An exhibition catalogue that marks the first museum survey of von Heyl’s work, organized by the Institute of Contemporary Art, University of Pennsylvania, in 2011. Von Heyl is a wonderfully expressive, collage based, abstract painter, who intentionally never repeats herself. The illustrations are presented in beautiful, large fold out pages. Along with the illustrations, it also includes short essays and an interview with the artist, my favourite form of art reading. In the interview she states that, like many abstract artists, she is interested in creating a “new image that stands for itself as a fact.” She shares her philosophy that she is “setting the stage for concentration and inspiration”. Layering is her main way ‘to control and manipulate the image’. Von Heyl is primarily a gestural abstract painter. Her use of colour, she explains as ‘a cosmetic after thought’ after having put down a skeleton of gestures that I have then fleshed out through intervention, obliteration, construction, destruction …” She tells us that abstract art should ask questions, not just make a statement. Interesting. Another text, Charline von Heyl: Now or Else (Kerber Art, 2012) provides access to another whole collection of paintings.
Tapies From Within is an exhibition catalogue for a retrospective of Antoni Tapies’ work curated by Vincente Todoli and exhibited in Barcelona in 2013. Tapies was a Spanish painter that I have been aware of since the 1980’s. He thinks that art is to be contemplated ‘as a vehicle of the rapport with mystery, the forces of the universe and nature.’ He insisted on being free to choose whatever materials he wanted. His emphasis was on the nature of his materials, on the irrational and on chance. I enjoy his work with fabric and plastic; some of the other assemblages and constructions not so much. Trousers On a Stretcher is hilarious. This book includes several essays by Tapies outlining his philosophy of modern art and mysticism, symbolism and analyzing a work of art. Google Images provides installation views which make the show more interesting.
I remember a time when graffiti was considered vandalism and caused alarm among the officials! It has been around forever as the documentary A Brief History of Graffiti, on Netflix, reminds us. Art historian Richard Clay takes on a brief tour of graffiti from 30,000 year old cave art in Burgundy, France to contemporary street art. He covers prehistoric art, Roman art in Lyons and Pompeii; he talks about the proliferation of political posters by les Communards during the French Revolution and ends, of course with a discussion of billboard and video advertising, and street art in major cities today. When traveling, we look for the street art in the cities we are visiting and are always amazed and thrilled by the variety, intensity, politics, humour and the uniqueness of the graffiti artists. I am particularly fond of stencil art. Other related Netflix documentaries are: International Street Art, Saving Banksy and How to Sell a Banksy. Exit Through the Gift Shop was another excellent doc.
Sometimes on our artistic journey we are startled to find that someone has been there before us. Rats and Damn! When I was reading Manzoni, a book about Piero Manzoni by Germano Celant, I was thrilled and dismayed to see that my own work was getting dangerously close to resembling some of Manzoni’s Achromes, which were produced in the 1950’s and 1960’s. I think he was a terrific artist – thoughtful, amusing and experimental. It was implied that he was inspired to create his wrinkled, folded canvases by the lush fabric representations in baroque sculptures; I have been inspired by fabric and plastic sheets in general. Celant’s book starts with an excellent essay on the development of the vocabulary of abstract art in Europe – the ‘logic’ painters as opposed to the action painters. Materiality was very important. I can relate to this: “…producing art means feeling one’s own corporeality, manifesting it and staging it.” From Manzoni: “Are not expression, fantasy, and abstraction empty fictions? There is nothing to be said – there is only to be, to live.” Lots of photos, a chronology of Manzoni’s very short life, and the artist’s writings make this a fine book. So now I know not to take my art down the road of the heavily folded, wrinkled canvas, but there are still lots of things to experiment with acrylic skins and plastic.
Gerhard Richter: Forty years of Painting by Robert Storr is the exhibition catalogue for a MOMA retrospective of Richter’s work, covering the years 1960-2000. Lots of good illustrations of his wide-ranging oeuvre – portraits, landscapes, photography, photo realism, and abstractions. The book concludes with a very interesting interview with the artist who was raised in East Berlin, where he muses on his place in art history and on the act of painting. He has some very interesting things to say about the viewer of art and abstract art. He hates Kandinsky, for example, and collage. Gerhard Richter Painting is a documentary made 10 years after the MOMA catalogue. It covers his whole body of work including archival interviews but concentrates on his squeegee created abstract paintings, which I love.
I have been a lifelong fan of fiber arts. Yarn, the Scandinavian documentary, is currently available on Netflix. The artists, Olek, Tilde Bjorfors of Cirkus Cirkor, Tina Thorudottir and Toshiko Horiuchi MacAdam knit and crotchet their fabulous creations in many locations – Iceland, Rome, Havana, New York, Barcelona, Berlin, Nova Scotia, etc. There are instances of yarn bombing bringing to mind the book Yarn Bombing by Leeanne Prain, the daughter of my friend Connie Prain. Cirkus Cirkor is amazing! The prose poem “Where it Begins”, written and read by Barbara Kingsolver, weaves together the sections. A beautiful, inspiring documentary that deserves several viewings.
During a recent trip to Montreal we visited the fabulous exhibition A Crack in Everything, a tribute to Leonard Cohen, at the Musee d’art contemporain de Montreal. What a great show – lots of clips of Cohen interviews and concerts in the company of enraptured fans. Many very interesting interpretations of Cohen’s work by contemporary, mainly video, artists. And I bought the tee shirt. We enjoyed walking around the Plateau district following the Wall2Wall walking tour of amazing murals and graffiti art. We visited the Belgo building at 372 Ste Catherine ouest and its 4 floors of contemporary art galleries enjoying paintings by Michael Smith, Marie Bineau, Patricia Walton and numerous other artists as well as peeking in at yoga studios and some cool design studios. The Tourist Office couldn’t help us locate a gallery guide but we found one – ART MLT, in the Belgo building and will go there first thing next time. We also enjoyed galerie MX, DHC/ART, and very much enjoyed an exhibition of paintings by Peter Hart at Galerie Peter W. Hart. In Old Montreal, in the evenings, there is a series of amazing video projections called Cite Memoire which truly is some of the best contemporary art I have seen. All in all, a very interesting and diverse art experience.