Sunday, September 23, 2018

Yayoi Kusama

self portrait  1950
oil on canvas  34 x 34 cm
Yayoi Kusama
It was extraordinary for a woman from a small town in Japanese hinterland to achieve the degree of artistic attention that Yayoi Kusama had at such a young age.  She described her early, compulsive art making as a refuge from the frought familial relationships she had.  She also said that her art was a retreat from her own psychological symptoms.  For Kusama, productivity is crucial to her mental health.  This post is about her early work made when she was 23 - 30 years old.
Island No. 7 1953
watercolour and pastel on paper  30.5 x 26.5 cm
Yayoi Kusama


"I am pursuing art in order to correct the disability which began in my childhood."  Y.K..
Dots on the Sun  1953
watercolour and pastel on paper 25 x 26 cm
Yayoi Kusama
She was born March 22, 1929, the youngest of 4 children.  Her family raised seeds in nurseries, and then on December 7, 1941, when she was 12 years old, the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbour and her country was at war.  She had to go work in a parachute and military uniform factory.

She experimented early with materials and technique and set out to teach herself western style oil painting.
no. 8 H.A.P. 1956
oastel, gouache, acrylic on paper  58.4 x 45.7 cm
Yayoi Kusama
In March 1952, she turned 23, and had her first solo exhibition in her home village of Matsumoto.  It consisted of 250 pieces, and then she mounted a second one 7 months later, also in Matsumuoto.  She was noticed and offered an exhibition in Tokyo.   She had three more exhibitions over the next 13 months in Tokyo.
Her face, like Warhol's, is inseparable from her work.
No. White A.Z. 1958-59  (detail)
oil on canvas  210 x 414 cm
Yayoi Kusama
"For art like mine, art that does battle at the border of life and death, questioning what we are and what it means to live and die, Japan is too small, too servile, too feudalistic, too scornful of women.  My art needs a more unlimited freedom and a wider world.  "  Yayoi Kasuma
No. B White 1959  detail
oil on canvas  226 c 298 cm
Yayoi Kusama
In 1959 she moved to the USA to escape  the masculine and deeply conservative Japan of the 1950's.  Then in 1973, she went back home.
Infinity Nets (white) 1959  detail
oil on canvas  131 x 117.5 cm
Yayoi Kusama
While in New York City,  (October of 1959) she organized her own solo show at the 10th st co-operative gallery.  It was of her white monochrome canvases, the infinity net paintings.
No. T.W.3 1961  detail
oil on canvas  174 x 125 cm
Yayoi Kusama
Before websites.  Before blogs
She did it herself.
She was an avid self-publicists.  A writer of manifestos.
Accumulation No. 1  1962 
sewn and stuffed fabric, paint, fringe on chair frame, 121 x 121 x 121 cm
Yayoi Kusama
In the early 60's, she covered sofas and chairs with stuffed phallic protuberances.
This re-invention of her art, was unexpected and gained her publicity.
Accumulation  1963 
sewn and stuffed fabric, wood chair frame, paint  90 x 97.8 x 88.9 cm
  Yayoi Kusama
In the 1970's she began to write her autobiography.  She says her work is linked to the hallucinatory episodes from her childhood.  For many critics, her mental health is one of the most fascinating aspects of her career.
self obliteration no. 2   1967
watercolour, pen, pastel, photocollage on paper  40 x 50 cm 
Yayoi Kusama
In 1993, she represented Japan at the Venice Biennale.
Yayoi Kusama continued to show new work alongside much younger artists in the biennial and triennial circuit international art scene.  She lives in Tokyo today, and has a team of dedicated assistants.   She continues to exhibit to even wider acclaim each year.  Her new installations are based on the Infinity Mirrors that she began making in 1966.

Text in this post is derived from the introduction to the Tate Modern's catalogue for Kusama's 2012 exhibition written by Frances Morris.  The images are also from that book.  

Sunday, January 7, 2018

April Martin new work : Three recent exhibitions 2017-2018

Recent MFA graduate from the School of the Art Institute in Chicago (sculpture, 2016), April Martin is an interdisciplinary artist who works with sun, wind, water, salt, copper and time.  In November and December of 2017 she exhibited in Chicago in two separate exhibitions, and in January 2018, she installed a solo exhibition in Sudbury, northern Ontario Canada.

Above is Blue Print, copper verdigris on stitched muslin
from the exhibition entitled Mounting Tension at ACRE PROJECTS, Chicago.
April was inspired to respond to the terrazzo floor in ACRE projects.
The three vessels above are entitled Like a Lake
bisqued earthware filled with miracle gro and water
and in front of them is
Live Wire 
copper, l.e.d.s and lithium batteries
The miracle gro seeps into the body of the vessels and onto the floor so that  Like a Lake becomes a visual example of the effects of time .

Also in Chicago, at Roots and Culture, Martin exhibited three more sculptures and collaborated to make a video with Ruby T.
I Lived On Air 
pieced linen textile

In this constructed  textile the artist used a code to record the variety of beds that she slept in during 2017, when she took part in five separate month-long residencies in the USA and Europe.
The striped fabric was cut, flipped, angled, and pieced back together in a variety of ways to represent the people with whom, and the places where, she was tucked in.
A line from The Waves (above)
copper and ladder tape
A slightly narrower (and shinier) variation on the copper blind sculpture that April created for her MFA in 2016. (here), it is remarkably affected by the slightest change of light and air movement.
Pair of Jugs
glazed stoneware.

Challenging herself with a nearly impossible kiln firing, these two sets of vessels have inter-laced handles, as if two female friends are arm in arm. 
April studied at McGill University (BA 2009) and Concordia (BFA 2014) in Montreal and the third exhibition in this post brings several sculptures inspired by the old factories in that city together with brand-new textile and paper collages that she created at Women's Studio Workshop in upstate New York in 2017.  To construct the factories, the artist made moulds from tin cans, drinking straws and PVC pipe and then cast them with thin clay slip to make components which were assembled into playful sculptures and fired in the kiln. 
She also constructed custom metal plinths for each of the sculptures.   The twelve sculptures in the exhbition are each untitled, two are shown above with the textile and monoprint collage, Airy.
Also included in this exhibition (entitled Effloresence) are three hand-built sculptures.
Above is Pink Hill., ceramic.
Copper is a constant material in all three of April's exhibitions.  The factory sculptures were glazed with copper oxide (and also cobalt and iron oxides) and some are displayed on sheets of copper.  In the middle of the above photo is Montreal (hand built ceramic) with Windy, mono-print with textile collage above.
The sculptures were fired twice.  Once for forming the base and then again to fix the oxide glazes.  Martin won an award from Concordia for this body of work.
The largest scupture in the exhibition is entitled Royal Mountain, referring to the famous mountain in the city of Montreal, Mount Royal.  Hand built from thin pieces of clay, it was a technical feat to have it succeed in the kiln.  Behind the sculpture is a glimpse of Breezy, a monopint approximately 32" x 40" with textile collage (2017).

April Martin

April Martin is a sculptor from North Ontario. Her work embraces the scale of shared living, breathing, heating, melting. She holds a BA from McGill University and a BFA from Concordia in Montreal. In 2016 she completed her MFA in Sculpture at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago. She is a recipient of The International Sculpture Centre’s Outstanding Student Achievement in Contemporary Sculpture Award as well as the Legacy Grant from Women’s Studio Workshop (New York). She has installed outdoor works in Humboldt Park (Chicago) and Franconia Sculpture Park (Minnesota). Recently she has participated in residencies at AZ West (California), Teton Art Lab (Wyoming) and Emergency (Switzerland), exhibited work at Roots & Culture (Chicago) and performed at the Walker Art Center (Minneapolis). 
(above text from Acre press release)

exhibition with Ruby T.   Moving through walls and Floors at Roots and Culture - Chicago
exhibition with Courtney Mackedanz and Erica Raberg   Mounting Tension at Acre - Chicago
and a solo exhibition    Effloresence at The Northern Artist Gallery - Sudbury 

April Martin is our daughter.
In the spring of 2017, she and Jordan Rosenow collaborated to make this 34 foot sculpture that is installed in Franconia Sculpture park in Minnesota entitled 'we move still.  steel and fabric

Friday, November 3, 2017

Britta Marakatt -Labba

This post is an introduction to Britta Marakatt Labba's incredible embroidered wool on linen tapestry about the history of the Sami people in northern Norway, Sweden and Finland.  In Finland, the area that these people live in is called Lapland.
The entire embroidery is 24 metres long and can be read in either direction.
The artist speaks here about each of the panels.  She speaks about the Goddess mythology that is so important to this culture.  You will also find images at the same link for the entire panel.  
The tapestry was shown at Documenta 14 in Kassel Germany in October 2017. 
I humbly write this to encourage readers to go to Beatrijs Sterk's post on the Textile Forum blog.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Colleen Heslin

girl friday 2016 colleen heslin dye on linen
Colleen Heslin's exhibition Needles and Pins
McMichael Canadian Art Collection Gallery  June 4 2016 - February 20 2017
organized by the Esker Foundation in Calgary
curator Naomi Potter
girl friday detail colleen heslin
sewn paintings
constructed colour fields
false start 2016 colleen heslin dye on linen
Colleen Heslin won the 2013 RBC Canadian Painting Prize
earth be earth 2015 colleen heslin dye on linen
Colour field paintings or modern quilts?
A Jack Bush solo exhibition runs concurrently at the McMichael
earth be earth detail colleen heslin
Art equals craft, Craft equals art.
The importance and meaning of materials
monochrome 2016 colleen heslin dye on  linen
 Colleen Heslin soaks fabric in dye, and then skillfully cuts and pieces these striking compositions.
They 'resonate with the tension of material and gestural complexity.'  (wall text)
dash 2015 colleen heslin ink and dye on cotton and linen
The work in this exhibition is recent, most from 2016.
Those from 2015 give more evidence about her mark making process.
She allows the fabrics that she stains with dye or ink to dry naturally, and then responds to the marks left behind without her hand touching them.
Not paintings then.
dash 2015 colleen heslin detail
Yet the viewer feels touched.
This artist is exploring and using cloth as a language and cloth is intimate.
counterpose 2015 colleen heslin ink and dye on cotton and linen
 We understand cloth.
log cabin 2016 colleen heslin dye on canvas
Cloth is like the human body.
It's malleable.
runaay 2016 colleen heslin dye on canvas
Most of the pieces are human scale.
The cloth is pulled around stretcher bars. 
seafoam 2016 colleen heslin dye on canvas
Not quilts then.  

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Rebecca Belmore

Rebecca Belmore was the first indiginous woman to represent Canada at the Venice Biennale, 2005.

She creates performances that address memory, photographs that implicate the body and sculptures that evoke a sense of place.  Rebecca asks us to examine our relationship to history.  She uses natural materials, repetitive gestures and labour.  She references the struggling or missing body.

This post is about some of the artifacts that Belmore created between 1987 - 2004.
Her earliest piece,  a Victorian dress with a beaver dam bustle, was worn during a performance in Thunder Bay,Ontario Canada and is now part of the Art Gallery of Ontario permanent collection.,
Rising To The Occasion
It is a provocation.
wana-na-wang-ong, lichen, moss, roots 1993
Seven years later, at the age of 33, she gathered spruce roots from logging sites, lichen from trees and laced them together to construct a monumental sculpture.  This piece represents a specific place.
Sioux Lookout, Northern Ontario.
.
Wana-na-wang-ong means curve in the land or gentle dip.

detail of wana-na-wang-ong  (lichen)
detail of wana-na-wang-ong (spruce roots)
"it is crucial that we speak about our connection to the land. "
Rebecca
Belmore
untitled (a blanket for Sarah) 1994  pine needles through metal screening
The next year, in 1994, untitled (a blanket for Sarah) was created by pushing 800,000 pine needles through a metal mesh.  (Sarah is the name of a homeless woman who froze to death on the streets of Sioux Lookout). The artist and several assistants created this metaphor for the severity and beauty of nature over days of repetitive labour.
deatil of untitled (a blanket for Sarah)
Robert Houle wrote an essay about Rebecca Belmore for the Vancouver Art Gallery 2008 exhibition catalogue.  It is entitled  Interiority as Allegory

He states that Rebecca Belmore's body of work is between two cultures, between order and chaos and between corporeal and visceral.  He says that her performances and installations are impossible to categorize and that the complex emotional resonance and diversity in her work is a powerful allegory for her inner self and also for all of us.
Temple 1996  ater, plastic, fountain, telescope, dimensions variable
In 1996 (age 36) she created Temple.  Plastic milk bags filled with water from Lake Ontario bring the viewer face to face with the utter simplicity of water, its illness and fragility revealed through the many different colours of liquid - green, purple, reddish brown.

How removed are we from acknowledging that we are part of nature?  How great is that distance?  Rebecca Belmore

black cloud 2001 wood and steel



In Black Cloud dozens of nails were driven into a blackened, gnarled piece of wood that looks like a broken spine, a metaphor for human and environmental suffering.  She  was 41 when she made it.  
The Great Water, overturned canoe and fabric  2002

In 2002, she covered an upside down canoe with an immense sheet of dark blue fabric, overturning a sign from both Aboriginal and European cultures.  It's as if she is asking, Don't you see?  Both of our cultures are in peril.
white thread, 2003  inkjet on watercolour paper
In 2003 and 2004, she produced photographs of figures wrapped in cloth.  Fabric binds the body, restricting movement.   The photographs are beautiful, their subject disturbing.
untitled 2 2004 inkjet on watercolour paper

It is the minimalist yet emotional beauty of these photos that hits our hearts.
untitled 3 2004 inkjet print on watercolour paper

Rebecca remains unequivacally Anishinabe.  She brings the outdoors into the gallery so that nature is not separated from culture, and culture is not reduced to ethnicity.

All images and the ground of ideas for this text are taken from the Vancouver Art Gallery catalogue entitled Rebecca Belmore.  Much appreciaton and thanks to the curators Diana Augatis and Kathleen Ritter and to the artist.