The Allure of Matter: Material Art from China at Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) (2 June 2019–5 January 2020) is an inter-generational show of 21 Chinese artists working from the 1980s to the present, including Ai Weiwei, Cai Guo-Qiang, Lin Tianmiao, Song Dong, He Xiangyu, Yin Xiuzhen, and Ma Qiusha.Staged on Level 2 of LACMA's Renzo...
When the London-born artist Thomas J Price graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Chelsea College of Arts in 2004, the school's college art prize was by no means his most notable accomplishment as an emerging artist. In 2001, Price presented his much-talked-about work Licked, a daring performance, later profiled on the BBC 4 television...
To coincide with Art Basel 2019, which opens to the public from 13 to 16 June, galleries and institutions across the city are presenting a range of stellar exhibitions. From Rebecca Horn at Museum Tinguely to Geumhyung Jeong at Kunsthalle Basel, here is a selection of what to see.William Kentridge, Dead Remus (2014–2016). Charcoal on found ledger...
Exhibition view: Chromo Sapiens, the Icelandic Pavilion at the 58th International Art Exhibition–la Biennale di Venezia (2019). Courtesy AnOther. Photo: Ugo Carmeni © Hrafnhildur Arnardóttir / Shoplifter.
The 58th edition of the Venice Biennale, May You Live in Interesting Times curated by Ralph Rugoff–from London’s very own Hayward Gallery–proves to be as interesting as its title promises. Venice is an easy city to get lost in, and it’s easy to see why Proust dubbed the city’s labyrinth of alleyways a network of 'innumerable slender capillary lines'. This is a living city, a water-bound body propped on ancient tree trunks that has supported innovative art since the festival’s conception in 1895. It may be small but the Italian island is a beating heart for creativity–it has been for years. Here are a few things to look out for this year if you find yourself lost in La Serenissima.
With a practice that encompasses painting, sculpture, performance and tapestry, French artist Laure Prouvost is perhaps most known for her immersive and non-linear film installations. Through an ongoing inquiry into language, Prouvost invites viewers into a world where boundaries are indefinite and reality and fantasy merge.
Translation—whether between languages or artistic mediums—and its resulting misunderstandings are recurring concerns in Prouvost's work. For instance, her seven-part film and installation work The Wanderer (2012) is an adaptation of British artist Rory Macbeth's 2009 German-English translation of Franz Kafka's The Metamorphosis (1915). Macbeth, who does not read German, translated the novella without a dictionary, resulting in a story that bears only the vaguest traces to its original. For The Wanderer, Prouvost first translated Macbeth's words into film, then film into sculpture in accompanying installations. One of the video's seven sequences was filmed in a London pub—an environment that the artist later recreated as an installation in the exhibition the wet wet wanderer (2017) at Witte de With Center for Contemporary Art in Rotterdam as a vodka bar with fountains spraying diluted ink, and white neon letters from Macbeth's translation written on the wall. Prouvost's version of the story also undergoes a process of mistranslation; Gregor Samsa, a travelling salesman in Kafka's story and a wanderer in Macbeth's, appears in The Wanderer as an alcoholic writer who writes with squid ink and works at an African hair salon.
In 2013, Prouvost was awarded the prestigious Turner Prize for Wantee, a film installation that demonstrates her flair for blurring the boundaries between fiction and reality. Originally created for the Schwitters in Britain exhibition at Tate (also 2013), Wantee derives its title from the German artist Kurt Schwitters' partner Edith Thomas, who had a habit of asking, 'Want tea?' In the video, the artist narrates the story of her grandparents in their English Lake District cottage. The film blurs fact and fiction as do many of Prouvost's works that include her grandparents; throughout her oeuvre, it remains ambiguous as to whether the two characters are real, semi-real or entirely fictitious. This film recalls, for example, how Prouvost's grandfather (who was apparently a friend of Schwitters and a less successful artist) dug a tunnel in order to get to Africa; one day, he disappeared down the hole, never to be seen again. In a recent interview with Ocula Magazine, Prouvost commented on the potential of fiction to strengthen reality: 'I was thinking...about whether or not fiction is an answer to reality. It kind of enhances reality or through art, this kind of emotional reality. It makes you question your own reality, so that your reality becomes fictional.'
For Prouvost, the same fictional narrative can be expanded and expressed in different ways. The apocryphal grandmother from Wantee, for instance, returns in Grandma's Dream (2013), a film montage that visualises her daydreams. Prouvost also attributes to the same character the sculpture Forward looking teapot by Grandma (2017)—a whimsical glass teapot with an extraordinarily long spout that curves like an elephant's nose.
Through her installations, Prouvost seeks to create environments in which her viewers may lose themselves, forming their own, individual interpretations of her work. Swallow (2013), for example—an immersive film installation shown at Whitechapel Gallery in London—particularly aims to attract the spectator by interlacing snippets of pleasurable images. Close-ups of a freshly plucked flower, birds, bathing women, ripe raspberries and the blue sky, among other images, construct a visually and aurally stimulating sequence. The narration, voiced by the artist, addresses the audience directly—'This image is undressing you... You drink this image...'—further encouraging and anticipating our consumption of the film.
The female body (or parts of it) is another recurrent theme in Prouvost's humorous, imaginary world. In collaboration with CHART Art Fair in 2017, the artist placed posters, billboards and banners depicting parts of the female nude—mostly breasts and bottoms—throughout Copenhagen. Paired with phrases such as 'We are coming out' and 'We are staring at you', the series displaced the voyeuristic or male gaze historically associated with female nudity in art. 'The Hidden Paintings Grandma Improved' (2017–ongoing) reimagines this series and similarly depicts parts of the female body set against a black backdrop, with their respective titles such as Pushing Forward and This Is Not A Minimalist Painting written in white capital letters. In her interview with Ocula Magazine, Prouvost revealed that the artworks are a result of her grandmother amending her late grandfather's paintings of breasts with text, a gesture that references the history of scarce attention given to female artists unlike their male counterparts.
Prouvost graduated with a BFA from Central Saint Martins, London, in 2002 and an MFA from Goldsmiths, University of London, in 2010. She has held solo exhibitions at Palais de Tokyo, Paris (2018); Lisson Gallery New York (2018); Walker Art Center, Minneapolis (2017); Red Brick Art Museum, Beijing (2016); Grand Palais, Paris (2014); Whitechapel Gallery, London (2013); Frieze London (2011, 2010); and Tate Britain, London (2010), among others. Prouvost's work has also featured in international exhibitions including the Baltic Triennial (2018); Kyiv Biennale (2015); Taipei Biennial (2014); and Art Basel (2014). She will represent France at the 58th Venice Biennale in 2019. The artist lives and works in London and Antwerp.
Best known for his large-scale, grid-like paintings, artist Sean Scully has long been a proponent of abstraction. Desiring to rescue the mode from remoteness and re-inject it with exalted feeling, in a 2016 interview with Ocula Magazine, Scully explained his devotion to the style, saying, 'in my paintings, I don't paint space. I paint things. I paint the stripe as if it's a kind of life and death.'
Born in Dublin, Scully grew up south of London and studied painting at Croydon School of Art, London, and Newcastle University, where he was inspired by the colour field paintings of Mark Rothko and the minimalist abstraction of Bridget Riley. In the 1970s, he moved to America for a graduate fellowship at Harvard and later settled in New York, where he still lives part-time, in addition to Bavaria. His status as an immigrant and outsider has long been an important part of his philosophy about life and art.
Scully's earliest paintings, made in the UK, were inspired by the bright colours and wild stripes of Moroccan textiles. However, following his move to America in the 1970s, Scully simplified his motif and reigned in his palette. His paintings from that era to the present day are characterised by their compositions that are made up of several rectangular or square sections painted in various colours—often deep, rich and stormy or autumn-toned hues. Several thickly brushed layers of oil paint on each section result in illusions of luminescence or movement, with a dynamic surface texture often compared to skin.
Reflecting his upbringing in working-class neighbourhoods and his adult life in cities, Scully's works from the 1980s were inspired by conflict, discord, haphazard urban planning and human competition for survival—weighty themes reflected in the paintings' sombre palettes and cramped, brick-like compositions. While in such early works Scully used tape to delineate the clean, structured sections on his canvases, he later abandoned that hard-edge aesthetic and began painting more loosely, allowing the shapes to breathe and show evidence of their making. In Battered Earth (1988), for example, patches of cream-coloured rectangles belie their earthy underlying layers, as do the blood-coloured sections with the umber paint beneath.
Showing a further loosening up of technique, Scully's major 'Wall of Light' series works (1998–ongoing) are first drawn out with charcoal stuck to the end of a long stick before being filled in with paint. The series begun when the artist was travelling in Mexico and was struck by the play of light on Mayan stone walls. Indeed, the combination of vertical and horizontal bars in Scully's paintings are often compared to architectural elements; the sections are said to resemble Stonehenge-like structures.
While he mostly works with oil on canvas, Scully also uses watercolour, pastels and aquatints, as well as painting directly on aluminium—a support that enhances the thickness of the oil paint and its illusion of emitting light. His recent sculptures borrow the same compositions as his paintings; Air (2018) is a large cube made of multi-coloured recinto, marble and cantera, assembled in blocks that create asymmetrical grid patterns when viewed from each angle.
Scully has been named as a Turner Prize nominee twice: in 1989 and again in 1993.
The forest and the house are two psychologically-charged domains in the Western imaginary, both ruled by the play of light and shadow. When we can't see the far edge of the trees, a forest becomes an unfathomable mystery, and its secrets take on a more threatening character with the fall of night. The house, on the other hand, is the most intimate...
There are hundreds of exhibitions in Venice during the Biennale. Alongside the main exhibition in the Giardini and Arsenale, there are 90 national presentations, many in nearby pavilions in the Giardini and in spaces around the Arsenale, but also dotted throughout Venice. Then there are the official collateral exhibitions in museums and galleries,...
When I became an art critic in 1981 one of the first artists I met and wrote about was Sean Scully. At that time I was teaching philosophy in Pittsburgh and he, having recently moved to New York, was as yet without a dealer. We are almost the same age, and to some extent we grew up together. When we first met, he had just made the transition from...
The secluded London studio of Shirazeh Houshiary foxes my Uber driver entirely. But I shouldn't be surprised that the Iranian-born artist is off-grid. Among a heap of volumes that litter her studio floor is Reality is Not What it Seems by Carlo Rovelli, the quantum physicist whose luminous texts explain why Newtonian laws of space and time can only...
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