Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Walter De Maria: The New York Earth Room at Dia Art Foundation

         Walter De Maria filled Dia Art Foundation's Soho gallery with soil in 1977, and his exhibition, The New York Earth Room, continues to amuse viewers today. Although the installation have been shown in Munich and Darmstadt, Germany, The New York Earth Room is the only one still remaining thirty-eight years later. Like the dinosaur skeletons in the Museum of Natural History, the soil has occupied the gallery space in frozen time, disconnected from the changes of the outside world. While generations of viewers have stepped in and out of the exhibit in the past four decades, the soil stays capsulated in a uniformed layer behind the glass fence, giving a sense of sacredness to the space.

          Using soil as the singular medium, The New York Earth Room provokes the power of nature in minimal expression. As the viewers walk into the white gallery space, the aroma of earth fills the humid air, strengthening with every step closer to the soil collecting behind the low glass fence. By hovering the hands over the soil, viewers would feel the cold air flowing into their skin as if the soil is breathing. The sunlight penetrates through the windows and illuminates the textural soil in different shades of brown contrasting the white concrete walls. The force of nature dominates the artificial space, providing viewers with a meditational experience to concentrate their sensory on the soil.

          Located in the heart of one of the largest city in the world where the odor of solid waste and exhaust gas clogs the lungs , The New York Earth Room brings the status of soil, abundant in rural regions, to sacredness. Walter De Maria communicates environmental awareness with the viewers by ironically containing nature in a man-made structure. Perhaps one day, The New York Earth Room would be the only place to see soil, like the dinosaurs skeletons in the Museum of Natural History, if nothing is done to change the outside world.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Frank Stella, A Retrospective exhibition

I was so excited to see the breathtaking show, Frank Stella, A Retrospective. It is located on the 4th floor of the Whitney Museum, a huge exhibition gallery, facing the East River. It includes Stella's earlier abstract paintings, such as his famous square series, the geometric solid color series, and some drafts of his thoughts. Also, there are a number of his recent installations.
One of his most famous paintings, The Marriage of Reason and Squalor. (1959) is exhibited in the  foyer of the gallery. This painting is composed of white parallel strokes on a black canvas, and depicts a minimalistic perspective. In fact, though there were other minimalistic geometric paintings, the entranceway still looked spacious and empty. It felt as if the gallery had been unified by Stella's paintings. It is similar to the MoMA abstract painting gallery, where Stella’s work is also being exhibited. The Whitney did an excellent job of presenting Stella’s abstract paintings in such a roomy and less distractive space. The neutral lights were perfectly fitted to the environment.
As I entered the main room of the gallery, several grand and extremely vibrant sculptures rushed into my eyes. They belonged to Stella's Indian Bird series. To be honest, I didn't really appreciate those sculptures, which are his most recent series. Perhaps it is because his abstract paintings and his theoretical reflections about them are highly sophisticated and well-done. In contrast, the sculptures or they might be called installations, were so chaotic and disorderly; they were a riot of colors, and seemingly lacking in theme. I believe Stella is an excellent artist and had thought about these works thoroughly. This was apparent from the models and the drafts presented there. Still, I could not read or feel these works as much as his paintings. Although the quotations on the walls revealed his thoughts and theory clearly, they did little to help me understand the sculptures and the installations

Despite my misgivings, the exhibition overall did have a profound impact on me. It helped me to clarify my thoughts on the last 30 years of abstract art. It also underscored the importance of Frank Stella’s work and his contribution to the abstract art canon.

Alberto Burri (1915-1995) : The Trauma of Painting _ Guggenheim Museum

Guggenheim Museum presents a retrospective exhibition of Italian artist Alverto Burri(1915-1995) for the first time in nearly 40 years. He is Italian representative modern artist who has explored materials such as burlap, wood, iron, etc in abstract painting. Although he was majoring in medical science, he started painting when he was captured in Camp Howze prisoner of war camp in Texas during Warld War II.

The famous architect Guggenheim museum space led me to see his paintings by going down the hallway from the top of the museum. Space specificity of Guggengeim was perfect to continue the context between his paintings. Viewers were able to keep an emotional state smoothly while seeing the exhibition from top to bottom.

When I just started to see the exhibition, even though it was the first time to go to Alberto Burri’s exhibition and I did not know about him before, I recognized that he relies on very strong trauma through his painting at once.

His using of multiple materials which are cultural, organic and artificial and dynamic gestures in his painting conveyed haunting fears and pains of war. Melting red plastic painting, Rosso Plastica M2, was so strong and heavy. It seemed bloody evil. This intensive red color and painful gesture caught me that I was not be able to escape from it. Sticking, stapling and soldering in his works implied scattered tore skins, scars, and bloody wounds in war. Cracks which was like an extreme drought in his paintings express unstable and fragile human in war metaphorically as well.

Combustione legno (Wood Combustion), 1955. Wood veneer, fabric, combustion, acrylic, nails, and Vinavil on black fabric, 88.5 x 160 cm. Private collection 
Rosso plastica M 2 (Red Plastic M 2), 1962. Plastic (PVC and PE) and combustion on black fabric, 120 x 180 cm. Private collection

The most impressed work was his documentary film Grand Cretto. This was the massive land memorial installation work for earthquake which destroyed the old city Gibellina in Italy. Grande Cretto has been building with 8000 squares of concrete pieces since 1985 and this project will be completed after 30 years. This work was perfectly expanded his Cretti painting series on the earth. Grande Cretto was different with his other series works which had to fear and pain. His documentary film took the path of white gigantic cracks. There were healing, meditation and self reflection. White cracks which were covering spectacle surface of land met the endless sky. This state conveyed sublime beauty to viewers.

Grand Ceratto, 1984-1989, Cement sculpture, 150 cm × 35000 cm × 28000 cm (59 in × 14,000 in × 11,000 in),  in  Gibellina Sicily 

Grand Ceratto, 1984-1989, Cement sculpture, 150 cm × 35000 cm × 28000 cm (59 in × 14,000 in × 11,000 in),  in  Gibellina Sicily 

Grande bianco (Large White), 1971. Acrylic and PVA on Celotex, 126 x 201.7 cm. Private collection, United States.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Dia Foundation in Soho- The Earth Room (revised)

  The Earth Room is an interior earth sculpture made by Walter De Maria in 1977,presenting in the same spot at Soho for over 30 years. This is not the first Earth Room Walter has made, but it is the only one maintained by the Dia Foundation.

  The sculpture takes up about 3600 square feet of floor space, 22 inch earth, with a weight 280000 lbs. The whole room is filled evenly with soil but has an amazing clean and tidy white wall. The space has been partitioned in up and down, like a ground and the sky. Visitors are not allowed to go through the room and stand on it. People can only stand outside and look. There are some small rooms inside the big room. Sometime you feel like there is no end to the room. When you come closer to the Earth Room itself, you can feel the air and the moisture differences compare to the outside space. The temperature is a lot lower in the room, like natural air conditioning in the hot summer. Outside the building, busy people walking by, and time is passing. However, inside the building, I feel time is frozen at the moment in 1977, the time when the sculpture had been made. 

The location of Soho, Manhattan can specially emphasize the contrast of busy life and still moment. Besides, it is sarcastic to see the artist trying to save a beautiful nature of land inside a building in the jam-packed New York City.

"Alberto Burri: The Trauma of Painting" at the Guggenheim Museum

Alberto Burri, born in 1915 in the Italian city Citta di Castello, is one of the most important Italian artists after World War II. This major retrospective exhibition at Guggenheim Museum is first one in 35 years in the United States and takes place one hundred years after he was born. It is a comprehensive review of this important artist's life and career. Visitors follow spine route of the Guggenheim to explore more than one hundred works, including many that have never been exhibited outside of Italy. The hallway circling up looks like a white ribbon extending to the infinite which provides an excellent space for Burri’s exhibition.

Burri utilized mundane materials such as sand, rock, mud, old cloth, burnt wood, rusted iron, and burnt plastic sheets. Burri transforms these cheap materials to express emotional trauma as in abstract and modernist work. He also takes the advantage of materials to blur the line between the painting and sculpture. He emphasizes the power of substances and his works often made metaphors to skin and wounds with stitching, riveting, soldering, and stapling of his paintings.

In addition to paintings, there is a special exhibition room, which presents his large-scale outdoor sculptures - Grande Cretto through medium of a documentary film. This is a work commemorating his hometown. In 1968, this city was completely destroyed by earthquake. Burri created a 8,000 square meter of concrete works in 1985. After more than 30 years preparing the work, he finally completed. The film leads audiences around the work as if they really would walk into it. As with many of his paintings, this work is full of complex textures and sharp lines, which appears to brand the face of the earth with scars post-earthquake and has the same form and spirit of his other works.

Along the Guggenheim exhibition abstract space, which is a perfect path for viewers to experience the art path of Burri’ various aesthetics from texture, form and color to his mentality and psychological progression.