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The home studio of Hanne Darboven

27 Jul

 

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This exhibition assembles a broad range of her artworks and a highly diverse mélange of objects (toys, mannequins, musical instruments, promotional items, souvenirs from different corners of the earth…) that Darboven amassed in her family home in Am Burgberg, where she lived and worked her whole life (apart from a brief two-year stint in New York in the mid sixties). More than a studio in use, it is akin to the Cabinets of Curiosities or Wonder Rooms that proliferated in the 16th and 17th centuries.

Hanne Daboven at Museum Reina Sofia, Madrid, photos by David Maroto

Meschac Gaba: Museum of Contemporary African Art

2 Nov

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Meschac Gaba has claimed that the Museum of Contemporary African Art is ‘not a model… it’s only a question.’ It is temporary and mutable, a conceptual space more than a physical one, a provocation to the Western art establishment not only to attend to contemporary African art, but to question why the boundaries existed in the first place.

Before leaving the Rijksakademie in 1997 Gaba presented the first part of his project, the Draft Room. Prefiguring many of the conceptual concerns and the aesthetic approach that Gaba would develop in later rooms, the Draft Room contained an unusual assortment of handmade, found and altered objects. There were several works made from decommissioned banknotes, as well as heaps of ceramic foods that reflected his astonishment at the excessive overproduction in Europe.

Over the next five years further rooms would appear, one by one, in exhibitions and museums internationally. Some rooms, such as the Library, Museum Restaurant and Museum Shop, are familiar elements of most contemporary Western art museums. However, by placing these traditionally subsidiary activities at the heart of his project, Gaba calls into question the nature and function of the museum and our relationship to it. By supplementing these sections with others, such as the Humanist Space, Marriage Room, Game Room and Music Room, Gaba’s museum is a space not only for the contemplation of objects, but for sociability, study and play in which the boundaries between everyday life and art, and observation and participation are blurred.

The Art and Religion Room brings together religious artefacts and everyday objects arranged side by side on a large, cross-shaped wooden structure. Referencing the long relationship between art and religion across cultures, this room also mimics contemporary Benin, where Gaba explains most people are poly-religious: ‘Catholics brought Christianity, but for my ancestors Catholicism and Voodoo are not different… You will see sculptures of angels, of Jesus Christ and Mami Wata all in the same house.’

While Gaba broaches many serious questions in his Museum of Contemporary African Art, his approach is in equal parts sincere and playful. On 6 October 2000, invited guests and ordinary visitors to the Stedelijk Museumin Amsterdam witnessed the marriage of Meschac Gaba to Alexandra van Dongen. Well-wishers brought presents, which, together with the bride’s wedding dress, veil, shoes and handbag, their marriage certificate, guest book and wedding photographs and video, feature in the Marriage Room. Here art and life are indistinguishable and the relationship between viewer, art object and artist is reappraised.

The desire, in the artist’s words, ‘to share my fantasy’ continues throughout many of the twelve rooms. In the Salon visitors are invited to play the Adji computer game, an adaptation of the traditional African game Awélé. In the Architecture Room the public can build their own imaginary museum using wooden blocks, and in the Game Room gallery goers are able to play with sliding puzzle tables, reconfiguring the flags of Chad, Angola, Algeria, Senegal, Seychelles and Morocco.

While interactivity is a crucial part of this project, collaboration is equally so. Other artists have contributed objects to the Museum Shop, and have prepared and hosted dinners in the Museum Restaurant; the role of curators is enshrined in the Library with a ‘curators’ table’, and in the Architecture Room there is a ladder with colourful plexiglass treads inscribed with the names of the institutions and organisers who have presented Gaba’s project.

When the last-completed section, the Humanist Space, was first presented in 2002 at Documenta 11 in Kassel, visitors could use the gold bicycles to navigate the city. It was a fitting culmination to the Museum of Contemporary African Art, extending its reach out of the museum and into the street.

Kerryn Greenberg

The Stein Salon Was The First Museum of Modern Art

2 Nov

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By JAMES R. MELLOW

“I always wanted to be historical,” Gertrude Stein announced shortly before her death, “from almost a baby on, I felt that way about it. . .” And, for the better part of her life, she was. In the beginning, in the early nineteen-hundreds, she shared the honors with her brother Leo. The Stein ménage in Paris (a ménage à trois consisting of Gertrude, Leo, and Gertrude’s lifetime companion Alice B. Toklas) was a Mecca for the modern- minded. The principal attraction was the collection of Cézanne oils and watercolors, the early pictures by Matisse and Picasso, the paintings by Renoir, Manet, Gauguin and Toulouse-Lautrec, which she and Leo had had the funds and the foresight to buy. The walls of their atelier were hung to the ceiling with now-famous paintings, the double doors of the dining room were lined with Picasso sketches. In the early decades of the century, hundreds of visitors flocked to the display of vanguard art: many came to scoff, but several went away converted. It was a brilliant scene–and a historic one. For all intents and purposes, Leo and Gertrude Stein had inaugurated, at 27 Rue de Fleurus, the first museum of modern art.

The remains of the pioneer collection–a cache of 38 paintings, drawings and collages by Pablo Picasso and nine works by his colleague, the Cubist painter Juan Gris–are in the process of being sold by the heirs of the Stein estate for a reported $6.5-million. The buyer has not yet been announced, but it is believed that a trustee–or a syndicate of trustees–of the Museum of Modern Art in New York, has been actively engaged in the secret negotiations. Although spokesmen for the museum have refused to comment, the names most often mentioned in connection with the sale are William S. Paley, president of the museum; David and Nelson Rockefeller, chairman and member of the board, respectively; and John Hay Whitney, the board’s vice chairman. The disposition of the collection after the sale is not known, but it is expected that the museum will mount an exhibition that will bring together the purchased works and many of the major paintings once owned by the Steins that have since passed into other private and public collections. The exhibition would be fitting–and perhaps final–tribute to a salon that made history. Viewers in the United States would have an opportunity not only to see the once- controversial pictures, but to catch a glimpse of the Stein salon as it existed during its most brilliant period.

On a typical Saturday evening, 60 years ago, one would have found Gertrude Stein at her post in the atelier, garbed in brown corduroy, sitting in a high-backed Renaissance chair, her legs dangling, next to the big cast-iron stove that heated the chilly room. A few feet away, one could hear Leo expounding to a group of visitors, his views on modern art. Among the crowd of Hungarian painters, French intellectuals, English aristocrats and German students, one might pick out the figures of Picasso and his mistress, Fernande Olivier (Picasso looking like an intense young bootblack; Fernande, almond-eyed and attractive). The man with the reddish beard and spectacles, looking like a German professor, would be Matisse. Next to him might be the poet Guillaume Apollinaire and his clinging friend, the painter Marie Laurencin. The tall figure would be that of Georges Braque, whose superior stature among the smaller cubists made him the official hanger- of-pictures in the atelier. In the American contingent, the familiars would be the painters Patrick Henry Bruce and Alfred Maurer, both of them early advocates of the modernist vision and both, at the same time, followers of Matisse. It was Alfred, as Gertrude recalled, who held up lighted matches so visitors could see that the Cézannes were, indeed, finished paintings because they were framed.

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Read also about Salon de Fleurus

Second House

27 May

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SECOND HOUSE is perfectly camouflaged in its surroundings—at first glance, it appears to be an utterly ordinary single story ranch house. Yet when approaching it from the long hillside driveway, the overgrown grass strategically obscures the identity of who or what lies within. Like so many other domestic buildings in the area, SECOND HOUSE looks kind of decrepit or unfinished (passersby must wonder: did the owner run out of money and abandon construction?). Its façade is missing—only a thin, silvery skin made of insulation panels covers the exterior. An abandoned 1973 Dodge Barracuda is parked out back, quietly rusting in the tall grass; an inside-out tire planter adorns the completely unlandscaped front yard. The inside seems as unfinished as the outside. The walls and ceilings are partially painted, leaving the spackled drywall joints visible in many spots. Plywood sheets cover the floors. Exposed fluorescent tubes provide an even, cold light in the five rooms of the house. While the rawness of the interior décor suggests an uninhabited space, SECOND HOUSE is far from empty. The objects and images sheltered within its walls mirror the landscape outside: it’s pure Americana (that has been “stolen,” cropped, and edited by Richard Prince).

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More links:

Richard Prince’s page

Parket 72 – 2005

Guggenheim Museum to acquire RICHARD PRINCE’S SECOND HOUSE, 2005

Lightning Devastates Guggenheim-Acquired “Second House” by Richard Prince

27 Gnosis

19 Mar

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27 Gnosis by Michael Portnoy is inspired by the quest for a philosophical or taxonomic language which gained steam in the 17th Century at the hands of Leibniz, Dalgarno, Wilkins and others. The idea was to develop a language based on the reduction of all knowledge into an “alphabet of human thought”, comprised of irreducible semantic primitives or radicals, in some cases represented by symbols or characters, the combination of which would produce any possible idea. A feature of these languages distinct from any natural language is that within each word is revealed that word’s place within the entire taxonomy of genera, difference and species (ex: frenzi, a table game, is a type of game (renzil), which is a type of rest (renzi), which is the opposite of motion (enzi), which is a type of action, etc. etc.) The game borrows structurally from these languages’ ontologies as well as elements of contemporary conlangs (invented languages) such as aUI, Ro, Ilaksh and Ygede.

Performed at The Kitchen in March 2013

Video – 27 Gnosis by Michael Portnoy

Frieze blog

Henry Darger’s Book of Weather Reports

31 Jan

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Work on view at SeaPrt Museum in New York, photo. by David Maroto

From December 31, 1957 until December 31, 1967, the artist and writer Henry Darger (1892–1973) kept a series of six ring-binder notebooks with almost daily entries on the weather in his native Chicago. On the outside cover of the first book, Darger describes the project, with encyclopedic enthusiasm, as a “book of weather reports on temperatures, fair cloudy to clear skies, snow, rain, or summer storms, and winter snows and big blizzards—also the low temperatures of severe cold waves and hot spells of summer.” 

Cabinet Magazine about Darger’s books

Laurie Simmons

25 Jan

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Interview with Laurie Simmons in Dirty Magazine