Monday, January 10, 2011

Metal & Paint

Sperone Westwater
Heinz Mack & Old Masters

My favorite opening this weekend happened at the Sperone Westwater Gallery with a combination of the old versus the new. The first three floors were filled with an elegant fizz of metal and glass work covering the high ceilinged walls from bottom to top. Heinz Mack's work actually looks like it was made for the Gallery´s new building, but the work presented "Early Metal Reliefs" was from the ten years between 1957 - 1967. This is also the era of the German Zero group that he founded together with Otto Piene in 1956. The groups mission was to sign off the past and start again at Zero. A post-war art movement that was like a European version of the minimalism so popular in America.

Mack’s metal reliefs are characterized by their shimmering industrial surfaces, made from aluminum, Plexiglas, wood, glass and stainless steel: all materials that were radically unfamiliar for sculpture at the time. His aim was to abandon the traditional idea of pictorial space and focus instead on an overall surface play of light, reflection and vibration, in the process creating immaterial effects from material form.

In his essay for the brochure which accompanied Mack’s first show in Paris in 1959 at the Galerie Iris Clert, Yves Klein wrote: “the reliefs in aluminum of Mack […] come from the delicate, discrete and timid love he has always felt for color though always refusing to approach it.”

          - Sperone Westwater (Press Release)

We were fortunate enough to meet the illuminating master, who continues to work in a small town called Monchengladbach outside Dusseldorf (Germany).

On the 4th floor were the elevator is being used as an extension of the room, were a sacred exhibit of old masters. I am intrigued by their initiative to bring in the old together with the Contemporary. A collaboration with the Robilant + Voena Gallery (Milan/London). It hit me that this could be beginning of a new "Renaissance" for old paintings. The most known masters are all taken by Museums or private collections so there is very little left on the market. But, there were so many other great painters during this time like Caraviggio's teacher Casini, here with his version of "David with the Head of Goliath". 

Artemisia Gentileschi (1593-1653)
Portrait of an Unidentified Man
*Photo courtesy of Sperone Westwater Gallery

Artemisia Gentileschi was one of the few but highly regarded FEMALE artists of the Baroque. Her life has also been portrayed in the movie Artemisia. A great well-acted film I watched a few years ago, about her struggles to be allowed to paint in a male dominated world and a rape trial where she was the plaintiff.

Tiberio Titi 
Portrait of Ferdinando Gonzaga, Duke of Mantua
(C. 1617)

Others represented in this exhibit is Canaletto, Caracciolo, Caroselli, Cavalier d'Arpino, Cerano, Ceruti, Dolci, Guardi, Joli, Marieschi, Panini and Titi.

All artists from an area that was important for the beginning of modern art. With new findings, re-discoveries and new importance attributed to lesser known but not less important artist from the 17th and 18th Century is (I think) going to bring the old masters into the Contemporary House.

Casini "David with the head of Goliath"

It will be exciting to see if other Contemporary Galleries will follow the lead.

It is interesting what a breeze it was to go from "Metal to Paint" like each exhibit induced a stronger message to the other because of it.

With Love 

Thursday, January 6, 2011

The Exotic Oceanic Wing of the Met

6th - Live-in Session


This is my favorite section of the Metropolitan. Unfortunately a section that is very overlooked as it is at the end of the building and behind the Greek and Roman Art.
It is named the Michael C. Rockefeller wing after the son of Nelson A. Rockefeller (NY Governor, vice President) who collected many of the Asmat objects from Papa New Guinea. Michael disappeared when he was only 23 years old on his second exploration trip to the Papa New Guinea. 

On November 18, 1961, Rockefeller and Dutch anthropologist René Wassing were in a 40-foot dugout canoe about three miles from shore when their double pontoon boat was swamped and overturned. Their two local guides swam for help, but it was slow in coming. After drifting for some time, Rockefeller said to Wassing "I think I can make it" and swam for shore. Wassing was rescued the next day, while Rockefeller was never seen again, despite an intensive and lengthy search effort. At the time, Rockefeller's disappearance was a major world news item. No body was found, and he was finally declared dead in 1964.
-Missing Persons, Invision Free

Kwoma Ceiling

A remade ceremonial house ceiling from the Sepik River in the northwestern New Guinea. The roof went nearly to the ground and was supported by posts and beams but without walls.

Kavat Masks still in use in the 1970's.

House Post
Sentani People, Lake Sentani
New Guinea, 19th Century

Most of the art from Oceania comes from the last 400 years, especially since they were primarily made out wood and would disappear and rotten over time. This Y-shaped roof supporter is made from one piece of trunk and then architecturally engraved.
I immediately began a dream about having this done to a tree myself. Cut a tree down through the roots and then invert it to a post. Incredibly inventive!

Headdress effigy (Hareiga)

This was carried on top of the heads of the Papa New Guinea dancers. Sometimes they could be about 50 feet (15 meter). This one is huge in reality, I can't imagine anybody dancing with it.

Asmat Bis Poles

Created as focal points of a memorial feast honoring ancestors and people that recently died. Every pole has a name, and here is the extreme part; A death is said to be caused by an enemy and created an imbalance that had to be corrected, so after a numerous of deaths the male elders staged a Bis feast, that was held in a conjunction with a headhunting raid! 

Two figures (Nggwalndu)
Abelam poeple,
Sepik region, Papa New Guinea
19th- early 20th century

Body Masks

Mask (Buk Krar, or Kara)
Torres Strait Islander people, Mabulag Island
Mid to late 19th Century.
Turtle shell, Wood, fiber, feathers, shell

A turtle shell mask was usually used in a funeral ceremony and increase rites, designed to ensure bountiful harvests and and abundance of fish and game. This was often reenacted events from the lives of culture-heroes.

Ancestor figure
Sawos people, Papa New Guinea, 
19th Century or earlier

Headrest (Amba Ragat)
Iatmul people, Aibom village
Papua New Guinea, 19th Century

Water drum (?)

Baby Carrier (Ba')
Borneo, Indonesia
late 19th early 20th century

The baby is carried in the baby carrier until they are two, here the infants soul is being protected from danger. The Kenya/Kayan people believed the child's soul was not firmly attached to its body yet. It could be lured away by spirits, sickness or death. The rattling sounds made by teeth, beads and other amulets attached to the baby carrier repel malevolent spirits that threaten the child inside.

Gable Figure (Dilukal)
Belauan people, Caroline Islands
19th - early 20th century

In the mens house Bai where they had meetings feasts and informal gatherings, they had painted architectural carvings. In som Bai's they had a Dilukal a carved figure of a woman attached to the gable above the entrance. In some oral traditions:

Dilukai is the name of the sister of Atmatuyuk a troublesome man who fled to a Bai with her and was later expelled. To prevent his return, the residents placed a naked image of Dilukai over the entrance, it being forbidden for a brother to see his sister unclothed. 

Men's Ear Ornaments (Batling)
Ilongot people, northern Luzon Islan, Philippines,
late 19th-early 20th century.

Ear ornaments 
Ono Niha people, Nias Island
19th century

Puppet (Si Gale-gale)
Toba Batak people, Sumatra, Indonesia

It is hard to leave the Oceanic world filled with its strong rituals and mysteries. 
Let me know how you feel when you go there, it is absolutely another of New York's Treasures! And one that hits you in the gut!

With Love

Previous "Live - In" Sessions at the Met:

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

One of New York´s Treasures!


The new year has started, filled with grand resolutions, but most of all I try to make the best out of my last two weeks in New York. Today I went to the newly renovated Morgan Library. A beautiful heaven of Art, books and manuscripts from Shrines to Bob Dylan. 
I wished that I could take the books out of their safe spaces on the shelves or from their glass boxes, smell them, touch them and read. Just fill myself with the world that is inside every one of these first editions. Instead I had to be thankful about standing or sitting in the room and sense the warmth and the wisdom that engulfed me.

A Gutenberg Bible is enclosed in a glass case at the Morgan Library and Museum.

The Gutenberg Bible in a glass case, photo Jeff Zelevansky: Reuters

The Morgan Library & Museum
J.P. Morgans Study

Pierpont Morgan built his library by the Architect Charles McKim between 1902 and 1906 adjacent to his own residence in Murray Hill. The International financier was an avid collector of everything from ancient artifacts to drawings and rare books. After his death in 1924 his son Jack turned his majestic library into a Museum. 

The library continued growing in size and content and in 2006 the pritzker wining Architect Renzo Piano built the new entrance, courtyard and a connection between the three landmark buildings constituting the Morgan Library.

Part of the new design is the Morgan cafe but unfortunately this section does not seem very inviting to me. The Piazza is a bit too open to feel the same sense of grace and calmness as you experience in the library. 

But still, setting this minor issue aside, it is one of New York's great Treasures! And it would make me very happy if I can be the one that makes you go for a visit to the Morgan Library
I promise you will be grateful.

With Love