Tuesday, September 22, 2009
A recent trip to the SF MOMA yielded my initial discovery of one of the most important sculptors living today, German artist, Katharina Fritsch. Her sculptures consist of simple outlines and bold use of color. Her figures and objects are reminiscent of fairy tales, fables and myths and have a way of imprinting on one’s mind.
When I walked into the room that contained her work, I saw four circles of 224 big, black, plastic poodles arranged in tight, densely packed rings, surround an infant poised on an eight-pointed gold star. The points of the star created eight radiating axes by which the poodles were aligned. The result was a stunning visual play of repetitive patterns in space.
Fritsch's intention is to lodge an indelible visual image in the mind of the viewer, indissolubly fusing experience and memory. Although some viewers may have found the poodles threatening, they appeared to be on alert watch, guarding over the child. And despite the ominous atmosphere, a strange undercurrent of humor is present in the quirky oddness of both the poodles and the baby.
Fritsch chose the poodle as a dog that is cute and beguiling but can also be aggressive and mean. Soon after completing the piece, she recalled that a poodle appears in the story of Faust, retold in a nineteenth-century novel by Johann Wolfgang Goethe that is known to every German schoolchild. While out walking, Faust sees a black poodle and brings it home, unknowingly inviting the devil into his study. The baby suggests the innocence of children at birth, untouched by evil and misfortune. As it begins the journey of life, it must face the tensions of civilization and the potential for corruption.
The attention that Fritsch pays to the surfaces of the sculptures, and to their color, scale, and the space in which they are presented creates a strange tension between the familiar and the uncanny. A life-size elephant is anatomically exact down to the last fold of skin, but painted an unearthly blue-green.
A man, tucked up in bed, is confronted by a giant black mouse that squats on his chest. The effect of giving solid reality to the visionary and fantastic is unsettling. It is a relationship that Fritsch is keen to explore.
'I find the play between reality and apparition very interesting', she says, 'I think my work moves back and forth between these two poles.'
Her sculptures open up dark areas of our collective consciousness and confront deep-seated anxieties, although this is often tempered by humor. Their iconography is drawn from many different sources, including Christianity, art history and folklore, without being reducible to a single source or meaning.
In her working process, Fritsch combines the techniques of traditional sculpture with those of industrial production. She uses models to create moulds, from which the final sculptures are cast in materials such as plaster, polyester and aluminum.
Many are made as editions, meaning that multiple casts are taken from one mould. Full of allusions to nightmares, spectres and symbolic figures, Fritsch's work gives substance and weight to the fleeting products of our imagination.
Her work has been the subject of exhibitions at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Tate Modern, and theMuseum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, and is in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art, New York; the Philadelphia Museum of Art; and the Staatsgalerie Stuttgart. She is represented by the Matthew Marks Gallery in New York. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Matthew_Marks_Gallery
Saturday, September 19, 2009
Australian visionary artist, Emma Hack, has made a name for herself as one of the most creative and innovative artists in the world. The phenomenal thing about her work is the medium she chooses. She doesn’t work on canvas or clay; her medium is the beautiful form of the human body.
She started out as a makeup artist, hairdresser and face painter of children. Her talents have continued to evolve over the last two decades and now result in the mature and fascinating form she works in today. Hack applies paint directly to models’ bodies and match up perfectly with their background, acting as a kind of camouflage. The bodies are not entirely hidden in the patterns; rather, they become part of the pattern and allow the background to flow even more beautifully.
The wallpapers featured are by the legendary designer Florence Broadhurst, licensed specifically for Hack’s use. The intricate designs can sometimes take up to 19 hours to apply. When finished, the model’s body is at once a continuation of the design and a completely unique work of art on its own. The designs accentuate, rather than hide, the fluid beauty and grace of the human form.
The wallpaper paintings began with Emma doing the painting herself and a photographer making the images. However, as she has continued to grow as an artist, Emma has taken over the photography as well. She has experimented with adding creatures and other types of designs in to her paintings, adding a new element to the concept of her amazing body art.
Although most of her subjects have been female, Emma has also experimented with painting the male form. The wallpaper designs she uses with the male models are necessarily different; they highlight the strength of the male form and the very different curvatures of the male body. She calls all of her models her “muses,” and her affection for the art and for the human form is apparent in every painting. She manages to make the bodies of her muses look infinitely inviting, fragile and soft without once over-sexualizing them.
Emma’s work has been shown and celebrated all around the world, winning her several awards and establishing a firm following for the budding artist. She has done many series other than the Wallpapers, including “Cowscape” which features stunning paintings on cows. Her inspiration, she says, comes from nature and all of the diverse cultures of the world.
- ► 2010 (21)
- ▼ 2009 (56)