Besides public galleries and foundations, we enjoyed popping into the many private art galleries in Paris. We made 2 dedicated visits to look at contemporary art: the galleries in the St Germain des Pres area on the Rue du Seine and Rue des Beaux Arts, and to the galleries behind the Centre Pompidou in the winding, small streets of the Marais district. We found a fabulous guide, the Metropolitain Art Paris, which is a listing of 70 contemporary art galleries and has a very handy map. So what did we see? Well, lots. Lots of thought provoking art. Lots of sculpture, lots of paintings, slick, well put together paintings and good photography. My favourites, photographs included here, were: Carmen Mariscal (installation), at the Instituto Cultural de Mexico ; Cyril Lancelin (sculpture) at Galerie MR80;
(S)CRYPTE by Sergio Verastegui (encaustic on paper) at the Galerie Thomas Bernard;
Hessie (textile art) at Galerie Arnaud Lefebvre; Francis Bacon (prints), at JSC Modern Art Gallery;
Exposition Bruit Blanc (works on paper), at Topographie de l’Art.
We also saw Tomoko Yoneda: Dialogue avec Albert Camus (photography). We didn’t get to the Anselm Kiefer show in the Pantin area because we couldn’t figure out how to get there – next time – it might be a very interesting area to visit.
I have seen better exhibitions at the Pompidou than what we saw this time. It was a bit of a mishmash of stuff, older contemporary pieces. There wasn’t really any sense to it, and maybe that was the point? I enjoyed Bruce Nauman’s Dream Passage with 4 corridors, 1984, a Jannis Kounellis, sans titre, 1968, and a Claude Viallat, Le Refuge du Passe, very nice. The Jim Dine donation is huge but I can’t say that the collection appealed to me. What was interesting was the Sheila Hicks exhibition of fibre art. Sheila Hicks is an American artist living in Paris, lucky woman, who took up the study and practice of fibre arts in the 60s. She travelled and lived in Mexico, Chile, India, Africa and Morocco. In each country she studied the techniques with the practitioners of these arts and crafts and then “put my own spin on them”, as she says in the video interview. Large colorful works are the result and were very impressive to see.
We spent the last two weeks of April in wonderful Paris. On our second day we visited the amazing Fondation Louis Vuitton, a contemporary art gallery in a building designed by Frank Gehry and located in the beautiful Bois de Boulogne. What a fabulous place! We loved the contemporary art collection on view including works by Gerhard Richter, Mark Bradford, Kiki Smith, Pierre Huyghe and many other international artists. We greatly admired the video Nightlife created by Cyprien Guillard. We were dazzled by the Takashi Murakami
exhibition, (photographed here). We ate rose flavoured ice cream on the terrasse from which you can see the modern architecture of the Defense, and, the Eiffel Tower. But nothing compared to the architecture of this fabulous Frank Gehry creation. We were thrilled every minute inside this building, and outside. Wow – what a great building!
What a fabulous artist Jessica Stockholder is. Stockholder spent her early years in BC and maintains dual Canadian-US citizenship. She is an artist that fuses painting and sculpture using found objects. She is a fabulous colourist. This produces original, innovative, idiosyncratic, and intensely unique objects that remind me of Rauschenberg’s Combines. In Kissing the Wall, 1988-2003, an exhibition cataloque, there is a good interview in which she says “success in art making requires that the artist be unique, special, different from other people.” and that “It is the assertion of the individual, the choice and the decision that are important”. This artist values uniqueness over all other qualities. In Jessica Stockholder an exhibition catalogue for a show in Torino in 2005, she says that she moved into sculpture from painting. In addition to her use of paint on sculpture, I love her use of fabrics and plastic. In the interview in this catalogue Stockholder states “I have faith that all actions have significance…It is always possible to discover something of interest through action, through making. It might take a while to find the thing that sparks. The mind is big and complicated. It’s not possible for our conscious minds to be in control of all the meanings generated by what we make.” First Cousin Once Removed… an exhibition catalogue at the Power Plant in 1999 is full of beautiful images as are the other aforementioned books. I can’t wait to actually see some of her works in the flesh.
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.