Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Do-Ho Suh, Part Two

Do you remember my story about a trip to the Seattle Art Museum and seeing the beautiful sculpture of an Asian-style emperor's robe made of dog tags? (see: Archive - May, 2010) The sculptor of this memorable piece, Do-Ho Suh (1962-) is Korean and divides his time between New York and Seoul.

It is Suh's life in the two cities plus his time as a soldier under Korea's requirement of a 2-year military commitment that informs his art. His sculptures consider the complex relationship between individuality and the individual's responsibility to the collective culture. Pointedly, he titled the two series featured here as "Some/One" and "Cause/Effect."

Here are some of the thought-provoking installations and magnifications:

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

An Exceptional Dinner Party...

When I was in grammar school, a man I knew explained to me that a woman's mind is shaped differently and that is why she does well in the home but not with originality. He asked me if I could name any famous women artists, composers, writers or musicians. At that time, I couldn't think of a one, but I knew instinctively that he was wrong.

Judy Chicago (nee Cohen) (1939-) may have felt similarly while in art school when she was told women were more suited to homemaking than art. Apparently, Chicago did not think that sounded right either.

Chicago searched for women in history who made contributions to society and the arts from the goddess figures to Georgia O'Keeffe. Using that time frame, Chicago created a 48-foot long (each side) triangular dinner table titled, "Dinner Party" (1974-1979) listing 1,038 women. Of these notable women, 999 were listed on the porcelain tiles and 39 had place settings on the table. Symbolism abounded in every aspect of this work which took about 200 volunteers to complete.

Each woman represented at the table reflected what arts women were allowed: a hand stitched table runner based on the type of female handwork in her particular era and a hand-painted china plate. There was also a chalice - ancient symbol of the womb. The triangular shape of the installation evoked the symbol of the eternal feminine.

There was a lot of controversy and criticism for this work and finding a permanent home became an issue. The installation finally found a home at the Brooklyn Museum of Art in the Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art.

Today, I could answer that long-ago question of women's contribution to society and the arts. I would not only include Chicago's list, but all those brave, courageous, contemporary women who shoulders I stand on. Do you have any modern-day sheros?

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

2,500 plus One - Alejandro Santiago

Alejandro Santiago (1964-) is a highly-trained and well-known Mexican artist. He was born and raised in Teococuilco in the state of Oaxaca. You might be thinking, "Why does that matter?"

It's because Santiago returned to his hometown after spending several years in Europe only to find that half of the population - some 2,500 people - had left. He had come home to a shell of a town. Most of the working age population had emigrated. Those who remained were either old or children who had been left with grandparents. Some of these emigrants would die in the desert, but against their poverty it was a chance they were willing to take.

In a dream, Santiago saw a way to repopulate those 2,500 souls plus his own to the town. With a grant from the Rockefeller Foundation and 35 workers, he created 2501 clay sculptures. No two figures are alike. Santiago personally shaped each one in a crude way to represent the native people and the hardships of their lives.

The figures are on exhibit now, but eventually Santiago will place them in Teococuilco to celebrate the "migrants' return." Or as one curator described these sculptures, "...as if to summon the absent ones."

Monday, October 4, 2010

The Impressionist's Hero: M. Durand-Ruel

Last week the blog was about Theo Van Gogh, who did everything he could to promote and sell the art of Vincent as well as the other Impressionists. As I mentioned then, the art world purchased art and gave commissions to artists whose work reflected the stringency of the Academie de Beaux-Artes. By 1860, certain artists began to rebel against the rigidity of being told what and how they were to paint.

These artist started their own exhibitions in the Salon de Refuse. Their exhibits in Paris were considered outrageous and even scandalous. The art was ridiculed and, for the most part, no one was interested in buying the art. Against that background, these artists found support in many ways from Paul Durand-Ruel (1831-1922).

Paul's father had been art dealer and in 1865, Paul took over the business. He believed deeply in the Impressionists. He supported the artist by buying the art outright*, gave stipends to the artists, and held solo exhibitions. Eventually, some artwork sold, but not in any serious way in France.

However, during 1886 and 1887, he launched exhibits in the United States and experienced great success. He so appreciated the open-mindedness of the Americans for impressionism that he was quoted as saying, "The American public does not laugh. It buys!"

From 1870 until his death, Paul became the best known art dealer for French Impressionism in the world. Most of the Impressionists struggled financially. Imagine how much worse it would have been without M. Durand-Ruel's support!
*Between 1891 and 1922, Paul Durand-Ruel purchased close to 12,000
pictures, including
more than 1,000 Monets, approximately 1,500 Renoirs, more than 400 each by Degas and Sisleys, about 800 Pissarros, close to 200 Manets and appx. 400 Mary Cassatts. "...
My craziness has become wisdom. To say that if I had died at sixty years old, I would have died crippled in debt, insolvent amongst undiscovered treasures…