February 18, 2016 | by Yevgeniya Traps
The foal’s spindly legs, gently bound together in a chiasmus and lit, as though by overhead moonlight, formed a shy shadow on the darkened gallery floor. The animal—sacrificial, symbolic, stunning, meaning both marvelous and stupefying—had its eyes covered by frayed cloth, but, coming into sharp view, it was revelatory, a subtle kind of piercing. Laid out on a wood-and-iron table, the foal evoked Francisco de Zurbarán’s small oil painting Agnus Dei. And indeed, the piece, by the Belgian sculptor Berlinde De Bruyckere, was called to Zurbaran and dedicated to that Baroque master.
De Bruyckere—a soft-spoken woman, whose quiet, deliberate intensity echoed the steel-rod strength of her work—saw Agnus Dei about a year and a half ago at a Zurbarán exhibition in Brussels and was, she said, “surprised” by it. Standing in front of her work on the eve of the opening of her show “No Life Lost” at Hauser & Wirth, De Bruyckere said that the only way she knew to “react to that painting was making a work out of this feeling and emotion. I was so attracted by what I saw I couldn’t do anything else, just work with that idea, that feeling.” And so she began with the visuals: “The holy lamb was bound—the legs together in the same position as I did with the foal. And then it was also placed on wood, very poor wood; it’s not a rich table with a lot of class and glamour, it’s a really poor wood. And also the fact of chiaroscuro—the dark and the light in the painting was something that inspired me, and it’s also why I decided to keep the darkness in the space.” But as she worked on the fragile blankets that would bind the animal, she felt that it was not enough. This was around the time she first saw images of Alan Kurdi, the drowned Syrian boy, and these images elicited again the feeling she had at seeing the Zurbarán. “From that moment on,” De Bruyckere said, “I was doing the blind-making of the horse not in terms of making blind in a negative way but just in a positive way. It was like the dream of [the] people of Syria who try to make it to Europe. They have a dream, and very often this dream will never happen. And especially with the boy who arrived dead already, there was no chance to live and to become someone. And it was the same with the foal, he died after one day, there was no future for him.” Read More »
August 1, 2013 | by Yevgeniya Traps
If the title of her “one-woman anthology” of comics is to be believed, Lisa Hanawalt’s eyes are dirty and dumb. We should all be so lucky: according to My Dirty Dumb Eyes, they allow her to imagine fashionable animals in haute-couture hats, give her insight into the secret lives of chefs (did you know that “Mark Bittman is a vegan before 6 P.M. and a cannibal after 11 P.M.”?), and help her envision some unconventional uses for wedding registry gifts.
With its leitmotif blend of whimsy, wistfulness, and a touch of scatology, the book is funny and life-of-the-party loud. In person, however, Hanawalt is a little shy and a little earnest. It’s not that she takes herself seriously—it’s just that talking about her work seems to feel a little weird. Which is not to say that her comics are improvised or intuitive; in fact, she maintains a running list of ideas with Notational Velocity, working and reworking concepts until they are just right. This demands patience and perseverance: sometimes the idea lies dormant for years until it’s finally time for it to come out and play.
When we met last month in her Greenpoint studio, Hanawalt proudly showed off her Wacom Cintiq, “the most incredible modern invention—besides a dishwasher” she’s ever owned (it’s an interactive pen that allows her to draw and edit directly on her computer screen), talked about some of her recent comics (“It’s all toilet-based humor”), and considered life after art school (she went to UCLA) and the differences between LA and NY.
I think the way I was looking at this book was like, This is the world through my eyes. That was the easiest way to explain what the hell this book was. I couldn’t point to another book, and be like, That’s the book I’m going to make. So okay, the world through my eyes, what is that world? Well, I see a lot of dirty stuff, and I see a lot of dumb stuff. And it’s sort of just me, trying to be more debased or humorous as a way of entertaining myself. Read More »
May 14, 2013 | by Yevgeniya Traps
“Civilization,” Gertrude Stein says, “begins with a rose.” And also: “It continues with blooming and it fastens clearly upon excellent examples.”
You understand what she means when you stand before Jay DeFeo’s massive painting The Rose, a two-ton, twelve-feet-tall canvas sculpted in oil, wood, and mica, a bold burst of grisaille. At the Whitney Museum of Art, where the work is part of the permanent collection, it hangs like an altarpiece, the focal point of a retrospective of DeFeo’s art. Read More »
April 18, 2013 | by Yevgeniya Traps
Miriam Katin’s first book, We Are On Our Own, told the story of her escape, as a child, from the Nazi invasion of Budapest. An attempt to come to terms with her past, to reconcile faith and history, and an elegantly stark tribute to her mother, that graphic memoir was also a beautifully realized work of art. The story it told, retained all the wonder and pain of a child’s impressions, tempered by experience and wisdom.
In her new book, Letting It Go, Katin grapples with her son Ilan’s decision to move to Berlin, a city she identifies with Nazis. An investigation of the price survival exacts, it is also an unabashedly personal investigation of family dynamics, a sequel of sorts to We Are On Our Own.
On a recent March afternoon, I visited Katin, who bears an uncanny resemblance to her cartoon-self, in her Washington Heights apartment, her home for the past twenty-two years and the site of her studio in what used to be her son’s room. She made tea for me and coffee for herself, set out a plate of freshly baked, sugar-dusted cookies, and, with a softly melodious Hungarian accent, recounted the process of working on her books, her feelings about contemporary Berlin, her nine-year-stint living on a kibbutz, her love of the city (“I’m an asphalt flower. Nature is okay, it’s good. But I like asphalt,” she said), and what it was like to be the oldest employee at MTV, where she worked on Beavis and Butthead and Daria.
The first book stood on its own, a story from A to Z, a start and a finish. Now this story, this new book, is so personal. And it really depends on the first one. I think it would be hard, just getting to it, to say, That’s interesting. It’s more fragmented and extremely personal. And vulgar. And dirty. I didn’t hold anything back. Read More »
January 17, 2013 | by Yevgeniya Traps
The Polish sculptor Alina Szapocznikow made a career of disassembling the body, of exposing its weaknesses, its many vulnerabilities, whether through the uses and abuses it’s been put to in the abattoir of twentieth-century history or at the mercy of the more mundane, if no less fatal, everyday mortality. If that sounds like a bit of a downer, worry not: Szapocznikow managed to keep a sly tongue firmly in cheek, and her work, for all its startling beauty, its nearly unbearable intimacy, its sublime evocation of pain and disease and suffering, is witty, even funny.
Her sculptures—on display, through January 28, at the Museum of Modern Art, where they are presented as part of a retrospective entitled “Alina Szapocznikow: Sculpture Undone, 1955–1972”—indulge in the darkest shade of black humor, extracting their punch lines from abysmal pockets of human experience. Take, for example, her Lampe-bouche (Illuminated Lips) (1966), a series of resin casts of a female mouth set atop metal stands and wired to work as lamps.Read More »
December 17, 2012 | by Yevgeniya Traps
David Opdyke’s studio is, at the moment, mostly emptied of his intricate, deceptively beautiful sculptures, though it is filled with neatly organized boxes, helpfully labeled with the names of the particular bit of flotsam (“Sand,” “Seaweed”) each contains. The artworks are on display at Bryce Walkowitz Gallery in Chelsea, where Opdyke’s PVC-pipes-cum-cherry-blossom-trees (the petals are tiny pink toilets!) bloom in the gallery’s picture window. The piece is part of Opdyke’s first solo show at the gallery, which is entitled Accumulated Afterthoughts.
I met Opdyke at the gallery on a May afternoon, so he could describe the making of his intricate pieces, painstakingly assembled in a process at once “zen” and “after a point, frustrating.” Later that afternoon, I visited his studio. Part of the loft where he currently lives with his wife and two children, it is located right by the Williamsburg Bridge. (When I asked whether the noise of bridge traffic ever bothers him, Opdyke observed that the late-night drunken cell-phone conversations of nearby restaurant patrons are the far greater menace.)