Kazuya Tsuji: Or

SCHWARTZ GALLERY

02.07.14 – 27.07.14show01

Hackney Wick is now less industrial wasteland than artist’s playground: its rabbit warren of streets home to galleries, pop-ups and (shamefully) some of the few remaining affordable studio spaces in London. Follow one such alleyway to its end to find Schwartz Gallery, currently home to Or, the first solo gallery show of Japanese surrealist artist, Kazuya Tsuji.

Tsuji reworks found ephemera – photographs, prints, sculptures – by mixing them with household objects such as drawing pins, or slick materials like glossy wooden blocks, mirrors and stone tablets. In accordance with the title of the show the work is minimalist and simple, whilst consistently precise and exacting in its execution.

Narrow white marble tables rise up on thin metal legs and support curling portrait photographs, their subjects’ eyes duplicated again and again in prisms sitting over them like glasses; in one corner a woman’s agitated expression glares out from a piece of paper, hung and lit up in mid-air, suspended and trapped, and on the gallery floor are two little fairies, their play disrupted by a collection tiny metal globes covering their mouths – upon first glance, the show is an array of disconnected items, although there is a distinct conversation at play.

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Tsuji shifts his collected curiosities into the sphere of contemporary art and, in metal and glass, appears to imprison them there – although all of these appendages are removable, and at the end of the exhibition each object will become debris again. This statement is most poignantly made by a small, rusting iron bust; a young woman looks down pensively, her shoulders, face and hair dotted with bright silver balls. These are magnetic ball bearings which perch like glimmering bluebottles, seeming ready to take flight if disturbed, and when removed will render her useless again.

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Amongst the deliberate impermanence and irregularity of Or’s sculptures are two vast white boards whose pure white surface is interrupted by slithering golden veins, branching out from one central point. Whilst the sharp angles of his marble slabs and mirror constructions juxtapose with Tsuji’s aged objects and fragile paper pieces – pinned to and fluttering from the gallery walls – these organic strands on board suggest a human element of connectivity, contrasting with the further focus upon temporality.

Essentially, Or communicates Tsuji’s preoccupation with the hybridity, reproduction and constant change that characterises post-modernity, with these golden branches becoming the links between the people that comprise this culture.

These wall pieces may be constructed from brass drawing pins stabbed into painted board, the artist’s floor pieces may be made from mirror tiles and his little fairies may only be silenced by clusters of steel ball bearings; however the first conjures images of living organisms, cells, maps; the second captures visitors in never-ending reflections; and the final pieces are powerful, if slightly disturbing, in their dark humour.

Within Or Tsuji combines the pointed approach of a minimalist with vivid flair and imaginative narrative to set in place a lively visual discussion of our changing culture, human experience and value.

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Or closes this weekend, Schwartz is open Friday, Saturday & Sunday 1 – 6 pm.

Fischli and Weiss: Visible World… More from Museo Reina Sofia, Madrid.

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Peter Fischli and David Weiss’ photographic project Sichtbare Welt (Visible World, 1997) is a monumental and fascinating visual feast, yet totally transparent – but do we care?

This disparate collection of images ranges from natural wonders to urban phenomena, and is currently on display at Museo Reina Sofia as part of Playgrounds: a multi-disciplinary group exhibition which analyses the socialising, transgressive and political potential of play within public space.

Artistic duo Fischli and Weiss seek to produce the “ideal picture” – whether this be of cacti, war memorials, quaint villages, manicured gardens or children playing is insignificant, with each picture afforded equal importance.

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The work may therefore appear one-sided (beautiful images of beautiful things recorded across the world over fifteen years) but firstly, this is far preferable to the beautiful images of ugly things that contemporary photographers all too often produce; and secondly they do succeed in illuminating the otherwise ordinary, in challenging general perception.

As Arthur C. Danto points out in Peter Fischli and David Weiss: In a Restless World, there is ‘an extraordinary purity in the banal scenes [Fischli and Weiss] favour in their depictions, which are untouched by squalor or obscenity.’ The work is visually pleasing if nothing else, and sometimes that’s just enough.

Iphone16.6 559 Iphone16.6 560Exhibition view Playgrounds. Reinventing the square, 2014Visible World, Fischli and Weiss features as part of Playgrounds: Reinventing the Square, open at Museo Reina Sofia, Madrid until 22 Sept ’14.

Hanne Darboven: The order of time and things, Museo Reina Sofia

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Hanne Darboven, a first-generation conceptual artist best known for her large-scale geometric drawings and numerical series stated that “Art is a mixture between concept and discipline” – a combination reflected in the current Museo Reina Sofia exhibition, The Order and Time of Things: The Home Studio of Hanne Darboven.

Where the artist’s work displays an obsession with precision, order and structure, the mélange of objects amassed in her family  home in Am Burgberg  - where she lived and worked her entire life – suggest another, polar opposite, side to her personality: chaos in the rooms, order on the walls.

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With carnival games, soft toys, taxidermy, mannequins, musical instruments, souvenirs from all corners of the world, tiny boats and enormous hanging dinosaurs, this ‘studio’ is more akin to a 16th century Cabinet of Curiosities or Wonder Room. Rather than present a chronology of Darboven’s life, the exhibit is a presentation at once of the artist’s seemingly conflicting psychologies in life and work – perhaps providing a reconsideration of her numerical writing, which was at its core an obsessive method of calendaring to fight lost time, the degeneration of memory, and to record and solidify experience.

At Reina Sofia, amongst the reconstructed madness of her home studio, Darboven’s work becomes an attempt to reduce the unpredictable and impulsive into diagrams and grids, the three-dimensional world into silent graphite scrawls on squared paper.

_dsc4313_53343a8388f65The order of time and things. The home studio of Hanne Darboven is open at Museo Reina Sofia, Madrid until 1st September 2014.

 

 

Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster: SPLENDIDE HOTEL, Palacio de Cristal

Iphone16.6 636Four days in Madrid and five visits to the 350 acre Parque del Retiro – a boating lake, turtles, perfectly manicured gardens and rough spaces for napping, reading, picnicking, as well as two gallery spaces, it never gets old!

Amble number three led me to the Palacio de Cristal, a three-storey tall greenhouse of glass, iron and ceramic work; once home to plants from the Philippines, and currently masquerading as the SPLENDIDE HOTEL.

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We revisit 1887, the year that the Palacio was built and during which the Hotel Splendide in Lugano was opened –  the name having previously come into being  in Arthur Rimbaud’s poem Après le Déluge, published in 1886. Splendide was also the name of the hotel in Évian-les-Bains, where Marcel Proust holidayed with his family.

Gonzalez-Foerster’s practice consistently invites the viewer to take a journey through space and time, via literature – here in the form of texts tied to rocking chairs. Whilst the Palacio is dotted with ornate nineteenth century furniture, infiltrated by an impenetrable glass room which mimics the original architecture and its façade is stamped with a gaudy green HOTEL sign, the main pleasure of the piece is its quietude.

HOTEL SPLENDIDE is most successful in allowing us to appreciate the beauty of this vast glass structure as it was first constructed; looking out upon the park from within is something like taking the position of the 19th century flaneur, viewing the world from glass-covered Parisian arcades.

Gonzalez-Foerster’s artwork directs rather than dictates, producing an array of unique, subjective experiences beneath a single glinting glass dome.Iphone16.6 643SPLENDIDE HOTEL continues until 31 Aug ’14.

 

PUNCHDRUNK

If you haven’t seen it yet, you have three weeks until Temple Studios closes its doors to The Drowned Man: the most ambitious production yet from the award-winning immersive and physical theatre group, Punchdrunk.1401814_1432491546963150_1811101450_o

Set amidst the fading glamour of 1960s Los Angeles, The Drowned Man explores the darkness of the Hollywood dream, where celluloid fantasy meets desperate reality, and certainty dissolves into a hallucinatory world.Fernanda-Prata-Jesse-Kovarsky.-Punchdrunk.-The-Drowned-Man-A-Hollywood-Fable.-Photo-Birgit-Ralf-0399

This extraordinary theatrical adventure holds up to 600 audience members during each ‘viewing,’ each of whom have undergone a unique personal journey that unfolds over the course of three hours and across four floors of the vast Temple Studios.New_20130709_TimeOut_Punchdrunk__MG_1636-Edit

Having experienced my fair share of alternative theatre, I can vouch for this one – it is truly unbelievable. Curiosity is key – explore, go it alone, and hold the gaze of the performers and you never know where they might take you - and only you. tn-500_thecompany.punchdrunk.thedrownedmanahollywoodfable.photobirgit&ralf(0456)

 

Punchdrunk, Temple Studios, Paddington closes 6th July 2014.

FUNDACIÓN MAPFRE, MADRID: VANESSA WINSHIP


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This summer Fundación Mapfre opens 868 square metres of white cube space in the heart of Madrid, dedicated to exhibiting masters of photography and those just entering the international arena.

Debuting in the new space is British photographer and Henri Cartier-Bresson Award winner Vanessa Winship, with 183 photographs taken across the Balkans, Turkey and Caucasus, the USA and even in her quaint hometown of Barton-upon-Humber.

The exhibition is a stream of haunting expressions and dilapidated environments – according to curator, Carlos Martín García, depicting “the prints that twentieth century history has left upon the land and people.”

 

Winship rejects categorisation as a documentary photographer, however her work is a clear documentary record of rebellion and conflict – with a nod to portraiture in her staged series.

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The most striking set of photographs within MAPFRE is undoubtedly Black Sea: Between Chronicle and Fiction. Travelling across the borders of Ukraine, Russia, Romania, Turkey, Georgia and Bulgaria between 2002-2010, Winship recorded the traditions and troubles of six divided nations which are connected by the sea – itself recorded in such heavy-set detail that it becomes a concrete stopping point within the exhibition.

Meanwhile the confrontational glares of Anatolian schoolgirls in series Sweet Nothings, conflict with their delicately embroidered uniforms - love letters stamped onto coarse fabric as a defiant act of individuality – and the American youths of her series she dances on Jackson stand awkwardly beside cars, shop windows, bleak (and weak) representations of the American dream gone wrong.

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Whilst Winship’s photographs are beautiful, highly detailed and thoughtfully executed, her series do not stand particularly well together. she dances on Jackson and her newest work in Almeria, Spain cannot live up to the apparent tragedy of her Eastern European series whose troubled individuals we, as Western viewers, are simply fascinated by as immune onlookers.

The issue of documentary photography (which, undoubtedly, is) has always been an ethical one: we enjoy beautiful photographs of ugly scenarios, but why and should we and is this enough?

Winship’s photographs give her subjects a voice and a pinch of recognition; but the significance of this pales as soon as you leave the exhibition and -inevitably – discover another similar set of works just around the corner.

Vanessa Winship is showing at FUNDACIÓN MAPFRE, Bárbara de Braganza, 13, Madrid until 31st August, 2014.

 

WE DEVOUR.

So, in the midst of the new blog plan, I ended up with a job at the Royal Academy of Arts (dream come true!) and  of course had zero time to spare!

Now I’ve got a stack of new content made up, which I’ll start uploading, dividing into categories, all of that boring stuff as soon as…

In the meantime, here are a couple of excerpts from my most recent work with Aesthetica who are kind enough to send me off to a show and a screening for every edition (and also a recent press trip to Madrid - journalist perks eh!)

First the Design Museum hosts the first major retrospective of Louis Kahn’s work for twenty years Louis Kahn: The Power of Architecture. One of the twentieth century’s most eminent building designers, Kahn was a Modernist pioneer, an inventor and professor, and as much an artist as an architect – although very few of his projects were ever realised.  

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Louis Kahn, c. 1972 © Robert C. Lautman Photography Collection, National Building Museum

Initially presented by the Vitra Design Museum, this exhibition will stand as an archive of the designer’s life as much as a survey of his work – encompassing an unprecedented number of original sketches, paintings and photographs from Kahn’s many travels, and previously unpublished film footage shot by his son for intimate documentary My Architect.

Salk Institute in La Jolla, California, Louis Kahn, 1959–65 © The Architectural Archives, University of Pennsylvania, John Nicolais

 

Secondly there’s Mood Indigo, visionary director Michel Gondry’s vibrant, surreal and lunatic adaptation of French polymath Boris Vian’s L’écume des jours (Froth on the Daydream): the fatalistic tale of Colin (Romain Duris), a handsome and wealthy romantic who spends his time inventing bizarre contraptions such as the ‘pianocktail’, and Chloé (Audrey Tautou) who according to the actress is “the embodiment of kindliness, purity and delicacy.”

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What begins as an idealistic and poetic love story rapidly transforms - through a series of entirely illogical events - into a breath-takingly poignant Greek tragedy; the film’s climax keeping myself and entire fellow audience set in our seats until the credits turned to black.

As is characteristic of Gondry’s entire filmography, the visual universe of Mood Indigo appears as an animated Surrealist painting -part-set, part-art installation, only one week’s worth of blue screen – in all, it is an endlessly varied feast of tricks and surprises, which stands between conventional cinema and the arts.

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Louis Kahn: The Power of Architecture is open at the Design Museum, London from the 9th July, whilst Mood Indigo is released in UK cinemas on the 1st August.