In 1984, the scientific and educational organization, the National Geographic Society commissioned Elyn Zimmerman—a then up-and-coming New York-based artist—to produce a sculpture within the modernist plaza of its Washington, D.C., headquarters. Zimmerman designed a long, narrow reflecting pool set among five granite boulders and later named it MARABAR, a reference to the mysterious Marabar Caves at the center of E.M. Forster’s A Passage to India (1924). In The Meaning of Gardens: Idea, Place, and Action (1990), the landscape architect Peter Walker wrote that MARABAR used few materials to elevate “a setting of a rather ordinary building, garden, and stones.” The sculpture, which has marked the entrance to the organization for over 35 years, was threatened with demolition last July when National Geographic filed plans to “unify the existing National Geographic campus with a new pavilion, plaza, renovated ground level, and cohesive streetscape” with a landscape redesign provided by local architecture firm Hickok Cole. Zimmerman’s sculpture, and any trace of it ever having existed, is absent from the renderings of the organization’s renewed public presence. Following the District of Columbia’s Historic Preservation Review Board’s approval of the streetscape redesign, the proposed removal of MARABAR caught the attention of The Cultural Landscape Foundation (TCLF), a nonprofit group established to educate and engage the public on the importance of landscape design. “National Geographic is one of the world’s leading champions of cultural awareness,” said Charles A. Birnbaum, TCLF’s president and CEO, in a press statement, “so its plan to demolish a significant work of art under its stewardship is especially disconcerting. Sadly, this is part of a trend in which cultural institutions ironically prove to be a threat to designed landscapes and landscape features in their collections.” Earlier today, TCLF named the sculptural installation a Landslide site, the group’s designation for landscape features that are at risk of demolition, and has argued that its removal will mark the erasure of the first large-scale stone project in the artist’s repertoire. Given that the project is now pending review by the District of Columbia’s Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs, TCLF remains hopeful that "Zimmerman’s sculpture will be reviewed thoroughly and that plans for the new pavilion will be altered accordingly.” As the plaza MARABAR sits in and other late 20th-century landscape designs reach the half-century mark, the importance of preserving modernist landmarks has increasingly come into focus. Lawrence Halprin’s brutalist Freeway Park in Seattle was recently approved for renovation, while Ricardo Legorreta’s abstracted Pershing Square design in Los Angeles is also slated for demolition.
Posts tagged with "Sculpture":
Acute Art, an app-based art platform that has produced exhibitions with Marina Abramović, Olafur Eliasson, and Cao Fei, has announced an augmented reality (AR) project with the work of artist Brian Donnelley, known professionally as KAWS. The exhibition, EXPANDED HOLIDAY, launched today and is now on display throughout the world simultaneously thanks to the company’s AR app. “Invisible to the naked eye,” the company writes on its website, “the augmented reality art comes to life in your phone’s camera to reveal beautifully crafted sculptures that interact seamlessly and playfully with the world around them.” Twelve of KAWS’s trademark clown sculptures, now floating several feet above the ground, have been spread out across eleven locations—Doha, Hong Kong, London, Melbourne, Paris, Sao Paulo, Seoul, Taipei, Serengeti National Park, Tokyo, and New York City. “When I realized the quality that could be achieved and experienced in AR, I was immediately drawn to its potential,” KAWS expressed in a statement. “I have been creating objects and exhibiting works in public spaces throughout my career, and this allows me to expand on that in a whole new arena. the possibilities of locations and scale are endless, and I’m excited to start a new dialogue in this medium.” The exhibition demonstrates a way for artwork to not only exist in multiple places at once, but to also be placed in sites otherwise restricted from installation. The same sculpture is currently visible, for example, within the iconic Grand Central Terminal atrium and the middle of the highly trafficked Shibuya Crossing in Tokyo. EXPANDED HOLIDAY is also exhibited in Serengeti National Park, a vastly opposite site from Tokyo’s Shibuya Crossing. And yet, like any other exhibition, the artwork is for sale. Twenty-five of KAWS’s AR sculptures can be purchased as a collection for $10,000 and ‘placed’ wherever the purchaser chooses, with the option of being privately or publicly visible. “His editions will demonstrate that works of art in virtual space can be just as precious and sought-after as those in our physical surroundings,” Jacob de Geer, chief executive of Acute Art, told CNN. EXPANDED HOLIDAY will be on view until March 26.
The Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA) at the University of Pennsylvania has unveiled Karyn Olivier: Everything That’s Alive Moves, on view through May 10, 2020. The Philadelphia-based artist and sculptor Karyn Olivier has readied a series of works centered around her personal explorations of monuments and memorials. With a particular focus on scale, Olivier describes her work as a combination of larger-than-life scale and the minute, modest gesture. Conceived as a revision and expansion of Olivier’s previous project, Everything That’s Alive Moves places monuments into new contexts that pose questions about the larger concepts of citizenship and responsibility. The exhibition includes a large-scale obelisk sculpture, a fully-functioning carousel for one rider, and a car built from repurposed shoes. In one installation, a floor-to-ceiling brick wall at the center of a gallery is intended to catch the eye as a spectrum of bright colors emerge from it—the piece, Wall (2017-2018), uses clothing wedged between the bricks in place of mortar, and the fabric cascades out of the rigid wall. “We are thrilled to present the work of local artist Karyn Olivier. Olivier’s ability to connect with the community and people through her work is profound,” said John McInerney, interim director at ICA, in a statement to ArtDaily. “She adeptly shifts our experience of the familiar to reveal the malleable and unfixed nature of objects and spaces, enabling us to ponder meaning, honor the past, while creating new possibilities.” Olivier has planned and built several memorials and public commissions herself, most recently being tapped to oversee the Dinah Memorial at Stenton, also known as the James Logan Home, in Philadelphia. Olivier also drew from her recent year of study in Rome, where she closely analyzed the intersection of the city’s public works with its history. “Karyn's searching curiosity is brilliantly indefatigable. Her sculpture incisive, her formal care and emotional responses to space simply searing,” said Anthony Elms, chief curator at the ICA. “What's more is that still her art contains enormous amounts of joy for and delight in our world and the people who, through gestures big and small, recognized or unnoticed, endure and thrive for all our betterment.” Karyn Olivier: Everything That’s Alive Moves is on view through May 10 at ICA. Admission is free and the show will be accompanied by a fully illustrated monograph set to be released later this year.
Socrates Sculpture Park in Queens has commissioned three new ‘monuments’ for the first phase of MONUMENTS NOW, an outdoor exhibition set to open on May 16, 2020. The pieces, by artists Jeffrey Gibson, Paul Ramírez Jonas, and Xaviera Simmons question the traditional role of commemorative structures in society and aim to salute underrepresented groups. “At a time when monuments are under intense scrutiny,” Kendal Henry, the director of Percent for Art Program at the NYC Department of Cultural Affairs, said in a press release, “this exhibitions provides artists from diverse backgrounds a unique opportunity to redefine the monument and its role in remembering our country's past, as well as its effect on our present and future. Socrates Sculpture Park, with its nimble approach, is a perfect incubator for artists who can influence the field of monument-creating and public art.” Jeffrey Gibson, an interdisciplinary artist based in Hudson, New York, will present his monument Because Once You Enter My House, It Becomes Our House as a tribute to the ingenuity of indigenous peoples. A recipient of a 2019 MacArthur Foundation Genius Grant, Gibson created a structure reminiscent of pre-Columbian Mississippian architecture shrouded in geometric posters that feature activist slogans. The piece ties North American indigenous history to contemporary activism graphics and queer camp performance art to push audiences to see the intricacy of collective identity. Gibson’s work has previously been shown at the Denver Art Museum, the New Museum in New York, and the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (MassMoCA). Because Once You Enter My House, It Becomes Our House will be exhibited alongside a communal grill monument called Eternal Flame, created by Brooklyn-based artist Paul Ramírez Jonas. The monument will explore the issues of immigration and identity as expressed through food and its preparation. Ramírez Jonas often uses everyday items in his work to challenge accepted societal values and behaviors. During his 25-year career, the artist’s work has been shown in solo exhibitions at the Museo Jumex in Mexico City, the Contemporary Art Museum in Houston, and the Jack S. Blanton Museum of Art in Austin, Texas. MONUMENTS NOW will also include three monumental sculptures from interdisciplinary artist Xaviera Simmons. Her work, Untitled 2020, will use steel, wood, plaster, and paint to provoke conversations about racial disenfranchisement in the United States, citing historic documents and government policies that perpetuate racial discord. “The entirety of the United States itself is a monument to European expansionism and white nation-state building,” Simmons told AN. “These monuments are another way into the American narrative, into the formal as it relates to sculpture, and also into a contemporary narrative both historically and creatively.” A recipient of the 2018 Agnes Gund Art for Justice Award and the 2018 Denniston Hill’s Distinguished Performance Artist Award, Simmons’s photography, performance, and sculptural work investigates political and social histories and has been exhibited at the David Castillo Gallery in Miami, the Phillips Collection in Washington, D.C., and the Museum of Modern Art in New York. The second phase of MONUMENTS NOW will open in September and feature ten artists selected through an open call. The year-long exhibition will be completed in October with the opening of the Next Generation sculpture, created by high school students enrolled in the Socrates Sculpture Park's educational program, Socrateens (the pieces from the first phase will remain up). Enabled by the support of the Ford Foundation, VIA Art Fund, and the Andy Warhol Foundation, the exhibition was curated by Jess Wilcox, the director of exhibitions at the Socrates Sculpture Park, and aims to start conversations about monuments in society. “As a forum for public art, and as a cultural anchor in the most diverse county in America--Queens, New York--Socrates is the ideal venue to present nuanced artist-driven perspectives on the controversial issue of monuments and to facilitate discussion about cultural values,” said John Hatfield, executive director of the park.
Students of art history may be familiar with Lucio Fontana, the Argentine-Italian conceptual painter, sculptor, and founder of the Spatialism movement. Fontana gained international acclaim in the mid-1950s with his slash series, for which he cut into the canvas surfaces of monochrome paintings to provoke a sense of depth unachievable with paint alone. Though the canvases came to dominate his outward canon, Fontana was, however, also exhibiting immersive artworks around the world as early as 1949—nearly two decades before artists James Turrell and Yayoi Kusama first developed their first atmospheric experiments in the late 1960s. A recently-opened exhibition at Hauser & Wirth’s Los Angeles outpost recreated nine of Fontana’s lesser-known Ambianti spaziali (Spatial Environments) across three of its main galleries. Curated by Luca Massimo Barbero in collaboration with the Fondazione Lucio Fontana, Walking the Space: Spatial Environments, 1948-1968 is the first comprehensive presentation in the U.S. of the late Italian master’s three-dimensional work that, in the words of the artist, seek to ‘open up space, create a new dimension, tie in the cosmos, as it endlessly expands beyond the confining plane of the picture.’ Arranged chronologically, visitors begin the exhibition by pulling apart heavy curtains to enter Ambiente spaziale a luce nera [Spatial Environment in Black Light] (1949), a pitch-black room illuminated only by a few black lights pointed at a fluorescent papier-mâché sculpture hung from the ceiling by fishing wire. The piece recalls the sculptures of Frank Stella and Aaron Curry—but while those are often affixed to the walls or centers of well-lit gallery spaces, Ambiente spaziale a luce nera adds the illusion of weightlessness, a characteristic Fontana sought in artwork as a nod to the Space Age in which he was practicing. The installations following Ambiente spaziale become more interactive, the material palettes increasingly vary, and the spatial layouts of the work becomes increasingly labyrinthine. A gallery attendant warns visitors before entering Utopie [Utopia] (1964) that the carpeted undulating floor makes navigation difficult, and they should be prepared to duck when the floor reaches three feet beneath the ceiling. The following installations challenge—and, over time—heighten spatial awareness through a series of tactile illusions set in motion by focused lighting and ambiguous arrangements. Ambiente spaziale in Documenta 4, a Kassel [Spatial Environment at Documenta 4, in Kassel] (1968), the last installation Fontana created before his death later that year, is, by contrast with his earlier spatial works, an installation so bright that it produces no shadows. Visitors put on booties to enter the all-white space one at a time and arrive at a subtle yet unmistakable laceration in the wall’s plaster, reminiscent of those found in Fontana’s famous slashed canvases. It is fitting that, at the exit point of his very last installation, a slash emerges that seems to condense all of the artist’s creative energy into a single work. “When I sit before and contemplate one of my slashes,” Fontana once wrote, “I suddenly feel a great relaxation of the spirit, I feel myself to be a man freed from the slavery of matter, a man belonging to the vastness of the present and the future.” Walking the Space: Spatial Environments, 1948-1968 opened on February 13 and will be on display through April 12. Hauser & Wirth will present two more exhibitions on the work of Lucio Fontana in the near future; one in New York in Spring 2021, and another in Hong Kong in the fall of the same year.
British sculptor Antony Gormley’s large-scale installation at Brooklyn Bridge Park is now open to the public. New York Clearing (2020) consists of an 11-mile continuous “line” of square aluminum tubing that loops and coils without a beginning or endpoint. Standing nearly 50 feet at its tallest point, the sculpture welcomes visitors to interact with its swooping lines from a variety of perspectives, and walking through New York Clearing is encouraged. Born in London in 1950, Gormley has had a number of high-profile solo exhibitions of work that grapples with the relationship between self and spatial environment. “This is the first time that I have attempted to make Clearing without architectural support,” said Gormley in a press statement. “I am enormously excited about the opportunity of making this energy field in conversation with Manhattan across the waters of the East River. It can be seen as an evocation of human connectivity, a materialization of the energy of the people that view it and the people that made it.” Appropriately enough, the sculpture resembles a frenetic line drawing, with swoops and curves that flow into the Manhattan skyline. Gormley’s commission is part of CONNECT, BTS, a global art initiative launched by the Korean boyband BTS. The project aims to create a more connected world through collaboration with curators across five cities on four continents: London, Berlin, Buenos Aires, Seoul, and New York. Drawing from the work of 22 contemporary artists, CONNECT, BTS hopes to create a self-described “cross-pollination” between the visual arts and pop music under the artistic direction of independent Korean curator Daehyung Lee. Brooklyn Bridge Park President Eric Landau welcomed New York Clearing to Pier 3 on Tuesday, saying that “we have a long history of incredible art installations in the Park, and can’t think of a better place than Pier 3 for this amazing piece.” New York Clearing is on view at Brooklyn Bridge Park Pier 3 from February 5 to March 27, 2020. Viewing is free and open to the public.
An 800-lb multi-mirrored heart sculpture was unveiled yesterday as the 12th winner of the Times Square Valentine Heart Design Competition. Heart Squared was designed by architects Phu Hoang and Rachely Rotem of MODU and artist Eric Forman from Eric Forman Studios, both based in Brooklyn. Designed to function like a kaleidoscope, multi-directional mirrors have been suspended in a thin metal space-frame to reflect the bright lights of Times Square from every angle. The 10-foot-tall sculpture prompts visitors to circle around until the frame and mirrors align to reveal a heart, creating the perfect backdrop for a New York Valentine’s Day selfie. “It is the public floor of the city, chaotic, crowded, noisy, it's a character we love about the city. In these public spaces, we feel the freedom to be ourselves amongst others who are different than us,” said Rotem at the sculpture's unveiling. “In our piece, we want to emphasize and amplify this amazing character of the city.” MODU was recognized with a Rome Prize for architecture in 2017, and in 2019 the firm was one of the Architectural League of New York's Emerging Voices. They collaborated with Eric Forman, who founded his eponymous studio in 2003 and specializes in pieces that facilitate interaction between technology and design. “We designed this as a balancing act between structure and air, buildings and sky, people and the city, movement, and slowness,” said Forman at the opening. Times Square Arts partnered with the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum for this year's competition. Heart Squared was selected from a shortlist of five other New York-based firms, including Agency—Agency, Hou de Sousa, Isometric, Office III, and Other Means. The jury selected Heart Squared because it was dynamic, animated, inclusive, and accessible, according to Andrea Lipps, associate curator of design at the Cooper Hewitt. The jury also included Sean Anderson from MoMA; Victor Calise, the commissioner from the Mayor's Office for People with Disabilities; Kevin Davey from UAP, and last year’s winner, Suchi Reddy from Reddymade. The competition was made possible from support by the Warhol Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, The Ripple Foundation, Silman, and New Project. The project’s 125 mirrors will be on display in Father Duffy Square between West 46th and 47th Streets throughout the month of February.
The Beverly Center, a 900,000-square-foot mall in Los Angeles, California, has recently installed two large-scale art installations within the iconic street-facing escalators along Beverly Boulevard and La Cienega Boulevard. They are the latest work of Pae White, a local artist who grew up near the Beverly Center, and were organized by independent curator Jenelle Porter. “In my opinion,” said Porter, “[White] is the only artist who could make such incredibly beautiful and keenly intelligent works for Beverly Center; artworks that will contribute to the already rich cultural landscape of this city.” The installation facing Beverly Boulevard, Day for Night for Day, is a light sculpture comprised of over 900 uniquely-shaped pieces of hand-shaped neon. Each element within the five-story piece is color-keyed to a perceptual temperature (warmth) in the daylight spectrum, resulting in a constellation of vibrant hues akin to the many characters of the Los Angeles sunset. The artist referred to the piece as both “a kind of magic carpet” and an immersive Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) lamp visitors interact with prior to and following their shopping experience. The title of the installation is a nod to the city's movie history, particularly the cinematic technique of simulating nighttime during the day. The La Cienega-facing installation, Moonsets for a Sunrise, is made up of a mostly dark-hued palette to represent nighttime and the four types of moons—the harvest moon, strawberry moon, blue moon, and snow moon. Made up of 73,635 pieces of tile glazed in over 100 colors, White ensured that no color combination module repeats anywhere within the entire expanse. The many shades on display exemplify the myriad hues of moonlight, allowing for differing interpretations of the piece from up-close as well as from passersby on the street. White was inspired to create the two site-specific pieces after observing the unique qualities of the glass-enclosed escalators and the constant movement they provide between the parking lots and the main interior spaces. “In their simultaneous explorations of the phenomenological effects of light,” said White, “both art installations generate different experiences during the day and the night. The neon of Day for Night for Day offers one kind of experience during daylight hours and another kind at night when its illumination is most prominent. The same applies to Moonsets for a Sunrise, though conversely: the ‘moonlight’ colors are most glorious in the morning sun.”
Long live the new bean: The long-delayed New York version of Anish Kapoor’s Cloud Gate in Chicago (colloquially known as The Bean) is finally rising at the foot of the Jenga-like Herzog & de Meuron’s (and executive architect Hill West Architects) 56 Leonard in Tribeca. Prep work for the mirrored sculpture began last summer, as the sculpture’s outline was marked out on the concrete plaza below the tower. Installation proper began in October, and the piece, a bean similar to Cloud Gate but squished below 56 Leonard’s mass, has steadily been arriving in pieces since then. Although the building above was completed in 2016, the bean, which was always intended as part of 56 Leonard (featuring into renderings as far back as 2008) has been repeatedly delayed. As Tribeca Citizen explains in an excerpt from fabricators Performance Structures, Inc. to the building’s developer in 2018:
The Leonard Street sculpture requires equivalent accuracy and precision, but with an added component. Cloud Gate was assembled in Chicago from the finished plate sections and support framework, built at our facility, and then all the joining seams were welded together on site. After the seams were welded, they all needed to be ground down, and the seam zones sanded and polished to match the rest of the plate surfaces. This on-site seam welding was very laborious and extremely costly. […] [...] In order to make the Leonard Street sculpture installation more expeditious, and to save costs, it was decided to build the precision components such that they could be tightly fit together, with the seams thereby becoming nearly invisible hair line cracks. This concept was successfully tested in a sample piece produced by us, and presented to the Artist for his approval prior to beginning the project.In addition to needing to mill and test extremely precise, interlocking metal plates, each segment will need to be bolted to the concrete plaza, then a system of tension cables for each section will need to be installed and properly calibrated. This will allow the bean to sway with the wind and expand and contract safely with fluctuations in temperature. Although at the time of writing the sculpture is sitting approximately half-finished with the exposed opening covered in plywood, it looks like 56 Leonard will finally be finished.
Tucked at the tip of Michigan’s thumb is artist and architect Catie Newell’s latest and largest triumph, Secret Sky, a barn that marks where the landscape meets the sky. Located in Kinde, Michigan, eight miles south of Lake Huron’s expanse, a nearly doomed barn has been regenerated as public art. Newell executes a singular move—a simple slice through the barn—to reveal the passage of time, like passing clouds or the sunset. Slowly the architecture is revealed, as shape, form, and silhouette. Most of Newell’s work can be characterized as installation art. At this smaller-than-building scale, Newell obsessed over delicacy and attenuation meeting lightness and darkness. An architect by training, her work is often positioned within existing spaces to capture a moment in time, no matter how ephemeral the work itself is. With Secret Sky, her most permanent piece yet, the work is no longer transitory and the architecture encapsulates the moment. Once there, from the top of the drive-in approach, the simplicity of the site becomes evident. The barn sits isolated, unaccompanied by a farmhouse or silo. The untouched gambrel silhouette reminds you of where you are: the middle of nowhere, the rural Midwest. It’s a peaceful setting and really quite inconspicuous until you see the splitting of the barn. The slice carves an elongated passage that frames the sky and allows light to pour through, marking where one space becomes two. Once again Newell offers something recognizable cast in a new light. The barn has been surrendered as a gift to the sky. The integrity of the barn remains; the slice itself seems original to the 100-year-old structure. To create the inverted walls of the slice and patch the facades, Newell salvaged wood from a barn down the road that had blown over during Secret Sky's construction. She meticulously adjusted each board on-site to be just right, creating near-perfect seams and points, and evenly distributing qualities like knots, wood grain, and coloring to assure continuity. Although Newell is accustomed to working with robots as the Director of the Master of Science in Digital and Material Technologies at the University of Michigan, for this piece, Newell relied on intuition and hands-on precision rather than computation to achieve fidelity. A lot of work in the project went to modifying existing conditions like the foundation and the crumbling structure. The slope of the new, angled walls required experienced engineering with the help of John Gruber of Sheppard Engineering based in Troy, Michigan. Newell herself relaid the framing alongside countless volunteers day in and day out. Considering the barn no longer services large animals and or stores farm equipment, much of the structural detailing extends from a maximum 26 feet above to the dirt ground, taking up floor space. In 1955, the barn moved 300 feet south from its original location to a concrete foundation where columns were sat upon and the structure tied into. Secret Sky required removing part of the foundation and retransferring that structural load. With major beams cut away and a column removed, the repositioned structure now pins at ground level instead of up high for both the steel tension rods and the wooden compression members. The tension rods (for higher forces) pin to a concrete ballast 48 inches below ground, the same ballast the compression members pin to at grade. The final solution captures the forces the barn faces in its new configuration and wind loads. Here, Midwestern know-how has crafted a handsome assemblage that was finetuned for over two years until its completion. The north facade favors a grand view of the slice, as it stretches from an old barn door opening to a peak on the gambrel roof. When walking through the passage, a glimpse upward reveals the moment where the split occurs and another scene of the barn meeting the sky. The single-space barn has been reconfigured as a new enclosure. Though it has become two spaces, only the larger form is inhabitable. Where Newell’s earlier work referenced vanishing material and space, the permanence of Secret Sky challenges her work’s introversion at a greatly appreciated scale. The slice is oriented at an east-west angle, allowing the sunrise and sunset to pour in through the triangular frame. If you time it right, you can catch the sun blazing right in the middle. Solar panels on the roof (not yet installed) will power interior lighting to turn on at last light, illuminating the barn like a lantern glowing from within. Morning or evening, a golden glow will wash the grounds—the architecture as the lamp. Secret Sky was born out of a greater initiative to enliven derelict barns around the thumb, amping up tourism in the area through the arts. The barn was donated by the owner and commissioned by the Greater Port Austin Art & Placemaking. Secret Sky is the nonprofit’s third “barn art” project, adding to what could become a large sculpture garden sprinkled around the thumb of Michigan. Structural Engineer: John Gruber of Sheppard Engineering; Fabrication support and volunteer hours: etc Construction Services, Detroit.
Much of the work produced by Los Angeles-based sculptor Matt Johnson attempts to speak to both the fields of art and architecture by marrying the material language of the latter with the playfulness of the former. An untitled exhibition of his work currently on display at L.A. gallery Blum & Poe demonstrates the artist's ability to take seemingly banal elements familiar to the construction industry—traffic cones, cinder blocks, bricks, rebar—and reconfigure them into works that question balance, efficiency, bureaucracy, and the general feeling of safety we ascribe to the built environment. Johnson's fourth solo exhibition at Blum & Poe features eleven sculptures, each of which present fragile, precarious figures out of the most durable materials available in the building industry. This combination of materiality and precarity presented by Johnson recalls the work of modern and contemporary sculptors, including the spindly figures of Alberto Giacometti, the metal balancing acts of Alexander Calder, and the multimedia assemblages of Peter Fischli and David Weiss. Like those artists, Johnson employs few tricks to summon his materials into their seemingly impossible positions. “No illusions are cast,” the press release states, “the objects are carved actors on a set, executing their performances, restricted only by their painted, wooden, physical existence.” A few of the sculptures on display even manage to bring a sense of personality and narrative to the inert objects that make up their compositions. One sculpture, titled 1 block with 2 bricks and 2 bricks cantilevered on 1 bar, can be read as the embodiment of a millennia-long competition between clay and concrete in the building industry—or, speaking more generally, between two distinctly opposing methods of potentially arriving at the same final result. This and other pieces are, according to the gallery, “organized information, like subatomic particles, atoms and elements, molecules and compounds, glued by gravity, and magnetic polarity, surfing in a sea of electrical conductivity.” The exhibition will be on display until January 11, 2020.
In case you missed it, a banana duct-taped to a blank wall, that fruit whose peel has been the basis of so much slapstick comedy, sold for no less than $120,000 at Art Basel Miami Beach, the sun-soaked winter outpost of the Swiss art fair. Called Comedian, the sculpture—three editions available—was the creation of the Italian artist Maurizio Cattelan, who recently had another brush with mainstream press when his full-functioning 18 karat gold toilet, America, was stolen from Blenheim Palace in England less than two months ago. The banana attracted a great deal of attention at the fair, with people lining up to take selfies with the fruit mounted to the wall of the global mega gallery Perrotin. It also attracted, depending on your perspective, vandalism or critical intervention: The performance artist David Datuna ate the banana on Saturday. Comedian was taken down for the last day of the fair because of the disruption it was causing, after which someone used the opportunity to scrawl “EPSTIEN [SIC] DIDN’T KILL HIMSELF” in blood-red paint on the now-bare wall. It was promptly covered up. https://twitter.com/GiancarloSopo/status/1203875430803087367 While Datuna’s performance may appeal to some as a means of pointing out the relative valuelessness of the work, they would be missing the point. Of course Comedian is just a fruit and some household tape. Nobody is meant to believe that the materials are in-themselves valuable beyond their grocery store price points. What is sold to collectors is not duct tape and a banana, but rather a certificate, which presumably includes maintenance instructions. The inherent ephemerality of the fruit is part of the work: owners can change the banana whenever they see fit. Obviously anybody could make this work at home, that's not in dispute. What’s sold, supposedly, is an idea (and the right to resell it). That is to say, that it is not about the objects. Like much art of the past 100 years, which has included urinals, apples, and canned feces as high-value objects, the intention of art like Comedian is to question how value is produced in the context of art. The controversy, mainstream and art world press, and social media presence is presumably as much as part of the work as the banana mounted in almost painterly gesture by a diagonal strip of duct tape somewhere it doesn’t belong. Even if we were to take Comedian at face value, putting decay on display through constantly-rotting produce isn't a new idea, either. Comedian also references the history of Cattelan’s own practice. The 1999 A Perfect Day, a mainstay of art history classes, used a whole lot more tape to attach Cattelan’s gallerist Massimo De Carlo to the wall for an entire day. Now, 20 years later, with a title that suggests a person—maybe himself, maybe his gallerist—perhaps we can see this banana as a stand-in for the body. Or, depending on one's leanings, it might just be rendering all the art system’s actors (this writer included) as charlatans and jesters. Whoever the joke may be on, Comedian is at the very least an ironic critique of the art market. As Jason Farago points out in his "grudging defense" in the New York Times: “[Cattelan’s] entire career has been a testament to an impossible desire to create art sincerely, stunted here by money, there by his own doubts.” By asking so much money for an idea (successfully, at least one edition has sold) that unifies two cheap, common objects, and creating so much controversy along with it, Cattelan attempts to expose the ways value is generated in art, as well as issues of authorship. Of course, at a time of rising inequality and rising seas that threaten Miami Beach, one might not find it so funny and fairly see it as a further indictment of an art system awash in cash, a playground for the one percent. That's what Comedian has to tell us: it’s all a charade, fresh fruit and painted canvas and plain-old dollar bills alike. Regardless, Cattelan will surely be happy to take his 50 percent cut.