Monday, February 29, 2016
Here is a list of some major players in Cold War Modernists, Greg Barnhisel’s fascinating and meticulously researched history of modernist art and literature’s role in Cold War diplomacy: the American Artists Professional League (AAPL); the American Federation of Arts (AFA); the Committee on Public Information (CPI); the Congress for Cultural Freedom (CCF); the International Information Administration (IIA); the Office of Inter-American Affairs (OIAA); the United States Information Agency (USIA); the United States Information Service (USIS); and the All-Union Society for Cultural Relations with Foreign Nations, which, by way of a complicated transliteration, adopted the acronym VOKS.
Imagine all of the paperwork produced by one of these benignly titled groups: the mission statements and monthly summaries, official memos and interagency notices, budgets and projected spending reports. Then imagine the size of the file cabinet needed to house all of the documents for it and all of the governmental, quasi-governmental, and philanthropic organizations that dealt in foreign policy and cultural diplomacy between the rise of the Iron Curtain and the fall of the Berlin Wall (or, to take the slightly more manageable time frame at the heart of Cold War Modernists, between the Truman and Kennedy administrations). This will give a sense of the archive from which Barnhisel culls his study. And now imagine the time and patience it would require to find, request, and read this material, and make it say something about the fate of modernist literature and art after their initial spark in the 1910s and 1920s.
Text by Donal Harris
Thursday, February 25, 2016
Wednesday, February 24, 2016
Monday, February 22, 2016
Quando acidentes se tornam formas, 2016
installation view at Múrias Centeno, Lisboa
20 Jan 2016 - 27 Feb 2016
Saturday, February 20, 2016
This family portrait deposited by Apollo 16’s Charles Duke still lies where it was left, but is probably now completely bleached
Κειμ. Γεώργιος Σαρηγιάννης
Long respected as something of a Mexican national treasure, the German-born, naturalized-Mexican artist Mathias Goeritz is at the time of the writing of this text the recipient of significant international attention, thanks largely to his retrospective, “The Return of the Snake,” at the Reina Sofia, which ran from November 2014 to April 2015 in Madrid. This traveling retrospective, which just opened at the Palacio de Iturbide in Mexico City and will thereafter travel to the Museo Amparo in Puebla, Mexico, offers a unique and valuable opportunity to appreciate and evaluate the overall output and ongoing impact of this complex, highly controversial and protean figure, especially within the context of postwar modernities. Perhaps more importantly, it offers the opportunity to not only consider his work then and now, but also the similarities between his epoch and our current one, as well as some of the issues at stake in each moment.
Mathias Goeritz, Museo El Eco (1952-53
Probably most famous for inventing the term “emotional architecture” (which is in fact, something of an architectural hapax legomenon), Goeritz was born in Danzig, Germany (today Gdansk, Poland) in 1915, and after a stint in both North Africa and then Spain, moved to Guadalajara in 1949 and then to Mexico City, where he lived until his death in 1990. An art historian, sculptor, and painter, he came up with the term and corresponding manifesto “emotional architecture” at the inauguration of the Museo Experimental El Eco in Mexico City in 1953, which he designed (also the city’s first museum of modern art). Devoid of so much as a single right angle, this singular piece of architecture, which resembles a cross between a set from Expressionist German cinema and a De Chirico painting, was conceived in response to what Goeritz saw as the stultifying effects of the rationalization of international style in modern architecture. Having arrived in a post-revolutionary, heavily pro-nationalist atmosphere steeped in the social realism of the muralists, Goeritz’s many innovations, ranging from non-figurative or abstract sculpture to monochrome painting, represented a kind of taboo cosmopolitanism, and for some figures even represented a damnable complicity with capitalist imperialism. As such, he and his work were severely criticized and in some cases rejected, and he was ultimately undermined (for instance, in a well-known incident of public opposition, when Goeritz was named museógrafo at the Universidad Nacional de Mexico in 1954, David Alfaro Siqueiros and Diego Rivera published a letter of protest in the newspaper Excelsior demanding the repeal of his position, which was actually met with success).
As such, it is difficult to call them monochromes in the sense that is now generally associated with the monochrome, which is more about its own materiality and color than a means to an end, which in the Mensajes is light and spirituality, and even more to the point, god (In hopes of underlining the work’s relationship with light, Goeritz created dramatic strategies of exhibition in which the Mensajes were, for example, lit only by candlelight). According to Garza Usabiaga, Goeritz was critical of the so-called realism of some currents such as the Nouveaux Réalistes in France, in the sense that their work merely replicated and perpetuated the chaos of everyday life. “To counter this type of practices [sic], Goeritz championed an art of stable referents, and as he said, God was the most stable of all. […] Light is a perfect way to represent this religious referent. The monochrome works in the same way. As the zero-degree of representation, it is a symbol of ‘the whole and of nothing.’(2) Almost ironically, once abstraction and the monochrome later became accepted in Mexico – and largely thanks to his efforts – Goeritz himself became critical of their apparent status as mere merchandise.
Mathias Goeritz, Mensaje, circa 1959, goldleaf on wood, 53 1/8 x 48 in / 135 x 122
It is for these reasons that when all is said and done – and this is admittedly a radically ham-fisted simplification of a very complex historical conflict – one can finally recognize similarities of agendas between the muralists and Goeritz. In the truly dogmatic spirit of the European avant-garde, and whatever their relationship to the production of objects might have been, they both essentially saw art as a means to an end, which was as pedagogical as it was ideological, and which zealously promoted, or rather proselytized a “correct” way of life. They respectively fought for a hegemonic position, as it was natural for an vanguard artist at the time, at the natural exclusion and ideal suppression of all the others. Therein lies what is possibly the greatest “evil” of not only modernity, but even contemporary art (unfortunately, this intolerant, anti-pluralistic, winner-take-all mentality is still very entrenched in certain parts of contemporary practice). Artistic manifesto positions of the time can be seen from our times as essentially retrograde and conspicuously reminiscent of religious fundamentalism, as they always sought to establish an aesthetic orthodoxy, which itself inevitably led to conservatism (we know now that orthodoxy must always be protected from the unorthodox and protected from heterodoxy). But here’s the good news: The conservative and retrogressive always loses, historically speaking. For better or for worse, this is an immutable law of (art) history, and if there is any lost cause in the history of art, it is the repression or retardation of change – which, it just so happens is often enforced by either the academy or totalitarian states. Of course, for any art professional who is truly committed to what they are doing, the hegemonic temptation, retrograde in of itself, is always there, but this is the temptation that must be resisted.
Text by Chris Sharp
Notes: (1) Mathias Goeritz, La Arquitectura Emocional: Una Revisión Crítica (1952-1968), published by Conaculta, INBA, and la Universidad Autónoma de Nuevo León.
- Ibid, p. 385
Wednesday, February 17, 2016
Built for the 1968 Mexico City Olympics, The Camino Real Hotel not only not only challenged the conventional standards of modern hotel design and but consolidated Legorreta’s own characteristic architectural style, but became a parallel modern art museum of sorts, a building that perfectly embodied the optimism, creative effervescence and aesthetic ambitions of Mexico in the sixties.
The proposal offers an immersive reconstruction; a journey through different periods, characters and key moments in the history of the hotel, taking the original collaborations with artists and designers such as Alexander Calder, Anni Albers, Lance Wyman, Mathias Goeritz, Pedro Friedeberg, Armando Salas Portugal and Julius Shulman.
Through historic photographs and documents, reproductions, original furniture and a 1:75 scale model of the hotel commissioned for the exhibition and created by Legorreta’s original model maker, as well as contemporary approaches by artists like Mario García Torres and Lake Verea, ARCHIVO(S) Hotel Camino Real attempts to rescue the original spirit of the project and document the transformations the building has gone through in recent decades.The ARCHIVO(S) series presents a new approach to iconic projects of modern architecture in Mexico, working on original archive materials in an open dialogue with artists, designers and curators. Archivo will collaborate with leading figures of contemporary culture to rebuild a new architectural memory around landmarks of Mexican modernism, through exhibition formats, public activations, reproductions of historical materials, interventions and original design pieces.
A proposal by Pablo León de la Barra, based on the project by Ricardo Legorreta
With collaborations by
Mathias Goeritz, Luis Barragán, Alexander Calder, Anni Albers, Pedro Friedeberg,Lance Wyman, Armando Salas Portugal, Julius Shulman,Sam Peckinpah,Lily Nieto,Alberto Vivar,Carla Fernández,Lake Verea, Claudia Fernández, Mario García Torres, Christoph Draeger
Hotel Camino Real
February 4 – May 27 2016
Thursday, February 11, 2016
A few years later, in another part of the city, Barragán became involved with another subdivision. Backed by former President Alemán and other powerful investors, the Satellite City was the project of Mario Pani.24 Begun in 1954, this covered over 2,000 acres and was intended to house some 200,000 people. It was obviously much less exclusive than El Pedregal, but still decidedly middle class and automotive in orientation. Fresh off his success at El Pedregal, Barragán was invited to design a promotional symbol for the project. He in turn invited his friend, the German émigré artist Mathias Goeritz, to collaborate. The Towers of the Satellite City were designed and built in 1957-1958.25
Drawing on the Charter of Athens and on then-recent satellite projects in Europe, Pani's Satellite City was one of many housing developments built at that time to ease Mexico City's growing pains. It was located alongside the city's main northbound highway, fourteen kilometers northwest of the Zócalo. According to Pani, the Satellite City when completed would be “absolutely self-sufficient.... a truly autonomous urban entity.”26 Its various sectors and super-blocks were carefully zoned to provide areas for habitation, recreation, education, civic and commercial functions, and parking and transportation. If these last took up a seemingly disproportionate share of the development's space, Pani said it was because this was “the epoch of the automobile,” and the Satellite City was “a city of the epoch.” He called it “a truly modern city... a city of the future, a city of tomorrow that we are beginning to build today.”27 In all of this the project was comparable to the University City, but if its functions were more genuinely diverse, its architectural forms were notably more homogeneous. According to one observer of the 1980s: Probably no section of the capital seems less identifiably Mexican than the endless sprawling neighborhoods of characterless middle-class homes in Satellite City to the north. The zone is a monument both to the middle-class Mexican's desire to own his home and to his fascination with the American way of life. Beside the multi-lane highways are huge shopping malls that are reachable only by car. The architecture of most houses could be described as modern utilitarian, although wealthier families have followed the American example of building homes around the golf courses and private clubs. 28
The towers designed by Barragán and Goeritz stand on a traffic island at the development's southern edge, surrounded by twelve lanes of blacktop. They are five in number and wedged-shaped, with their sharpest angles pointing back toward the city center. Made of reinforced concrete, hollow inside, they rise from a flat concrete-paved plaza, from 34 to 54 meters high, but as their site slopes downward toward the city, they might seem taller when approached from the south. Originally they were to have been much taller, as high as 200 to 300 meters, and accompanied by two additional towers. One was to have been used as an observatory, the others as water tanks. The ground was to be terraced and landscaped with steps, lawns, and a fountain or reflecting pool; the design was scaled back for economic reasons. According to the original scheme, two were left neutral in color and three were painted with plastic paints: one red, one yellow, one blue. Collectively they look like a somewhat miniaturized skyscraper city, or a vastly over-sized model of one, but either way they read as evident representations of buildings rather than buildings themselves. They share this aspect—the representation of modern urban architecture—with O'Gorman's painted Ciudad de México, but there the comparison ends. Where O'Gorman placed at the center of his painting a wide boulevard filled with people and cars, the Towers of the Satellite City present a peculiarly lifeless and abstract face. The space immediately around them is almost always empty. They are a quiet and all-but inaccessible center hemmed in by billboards and speeding cars, not a distinct place so much as a sign or symbol of something beyond themselves.
According to Pani, the towers stood for “man's untamable urge to transcend to great things...the spirit and the dignity of human works.”29 Goeritz called them a “plastic prayer.”30 More prosaically, they were advertisements. At El Pedregal Barragán had demonstrated his ability to turn otherwise undesirable land into valuable real estate and this, along with his friendship with Alemán, seems to have been the main reason for his having been invited to participate here. The towers—unavoidable elements of verticality and dash in an otherwise almost unrelentingly flat, monotonous landscape—beckoned would-be exurbanites to come, to stop and to imagine the possibilities of life in a newer, cleaner, safer, more exclusive “city outside the city.” They were, in effect, advertisements for urban flight.
In the chapter on "critical regionalism" in his book, Modern Architecture: A Critical History, Kenneth Frampton illustrated the work of Barragán with just one image: the Towers of the Satellite City.31 One would be hard-pressed to find a less regionalistic, less inherently Mexican design in Barragán's oeuvre. The towers grew from earlier projects by Goeritz which were themselves inspired by the medieval towers of San Gimignano, Italy, and by the modern ones of Manhattan. Barragán contributed his fascination for the haunting plazas of Italian painter Giorgio De Chirico, and his interest in Corbusian tower blocks.32 At El Pedregal he had showcased the native landscape; he echoed it there in the rambling, abstract, cubic forms of the houses that he built on his own and with Max Cetto. Patios, open-beamed ceilings, and rough stone walls referred discreetly to the site and to Mexican architecture of the colonial past. None of this sort of historical or geographical situating enters into the Satellite City project. Its five faceless concrete towers could be almost anywhere, anytime. What they evoke is not so much the dynamism of the modern city but an obscure reminiscence of a city of the past, or many cities, seen through the filter of memory and the flickering of the mind's eye. They are, say, New York in the 1920s, when Barragán saw it for the first time. They are the city left behind.
“Nostalgia,” said Barragán, “is the poetic awareness of our personal past, and since the artist's own past is the mainspring of his creative potential, the architect must listen and heed his nostalgic revelations."33 With the Towers of the Satellite City there is no longer that sense of history—of specific shared experience, of justified violence, hard work, and future promise—that fueled O'Gorman's painting. There is instead a vague nostalgia: history with all pain (save the poetic variety) removed; in other words, a kind of forgetting, a flight from the tough truths of present and past, and a failure to imagine—or a disinterest in engaging— the future.34 Approaching the towers from the south, seeing them in all of their miniaturized mock urban splendor, one might not be amiss in thinking of another towered structure of the 1950s: Snow White's palace at Disneyland near Los Angeles. Both are castles in the air, icons of escape from cities growing recklessly.
This is an excerpt from the text "Settings for History and Oblivion in Modern Mexico, 1942-58," by Keith L. Eggener in : Jean-Francois Lejeune (ed.), Cruelty and Utopia: Cities and Landscapes of Latin America, Princeton Architectural Press, New York 2003
25. Trained at the Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris, Pani was lead planner at the University City, and designer of numerous prominent office buildings, schools, city plans, hotels, and public housing projects. See Louise Noelle Merles, “The Architecture and Urbanism of Mario Pani,” in Edward Burian, pp. 177-89; and Mario Pani: la visión urbana de la arquitectura (México D.F.: UNAM, 2000).
26. G. Nesbit, “The Towers of Satellite City,” Arts and Architecture 75 (May 1958): 22-23; and Vittorio Magnago Lampugnani, “Luis Barragán: Urban Design and Speculation,” in Federica Zanco, ed., Luis Barragán: The Quiet Revolution, pp. 158-59, 252.
27.Mario Pani, “México: Un Problema, Una Solución,” Arquitectura México 60 (December 1957): 217.
28.Ibidem: 222, 225
29. Alan Riding, Distant Neighbors: A Portrait of the Mexicans (New York: Vintage Books, 1986), pp. 388-89.
30.Mario Pani, “México: Un Problema, Una Solución”: 225.
31.Federico Morais, Mathias Goeritz (México, D.F.: UNAM, 1982), p. 37.
32.Kenneth Frampton, Modern Architecture: A Critical History (New York: Thames and Hudson, 1992), pp. 318-20.
33.Luis Barragán, "Cómo Deben Desarrollarse las Grandes Ciudades Modernas: El Creciemiento de la C. de México," Zócolo no. 3,123 (12 Oct. 1959): sec. 4, p. 1. On his interest in De Chirico see Eggener, pp. 77-81.
34. Luis Barragán, “Barragán on Barragán”: 31.
Wednesday, February 10, 2016
Monday, February 8, 2016
A Beatrix Potter story written more than 100 years ago is to be published for the first time, introducing a brand new character: Kitty in Boots.
The tale, of a gun-toting cat who leads a double life, was found near-complete in an exercise book – and shows Beatrix Potter at her darkest, says Gaby Wood
Doppelgängers and transvestites, guns and gangsters, secret lives: these are not the first things that come to mind when considering the work of Beatrix Potter. Yet the creator of Peter Rabbit and Hunca-Munca once wrote a story that featured all of them. The Tale of Kitty in Boots was written just before the outbreak of the First World War but never published in Potter’s lifetime. Over 100 years later, Penguin Random House will finally release what they describe as Potter’s “24th Tale” – a book that may turn everything we think we know about her on its head.
By Gary Wood
Monday, February 1, 2016
Plotino Constantino Rhodakanaty, Cartilla Socialista -Republicana, 1883