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.


Eero Saarinen

February 27, 2009

 

I was feeling a bit unsure about how I wanted to write about the Eero Saarinen exhibition at the Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum in St. Louis. The exhibition is called Shaping the Future and it runs until April 27, 2009. 

Should it just be written as an objective entry about an exhibition or should I write about it as it being part of the influence or the inspiration of an artist work? Well, I will address it this way, going to museums, galleries or any other venue to see art is great for any artist or designer. It is a good idea to go seek work that you like and maybe work that you don’t. Just go see art in person. So in that sense, going to the exhibition is an inspiration and can be an influence.

Ok, I live in the St. Louis metro area and everybody does know of this guy and of his work…even if they can’t name the man off hand. One of his structures is so unbiquitious to the area that it seem rather ordinary and nothing to exciting. Eeros Saarinen’s Jefferson National Expansion Memorial (AKA The Arch) is a defining structure in St. Louis. As a kid, I don’t know how many times I have taken the white, “futuristic” egg trams to the top. I can’t count the times I have sat at the foot to watch fireworks or airshows around the 4th of July as I was growing up. It is an awe inspiring stucture but also a structure that has turned into a cliche as part of logos, company names, as a cartoon or mascot for anything that is remotely tied to St. Louis. Just go to www.askarchy.com and you will see what I mean. I am not looking at is as a criticism. It is just how it is. 

 

Final section being installed to complete the arch

Final section being installed to complete the arch

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So the exhibition is a survey of his work since he began his career at the Cranbrook Academy of Art in Michigan, worked along side of his father, Eilel Saarinen. Eventually, he struck out on his own in 1950 after his father died. Saarinen became the architect that represented American modernism most famously. He work with Charles Eames to create modern furniture that introduced new materials and technology that would decorate the modern home. He designed the headquarters of many cooporations….basically making the “corporate campus” model popular and did some innovative designs for college campuses, airports and well…the Arch.

 

One of his many chair designs

One of his many chair designs

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

John Deere headquarters in Moline, IL

John Deere headquarters in Moline, IL

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is my favorite. Ingalls Hockey Rink at Yale 1953

This is my favorite. Ingalls Hockey Rink at Yale 1953

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If a person were to pick his defining works, it would be the Arch and the TWA Terminal at JFK Airport

 

TWA Terminal at JFK Airport from the inside

TWA Terminal at JFK Airport from the inside

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The show was more or less a survey of the highlights that displayed photographs, some furnature, videos and models of his work. 

At the time, his works seemed very futuristic  and exemplified the values of modernism. Now it my seem quaint  because frankly, much of modern architecture has not aged well. However, it does represent a post-war period of hope and the idea that life will get better with technology. 

As I think about it, Eeros Saarinen was like the Frank Gehry of his time. I think the connection is rather obvious when comparing the organic, curvilinear structures of Gehry and Saarinen. Of course, there are many difference in material and theory. Plus, Gehry’s structures are just rather excessive and exaggerated. Saarinen’s structures do have a simplicity and minimalism to them, essentially following modernism’s reductivism. 

 

TWA Terminal from outside circa 1962

TWA Terminal from outside circa 1962

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gehry's Disney hall

Gehry's Disney hall

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What I also want to point out is that the Arch design was a competition and really, if you look at the other ideas for the memorial how could Saarinen’s lose. This is the runner up to Saarinen’s Arch:

runnerup

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This was done by Harris Armstrong, a native St. Louisan. To find out more go to: New Light on the Gateway