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.)
April 10, 2012 | by Yevgeniya Traps
Terry Winters works on the fifth floor of a Tribeca walk-up. It is a steep climb, but the space is serene and open, decorated with a few large Nigerian ceramics, a framed Weegee photograph, and of course Winters’s own drawings and watercolors (he does his oil painting in a studio in the country). It is also remarkably free of clutter for an artist who describes himself as an “image junky.” Winters spends a lot of time here—“I try to show up for the job,” he remarks when I ask him about his daily practice—though he does not have much by way of routine, allowing the needs of the project to shape his day.
This year marks the thirtieth anniversary of Winters’s first solo show at the Sonnabend Gallery. Now represented by Matthew Marks, Winters’s work continues to be informed by the ideas that animated his very first exhibition. One constant—besides his New York studio, where he has worked from the very start of his career—has been his use of found images, which he faithfully collects and assembles into collages that serve as miniature laboratories for future paintings. But the collages, with their layers and juxtapositions, their invocation of modern technology (several feature visible URLs, linking to universities and laboratories) and natural forms, are also lovely in their own right. Read More »
August 25, 2011 | by Yevgeniya Traps
The opening lines of “From a Great Mind,” a song by the Siberian folk-punk singer Yanka Dyagileva, run something like this when translated from Russian:
From a great mind, only madness and jail,
From a reckless head, only ditches and barriers,
From a beautiful soul, only scabs and lice,
From universal love, only bloodied physiognomies.
A similar sentiment animates “Ostalgia,” the recently opened exhibit at the New Museum in New York. The name for the show is taken from the German neologism ostalgie, a portmanteau of east and nostalgia meant to evoke a longing for life in East Germany, particularly its daily rituals and their trappings. But the show—and this is probably true of its namesake concept—is not really about a longing for communism. It is rather about the hunger for the kind of meaning that can only emerge from meaning’s suppression. Repressive regimes raise the stakes: under them, art is not something artists are paid to create, but something that extorts a price—perhaps a terrible one—from the artist. Ostalgie is not for the totalitarian government but for the clarity that emerges from the knowledge that great minds risked the gulag, the madhouse, the blindfold, and the rifle with every act of artistic creation. Read More »