Friday, 30 December 2011

Helen Frankenthaler, 1928 - 2011

Helen Frankenthaler, Mountains and Sea, 1952
Helen Frankenthaler died on 27 December, 2011.
Frankenthaler has an assured place in C20 art history: her 1952 painting, Mountains and Sea, is credited with launching a new movement: Post-Painterly Abstraction or Colour Field Painting. William Agee has described the genesis of the painting:
In August 1952, Ms. Frankenthaler traveled to Nova Scotia, where she continued her practice of doing small landscapes. She painted in watercolor and oil on paper, working freely from nature. These studies helped to keep her limber and flexible, like a dancer or athlete tuning up or, as was the case here, a painter preparing for a major new effort.
On the afternoon of Oct. 29, back in New York, she tacked a large—roughly 7-by-10-foot—piece of untreated canvas to the floor of her studio to begin the largest painting she had ever undertaken. Her mind and her arms were filled with memories of the spectacular Cape Breton landscape. After roughing in a few charcoal marks as an initial guide, she poured highly thinned oil paint from coffee cans directly onto the canvas, as if she were drawing with color. She had no plan; she just worked, with control and discipline. At the end of the afternoon, when she had finished, she climbed on a ladder and studied the painting. She was not yet sure what she had done; she was “sort of amazed and surprised and interested.” … It soon became clear that what she had done was invent a new way of making art. (Quoted from article by James Panero in The New Criterion)

The story goes that Clement Greenberg took Morris Louis and Kenneth Noland to Frankenthaler's studio, in 1953, to see Mountains and Sea and they saw her pouring and staining method as the bridge between Pollock and what was possible. By allowing her colour to be in the weave of the canvas rather than on top of it Frankenthaler exemplified the 'flatness' that Greenberg was to identify as the essential condition of Modernist Painting in his 1960 essay of that name; an idea, and an achievement that was lampooned by Tom Wolfe in The Painted Word (1975).

Frankenthaler continued to produce lyrical and luminous abstracts through six decades - an achievement that was celebrated by an exhibition, Frankenthaler at 80: Six Decades, in 1980.

Helen Frankenthaler, Western Dream, 1957
Helen Frankenthaler, Nature Abhors a Vacuum, 1973
Helen Frankenthaler, Viewpoint II, 1979
Helen Frankenthaler, A Green Thought in a Green Shade, 1981
Helen Frankenthaler, Driving East, 2002

Friday, 23 December 2011

John Chamberlain, 1927 - 2011

John Chamberlain, Tambourinefrappe, 2010
John Chamberlain, the artist who made sculptures out of crushed cars, died on 21 December, 2011. Read obituaries in The Guardian, and in The New York Times.
Chamberlain found his material in 1957 when he made Shortstop from  2 car bumpers, run over repeatedly by another vehicle, and welded together. Although best known for the car junk work, Chamberlain also made work in diverse materials, including urethane foam, sheet metal and paper bags as well as making prints, paintings, photographs and films such as The Secret Life of Hernando Cortez (1968) featuring the Warhol superstars Taylor Mead and Ultra Violet
Common material is what an artist should use because it doesn't get in the way of doing an uncommon thing. (John Chamberlain quoted by Michael Auping in Ammann, J-C et al (1984) Art of Our Time: The Saatchi Collection, [Vol.] 2, London: Lund Humphries, p14.)
Read a statement by Chamberlain, made in in 1982, on the Chinati Foundation website, and watch a video of him making (or 'directing') work on the Gagosian Gallery website.
A comprehensive retrospective of Chamberlain's career will be presented at the  Guggenheim Museum in New York from 24 February to 13 May, 2012.
John Chamberlain, S, 1959

John Chamberlain, Superjuke, 2011
John Chamberlain, Dolores James, 1962

John Chamberlain, Untitled (Couch), 1990

John Chamberlain, Essex, 1960
John Chamberlain, Turm von Klythie, installation in Q205 shopping mall, Friedrichstadtpassagen, Berlin

Sunday, 18 December 2011

Lygia Pape - Serpentine Gallery

Lygia Pape, Untitled, 1954-56
Lygia Pape (1927-2004), together with Lygia Clark, was a founding member of "Neoconcretismo" in Brazil in the 1950s; a later member was Hélio Oiticica. Neo-concretism was an interpretation of European geometric astraction, in particular the "Conrete Art" of Max Bill as exhibited in São Paolo in1950. Lygia Pape: Magntized Space at the Serpentine Gallery presents work from throughout Pape's career, including early drawings and poems from her Concrete period to her Neo-Concretist Livros and Caixas series, as well as ballets and performances such as Divisor and O ovo.The exhibition continues until 19 February, 2012. Read a review by Adrian Searle and watch his video introduction to the exhibition.
Lygia Pape, Livro do Tempo (Book of Time), 1961-63

Lygia Pape, Eat Me: Gluttony or Lust?, 1975 (still from film)

Lygia Pape, O Ovo (The Egg), 1967

Lygia Pape, Divisor (Divider), 1968

Lygia Pape, Tteia 1,C (Web),2008 (installation view at the Serpentine Gallery, 2011)