If you like art, y’all really should get yourself to Dallas…

Return to Earth: Ceramic Sculpture of Fontana, Melotti, Miró, and Picasso, 1943-1963 at Nasher Sculpture Center, Dallas
Return to Earth: Ceramic Sculpture of Fontana, Melotti, Miró, and Picasso, 1943-1963 at the Nasher Sculpture Center, Dallas. Photo by the author.

I haven’t posted any new entries over the past couple of weeks on account of a busy travel schedule that took me to from Chicago to Louisville (for a very lovely non-sculpture, though hilariously art history-related wedding), then to Dallas (for a very lovely new exhibition on ceramic sculpture), back to Chicago for night, before departing for a new academic term in Leeds. Over the next few weeks I will be posting on the two current exhibitions at the Henry Moore Institute, The Age to Innocence: Replicating the Ideal Portrait in the New Sculpture Movement and Indifferent Matter: From Object to Sculpture, a piece related to a new research project on the Italian artist Alberto Burri, and the Nasher Sculpture Center’s recently opened Return to Earth: Ceramic Sculpture of Fontana, Melotti, Miró, Noguchi, and Picasso, 1943-1963; the latter being the reason for my trip to Dallas. So a nice early autumn line-up of sculptural things, but I thought I would do a quick post today about Dallas as a bona-fide destination for art and architecture enthusiasts.

Richard Serra's My Curves Are Not Mad (1987), currently installed in the garden of the Nasher Sculpture Center, Dallas
Richard Serra’s My Curves Are Not Mad (1987), Nasher Sculpture Center, Dallas. Photo by the author.

Now in full disclosure, I lived in Dallas for six years. I began my career at the Nasher Sculpture Center and fell in love with sculpture while working there for nearly all of those six years. I interned at the Dallas Museum of Art, and received an MA from Southern Methodist University. So I unavoidably have a bias, but I think as an outsider who never fully acclimated and with the exception of its appearance in the above title, fervently resisted the ubiquitous ‘y’all’ while living there, I am also cognizant of the widespread bias against Dallas, especially by those based in larger, more cosmopolitan cities. None of this, however, should dissuade you though from taking my most sincere advice to put Dallas on your arts radar, especially for this autumn. A lot has changed in Dallas and there is a lot going on. Continue reading “If you like art, y’all really should get yourself to Dallas…”

Photography as (Public) Sculpture: Amanda Ross-Ho at MCA Chicago

IMG_0848As far as public sculpture goes, the notion of an opening date seems a little odd. Unless done under total secrecy or very quickly, such large scale projects reveal themselves over time, after periods of long installation, and yet one day they are fully realized, completed and ready for public consumption. This past Tuesday, 23 July, marked such a day for The Character and Shape of Illuminated Things.

IMG_0857The third commissioned work in the Plaza Project series at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, the occasion was marked with an outdoor talk with the Chicago-born, Los Angeles-based artist Amanda Ross-Ho and MCA curator Julie Rodrigues Widholm; speaking at the height of rush hour, on a beautiful, if blustery Chicago summer afternoon, the receding sunlight streaming through the skyscrapers surrounding the MCA. I mention the artist talk, not only because the idea was both insane (honking cabs! emergency sirens! random tourists wandering around!) and a perfect, surprisingly successful venue for discussion of a work that by its placement alone is meant to engage and implicate the public, but also because it threw into sharp focus some of the stronger formal and conceptual aspects of the work on view. Continue reading “Photography as (Public) Sculpture: Amanda Ross-Ho at MCA Chicago”

The Summer of Turrell

James Turrell, Breathing Light, 2013, LED light into space, Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Photo © Florian Holzherr
James Turrell, Breathing Light, 2013, LED light into space, Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Photo                         © Florian Holzherr

If the art world had a “song-of-summer” equivalent, the title would definitely go to James Turrell for 2013. Giving even the Venice Biennale and Art Basel a run for their money (pun intended), his three concurrent retrospective exhibitions at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Guggenheim in New York, and the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, have coalesced into a venerable extravaganza of light, generating a massive amount of feature articles, interviews, tweets, blog posts (ahem) and everything in between. One of the most high profile, a New York Times T Magazine cover story last weekend, states that together these three exhibitions amount to the biggest art event of the summer, and with their combined 92,000 square feet of occupied space for the display and enjoyment of all things Turrell, one can hardly argue with the assessment.

Jame Turrell, Aten Reign, 2013, Guggenheim, New York
Jame Turrell, Aten Reign, 2013, Guggenheim, New York

For a single artist, even one of Turrell’s prominence, having three large-scale exhibitions at three of the most important museums in the United States open within a month of each other is quite a feat. I don’t anticipate being able to see any in person over the summer – though if you have visited or intend to definitely share your impressions in the comments – but I am certain that all three took a tremendous amount of curatorial and organizational acumen, will involve a very crowded viewing experience, and would, simply put, be really fun.  The shows grant access to some of Turrell’s early pieces, made in the late 1960s and early 1970s when he was associated with California Light and Space, and highlight his longstanding commitment to using light as palpable material and showing its power to dramatically alter a given space and our experience within it. They also unveil new works that speak to Turrell’s current status as a blue chip artist working in a rarefied sphere; his projects demanding ever-increasing sums of money, engineering, and orchestration to realize. I am not decrying his success or claiming his access to such resources has not resulted in some remarkable artistic feats – I mean for goodness sakes the man transformed one of the most iconic pieces of architecture for the Guggenheim exhibition and continues to transform an entire volcano into an artwork. While I cannot personally speak to the effectiveness of these recent projects, I have experienced enough Turrell’s to mostly agree with Chuck Close’s recent statement that Turrell “is an orchestrator of experience, not a creator of cheap effects,” but all the recent, profusely celebratory hype has made me consider just what he represents within contemporary art. ¹ Continue reading “The Summer of Turrell”

Garth Evans

Garth Evans, Untitled No. 1 (1974), plywood.  Courtesy Arts Council Collection, Southbank Centre, London. Gift of the artist
Garth Evans, Untitled No. 1, 1974, plywood.
Courtesy Arts Council Collection, Southbank Centre, London. Gift of the artist

I admit that before walking into the Longside Gallery at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park last week I was woefully or rather shamefully unaware of Garth Evans’ work. The Arts Council Collection exhibition, Garth Evans, which closed this past week, rectified such ignorance. The first major show of Evans’ work in the UK in over twenty years, the exhibition reads almost like a primer of the major developments of sculpture in the 1960s. A student at Slade between 1957-1960, Evans did not begin his career with the ” New Generation” group that emerged around Anthony Caro at Central St. Martins and left to teach in New York by the time the artists loosely classified under the label New British Sculpture, including Richard Wentworth, Tony Cragg, and Richard Deacon, broke onto the scene in the 1980s. Evans’ work, however, influenced and was influenced by this especially rich and complex moment in the history of British sculpture. It only seems right that it was Deacon, a friend and former student, who served as the curator of an exhibition meant to re-situate Evans within this history.

The work on view immediately struck me as significant; completely of its historical moment while still fresh and relevant in the contemporary sphere. Selected from the roughly first two decades of his career, the sculptures in the exhibition are diverse and include “student work” from the late 1950s and early 1960s that reference cubist constructions and Mondrian geometries, large free-standing fiberglass abstract forms, and colorfully coated, steel minimalist structures. A separate gallery has a selection of drawings and fantastic black and white photographs Evans took during his two year fellowship with British Steel, which focused on the material in a variety of forms and were included in the publication Some Steel.

Garth Evans, Breakdown, 1971/2013, steel
Garth Evans, Breakdown, 1971/2013, steel

While Evans describes this period as frustrating in terms of producing work, it did result in a significant shift in his sculpture in the 1970s, most notably in regards to materials and their manipulation.  Breakdown reflects this change and Evans’ interest in creating, as he states, a sculpture without creating an object. Using a lattice type approach, numerous pieces of narrow steel are joined together but are adhered in a manner that denies any clear or logically repetitious pattern. Though the original version was stolen shortly after its first installation in 1971, a new version was made specifically for this exhibition and installed outside the Gallery, amidst the rolling Yorkshire landscape that wonderfully counters the piece’s hard geometric angles.  As Deacon suggests in the video below, works like Breakdown question where a thing ends. Continue reading “Garth Evans”

The Bay Lights

Today, a special guest post from Dr. Bridget Gilman on bridges and the remarkable Bay Lights project. Bridget studies postwar American art and is particularly interested in representations of the built environment. She received her Ph.D. in the History of Art from the University of Michigan.

by Bridget Gilman

It is difficult when writing about a bridge not to indulge the form’s metaphoric resonance. Bridges, of course, are built to connect landmasses, but also connote human mobility, connection, and transcendence. Like trains, highways, and other conduits of mass transportation, bridges are also often part and parcel of nation shaping and thus bear the weight of the governmental ideologies that propel their construction.

White City, World's Columbian Exhibition, Chicago, 1893 (Image source: Flickr)
White City, World’s Columbian Exhibition, Chicago, 1893. Brooklyn Museum Archives, Goodyear Archival Collection. (Image source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/brooklyn_museum/2784211121/)

If bridges are inevitably metaphoric, light is likewise unavoidably symbolic—both in material and spiritual realms. Thus conceptions of the modern city are enmeshed with the presence of electric light, not simply on a utilitarian or technological level. To think of the world’s largest cities—and many of their monuments—is often to envision them at night, their skylines transformed from hulking masses to twinkling bodies of light and shadow. Iconic moments of urban luminosity range from the famous “White City” of the 1893 World’s Columbian Exhibition in Chicago to New York’s “Tribute in Light” memorial at the World Trade Center site, the combination of artificial light and architecture signifying an array of hopes and losses.

Neon Signage, San José, California (Photograph by author)
Neon Signage, San José, California (Photograph by author)

City lighting and urban infrastructure are clearly topics with deep, complex histories; discussion of their import and associations can get bogged down quite easily. But they are also things encountered in the everyday, and thus are fundamental to daily paths and routines. As someone fairly obsessed with the look and structure of the postwar American environment, practically nothing delights me more than the spectacle of vintage neon at old dive bars, motels, and restaurants. Likewise, there is perhaps no more thrilling ordinary spatial experience than a car ride over a large bridge. For just a moment life seems to become both distinctly physical, defined by the opposing pulls of the terrestrial and atmospheric, and existentially precarious, as the smallness and insignificance of a single body becomes all too clear.

Continue reading “The Bay Lights”