Tag Archives: museum

Basquiat: The Unknown Notebooks

IMG_4554s

Late in the 1980s, burgeoning New York art collector Larry Warsh acquired a series of eight, common composition notebooks from members of a seemingly-defunct and little-known band called “Gray.” Those notebooks sat boxed in a closet of Warsh’s Manhattan apartment for more than 25 years. Now they are on a touring exhibition from the Brooklyn Museum, with stops at the High Museum of Art in Atlanta, and the Pérez Art Museum in Miami, and the books are likely reaching a much bigger audience than the band ever attracted back at C.B.G.B.’s in 1980.

Of course, these aren’t just any notebooks. “Gray” isn’t just any band born in the Bowery. And it turns out that Larry Warsh is a damn good judge of groundbreaking art.

The sparsely-filled books contain years of hand-written notes by revolutionary artist Jean-Michel Basquiat and they seem to offer a peep-hole in to the mind of that unconventional genius. This exhibit presents pages from the notebooks alongside a selection of his larger compositions, providing the visitor an in-depth exploration of the Basquiat lexicon that is both verbal and visual.

IMG_4542s

View from the Basquiat exhibition at the High Museum of Art.

Basquiat started the band, eventually called “Gray” with performance artist Michael Holman in 1979. They, with various other bandmates, played their ambient/industrial music at the usual downtown haunts, but with growing recognition of his visual artistic talent, Basquiat left the band in mid 1980. It was right about then his career seemed to lasso a shooting star and the artist struggled to hold on tight for as long as he could.

Surviving band members reunited to play at Basquiat’s memorial service in 1988 and again more recently for art happenings and music festivals. In 2011 they even released a “new” album “Shades of…” which includes cuts of  the late Basquiat’s voice and music.

GRAY – SHADES OF… from Plushsafe Records.

 

But this is about the notebooks…

View from the Basquiat exhibition at the High Museum of Art.

Since the beginning, Basquiat’s artistic efforts have focused on words and short phrases. The SAMO@ graffiti he perpetrated with school friend Al Diaz in the late seventies often seemed like excerpts of Beat poetry.

MICROWAVE & VIDEO X-SISTANCE
“BIG MAC” CERTIFICATE
FOR X-MAS
-SAMO©

Even after his painting evolved from street walls, to paper and fabric, to canvas and wood installations, these words and phrases infiltrated every aspect of Basquiat’s artwork. In fact they seem to be the actual essence of it, merely enhanced by the more visually dominant graphic elements.

Basquiat – Untitled, 1982–83. Oilstick, colored pencil, crayon, and gouache on paper mounted on canvas. Collection of Fred Hoffman.  Estate of Jean-Michel Basquiat.

This first major exhibition of the books displays 160 pages of the artist’s personal writings, sketches and notes, accompanied by other drawings, paintings and historical Basquiat ephemera. The pages on display often reveal a kind of evolution on many of the subjects he used in his more extensive paintings, along with those iconic motifs like figures, faces and crowns.

Page from Basquiat notebooks – Famous Negro Athletes.

Basquiat drawing – Famous Negro Athletes, 1981, oil stick on paper. Collection of Glenn O’Brien.

 

Basquiat developed a unique way of using language the way other artists used paint, or filmmakers use footage. The notebooks seem to be like mental scrapbooks for the artist to collect and manipulate phrases and ideas.

The exhibit presents them as “autonomous works” and not the “preparatory studies” of a sketchbook. But they do have a sketchbook feel to them, only these sketches are made with words instead of line and shadow.

This brings me back to the Beat Poets, and Kerouac in particular. On the back cover of my copy of the book: “Jack Kerouac Book of Sketches“, (Pengiun 2006), it says:

“…Ed White mentioned to Jack Kerouac ‘Why don’t you just sketch in the streets like a painter but with words.’ White’s suggestion is credited with helping to inspire Kerouac’s move to spontaneous prose.”

Here’s an excerpt from a Kerouac “sketch” in Massachusetts.

———————–

Concord River RR
Bridge
Sunday Oct 24 ’54
Lowel
5 PM
     A ridiculous NE
tumbleweed danced
across the RR bridge
     Thoreau’s Concord
is blue aquamarine
in October red
sereness — little
Indian hill towards
Walden, is orange
brown with Autumn
The faultless sky
attests to T’s solemn
wisdom being correct
— but perfect wisdom is Buddha’s

—————-

Many of these Basquiat notebook pages have a very similar feel…

Basquiat Page2

Basquiat – from Untitled Notebook #2, 1980–1981 – Collection of Larry Warsh, Copyright © Estate of Jean-Michel Basquiat, Photo: Sarah DeSantis, Brooklyn Museum.

 

Just as other collage artists like Ray Johnson and Robert Rauschenberg collected little snippets physically from newspapers, letters and trash piles, to later assemble and re-arrange in their artworks, – Basquiat seems to have been collecting these snippets verbally instead. He collected them in the notebooks by writing them down when he read them, heard them, witnessed them, or just thought them up.

While many lines are filled with these intriguing collections of phrases, and developing ideas, other pages do indeed feel more like finished works of art on their own.

basquiat_untitled_notebook_page_1987_2

Basquiat –  Untitled Notebook Page, circa 1987 – 

Collection of Larry Warsh. Copyright © Estate of Jean-Michel Basquiat, Photo: Sarah DeSantis, Brooklyn Museum.

Looking closely at the intricate structures of words and lines on the pages, one can hardly resist recalling the obvious influences of seasoned contemporaries like Rauschenberg and Cy Twombly.

Basquiat – detail from page of Notebook #4 – Collection of Larry Warsh.

In addition to these rarely seen notebook pages, some of the more emblematic Basquiat works are traveling with the show. These larger compositions, canvasses and collages add a pleasing compliment to the exhibition.

Views from the show at the High Museum of Art in Atlanta.

Some of the most precious little items in the show are the rare mementos of the artist’s life, such as the Brooklyn Museum Junior Membership Card signed by a young Jean-Michel Basquiat.

And the unforgettable Polaroid photograph by cohort Andy Warhol.

Jean Michel – Basquiat Polaroid 1982 – by Andy Warhol on loan from private collection, seen at The High Museum of Art.

These additions provide a much wider scope for viewing the artist’s work, making this a unique opportunity for both longtime aficionados, and Basquiat newbies alike.

As notebook owner Larry Warsh expressed so perfectly in an April, 2015 Q&A article for Departures by Laura van Straaten:

“No one can have a complete picture of the inner workings of any artist, but the words on these pages give us a glimpse of the soul behind this complex, creative persona.”

While I highly recommend attending this exhibition if you can, I can’t help myself from wondering what else Warsh might have stashed in that closet of his…

Tour Schedule :

Brooklyn Museum, New York

April 3–August 23, 2015

High Museum of Art, Atlanta, Georgia

February 28–May 29, 2016

Pérez Art Museum Miami, Florida

August 8–October 23, 2016

 

Links, Sources & Recommended reading:

 

Departures: “Q&A: Larry Warsh On Basquiat’s Notebooks” by Laura van Straaten

Financial Times: “Larry Warsh on his approach to collecting” by Peter Aspden

Gray History from the website of Michael Holman

http://plushsaferecords.com/

http://www.basquiat.com/artist-timeline.htm

The SAMO© Graffiti photographed by Henry Flynt

https://www.brooklynmuseum.org/exhibitions/touring/basquiat_notebooks http://www.high.org/Art/Exhibitions/Basquiat-Notebooks http://pamm.org/exhibitions/basquiat-unknown-notebooks

==================================================

TEXT AND PHOTOS BY LANCE ARAM ROTHSTEIN (except where noted.)

 

 

Advertisements

Vik Muniz Retrospective at High Museum

By guest contributor Karen Rothstein.

Now on exhibit until August 21, 2016 at The High Museum of Art in Atlanta, is a retrospective including more than 100 photographs by the Brazilian born mixed media artist Vik Muniz.

He has such a warm and enthusiastic manner. At the media preview, he expressed his overwhelming joy at seeing museum-goers actually taking close-up notice of all the unorthodox materials he used to create his artworks. Even the youngest child can find something in his work that brings them pleasure and perhaps engages them into taking an interest in the world of Art.

Photo Feb 24, 11 14 11 AM

The writer, Karen Rothstein with artist Muniz in front of his Self-Portrait: “I Am Too Sad to Tell You”, after Bas Jan Ader, from the “Rebus” series.

Muniz is known for trying to create a sense of wonder and intrigue within his photography. The way he creates each piece is unique, adding a plethora of unconventional items in the process of making each finished photograph. These things that you might be familiar with in their proper place, will all come as a surprise in his art. Things such as: tiny childhood toys, garbage, torn pieces of magazines, diamonds, food of all sorts, etc…. It is easy to see the artist has a playful sense of humor. The different textures and sizes of his working canvasses make each finished photograph very unique. For example, one project included large-scale drawings made by bulldozers on a construction site, while other images were made by assembling small pieces of garbage or tiny toys and then photographing them from above, to reveal the intended scene that he pictured in his head before it all started. Be sure to watch the video in the gallery, showing how he created “Mother and Child” from the “Pictures of Garbage” series.

Vik Muniz – Mother and Child  (Suellen)  from “Pictures of Garbage” series.

Muniz often makes several works in a series, using similar materials to explore a common theme, materials that often trigger the viewer’s memory, recalling another time and place.

001Double MonaLisa3008X10o4

Vik Muniz – “Double Mona Lisa” (Peanut Butter and Jelly) from “After Warhol” series.

Vik Muniz – “Saturn devouring one of his sons” after Goya, from “Pictures of Junk Series.”

Vik Muniz – “Vik, 2 Years Old,”  from Pictures of Album series (representing one of the few pictures from his childhood)

Before moving to New York as a young man, Muniz was brought up in a working class family in Brazil while the country was under a strong military regime. People couldn’t speak their mind and times were hard. To this day he stands up for the underdog and addresses issues of social justice, and several of the works on display express the depth of his feelings.

 

Muniz Stinney

Vik Muniz – “George Stinney, Jr.” from “Pictures of Album” series  (Stinney was convicted at a flawed trial in 1944 at the age of 14 in South Carolina.)

 

Vik Muniz – Six children from the “Sugar Children” series (Children from sugar plantation workers who played in the sand on the Island of St. Kitts).

Muniz really loves to use all different textures and is intrigued with color pigmentation as seen in his wonderful rendering of Gauguin’s “Day of the Gods”. Look close, the colors and textures comes to life.

Vik Muniz – “Mahana No Atua” (Day of the Gods), after Gauguin, from “Pictures of Pigment” series.

Muniz is primarily working in series these days, but he started out in the 80’s doing sculpture. A fine example is on display, be sure to few his Mnemonic Vehicle (Ferrari Berlinetta) a composite of polyurethane, plexiglass and aluminum, portraying a nearly life-size Ferrari automobile as a massive matchbox car.

The Artist is a true master of creativity and composition, his work has been on display the world over. He currently works in  New York City and Rio de Janeiro.

This exhibit is a wonderful one and will make for great discussion with family and friends in days to follow.

Vik Muniz – A Bar at the Folies-Bergère after Édouard Manet, from the Pictures of Magazines 2 series.

The Vik Muniz exhibition runs through August 21, 2016 at The High Museum of Art in Atlanta. Visit www.high.org for more info.


Jan Fabre set for groundbreaking show at Hermitage in St.Petersburg 2016

Belgian artist Jan Fabre has been invited to The Hermitage museum in Saint Petersburg, Russia, for a monumental, one-man exhibition in September 2016.

MIAMI BEACH – At the SCOPE International Contemporary Art Show in Miami Beach this week, Jan Fabre had several works being exhibited by MAM Mario Mauroner Contemporary Art gallery based in Vienna, Austria. Positioned near the main entrance, Fabre’s colorful and macabre pieces caught the eye of most visitors to the show.

"Skull with magpie" 2001 Jan Fabre

Skull with magpie 2001 Jan Fabre

His works using animal parts, such as Skull with magpie, include jewel-beetle wing cases and stuffed, dead animals. While they may provide some challenging visual images for inquisitive collectors, their iridescent attraction is undeniable.

MAM’s Judith Radlegger was among the gallery’s representatives at SCOPE, answering a virtually non-stop flow of questions from interested art lovers. But one of the most interesting tidbits she revealed was the recent announcement that Jan Fabre will have a massive exhibition at the Russian State Hermitage Museum in Saint Petersburg in 2016.

Fabre will be the first living artist to have such an exhibition at the historic venue, which is happening at the invitation of Hermitage Director, Mikhail Piotrovsky. It will be curated by Dimitri Ozerkov, who recently was in charge of the renovation and grand opening of their new contemporary art wing. Fabre’s installation will take up to 30 rooms in multiple buildings and is sure to make headlines and draw the attention of the international art world, as did a previous installation at the Belgian Royal Palace in 2002. The palace’s Mirror Room and chandelier were covered with the wings of more than one million beetles.

IMG_5259-Fabre-C

Heaven of Delight (seen from below) 2002 Jan Fabre

At SCOPE Miami 2014, Fabre’s colorful pieces were also drawing attention, and many visitors stepped up close to the work to get a better look at the intricate beetle wings used to make the pieces. Encased behind glass, King Leopold II in the Air (from the series Hieronymus Bosch in Congo) utilized thousands of the tiny wings mounted on wood in the form of a crown.

IMG_0392-Fabre2s

Detail from King Leopold II in the Air (from the series Hieronymus Bosch in Congo) 2012 Jan Fabre

IMG_0390-Fabre3

Skull with rabbit 2014 Jan Fabre

SCOPE runs through Sunday December 7th, but if you couldn’t make it to Miami this year, and you won’t be heading to Russia in 2016, you can catch one of his many other international exhibitions. Check out his currently running shows via his website here: http://janfabre.be/angelos/en/running/

==================================================

ALL TEXT AND PHOTOS BY LANCE ARAM ROTHSTEIN


Abelardo Morell’s Universe Next Door at High Museum Atlanta

ABELARDO MORELL’S UNIVERSE NEXT DOOR AT HIGH MUSEUM OF ART – ATLANTA

Review by Labeauratoire US Correspondent Karen Nurenberg Rothstein

TheUniverseNextDoor1s

The photography exhibition, “The Universe Next Door” is now on view at The High Museum of Art in Atlanta, Georgia through May 18, 2014. It includes more than 100 works that span Abelardo Morell’s career from 1986 through the present-time.

1ManhattanView1s

Abelardo Morell – Camera Obscura: Manhattan View Looking South in Large Room
1996, Gelatin silver print.

Abelardo Morell was born in Havana, Cuba in 1948. He fled with his family in 1962, but before he left Cuba he saw many atrocities. His life was turned upside down by the things he lived through. These events have given him a great sense of depth and feeling which he has used in his work as a photographer.  Morell is especially known for his work with the camera obscura, but he got his early inspiration from great masters of street photography such as Robert Frank and Henri Cartier-Bresson. Bresson was an early adopter of the 35mm format camera, which Abelardo used primarily for some time, but with the birth of his children, he left the light weight 35mm camera and went to a heavier, large format model. He began to experience things in a different way after his children were born, and he used the large format camera to express that new found depth of meaning with contrasting light and dark expression in his work.

Unlike many other photographers, Morell doesn’t limit himself to one photographic style. There are several different visual avenues he explores, giving this exhibition a dynamic variety.

CHILDREN

Abelardo Morell shows us that you are never to old to experience things with the enthusiasm of a child. His children opened his eyes, allowing him to visualize things with a simplicity and wonderment, to go beyond what is plainly visible and to genuinely see and photograph the world in a different way. His work is indeed a magical mix between realism, surrealism and simplicity. Consider his photograph of a pencil. It is simply a pencil, but the morning shadows transform it into a magical tower.

Abelardo Morell – Pencil, 2000, Gelatin silver print.

One of the key images included in this exhibit shows the shadow of the artist’s house on the ground. A door, windows, and a fence have been drawn into the image, and his children pose, showing what might be going on inside or within. Reality merges with imaginary.

Shadow of the House 002

Abelardo Morell – Laura and Brady in the Shadow of Our House, 1994, Gelatin silver print

SURREALISM

In “Still Life with Wine Glass”, which is a photogram, Morell has positioned the objects as a still-life. But with his artful magic and the use of water and glass, the result is surreal. The perspective is distorted, forcing the viewer to focus on the objects he has brought to the foreground.

5StillLifeWineGlass1s

Abelardo Morell – Photogram on 20″ x 24″ Film, 2006, Gelatin silver print.

Morell also has a great talent for showing excitement. He is able to capture the unique behaviors and properties of motion, and several photographs in this exhibit are good examples of this talent. The “Motion Study-Hammer” gives the illusion that a hammer is coming down to hit the nail on the head, but in reality it is three impressions of a hammer in lead.

4MotionStudy-Hammer1s

Abelardo Morell – Motion Study of Hammer Impressions on Lead
2004, Gelatin silver print.

CAMERA OBSCURA

The Camera Obscura (Latin for “dark room”)  was one of the earliest methods of projecting an image. This was achieved by opening a small hole to allow light from the outside to penetrate into a darkened room. This technique would cast a faint, upside-down image of the outside scene onto the inside wall. This process helped early master artists such as Vermeer and dates back to the 10th century or perhaps even farther.

6empireStateBs

Abelardo Morell – Camera Obscura: The Empire State Building in Bedroom
1994, Inkjet print.

In 1991, Morell started bringing the outside world inside with his use of the camera obscura. At home with his family was where he felt the most inspired, so he started blackening rooms of his house and, with his large format camera on a tripod, he set out to make the most enchanting and exciting photographs he had done in his life.

Using Kodak Tri-X film in a view-camera, these first camera obscura images required an exposure time of several hours. When the first image was developed it was an epiphany for him. The interaction between the projected, outside image, with the ordinary elements of the room inside, produced a truly unique mixture.

Fall1s

Abelardo Morell – Camera Obscura: View of Central Park Looking North
Fall, 2008, Inkjet print.

Later, Morell started capturing these projections in color, and also devised a way to invert the image so that it would be seen right-side up. His retrospective at the High Museum displays the exciting evolution of these camera obscura photographs.

“A lot of my work tries to disorient you once you get invited in to something that seems normal.  I like to suggest that what may be empty is not. When you feel alone there is actually a lot more of the world coming into your space than you think.” 

– Abelardo Morell  –  http://shadowofthehouse.com/film.html

8Camera Obscura-ViewAtlanta1s

Abelardo Morell – Camera Obscura:
View of Atlanta Looking South Down Peachtree Street in Hotel Room
2013, Inkjet print.

TENT CAMERA

The next venture for Morell was to make a portable camera obscura, and his “Tent Camera” was what came to materialize from this endeavor. With the help of a friend he placed a periscope on top of a darkened tent enabling him to project the outside images onto the ground inside, where there was already a natural canvas. With the advances in digital photography, the increased light sensitivity allowed Morell to make exposures more quickly.

bridge1s

Abelardo Morell discusses the making of his image. Tent Camera Image on Ground:
View of the Golden Gate Bridge from Battery Yates, 2012, Inkjet print

“The added use of dig­i­tal tech­nol­ogy on my cam­era lets me record visual moments in a much shorter time frame– for instance I can now get clouds and peo­ple to show up in some of the photographs.”

– Abelardo Morell  – http://www.abelardomorell.net/srcHTML/tent-camera-statement.html

Lib­er­ated now with his tent camera, he was free to experiment out in the world.

10OldFaith1s

Abelardo Morell – Tent-Camera Image on Ground: View of Old Faithful Geyser,
Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, 2011, Inkjet print.

BOOKS, PAPER AND MONEY

In some of the other works on display, Morell uses a 35mm camera to capture his love for the simplicity of everyday things, such as Books, Paper and Money.  With this camera he achieves majestic close-ups, engaging the observer to realize the beauty in things we so often take for granted as mere objects.

In “Down the Rabbit Hole”, the rabbit, from “Alice in Wonderland,” struggles to peer down a hole made in a large book. This makes the viewer want to look inside and perhaps dream of what might be down there, and of possibilities to come.

RabbitHole1s

Abelardo Morell – Down the Rabbit Hole
(From Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland), 1998, Inkjet print.

In the image “Paper-Self” he has merely stacked up paper to create a profile of himself. The visual architecture of this photograph, with its detailed, contrasting highlights and shadows, is so well structured, it reveals his mastery and shows us the intricacy and pulchritude of his mind.

12self1s

Abelardo Morell – Paper Self, 2012, inkjet print.

PICTURING THE SOUTH

In 1996 the High Museum established “Picturing the South” an initiative commissioning established and emerging artists to make a body of work that would show off the south. Abelardo Morell is the latest artist to receive this commission. He chose for his subject matter, the trees of the southern landscape, and captured them in his somewhat whimsical, yet natural way.

13trees1s

Abelardo Morell discusses his image: Cutout in Print with Pine Trees Behind
2013, Inkjet print

During Morell’s talk at the exhibition’s press conference, he describes his technique of hanging a large image of a wooded scene in front of the actual trees in the forest. He then cut out parts to expose the real landscape.

Like so much of this exhibition, this image offers us an interesting look into the way Morell continues to surprise us with each step he makes in his photographic journey.

IMG_9849s

 “The Universe Next Door” runs through May 18, 2014 at The High Museum of Art in Atlanta, Georgia.

LINKS:

High Museum Atlanta’s Website: www.high.org

Abelardo Morell’s Official Website: www.abelardomorell.net

—————————————————————

ALL TEXT AND “LABEAURATOIRE” PHOTOGRAPHS BY KAREN NURENBERG ROTHSTEIN
FOR LABEAURATOIRE ©2014

Super Natural: Clyde Butcher’s Florida Photographs at the Leepa-Rattner Museum in Tarpon Springs Florida

Butcher is one of the greatest American landscape photographers and certainly one of the hardest-working men in the business. Don’t miss your chance to see some of his magnificent and massive prints in this exhibition:

“Preserving Eden” Clyde Butcher’s Florida Photographs

Leepa-Rattner Museum of Art ~ Tarpon Springs, Florida, USA  North and South Galleries Dec. 8, 2013 – Feb. 16, 2014

butcher2

Clyde Butcher – Loxahatchee River #1, 1991
Gelatin silver print, 48 x 72 in., On loan from the South Florida Museum, Bradenton

Clyde Butcher works with a large format view cameras and often traipses out into the Florida Swamps with all his equipment. This is not a simple task and, though he does have helpful assistants, it can be a brutal and arduous journey. But at 71, Butcher is a master of his craft and his herculean efforts produce spectacular results. While many people view landscapes as still and unchanging, Butcher is somehow supernaturally in-tune with his natural surroundings and he waits for the perfect moment to snap his picture like a street photographer would in the urban jungle.

butcher4

Clyde Butcher’s unique eye, combined with his patience and attention to detail, allows him to instill the feelings of action and excitement in a seemingly unmoving scene.

This special exhibition at the Leepa-Rattner Museum of Art in Tarpon Springs includes 35 black and white photographs and allows visitors the opportunity to experience the unique connection Butcher has with natural Florida, and they don’t even have to put on wading boots!

butcher1

Butcher takes us on an historic journey, not only into the deepest, darkest corners of the Everglades, but also to the sun-bleached shores of Florida’s beaches, and even to the vanishing green spaces that can be found beside highways and parking lots. He is a man on a mission and that mission is being “deeply committed to recording precious landscapes throughout the world.”

butcher5

After their virtual hike through the stunning wilderness, visitors can sit and relax watching a video documentary on Butcher and his work.

butcher3

In addition to being one of the greatest living photographers, Clyde Butcher is also one of the most active, and when it comes to his online presence, he has provided many ways for fans to become involved and stay connected.

He provides guided Photo Safari’s and Ec0-Excursions via his website:

Clyde Butcher’s Big Cyprus Gallery

His personal site: clydebutcher.com also has a wealth of biographic and technical information for those gearheads out there.

Butcher’s Facebook Page has more status updates than your thirteen year-old neice’s.

And he even has his own YouTube Channel!

So, take advantage of your chance to see this great exhibition. If not, be sure to check out one of his future events by subscribing to his NEWSLETTER.

IF YOU GO:

“Preserving Eden” Clyde Butcher’s Florida Photographs

Dec. 8, 2013 – Feb. 16, 2014

Leepa-Rattner Museum of Art / 600 Klosterman Road · Tarpon Springs FL 

open Tuesday – Sunday (check for hours)

LRMA@spcollege.edu / (727) 712-5762

===================================================

ALL PHOTOS AND TEXT @ LANCE ARAM ROTHSTEIN


An Odyssey of Imagery: Joel-Peter Witkin at Keitelman Gallery Brussels

Joel-Peter Witkin “Love and other Reasons”

at Keitelman Gallery Brussels

January 24 – March 29 2014

NOT FOR THE TIMID OR EASILY OFFENDED.

Joel-Peter Witkin - "Paris Triad" 2011

Joel-Peter Witkin – “Paris Triad” 2011

Don’t miss this rare chance to experience an odyssey of imagery in the photographs of infamous American artist Joel-Peter Witkin. His unmistakable style combines caustic and corrosive techniques with traditional darkroom printing to present a unique and often startling tableau. Calling on a wealth of symbolism from mythology, legend, and painters of the past, Witkin composes meticulous scenes in makeshift studios with subjects spanning the entire experience of human life, and death.

Joel-Peter Witkin was born in New York in 1939. After honing his technical skills as a documentary photographer in the US military, he studied visual art and received his MFA from the University of New Mexico. Witkin still lives in Albuquerque where he continues to innovate and build on his well-established career. This exhibition “Love and other Reasons” at the Keitelman Gallery brings together a wealth of different pictures, mostly from the last fifteen years.

Keitelman1

Viewing Witkin’s images is not an endeavor to be taken lightly. Many have castigated the artist and his work and even some of his fans find it difficult to look at. Witkin often uses human body parts and corpses in his photographs and the people who pose for him fill the spectrum of humanity, from the traditional beauties to the drastically deformed. Witkin himself once advertised for models exhibiting “…all manner of visual perversions…” and that is what the viewer will encounter in his images.

Joel-Peter Witkin - "Anna Akhmatova" 1998

Joel-Peter Witkin – “Anna Akhmatova” 1998

But perversion is not what Witkin sees, and those who “get” his work also see the beauty that can be found in the compositions he presents. Recalling still-life paintings by the Flemish masters, many of his photographs gather an ensemble of objects with an infinite capacity for symbolic interpretation, and like the “vanitas” of the 17th century Witkin uses these symbols to spark introspection.

Joel-Peter Witkin - "Still Life with Mirror" 1999

Joel-Peter Witkin – “Still Life with Mirror” 1999

Witkin uses his lens and his creativity to shine a light in to the darkest corners of the mind and of human existence and asks us to consider, what is the nature of life, of death, of beauty, of fear? Do we look in the mirror and see the transitory nature of all life and earthly endeavors?

Joel-Peter Witkin - "Poussin in Hell" - 1999

Joel-Peter Witkin – “Poussin in Hell” – 1999

“Hellish” is a word that can often be conjured when viewing Witkin’s work. And like the demon-filled representations on medieval church walls, these photographs offer a story that is more powerful than mere words can express.

Joel-Peter Witkin - Paris Triad: "Death is like lunch...  it's coming." - 2011

Joel-Peter Witkin – Paris Triad: “Death is like lunch… it’s coming.” – 2011

Don’t be alarmed and ask “what’s the world coming to?” He’s not subjecting you to anything that Hieronymous Bosch didn’t envision six hundred years ago. But unlike Bosch, Witkin’s story is not about exposing evil. On the contrary, his pictures embody an innocence of sorts. It’s easy to look away. To dismiss them as merely provocative. But look more deeply into the images (and into yourself,) and you may glimpse what Witkin is searching for.

“There’s two times in life where you’re totally innocent: before birth, and at death.”
– Joel-Peter Witkin
Joel-Peter Witkin - Paris Triad: "The Reader" - 2011

Joel-Peter Witkin – Paris Triad: “The Reader” – 2011

If you can gather the mental constitution to let go of your preconceptions and step through the looking glass provided here, you’ll be rewarded with a wealth of stunning images you’re not likely to forget. Witkin is certainly a master of his craft. He can invoke the spirits of Dante and Dalí and bend them to his will.

With a cadre of dedicated assistants, he often spends days sketching and laying-out his elaborate scenes before any photography occurs. He then spends as much time again working the negatives and prints into his unique mixture of photo, graphic, collage, and chemical reaction.

Joel-Peter Witkin - "Eternity Past, Berlin" - 1998

Joel-Peter Witkin – “Eternity Past, Berlin” – 1998

This exhibition at the Keitelman Gallery offers a fairly wide array of Witkin’s work ranging in time and subject matter. Many of his newer pieces include almost vibrant colors, not a characteristic often associated with his earlier work. And some of the photographs have been hand colored, where previous prints of the same image were only presented in black and white. Painting and collage elements have become more prevalent in Witkin’s arsenal of visual weaponry over the past ten years, proving the artist has not ceased evolving.

Joel-Peter Witkin - "Woman with Small Breasts" - 2007

Joel-Peter Witkin – “Woman with Small Breasts” – 2007

 Witkin is not an artist resting on his laurels. He continues to investigate the nature and meaning of human experience when many others have resorted to platitudes. With a well-weathered soul he still searches for that common innocence that lies within the essence of all things. And though it might remain just out of reach, Witkin keeps taking up the challenge.

~ LANCE ARAM ROTHSTEIN – FEBRUARY 9, 2014

Joel-Peter Witkin “Love and other Reasons”

at Keitelman Gallery Brussels runs January 24 through March 29 2014

for more details visit: http://www.keitelmangallery.com/

KEITELMAN GALLERY / RUE VAN EYCK 44 / B-1000 BRUSSELS, BELGIUM

TEL +32 2 511 35 80  / EMAIL KEITELMAN @ KEITELMANGALLERY.COM

OPENING HOURS: TUESDAY – SATURDAY 12:00 – 18:00
OR BY APPOINTMENT

==================================================

PHOTOGRAPHS WITH THE “LABEAURATOIRE” LOGO BY LANCE ARAM ROTHSTEIN

ALL OTHER IMAGES ARE FROM THE KEITELMAN GALLERY WEBSITE


A Quick Trip through Life with Pierre Lefebvre @ Delire Gallery Brussels

A Quick Trip through Life with Pierre Lefebvre

New Paintings at Delire Gallery Brussels – January 31 – March 1, 2014

carrousel-s

This large canvas of a carousel in the front window, beckons all who pass by, to enter the Delire Gallery in the Ixelles art district of Brussels. Inside the small, bright space are six more from Pierre Lefebvre’s series of seven new paintings.

Unless you have a French heart, (or perhaps a Russian one,) it might be slightly difficult at first, to find cohesion between the images presented in this exhibition. The vibrant swirling carousel is accompanied by four medium canvasses, each depicting a solitary pigeon on cobblestones, one of a large, gray section from an anonymous cemetery, and a small, lovely and colorfully detailed painting, which appeared to my American eyes to show a fancy fan-pull.

But after a short guide from gallery owner Sébastien Delire, the brilliance of this ensemble becomes blindingly clear.

Transported back to our childhood, we see the carousel spinning round and round with blurring speed. Each vehicle is a path of destiny.

The gallery’s accompanying pamphlet (which I did not read until later,) states it perfectly:

“On which ship did you escape reality? Which animal took you on a travel?
A rocket, an elephant, a tank, a carriage, the police motorcycle, the horse?” 

What did you dream of? Which path did you choose in life?

Next comes the large room. Each of the four walls carries a single canvas, (two shown here) framed alone by the vast whiteness. Four depictions of a pigeon, walking around on cobblestones, seemingly aimless.

pigeon1s

Aren’t we all like this pigeon? Slightly confused by our surroundings, just trying to make it through life, get some food, avoid harm, not quite sure what’s coming next.

The viewer must turn in a circle to see each painting in this room.

Do you still feel like you are on the carousel?

In Lefebvre’s previous exhibition. I noted that he had a knack for capturing obscure little snapshots of life, small vignettes depicting scenes that most others wouldn’t think twice about. And these pigeons are like that as well. As we all walk, drive, ride our way through life, how often do you stop to notice the pigeons? They’re always there, going about their business. Trying to make due, same as you. It’s always the children who have a free enough spirit to get excited about pigeons on the street. Well… children and those photographers with the heart of a child. In every square you can see children running toward the pigeons, scattering them like a cloud of magic dust, and also a photographer, crouched inconspicuously, trying to capture them in motion.

pigeon2s

Lefebvre, with his child’s heart and snapshot-like paintings, has captured them here and presents them for you to consider, in a manner you’re much more comfortable with. Art on a wall.

Do you feel more grown-up now?

Good, because now we move on to the next room.

The final room is much more cramped and poorly lit. The exact opposite of the previous room. Here there are two paintings on opposing walls. One is a very large, drab canvas that looms from high on the wall. It depicts a section of graves in a cemetery. Yes, death comes for us all. I will not try to represent this imposing painting with measly pixels. Go see it for yourself. Even being there I felt I had to step out of the room, backing up to try and take it all in. But you can’t really accomplish that task. You’re forced to be in the room with it. It invades your personal space. You must confront it, or turn away.

And in turning away, Lefebvre, with a wink, gives you a little chance at a way out.

floch-s

This small painting I thought was showing a fancy fan-pull, is actually a traditional feature of some European carousels. This small ball and tassel, similar to the Brass Ring on some American carousels, is dangled barely within reach of the riders.

If you are lucky enough to grab the right one. You get to ride again!

Can you reach it? Do you get a Free Life? Re-start? Do-over? Reincarnation?

What will you dream of this time?

New Paintings by Pierre Lefebvre

on show at Delire Gallery Brussels – January 31 – March 1, 2014

http://www.deliregallery.com/

=========================================================

ALL IMAGES IN THIS POST ©PIERRE LEFEBVRE

Written by Lance Aram Rothstein 2/7/2014