A NEW MATERIAL
by Nancy Frankel
Sometime in the early eighties, I was introduced to Design Cast. I was visiting the Seward Johnson Atelier in Princeton, New Jersey, where the material was being evaluated. Design Cast had been developed for use in architecture and was being refined for use in sculpture. At that time I was working mostly on indoor pieces and was eager to make larger, outdoor sculptures. Design Cast seemed like a material which would be affordable and workable, an alternative to bronze casting.
Design Cast is a white aluminosilicate powder and is mixed by weight with a liquid polymer emulsion and water. It has a workable time of twenty to thirty minutes. I needed to get a scale for accurate weighing and a "Jiffy" mixer for my electric drill in order to properly blend the materials. I worked with two different Design Cast products for two methods of work - direct sculpture and casting from a mold.
My first pieces were made directly over a form constructed of foam core. I applied three layers of fiber glass saturated with the Design Cast mixture and then a final coat of the mixture itself. It was necessary to cover the work with plastic overnight for slow drying. It could then be sanded with an electric sander. I could also wet the piece and add more Design Cast.
Then I started casting from molds. First I made the original form using plasticine, an oil-base clay. Then I made a polyurethane mold backed up by plaster. Because of the size of the work, there would sometimes be five of six sections to the mold. With this method, the first application of the Design Cast mixture would be the final outside surface. Fiber strands could be added and then several layers of fiberglass saturated with Design Cast. The final thickness, not more that one-half an inch, would be very strong, as hard as steel. When using this method for larger, outdoor pieces, I made a welded steel inside frame to which I attached the parts. Casting for molds gave me the opportunity to make more than one piece if I wished.
The Design Cast mixture could be used as mixed. It was also possible to add powdered pigments to create a color, or finely ground glass or sand to create a texture. The final piece would be cleaned and sealed. Paint could be added, or a patina could be applied. I found a copper paint. I could let the first coat dry and then while the second coat was still not yet dry, I could add on some acid. This produced a greenish, metallic patina which became one of my favorites.
I worked for approximately twenty years with Design Cast. I made reliefs, fountains, sun dials and commissioned outdoor sculpture. These pieces exist locally and in various parts of the country, and they have held up very well. I have several sculptures in my back yard that have been there for many years, and are in excellent condition. I felt a real sense of loss when the producer of this material, having met with legal difficulties when trying to sell the formula, gave up and stopped making DesignCast.
Acrylic cityscapes at Maplewood, 9707 Old Georgetown Rd, Bethesda. February 10- April 7, 2013.
One is blown away when coming upon Monderer’s “East River” paintings in the small area, which serves as a gallery at Maplewood. The panoramic view consists of five canvases. The viewer not only sees the sweep of the river, but is drawn in by the vibrancy of the scene. The artist uses color in a bold, forthright manner.
Monderer’s choice of scene ranges from the large, over-views to the up-close look at shops. Above the colorful stores, we delight in the all-over pattern created by open and closed windows. One dramatic scene is captured in “Under the Westside Highway”. The stark contrast between the shadowy blacks under the highway, and the sun-blanched buildings on the other side of the street demonstrate the artist’s grasp of composition.
Monderer paints from photographed scenes. When comparing some of the photographs to the paintings, we see how the artist pulls another aspect into the scene before us. Stressing some areas and omitting others, she injects her experience to make a coherent arrangement.
Monderer’s cityscapes are alive: there is a great the appreciation for the sculptural dynamic and the colors that make up a metropolis.
It’s hard to say why one retrospective appeals to me while another does not. The Gensken exhibit was certainly interesting, but, with the exception of a few pieces, nothing really elicited much of a reaction. I’ll start with the few works that did appeal to me.
The large tableau at the entrance to the exhibit was the most powerful work in the whole exhibit for me (my wife disagrees, but she didn’t like anything in the exhibit). The photos below don’t really capture the eerie other-worldly feeling evoked by this tableau of mannequins in very strange outfits. It is a very large tableau, taking up as much as a 30 ft square space.
In the exhibit itself there were various areas where works from different phases in the artist’s progression are shown. I will ignore most of these and only concentrate on a few I thought worthy of comment.
Gensken was very interested in architecture. Not only her famous/infamous “Fuck the Bauhaus” work speaks to that interest, but there were also pieces dealing solely with structure and foundation. Here is one example from an era in modern German architecture when unadorned concrete was in vogue.
It’s very hard to understand the commentary of this piece without the commentary provided by the MOMA curators. It was, like many other pieces in the exhibit, something interesting but also very forgettable.
Here are a two photos from “Fuck the Bauhaus”.
Another piece that I liked was the hanging, distorted metal tools and utensils. (My photo dos not really convey the impact of this piece.) I can’t really put into words why I liked this piece, but it was one of the few that stood out for me.
Gensken lived in the U.S. (mostly in NYC I think) for several years. Like many others, she saw the dark side of the Disney world as shown here.
She was in NYC on 9/11. She made several pieces to evoke the feelings from that horrible disaster. The exhibit features two in which she has created a sculpture likeness of a part of the inside of the passenger section of a commercial airliner.
I’m sure this piece has evoked strong reactions among some who viewed the exhibit. However, once again, I found the piece “flat” in some sense – it was very obvious and did not leave any deep impression afterwards.
Karen and I have spent a fair amount of time discussing and debating what makes an exhibit powerful and what does not. In all fairness to Isa Gensken, we had never heard of her before this exhibit even though she is well known in Germany. So, it’s not like seeing an exhibit of pieces that are new for you from an artist you are already familiar with. But, this would seem to make it even more imperative to give the viewer the full breadth of the artist’s work. I can only assume that the MOMA curators assiduously attempted to do just that, which leaves me with the impression of an artist who dabbled in many areas but did not pursue any of them seriously.
ED: Here are links to other responses to the exhibition and to an excellent video prepared by MOMA.
Roberta Smith: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/11/22/arts/design/isa-genzken-retrospective-at-museum-of-modern-art.html?pagewanted=2&_r=0
Peter Schjeldahl: http://www.newyorker.com/arts/critics/artworld/2013/12/02/131202craw_artworld_schjeldahl
This excellent short video includes installations views of previous exhibitions, some works not included in the MOMA show and interview sound bites that elucidate the Genzken’s approach and the resulting body of work . The dynamic of the video adds what is missing in the exhibition, the balletic and dynamic elements that in many cases are lost in the completion and static display of the final sculptural event. http://www.moma.org/visit/calendar/exhibitions/1345?overlay=isa.288.1364
The colorful exhibition includes many collages showing Speiwak’s development over the last few years. In the earliest works the small pieces of collaged papers used in the collage are varied, many are printed and they include bits of newspaper, arranged on a page like print, underscoring the flatness of the page. Then she became interested in the twisting, linear growth of vines. In these collages, Spiewak jiggles the vine-like linear collage pieces into rhythms, and landscapes, skirting flat pattern and design although in some, the use of colored mattes flattens the images even more.
The collages have a lively spirit. The contradiction of the light weight materials and Spiewak's approach to collage as hard-hat construction gives an edge to the cut paper. She uses spring loaded scissors like a chain saw, carving broad sheets of paper into natural shapes which she then uses to build images. For the wall installation, she cut large leaf and twig forms in classic, silhouette style from black paper arranging them in a whorl on the stage-like wall and it’s proscenium wings at the end of the gallery. The silhouettes seem to swim in a common current and one almost senses that a wind will blow through and skitter them about. Spiewak found inspiration for this large work one morning early in the eerie quiet after a stormy night when she saw a carpet scatter of organic matter and leaves strewn over the grass.
While the installation has gravitas, most of the works are playful and colorful. The most recent collages show a beguiling synthesis of technique, composition, and jaunty rhythms resulting from the luxury of full-time studio work. For the last couple of years since her retirement fro the National Park Service, Spiewak has been at work in her new studio at Eastpines Center, Passageways Studio Studios, 6001 66th Ave, Riverdale, MD. -ccv, wdc
A Visit to Glenstone – a Challenge
by Ann Wertheier, November 2013
The landscaping by Peter Walker is undeniably beautiful, with deer romping around the edge of the pond. The sunset after the excellent guided tour couldn't be beat. The man-made structures - the guardhouse, the Rales family residence, the museum itself – were all designed by Charles Gwathmey. This is definitely all worth an excursion to Maryland ‘horse country’ in Potomac (Maryland), median income somewhere around $242,000.
Everyone we met – the guard at the guardhouse and the two docents – were charming, well-informed and seemed sincerely interested in the visitors they were shepherding around the very strictly run museum: no wandering around the grounds, no photographing anywhere, by appointment-only entry, and, happily, neither entrance fee nor gift shop. See www.glenstone.org for details.
But with the exception of some monumental outdoor sculptures (more about these to come), I found the artwork disappointing. None of the works in the permanent collection - nothing by Matisse, Calder, Rothko or Pollack, nothing by de Kooning, Twombly, Johns or Rauschenberg – were on display. The entire museum was dedicated to the special exhibition: Fischli/Weiss.
Peter Fischli (b. 1952 ) and David Weiss (1946-2012), two Swiss artists who liked their names combined and did not distinguish their work by individual signatures, provided artwork for all four of museum rooms plus the large entrance hall. This very large entrance contained many small, child-like sculptures of unfired clay that could only be 'appreciated' by reading the captions. In between were a few items made of cast rubber.
The first room showed photographs of every-day items strangely attached to each other, supposedly without the use of any adhesives. These sculptures seem only to have existed for the time it took to photograph them, or perhaps slightly longer, as they depended on delicate balance and were quickly subject to the law of gravity. Think Rube Goldberg simplified. I’m sure the Fischli/Weiss documentary film showing how they made these assemblages is more entertaining.
In the following very spacious room there was an installation: a reproduction of a huge workshop including tables, tools, barrels, a pack of cigarettes, all of which, on closer inspection – but no touching – were made of polyurethane.
In the next room there was a very long horizontal light table filled with hundreds of small-format slide-like photos of Fischli/Weiss's favorite vacation spots, including airports. The docents mentioned that the museum visitors always say something like "This must be Las Vegas" or "I was in Paris two years ago"!
The final room showed interesting questions projected onto a wall, several at a time, each fading into the next. The original French had been cleverly translated into colloquial English and our tour group chuckled. The show lasts for two hours; our group gave it about 10 minutes. Two over-sized stuffed animals were suspended from the ceiling.
This question crossed my mind: How can the same artistic sensibility, namely the Rales Foundation, have wanted to own the Calders and the Matisses, or the impressive Ellsworth Kelly column on the far side of the pond or the monumental Richard Serra at the museum entrance, on the one hand, and the Fischli/Weisses or the Jeff Koons giant toy along the driveway, on the other hand? But perhaps the Koons will be more interesting when the hundreds of pansies covering its surface are in bloom and the sculpture itself is completely hidden.
The third emerge Art Fair at the Skyline Hotel in SW DC, October 4-6, 2013 was an interesting venue for seeing a lot of art in an afternoon. The event, while very well planned, offered only a few things that merited a sustained look. Showing art in a hotel means addressing many un-white cube constraints. The rooms, relatively small, come furnished with two double beds, and many have visually challenging wallpaper. One gallery neatly taped up a band of white paper across the wallpaper as a way to successfully focus attention on a row of small works and many paid an extra fee to have the beds removed and put up their own display. The underground parking lot area was also limited because of the relatively low elevation and dim lighting. On the bright side, the art was in an environment with the scale and ambience of (bed)rooms at home.
Artist installations were placed on the main floor in one of two large reception rooms. Most notable was the table-top work by Tristan Hamel (Finland). Rectangular, lidded boxes sitting like a ring of townhouses on a schematic map drawn on planks laid-out as a horizontal canvas. Viewers stopping to lift the box lids, found different fillings; tiny landscapes in some, paper waves between which paper fish appeared when a red button was pushed in another, a stack of Ikea instructions the size of a calling card, etc. The action also activated a recording of voices, presumably in Finnish, adding another dimension. Other installations in the first floor areas were derivative (e.g. hanging lamps reminiscent but not nearly as interesting as Judy Pfaff installations) or constructed in a monotonous style (e.g. knotted rope bunches piled on either side of a water fountain) and a live (and much mentioned) artist performing the continuous typing of a practice sentence using only two fingers, studiously avoiding learning to effectively and fiercely ignoring visitors wandering through the lobby.
The second floor hotel rooms housed the weekend gallery displays. Two artist’s works shown by Nomad Gallery (Brussels) captured our interest. Small, colored assemblage works in plaster for the wall by Duhirwe Rushemeza (Rwuanda/ US) and shallow relief portraits carved in very thin laminate wood by Aime Mpane (DR Congo). In some the different tones of the laminate provided skin tones while the surrounding surface areas were painted. Some areas cut all the way through the thin panel may have pushed the technique too far. The non-functional Objet made of unusual combinations of found materials by Florian Japp displayed by Gallery Rockelmann & (Berlin) looked terrific in the homey bedroom setting standing bedside and bolted to a wall, as did the paintings by Jeffrey Teuton. Goya Gallery (Baltimore) again brought interesting including a print portfolio, and two small Joyce Scott bead figures added to ceramic figurines neatly displayed on a table that replaced the beds. The small paintings by Sally Egbert on the walls showed the mastery a long career of painting, subtle color space complemented with a found object here and there to complete the compositions. The intimate display space made for plenty of art talk among viewers and between viewer and gallerist.
Down in the artist inhabited parking area, location of loud live music, graffiti style and new eco art installations, artist Daniel Wilson provided the best end to our emerge visit. Sitting in the backseat of a red Taxi we saw city streets pass by, video projections on an old style projection screen set up in front of the car, and heard conversations recorded during Wilson’s 4-months as a late shift (5pm- 5am) NYC cab driver and experienced the anticipations of gallery hopping in the Mother-of-all-Art. Upbeatable. (http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/18/nyregion/cab-riders-riffs-secretly-recorded-for-the-sake-of-art.html?pagewanted=all&_r=1&)
- a Cabinet Review,
The Traditional Lakota Ceremony to reconnect to Mother Earth the Creator and the Universe, on September 21st at the Shanti Yoga Ashram in Bethesda was a fall equinox celebration led by Roy and Jean Reddemann, Native Americans who follow the traditional spiritual life of the Lakotas. As a spiritual leader, Roy conducts ancient tribal ceremonies and is in service to the people, keeping the traditions and teachings of his culture. Jean, known by her people as a Seer, is gifted with spiritual communication and Lakota healing ways. They are “Companions”; having chosen to walk the path of life together. Through drumming, singing and ritual movements, they generate sacred space where pure spiritual energy is present to assist participants with their intentions and goals.
When I first arrived at 7pm everyone there was quiet, sitting on the floor or on a pillow, meditating. Around 7:30, Jean began describing how an altar was prepared and as she talked, her companion, Roy, set about arranging the altar. There was a large buffalo skin already on the floor with, what appeared to be a steer skull on it. He added a big fan-like feather instrument, gri gri (amulet) packets, sweet grass, tobacco (made from tree bark), and sage. Then he placed some long poles with feathers on them, two long ceremonial pipes, and a few other ceremonial objects. The room which has top to floor large windows on two sides facing out onto greenery was totally filled with a potpourri of participants, many native Spanish speakers, and a few more women then men. The large windows slid sideways to open, so when it rained hard the sound of the rain came into the room as a soothing backdrop. As Jean spoke at length about the washing, cleansing, renewing, and the refurbishing of Mother Earth; it certainly felt like that was happening. During the evening Jean and Roy, accompanied by his drum, sung many soulful Indian songs. One song called down the spirits while the final song thanked and released them.
The ceremony had four parts in which everyone participated. First, a woman walked around and gave each of us a rub of a wonderful scented ointment on the inside of each of our wrists. We then brought the sent to our noses and inhaled the beautiful aroma. Next, there was a pitcher of water infused with fresh sage leaves from which each person drank a sip for their own personal medicinal reasons. Thirdly, sweetgrass was burned and Roy came around to each one of us to let us pass the smoke over our heads and around us.
Later in the evening the significance of the pipes was discussed and everyone, one by one, came before the altar putting one foot on the buffalo skin to take a deep inhalation of the tobacco, not to take it into their lungs, but just to swirl it around in the mouth. Prayers were formulated individually and then the smoke was exhaled. The songs, enhanced with the drumming, really reached into your whole being. Some of the time the lights were out, especially during the singing, so a spiritual feeling permeated the room.
Lastly the healers came around to shake hands with the participants, one by one, and after you had your hand shake you joined the line and shook everyone else's hand too. It was very nice and something I have never done - so each participant greeted every other one.
by Mimi Wolford, email@example.com
Tate’s recent work, a departure from the glass sculpture for which he is known, is mesmerizing. Collaborations with Pete Duvall and Richard Schellenberg present disjunctive imagery that captures the mystery and ineluctable quality of change over time and the haziness of memory. The uncertainty of reality is likened to the fading clarity of memory, the elusiveness of time and events both dreamed and remembered.
In a darkened gallery a three-part video tells a story that is open to interpretation. It transcends the everyday experience of linear time with a dream state that compresses experience and memory into simultaneous vignettes. Like the b & w format of early television, the settings and clothing styles in these b & w videos appear to date from around 1950. A woman is seen walking through a deserted amusement park. As she walks towards you, a ball bounces from right to left and leads you to a second screen in which you see the woman against a carousel. A man stands in the foreground, checking his watch. This man (the artist? ) and the ball appear in each video. In the third and last screen his image is repeated along with that of an older man, the two stepping from left to right in a dance-like motion. The work suggests a narrative, a sense of continuity from before to after, but the viewer must put the pieces together -- and each person’s story may differ.
“Sleepwalker’s” main installation consists of a large screen showing a restlessly sleeping woman. Images of her overlap, collapsing time and disrupting the sequence as she tosses and turns, apparently dreaming. Circles of glass, suspended from the ceiling in the darkened room, display snippets of her dreams: once again there is a ferris wheel; a man dials a telephone and mouths the word “hello”; a woman’s hand writes on a blackboard in perfect cursive, the kind no one learns anymore. The penmanship lesson perhaps delivers the key to the dream’s meaning. -Nancy Ungar
Review of the Nam June Paik: Art and Process Symposium
April 14, 2013, Smithsonian American Art Museum
By Cosima Storz
The Smithsonian American Art Museum is celebrating the work of Nam June Paik with the exhibition Nam June Paik: Global Visionary. The museum is showing a collection of his work spanning his lifetime and is also displaying objects of inspiration to him from his Chinatown studio in New York City.
Paik is known for his various TV sculptures that play with found footage and also assemblages of footage that has been heavily altered. His work is overwhelming at times and reminds me of the history of TV and the Internet. His work is a character of the time it was made in, relying on now outdated TV's and mixers. His art is about playing with this information and making people in control of it.
A Symposium was held in his honor on April 14, 2013, bringing together people that have written about him and have worked side by side with him. The first speaker was Edith Decker-Phillips. She is a German curator and focused on Paik's life and work in German in the 1960's. Paik was exploring action music and just started to play with TV sets. The biggest change that happened to Paik was John Cage's lecture on Zen and Zen in America. As a Korean, Paik thought that American's could not understand Buddhism. Paik spoke to Cage and Cage said that he should not forget his Korean heritage. This sparked Paik's interest in combining TV sets with his Korean culture, especially with Buddhism. The first work from this was "Zen for TV", which is on display in the museum show. It shows a simple line across the TV screen and hints at what was to come for Paik's later work.
The second lecture was led by Jud Yulkut. He is an artist himself and helped Paik in creating and editing films. They had a shared interest in the physical change of the film. They both believe that the nature of the environment is more on film. Film can become scratched and dusty over time, thus showing age and change. A funny moment during this talk was the technology issues and problems in showing the videos. But once the glitch was fixed a round of applause accompanied the film. Many in the audience saw the humor in this moment and thought that Paik would have liked it.
After Mr.Yulkut was Stephen Vitiello, a professor at Virginia Commonwealth University in the Kinetic Imaging Department. Vitiello was an assistant of Paik in his later years at Intermix Studio in New York City. He also worked with Paik when he was setting up his Guggenheim retrospective. This speaker was the most insightful because of his personal stories that let the audience have a glimpse of who the person was behind the work. One story was that Paik had a lost collection of audio work. Vitiello's interest in music and performance made him want to find this collection and save it. One day Paik shoved a box of mixed up reels and told Vitiello to make sense of it. To Vitiello's delight it was the lost collection of Paik's early experimental music. Out of that collection a CD of Paik's work has been published and much of it is now shared online. I enjoyed this talk because it showed Paik as a human but also an elusive person even in life.
John Hanhardt lectured on Paik's performance work. Hanhardt is the curator for the Paik Smithsonian show. Interestingly Paik carried his performance aspect into his TV sets in that he allowed for viewers to manipulate the sets through mixers and magnets, which would create altering visuals on the screen.
The final speaker was Gregory Zinman who focused on the use of music as painting. He touched on artists throughout history that have combined light or visual work that interacts with music. Paik is most known for his work with video sets but he was also a painter. Zinman showed instances in Paiks work where technology and paint would cross over and inspire each other. Again this lecture was fraught with technical difficulties, which took my focus out of the lecture.
What I took from this Symposium is the importance of Paik's musical pieces and his interest in interacting with the audience. He was a playful artist and has lead the way in the medium of technology. He makes TV a reality and puts the viewer in control. Despite the prevalent technical problems, I think Paik would have appreciated this occurrences and deemed them appropriate for his life's work.