The rainy winter season is fast approaching here in New Zealand. Perhaps this explains my current preoccupation with colour. I want to hold on to the brilliant, crisp hues of summer just a tad longer, before we sink into dreary-grey days and darkness at 5pm. Hence my fixation with Matthew Brandt’s Lakes and Reservoirs photographs—a series of 29 large scale c-prints taken at different North American lakes. The landscapes vary significantly in appearance: fragmented, warped and washed out, speckled with galaxies of light, the colours range from vivid psychedelic hues to Turner-esque dark, moody tones.
The reason for their corroded appearance lies in Matthew Brandt’s process. The yearning for forgotten craft techniques and slow modes of making has manifested itself in all corners of the creative sphere, including photography. After developing and printing the image, Brandt has soaked each one in a solution of water collected from the lake photographed. The poetic gesture has transpired in a selection of mystical, painterly imagery. Brandt involves the aid of nature at several stages of the photographic process, not only using sunlight but also embedding a material part of the subject in the final print. This approach elevates the photograph’s status to that of an individual object, rather than the ephemeral pixels we are accustomed to seeing in the digital space. Lakes and Reservoirs are huge in size and need to experienced in real life to be properly engulfed by their brilliance.
Matthew Brandt is currently exhibiting three different series of work at Yossi Milo Gallery in New York, collectively titled Excavations. These works are strikingly different in appearance, but all share the same kind of direct material relationship with their subject matter. Experimenting with several printing processes, such as heliography and lithography, Brandt has incorporated materials such as dust and tar. He has played with more controversial additions in the past, including cocaine in Night Skies and bodily fluids in Portraits. Have a good look through his intriguing body of work here.
I feel like there are a few exciting ‘firsts’ at this years Salone del Mobile. We featured Tom Dixon’s debut show at Salone on Saturday, and today, it’s Sarah Lucas’ first foray into furniture.
Sarah Lucas is a British artist who’s famous for her suggestive sculptures, photography and collage work. Often using found objects and mass produced materials, Lucas’ works are curious things when you’re in front of them. They’re confronting, concerning and well, just a bit bloody unnerving. There’s a blatant approach in Lucas’ practice that although tells it how it is, doesn’t leave the viewer with nothing to discover by themselves.
Sarah Lucas Furniture at Sadie Coles HQ presents a selection of bench seats, room dividers, chairs and side tables designed by Lucas in collaboration with the London Art Workshop. Using pre-cast concrete breeze blocks and MDF, Lucas has a created a collection that is just as blatant and confronting as her artwork. These materials, do in fact, stem from the artwork she produces as they are the materials that Lucas uses to creates her display plinths from. Here, the displayer of work has become the work. Solid, bold and heavy, the undervalued supporter has finally taken it’s rightful place ahead of the artwork itself.
The collection, which is all signed and dated, is interestingly referential to movements both in the art and furniture worlds with both contemporary and post modern artists and designers being referenced. The gridded, brutalist range reminds you of Donald Judd or of Karl Andre, or of the many architects who incorporated pre-molded concrete into their work. Is it a collection to snuggle up on and watch a movie? Probably not. But is it a collection that makes us stand back and think? Well, it probably is, and surely that’s not a bad thing. ‘Thinking’ aside however, what I do like about the collection is it’s unexpected aesthetic appeal, something Lucas herself commented on as being “surprisingly stylish“. I reckon I could easily live with one of these pieces in the right setting. Getting it there, or up the stairs?! Hmmm, well that part might be a bit tricky.
Salone del Mobile, it’s nearly done and dusted! But we’ve got one more highlight tomorrow.
Time is obviously of no concern to photographer Lucas Foglia. Frontcountry, a remarkable monograph detailing the lives of those from some of America’s most isolated regions, was undertaken over a period of ten years. This intense immersion and investigation into his subjects, which includes building real relationships with the communities he’s photographing, is surely one of the reasons why his images capture a depth and an honesty that documentary photography can sometimes miss. That and a killer eye for recording a moment means that this body of work can be described as nothing but exceptional.
Frontcountry refers to the first row of houses that you arrive at after travelling through the abandoned countryside. Foglia, who grew up on a small farm in the state of New York, chose to shoot throughout Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas and Wyoming, some of the least populated regions in the United States. His series records the people living in the midst of a mining boom that is transforming the American West. Like Kevin O’Connell who I wrote on a few weeks back, Foglia adopts a uncritical eye and shows us the brutality and the humanity that is found in this tough terrain. Life is hard here, but personalities and communities are strong. It’s the success of recording this combination that makes the whole series so captivating, I could’ve put up another ten images that are equally as engaging as these. One of my favorites, ‘Tommy Trying to Shoot Coyotes, Big Springs Ranch, Oasis, Nevada’, show’s a toppling Tommy with a fully loaded gun just before his fall. The timing is perfect, the pose is incredible and the composition couldn’t be better. The same attributes are found in ‘Soccer Practice’ below Tommy. It’s the same perfect moment but captured against brilliant colour and a stark white background. It’s exceptional.
Frontcountry has just been published as a book by Nazraeli Press and is available here. I imagine the complete monograph will be in the full edition, but in the meantime if you want to see a few more, and I really do suggest that you do, then head to Foglia’s site where you can slowly make your way through this remarkable series.
Last year she won the Silver Lion at the 55th Venice Biennale for her video piece Grosse Fatigue—an attempt at retelling the creation of the universe in 13 minutes through rhythmic spoken word and a Mac desktop screen full of shifting browser windows. Camille Henrot plunders Western history, mythology, religious texts and science to blend them together into a narrative accompanied by images and videos she created, many taken from her fellowship at the Smithsonian Institution, with some footage found on the internet.
Her most recent exhibition Pale Fox, at the Chisenhale Gallery in London, is a development of the video work, or perhaps the debris of objects and references she gathered while working on Grosse Fatigue. The overarching themes of order and chaos, the origins of the world as we know it and the systems we’ve developed to catalogue it, such as museology and historical records, are being explored here. Henrot blends Western perspectives and indigenous mythology, tribal objects and beliefs, in the way that questions not only creation but knowledge itself—what it can be, where it comes from and how it can be used. The exhibition includes a myriad of objects: there are stacks of National Geographic magazines, modernist sculpture, African figurines, digital photo frames, ink drawings, Henrot’s bronze sculptures, photographs…All this is pulled together with the help of the undulating metal display system which hugs the walls of the gallery and the incredible ultramarine blue walls and carpet.
While we can pull out some narratives and thematic threads in this work, there is no strong statement being made here, no loud message the artist is trying to communicate. It seems a documentation of Camille Henrot’s own search for meaning in our contemporary information jam-packed times, and a reflection of the ways in which we navigate and archive the world—with multiple tabs open, dubious sources and short attention spans. I wish I could get to London to see the installation, it is up until 13 April for those who can!
Photographs: Andy Keate. © ADAGP
At first glance the sculptures of Li Hongbo seem cold and antiquated. They exude a solidity that we normally associate with marble and the classical genre. These objects from his current exhibition titled Tools of Study at the Klein Sun Gallery are familiar, yet remain impenetrable in their static state. And then, they move, and bend, and stretch, air seeps into small crevices and they assume a new life form, one that is vastly different from the viewer’s original assumption that these are indeed made of an immovable substance.
Hongbo uses paper, thousands upon thousands of interlocking stacks of paper that are carved into pieces such as Bust of David, 2012 (top images). Recognizable masterpieces take on a startling personality as eyes widen and necks elongate. Oddly I’m reminded of aliens taking over human bodies, or something like it anyway! I’m marveling at the textural surface achieved in each of the busts, it’s flawless.
Li was influenced by paper gourds, a traditional Chinese decoration consisting wholly of paper. His representation of this media is refreshing and original and challenges our initial perceptions of the Western Art world. The film, titled Extended, that accompanies the images is beautifully shot by Kid Guy Collective in collaboration with the Klein Sun Gallery and really gives you a feel for the fluidity that is achieved through the use of paper.
Hongbo was born in China and this is his first exhibition in the United States. He has exhibited widely on an international level, including Europe and Australia. Tools of Study finishes up on March the 22nd so get in there and see it if you happen to be in New York (if only!).
This is blimin interesting stuff. If you’re feeling inspired maybe you could have a play next time you’re bored shitless standing at a photocopier….
Photographs: Lucia Franco