Thursday, December 21, 2017

Thinking on Your Feet

Thinking on Your Feet (Partial Reconstruction of Joaquin Garcia Torres Toy Figures
as an Instrument of Research for Politics), 2017
Wood, acrylic, stucco, cement
172 x 30 x 47 cm

Between the Private and the Public, the Intimate and the Political

Kostis Velonis’s sculptural work often refers to historical events and art historical movements, while his markedly political work has at the same time a very personal aspect. He creates narratives characterized by the linking of personal stories with the reworking of past happenings. His personal experiences and reference points inflect his theoretical pursuits, and historical leaders and literary heroes often play a leading part in his newly invented scenarios. Velonis’s sculptures have a modest character, and they are usually made of wood, cardboard, small objects, and materials from the natural environment, which the artist finds and reuses in a process of bricolage. His works often transmit emotions such us loneliness, failure, melancholy, and uncertainty.
Kostis Velonis’s solo exhibition A Puppet Sun is organized by NEON and curated by Vassilis Oikonomopoulos. It is on view through January 14, 2018. It features twenty-five new works that the artist conceived for 11 Kaplanon Street in central Athens, responding to the history and architecture of the building. This neoclassical residence has a remarkable history. It was constructed in 1891 and first occupied by Pavlos Kountouriotis, the first president of the Second Hellenic Republic (1924–35, the second period in modern Greek history where Greece was not headed by a king). At the beginning of the twentieth century, the Zouzoula family acquired the residence, and the ground floor became the office of the politician Apostolos Zouzoulas, one of the founders of the People’s Party. Between the 1910s and the 1920s the building served as party headquarters. Later, during the authoritarian Metaxas Regime (1936–41), it was transformed into a residence for female students.
Kostis Velonis and Daphne Vitali in conversation
Mousse Magazine. Between the Private and the Public, the Intimate and the Political : Kostis Velonis

This Modern House for Sale

Within the history of modern architecture in México, collaboration is a recurring theme. Urban planners, architects and artists praised collaborative actions as a way to integrate new buildings into the city in a coherent manner as well as to achieve a synthesis of the arts with architecture. Through these collaborative efforts, outstanding works of architecture were raised, such as the modern campus of the National University (1953) and the Housing Complex of Nonoalco-Tlatelolco (1964), just to mention a pair. Nevertheless, there were some projects that, with time, ended up contradicting the original spirit of collaboration through intense debates concerning authorship. The Towers of Satellite City, built by Luis Barragán and Mathias Goeritz between 1957-58 are infamous in this regard. The dispute around authorship for this monumental sculpture broke any sort of relationship between the architect and the sculptor from the late 1960s until Barragán’s death. Even today, followers and fanatics of Barragán’s or Goeritz’s production continue arguing about this dynamic.
In contrast, the history of modern architecture in Mexico is full of examples of fruitful collaborations. A case in point is the exemplary collaboration between Juan O’Gorman and Max Cetto, sustained in great part by their close friendship. O’Gorman, credited as the first architect to construct a modern building in Mexico, met Cetto shortly after he arrived to the country in 1939 as refugee escaping from Nazi Germany. Friendship between the two developed rapidly; they shared, among other things, progressive ideas regarding art, architecture and politics. No one knows with certainty the extent of their collaborations, dialogues and mutual influences; however, their use of stone and other natural materials in the process of construction in an almost expressionist fashion, the stair as a sculptural element, and their respectful and close attention to the relationship between architecture and the landscape are some of the interests and defining characteristics that their architectural practices share.
Collaboration between Cetto and O’Gorman has not yielded any sort of polemics, even though the Mexican architect signed and registered the work of his friend until he became a national citizen. This absence of disputes can be understood, partly, if the nature of their relationship beyond their professional practices and dialogues it is taken in consideration. Juan Guzmán’s (Hans Gutmann) series of color photographs from the 1950s in O ́Gorman’s well known residence/studio at Avenida San Jerónimo, features images of what appears to be Cetto playing chess with O ́Gorman, an activity that they practiced habitually. In other photographs, the daughters of the German architect play and lounge around the property, as if it were their own house.
In 2005, Anuar Maauad found an architectural drawing of Rufino Tamayo ́s house and studio located in the Anzures neighborhood. The building, completed in 1949, is part of Cetto ́s production, although Maauadńs finding is signed by O ́Gorman and the drawing showcases some architectural features that easily relate to his functionalist period. There are differences between the drawing and the final buildings, like the stair in the studio, but the general concept of the construction is very similar. Intrigued by the history of this project, Maauad began researching the work of O’Gorman and Cetto, and also included the presence of Tamayo who commissioned the construction. Without finding any reliable information about this house’s history, Mauuad’s speculation began: Is this drawing a preliminary study of the construction signed by O’Gorman shortly before Cetto became a Mexican citizen in 1947? How much discussion existed between the architects, as the project demonstrates s shared interests and solutions between the two? Did Tamayo play any part in this story, since his confrontational stance against figures such as O’Gorman increased during the 1940s?
For this exhibition Anuar Maauad has built three models of Tamayo’s house and studio--as it appears in the drawing that he found, as it was constructed in 1947, and as it appears today after decades of unfortunate interventions and modifications. Each structure represents a point in the history of this building that, miraculously, is still standing. He also gives a physical presence to Cetto, O’Gorman, and Tamayo who were involved in the mythology of this house. The large-scale plaques made of stretched canvas with their signatures rendered in bronze serve as an index of identity and authorship. The artist has collected and displays photographs and documents that serve as fragments from which to speculate about the house’s history and the three characters involved with it. In one of these images, it is possible to see the functionalist houses built by O’Gorman for his family and Diego Rivera in San Angel between 1929 and 1932. In the photograph, a sign on his family’s house reads “This Modern House for Rent.”
It is from this document that Maauad borrows the title of this exhibition. If in this case, the title announces This Modern House for Sale it is because this project aims to be an open invitation for someone to acquire Tamayo’s former residence and workplace. As part of his initiative, the artist seeks to find a buyer for the house, in order to restore it and redefine its history. As such, This Modern House for Sale is an invitation to collaborate with the artist, in the spirit of O’Gorman and Cetto, in order to preserve an example of modern architecture and launch a platform to advance research and programs on this matter.
- Daniel Garza-Usabiaga
Anuar Maauad
This Modern House for Sale
November 18 - December 10

Efrain Lopez Gallery

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Dead Feathers Unfolded

Dead Feathers Unfolded, 2017
Wood, plywood, acrylic, oil
 93 x 166 x 192 cm

Peacocks: The Pomp of Power

Peacocks: The Pomp of Power presents a display of artworks and objects from the Nottingham City Museum and Art Galleries fine art, decorative art, lace, costume and textiles, and natural history collection. The selected works are inspired by the beautifully elegant peacocks that grace the grounds of Newstead Abbey, the ancestral home of the Romantic Poet Lord Byron. Byron was both a sartorial peacock and lover and keeper of these extravagant creatures; hence the title of this exhibition has been taken from Don Juan: Canto The Seventh, a poem by the poet and great eccentric.
Peacocks have taken on important roles and various identities in many countries and cultures: their vivid feathers or designs resembling their shape and beauty continue to feature heavily on interior décor, garments, ceramics and accessories.
The Henry the Seventh’s Lodging, situated along the East Gallery from the Charles II Room, is one of the main bedrooms at Newstead and is also known as the Japanese Room. The upper walls are fitted with screens and painted panels that were brought back to Newstead by the Webb sisters, who travelled to the Far East in the 1890s. They depict the beauties of the natural world and date from the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries.  They are hand-painted on gold leaf with peacocks, cranes, ocean waves, pine trees and cherry blossom.
The peacock and its colours are synonymous with Indian identity and in 1963 the peacock was declared the National Bird of India because of its rich religious and legendary involvement in Indian traditions. The bird is indigenous to India and Sri Lanka, but now features in countries all over the world and is as much a part of the country-house tableau as fountains and parterres. Taken from its homeland by traders thousands of years ago, the Indian peacock eventually reached England, where it became something of a country house status symbol. A number of vibrant and detailed Indian textile items are included in Peacocks: The Pomp of Power along with a beautiful wooden plate with a copper inlay and a ceremonial sword.
In Russian folklore the peacock carries a lot of meanings, it symbolises the spring and the sun along with its many attributes such as warmth, light and power. In the 11th century, the peacock motif appeared in Russian embroidery, and is thought to have come from Byzantium art to Russia, along with Christianity. Different regions developed their own depictions of peacocks and some of these stylized peacock designs can be seen within this exhibition, used by embroiderers on a number of 19th century linen bobbin lace borders.
The exhibition is open alongside a display of Japanese Woodblock prints from the Nottingham City Museums and Galleries collections in the Charles II Room.

Friday, December 15, 2017

Parapolitics: Cultural Freedom and the Cold War

Lene Berg, Stalin by Picasso or Portrait of a Woman with Moustache, 2008. Façade-banner. Courtesy the artist.

In Amos Tutuola’s 1954 novel My Life in the Bush of Ghosts, the young protagonist is running away from slave-catchers when he accidently crosses the border of reality as he knows it. His flight from bondage, however, does not earn him freedom. Rather, he finds himself in an absurd, liminal world of conversing symbols and delirious phantasms, in which the entire regime of meaning-production is subject to tectonic shifts. Tutuola—whose idiosyncratic use of English language and Yoruba folklore propelled a battle of interpretations—would later become a member of the Mbari Clubs, the first of which was established in Ibadan in 1961. These cultural centers, initiated by the German-Jewish expatriate Ulli Beier, were a gathering place for a generation of African artists, writers, and musicians. Together, they spearheaded a renaissance of Yoruba culture.
One of the sponsors of the Mbari Clubs was the Paris-based Congress for Cultural Freedom (CCF), an organization founded in West Berlin in June 1950 by a group of writers driven to consolidate an "anti-totalitarian" intellectual community. Its ten-year anniversary was celebrated at the then newly inaugurated Kongresshalle, today’s Haus der Kulturen der Welt. With offices in more then 30 countries, the CCF subsidized countless cultural programs from Latin America to Africa and Southeast Asia, developing a network of journals, conferences, and exhibitions that advanced a "universal" language of modernism in literature, art, and music. By 1967, it was revealed that the CCF was secretly bankrolled by America’s espionage arm, the Central Intelligence Agency. The CIA scandal confirmed the lingering suspicion that had trailed the CCF from the days of its origin: not quite an autonomous entity, the organisation had been enlisted in shoring up an anti-Communist consensus in the service of US hegemony during the Cultural Cold War. The disclosure destroyed the CCF’s reputation, exposing the ideological contradictions and moral ambiguities of advocating freedom and transparency by means that are themselves outside of democratic accountability.
The term "parapolitics" refers to the use of soft power in the Cold War. Employing the history of the Congress for Cultural Freedom as an optical device, the project brings Picasso’s famous dictum  "art is a lie that tells truth" into relation with the work of an intelligence agency whose "art lies in concealing the means by which it is achieved."
In the shadowy underside of liberal consensus, freedom appears as always contingent on its foreclosures. Tracing tectonic shifts in intellectual affiliations across political conflict lines through the 20th century, the exhibition explores artistic strategies of engagement and subversion. It underlines how the play with meaning in an increasingly conceptually and semantically oriented world of art production has acted on the assertion of an endangered, precarious autonomy. Within the choreography of parapolitics, the canon of the Cold War modernism becomes a bush of ghosts.
Parapolitics brings together archival documents and artworks from the 1930s to the present by artists that prefigure and reflect the ideological and formal struggles arising from the cultural Cold War, but also works by contemporary artists critically reassessing the normalized narratives of modernism. It features magazines such as Der Monat (Germany), Encounter (UK), Sasanggye (South Korea), Quest (India), Africa South (South Africa), Black Orpheus (Nigeria), Transition(Uganda / Ghana), The New African (South Africa), Hiwar(Lebanon), and Mundo Nuevo (Latin America), that were either initiated or at times supported by the Congress for Cultural Freedom.
With works by Art & Language, Doug Ashford, Michael Baers, Antonina Baever, Alessandro Balteo-Yazbeck (with Media Farzin and Paolo Gasparini), Robert Barry, Romare Bearden, Samuel Beckett, Lene Berg, Broomberg and Chanarin, Fernando Bryce, Daniel Buren, Luis Camnitzer, Alice Creischer, Didactic Exhibition, Liu Ding, Charles and Ray Eames, Miklos Erdély, Peter Friedl, Liam Gillick, Sheela Gowda, Philip Guston, Gruppe Gummi K, Max de Haas, Chia Wei Hsu, Iman Issa, Voluspa Jarpa, David Lamelas, Jacob Lawrence, Norman Lewis, İlhan Mimaroğlu, Moiseyev Dance Company, Museum of American Art in Berlin, Solomon Nikritin, Irving Norman, Guillermo Nuñez, Branwen Okpako, Boris Ondreička, Nam June Paik, Décio Pignatari, Howardena Pindel, Sigmar Polke, Rebecca H. Quaytman, Walid Raad, Steve Reich, Ad Reinhardt, Gerhard Richter, Faith Ringgold, Norman Rockwell, Peter Roehr, Martha Rosler, Charles Shaw, Yashas Shetty, Francis Newton Souza, Frank Stella, The Otolith Group, Endre Tót, Suzanne Treister, Twins Seven Seven, Josip Vaništa, Wolf Vostell, and Susanne Wenger.
An accompanying conference titled "Freedom in the Bush of Ghosts" will be held on December 15 and 16, 2017 at Haus der Kulturen der Welt.
Curated by Anselm Franke, Nida Ghouse, Paz Guevara, and Antonia Majaca.


There are many like me.
I was made in a world of wood and old wives' tales.
I was made, with rings in my head and heels, to hold only
the strings that hold me.
Vaclav made me with his several knives.
His middle daughter made me with her milk and silver needle.
I lost my sword at sea when the captain ran off with me
in the play
and Sundays by the Vltava.
I was laid aside, like Czechoslovakia.
My strings were made of raw silk, red, and rotted
at sea and knotted themselves around me.

Gillian Allnutt, 2004

Thursday, December 7, 2017

You Glow in my Heart like the Flames of Uncounted Candles

You Glow in my Heart like the Flames of
Uncounted Candles, 2017 
Cement, wood, plywood, paper, acrylic, oil, watercolour
136 x 45 x 36