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Posts Tagged ‘sculpture’

Cosmic Geometry

November 17, 2011 | by

Triangle and Square, 2008, mirror, reverse-glass painting, and plaster on wood, 39 2/5 in. x 63 in.

Born in a small town in northwest Iran in 1924, Monir Farmanfarmaian studied fine arts at the University of Tehran for only six months before deciding to move to Paris. But, with World War II raging, the ambitious young artist was denied entry in France; she opted instead for the United States, landing in New York City in 1944. “She traveled to the right place at the right time,” argues her old friend Frank Stella in Cosmic Geometry, Farmanfarmaian’s first and much-anticipated monograph, a testament of her continuing importance to contemporary Iranian art. Stella goes on to describe her facility with Abstract Expressionism’s “flatness” and “imagelessness”—her childhood home was filled with stained glass and wall murals—but neglects to mention all the other juicy details of her first decade in New York: how she rubbed elbows with the great artists of the day, including Pollock, de Kooning, and Rothko, at the Cedar Tavern and at the Arts Students League; how she worked as an illustrator for Bonwit Teller under Andy Warhol. “I wasn’t bad looking,” she says, “so everyone invited me to their parties.”

In 1957, she moved back to Tehran, married a young, American-educated lawyer named Abolbashar Farmanfarmaian, and began working with broken glass and mirrors in her studio—materials that became her hallmarks. She recounts traveling in 1966 to the Shāh Chérāgh mosque in Shiraz, Iran, a shrine “filled with high ceilings, domes, and mirror mosaics with fantastic reflections.” “We sat there for half an hour, and it was like a living theater,” she notes. “People came in all their different outfits and wailed and begged to the shrine, and all the crying was reflected all over the ceiling … I said to myself, I must do something like that, something that people can hang in their homes.” Read More »

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Shannon Ebner: The Continuous Present

October 4, 2011 | by

From left: XSYST, 2011, 63 x 48 in.; EKS, 2011, 63 x 39.16 in.; EKSIZ, 2011, 63 x 42 in.; XIS, 2011, 63 x 48 in. All works black-and-white photographs. Courtesy of the artist and Wallspace, NY; Altman Siegel Gallery, San Francisco; kaufmann repetto, Milan.

Shannon Ebner is a Los Angeles–based artist known for using handmade letters, symbols, signs, and other means of representation to call attention to the limits and loopholes of language. Photographs and sculptures from her new project, “The Electric Comma,” are featured in the 54th Venice Biennale and in a solo show at the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles. Two new public sculptures, both titled and, per se and, accompany these shows and are installed, respectively, on the Grand Canal in Venice and in Culver City. Audiences in L.A. can see the eight-foot-tall solar-powered work on the northeast corner of Centinela Avenue and Washington Boulevard until October 14. Ebner’s pictures of “anti-places” and “anti-landscapes” (for instance, dust from emergency road flares that appears to spell out a word) are on view at the Hammer until October 9.

In the essay she wrote to accompany your exhibition at the Hammer, curator Anne Ellegood describes your work as “manifestly American.” How does American identity relate to your recent pictures, and how does landscape figure in? 

Robert Smithson once asked if Passaic, New Jersey had replaced Rome as the eternal city, with buildings that rise into ruin rather than fall. It makes me realize that my interest in landscape—for instance, in the work of an artist like Joe Deal, who made pictures from an elevated vantage point, with his camera high up on a bluff or hillside looking down at tract-housing neighborhoods—has to do with this idea of falling while rising. I think that there is a connection between Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye and Deal’s vantage point. It seems to say that there could be some redemption, some possibility that the kids of those tract-housing communities could be saved from being an American, from rising to fall or, I guess I should say, rising to fail.

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Anthony Caro

May 24, 2011 | by

When the museum is crowded, a trip to the Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Roof Garden at the Metropolitan Museum of Art includes a huddled wait in line for the elevator. You ride up, packed in a sticky car with a school group and some tourists. When the elevator doors open, everyone rushes out, blinking in the sunlight, into what feels like another world. At first, the views of the city and the park dominate, then the five sculptures by Anthony Caro begin to assert themselves. They invite the viewer to come in close; the vista begins to act as a backdrop. The sculptures are substantial but also appear light—one looks as though it could soar right off the roof, whereas another is in danger of caving in on itself. Anthony Caro, knighted in 1987, is one of the most influential British modernists. Our interview felt like a lesson in itself: he answered my flowery prose with simple sentences; when I called him to elaborate, he pushed me toward more crystalline questions. He has an authoritative voice, and he spoke with a purposeful exasperation. One sees this impulse in his work, too: a dogged pursuit of form from a man who helped shaped modernism, whose simple philosophy matches his training as an engineer.

The roof is a unique place to show—any installation is buffeted by the gleaming skyline and greenery of Central Park. Did you choose particular pieces that might work in this setting?

The pieces were chosen because they were sturdy pieces that were in the New York area and fairly easy to obtain. I think that the New York skyline sets sculptures on the Met roof beautifully.

Mind you, all sculpture on the Met roof fits beautifully. It is a wonderful place to show because you have that marvelous background. And I feel it's quite intimate in a funny way. I think my sculpture is intimate. Mostly it is not public sculpture, though what I’m making for Park Avenue is public. But it is not a monument and has nothing to do with being a monument.

After Summer, 1968. Click to enlarge.

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Giacometti Painting in His Studio, 1965

December 10, 2010 | by

Credit: In Giacometti's Studio, by Michael Peppiatt.

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The Heads of Franz Xaver Messerschmidt

September 30, 2010 | by

Franz Xaver Messerschmidt, Afflicted with Constipation, 1771–83, lead-tin cast.

The eighteenth-century bookseller Christoph Friedrich Nicolai was a leading figure in the German Enlightenment and a quixotic critic of the younger German Romantics—Goethe, Schiller—who would soon supplant his own circle of intellectuals. He was also a keen observer and chronicler, and in his “Description of a Journey Through Germany and Switzerland,” Nicolai wrote of his 1781 encounter with sculptor Franz Xaver Messerschmidt in a breezy dispatch that seems eerily like a contemporary profile of a living artist. Once a court sculptor preparing imperial commissions, Messerschmidt had, by the time Nicholai met him, descended into a kind of necromantic madness and retreated to Pressburg, where between 1771 and 1783 he worked over a private series of busts—or “heads,” as they came to be known—that exhibit both a stunning realism and a mesmerizing fascination with the expressive possibilities of the human grotesque. The text below is an abridged version of that profile, translated by Herbert Ranharter.

From left: The Yawner, 1771-81, tin cast; The Artist as He Imagined Himself Laughing, 1777-81, tin cast.

The most peculiar artist was without a doubt Franz Xaver Messerschmidt, who subsequently died in August of 1783 in his fifty-first year. He lived and dressed like an ordinary citizen. When he began his studies in Rome, he bought a trunk of a lime tree and lugged it into the Farnesi Palace, where he put it down in front of the Hercules statue. Two Spanish sculptors, living off their courtly pensions, dressed in their fashionable morning gowns while mucking about with their measuring devices and clay models, looked over their shoulders at the German stranger with the shabby clothes and short hair and rather thought him to be a day laborer. Messerschmidt set to work with a few carving knives and whittling the wood this way and that. The other artists watched him and, particularly the Spaniards, shrugged their shoulders, thinking that nothing good can come of such activity. Their mockery soon turned to astonishment when they saw a beautiful Hercules emerge from the unwieldy trunk. The Spaniards, who had never been taught this approach, thought that this must have been accomplished with the help of evil spirits, and one of them made utterances to that effect. Messerschmidt, who was always a bit brusque, slapped this man, who was not particularly liked by his fellow students, for making such assertions. Thus Messerschmidt asserted his place with honor, giving him a new status among his peers.

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