Meret Oppenheim 1913-1985
This is a retrospective with no dialogue or captions but that clearly shows Oppenheim’s astonishing range of styles. Some of the paintings/sculptures/assemblages crop up in discussions or videos below. The upload is dated 2021 and seems to relate to a 2022 exhibition tour:
“Titled “Mon Exposition” (My Exhibition), the show features some 200 key works on paper, objects, sculptures and paintings. It also provides an insight into the world’s largest museum collection of works by Meret Oppenheim, which is held by the Kunstmuseum Bern. Bern is the first stop of the exhibition and the only one in Europe. The retrospective show at Kunstmuseum Bern runs until February 13, 2022. After that, the exhibition travels to Houston (The Menil Collection, 25.03. – 18.09.2022), and then New York (The Museum of Modern Art, 30.10.2022 – 04.03.2023).”
This cheekiness is evident in the letters discussed in the video below, as is her sharp intellect, wit, and perceptiveness.
While much of this 2013 video is in German, the presenter – Lisa Wenger, Meret Oppenheim’s niece – also uses substantial amounts of English and speaks, between readings, with eloquent informality and what I would like to think is some of the same wicked wit as her Aunt. I can thoroughly identify with her rejection of books or exhibitions specialising in ‘women’s art’ and see it as entirely consistent with her longstanding commitment to feminism. The parallels today include football which carries a modifier – women’s – only when it is not being played by men. This is slowly being corrected and at least one BBC radio station talks now of women’s football and men’s football, and extends this to many other sports. Reflecting this back to Oppenheim’s objection, it would almost certainly have been the case that exhibitions featuring paintings by men – which was most of them – would have been ‘art’ exhibitions, while those featuring women were exhibitions of ‘women’s art’. I have a similar issue with women’s prizes in literature, while also accepting that where men have held all the power, it is men who have inevitably opened the doors.
This again is in German but because of what has gone before and the vestiges of supplementary German from 1966, there is rudimentary of connection. The voiceover is also an absolute antidote to gear-crashing, nails-on-metal, back of the throat squawking that has lately become a fashion – deep and mellifluous, I could listen to it all day.
Vivien Zhang – 1990-
“I am engrossed in the conflict between the digital and physical, and that’s precisely why I still want to create illusions with the brush and paint, and embrace all the imperfections of doing something by hand. Painters have a real love affair with their materials – I should show you my collection of brushes. I’m not nearly ready to put all that away yet!”
There is some overlap between the digital and the physical, or maybe purposeful integrative glitching going on in Zhang’s work. She deliberately pixelates with paint and refers to the contrast of experience between viewing on-screen and in person. The is repetition and symmetry alongside disconcerting ‘faults’.
David Mabb 1959-
Handy discussion of copyright and appropriation in this 2011 video. Dead for 70 years? Knock yourself out. Less than that or not dead at all? Make sure your work doesn’t ‘substantially look like’ anyone else’s. Mabb talks about narrowly avoiding breach of copyright by asking permission from a publisher to exhibit paintings that were painted-over photographs ‘just to check’ and not only having it refused but being advised that the gallery would be prosecuted if it showed them ‘for sale’. An art lawyer gives succinct advice which includes being copyright aware.
Video dated 2014. Mabb really likes his William Morris! In one room of this exhibition, he’s taken a Morris book which he says is very backward-looking in terms of its sources of inspiration, and overlaid it with images from a Russian book which exemplifies the new constructionist era that was keen to cast away the past entirely. In another, there is much more delicate work which uses Morris patterns from his wallpaper books and picks out detail within squares or circles. But unlike a kind of tondo tunnel, some of the detail leaks out over the boundary. Complex and intricate.
Mirco Marchetti, video maker? No relevant videos.
Bernd (1931-2007) and Hilla Becher (1934-2015)
“German photographer Hilla Becher discusses her interest in capturing the changing industrial landscape on film, a project she, with and her husband and collaborator, Bernd, began in 1959. Their seemingly straightforward black-and-white pictures of water towers, coal tipples, gas holders, and other structures are in fact products of the Bechers’ radical, decades-long careers at the intersection of documentary photography, design, and Conceptual art. This video was made shortly before her passing in 2015.”
Uploaded 2021. Stark but soft photographs of industrial structures. They avoided shadows and often organised their subject matter – water towers, gasometers for instance – in typographies; like insects or botanical specimens. Much of the content is no longer present and so, as they would wish, their work is a work of memory. Context is the prevalence of surrealist art at the time.
“Spend a few minutes diving into a work of art at the Modern in short videos narrated by docents. This week, docent Effie Quattrociocchi discusses Hilla and Bernd Becher’s series of Water Tower photographs.”
I had to look up ‘docent‘; I’d begun to assume it was a sophisticated AI programme but no:
“Museum docent is a title given in the United States of America to people who serve as guides and educators for the institutions they serve, usually as a volunteer position.” Wikipedia.
Uploaded 2020 by Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth; I wish there were a spark of excitement in this scripted narration. It reminds me of those wildlife documentaries where the narrator is an actor and not David Attenborough. This is information-dense so worth watching if only for that.
Video uploaded 2017 and describes an exhibition: “Olivier Renaud-Clément talks about the exhibition ‘Bernd and Hilla Becher’ at Hauser & Wirth Zürich, 14 October – 22 December 2017″. It features many of the photos shown in the previous video. Described as conceptual, minimalist art.
Yayoi Kusama 1929-
https://www.tate.org.uk/whats-on/tate-modern/exhibition/yayoi-kusama-infinity-mirror-rooms. This exhibition is current – 2022.
I ifnd these stunning, but then I am a magpie – always drawn to the lights and the bling! Kusama’s work is not bling though; for me, she has an imagination that transcends ordinariness and draws on some of her own complex history and thought processes. Those phallic sofas, for instance; and the sea of them in one of these rooms. That she is reportedly living in a psychiatric establishment (e.g. Cath Pound, BBC Culture, 2018) leaving daily to go to her studio, is less surprising than it might be. I imagine she feels safe there.
Jim Lambie 1964 –
This hurts my eyes and if I were there, I would be flat on my face in minutes!
Pablo Bronstein 1977-
This is just delightful – drawing, movement, dance, design, music. He discusses Baroque dance and style, queer culture, voguing, and kabuki. Everything about him and it is refreshingly graceful and unpretentious. Dated 2016.
From 2009, this concerns the exhibition “Pablo Bronstein at The Met,” which was on view at the Met October 6, 2009. It is a stilted Q&A with uneven sound so that the interviewer’s voice is much louder than Bronstein’s. Part of the interview discusses Bronstein’s architectural drawings and part his use of Baroque dance/movement in a large space at the Tate. First time I’ve heard the term ‘architectural walk’! Bronstein is again articulate and unpretentious.
Uploaded 2012: this is “Pablo Bronstein’s performance of Constantinople Kaleidoscope captured live Thursday, 26 April, 2012 at Tate Modern.” I can’t tell if he is a performer here, the Director/choreographer in the red and white striped costume or whoever it is telling everyone else what to do and how to move. [I think not the last, the accent doesn’t sound like him].There are many mirrors being moved by many performers and everyone in the room – film crew included – comes into view. It feels like a class or rehearsal rather than a performance but perhaps that’s the point – exposing the bones of the art.
The Q&A sorts this out – Pablo is the striped dancer.
Eva Hess 1936-1970
“Eva Hesse (January 11, 1936 – May 29, 1970) was a German-born American sculptor known for her pioneering work in materials such as latex, fiberglass, and plastics. She is one of the artists who ushered in the postminimal art movement in the 1960s.” From the Tate site but originally from Wikipedia.
“Practice being stupid”, “Just DO”. Sol LeWitt’s letter to Eva Hess in 1965.
These look to me like eviscerated lengths of bowel and it’s a reference made also by the discussants, Beth Harris and Steven Zucker, although they are able to relate it to Hesse’s experience of losing members of her family to Nazism which led to her mother taking her own life. That trauma, separation at the age of three and subsequent permanent loss, must have had a lasting impact on her thinking and her internal emotional environment. Hesse died of a brain tumour in 1970.
Video uploaded 2018. Hesse seems to be taking LeWitt’s advice and working for herself on her own terms, saying she will ‘paint against the rules’. That feels very right, to me. Rules are for roads, and how you behave in society, not for artistic endeavour.
I’m not sure about the mirrors and multiples in this selection although there are some, but the breadth of originality is extraordinary. My personal stand-out works though, come from Kusama and Bernstein.