Episode 347:Katharina Fritsch

April 24, 2012 · Print This Article

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This week: We talk to artist Katharina Fritsch!

Richard says “cock” and “Hologram Tupac” a whole lot.

Katharina Fritsch is known for her sculptures and installations that reinvigorate familiar objects with a jarring and uncanny sensibility. Her works’ iconography is drawn from many different sources, including Christianity, art history and folklore. She attracted international attention for the first time in the mid-1980s with life-size works such as a true-to-scale elephant. Fritsch’s art is often concerned with the psychology and expectations of visitors to a museum. Gary Garrels wrote that “One of the remarkable features of Fritsch’s work is its ability both to capture the popular imagination by its immediate appeal and to be a focal point for the specialized discussions of the contemporary art world. This all too infrequent meeting point is at the center of her work, as it addresses the ambiguous and difficult relationships between artists and the public and between art and its display—that is, the role of art and exhibitions and of the museum in the late twentieth century.” The special role colour plays in Fritsch’s work has roots in her childhood visits to her grandfather, a salesman for Faber-Castell art supplies, whose garage was well-stocked with his wares.

Her most recognized works are Rattenkönig/Rat King (1993), a giant circle of black polyester rats, included in the 1999 Venice Biennale. Other works include Mönch (Monk) (2003), a stoic, monochromatic male figure, made of solid polyester with a smooth, matte black surface; Figurengruppe / Group of Figures (2006-2008), an installation of nine elements; and Hahn (Cock) (2010), a 14ft (4.3m) cockerel in ultramarine blue to be shown on London’s Trafalgar Square in 2013.

In her working process, Fritsch combines the techniques of traditional sculpture with those of industrial production. While many of her early works were handcrafted, Fritsch now makes only the models for her sculptures and then hands these over to a factory for production, to near-pathological specifications. She uses these models to create moulds, from which the final sculptures are cast in materials such as plaster, polyester and aluminium. Many are made as editions, meaning that multiple casts are taken from one mould.[5] For the duration of some of her exhibitions, Fritsch has made her multiples available for sale at the respective museums.




Marco Brambilla takes you to hell (and heaven, too)

June 24, 2009 · Print This Article

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I wanted to post about Marco Brambilla’s elevator installation at The Standard hotel in NYC a couple of weeks ago, but all the YouTube links looked super-crappy and stuttery on my relatively old iBook G4. A few days ago Lynn Becker of ArchitectureChicago Plus posted a link to Motionographer, which has a large-scale, gorgeous, smooth-running version of the video on its site. So on the off chance some of you might not have seen Becker’s post (or visited her fantastic blog, which is a daily read for me), I’m posting the link again here (it can’t be embedded, so click on the Motionographer link above).

Brambilla’s installation consists of footage sampled from hundreds of mainstream and avant-garde films and assembled into a vertical photomontage representing a journey through Hell, Purgatory and Heaven viewed while hotel guests travel up and down the elevator. Read more about it, and see the piece itself, on the Motionographer website. It’s pretty incredible.

Thanks again ArchitectureChicago!




Matthew Barney and Elizabeth Peyton Collaborate in Top Secret Project for Deste Foundation

June 15, 2009 · Print This Article

Hmm, this is an unexpected pairing. Matthew Barney and Elizabeth Peyton are collaborating on “Blood of Two,” an installation to inaugurate the Deste Foundation‘s new location on the Greek island of Hydra.  It has its opening tomorrow. From the Deste website:

“Matthew Barney and Elizabeth Peyton will present a site–specific installation for the inaugural exhibition held in the island’s slaughterhouse, a mysterious yet evocative location which will work as the new project space of the DESTE Foundation. The components of the installation will be realized together on-site and will be exhibited afterwards as one work. The exhibition marks the first occasion in which Barney or Peyton have collaborated.

Details of the project are being kept completely under wraps until the unveiling/opening, which of course is the exact right type of button to push with me — now I can’t wait to see pictures of it, which is all I’ll be able to get since my summer plans this year unfortunately don’t include a trip to Greece. Here’s the one picture that’s been released:

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Oh wait–now, if I was a Cremaster Fanatic, perhaps I would have known that Peyton and Barney are friends. So maybe this pairing is not so unlikely after all? (Actually, I AM a big fan of Barney’s Cremaster cycle, just not a “fanatic.”)




Dave Hullfish Bailey at The Suburban

March 20, 2009 · Print This Article

Sometime over the weekend, as I was pouring coffee beans into a canister, I happened to read on the package that proceeds from the coffee had been used to fund a library. Pretty cool, I thought; but then in my cynical way, I began to speculate about just what kind of structure this library actually was, how big, how many books, and what, exactly, constituted a library in the minds of the coffee bean distributors. Maybe their library was more like a bookmobile, or maybe it was just a partitioned section of a large hut somewhere far away, with a few piles of donated paperbacks stacked haphazardly on a couple of wooden stools. At any rate, when I came across the L.A.-based artist Dave Hullfish Bailey’s images of the Lizard Tree Library in Slab City, California (not far from Imperial City), my first thought was, aha–here’s the kind of library that coffee money might have funded.

Dave Hullfish Bailey, Working approximation of a conventional form, re-determined by prevailing conditions (first version: Noritsu JPEG scans; Xerox model 250; SKU # 866095/remaindered stock), 2008

Dave Hullfish Bailey, Working approximation of a conventional form, re-determined by prevailing conditions (first version: Noritsu JPEG scans; Xerox model 250; SKU # 866095/remaindered stock), 2008

Bailey’s installations converge with social historiography and land use studies in their exploration of alternative models of community and urban planning. Slab City, a squatter and R.V. community built over an old U.S. military base, provides a case study that, in his exhibition at The Suburban, Bailey has approached in a more or less documentary fashion.  A series of 15 framed photocopied images of the Slab City library have been installed sequentially along the gallery’s four walls. Each image presents a view of the library from a slightly different vantage point that corresponds to the photographer’s path around the perimeter. I didn’t know about Slab City before encountering these images, but a little Internet scouring brought up a few useful websites, particularly this one.  Slab City’s inhabitants would probably not describe themselves as “squatters,” though none pay rent. They’ve built the physical structures that house this community from the ground up, along with the social institutions or “clubs” that bring residents together. The library appears to be one of several sacred spaces here that have been constructed entirely by human hands, in this case by a woman named Rosalie who died in 2003.  It’s a quiet place where people can borrow books without I.D. cards, read on the patio, or retreat to in the middle of the night when insomnia hits.

Bailey is interested in the ways that idealism shapes space concretely and ideologically, as when, for example, people from very different backgrounds come together in the wake of hurricanes or riots to create ad hoc spaces of refuge and community support. These chaotic moments have the potential to transform utopian impulses into pragmatic solutions. In Slab City, ordinary folks have put their highest aspirations of self and community to the test. Baileys’ trajectory around the Slab City library circumscribes a Utopia twice removed; one that looks and feel a lot more down-to-earth than we, or its residents for that matter, may have previously imagined.




Small Is (Usually) Good

March 2, 2009 · Print This Article

CROSS-FADE, a group show of Chicago-based artists who are romantically involved, gives new meaning to the term relational aesthetics. The chosen lovebirds here are Julia Fish and Richard Rezak, Michelle Bolinger and Todd Simeone, and Kevin Kaempf and Michael Thomas of People Powered and Lucky Pierre, respectively—couples who don’t normally collaborate but, as organizer Stacie Johnson points out on the Swimming Pool Project Space website, “their independent practices have been in dialogue for some time.”

CROSS-FADE, at Swimming Pool Projects

CROSS-FADE, at Swimming Pool Projects

I like how this show explicitly acknowledges the influence of a domestic partnership on artistic practice, via  (one imagines) the kinds of conversations that occur not only in the studio but over coffee at the kitchen table or in bed watching t.v. It’s a small show, with a piece from each artist (Kaempf and Thomas contribute a single collaborative video) and a sculpture of a potted plant credited to Bolinger and Simeone. Johnson treads lightly over her theme, as if she’s afraid that by making too much of the romantic ties that bind she’ll warp our view of what each artist is doing on his/her own.  The works aren’t installed in a manner that encourages side-by-side comparisons, and there’s no accompanying text to provide insight into precisely how these artists’ practices are in dialogue. We’re left to figure that out for ourselves, but I think Johnson’s curatorial premise is good enough to warrant a much larger and more in-depth exploration of the idea.  Maybe she could include some examples of what happens to work when lovers break up. Now that’d make for some juicy encounters at the opening reception.

I think we’ve all had this experience:  you see a show that’s mostly forgettable save for one work so good it makes you re-think everything else in the room. This happened to me while viewing Alison Katz’s exhibition at Kasia Kay Art Projects Gallery, which on the whole struck me as a pretty good example of not-so-interesting painting, the show’s provocative title (“You Talk Greasily”) not withstanding.  I’ll admit it: I went to this show under the vague impression that this was an artist who painted with fat, and I was kind of turned on by that idea, but instead I found paintings in oils and acrylics whose execution was of the fashionably loose and sloppy sort; Katz’s garish palette and flattened perspectives also left me cold.

Allison Katz, Coin, 2008

Allison Katz, Coin, 2008

To use a (now-unfashionable) term from Roland Barthes in an admittedly off-kilter context, there’s no punctum in Katz’s paintings, nothing to latch on to, emotionally or intellectually. Is that what they mean by “greasy”? Katz makes paintings for a post-photography era; she also seems to want to deflate traditional notions of authorship.

Allison Katz, Signature, 2008

Allison Katz, Signature, 2008

As Patrice Connelly points out in her New City review of the show, Katz employs so many varying stylistic devices it’s hard to tell that the work was made by a single artist. Perhaps that’s why the one image that repeatedly drew me back was also the most mundane: a still life of a flower bouquet soaking in a clear glass jelly jar, the cellophane still wrapped around the red and yellow buds.

Oil on Canvas

Allison Katz, Bouquet (Cellophane), 2008

I still can’t quite put my finger on why I liked this particular painting so much. Maybe it’s in its seamless melding of the recognizably “real” with the patently artifical, the way Katz’s rough brushstrokes capture the hurriedness with which the flowers have been plunked into the jar and how the painted materiality of the glass and the cellulose behind it extends the parameters of the still life into something more like a frozen landscape. It was the only painting in the show that worked for me, and I caught myself wishing I could tuck it under my arm and take it home, like a real bouquet of flowers.

What’s that oft-cited quote? “Writing about music is like dancing about architecture.” Variously attributed to Elvis Costello, Miles Davis, Lauri Anderson and a bunch of others, whoever said it, I just lived it a little during a visit to Sebastian Craig’s new installation at Old Gold. With its 70’s era rec room feel, Old Gold looks and feels like a party space; no doubt a few prior generations of kids have gotten stoned down there while their parents drank martinis and watched TV upstairs. Sebastian Craig plays off the grungy conviviality of this basement gallery’s past and present incarnations with a party-themed architectural installation that invites (nay, requires) participation and gives you permission to dance like a dork (yay me!). Craig has taken a lengthy pink cord and angled it across two walls so that it looks like the laser beam security device from spy films like Entrapment.

Sebastian Craig at Old Gold

Sebastian Craig at Old Gold

As you pick your way through it to cross the room,  you’re forced to lift up your limbs in a wonky kind of dance. No doubt the piece reached a certain apotheosis during the opening, when the room was filled with people weaving in and out of the cords in order to view the video on the other side of the room, or more importantly, grab a beer.  But I was there alone, when the room was empty (save for co-director Caleb Lyons and his cutie-pie pug), and I’m glad I was, as I don’t think the work’s remarkably strong architectural elements would have asserted themselves so clearly had I seen it only during the opening festivities.

… Anyone go to Paul Chan’s opening at The Ren yesterday? If you did, what’d ya think?