NATHALIE HAMBRO – NEWSLETTER ARCHIVES
Souzou, Outsider Art from Japan
183 Euston Road, NW1 2BE
till June 30
* concurrently there is a show by self-taught American artists at Large Glass Gallery curated by Jeff McMillan. These are intense, expressive, often jubilant works, including mud paintings by Jimmy Lee Sudduth, haunting, shrouded figures by the Mississippi native Mary T Smith, celebrity paintings by Painter Chuckie, the literally bullet-riddled figures of William Burroughs and an array of face jugs (that Gauguin, among other great artists, would have killed for) by award winning potter Jerry Brown.
Large Glass Gallery
392 Caledonian Road, N1 1DN
+44 (0)20 7609 9345
photos: nathalie hambro
The forty six artists represented in the show are residents and attendees of social welfare institutions across Japan, and they present diverse bodies of work including ceramics, textiles, paintings, sculpture and drawings. ’Souzou’ is a word which has no direct translation in English but a dual meaning in Japanese. It can be written two ways, meaning either creation or imagination. Both allude to a force by which new ideas are born and take shape in the world.
Souzou, Outsider Art from Japan records both intimately personal and expansive approaches to creating art and the processes of making, through six overlapping sections. ‘Language’ explores the creative release of visual expression for artists for whom verbal or written communication is challenging or impossible. Works range from Takanori Herai’s diary of hieroglyphics to Toshiko Yamanishi’s kaleidoscopic love letters to her mother, which express depth of emotion through movement and colour rather than words. Ryoko Koda’s intricate cityscapes are composed of a single symbol, resembling a fictional character from the Japanese alphabet, while Hiroyuki Komatsu’s work recalls word-for-word the dialogue of his favourite TV programmes. ‘Making’ looks at engagement with material, the repeated use of particular and unusual media, and the meditative and therapeutic aspects of creativity. Koichi Fujino’s immersive ink paintings cover every inch of the paper, Yumiko Kawai’s textile landscapes are built up through repeated freehand circular stitching and Shota Katsube’s repurposing of wire ties creates a vast yet diminutive army of action figures: all these pieces are marked by the occupation and passing of time.
Works in ‘Representation’ and ‘Relationships’ reflect the things and people surrounding the artists, often taking surprising and curious forms. The eerie pastel still lifes of Takashi Shuji and abstract assemblages of Takanari Nitta hold an ethereal, otherworldly quality but are inspired by everyday objects, while Satoshi Nishikawa’s surreal sculptures of fruit are made entirely from dense aggregates of small ceramic rabbits. Takako Shibata’s expansive and repeated portraits freeze her absent mother in time, while Sakiko Kono’s dolls – representing friends and carers in the facility where she resides – grow in size and stature according to the levels of her affection. Dreams and desire figure strongly with idealised self-projections in the work of Yoko Kubota and Masao Obata, Nobuji Higa’s highly stylised and sexualised nudes and Marie Suzuki’s darkly dystopian drawings exploring female sexuality and gender. Self-expression is framed through physical and emotional environments, but interpreted in richly imaginative and sometimes fantastical forms The absorption, reflection and acute observation evident in ‘Culture’ contests the myth of Outsider Art as being solely reflective of the interior mind. Daisuke Kibushi’s immaculately rendered postwar movie posters, copied from memory, Keisuke Ishino’s origami figurines and Ryosuke Otsuji’s ceramic Okinawan lions all attest to a sharp awareness of the cultural contexts and traditions of Japanese society. The final section, ‘Possibility’, features works that seek to comprehend and reorder the surrounding world. Koichiro Miya explores notions of ability, disability and super-ability with statistic-strewn works, Shingo Ikeda’s beautiful notebook infographics calculate the endless possibilities of subway journeys he might make, and Norimitsu Kokubo’s densely sketched cartographies imagine real places through information gleaned online, reframing the world through a keen and creative curiosity.
NATHALIE HAMBRO – NEWSLETTER ARCHIVES
Together as One
Tim Sheward Projects and Alma Zevi
52a Great Suffolk Street, SE1 0BL
Wed-Sat, 10-6 and by appointment
+44 (0) 7525056590
till April 27
photos: nathalie hambro
Steve Hurtado (b. 1979), is a British artist with Bolivian parents. Hurtado makes sculptures that are related to monolithic buildings and communal spaces, using wood and concrete blocks. Alongside the sculptures, he will be exhibiting beautiful drawings that refer to details of these fantastical spaces, as well as overviews of vast projects. Hurtado’s work over the past three years consists of two series. First came the Bunker series: a number of small sculptures that draw from the architectural tradition of maquettes. They are named after (or for) different countries (such as Syria, China, Great Britain and Russia). These carved wooden ‘bunkers’ are painted with many layers of car body filler and paint to create an ambiguous surface that resembles matt plastic or powder-coated metal. The wooden structures sit on plaster ‘hills’, which rest on an unpainted wooden base. Hurtado’s interest in bunkers is rooted in a deep fascination, and concern, regarding the political state of the world, and the secrecy surrounding military operations and surveillance – even in the broader, everyday sense of the latter.
Following the Bunker series, Hurtado began exploring the idea of stadiums when ‘Olympic fever’ swept through London, on the street as well as in the national press, about the designs and chosen architects. The Olympics penetrated, and therefore democratized, an arena of discussion usually reserved for a small, academic elite. Hurtado’s Stadium series reveals a pivotal moment in his technique and intellectual relationship with materials, as he shifted from wood to concrete blocks, which are carved and attached to one another with construction rebars. Indeed, the considered use of multiple materials adds depth to the work, without being anything less than essential.
As the title of the show, Together As One, suggests, both bunkers and stadiums are designed to hold large numbers of people (in relation to the building size). However, at first it would appear to be very different entities – the hidden versus the exposed, war versus entertainment. However, one can note that both contain something quite unquantifiable, and that is a high state of human emotion and anxiety. And thus in observing these works we are reminded of our human condition, and how feeling very alive – whether through fear, tension, suspense or joy or sadness – having, as Virginia Woolf wrote in To The Lighthouse, a ‘moment of being’ – surpasses specific emotions. It is no co-incidence that great art, too, should make us feel that way.
Hurtado’s language has great subtlety in terms of what socio-political sentiments might be at the root of his investigation, although the formal style of the work is far from unassuming. It is informed to some degree by the Brutalist tradition – an influence that may have come from an intimate knowledge of London’s architectural and cultural landmarks such as the Southbank Centre and the Hayward Gallery. In addition to this, the visual aesthetic of the work is Judd-esque in the uncompromising minimalist forms, and the play of rhythmic empty volumes. Furthermore, it seems a strange co-incidence that the West Texas town of Marfa that Judd converted into his sculpture playground after becoming disillusioned with New York was largely made up of an abandoned army base – for example, the series of stark and Spartan hangars which now house site-specific installations by Dan Flavin. It seems that the Minimalist mentality and military architecture have more affinity than at first meets the eye.
Hurtado re-interprets the meaning and appearance of bunkers and stadiums, both individually laden with a canon of accepted and expected architectural form, to create sculptures that transcend the label of mere maquette, in that they are far from serving as solely illustrations of a much larger concept for a building. The works are so because of the fine craftsmanship and exacting proportion, which imbue them with gravitas. The proportional relationships are thought out so as to complement the sculpture at hand, not the building. The concept of the life-size building is in fact merely a means to an end – that being a challenging (for artist and viewer), yet concisely executed body of work, and the emergence of a new sculptural environment.
VICTORIA MAG – Victoria’s Visual Gems
WONDERLAND – Land Securities
NATHALIE HAMBRO – NEWSLETTER ARCHIVES
Marino Auriti (1891–1980)
Encyclopedic Palace of the World
Wood, plastic, glass, metal, hair combs, and model kit parts
American Folk Art Museum
In 1955, the Italian American eccentric devised and patented the design for a building destined to contain all human knowledge. The actual palace was never made, but its spectacular maquette will have a place of honour in this year Venice Bienalle, sitting alongside works by several so-called outsider artists. The is the theme adopted by Massimiliano Gioni, curator for this year Bienalle.
“This building is an entirely new concept in museums, designed to hold all the works of man in whatever field, discoveries made and those which may follow,” wrote Marino Auriti of his goals for his Il Encyclopedico Palazzo del Mondo, the “Encyclopedic Palace of the World.” One of two known architectural models made in the mid-twentieth century by this self-taught artist, Auriti’s was an audacious concept: to create a museum to house humankind’s greatest achievements, “everything from the wheel to the satellite.” This object exemplifies the bold singularity of many contemporary self-taught creators. Not hemmed in by the strictures of the art academy, artists like Auriti follow their individual visions.
Born in Italy, Auriti came to the United States sometime between 1923 and the 1930s. He worked as an auto-body mechanic, but architecture was his great love. While Auriti’s concept is singular, the architectural plan for the Encyclopedic Palace is rather classical. It is comprised of seven tiers of a lathe-turned skyscraper, made of mixed woods, metal, plastic (including hair combs), and celluloid, and topped by a television antennae. Transfer lettering on the lintel reflect Auriti’s values —“Forgive the First Time” and “Do Not Abuse Generosity.” A many-paged mission statement accompanies the palace, which is patented, exposing Auriti as a man who had the dreams of an architect and the soul of a philosopher. Upon retirement he started his serious endeavor building the palace. He acquired a patent, built a pyramid-shaped vitrine for his model, exhibited it twice (in a storefront and in a bank lobby), and received some press about it.
This model took about three years to build and is on a scale of 1:200, which means that if it were actually built, the palace would stand 136 stories and 2,322 feet, which would have made it the tallest building in the world at the time Auriti imagined it. The artist wanted the Encyclopedic Palace built on the Mall in Washington, D.C. The sculpture, however, was instead stored in a warehouse for several decades.
NATHALIE HAMBRO – NEWSLETTER ARCHIVES
Stephen Friedman Gallery
25-28 Old Burlington Street, W1S 3AN
till April 20
photos: nathalie hambro
For POP! all new works focus on the corruption, excess and debauchery that have in part led to the current economic crisis. With characteristic wit and critique, Yinka Shonibare explores the contemporary worship of luxury goods and the behaviour of the banking industry while referencing well known iconography and art historical homage – most notably in his creation of a large tableau based on Leonardo da Vinci’s ‘The Last Supper’.
POP! not only presents some of Shonibare’s most ambitious work of late but also reflects the artist’s engagement with social commentary. It heralds a new direction for the artist with large-scale self-portraits inspired by Andy Warhol’s 1986 series ‘Camouflage’. The exhibition provides a unique opportunity for audiences to assess Shonibare’s most recent lines of enquiry.
The centrepiece of the exhibition is the artist’s largest and most complex sculptural tableau: a subverted depiction of Leonardo da Vinci’s ‘The Last Supper’ where Bacchus replaces the central figure of Christ. The Roman god of wine is here transformed into a headless satyr: half-man, half-goat. Surrounding him at this debauched banquet are his twelve beheaded disciples cast in poses of sexual and animalistic abandon. In homage to da Vinci, and filtered through the lens of Victoriana, the scene unravels as the Dionysiac climax of a pan-historical hedonistic party. By removing the figures’ heads, a recurring motif in Shonibare’s work, the artist dissuades associations of race. We are also reminded of the executions of the barbarous French Revolution: a period fittingly remembered for its corruption and excess. In direct reference to the celebratory excesses of the banking world, these debauched guests have cast their work troubles aside with no care for tomorrow; scattered across the table is the debris of a lavish feast of both glutton and luxury. This dramatic tableau is a moment frozen in time, inviting us to walk around and marvel at its exuberance.
Furthering the sense of an over-indulgent party, a sharply suited banker is displayed in another room, simulating the act of masturbation with an exploding magnum of champagne. Deliberately brash and humorous, the work combines the light and the dark inherent throughout the exhibition. The corruption caused by obscene amounts of money still carries its scars today as the hangover of the party remains to be cleared up. This contrasting depiction of celebration and depravity is continued in a new series of works entitled ‘Champagne Kids’. These youthful figures each carry a bottle of champagne ready to pop and in the place of their heads are Shonibare’s trademark globes, displaying financial data relating to the global economic crisis. Combined with the carnivalesque poses of the figures, they present a powerful commentary on our current state of affairs, as generations suffer the consequences of the banks’ over-indulgence.
The second part of the exhibition builds from ‘The Last Supper’ by further exploring ideas around the contemporary worship of commodities. Here, the artist’s most intricate wall painting is presented in alluring visual opulence. In reference to Shonibare’s ‘Toy Paintings’, the installation includes a number of round fabric canvases framed by a multitude of different toys. The toys relate to key themes of war, luxury and religion: toy guns, military figurines, shoes, handbags, faux diamonds, crucifixes and the Holy Grail. Spray-painted black, the toys are studded with diamantes creating silhouettes against the vivid gold of the mural behind. The multitude of swirling panels come to represent the fetishisation of war and money, as we simultaneously desire and repel such objects of glittering beauty.
Throughout the exhibition Shonibare uses his trademark wax batik fabric in the tailored outfits of the figures and the canvases of the mural. The material is a poignant interception of our modern and colonial times: inspired by Indonesian design, mass-produced by the Dutch and eventually sold to the colonies in West Africa. The fabric has become emblematic of his practice, closely tied to his own self-recognition as a ‘post-colonial’ hybrid. For the first time here, the colours and patterns of the material are used in a group of large-scale self-portraits based on the iconic Pop Artist Andy Warhol’s ‘Camouflage’ of 1986. Militaristic and haunting, the artist’s face is so closely blurred with the patterning of the wax batik that despite its immediate familiarity, he becomes instantly anonymous. As with the other works in the show, the self-portraits are a potent reminder of the illusory boundaries of protection and danger, so closely aligned with power and money.
NATHALIE HAMBRO – ARCHIVES NEWSLETTER
Rock on Top of Another
Kensington Parks, SW7
This is the first public sculpture by the artists to be presented in the UK and one of the last works they jointly conceived before David Weiss’s untimely death last year.
The monumental work, Rock on Top of Another Rock, is formed of two giant glacial boulders balanced precariously on top of each other. Situated close to the Serpentine Gallery in Kensington Gardens and standing at over five metres tall, the work IS visible from a number of viewpoints across the Park. The installation also relates to the artists’ 1984 series of photographs, Equilibres/Quiet Afternoon, which shows precariously balanced sculptures moments before their collapse. The rocks’ massive presence teeters between stability and instability.
The Swiss duo Fischli/Weiss – Peter Fischli (b. 1952) and David Weiss (1946-2012) – has created some of the most memorable artworks of the past three decades and inspired many artists around the world. The artists are best-known for their 30-minute film, The Way Things Go (1987), which has enjoyed a reputation far beyond the art world. In it a series of everyday objects and machine parts roll, topple, burn, spill or otherwise propel themselves forwards to create an extended chain reaction of miraculous cause and effect.