Surreal, Serene and Sauvage: The Mad Deep Lit Report

Remedios Varo’s “Exploracion de las Fuentes del Rio Orinoco” (Exploration of the Sources of the Orinoco River)” (1959) Oil on canvas 44.5 x 40 cm on view at Di Donna Gallery’s “Surrealism in Mexico” .

From Do Ho Suh’s ethereal “Cause and Effect” (2007) to Alicja Kwade‘s “MatterMotion” (2019) to Joan Mitchell’s “La Seine” (1967), artists constantly challenge the way we view the world and our place within it.  This writer was delighted and humbled to find fresh insight from a litany of visionaries, both living and deceased. How is it that creatives, from across different generations are ubiquitously still expounding on questions of home, borders, immigration, and identity? From Chelsea to the Upper East Side,  artists bring to the fore works of art, surreal to savage, that address these different notions. We take a walk on the wild side via painting, installation and sculpture.

Di Donna Gallery presents: “Surrealism in Mexico”

http://www.didonna.com/exhibitions/surrealism-in-mexico

“I do not wish to talk about myself because I hold very deeply the belief that what is important is the work, not the person.” – Remedios Varo

Surrealism in Mexico” showcases the work of the international community fleeing Europe during World War II, a period stretching from 1940 to 1955.  The fashionable Upper East Side facade that houses Di Donna Gallery belies the incredible depth of imagination and dream world unfolding within.  

The exhibition features paintings, sculptures, drawings, photographs, and collages by artists including Lola Alvarez Bravo, Leonora Carrington, Esteban Frances, Gunther Gerzso, Kati Horna, Frida Kahlo, Agustin Lazo, Matta, Gordon Onslow Ford, Wolfgang Paalen, Alice Rahon, Bridget Bate Tichenor and Remedios Varo, with loans from private collections, corporate collections, and non-profit foundations in Mexico, the United States and Europe.

“The many principles that had defined the Surrealist movement were broadened and transformed in response to a new topography, new cultures, and the experience of exile, toward the creation of radically innovative new styles. The vibrant art-historical episode was made possible through liberal ideas about collaboration, immigration and gender roles.”

 

– Statement, Di Donna Gallery

“The many principles that had defined the Surrealist movement were broadened and transformed in response to a new topography, new cultures, and the experience of exile, toward the creation of radically innovative new styles. The vibrant art-historical episode was made possible through liberal ideas about collaboration, immigration and gender roles.”

 

– Statement, Di Donna Gallery

Upon entering the premises, a visitor  is greeted by Kahlo’s “La Venadita (The Little Deer)” 1946. The work presents a self-portrait of the artist as a stag. A kind of St. Sebastian figure, Frida is pierced by several arrows and flees amidst a circle of trees. The artist gazes back at the viewer. Small in scale, the painting intimately draws the viewer in.  “La Venadita (The Little Deer)” offers an unflinching look into the psychological state of an artist limited by ailments, both personal and physical.  Although the composition offers a serene palette of unbroken earth tones, the blood red of arrow markings and the glow of the artists’ expression, remain pronounced.

Frida Kahlo’s “La Venadita (The Little Deer)” 1946 Oil on masonite 54.5 x 43.3 cm / Installation view of Surrealism in Mexico”

Another work whose figure bears resemblance to its creator may be found in Remedios Varo’s “Exploracion de las Fuentes del Rio Orinoco” (Exploration of the Sources of the Orinoco River)”. Varo depicts herself as an intrepid traveller in search of the source of the longest-running river in South America. In her signature style, she paints with hyperbole:

A courageous heroine, she has set out on a solitary journey to find “the source”…dressed in a marvelously English trench coat and bowler hat, carrying wings overhead…”. The playfulness of her vehicle – a waistcoat that may be transformed into a fragile little ship… does not negate the intensity of her expression nor the sombre watchfulness of the dark  birds that attend her from the hollows of nearby trees. What she confronts is a single wine glass [from which] a magical liquid flows out of the goblet, becoming the source of the river on which she travels.”

Janet A. Kaplan “Remedios Varo: Unexpected Journeys

A courageous heroine, she has set out on a solitary journey to find “the source”…dressed in a marvelously English trench coat and bowler hat, carrying wings overhead…”. The playfulness of her vehicle – a waistcoat that may be transformed into a fragile little ship… does not negate the intensity of her expression nor the sombre watchfulness of the dark  birds that attend her from the hollows of nearby trees. What she confronts is a single wine glass [from which] a magical liquid flows out of the goblet, becoming the source of the river on which she travels.”

Janet A. Kaplan Remedios Varo: Unexpected Journeys

Remedios Varo’s “Exploracion de las Fuentes del Rio Orinoco” (Exploration of the Sources of the Orinoco River)” (1959)

The 303 Gallery presents: “Alicja Kwade:  ParaParticular

https://www.303gallery.com/gallery-exhibitions

“I try to freeze… to make time readable from both directions – from past to present, and from present to future. To kind of make it physical,”   – Alicja Kwade

Alicja Kwade “MatterMotion” (2019) Powder-coated steel, granite 13ft ⅛ in. x 21 ft ⅜ in. x 19 ft 5/8 in.

Polish artist Alicja Kwade finds inspiration from nature as well albeit from the arboreal kind. Her minimal eye never fails to create a vocabulary that does not engage. On a recent Saturday, visitors lingered leisurely to take in the full details of her work. Unlike her Surrealistic counterpart, Remedios Varo, Alicja finds expression in sculpture.

In “MatterMotion” and  Trans-for-Men 11 (Fiboncci)”, Alicja uses an economy of materials – wood, steel, stones, concrete, mirrors, granite and limestone. Her touch is spare. Their very depth of scale command the space. A heavy stone is precariously placed overhead while the use of mirrors in  Trans-for-Men 11 (Fiboncci)” creates a repetitive motion when passerbys walk past.

“Central to the exhibition is “MatterMotion” (2019), a freestanding sculpture made of interlocking steel frames, weighted with three stones. When looking closely, it becomes apparent that it is the same stone, appearing repeatedly as a copy of itself in varying shapes and thus different conditions…Walking through the frame, the shapes themselves seem mutable and arbitrary vis-a-vis the frame’s interference, with these vacillating perspectives calling into question whether gravity or perception is holding them in place…”

– Statement, The 303 Gallery

“Central to the exhibition is “MatterMotion” (2019), a freestanding sculpture made of interlocking steel frames, weighted with three stones. When looking closely, it becomes apparent that it is the same stone, appearing repeatedly as a copy of itself in varying shapes and thus different conditions…Walking through the frame, the shapes themselves seem mutable and arbitrary vis-a-vis the frame’s interference, with these vacillating perspectives calling into question whether gravity or perception is holding them in place…”

– Statement, The 303 Gallery

Video of “Trans-for-Men 11 (Fiboncci)”  (2019) Mirror, berg crystal, ceramic, sandstone, concrete, limestone, granite, marble, volcanic stone, bronze, aluminum, corten steel 38 ⅛ x 342 ½ x 26 ¼ in. from “ParaParticular” at the 303 Gallery,  New York.

Using the medium of wood and taking directly from a 10-foot trunk of a poplar tree, Kwade crafts products fit for a Surrealistic stage.  From “aclothstreeisaclothestreeisaclothestree (2018) and “abarchairisabarchairisabarchair (2018), – a blond barstool and coat rack emerge. The work, when seen in situ,  reveals the depth of chiselling and the metamorphosis from tree trunk to polished furniture.

Installation view  of “aclothstreeisaclothestreeisaclothestree (2018) Wood 96 ½ x 22 x 20 in. and “abarchairisabrchairisabarchair” Wood 73 ½ x 21 ½ x 19 in.

On the flip side, her “Rain” series, consisting of tiny clock hands and folding rulers on paper, is an exercise on marking making. Their intricate placement on a page, increasing in profusion and density, asserts the needle-thin found object as fascinating mark maker.

Installation view of “Rain (7 minutes)”, “Rain, (12 minutes)” etc. Clock hands and folding ruler on paper 52 ¼ x 38 x ⅞ x 1 ⅞ in. / Right: Detail of “Rain” in “Alicja Kwade: ParaParticular”

Lehmann Maupin in collaboration with the Peninsula Hotel, New York present: “Home”

https://www.lehmannmaupin.com/news/home

“I’ve been living in so many different countries, and my work is about questioning the borders, and moving in and out freely.” – Do Ho Suh

 

Slide 1: Installation view of Do Ho Suh’s “Cause & Effect” in the Gotham Lounge (2007) Acrylic, aluminum disc, stainless steel frame, stainless steel cable and monofilament 112.2 x 78.74 in. / Slide 2: Detail of  “Cause & Effect” / Slide 3: Installation view of Do Ho Suh’s “Corridor-4” Wielandstr. 18, 12159” Berlin,  Germany (2015) Polyester fabric, stainless steel 136.61 x 88.58 x 7.2 in. as part of “Home” at  the Peninsula Hotel, New York.

“Home” is an exhibition that brings together works centered around ideas of identity, heritage, and community. The folks at Lehmann Maupin give an astonishing show by intelligently showcasing the works of their artists in a more appropriate space. At a time when galleries are seeing massive drop-offs in foot traffic, the curators bring their artists to the public – albeit in a very stylish setting.  Presented in collaboration with The Peninsula, New York, “Home” features works by Catherine Opie, Ashley Bickerton, Do Ho Suh, Heidi Bucher and Angel Otero.

“Do Ho Suh uses these fragile, translucent materials that suggest structure and form but are actually as light as air. “ – The Art Channel

A master of working with translucency, Do Ho Suh weaves together a chandelier of numerously layered monofilaments.  “Cause & Effect” is at home (excuse the pun!) among the plush surroundings of the Gotham Lounge and rightfully asserts its place as the piece de resistance. A visitor to the lounge is forced to stop and investigate the intricate detail. Possessing a patina that graduates from light to color, the work is monumental in scale. The artists’ lightness of touch continues in  “Corridor-4” Wielandstr. 18, 12159” and takes on a new look when seen in the context of a hotel lounge.

A hallmark of his oeuvre is the theme of being uprooted and finding the need to belong. Having lived in many different countries, Do Ho Suh,  a Korean by birth, knows the feeling of being an outsider. In building transparent structures, he meditates on the motif of crossing boundaries, physical and cultural, including language.  In an interview with The Financial Times from two years ago, the reporter Julie L. Belcove wrote an apt description of his approach that is still applicable today: “His “fabric architecture” – ghost like reconstructions of houses in filmy textiles light enough to be packed in a suitcase, triggers memories of homes once lived in, while his sculptures of hundreds of tiny human figures holding aloft a heavy plinth or a glass floor suggest groups of people crushed by the weight of authoritarianism.” (“Artist Do Ho Suh’s houses of memory” The Financial Times January 26, 2017).

Very well said!

The David Zwirner Gallery presents: “JOAN MITCHELL: I carry my landscapes around with me”

https://www.davidzwirner.com/exhibitions/i-carry-my-landscapes-around-me

“There are a lot of things women can’t be in France…and “sauvage” is one of them.” – Joan Mitchell

Installation view of ”JOAN MITCHELL: I carry my landscapes around with me”, the David Zwirner Gallery with Minnesota” (1980) to the left andUntitled (1972) to the right.

Until one stands next to a Joan Mitchell landscape, it is inconceivable to understand the massive scale and sheer physicality that her work exudes. Composed of several panels, side-by-side, her paintings are mammoth in scope and rife with exuberant mark-making. She surprises with her choice of palette and energetic edge, layering strokes that swim, balancing quiet areas and busy areas and jumping from lights to darks. She is a maestro of physic mark-making. Her brushstroke is emotive and powerful. One imagines that the artist worked in a large studio and stood at a far distance to take step back and examine her progress. Her paintings are reminiscent of the landscapes of Renoir for their length and lyricism and of Pollock for their savage abstraction. It was while in Paris, that Joan recalled being labeled a “sauvage”, an adjective ascribed to the Fauves fifty years before. Mitchell  is enjoying her time in the sun (if not posthumously) as one of the most coveted painters on the radar.

“My paintings are titled after they are finished. I paint from remembered landscapes that I carry with me – and remembered feelings of them, which of course become transformed. I could certainly never mirror nature. I would more like to paint what it leaves with me. All art is subjective. Is it not?” – Joan Mitchell

“My paintings are titled after they are finished. I paint from remembered landscapes that I carry with me – and remembered feelings of them, which of course become transformed. I could certainly never mirror nature. I would more like to paint what it leaves with me. All art is subjective. Is it not?” – Joan Mitchell

Organized in collaboration with the Joan Mitchell Foundation,”JOAN MITCHELL: I carry my landscapes around with me” span four decades of the artists’ career. It is notable that her piece “Untitled” (1991) will be on the auction block at Sotheby’s sale of Contemporary Art this week as well as “L’Arbre de Phyllis”, (1991).

Joan Mitchell’s “La Seine” (1967) Oil on canvas in (4) four parts 76 ⅞ x 165 ⅞ in. on display at the David Zwirner Gallery

“One of the few artists of her generation to embrace polyptych compositions, Mitchell over time refined and expanded her approach to this format, orchestrating a distinctive balance between continuity and rupture both within and across panels. The horizontally oriented, panoramic expanse of these painting is ideally suited to landscape – an important and enduring subject for Mitchell that she linked directly to memory.”

– Statement, The David Zwirner Gallery

“One of the few artists of her generation to embrace polyptych compositions, Mitchell over time refined and expanded her approach to this format, orchestrating a distinctive balance between continuity and rupture both within and across panels. The horizontally oriented, panoramic expanse of these painting is ideally suited to landscape – an important and enduring subject for Mitchell that she linked directly to memory.”

– Statement, The David Zwirner Gallery

“La Seine”, painted in 1967, harkens back to the period when Mitchell had settled in Paris. Between 1955 to 1959, she was traveling between both Paris and New York City before settling in France.  She purchased a house overlooking the river Seine, in Vétheuil, a small town northeast of the city. There, surrounded by nature and with a large studio separate from the house, she began to create larger works on multiple panels. As Judith E. Bernstock writes, “For quite some time, Mitchell had wanted to expand the size of her paintings, but hindered by transportation problems and limitations of studio space, in the 1960s she had begun combining smaller panels to form triptychs…”

“La Seine” is a benchmark of her style.  Filled with magenta’s, cream, viridian green, and cobalt blues, the painting speaks of fields, wild grasses, flowing rivers, sunlight on the water and fallen twigs. The artist, in an interview, twenty years later, described her paintings as akin to “poetry”.

Today one can only admire Joan Mitchell for her ambition and singular focus to be a painter at a time in history when women were expected to stay home and raise children:

“There are a lot of things women can’t be…and “sauvage” is one of them.” – Joan Mitchell

Bravo to Joan Mitchell for proving them wrong!

Stay tuned for more from The Mad Deep Lit Reporter!