Thursday, 25 November 2010

Len Lye, 'The Body Electric', Ikon Gallery, Birmingham, UK

Len Lye
'The Body Electric'
Ikon Gallery, Birmingham, United Kingdom

24 November 2010 – 13 February 2010
This work is by the innovative film maker Len Lye who is being shown at Ikon Gallery in Birmingham, UK. Entitled, Rainbow Dance, it is set to a funky African soundtrack (click above). It dates from 1936 and was made for the GPO Unit, he really was ahead of his time, here is the press release....

Len Lye, Still from Rainbow Dance, 1936
Lye’s philosophy of ‘Individual Happiness Now’ – a belief in the possibility of ‘the best in human experience’ for all – is embodied in his work. Born in New Zealand, Lye travelled in the South Pacific as a young man, living for extended periods in Samoa and Australia, before sailing for London in 1926. There the quickly settled into an artistic community that included Henry Moore, Barbara Hepworth, Cedric Morris, Christopher Wood and writers Laura Riding and Robert Graves.

During the 1930s, Lye’s main interest lay in film-making and he drifted into London’s film industry. Commissioned by the visionary film unit of the General Post Office, he produced a number of commercials that are now seen as seminal in the history of moving imagery. These camera-less works used Lye’s own distinct style and technique of ‘direct’ film-making, where colour was painted directly onto the celluloid film. Several of these films will be exhibited at Ikon, including Rainbow Dance (1936) with its Gasparcolour and stencil effects, and the later, more avant-garde films Colour Cry (1958) and Free Radicals (1958). Around the 1950s, having moved to New York and discouraged by a lack of positive critical reaction to his films, Lye began making kinetic sculpture (which he referred to as ‘tangible motion sculptures’ or ‘Tangibles’). 
Len Lye, with 'Tangible sculpture' - 'Fountain of Peace'
Of these works Lye said, ‘all of a sudden it hit me – if there was such a thing as composing music, there could be such a thing as composing motion.’ The Tangibles essentially consist of lengths of metal prompted into movement by a motor. Blade (1958) was one of the first, a 2m
high shiny strip of cold rolled steel with a steel rod and cork ball at the top. Its base, fixed into a clamp, is vibrated to make the whole quiver whilst making sounds like a knife swishing through air, before a climax of dramatic S-shapes cause the ball to rebound in a kind of frenzy. The Fountains (1963-76) were quieter, meant to evoke the “spray in a fountain” by the rotation of hundreds of vertical steel rods up to 2m tall clasped together at the base, bending under their own weight. 

Sol leWitt at the Walker Art Center Minneapolis

Establish a rule and it soon gets broken.....

Sol LeWitt (1928-2007) was a major voice in American Minimalism—and from early in his career, an artist collected in depth by the Walker. This exhibition showcases a range of artwork, from his drawings and prints to a range of sculptures based on carefully conceived geometric systems. With more than 50 pieces, many of them gifts from the artist to the Walker, the exhibition also includes maquettes, wall drawings, and a selection of the influential artist’s books that link LeWitt to practitioners of conceptual art.

At the Walker Art Center until April 24th 2011
Curator: Siri Engberg

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Astrid Sylwan Carnegie Art Award winner 2010

 Astrid Sylvan White Drifting Into Sleep
Carnegie Art Award Sweden
Carnegie Art Award has been established by Carnegie Investment Bank to promote Nordic contemporary painting and to recognise and support distinguished artists born or living in the Nordic countries. The event initiated in 1998 consists of an exhibition which tours the Nordic countries, a book presenting the participating artists and their works, a film portraying the artists, and awards to three of the artists for their works of SEK 1,000,000, SEK 600,000 and SEK 400,000, as well as a scholarship of SEK 100,000 to a young artist. About 30 experts on Nordic contemporary art each nominate five artists to this distinction. Among the experts are representatives from museums and art schools as well as critics and other specialists on contemporary art in the Nordic countries. Nominated artists are invited to submit up to five works of art. The works have to be produced during the last two years, to capture the current state of Nordic contemporary painting. 
A jury consisting of eminent experts selects the works of art to be part of the exhibition. The jury members make the choices solely from the works that have been submitted. They do not pay attention to nationality or gender or to earlier production of the applying artists. The jury also appoints the award winners, based on the works of art in the exhibition.

Born 1970 in Antwerpen, Belgium. Lives in Stockholm, SE.
At an early stage in her artistic career, after a period of abstract miniature flower paintings, Astrid Sylwan discovered Per Kirkeby’s monumental dynamic and abstract paintings. These works represented an approach that matched her own ambition entirely, while the genre itself had historically been dominated by men. Hence, her paintings were initially characterised by a “girl power” attitude, replete with bright pinks and reds and provocative titles. Since then, her approach, her colour scale and the titles of her works have changed. Sylwan has found her own idiom, the colours often alluding to nature, and the poetic titles that complement the paintings referring to an experience or phase in the process of creating the works.

See Astrid Sylwan's work at Galleri Andersson/Sandström

Sunday, 21 November 2010

Kurt Schwitters: Still crazy after all these years...

It is remarkable to see how influential Kurt Schwitters remains in the 21st Century. There are a number of contemporary exhibitions on the work of one of the 20th Century's most remarkable artists. He has influenced British art, and especially abstraction, a great deal.

Kurt Schwitters, Untitled, (c) The Menil Collection, Houston, USA
Schwitters, who helped to define avant-garde art through his work with German Dada in Hanover, (after a falling out with the Berlin Dadaists), brought Dada practices to a wider audience through his 'merz' constructions of collage, photo-montage and found objects, such as tram tickets, newspaper adverts and fashion illustrations. Also he created three domensional constructions, his most famous being known as the 'Merzbau' or 'The Cathedral of Erotique Misery' (see below). He also developed innovative experimental typographic design through his 'Merz' publications with the Constructivist El Lizzitsky and Theo van Doesburg of De Stijl

Kurt Schwitters performing his 'Urlauten',/'Ursonate' c.1920's
The 'Ursonate', his phonetic sound poem from 1922–32 (a translation of the title is 'Primeval Sonata'), is still seen as an unusual and evocative performance piece, still performed around the world. Perhaps we have understood the influence of Schwitters more through the artists who have been influenced by him after WWII, such as Robert Rauschenberg, Jasper Johns, Cy Twombly, Ed Ruscha, Damien Hirst, amongst many others.

Their are two shows/explorations currently exhibiting his work:

Exhibitioin in USA:
The Menil Collection, Houston, Texas, (the great American collection of modern art), this exhibition explores Schwitters use of colour and light in his work on both paintings and collage. Kurt Schwitters: Color and Collage, is until 30th January 2011 and its emphasis is on the Merz works from the 1920s and 1940s. 
Kurt Schwitters, 'For Kate',1947
This is the first show of Schwitter's works since the 1985 exhibition at MOMA. The exhibition will travel the US to Princeton University Art Museum March 26–June 26, 2011, followed by Berkeley Art Museum, Pacific Film Archive from August 3–November 27, 2011. 

Exhibition in the United Kingdom:
The other exhibition or perhaps exploration and celebration of his work is the British organisation that has been set up to archive and preserve his little known works in Britain, where he was eventually interned and died in Ambleside, Cumbria. One of his last Merzbau's is celebrated on the website: This construction made in a remote barn in the Langdale Valley and was created during his stay in the Lake District, yet financed by MOMA in New York, is now preserved at the Hatton Gallery, University of Newcastle by the artist Richard Hamilton in 1965. You can see the documented reconstructions in 2007, of his Hanover Merzbau here from the Tate archive. This is a great organisation celebrating his art, preserving his legacy and raising funds for the upkeep of his last remaining Merbau. He died in 1948. Kurt Schwitters still crazy after all these years....

Kurt Schwitters,'The Cathedral of Erotique Misery', Hanover, Germany

Kurt Schwitters, 'Merzbarn', Cumbria, UK

Saturday, 20 November 2010

Geometric Abstraction in Taiwan

Variations of Geometric Abstraction in Taiwan's Contemporary Art
ESLITE GALLERY is pleased to present “Variations of Geometric Abstraction in Taiwan's Contemporary Art,” an exhibition curated by Chia Chi Jason WANG featuring works by nine artists: TSONG Pu (1947-), HU Kun-Jung (1955-), CHEN Hui-Chiao (1964-), Yi-Chen HUNG (1971-), Shiau-Peng CHEN (1976-), WU Tung-Lung (1976-), PAN Hsien-Jen (1963-), HONG Shaopei (1979-) and Mia Wen-Hsuan LIU ( watch the video on this link ) (1980-). The exhibition will run from November 13 to December 12, 2010.
It is a shame about this grouped image, as the grid gives  the impression that only square work is made/exhibited and the individual artists aren't indentifiable unless you know their work. (By the way it isn't a shaggy rug!)

As opposed to the West where it began a century ago, the development of geometric abstract art in Taiwan did not take shape until the early 1980s. Even in the past three decades, geometric abstract art only sparked a brief discussion and attention in Taiwanese art circles during the 1980s. After the period, not many artists carried on the form in their art creation.

Over the years, despite the small pool of geometric abstract artists, there has still been a steady, albeit slow, stream of newcomers devoting to the art form. Close observation shows that most of these artists were either trained in Europe or the United States, or they were taught in Taiwan by teachers who learned the art in the West.

Seeing the West as the origin of Taiwans geometric abstract art, “variation” becomes the thematic concept of this exhibition with an attempt to deduce the arts derivation in Taiwan in parallel to the West. At the same time, we hope to bring the art to the surface, showing its continual development in Taiwan and that it has not been relegated to history. As such in the exhibition artists from different generations are presented to highlight their individual endeavor in carrying on the form of art. (Text /Chia Chi Jason WANG, Curator)

Despite the acknowledgement to the Western Tradition these artists are not behind or under they are charming and sophisticated producing work that is well executed and delightful. I look forward to seeing more work by Shiau Peng Chen, Mia Wen Hsuan Liu and Chen hui Chiao.

Sunday, 14 November 2010

James Turrell at Gagosian, London

Is this the future of abstraction?  James Turrell at Gagosian, London until 10th December 2010. 

James Turrell, Sustaining Light, 2007
Wood, computerized neon setting, glass piece
Aperture: 62 1/4 x 46 1/2 inches (158.1 x 118.1 cm)

 (C) James Turrell/Gagosian Gallery

Through light, space can be formed without physical material like concrete or steel. We can actually stop the penetration of vision with where light is and where it isn't. Like the atmosphere, we can't see through it to the stars that are there during the day. But as soon as that light is dimmed around the self, then this penetration of vision goes out. So I'm very interested in this feeling, using the eyes to penetrate the space. James Turrell

6-24 Britannia Street
Hours: Tue-Sat 10-6

If you haven't seen Turrell's work here is a video:

Abstract at 15a Galerie

Three artists, Three countries and one theme - Abstract
15a Gallery and Sculpture Garden
13 November - 9 January 2011

The artists are Riki Mijling, Brantt and Ahn Hyun - Ju.

Ahn Hyun - Ju

Saturday, 13 November 2010

Innovative abstraction from Switzerland, artist Aron Sommer

This is a digital artwork exploring abstraction in a virtual environment by Aron Sommer, born in 1986, he is a visual artist who lives and works in Basel, Switzerland. He graduated from F+F School of Art and Media Design,  Zurich in 2009. 
This work 'Colourfalling' was published 29.10.2010, thanks to Rhizome at the New Museum, 235 Bowery, New York, NY, 10002

Click on the image below for the full effect, (sunglasses advised):

'Colorfalling' Aron Sommer, 2010

Thursday, 11 November 2010

Albert Irvin at Gimpel Fils

Opening tonight is Albert Irvin's exhibition at Gimpel Fils which runs until 15 January.  Since the 1950s Albert Irvin has been exploring the possibilities of paint, colour and the non-figurative form.  Born in London in 1922, Irvin attended Northampton School of Art from 1940-1941, when he began his service in the Royal Air Force. In 1946 he resumed his studies at Goldsmiths, where he subsequently became a tutor. In 1982 Gimpel Fils held its first solo exhibition of his work, and we have exhibited his work regularly ever since. The Serpentine Gallery held a major retrospective of his work in 1990, and Irvin was elected a Royal Academician in 1998 and an honorary member of the Royal West of England Academy in 1999.

Taking its title from Symphony No. 4 “The Inextinguishable”, by Danish composer Carl Nielsen, this new body of work is testament to Irvin’s unwavering belief in art’s centrality to life.

The impact of music on Irvin’s belief system has been previously documented; his admiration of Alfred Brendel and Harrison Birtwhistle is well known, for example. In this exhibition however, he has turned to the sentiments expressed in Nielsen’s “The Inextinguishable”. Inextinguishable, translated from the Danish “uudslukkelige” which can also be interpreted as ‘life-force’, relates to that which is inextinguishable: life; energy; spirit. Written during 1916 in the midst of the First World War, Nielsen wished to express “the elemental will to live”.

A statement by Nielsen has been at the forefront of Irvin’s mind recently:  “The most elementary aspects of music are Light, Life and Motion. … It’s all those things that have Will, and the Craving for Life that cannot be suppressed, that I’ve wanted to depict”. 

Here is a video from his retrospective at Kings Place last year.

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Haus Konstruktiv, Museum Ritter, Museum Für Konkrete Kunst

Haus Konstruktiv  in Zurich which currently is showing Complete Concrete which runs until 30 January 2011
"The beginnings of this free, genuinely artistic manner of working date back to the turn of the 20th century, to the works of the classic avant-garde and the early concrete-constructivist painters. Their pioneering achievement was that they declared the fundamentals of art itself to be the theme of their art. They explored colours, forms and materials, studied proportions, researched structures and shed light on the social relevance of art.
The fundamental research which they thus initiated is far from over. On the contrary! Today, more than ever before, art production focuses on reduction, geometry, systems, structures and the critical analysis of the framework conditions within which art is generated or seen."

Natalia Stachon Matter Shifted

Museum Ritter's current exhibition is Caution Colour.

Regine Schumann Black Box

The Museum for Art Concrete at Ingolstadt is showing work by Nazi designer, friend of Goebbels and Himmler, Hermann Bartels, who liked including occult symbols in his work. Here is what Wikipedia says about him. I find this hard to get past.

Hermann Bartels – Painting between surface and space is opening on 

21.11.2010  and continues to 23.01.2011

Mübin Orhon record auction sale

The above painting by Turkish Painter Mübin Orhon achieved a record price of 1,075,000 Turkish Lira (£190,000) at an auction last weekend. He was born in Istanbul in 1924. After studying at the Faculty of Political Sciences of Ankara, in 1948 he settled in Paris. 

Monday, 8 November 2010

Every Day is a Good Day: the Visual Art of John Cage

A few more days to visit John Cage at Kettle's Yard in Cambridge. Because John Cage didn't like linear presentations the exhibition hang changes according to a random computer programme. The different installation views can be seen on this Facebook page. There is a performance of Cage's  'Indeterminacy' by Mick Gower on 14th Oct and a talk on randomness and risk by Professor Spiegelhalter on the 23rd Oct.

New River John Cage

Friday, 5 November 2010

Patrick Heron and 'Bollocks to British complacancy' on The Genius of British Art: Modern Times, Channel 4 televison

It was great to see the broadcaster, Janet Street-Porter on The Genius of British Art on Channel 4, discuss how she came to understand modern art, meeting Heron's daughter Katherine Heron when studying architecture in 1965. There is a great moment on the programme where they cut between him in his studio at Porthmeor Studios, he died in 1999, probably in the early 1980's and her stitting there now some 30 years later remembering when she would sit and talk with him about art and watch him painting, it was really quite touching..

In the programme she went on to argue how Heron's work of that time was such an antidote to the the dull post war paintings of Lowry and Bratby. My frustration is that we have not understood that British abstraction and especially the 'St.Ives School' have never had the recognition for its significance, when considering how little was taking place in London at the time, which was 'kitchen sink' and a dull form of British (English?) expressionism. Street -Porter goes on to say how Heron's abstractions said 'bollocks to complancy'. It was a great little bit of British televison...

Yellow Painting: October 1958 May/June 1959  Oil on canvas, 1524 x 2138 x 30 mm
 Purchased with asistance from Tate Friends St Ives 1999 (c) Estate Patrick Heron
Janet Street-Porter and Katherine Heron discuss this painting which has to be one of his most significant works, I believe this is in Tate Modern or Tate St.Ives... 


Thursday, 4 November 2010

Paris Concret


ParisCONCRET aims to become a focal point in Paris for new non objective art by stimulating interaction between artists and encouraging international collaborative projects. ParisCONCRET will show contemporary work which falls within the broad field known as concrete – in other words non objective work. The work may be reductive, minimal, process oriented, site specific, single image or geometric abstraction – but always l’art concret in either 2 or 3 dimensions.Proposals are welcome. Please refer to 'Make a Proposal' on the site

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Abstract Possible

Abstract Possible is a research project which aims at exploring notions of abstraction, taking contemporary art as its starting point. It will develop in various locations over the course of two years, starting with a "trailer exhibition" in C-salen, the project space, at Malmö Konsthall 10 November 2010 16 January 2011. 

Wade Guyton
Clandestine, opaque, hermetic and abstract are all buzzwords frequently used in discussions of contemporary art over the last decade. A plethora of examples of formal abstraction, both geometric and expressive, is visible in exhibitions, site-specific installations, publications, and other projects. In addition to the many cases where geometric abstraction in art and design becomes a lifestyle indicator, artists contemplate and engage with the legacy of modernist abstraction as the result of highly specific artistic and ideological trajectories. But what does it mean to revisit these trajectories from the point of view of today? The concept of abstraction has alsowithin a Marxist frameworkbeen applied to all relations within a capitalist system. As of late, this has been extended to the logic and distortion of scale engendered by the post-Fordist/late capitalist economy. Working conditions, and conditions of production, are other pertinent points of reference here. All this is happening within a culture and an economy in which we literally "live under abstraction," although the economic recession has more recently called such abstraction into relief. Or as the art critic and theoretician Sven Lütticken recently put it "We are the natives of abstraction." In that case we have to acknowledge abstraction as omnipresent, not unlike the ideal of transparency in liberal democracies. What is the potential of abstraction in such a contested territory?

At the same time it is easy to observe yet another manifestation of abstraction, namely the use of strategies of withdrawal (abstrahere, to withdraw) among artists and other cultural producers. It is abstraction as conscious methods of obscuring and entering this formal terrain "at an angle", often with the aim of creating more space for maneouvering through self-organised initiatives. These developments have been discussed in terms of "strategic essentialism" as well as "strategic separatism". Sometimes it seems to be a reaction to pressures of spectacularization and access, at other times it seems to draw on specific art historical developments. Perhaps we can begin to think of these abstract/opaque strategies and tactics as a different critical paradigm challenging the enlightenment paradigm based on transparency? Or is it yet another phenomenon obscuring our view of the world? Each stage, or station, of Abstract Possible will be different with unique "sub-projects" which can be manifested as group shows, solo presentations, seminars, workshops, screenings, etc., depending on the nature of the location and the collaborations. 

Doug Ashford
Further manifestations of Abstract Possible will take place at the Museo Tamayo in Mexico City (26 March 14 August, 2011), the exhibition space of the Postgraduate Program in Curating, Zurich University of Fine Arts (13 maj 3 June, 2011) etc. 
Curator: Maria Lind

Elliot Sharp Tectontics Abstraction Distraction

Experimental musician Elliot Sharp has released a saxophone composition titled Abstraction Distraction. You can hear a clip at The Squid's Ear

 Photo by Andreas Sterzing