26 Jun 2011

Picasso painting 'Buste de Femme' in Palestine

For the first time a Picasso painting entitled 'Buste de Femme' from 1943 has come to Palestine to be shown at the International Art Academy. It's a cubist deconstruction of a woman's face, dominated in grey. This exhibition was two years in the making and is a very exciting opportunity to build a new cultural international cultural dialogue in the occupied territory of Ramallah in Palestine. The Picasso painting costs £4.5 million and is on loan from the Van Abbemuseum in Eindhoven. Only three people at a time will be able to see it to ensure the humidity, in the purpose-built viewing room, does not get damaged. 

Van Abbe museum's employees hang Pablo Picasso's "Buste de Femme" on a wall at the International Academy of Art Palestine in Ramallah.
What is also interesting is how Picasso can still stir the waters. Why does a Picasso, who died in 1973, still have such resonance in 2011? Also, perhaps art can play a more central role in difficult world zones where conflict has become the norm and cultural life is in limbo. Could we see other paintings being loaned from other prestigious galleries and what works would they be?..

At a cost of £50,000 in insurance and transport, the project began when Khaled Hourani, the director of the International Art Academy in Ramallah, visited the museum in 2008 and suggested a loan. "This started off as a crazy idea to bring a European masterpiece to a war-zone but I was only half-joking, " he said.

Detail of Picasso's, 'Buste de Femme' (1943) , oil-on-canvas work. Photograph: Peter Cox for the Guardian
From the Guardian Newspaper UK: "I want this to appeal to people like my mother and art students. Picasso remains inspirational because his work is related to war, peace and freedom."

Hourani hopes that 'Buste de Femme' will not be the last masterpiece to be exhibited in the territory. "We want this to become a normality but it is the last time I will do it. It has taken two years to bring one painting but the taboo has been broken and it will be easier for someone else to do it," he said. "The journey here adds meaning to the painting. It highlights issues of the freedom of movement and political agreement."

Read more on Van Abbemuseum here and AL Arabiya News

23 Jun 2011

Kurt Schwitters/MERZ updates, exhibitions and Merzbarn UK

I have always been influenced by the work of Schwitters, since my first few days at art school. In the UK his influence is everywhere, in fact it is hard to 'sweat it out' as Hoffman, once said about Cubism. In British art, it seems a default setting in fine art practice..this isn't necessarily a bad thing, but his influence runs deep. So I thought I'd put a post together of the diverse 'Schwitteresque' goings on out there.

It is the last few days of the 'Kurt Schwitters: Colour and Collage' exhibition at Princeton University Art Museum, New Jersey. This is an excellent exhibitions of small scale collage works and a recreation of the Merzbau, see below, runs until 26th June.

Kurt Schwitters, 'The Cherry Picture' 1921, hear an excellent audio guide from MOMA here.
'From now through, 2011, the Princeton University Art Museum this is the first survey of this pioneering artist's work in the United States since his retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in 1985. The exhibition will provide an unparalleled opportunity to view Schwitters's experiments in depth, including a full-scale reconstruction of his groundbreaking Merzbau, which has never before been seen in this region.'

Born in Hannover, Germany, Schwitters (1887-1948) is one of the most influential artists from the interwar avant-garde. During a period of social and economic turmoil, he developed a unique practice, one that merged art and life, embraced disparate media and utilized found objects and printed materials, most of them the discarded remnants of everyday life. 'Kurt Schwitters: Color and Collage' was organized by the Menil Collection in Houston, see my earlier Schwitters post on this. It's about time, there was show like this in the UK.

A recording of Schwitters performing his phonetic poem (1922-32), will also be highlighted at the exhibition, Ursonate listen to a version by the artists himself here. 
There is a reconstruction of Schwitters's first Merzbau, destroyed by Allied bombs in 1943. In the UK,  there has been an extensive project to restore the Merzbarn, in  Elterwater, near Ambleside, in the Lake District. He was working on this before his death, see it here. Also there is Merzman, this an ongoing series of projects based in the UK that explores the infliuence of Schwitters, and is well worth looking at.

Kurt Schwitters, 'MZ 371' collage, 1922 (C) Menil Collection

Some background on Schwitters: In 1919, Schwitters named this body of work Merz-a neologism derived from the German kommerz (commerce)-which culminated in a series of collages, assemblages, experimental poems, prints and sculptures; the most famous being the Merzbau, a three-dimensional environment the artist began in the 1920s. Schwitters's work bridges some of the period's most important artistic movements, including Expressionism, Dada, Constructivism and Abstraction. Schwitters exerted a profound influence on artistic developments after World War II; Robert Rauschenberg and Jasper Johns, among others, considered him a source of inspiration, and contemporary installation art is inconceivable without the Merzbau. Schwitters was trained as a painter, and despite his experiments with other media, he never ceased painting. Indeed, painting informs almost all of his work, as witnessed by the passages of gouache, chalk, oils, paste and watercolor in his collages and assemblages-additions that transform the materials they cover. 

Merzbau Reconstruction, see Tate Research Papers here.

17 Jun 2011

'Cy Twombly & Nicholas Poussin: Arcadian Painters', Dulwich Picture Gallery, London

This is a great opportunity to consider the work of Cy Twombly with one of his hero's Poussin at the Dulwich Picture Gallery in South London from 29th June until 25th September.

Cy Twombly, 'Hero and Leander' (To Christopher Marlowe) Rome , 1985
This is a fascinating insight into the different approaches both artists have to their work with  over two centuries dividing them. Both artists have explored a sensibility to their work that retains a romanticism, mystic and enigmatic quality through the use of materials and paint.

'I would've liked to have been Poussin, if I'd had a choice, in another time.' Cy Twombly

Nicolas Poussin, 'Rinaldo and Armida', oil on canvas, c.1760
This exhibition will look at these two figures side by side for the first time, though they are separated by three centuries, the two artists nonetheless share remarkable similarities. The connections are highlighted through the key themes of Arcadia and the pastoral, Venus and Eros, anxiety and theatricality and mythological figures that are central to both artists' work.

As part of the exhibition, the Gallery is also extremely fortunate to have the opportunity to display Poussin's 'Sacrements' painted between 1637 and 1642 for his Roman friend and patron Cassiano dal Pozzo. As a set, Poussins 'Sacrements' represent a high point in Western European art.

A Conversation with Sir Nicholas Serota, July 19th 6-9PM
Sir Nicholas Serota, Director of Tate, talks to Dr Nicholas Cullinan, Curator of International Modern Art at Tate Modern and of the exhibition Twombly and Poussin 'Arcadian Painters' about his long involvement curating Cy Twombly’s work and the exhibition at Dulwich Picture Gallery.

Eva Rothschild at The Hepworth, Yorkshire

This is a powerful exhibition of an artist at the top of her game, Eva Rothschil, creates enigmatic three dimensional abstractions and is the first artist to be shown at the UK's new premier artspace in Yorkshire, The Hepworth... Celebrating the legacy of sculptor Barbara Hepworth.

Eva Rothschild, (c) The Hepworth, Wakefield
 ' 'Hot Touch' is a group of new and recent sculptures and photographs by Eva Rothschild. Her sculptures are made from a range of materials including fabric, leather and wood, bringing together the hand-made and the industrially produced. The works often combine the forms and strategies of modernist art; squares, triangles, holes and repetition, with an array of visual associations and symbols, such as totemic columns of piled heads and draped snakes.

This exploration of the power and meaning of objects produces an encounter between the minimal and the magical. Leaning against walls, suspended in mid-air, or balancing impossibly, Rothschild’s sculptures have an ambiguous and powerful presence, exploring universally recognised forms and symbols.'

The Hepworth, Wakefield, Yorkshire, England
The exhibition is accompanied by a new publication with an essay by Prof. Anne Wagner, author 'Mother Stone: The vitality of modern British Sculpture' (Yale University Press, 2005).

10 Jun 2011

Egon Schiele: 'Women' unseen paintings and drawings at Richard Nagy, London

Egon Schiele, painting on paper, gouache. c.1910. Richard Nagy Ltd.
Another powerful exhibition, not seen in London for some time, is currently on show at the Richard Nagy Gallery. Check out Jonathan Jones's article in the Guardian here, there are also more slides of the works on show. The work continues until 30th July.

For many, Schiele is still a controversial painter and his lifestyle still provocative. In my view, there are few painters from the twentieth century that are not controversial, from Schiele's contemporary Kilmt, to Picasso. Jonathan, states in his article: 

'There is a definite sense of discovering secrets, trespassing on hidden private lives, at the Schiele show,...The exhibition collects nearly 50 masterpieces – fragile works on paper – that dealer Richard Nagy has sold throughout his career and has borrowed back from private collectors to mount one of the most spectacular Schiele shows ever seen in the UK.'

This exhibition exhibits drawings on paper in watercolour and gouache. He creates poses that are intimate and yet for public consumption, many of these poses reflect the wider feelings explored by German Expressionism and New Objectivity movements across Germany and Europe in the 1920's and 30's. In my ways he predicted the voyeuristic desire that is so prevalent in society since WWI. He died at 28 of influenza in 1918. There are some self-portraits in the exhibition, including the infamous 'Eros'...
Egon Schiele, Reclining Female Nude with Violet Stockings, 1910. Gouache, watercolour and black crayon on paper, 31.6 x 44.9 cm (12 ½ x 17 5/8 in). Private Collection, Courtesy of Richard Nagy Ltd, London.

4 Jun 2011

Picasso, Miro, Dali-Angry Young Men: The Birth of Modernity

This is a fascinating exhibition on the relationships between the Picasso, Dali and Miro, currently exhibited at the Foundation Palazzo Strozzi, Florence, Italy until 17th July. This exhibition documents the influences each artist had on each other, the wider painting scene in Spain, and in turn, the legacy they left on the culture of the early Twentieth Century and the development of modernism. What is also interesting about this exhibition is how the strong political convictions are explored especially with regard to the early Picasso and Miro pieces, many not exhibited before. there is also some strong abstract, semi-abstract works by both artists. There is a walk through each room here. The show is curated by Eugenio Carmona, Christoph Vitali.

Pablo Picasso 'Harlequin and his Girlfriend' 1901, Pushkin Museum
'The exhibition is dedicated to the early work of Picasso, Miró and Dalí, which played a decisive role in the beginning of modern art in Spain. The exhibition concentrates on Picasso's pre-cubist period 1900 - 1905, whilst Juan Miró's works of 1915-1920 are presented along with Salvador Dali's from 1920-1925, both artists painting in the period before the discovery of surrealism. Each artist will be represented by 25 - 30 masterpieces selected to show aspects of the three artists in their earliest periods, works that are rarely shown in mainstream catalogues and exhibitions. For instance, Picasso's early work was often coloured by his strong political convictions.

Joan Miro 'Poem Painting' c.1925
In Madrid in 1901, Picasso and his anarchist friend Francisco de Asís Soler founded the magazine Arte Joven (Young Art), which published five issues. Picasso illustrated the journal, mostly contributing grim cartoons depicting and sympathizing with the state of the poor. Miró too understood art as political, and Miró's oft-quoted assassination of painting is derived from a dislike of bourgeois art of any kind, especially when used as a way to promote cultural identity among the wealthy. Specifically, Miró saw Cubism in this way, and he is quoted as saying I will break their guitars, referring to Picasso and Braque's early Cubist paintings. Much younger than Picasso and Miró, Dalí was expelled from the Academia in 1926 shortly before his final exams when he stated that no one on the faculty was competent enough to examine him. His mastery of painting skills is well documented in his early works, such as the flawlessly realistic Girl at the window, which was painted in 1926. That same year he made his first visit to Paris where he met with Pablo Picasso, whom young Dalí revered - Picasso had already heard favourable things about Dalí from Joan Miró.'

1 Jun 2011

'Zig Zag: Deliberations on construction, sequence and colour' @ Charlie Dutton Gallery, London


This is an innovative and diverse exhibition of new developments in abstraction. The exhibition which is opening this week at Charlie Dutton Gallery (Holborn Tube) Princeton Street, London from this Friday (Private View) 9th June-2nd July, 2011.

These artists have developed an understanding for the possibility of an ‘internal logic’ in their work; an idea which artists such as Mary and Kenneth Martin talked about in their teaching in the 1950s, as well as explore ideas of ‘colour interaction’ and ‘colour juxtaposition’. 

Isha Bohling

'In her essay, ‘The Writings of Mary Martin’ 1990, Hilary Lane discusses Mary Martin’s idea that all ‘words’ or information needed to describe the artworks should be embedded in the work itself; that written language cannot always express or explain the processes and decisions made during their construction. Mary Martin wanted the story of how her work was made to be clear to the person when looking at it. And although proportion, rhythm and measurement were key she wanted to emphasise the unexpected and a need to remain inventive. Of the process of construction itself Martin wrote that it is: ‘a thinking making process, not necessarily in three dimensions. Internal logic is the key. The success of such a process is wholly dependent on a right choice of symbols. The choice is based on intuition and experience.’

Jost Munster, similar works in 'Zig Zag'
The work in this show examines how artists are still discovering new visual ideas, through the complex and technically challenging process of applying paint and other materials onto a ‘blank canvas’. It is hoped that through the process of contrasting and comparing an opportunity is provided for debate and discussion with regard to visual language: a small critical forum for artists and audience to consider these works and the concepts, methods or systems behind their construction.'

Otto Dix at the Institute of Foreign Affairs Gallery, Berlin

There is an interesting exhibition of the works of Otto Dix, the fascinating German artist who worked in both Expressionism and Dada at the Institute of Foreign Affairs Gallery in Berlin, Germany. The exhibition Otto Dix : Social Criticism Prints 1920-1924, 'Der Kreig (war) Etching Set 1924 runs until 7th August.

Otto Dix, etching, circa 1920
'With more than 600 drawings from the years 1914 to 1918 were done at various theatre's of war in Belgium, France and Russia, in the course of his military service. These protocols of war, created on the spot and of high artistic value, together with his own memories of the horrors of World War I, also formed the basis of a later grandiose serial work entitled "The War", published in 1924 by Karl Nierendorf in Berlin.

The cycle, consisting of fifty separate drawings and often compared to Goya's 'Desastres de la Guerra', (Disasters of War) does not only give an authentic and horrifying portrayal of the terrible trench fighting that took place in the great battles of this first world war-it also unmasks the 'moloch' of war for what it truly is. This series of etchings, which ranks particularly highly among the main works of Dix's oeuvre, forms the center of attention of this exhibition. 

Otto Dix, etching, c.1920
Dix never imagined that he could change people, i.e. humanity as such, by means of his works. But for these works, paintings and prints against war, he drew the rage and the hate, up to and including defamation, of the Nazi regime, which, after coming to power in 1933, removed him from his chair, as one of the first Academy professors to suffer this, and forbade him to exhibit.

The truth was important for Dix, also in his focus upon marginalized social groups of the postwar era, such as war veterans who had lost limbs, etc. and prostitutes; the collection included in this exhibition shows characteristic examples of such unfortunates. This inexorable drive to show the truth was already a source of agitation and protest among his contemporaries before the Nazis were in power. 

'I will either be famous or infamous', he once said as a young man. He has become both.'

Abstraction: Thomas Muller @ Fruehsorge|contemporary drawings, Berlin

Thomas Müller, 'Untitled' 2010, pencil chalk and ink on handmade paper, 160 x 115 cm
It's the last couple of days of Thomas Müller at Fruehsorge | contemporary drawings, Heidestrasse, Berlin, next to the contemporary art museum Hamburger Bahnhof.  This exhibition will run until 3rd June 2011. 

Muller is an artist who works in abstraction and only uses the medium of drawing, and I can't think of a better place for an exhibition than the Fruehsorge. He has shown at the New York Drawing Centre and in the exhibition “Linea, Linie, Line” at the Institute for Foreign Cultural Relations extensive drawing overview in Bonn. His work is also present among numerous German and international collections such as Kunsthalle Hamburg, Pinakothek der Moderne München, the Kupferstichkabinett Berlin and the Centre Pompidou in Paris, France. In 2010 Müller was nominated for the Fondation Guerlain’s renowned “Prix de dessin contemporain”.

Müller's work explores 'the substance and nature of drawing and the drawing process itself, which materializes as a stroke or trace on the page and means the line doesn’t depict nor describe but becomes the subject matter itself.' What is also interesting is the use of such diverse materials such as chalk, ink, oils, acrylics, ballpoint pen, colour and led pencil and yet he retains a coolness to the final image in that he doesn't make that use of the materials the main thing about it. He explored the space of the picture plain with minimal markings in a rythmn of interwoven grids and wave-like structures, that have a zen like quality. Gorgeous..