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. "
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.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Sati Zech

bollenarbeit 244, 2014  oil on canvas  77 x 60"  sati zech
Berlin artist, Sati Zech makes joyful yet meditative artworks that she calls bollenarbeit that refer, she says, to the hills and low mountains of southern Germany, the region where she was born.
bollenarbeit no 242, 2014  69.5 x 34 inches  oil, canvas  Sati Zech
To make them she tears apart sheets of canvas into strips and then reassembles them.  Sometimes they are overlapped, sometimes she uses white archival glue, sometimes plaster or wax or thread to put the pieces together.  The domes and dots of thick red paint are placed in horizontals on the cloth surfaces before or sometimes after this assembling.
bollenarbeit no 19, 2006  oil, canvas  94 x 63 inches, Sati Zech
In 2006 she had an exhibition of this body of work at the Heidelberger Kunstverein in Germany, and has gone on to show variations on the theme around the world.  Her New York gallery, the Howard Scott has this to say about Sati Zech's bollen paintings.

"The artworks of Sati Zech are unique amalgams of historically ritualistic mark making and 21st century self-expression.  They emanate feelings of femaleness: her power and passion, her cycles and repetitions."
bollenarbeit 110, 2010  37.5 x 27 inches, oil, canvas, wax, Sati Zech
"The layering, gluing, tearing, sewing all give rise to the idea of labour.  Specifically women's labour, a kind of thoughtful, painstaking never-ending work that manifests itself in tactile visions of strength, beauty, necessity, serendipity."
 "They contain the emotional dynamism of Louise Bourgois, the semantic materiality of Joseph Beuys, the subtle tactility of Eva Hesse and the symbolic charge of African art."  all quotes from Howard Scott Gallery
Sati Zech's studio with her dog, Rudi
Why does this work resonate so much?
Is it the colour?
red .... white
Or the repetition of rounded shape
Or the variety within that repetition
like natural elements - like human figures
Or the emotion expressed with the tearing up of the cloth
and the made elements
the destruction?
Or is it the hand-made de-skilled repairing of that cloth?
Is it because the artist has created a new square
a new human scaled rectangle
fabric that looks to be careless,
but that has taken much thought and care.
much work
There is a feeling of safety in these pieces.
 "These works are about communication.  The single bollen are like elements of a piece of music, or flags, or skin that's been branded."  Sati Zech
for Louise Bourgois #17   Sati Zech bollenarbeit detail
 She is inspired by the large sensual traditional artforms of several African countries.
for Louise Bourgois #18  Sati Zech bollenarbeit detail
 She is inspired by female sensibility.
All information is from the internet.  Click here for Howard Scott gallery, here for an image-full Zeit visit with the artist and here for Sati Zech's own website.
Sati Zech speaks about destroying and re-building and about the power and rhythm of communication on this video from Paris.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

April Anne Martin MFA graduate exhibition Art Institute of Chicago 2016

The Sun Had Not Yet Risen   2016   copper blind, 3 feet wide, 10 feet high
The Sea Was Indistinguishable from the Sky  2016
  tupperware with cyanotype printmaking in process
MFA exhibition, April Anne Martin

Simplicity is the core
pared down to the essence
not removing the poetry,
but pared down
not removing the connective tissue between all the elements
not diminishing that quality that compels us to look again
and again and again
but pared down

in the far left  window sill, The Sea Rose 2016 paper sculpture, 
on the floor, The Sea Was Indistinguishable from the Sky,
 in front of the window, The Sun Had Not Yet Risen,
(this photo taken around 6 pm) 
pared down
every unnecessary element discarded
April Anne Martin's MFA graduate exhibition Art Institute of Chicago,
Sullivan Galleries April 29 - May 18, 2016
Like Eva Hesse,
Martin uses a complicated minimalism marked with fantasy
Like Roni Horn,
she pays attention to the physical qualities of her material
Like Mark Rothko,
she uses a vertical format marked with shimmering horizontals
Like a poet,
she wants to elicit emotional response
Like a scientist,
she asks questions about what would happen in nature and records the process
Like an artist,
she doesn't want to know the answer ahead of time

She allows nature to be her equal partner
April Martin works with the changeable daily elements that each of us experience and think we know. Water.  Air.  Natural light.  Time.

The objects in this exhibition hold the time of day within them.
Inspired by modernist women artists and poets, Martin quotes Virginia Woolf's 1931 novel The Waves, in her titles.  Quoted below are the first few lines of that poem-novel.
The sun had not yet risen.  The sea was indistinguishable from the sky, except that the sea was slightly creased as if a cloth had wrinkles in it.  Gradually as the sky whitened a dark line lay on the horizon dividing the sea from the sky and the grey cloth became barred with thick strokes moving, one after another, beneath the surface, following each other, pursuing each other, perpetually.
As they  neared the shore each bar rose, heaped itself, broke and swept a thin veil of white water across the sand.  The wave paused, and then drew out again, sighing like a sleeper whose breath comes and goes unconsciously.            Virginia Woolf
In the above photo,  Martin is installing lengths of watercolour paper that she has treated with a cyanotype process over a period of twenty days.
Nine papers were each washed and exposed simultaneously in the tub in the middle of her space. This happened every two days at times that correspond to the nine interludes in Woolf's novel where she described the coastal scene at various times of day.  April Martin isolated the first few words of each of Woolf's interludes to create titles for her cyanotypes.
The interludes were not put into the space until the final day as during most of the exhibition they were drying in her studio.  In fact there was a performance every other day as part of the exhibition.
Follow this link to see photos.

"During the 20 day exhibition I will make 10 cyano type prints that respond to the sun's changing position in the sky, using sun and water.  The prints wash and expose themselves in the gallery and then are moved to my studio in another building where they are dried and displayed."  April Martin

On May 16 (graduation day), she moved the last of the cyanotypes into the gallery..
My studio is a scaled down space to observe the perpetual motion and aliveness of things. I set up physical exchanges between dry and wet materials that appear if only for an instant, to slow or stop time. Formally it is a container for activity, and sculpturally many of my works address this contained boundary, threatening to overflow, to flood and leak. 

Outside where the scale shifts, and the permeable drywall boundaries of my studio fall away, everything is different. Weather stacks itself into the present daily form made from dry/wet and hot/cold exchanges. We experience it in the moment we spend with it, it blows our body, it drips down, burns the back of our neck; it moves itself inside of us. April Anne Martin
from left to right, The sun had not yet risen, The sun rose higher, The sun rose, The sun, risen, no longer couched on a green mattress darting a fitful glance through watery jewels, bared its face and looked straight over the waves. The sun had risen to its full height, The sun no longer stood in the middle of the sky, The sun had now sunk lower in the sky, The sun was sinking, Now the sun had sunk. 

The Sea Rose 2016  pad of graph paper with evaporated salt and miracle gro' 11" h 
Another modernist woman writer, H.D. (Hilda Doolittle)'s poem Sea Rose gave the artist a title for her paper sculpture in the window.   (shown above)
The Sun Had Not Yet Risen  2016  copper  10 ' h x 3 ' w, April Martin
this photo taken around 8 pm, the blind is closed
The vertical copper sculpture reacts to and holds the light and heat of the sun.  It changes with the time of day, but it seems to be timeless.  I will close this post with one more quote by a modernist poet.  This is from Marianne Moore's poem When I Buy Pictures

"It must be lit with piercing glances into the life of things; 
It must acknowledge the spiritual forces which have made it"