), 1996

Ruth Asawa, Untitled (S.130, Freestanding Vessel Form), 1996, bronze, golden green patina, 35.6 x 33.7 x 33.7 cm.

Featured Images:(Click to Enlarge) Ruth Asawa, Untitled (S.089, Hanging Asymmetrical Twelve Interlocking Bubbles), circa 1957 Ruth Asawa, Untitled (S.095, Hanging Single-Lobed, Six-Layered Continuous Form within a Form), circa 1952 Ruth Asawa, Untitled (S.130, Freestanding Vessel Form), 1996 Ruth Asawa, Untitled (S.132, Freestanding Electroplated Tied-Wire, Organic Form Based on Nature), circa 1963

Unless you’re a native San Franciscan, it’s likely you haven’t heard of Ruth Asawa. The sculptor and arts activist, who died in 2013 at age 86, was many things—a survivor of the Japanese internment camps, an alumna of Black Mountain College, a dedicated advocate for public arts education, and a mother of six. She was also a committed, visionary artist who worked primarily in one material—wire—and explored it to its fullest extent. In Asawa’s artworks, wire is tied, cast, looped, bundled, and divided. It’s woven into geometric shapes and intricately formed into delicate, branch-like sculptures.

Despite its uniqueness in both style and execution, her work has been generally overlooked. That is beginning to change, however, This fall, the Pulitzer Arts Foundation in St. Louis is presenting the major exhibition “Ruth Asawa: Life’s Work,” featuring 60 sculptures and 20 works on paper that span more than 60 years of the artist’s career. “Up to this point she’s been very largely unknown, except in San Francisco,” says Pulitzer Foundation curator Tamara Schenkenberg, who is curating the exhibition. “But if you look across her body of work, she has six decades of creating really innovative sculptures. That’s what I was interested in bringing recognition to.”

Loosely divided into four groups, the art on display spans a wide variety of forms. Asawa’s best-known works, looped wire sculptures, are ethereal, transparent creations constructed of fine, almost mesh-like wire. Many are suspended from the ceiling, and the shadows they cast are as much a part of the pieces as the wire forms themselves. Asawa also made tied wire sculptures, in which she created delicate branching by dividing and bundling wires; electroplated wire sculptures, which used a chemical process to give her material a strikingly different expression; and cast bronze sculptures, within which are the same wire structures she used elsewhere, but in an entirely different form.

But “Life’s Work” is designed to look deeply into not only Asawa’s art itself, but also her methods and artistic values. Schenkenberg says, “She made it a lifelong goal to investigate the properties of wire. Ruth Asawa was very material-driven, and this exhibition will contribute to our understanding of her because it seeks to look more deeply into the material.”

Asawa was very much an artist by choice, not by upbringing. She was born in Southern California in 1926, a first-generation Japanese-American. From the time she was a small child, she worked on her family’s farm, helping with chores and spending a great deal of time outside. That immersion in nature and farm life was a lifelong influence on her artistic vision; in fact, she realized in her later years that her sculptures, with their geometric forms within forms, were the same shapes that, as a child, she used to trace in the dirt with her feet as she rode along the back of the horse-drawn leveler.

Farm life ended cruelly for Asawa and her family in the early 1940s, when first her father, and then she, her mother, and her siblings were sent to the Japanese internment camps. After graduating from high school in the camp, and after her family was released, she studied in Wisconsin to be an art teacher. Discrimination against Japanese-Americans, however, prevented her from being hired as a student teacher, and she left school without obtaining a degree. At a crossroads, unable to become a teacher but unsure of what else to pursue, she discovered the experimental, art-centric Black Mountain College in North Carolina. Home to inspirational and avant-garde teachers like choreographer Merce Cunningham, inventor R. Buckminster Fuller, and artist Josef Albers, Black Mountain was a highly progressive community that encouraged interdisciplinary education. Ultimately, Asawa spent three years there and carried its ethos regarding the vitality of art in education with her throughout her life.

It was during this time that the seeds of her artistic practice were sown. In 1947, Asawa took what would be a life-changing visit to Mexico, where she became interested in the wire baskets that market sellers used to hold their wares. She learned how to craft them herself, using what was to become her signature looping technique, from a local craftsperson. Wire became her material of choice, and her experiments with it, which began in Mexico and at Black Mountain College, continued throughout her life and career as she married, moved to San Francisco, and raised six children—all the while making a living as a working artist.

Asawa’s works are striking for a number of reasons. First, there’s the intricacy—many of her pieces are created with a single piece of wire that is looped over and over into a teardrop or lobe-like shape. Certain of these sculptures seem almost to travel within themselves, creating an interior shape that is connected to the larger one by a single, continuous surface. Then there’s the interesting play of transparency and self-enclosure. Despite being fully enclosed creations, Asawa’s looped wire sculptures are, indeed, transparent—you can see each form within the others, even when, as in some cases, there are five or six lobes nested together. Perhaps the most interesting aspect of Asawa’s work, however, is that endless fascination she had with her material. “She was committed to fully investigating the character of wire, and what it can express,” Schenkenberg says. “It’s a very simple means, but she’s able to achieve a huge range of expression.”

It’s easy to just how large that range is in Life’s Work. The tied wire sculptures, for example, are created out of as many as 1,000 bundles of wires that Asawa pulled apart and shaped into delicate, fine lines. They resemble the natural shapes of trees, tumbleweeds, even molecules. Although these pieces maintain the obvious interest in form and method that drove all of Asawa’s work, they look wilder and less geometric, than her looped wire creations. Then there are the electroplated pieces. This body of work consists of sculptures made with copper wire, which Asawa submerged in tanks of chemicals for months at a time. When they emerged, they were covered with gritty, green growths.

Visitors to Life’s Work will also see several of Asawa’s works on paper, as well as cast bronze pieces. These bronze sculptures are unusual because of the way she created them: by using her looping method to create the shape she wanted, then dipping it in wax, and finally casting the form in bronze. This method allowed her to transform the wire into something entirely new, creating a vastly different expression.

Taken as a whole, “Ruth Asawa: Life’s Work” is a nuanced exploration of how this radically curious, highly methodical artist developed her own unique voice. “She’s really multitalented, and very ambitious across different spheres,” Schenkenberg says. “We wanted to look at how Asawa built her form, how her artistic vision evolved. That’s what we’re doing with this show.”

By Elizabeth Pandolfi

Japanese Bamboo Art: National Treasures Thu, 28 Jun 2018 18:16:18 +0000 Continue reading ]]> The Craft & Folk Art Museum’s latest exhibition reveals the ever-deeper vitality and beauty of Japanese bamboo art.

Ueno Masao, Memories From the Sea, 2006

Ueno Masao, Memories From the Sea, 2006, bamboo basketry sculpture.

Featured Images:(Click to Enlarge) Tanabe Mitsuko, Cultivating Life, Tiger Bamboo & Bamboo Sheath, 2010 Ueno Masao, Memories From the Sea, 2006 Akio Hizume, Fibonacci Tunnel, 2018 Fujitsuka Shosei, Winding, 1983 Honma Hideaki, Sign of Wind, 2002 TanabeTakeo/Shochiku III, Connection/Life, 2005

In 1911, after seeing an exhibition of Japanese bamboo baskets at the Victoria & Albert Museum, a writer for the arts journal The International Studio made a case for basketweaving to be raised in status “to a veritable art like cabinet-making or silversmith’s work … When we add the possibilities it offers of evolving beautiful design, it appears somewhat strange that basket work should be so overlooked as an art.”

It has arguably taken the better part of the last century to give this art its due on an international scale. The Craft & Folk Art Museum is Los Angeles is currently host to the latest exhibition on the subject, “Bamboo,” which features 30 works by 26 artists spanning two centuries and illuminates anew the artistry of basketweaving in Japan. The exhibtion will be on view through September 9.

Basketry first took prominence in Japan as part of traditional tea ceremonies, where Chinese and later Chinese-style hanakago, the term for bamboo baskets, were utilized for ikebana (floral arrangement) in chanoyu (matcha) and sencha (leaf tea) ceremonies. The famous chanoyu tea master Sen Rikyu (1522–91) is said to have brought baskets into ceremonial use after witnessing a fisherman using one at a riverbank.

Up to the 19th century, Japan looked to China for basket inspiration; in tea ceremonies, a distinction was made between karamono (literally “Chinese things”) and those of Japan, wamono. By the end of the Edo period in 1868, Japanese artists developed a distinctive aesthetic in flower-arranging baskets that valued asymmetry and materials over the balance of Chinese-style shapes. But with the decline of ceremonial practice in the last century, and particularly after the Second World War, bamboo as an artistic medium began to lose its prominence.

The collected works in “Bamboo” illustrate the late 20th- and 21st-century move toward a renaissance among bamboo artists. Bamboo’s contemporary significance as an art form is most evident in the bestowing of the title “Living National Treasure” on six bamboo artists, three of whose work can be seen in the current exhibition: Chikubosai Maeda II, Fujinuma Noboru, and Shounsai Shono, who was the first bamboo artist to be awarded this title, in 1967. Moreover, new practices have promoted a means of learning beyond the demanding tradition of apprenticeship; forms are no longer solely dictated by ikebana use but rather can be sculptures that speak for themselves; and women artists have for the first time enjoyed acceptance in this male-dominated profession.

Most works in the exhibition come from the collection of the late Los Angeles-based collector and philanthropist Lloyd Cotsen, whose passionate patronage of Japanese bamboo art brought new international recognition to the craft and helped to revitalize it for future generations. During his lifetime, Cotsen collected over 1,000 baskets, amassing the most important group outside of Japan. In 2002, he donated some 800 works to the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco. Seeing the shrinking interest in basketweaving traditions in Japan, he also sponsored an annual competition, the Lloyd Cotsen Bamboo Prize, for young artists, beginning in 2000.

Among the many highlights of this show, if one must choose, is Nagakura Kenichi’s Human Being (2000), which combines the conventional flower-arranging form with that of an abstracted woven sculpture. Its title even suggests the presence of maker, owner, and ikebana practitioner.

An art traditionally reserved for men, bamboo basketweaving has changed its course only in this millennium. In 2000, the Japan Traditional Craft Arts Association admitted its first woman as a full member, Kajiwara Aya, who was introduced to bamboo art by her husband, fellow artist Kajiwara Koho. Her Spiral Pattern Flower Basket (2014) reveals the unadulterated simplicity, delicacy, and highest level of precision of her baskets.

Like Kajiwara Aya, Tanabe Mitsuko can be said to have married into bamboo. She learned from her husband, Tanabe Chikuunsai III, and her father-in-law, Chikuunsai II. What comes across most strongly is both women’s commitment to their craft and to their families. Mitsuko and Chikuunsai III’s son Chinkuunsai IV (previously known as Shochiku III) also carries on the generations-old tradition. The display of Mitsuko’s Cultivating Life, Tiger Bamboo & Bamboo Sheath (2010) alongside Chikuunsai IV’s Connection/Life (2005) in the exhibition is both the aesthetic culmination of one of Japan’s most important bamboo art familial dynasties and a tender and personal gesture between mother and son. The family’s legacy is also represented in the show by a flower-arranging basket of smoked bamboo by Tanabe Chikuunsai I.

The site-specific installation Fibonacci Tunnel (2018) by Akio Hizume provides an unexpected and monumental conclusion to the exhibition. Akio has invited museumgoers into his unique process in the creation of an interactive sculpture that successfully brings mathematics and his own architectural training into the bamboo
art equation.

By Martina D’Amato

Striding On Thu, 24 May 2018 21:49:31 +0000 Continue reading ]]> The enduring art of Alberto Giacometti gets a home in Paris and a starring role in New York this season.

Alberto Giacometti, Dog

Alberto Giacometti, Dog (Le Chien), 1951, bronze, 44.2 x 96.8 x 15.7 cm;

Featured Images:(Click to Enlarge) Alberto Giacometti, Three Men Walking Alberto Giacometti, Walking Man I Alberto Giacometti, Nose Alberto Giacometti in his Studio, circa 1960 Alberto Giacometti, Caroline in a Red Dress Alberto Giacometti, Dog

The film Final Portrait (directed by Stanley Tucci), released in theaters this spring, depicts the Swiss artist Alberto Giacometti as a chaotic, self-doubting genius. Based on James Lord’s 1965 memoir A Giacometti Portrait (published by The Museum of Modern Art, New York), the film tells the story of Lord (played by Armie Hammer) enduring an 18-day sitting for an aging Giacometti (played by Geoffrey Rush). Working on what is considered his last great painting (Portrait of James Lord, 1964), the artist, who today is known more for his sculptural work, is engaged in a complicated dance between his outsized ego and his insecurities. While many filmic depictions of artists juxtapose the ease of creativity with the drama of life, this portrayal shows how harrowing the creation of a work of art can be for an artist—and how hard Giacometti was on himself. He described his Sisyphean relationship to art making thus: “All I can do will only ever be a faint image of what I see and my success will always be less than my failure or perhaps equal to the failure.”

Regardless of his feelings about failure, when looking through the lens of the art world at large, Giacometti is the epitome of success. He is, for one, the most expensive sculptor in history. When his celebrated bronze L’homme qui marche I (1961) sold for $104.3 million at Sotheby’s London in February 2010, it was not only the first sculpture to sell for more than $100 million, but also the most expensive work of art sold at auction up until that time if the price is expressed in British pounds. Five years later, L’Homme au doigt, a 1947 bronze by the artist, set the new record for sculpture at auction, selling for $141.3 million. But the artist was never a poor performer in the auction room—at Sotheby’s in the early 1980s, Chariot fetched approximately $1.4 million, a price that wasn’t a record but was extremely high for sculpture at the time (it sold for $101 million in 2014). These days, the vast majority of Giacometti’s work commands eight figures.

But sales aren’t the only indicator of his success. A film is certainly one, but so is the large number of exhibitions popping up around the world. Last year, the Qatar Museums Authority paired Giacometti in an exhibition with Picasso, the Tate Modern held a hulking retrospective of the artist (the first in the United Kingdom in two decades), and the Swiss pavilion at the Venice Biennale staged an exhibition dedicated to its countryman. Since then, the Giacometti Foundation, led by Catherine Grenier (a former director of the Pompidou Center), has been busy co-organizing exhibitions at the Musée National des Beaux-Arts de Québec (closed May 13), the Beyeler Foundation in Basel (through September 2), the Musée Maillol in Paris (September 14–January 20, 2019), and the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao (October 19–February 24, 2019).

On June 21, the Foundation puts down some roots of its own, opening the Giacometti Institute in Paris. The Institute will stage shows in its permanent exhibition space that draw from the Foundation’s rich collection of 350 sculptures, 90 paintings, and 2,000 drawings, as well as etchings and decorative art objects. The space also has a reference library that will make the vast archives and ephemera in the Foundation’s collection accessible to scholars and the public alike.

The Giacometti Institute is housed in an early 20th-century townhouse in Montparnasse, the same neighborhood where the artist had his studio. The Foundation called upon the architect Pascal Grasso to redesign the space, which had formerly been the studio of the Art Deco furniture designer Paul Follot. With this project, the Institute has done something Tucci also did in Final Portrait—it has recreated Giacometti’s studio as it was in the 1960s. As in the film, the result is a chaotic, artistic bunker of sorts. Giacometti’s studio, which was a diminutive 65 square feet, was replete with a mess of art materials, sculptures and drawings. After his death in 1966, his widow, Annette Giacometti, conserved it as it was. Photographers such as Robert Doisneau, Sabine Weiss, Gordon Parks, and Ernst Scheidegger also liberally documented the space, effectively creating a blueprint for the Giacometti Foundation to use as a guide. The re-imagining of the space will feature over 70 sculptures in plaster, clay, and bronze, many incredibly fragile and never before seen by the public. The last clay pieces Giacometti was working on prior to his death will also be on view. Additionally, the re-creation includes the artist’s furnishings, as well as the renowned murals he painted on the studio walls.

The Institute’s inaugural exhibition, “The Studio of Alberto Giacometti by Jean Genet,” examines the relationship between the Swiss sculptor and the French writer, with the studio as stage. The exhibition, which runs through September 16, is named after the text Genet wrote about the many hours he spent at Giacometti’s home base. After being introduced by Jean-Paul Sartre in 1954, the two luminaries began to hang out there regularly. In Giacometti’s studio their admiration for each other grew, and the artist wasted little time before he began painting the writer’s portrait. In Jean Genet (1954 or 1955), an oil on canvas in the collection of the Tate, a seated Genet emerges through rusts and blacks. Small, fitful brushstrokes detail a roughly hewn portrait-bust-like depiction of the writer. Texturally, it resembles the sculptures Giacometti is so famous for.

The artist stars in another type of blockbuster this month: an exhibition in the rotunda of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum. Opening on June 8, “Giacometti” is another ambitious co-production with the artist’s Foundation. It will put more than 175 sculptures, paintings, and drawings on view, as well as archival photographs and ephemera (through September 12). It is in some ways a family reunion, with series of elongated standing women, striding men, and bust-length portraits coming together for the first major American museum exhibition of the artist in some 15 years.

Underscoring this notion is the museum’s long relationship with Giacometti. It was his work that furnished the Guggenheim’s earliest significant exhibition of sculpture. The show was staged in 1955 at a temporary location and was also Giacometti’s first-ever museum presentation. A posthumous retrospective ran in the museum’s Frank Lloyd Wright-designed building in 1974, less than a decade after the artist’s death. Works by the artist entered the collection in the ’50s under the auspices of director James Johnson Sweeney. Beating him to it, however, was Peggy Guggenheim, Solomon’s niece, who began amassing a personal collection in the 40s that is now part of the Peggy Guggenheim Collection in Venice.

The Guggenheim’s exhibition in New York spans the artist’s career, which effectively began in Paris in the 1920s when he himself was in his 20s. He came from an artistic family (his father, Giovanni, was a painter, his brother Diego became a furniture designer and his model and studio assistant, and his brother Bruno became an architect) and was encouraged early on. He studied at the École des Beaux-Arts and the École d’Arts et Métiers in Geneva and traveled throughout Italy before settling in Paris and studying at the Académie de la Grande Chaumière between 1922 and 1925. Sculpture was what Giacometti became most drawn to, and he studied classical sculpture, the Cubist idioms, and the work of Constantin Brancusi. He studied and sketched prehistoric female figures in the collections of Parisian museums.

African art, which was widely exhibited in Paris at the time, became a prevailing influence for Giacometti, as it was for many artists of his generation. This inspiration led to one of his first mature works and a highlight of the Guggenheim’s exhibition, Spoon Woman (Femme cullière, 1926, cast 1954, bronze). Based on a type of anthropomorphic spoon carved by the Dan people of West Africa, the totemic sculpture depicts a female figure as a symbol of fertility. The figure’s large oval curvature is representative of both the concave area of the spoon and a woman’s womb. The art historian and theorist Rosalind Krauss wrote, “By taking the metaphor and inverting it, so that ‘a spoon is like a woman’ becomes ‘a woman is like a spoon,’ Giacometti was able to intensify the idea and to make it universal by generalizing the forms of the sometimes rather naturalistic African carvings toward a more prismatic abstraction.” Elements of the piece jive with Giacometti’s Western influences of this period, as well: the sculpture’s sense of abstraction, though very much like African art, recalls Brancusi, and its block-like head, chest, and feet nod to the geometry of Cubism.

Another work in the show, Surrealist Composition, a circa-1933 ink on paper, is representative of both Giacometti’s drawing practice and his links with the Surrealists. He began participating in André Breton’s Surrealist group activities in 1929 but was acrimoniously cast out of the circle six years later because his depictions of models were too “realistic.” Still Nose (Le Nez), a 1947 bronze wire, rope, and steel sculpture and another touchstone of the exhibition, seems to hold on to some remnants of Surrealist tendencies. In the sculpture, a head hangs by a string from a crossbar in a rectangular cage. The head’s long, protruding nose and long neck form the shape of a cartoonish, yet menacing gun. The work’s expresses a caged yet threatening sense of violence and virility. The figure’s mouth is agape, as if in the midst of a scream that goes nowhere, a notion that fits well within the context of the postwar existential angst described by Giacometti’s friend Sartre.

It was around this period, in the years immediately following World War II, that Giacometti began creating the signature form of expressionist sculpture for which he is most popularly known. His elongated, erect figures, almost skeletal in their thinness, became largely symbolic of the horrors of war and the disaffection of postwar life. Intensifying their eerie appearance, Giacometti shrouded the figures in layers of matte gray or brown paint. Their resonance with modern life feels equal to their acknowledgement of classical art—the walking man like the striding kouroi of Greece, the standing woman like those of Egypt, the bust like the portrait busts of Rome. Three Men Walking (Large Square) (Trois hommes qui marchent [petit plateau]), a bronze from 1948 in the exhibition, shows Giacometti early in this practice. The sculpture’s three figures, which are affixed to their platform with the artist’s signature large feet, are all striding in each other’s directions, threatening to collide. Yet, so seemingly intent on their own path, they fail to acknowledge or even notice each other. Walking Man I (Homme qui marche I), a 1960 bronze, made by an older Giacometti, almost appears to be an older, less vigorous figure. He is portrayed mid-stride, and yet he seems to be going nowhere.

In Caroline in a Red Dress (Caroline avec une robe rouge), a circa 1964–65 oil on canvas, the artist, very near to his death, depicts his young girlfriend. Caroline, sat for Giacometti frequently during this period, as in Figure I (Caroline), a 1962 oil on canvas. Both paintings are strikingly similar in composition, but in Caroline in the Red Dress, the figure’s face is darkened and nearly scratched out. What can be seen of her eyes shows them widened, and what can be seen of her mouth revels almost a vortex or black hole. The figure, whose body is constrained by brush strokes as if in a straightjacket, seems quietly in anguish.

By Sarah E. Fensom

Sculpting History Tue, 27 Feb 2018 19:13:23 +0000 Continue reading ]]> An exhibition in Fort Worth, Tex., explores four European-born artists who made their careers in America.

Gaston Lachaise, Woman Seated

Gaston Lachaise, Woman Seated, modeled 1918, cast 1925, bronze, 12 in. (h).

Featured Images:(Click to Enlarge) Gaston Lachaise, Man Walking Gaston Lachaise, Woman Seated Robert Laurent, The Bather, circa 1925 Elie Nadelman, Acrobat, 1916 William Zorach, Spirit of the Dance, 1932

A current exhibition at the Amon Carter Museum of American Art, “A New American Sculpture, 1914–1945: Lachaise, Laurent, Nadelman, and Zorach,” showcases four pivotal sculptors working in America during the first few decades of the 20th century. The show, which runs through May 13, features some 55 sculptures and 20 drawings by Gaston Lachaise, Robert Laurent, Elie Nadelman, and William Zorach. Each of these artists came to the United States as immigrants—Lachaise and Laurent from France, Nadelman from Poland, and Zorach from Lithuania—but helped define American art’s unique identity during the interwar period. Their innovative approaches to sculpture, in both concept and construction, helped shape modernism, while their widespread influences and pioneering collecting habits have had an indelible influence on fellow artists and collectors for decades.

The exhibition, which ran last year at the Portland Museum of Art (its co-organizer), is uniquely suited to the Fort Worth, Tex.-based institution. “Part of the Amon Carter’s identity is a strong sense of early modernism,” says Shirley Reece-Houghes, curator of painting and sculpture at the museum. “It was something Louise Carter Stevenson wanted to nurture at the museum.” The Amon Carter’s collection includes works by Lachaise, Nadelman, and Laurent. “We wanted to be able to contextualize some of our collection,” says Reece-Houghes.

One of the pieces in the museum’s collection, and a standout of the show, is Lachaise’s Woman Seated (modeled 1918, cast 1925). The sculpture portrays the artist’s wife and muse, Isabel Dutaud Nagle, whom he fell in love with in Europe and followed to America (Nagle was married when she first met Lachaise but eventually divorced and married the artist). The subject’s pose, with its legs crossed and arms folded, exudes regal confidence, yet there is a casual cool that seems oddly more American than European. The subject’s dress, shoes, and hairpiece are nickel-plated, which gives them a radiant sheen. Lachaise had training as a jeweler and typically worked in bronze casting. After he came to America, he became interested in electroplating, which was one of the ways in which he pushed sculpture forward. As in Woman Seated, Lachaise’s electroplating techniques allowed for a variety of patina, sheen, and color—a variation from most bronze cast sculpture, which is all of one color.

Another innovative piece in the exhibition—and in the Amon Carter’s collection—is Head (Abstraction), a 1916 sculpture by Laurent made of carved mahogany. Laurent’s talents were recognized by art connoisseur Hamilton Easter Field when Laurent was just 12 years old, and Field brought him to New York in the 1910s. This piece was made within years of Laurent’s arrival in America and was one of his first direct carvings in the round. “There was no plan, no sketch, “ says Reece-Houghes. “He took a block of mahogany and started carving away.” Of the process of direct carving Laurent said, “What I enjoy the most is cutting direct in the materials, starting generally without any preconceived idea, preferably into a block of stone, alabaster or wood having an odd shape…It keeps you awake, looking for something to show up.”

Zorach also experimented with carving directly and responding to materials spontaneously. Young Boy, a 1921 sculpture in the exhibition, is an early example of his use of the technique. The artist, who moved with his family from Lithuania to Ohio as a child, left America to train as a painter in Paris in 1910. In New York in 1912, he married Marguerite Thompson, an American artist he met in Paris, and both artists were represented the following year in the famous 1913 Armory Show. Zorach was highly aware of the trends in Paris but forged ahead to create something new in America. “Gauguin had started hand-carving directly onto a block of wood, so the technique was part of a modernist momentum that started in Europe,” says Reece-Houghes. “But through the idea of truth to materials, Laurent and Zorach revitalized sculpture in America.”

It wasn’t just technique that shaped these artists’ unique brand of modernism; it was also their influences, particularly those that were considered “primitive” at the time. Zorach attended a show of African art at Alfred Stieglitz’s 291 Gallery in 1911—Young Boy seems particularly indebted to African and Oceanic art—and examined Aztec, Mayan, and Inuit carvings at New York’s American Museum of Natural History. His admiration of Cycladic and Egyptian figures can be seen in The Artist’s Daughter, a 1930 piece directly carved from marble. Laurent was also impressed by African sculpture, which he observed as a youth during a visit to Picasso’s studio. The characteristics of African masks and the markings of Japanese woodblock ukiyo-e prints, which were also a leading influence on Laurent, appear quite clearly in Head (or Mask) (circa 1915, walnut on marble base). Nile Maiden and Princess, both circa-1914 carved wood panels, reference Egyptian and African art rather directly in both subject and style.

However, one influence in particular set these artists apart from their peers in Europe and America—American folk art. At the turn of the 20th century, most American artists and collectors were completely uninterested in folk art, but these artists saw the tradition with new eyes. Laurent, who established a summer art colony with Field in Ogunquit, Maine, began collecting American folk art from local sales as a means to furnish the fishing shacks the artists were living and working in. Zorach, who also had a house in Maine, looked to carvings in the American folk art tradition for inspiration. “These immigrant artists were some of the first to delve into folk art,” says Reece-Houghes. “They were trying to assimilate to American culture, but it was also part of the modernist sensibility to look at a lot of sources.”

Nadelman became deeply entrenched in American folk Art as both an inspiration for his own work and as a lifelong collecting passion. The Polish artist amassed a collection of thousands of pieces with his wife, the heiress Viola Flannery, and erected the Museum of Folk Arts in Riverdale, N.Y., in 1925. Nadelman is best known for his cherry wood sculptures, which he created models for and had craftsman execute. As with Chef d’Orchestre (circa 1919, cherry wood, stained and gessoed), a sculpture in the show and the Amon Carter’s collection, Nadelman would create a weathered look by applying a gesso made of plaster of Paris, glue, and color. “He was inspired by his collection of cigar-store Indians and painted wood sculptures,” says Reece-Houghes. “He was meshing ideas of modernist tech with historical appearance.”

Dancer (1918), a cherry and mahogany sculpture by Nadelman, referenced the trade and shop figures in the artist’s collection. The piece is actually modeled after Eva Tanguay, a vaudeville dancer renowned for her high kicks. Dance is a major subject for these artists, either in the modernist vein à la Isadora Duncan and Ruth St. Denis or popular American entertainment like Minsky’s burlesque or the circus. Many works in the show directly address dance and acrobatics: Nadelman’s sprightly Acrobat (1916, bronze) and playful Tango (circa 1920–24, painted and gessoed cherry wood)—based on the partner dance that had made its way to America from Argentina in the 1920s and become an absolute craze; Lachaise’s gravity-defying Acrobat (1927, bronze) and Two Floating Nude Acrobats (1922, bronze); and Zorach’s dramatic Spirit of the Dance (1932, bronze). But even when not so literal, the notion of portraying bodies in motion captivated these artists, which is palpable in the show’s selection of drawings. Some works in their own right, others studies for sculptures, the drawings beam with exuberant examples of life captured in graceful lines.

By Sarah E. Fensom

Through a Glass, Brightly Mon, 29 Jan 2018 21:16:39 +0000 Continue reading ]]> Michael E. Taylor’s abstract glass works draw us into the invisible realms of subatomic physics and computer code.

Michael Estes Taylor, Probing for Innovative Clarity

Michael Estes Taylor, Probing for Innovative
Clarity, laminated cast optical cadmium and
copper glasses, 55.9 x 55.9 x 35.6 cm.

Featured Images:(Click to Enlarge) Michael Estes Taylor, Probing for Innovative Clarity Michael Estes Taylor, Tantric Landscape, 2009 Michael Estes Taylor, Rocketeer, 2014 Michael Estes Taylor, Quantum Disorder, 2012 Michael Estes Taylor, God Particle, Higgs Boson, 2016

Glass has been used since as early as ancient Egypt, and its fascination is evinced by the material’s central position in our holiest of places, in the form of stained glass. The translucence of stained glass appears to have been both a practical choice (people enjoy seeing) and a clear means of expressing the nature of the spiritual mysteries that permeated the lives of worshippers and the world around them like so much light. Novelist and art theorist André Malraux wrote in his critical manifesto, Voices of Silence: “Stained glass is not indifferent to the changes of light which, when our churches were thronged with worshippers at successive hours, endowed it with a vitality unknown to any other art form…. Stained glass has an immediate appeal to us, by reason of its emotivity, so much akin to ours, and its impassioned crystallization.” Despite this lofty exaltation of stained glass as medium, an artist who deals with glass in the context of sculpture could either take the ineffable quality of the material as self-evident or make it the very core of their work and practice. Artist Michael E. Taylor has chosen the latter.

Rather than simply being objects filling an inert space, Taylor’s forms, much like a sacred pane of stained glass, give a material presence to what is unseen but always there. His geometrical forms seem to grow in space, recalling Malraux’s “impassioned crystallization”; they are time-lapse crystals in a state of becoming. The transparency of Taylor’s work invites the viewer to consider its place in space and to question what exactly that space is and what fills it, beyond the sculpture being viewed. Non-transparent sculpture may negate or work within a space, but with a definite beginning and end to its form. Glass sculpture, on the other hand, harnesses light and allows us to see form without obliterating the space it inhabits. The result is a shaping of light and space, as if a trowel could scrape and pull the air into pure form.

The experience of looking at Taylor’s 2015 laminated optical and pigmented glass sculpture, Positron, is akin to putting on a pair of special goggles that allow the viewer to see physics in action. There is a powerful illusion of motion in the work that is conveyed by a series of transparent three-dimensional rectangles that move further clockwise along the same axis with each successive repetition of the form. The result is a freeze-frame of motion that evokes the most fundamental subatomic phenomena or a string of DNA under construction. The very nature of the work brings to mind spirit photography from the turn of the 20th century—faked images that purported to provide evidence for the belief in life after death.

Both the hoax of spirit photography and Taylor’s work give form to a belief. In Taylor’s case it is the belief that our world is governed by an immutable set of scientific laws that correlate with physical realities. Positron (an antimatter particle) however, differs from a spiritualist’s photograph, in that the reality of what it “believes”—that we exist in a world of matter and particles governed by invisible laws that, as we continue to learn more, cannot be perceived by the naked eye—also makes its existence possible.

In an exhibition currently on view at the Museum of Glass in Tacoma, Wash., titled “Michael E. Taylor—Traversing Parallels” (through May 12), the artist’s artistic and technical innovations are on full display. Taylor’s career as an artist and educator spans 50 years, and his experimentation and mastery of glass (particularly his pioneering work with cut and laminated glass) have enabled him to ask pressing contemporary questions about our rapidly changing world. The world Taylor sees is framed and understood through science and abstraction. His geometrically surprising forms present the beauty and uncertainty of the human perspective quickly dissolving into a collection of data and unseen algorithms and laws. His 2014 laminated optical and pigmented glass sculpture, Rocketeer, seems to beg the viewer to be understood on its own terms. There is a life to the work, which is made up of a collection of blue half-circles surrounding a large diamond-shaped base. The physical laws of the work are strange and unexpected, yet there is a character, a personality to it that, while not human, still communicates with the viewer. Rocketeer stands like a wild creature in a post-human age, a peacock-like abstraction that is unfamiliar but friendly.

The 2014 sculpture Artificial Intelligence Code, made from optical, borosilicate, and other laminated glasses, gives a physical form to something that is regarded as ostensibly non-physical—computer code. The collection of colored glass makes a pretense of clear organization, but this organization is indecipherable to the viewer. The sculpture evokes the clean design of a consumer product, but it is nonetheless “useless” for any practical purpose. It is inhuman, holding within itself its own logic. Contemporary philosophy is reckoning with this hyper alienation from “thinking machines” and a growing world of objects. Object-oriented ontology is a school of contemporary philosophy that does not privilege the human place in the order of things. It is a rejection of what it regards as anthropocentrism, and instead sees the world as a place filled with people and objects which share the same level of reality outside of our perception of them.

With Artificial Intelligence Code, and much of the rest of his work, Taylor takes a step toward giving form to this post-human reckoning with the world. His creations seem to move and think, but maybe most importantly, simply to be. The rules of their existence are beyond the comprehension of our naked eye and, more and more, beyond the grasp of our intellectual conceptions of reality. Now, in much the same way that stained glass gave form to the mysteries of the spirit, Taylor’s work gives form to the mysteries of being in a world that refuses to fit into a human-shaped box.

By Chris Shields

Unique Pairing Wed, 25 Oct 2017 22:21:51 +0000 Continue reading ]]> A new exhibition in San Francisco puts works by Auguste Rodin and Gustav Klimt on view together.

Gustav Klimt’s last studio

Moritz Nähr, “Gustav Klimt’s last studio, at Feldmühlgasse 11, in the thirteenth district of Vienna, shortly after his death, with two unfinished paintings,
“The Bride” and “Lady with a Fan,” on two easels,” 1918, photograph;

Featured Images:(Click to Enlarge) Gustav Klimt, Joanna Staude, 1917-1918 Gustav Klimt, 1913 Gustav Klimt’s last studio Auguste Rodin, circa 1900 Claude Lemery, “Rodin’s Studio in Pavilion of Alma, Meudon,” Auguste Rodin, The Kiss, circa 1884

Last month the Legion of Honor in San Francisco opened “KLIMT & RODIN: An Artistic Encounter,” an exhibition that puts works by the celebrated French sculptor Auguste Rodin and the renowned Austrian artist Gustav Klimt in direct dialogue. The show, which will be on view through January 28, features 22 pieces by Klimt—many on view in the U.S. for the first time—and 25 sculptures and works on paper from the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco’s prominent Rodin collection.

The Legion’s long-term relationship with the artist—its collection, the first on the West Coast, dates to the museum’s opening in 1924—gives it a privileged vantage point, not to mention plenty of material, from which to mount several simultaneous Rodin shows. Throughout 2017, the museum has staged a yearlong celebration to mark the 100th anniversary of Rodin’s death, including a show called “Auguste Rodin: The Centenary Installation” (through December 21), and installations organized by contemporary artists Urs Fischer and Sarah Lucas (both closed earlier in the year). The Legion is also hosting the region’s first major Klimt exhibition (which will act as a centenary of Klimt’s death as well—he died in February 1918). “An Artistic Encounter” surveys the full breadth of Klimt’s practice, but the linchpin of the show is the 1902 Vienna Secession exhibition—the occasion that prompted the two artists to meet for the first and only time.

In May 1902, Rodin, then in his early 60s, traveled to Prague for a large retrospective of his work. Before returning to Paris, he made a brief stop in Vienna, the capital of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, which of course at the time also included Prague. During his stay, the 14th Vienna Secessionist exhibition was on view. Though Rodin had exhibited several works at the Vienna Secession shows of years prior, he had never been there. His trip afforded him the opportunity to meet Klimt, the Secession’s president. Although he had not achieved Rodin’s astatus, it was very likely the French artist knew him by reputation.

The Vienna Secession, which held its first exhibition in 1897, became the vanguard for modernism in a city—and an Empire—that was at first slow to embrace it. The group set out to show its own new and exciting work while also showcasing that of the most interesting artists throughout Europe. Rodin was recruited by the painter Josef Engelhart to become a “corresponding member” of the group, and the sculptor’s work was included in the first Secession exhibition, in 1898 (the Viennese papers called him a “modern Michelangelo,” and Rodin’s sculpture Head of a Woman sold), and then in 1899. Rodin’s work was most prominently displayed in 1901; works on paper and 14 sculptures were on view, including the multi-figure sculpture The Burghers of Calais, the male nude The Age of Bronze, and pieces of Rodin’s controversial rendering of Balzac.

The 1902 Vienna Secession took the German composer Ludwig von Beethoven as its theme and honoree, but above all, the show celebrated the 19th-century notion of the roguish artist as genius. Klimt, who had been a leading figure in the Secession since its inception, exhibited his monumental Beethoven Frieze in 1902. The frieze, which was painted directly onto the walls of the temple-like Secession building (it was later preserved) measures 7 feet high and 112 feet wide. Featuring several figures, gold, and calligraphy, the sumptuous work celebrates Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony and serves as an allegory for the human desire for happiness in a turbulent world. An exhibition copy of the frieze is on view in “An Artistic Encounter,” giving American viewers the opportunity to experience the power of the work.

Viewers will also come face-to-face with Nude Veritas, an 1899 oil on canvas painted by the Austrian artist during his Secession years. In the painting, a nude female figure, her feet encircled by a snake, holds out a mirror to the viewer. Above her, a text by the German poet Friedrich Schiller reads: “If you cannot please everyone with your actions and your art, you should satisfy a few. To please many is dangerous.” The Black Feathered Hat, painted in 1910, two years after Klimt and his circle left the Secession, is also on view. The painting, which brings to mind both El Greco’s work and Picasso’s Blue Period, finds Klimt forgoing his Symbolism-influenced opulent and intricate style for a pared-down nod to Expressionism. In juxtaposition is Baby, a lavishly colored 1912 oil and tempera on canvas, painted the year before his death, and several luminous landscapes.

As for Rodin, there are Reductions of Five of the Burghers of Calais, a bronze reduction of the sculpture shown at the 1901 Secession (reduced 1886–1900, cast before 1929), as well as Age of Bronze (cast 1875–77). The elegant marble Miss Eve Fairfax, La Nature, which is also on view, comes from the collection of Alma de Bretteville Spreckels, an artist’s model who married a sugar baron and purchased works directly from Rodin, with the dancer Loïe Fuller acting as a middleman. Her and her husband were behind the building of the Legion, which was inspired by the design of the French pavilion in the Panama-Pacific International Exposition of 1915. They eventually donated some 100 works by Rodin to the museum. Another of those, a 1884 bronze of The Kiss, of course shares a title with one of Klimt’s most famous works. Both pieces, with their fluid way of depicting human figures like pieces of draped silk, showcase the artists at their most iconic.

Austrian journalists noted Rodin’s approval of The Beethoven Frieze. However, it’s difficult to know what the two artists said to one another. According to one journalist, after seeing the exhibition, Rodin addressed those in attendance over refreshments, saying, “Your artistic achievement will prove to be an asset not only to your own country; it will enrich the whole of Europe. In America, too, it will meet with a keen response.”

By Sarah E. Fensom

Alice Aycock: Storm Chaser Thu, 25 May 2017 20:12:32 +0000 Continue reading ]]> With her sculptures, Alice Aycock can make massive pieces of metal swirl in the air, and with her drawings she makes impossible worlds appear perfectly plausible.

Alice Aycock, Spin-the-Spin

Alice Aycock, Spin-the-Spin, 2014, powder coated aluminum, 18 ft. high x 15 ft. wide x 20 ft. long (This sculpture was installed at 55th Street on Park Avenue in New York);

Featured Images:(Click to Enlarge) Alice Aycock, Another Twister Alice Aycock, Hoodo (Laura) From the Series, “How to Catch and Manufacture Ghosts”— Vertical & Horizontal Cross-section of the Ether Wind Alice Aycock, Spin-the-Spin Alice Aycock, Three-fold Manifestation II Alice Aycock, From the Series Entitled, “Sum Over Histories”: Timescape #5 Over the Landscape of the Pacific Ocean Alice Aycock, Hoop-‐La (Park Avenue Paper Chase), 2014

Alice Aycock is in a turbulent phase. That’s not to say that her life is in disorder; far from it; she’s a highly productive artist with a studio in New York’s SoHo who’s been steadily making art for four decades. The turbulence is in the work she’s making right now—sculptures and drawings in which ribbon-like abstract elements coalesce in tornado-like configurations. They are strikingly, unignorably beautiful, but they also seem dangerous, as if their rotational kinetic energy could at any moment spiral out of control. But she’s content with that. “These turbulent, chaotic forms I’m investigating right now, I’m happy to stay with them for a little while,” she says. She relates them to the period that humanity is entering into at present, a period of great change—in the climate, in culture, in global politics. Her current series of works, called “Twisters,” embodies that instability, acknowledging and analyzing it without aspiring to exorcize it.

Aycock is known for large-scale, outdoor public sculptures, constructed from aluminum by the artist in collaboration with a team of designer-fabricators. Some, like Another Twister (João) (2015), taper downward to a tiny point on which they balance balletically, which gives them them a sense of weightlessness. Others, like Cyclonic Twist (Park Avenue Paper Chase) (2013), consist of a concatenation of tornado-like forms, nested one within the other. These sculptures are not literal depictions of tornadoes or any other natural phenomena; they are more like diagrams of forces—or, as Aycock puts it, examples of “complexity that can’t be seen literally but that can be visualized.” In 2014, some of these pieces were installed on Park Avenue in New York. Aycock sees her works as equally appropriate to urban and rural environments: “When in a pastoral setting, it’s speaking to nature; in New York City, it’s speaking to the chaos of the city.”

Aycock is also exploring the possibilities of the twist forms in two-dimensional media; a still-in-progress group of 15 digital inkjet prints places a row of white twister forms, each rotating on an axis or pole, against light-suffused skies in a range of warm and cool colors. Looking at these, one comes away with the impression that the slightly ominous, seething energy of the twister is always present, vibrating beneath every mood. Aycock herself describes the process of creating these works as “having fun.”

Other recent Aycock pieces, such as The Riddle of the Flying Saucer #1 (2015), deploy her characteristic intertwining aluminum strips in a way that is more reminiscent of mechanical devices than of natural phenomena. Aycock has always been interested in science; she has drawn inspiration from Renaissance cosmic diagrams, Leonardo’s scientific drawings, mechanical engineering and architecture, and computer technology. Some of her drawings look like physics experiments gone mad—the title of a 1990/2012 watercolor and ink on paper, Hoodo (Laura), From the Series, “How to Catch and Manufacture Ghosts”—Vertical and Horizontal Cross-section of the Ether Wind (1981), references the Michelson-Morley experiment of 1887, in which two American physicists proved that the speed of light was always the same, laying the groundwork for the theory of relativity. In the course of their experiment, they disproved the old theory of the “ether wind,” the supposed movement of a hypothetical medium in which light waves would travel.

Aycock has a certain fondness for outmoded notions such as this one. “I’m as curious about false theories that are obsolete as I am about true ones,” she says. “A lot of my machine-oriented work was about getting these pieces of scientific apparatus together for totally magical reasons.” Rather than trying to make art out of science—which would be bad art in any case—Aycock has been engaging in what she calls “a kind of imaginative play with science” that helps her get at “the relationship between scientific thinking and magical thinking.” In her magical aspirations, Aycock fits herself into a centuries-old—if not millennia-old—tradition of art as a source of mind- and world-altering power, but among the most recent magicians in art she finds the most inspiration from Marcel Duchamp, especially in his complex, intricately crafted works such as The Large Glass and the kinetic pieces. “Duchamp was very much one of my mentors,” says Aycock. “He opened Pandora’s Box, as all great artists do. He had one foot in science and one foot in alchemy.”

Aycock, who was born in Harrisburg, Pa., in 1946, came of age during the heyday of the land art movement. When she was at Hunter College in New York getting her master’s degree, her teacher was Robert Morris, who was himself deeply influenced by Duchamp. Aycock’s early works were mainly land-based, site-specific structures—for example, a maze, a house that spins on an axis, or a tower—that worked their magic by placing the viewer within the work, where his or her perceptions would inevitably be manipulated by it. Aycock cites as a major influence Tatlin’s Tower (1919–20), a famously never-built design for a monument to the Bolshevik Revolution. This piece of Russian Constructivist architecture was to consist of two intertwined spirals rising at an angle to a height of 400 meters and housing electronic equipment for information storage and radio transmission—in short, it was intended to be not only a monument but an incarnation of modernism. Aycock compares it to Jorge Luis Borges’ “aleph,” a portal in space and time, adding, “To me, it was the major move that reoriented us in the 20th and 21st centuries.”

As the daughter of an engineer and builder who owned a construction company, Aycock absorbed influences at home that resonated years later when she encountered Tatlin’s Tower, land art, and conceptual site-specific sculpture. From her father, she says, she “learned how to bring together a group of people to construct things. He said, ‘You can always find a way to do something, but the idea has to be good enough.’” Today, for her large-scale works (which range from about 20 feet high to well over 100), Aycock works with 8 to 10 fabricators from the Fort Lauderdale, Fla.–based firm EES Design LLC, and has also worked with a group called Perfection Electricks. She says, “This kind of work cannot happen without a team of extraordinary talents. The computer gives me the ability to design very complex forms; it has enlarged my ability to make things without infringing on my creativity.”

As a woman artist who has had to compete in the particularly male-dominated realm of large-scale sculpture, Aycock has her own take on feminism. “For whatever reason,” she says, “from a very early age I felt that I had a direction. It occurred to me that if I had been born a man, things would have been easier, but the way men feel entitled, I felt entitled. If I was interested in something, I was going to follow it. I want to eat at the table where I have access to everything. Not that I didn’t feel that men didn’t discount me, because they did. But is there a male science and a female science? No, there’s just science.” Her grandmother, a math teacher who attended college at the end of the 19th century, was another big influence in her life. Aycock’s most recent work, still in the studio, is an homage to one of the earliest known creative women in history, the Greek poet Sappho. Terra Incognita for Sappho (2017), a large digital inkjet print on watercolor, depicts a globe with a fiery core, surrounded by a corona like that of a solar eclipse. Within it are grid-like structures that resemble electronic circuits or diagrams of force fields, and the entire surface of the sphere is strewn with fragments of a papyrus manuscript of Sappho’s poems, which assume the place of continents. Of Sappho, Aycock says, “She seems like someone who could be alive today, someone who was just born. There she is, speaking to us from 700 B.C.! That’s why I thought she deserved a drawing.”

By John Dorfman

Ethan Stern: Crystal Clarity Thu, 27 Apr 2017 18:12:26 +0000 Continue reading ]]> Enriching his art-glass practice with unusual techniques, Ethan Stern creates objects of luminous beauty.

Ethan Stern, Cut Clear I & II

Ethan Stern, Cut Clear I & II

Featured Images:(Click to Enlarge) Ethan Stern, Crosscut (Wedge) Ethan Stern, Cut Clear I & II Ethan Stern, Metrics Ethan Stern, Titan Lima Ethan Stern, Crosscut Striation Rose.

“For a while I was in denial of the characteristics of glass,” says Seattle-based artist Ethan Stern. That’s a pretty bold statement from someone who has spent a 15-year career working exclusively in the medium, but it’s less a confession than an expression of the intense striving that has constantly moved his work forward. Stern is referring to the way his earliest bodies of work used extremely dense and deeply colored glass to convey an opaque effect. “Starting from a ceramic background,” he says, “I wanted to shield my viewer from the naturalistic aspects, the shine, the transparency and clarity that glass has right out of the gate. So I tried to work with glass that absorbed the light. Now I’m admitting to myself that the glass wants to be transparent.”

Stern’s latest series, called Crosscut, consists of translucent semicircular, almond-shaped, or ovoid pieces of colored glass that are carved with deep linear incisions, like furrows in a plowed field. Some parts of the glass are left uncarved, so you’re seeing the incisions, and then you’re seeing other incisions on the other side of the piece, as refracted through the glass. Where two bands of incisions meet they form grids, which have a texture of their own. In some of the pieces, the little squares of the grids are left the same color as the rest of the object, while in others the squares are colored a different, usually complementary, color. The whole effect is a combination optical puzzle and object for contemplation.

Stern says the Crosscut series was “directly inspired” by cut glass, of the kind traditionally used for luxury tableware. This is interesting, in that the worlds of cut glass and art glass have always apart and didn’t talk to each other. “When I started to do research,” Stern recalls, “I found that the history really lives in the industrial glass process, in the master cutters who worked in the factory setting for generations. I started thinking about how my experience contrasts with theirs.” He immersed himself in the American tradition of completely handmade “brilliant” cut glass, which has roots dating back to the 18th century but was at its peak from around 1876 to the First World War. In the late 20th and early 21st centuries, the industry was in decline and cut-glass factories were shutting down. Stern found two of the few remaining master cutters, one from Ireland and one from Poland, who both worked at the now-defunct Lenox Crystal factory in Pennsylvania. They taught him how to use the special lathes with which they cut and faceted the glass; these techniques were quite different from the so-called “cold-working” he had learned from his professors in art school.

In search of his own equipment, Stern located a classic 1920s lathe from a factory in Austria that closed, and has also put together a sizable collection of old cutting wheels. “I saw old photos of this machine with its wheels, and it ended up becoming a link between me and history. That’s very important to me.” Not that he sees himself as an epigone of the cut-glass masters of bygone days—far from it. “There are aspects of cut glass that I don’t like,” he says, “such as the fact that the design is very busy and over the top, every millimeter is cut and polished and reflecting light and creating a prismatic effect. My aesthetic is more Asian, sophisticated and quiet, like Japanese ceramics, almost minimal.” Contrasting his cut-glass pieces with the functional ones created at places like Lenox, he has described them as being “not vessels to hold things, but containers to hold light.”

Likewise, Stern’s method of working with the cut-glass equipment differs from that used in the factories. The traditional cut-glass makers “would hold the piece of glass above the wheel and look up through it at the cut happening on the opposite side of the glass,” he explains. “I look down at where the wheel and the glass connect. I’m essentially drawing with the wheel.” That makes it sound more low-key than it really is—when Stern is working with the lathe, he holds a 15- to 25-pound chunk of glass in a bear hug and presses it against the spinning wheel. With an apron and face mask as protection, he seems to be engaged in a primeval wrestling match of man versus machine.

Stern didn’t start out working with glass; at Alfred University in upstate New York, where he graduated in 2001, his original medium of choice was ceramics, and he also devoted a lot of time to metal sculpture. As a result, his first efforts in glass closely resemble ceramics. They are opaque or close to it, in forms that allude to vessels, and feature a lot of abstract surface decoration. His first major departure from this style was his Lunar Light series, in which he began to explore the creative potential of interactions between opacity and transparency. In these pieces, each side is carved so that half is smooth and transparent and the other half is engraved with a dense network of very thin lines. On the other side, it is carved the opposite way. “When you look through it,” says Stern, “it exposes a very thin slice of light that passes through the center; it controls the light and pushes it through the piece in a certain way. As you walk around, that sliver of light becomes larger or smaller like the waning or waxing of the moon.” A somewhat later series is called Coastline, and in these works Stern uses the wheel to create an undulating line, almost fractal-like in its complexity, that divides the glass into two regions. While not representational, the curves seem like they could be the edges of continents, and abstract topography becomes imaginary cartography. Here Stern is using the wheel very freely, to paint in glass rather than carve precise grooves as in the Crosscut works.

The very latest iteration of the Crosscut concept is a series of colorless pieces that Stern calls Clear Cut. With this literally crystal clarity, the artist is hewing closer to American brilliant cut glass than he ever has before. But there’s a critical difference, which you can see especially in a piece titled Stacks (2017), in which short incised lines are scattered across a completely transparent smooth surface. Stern explains: “With the Coastline series, I just draw on the glass and then cut out the pattern or images. It evolves as I work. But with the Crosscut pieces, there’s no room for that. The lines have to be drawn a certain distance apart. In Stacks, I’m trying to get back to that place where I can be a little bit more free, trying to make it even but with some of that wabi-sabi feeling to it, as well. There’s a tension in my personality, in which I go back and forth between being a total square and letting go.”

Works by Ethan Stern are available from:

By John Dorfman

Gaston Lachaise: A Worshipper of the Goddess Tue, 28 Mar 2017 21:15:24 +0000 Continue reading ]]> Gaston Lachaise infused his bronze sculptures with life and love.

Gaston Lachaise, Dolphin Fountain

Gaston Lachaise, Dolphin Fountain, 1924, bronze, 41 x 23 x 17 in.;

Featured Images:(Click to Enlarge) Gaston Lachaise, Egyptian Head, 1922 Gaston Lachaise, Dolphin Fountain Gaston Lachaise, Torso, 1932 Gaston Lachaise, Torso of Elevation, Gaston Lachaise, Ogunquit Torso, 1925 Gaston Lachaise, Acrobat Woman, 1934

The genius of the 20th-century French-American artist Gaston Lachaise radiates from his Dolphin Fountain of 1924, a sprawling, darting, diving ballet cast in bronze. It is so deftly rendered that it approximates a magic trick. Juan Manuel Pretel, vice president of Findlay Galleries in Palm Beach, Fla., and New York, which represents the Lachaise estate, is an avowed fan of dolphins and of Lachaise’s interpretation of them. “When I look at it, it makes me happy,” he says of Dolphin Fountain, which measures almost three and a half feet long by almost two feet deep and 17 inches high. “This is such a dynamic work. It’s alive. It’s exquisite. Not only are they moving like dolphins do, they are a wave themselves.” (Works by Lachaise are on view in the Palm Beach and New York locations of Findlay Galleries this spring.)

As Pretel speaks, he states that the tour-de-force bronze—one of two cast during Lachaise’s lifetime—features 14 dolphins in all. Then he reconsiders, starts to count, and is confounded. He now sees 15. “Every time I count them, I get a different number. I’m not kidding you!” Pretel says, laughing. “There’s so much movement, I lose count.”
The kicker here, of course, is that Dolphin Fountain is a sculpture. It doesn’t move; that’s part of what makes it a sculpture. Yet Lachaise’s vision is so vibrant that your brain wants to flesh out the movie that his leaping dolphins suggest. It’s a trick that many sculptors through the ages have tried to pull off and few have achieved. Lachaise is so good at evoking the illusion of movement that you can circle Dolphin Fountain and try to count all the animals in it and they won’t sit still for you, even though the metal fixes them in place and ensures that the contest is fair.

Lachaise’s life was full of strange and wonderful magic, and he translated much of it into art. Born in France in 1882, he showed his promise early. His older sister found him in their father’s woodworking studio, where the five-year-old was chiseling a hunk of wood into a font. Alarmed to see little boy wielding a grown-up tool, she moved to take it from him, only to hear her father counsel her to leave him be—he had been quietly watching Gaston work. Whether the boy had slipped into the studio on his own or had gained permission and promptly fallen into a work-fugue is impossible to say. But it was the dawn of a career that gained him a place at the Académie Nationale des Beaux-Arts at the age of 16.

Four years later, he saw Her. Isabel Dutaud Nagle was an American, from Boston. She was 10 years older than Lachaise, unhappily married, and the mother of a son, Edward. The need to give Edward the best education possible brought her to Paris, where Lachaise first saw Nagle. The artist did not record the precise date of that fateful spring encounter (historians believe it probably happened around 1902) but even as late as 1931, four years before his death, he loved recounting the details: “…as I was coming out through the beautifull [sic] formal garden and the beautifull gate of the School, I passed a majestic woman that was walking slowly by the bank of the Seine. I succeeded to meet the majestic woman later—through her the splendor of life was uncovered for me and the road of wonder beguin [sic] widening and far out reaching…”
And that was that. Finishing his course of study no longer mattered to him. Dreams of winning the Prix de Rome (and Lachaise was unquestionably a contender) exited his mind. His new goal was to save money for a ticket that would ferry him across the ocean to the country that Isabel called home. He quit school to toil for a year in the atelier of René Lalique, absorbing the Art Nouveau style while he cast jewelry and other decorative delights. Lachaise arrived in Boston in January 1906 and never looked back.

Lalique was one of many future immortals Lachaise met. He worked for sculptors Henry Hudson Kitson and Paul Manship (who hosted a post-wedding dinner for the Lachaises after Isabel’s divorce became final) and associated with Alfred Stieglitz, Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney, and George L.K. Morris, who commissioned him to sculpt The Mountain, which would become a noted masterpiece, for Morris’s estate in Lenox, Mass. And Isabel’s son, Edward, brought Lachaise to the attention of his Harvard schoolmates e.e. cummings, Scofield Thayer, and others who took the helm of The Dial in 1919 and focused it on contemporary culture. Lachaise was intertwined with The Dial from its relaunch issue, which featured a relief by him, titled Dusk.

Lachaise worked tirelessly and devoted his free studio time to works inspired by Isabel. Their relationship grew stronger as they grew older, and he remained artistically faithful to her until leukemia ended his life at the relatively young age of 53. (Isabel outlived him by 22 years.) Theirs was not a traditional artist-muse relationship in that she wasn’t required to pose for hours on end as he drew or worked the clay. The luxury of togetherness wasn’t an option for them early on, when he was a 20-year-old Parisian art student and she was a 30-year-old wife and mother visiting from America. They accustomed themselves to being apart, and later on, even when they lived in the same place, they didn’t always choose to live under the same roof. Lachaise’s visions of Isabel are not rigidly accurate; they’re more about his love for her, and his impressions of her, and how it all made him feel. Through Lachaise’s art, Isabel morphs into a capital-W Woman, a goddess symbolic of all who share her gender.

Lachaise’s depictions of women are remarkable for their presence and their heft, and for how these qualities are inseparable from their beauty. Lachaise was active during the age of the flapper, a woman whose ideal body was as slender as the cigarettes she smoked. But his women take up space, and they do so without apology. Perhaps this liberating attitude is what moved him most when he spotted Isabel strolling near the Seine more than a century ago. Though his women seem like giantesses, Isabel was not; more than one source reports that she stood five feet, three inches tall and weighed 110 pounds, well within the dimensions of what we’d call “petite” today. Maybe she glowed with an outsize sense of comfort in her own skin that the young artist had never seen before. Lachaise skillfully infused aspects of her being into his sculptures and drawings, but he struggled to put them into words, once telling a friend that she “has a great deal of something which it’s difficult for me to express to you, something of a great calmness and ardor, a quality of both old age and youth.”

But he didn’t just transform her ethereal qualities into art. He captured evidence of Isabel’s faith in the beauty and worth of her own body in a series of nude photographs that he took outdoors during one of the couple’s many sojourns in Maine. A 21st-century woman who shares Isabel’s shape might feel too ashamed of her supposedly imperfect body to pose for the camera at all, even fully clothed. Isabel, who lived in a world that lacked movies, television, the Internet, and social media, frolics across the landscape as if it’s the most natural and right thing that she could do.

Lachaise’s peerless command of his chosen media earned him the first solo retrospective that the Museum of Modern Art bestowed on a living sculptor. And while Lachaise is not as famous as Warhol or Picasso, he continues to enchant new admirers who keep his flame alive. “I know from talking to collectors who own Lachaise’s works that they cherish it so deeply that generations of families love it,” says Pretel, noting that it is more common for children to reject the art their parents collected. “It’s beautiful enough that when the kids grow up, they love it too.”

By Sheila Gibson Stoodley