Metabolic City

October 10, 2009

In my final year in graduate school I learned about a group called the Situationist International and I became fascinated with their imaginative imagery that drew from architecture and art. I was interested in their concepts of urbanism, the city and Marxism as a creative apparatus. Like the artists in the Chance Aesthetics exhibition, the work and their concepts are rather playful and I think are a reaction to the horrors of the destruction of cities and deaths of millions during World War II. This was their vision of post-war utopia.

Metabolic City focuses on mainly three different groups working at relatively the same time; 1950s-1970. The British architectural group, Archigram, the Japanese Metabolists, and the Situationist International (SI) (mainly Constant Nieuwenhuy).  The exhibition consists of montages, diagrams, architectural rendering, videos that are projected on glass while you sit in a cockpit type module, and models.

All three groups think of the city as a living organism that is flexible, mobile and expandable. They all had their views on economic systems that seemed to permeate their work. They all seemed to embrace technology as a way to make life better. For example, Archiagram and the Metabolists embraced consumerism and mass pop culture. Whereas the SI was very critical of capitalistic society. Their goal was to revolutionise space and mass culture through Marxist revolution. They wanted to liberate man from the confines of capitalism and mass culture. They envisioned urban space as an experimental arena for human interaction and self-realization. In simple terms, let’s think of the SI as socialists and Archigram and Metabolists as capitalists.

The Metabolists

After WW2, Japan was going through social, political and cultural changes. They drafted a new constitution and made dramatic changes in regard to land use. Looking for a positive identity and individual rights led to visions of he city based on metaphor of life cycles. They proposed new territories of inhabitation such as the ocean and social spaces gained prominence. There work defiantly has a biological and natural element to it. Some of it looks like part of living creature or is just closely tied to the natural environment.

Those included are Kisho Kurokawa, Fumihiko Maki and Arata Isozaki

Kisho Kurokawa diagram

Kisho Kurokawa diagram

Fumihiko Maki model

Fumihiko Maki model

Arata Isozaki photomontage

Arata Isozaki photomontage

Archigram

This was a British group in which the members were fresh out of school. They were not too interested in politics and were more enthusiastic about the social aspects of built space and broader issues of urban livability. They were brough up in a time when destroyed cities were being rebuilt in short spans of time and lacked a sense of the vitality found in a living city. Seeing this and the desire for a better life spurred them to push the limits of architecture. Their proposals embraced emerging technologies and commerce to advance individual freedoms and enhance the lives of individuals. Their cities had a patterned look with a lot of alien-like spaceship-like pods that look like they are from some thing of Sci-Fi movie.

Those included are Peter Cook,Dennis Crompton, Michael Webb, Ron Herron.

Peter Cook's Plug-in City

Peter Cook's Plug-in City

Dennis Crompton's Walking City (not in show)

Dennis Crompton's Walking City (not in show)

SI (Constant)

This group was mainly based in the Netherlands and in France. Constant was from the Netherlands and like the Japanese and the British they were hit hard by the horrors of WW2. Constant’s most famous project was New Babylon. It was a sample of what maybe a Situationist city could look like. It focused on the city as an emphasis on the individual, social interactions and the presence of art as part of the environment. The city was an urban framework in which the occupants would be able to create, reconfigure and control their sensory environments.

Others associated with the SI are the activist, Guy Debord and artist, Asger Jorn

Constant's  New Babylon project drawing

Constant's New Babylon project drawing

Constant's New Babylon drawing/diagram

Constant's New Babylon drawing/diagram

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Chance Aesthetics

October 9, 2009

Since my mother was diagnosed with cancer I have not have much time or energy to go out and see many art exhibitions. In addition to that, there hasn’t been much time for even working in the studio. Other than the small drawings I have done I have been sort of out of the art loop.

In saying that, Monday I was able to make it over to the Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum on the campus of Washington University. I also what to state that I like going there to see contemporary art than I like going to the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis. I think the exhibitions at the Kemper are more varied and I like that the museum is free and being in the situation I am in, free is great. I honestly have not been too interested in the recent exhibitions at CAMSTL.

The exhibitions I saw were Chance Aesthetics and Metabolic City. I will separate the two into separate posts. I was interested in Chance Aesthetics because in my own art I have used elements of chance to develop my work. I tend to use it as a starting point such as dumping ink or paint, using drip patterns and allowing “mistakes” to happen and worked with the unexpected things that come up when making art.

Historically, art has been a skill in which an artist demands exceptional control to achieve a great work. This means works were planned endeavors obsessive perfection. In the 20th century some artists decided to work in opposition to this. The exhibition starts with the Surrealists and Dada, which makes sense to me. What I think is so great about using chance as a basis for a work is that it becomes playful and fun instead of being an intellectual and dry assignment that a lot of art has become.

Some of the works are sloppy and dirty but some are totally obsessive, clean and systematic. The latter still retain an element of surprise and engagement.

Some notable artists and works. I like Ellsworth Kelly’s gridded, cut-up and reassembled drawings.

Ellsworth Kelly

Ellsworth Kelly

There is Mimmo Rotella’s decollages of advertisements that you might see on the streets where posters are layered and ripped apart. Sort of like a defaced pop art.

Mimmo Rotella

Mimmo Rotella

Similar to Rotella’s is Jacques Villegle’s work. Something is very subversive and punk about these works. I like that.

Jacques Villegle

Jacques Villegle

I did love the simplicity of Duchamp’s readymade, “hatrack”, that was hanging from the ceiling. I think most people would see the spider-like look of this work and I think most would enjoy this one cause of its playfullness and it is non-confrontational.

Marcel Duchamp

Marcel Duchamp

I enjoyed William Anastasi’s subway drawings. I was doing stuff like this when I was in London. I am not saying I did it first but I feel a connection to this cause of my own personal experience with this mindless exercise. Fun and surprising to make.

William Anastasi's Subway Drawings

William Anastasi's Subway Drawings

There is the systematic digital looking Francois Morellet’s telephone directory works. By just looking at it, it looks like a non-objective minimalism. There is the white one that has the layer of varnish on some areas…white on white…so when you look at it at certain angles you see the differences. I think of Ryman’s white paintings. With the black one’s I think of Ad Reinhart’s black paintings. Those ones are definitely more quiet and subtile. Some of them use hot and sometimes competing color schemes that are more challenging. His work can seem like a combination of a Sol LeWit type of work and op-art. The grid seems to be a very important part of the structure of his work.

A telephone directory work by Francois Morellet

A telephone directory work by Francois Morellet

In addition to those works there is Arman’s work in which he collect Claes Oldenburg’s trash. Interesting in an invasion of privacy kind of way. There was a osmotic work by George Maciunas in which spills ink onto a canvas ans lets it spread a soak into the canvas. Marcel Jean and Andre Breton’s drawings were similar. There was Ray Johnson’s mail art and game-like works. There were some exquisite corpse drawings, John Cage compositions and a Nam June Paik’s blank films…well except dust scratches and whatever happened to interfere with the film. Plus there were Deiter Roth’s rotting works.


Announcement and Cindy Tower

June 5, 2009

Slacking on the blogging. However, I am not slacking in general. I am going to be part of a group show at St. Charles Community College this August. It is their annual Multimedia Exhibition. I am honored to be invited and to be showing with some other awesome St. Louis artists. Plus, I am working on a website for someone I know who has a business. Plus, I might have a few more things in the pipeline. Other than that, I’ve been out riding the bike and enjoying the outdoors. After all, it is summer-time. 

A month or two ago I went to check out some art at the Sheldon Art Galleries. I wanted to see what was up with all the hoopla over the Cindy Tower exhibit. She does plein air paintings of industrial and inner city ruins. Mostly, these are in East St. Louis. Plus, she documents the process. 

I have sort of mixed opinion of her. The paintings are nice as paintings. She is obviously a talented painter can really capture all the detail and beauty of the spaces in decay. They actually seem lifelike. 

IMG_1073

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I think the paintings can stand on their own. This is where I feel mixed. She makes videos documenting the process of painting these. Obviously, the process is important to her. However, I question the importance to the viewer. Is the video supposed to demystify the process or is it purely self-indulgent? My opinion is that the documentation is unnecessary and I would like to have some mystery. Honestly, I am not interested in the process. Well, I like to imagine what it is like.

Some part of me feels like it is exploitative too. Here is a white woman going into a perceived dangerous ghetto that is almost 100% non-white. She goes in and makes these paintings and then selling showings and probably selling these paintings to well-off people. She seems interested in showing the decay and the beauty of it. However, is she doing anything to make those areas better? I am not sure. Anyway, does she even want that? I mean, that is her subject and the revival of East St. Louis would take away her subject matter. Of course, this is St. Louis. There are plenty of areas wrought with decay. 

Plus she is blatantly breaking the law and brags about it in the videos. I think that sort of makes artists look bad. To me, she is trying to make the paintings a performance but I don’t like the “bragging” about how dangerous the process is. it just seems like a case of a well-off privileged white woman having an adventure (slumming) at the expense of the poor.

I like the paintings and I do find the warped canvases, the dirt and the grime that is on the paintings because of the circumstances of creating them quite nice. They are not these precious and pristine objects. They reflect the subjects well. I am just not sure about the need for the documentation and just giving away the process and not leaving any kind of mystery for my imagination.

Why do I want mystery? In my case when I see an abandoned building or drive through a run down area, being a white woman from crystal clean suburbia, I do have this fascination with decay. It does seem exotic. I do get a sense of wonder because it is different. I get curious and want to explore but I get a sense of fear and anxiety of the unknown. Seeing the paintings lets me see inside and still get that feeling. I guess, I don’t want to the reality because it does expose how well off I am in the world. I guess it makes me feel guilty in finding pleasure in someone else’s pain. What I see between the paintings and the documentation is a tug-a-war or reality and romanticism. However, the mystery is gone. 

The paintings with the artist statement with the description of the process was enough for me. The videos….not interested. However, the work does pose some interesting and pressing sociological issues that St. Louis and the nation needs to deal with.


Claudia Schmacke at SLAM

April 21, 2009

A couple weeks ago I stopped at the St. Louis Art Museum to see the Currents 103: Claudia Schmacke exhibition. It is up on the third floor in the 301 and 337 galleries. The show runs until July 5th, 2009. 

Claudia Schmacke is a German artist based in Berlin who explores temporally and the perception of time.

Part of the exhibition was a sculpture made of plastic tubing, water and fluorescent dye that loops out  and stretches out across one of the walls. The water is being propelled through the tubes, thus there is a noticeable hum. This sound seems to have some importance to the piece itself so it is not just purely incidental. This particular piece is called Time reel. 

The title makes an obvious reference to film reels. In this day and age many young people may not get the reference. I remember in school being shown films from a projector and the light clicking noise that was made from the film going reel to reel. The noise sort of has that feel and the fact that the water is cycling makes that reference to the physical, mechanical motions that are involved in showing a film. I think the dye was to make the moving water more noticeable to the viewer. 

Here are some images of Time Reel:

This is nearly the whole piece

This is nearly the whole piece

 

 

detail of the loops

detail of the loops

 

detail of the wall and all the holes

detail of the wall and all the holes

  

The other part of the exhibition is made up of two videos. One is called Umbilicus and the other is called Dark Matter. Both videos were shot in LA near the La Brea Tar Pits. Both videos are looking down into drainage pipes. I only saw part of Umbilicus… it was nearly 20 minutes long. It features water being sucked down this small drainage pipe. Featured prominently are the sucking, gurgling and other sounds that can come from water going down a drain. The sounds would make young children laugh (some adults too).  I do believe she is making references between the body and structures and systems that help keep places functioning.

Also, there is that issue of time. Time being relative. Time always moves as a constant speed (seconds, minutes, hours, days, etc) but our perception of time always changes. When there is excitement time seems to fly. When there is not much going on, leading to boredom, time seems to crawl. Looking at a 20 minute video of water going down a drain seems to be a good example of the latter. The video just never seems to end. I believe the artist is not trying to bore you to death, but is keeping the viewer aware of time and how it is perceived. 

For a still image of one of the videos stop by the St. Louis Art Museum website.

Also, you can stop by the Claudia Schmacke website for more info on her work and career.


Tony Fitzpatrick at Gallery 210

April 8, 2009

A week ago I went over to Gallery 210 on the campus of University of Missouri – St. Louis to see the etchings by Tony Fitzpatrick. The show is titled, “The City Etchings 1993 – 2003”. The show runs from February 12th  to May 23rd of 2009. 

To see an example of his work and to find out more information about the show and the gallery itself go to the Gallery 210 website.

I have heard of Tony Fitzpatrick for years while studying printmaking while in college. I am sure I have seen some of his work also. However, for some strange reason I was really surprised how small his etchings are. I was picturing them being relatively large. By large I was thinking maybe 16″ x 20″ or larger. On the contrary, they ranged from being the scale of a business card (roughly 2″ x 3″) to maybe 5″ x 7″. So these are rather small. There were lots of these etchings though, 30 to be exact. All black and white.

Each etching seemed like a portrait of some aspect of a nightmarish city. Each featured some figure (animal, insect, human) large and in the center of a swirl of ugliness. The figures themselves were sometimes grotesque and solemn but detailed and well rendered. The backgrounds were full of surprises and interesting happenings that told much of the story through, I would guess, personal symbolism. The background, dream-like images were rather sketchy and were a nice contrast to the figures. 

The City Etchings “started when his father was diagnosed with irreparable skin cancer. He said, “The city died when my dad died.””. Fitzpatrick describes this series as “a novel without words”. Before even seeing the work, there has to be an assumption that the work would be the work of a person in mourning. 

Here are three of my faves:

 

Chicago Sailor

Chicago Sailor

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I like this faceless sailor. It is a portrait of nobody. I find it mysterious. 

 

Crack Girl

Crack Girl

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This one above is definitely one of the more grotesque ones.

 

Woman on a bridge (not the actual title)

Woman on a bridge (not the actual title)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This one, to me, had the most depth. It stood out to me because of that.


Memphis Art Museum and uses for Tyvek

March 28, 2009

While in Memphis last week,  B and I visited the Brooks Art Museum. This is right next to the Memphis College of Art in Overton Park. The museum was OK but I have been to many art museums in NYC, London, Chicago and of course the St. Louis Art Museum so the Memphis museum can’t really compete. I am not saying I didn’t see anything that I liked. There was plenty of good works.

They had a small exhibition of art that was considered controversial at one point in history but when one sees the same work today, the work seems rather tame. They had stuff by Cezanne to Serrano. I thought that one featured some interesting works.

They also had a suite of prints by faculty from the Pratt Institute if I remember correctly. That sort of made me want to explore prints again. I took a picture of a relief print made on Plexiglas. I wouldn’t mind trying something like that. Maybe get the Dremel tool out. I wonder how well wood carving tools would do on that material? 

 

plexiglas relief print

plexiglas relief print

 

 
What really interested me the most was a hanging cut-paper piece. Actually the paper was Tyvek. I mean this work could have easily just have been made from regular paper. Why Tyvek? Well, I found out it is the same material used to make the envelopes you can get at the post office for express mail. These envelopes are free by the way. Tyvek is also used as a construction material. It is used as a a covering over the insulation that protects it and the inside of the building from the weather elements. It is waterproof. It is also used for tarps, protective clothing, printing graphics. Also Tyvek is a product made by DuPont. Still that doesn’t explain why the artist may want to use this material.

Well, it is really hard to tear. It is really strong. So when this person made this piece complete with all these intricate cuts, the Tyvek proves to be very durable and the artist didn’t have to worry about tearing the paper. This is really smart. 

Here is a close-up picture:

tyvekcutout

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I was thinking, “hmmmm….what would it be like to use this to draw on?” Also, I could do this for free. So I went to the post office and grabbed some larger envelopes (11″ x 14″ approx.) and cut the edges off. This produces a sheet of paper. One side has printing on it but the other side is bone white. I thought I could also run this stuff through my ink jet printer too. 

I tried drawing on it. Pencil is OK. It is OK enough to get a rough but getting smooth value gradations is hard. It doesn’t handle an eraser too well. Pen and marker work good. However, it bleeds (or the ink spreads some). 

I remember doing some work in graduate school that included cut paper as an element and this stuff would have been perfect.

This is “recession paper” for me.


Elvis Painting

March 22, 2009

 

What makes people produce art that depicts a celebrity one does not know? 

 

I can see a person making a portrait to honor someone important to one’s life. I can see someone making a portrait for some money (a commissioned work). I can see someone doing it for an exercise. I am not exactly sure what drives a person to spend so much time on a painting or drawing of a person they don’t know. I think it it has to be a product of obsession. Of course, this is something I can expect out of adolescence because, from my experience, when a teenager really likes something a lot they can be rather obsessive and evangelistic about whatever that thing is. It could be a love, some celebrity, a musician, comics, sports. You name it. What about adults?

I was in Memphis, TN last week. My boyfriend and I went to Graceland to see Elvis’s home and the whole spectacle. While doing the tour, we ran into a wall of art sent to either Elvis himself and to the estate. It is said that they have too much to show, so they rotate the works. They are mostly paintings of Elvis himself at different points in his career. There was one of his mother. There was this giant 6 foot full body oil paintings of Elvis looking rather heroic. (I was also thinking he looks like a Chippendale…with the bow tie around his nude neck).  I was starting to think of the works of Van Dyck and the fully portraits he did of the most noble people from that time period. Can we really compare Elvis to some king or leader of the state? Well, his nickname is “The King”. Actually, can I compare this anonymous artist to one of the most hailed painters of all time? I don’t think so. 

Here is a pic I took. They quality is not that good. It was rather dim in the room and could not use a flash (which would be bad for the painting and as you can see, there is already a hefty glare from the lighting). 

 

Elvis oil painting

Elvis oil painting

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here is a Van Dyck painting….

 

 

King Charles I

King Charles I

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Of course, when I think of Elvis related art, I think of something on black velvet. Something really cheesy. As for the Graceland stuff, I guess they figured there is so much of art made in his honor, they should display some of it. They could probably just have a museum of the work.