The conceptual underpinnings of Outsider Art are problematic. Who’s “in” and who’s “out” is just one of the questions no one has adequately defined. Your scribe is puzzling this conunudrum for multiple publications, so will say no more for now other that to present textile works from Wellcome Trust’s Souzou: Outsider Art from Japan on until 30 June 2013. More than 300 works in various media create a compelling object-led exhibition. DJ
Woven in linen and cotton Red Meander was designed by Anni Albers, famed alumnus of the Bauhaus in Germany and founding faculty member at the legendary Black Mountain College in North Carolina. It was she who can be credited with developing and disseminating a revolution in 20th century contemporary textile design and production. But is Meander truly a meander or is it more mythical maze? (Cont)
The word meander calls to mind a loose, loopy gambol not a rectilinear purposeful path. Albers’ pattern recalls labyrinth floors like St Quentin, Chartres Cathedral or the infamous labyrinthos of Greek mythology.
Daedelus designed the labyrinth to cage King Minos’ stealth weapon – the “man-bull” Minotaur. At war with mainland Athens, the island King prevailed and demanded “tributes” of Athenian youth every nine years to feed the Minotaur. Enough was enough. Athens sent Theseus to Crete. He got lucky. It was un coup de foudre when the King’s daughter saw him. Betraying dad, she gave Theseus the secret directions to the heart of the labyrinth. “Forwards, down and never left or right”, and she gave him a ball of yarn to unroll as back-up “map”. Theseus killed the man-bull. Fair fight? No. Theseus had a sword. Poor Minotaur. Trapped his whole life in a maze, no friends, and infrequent feedings. Cruel. (Cont)
Whatever Albers’ influence for Meander, it seems she may have inspired Keith Haring, or is it only your scribe who sees similarities between Meander and Haring’s hip hop graffiti?
Original Anni Albers rugs and textiles are found in private collections, museums and The Josef and Anni Albers Foundation. Several exemplary contemporary dealers are authorised by the Foundation to sell renditions of Meander. Alan Cristea Gallery sells screenprints, and Christopher Farr sells the rug. Find Farr in London or better still, stop by COVER’s Forza Tappeti: The Rug Revolution exhibition at Edit during Milan Design Week next month to see Meander and more. DJ
Over the river, and through the woods, but your scribe isn’t going to grandma’s house. A visit to the British Museum’s African Textiles Today requires perseverance to cross multiple galleries, wend through crowds, until Gallery 90 is reached by fleet feet up four flights. Don’t be flummoxed by In Search of Classical Greece, cross through this exhibition to discover the African textiles exhibition tucked at the back. It’s not big, but it’s bold, bright and informative. And for your scribe it posed a question. Was Roy Lichtenstein influenced by African design?
Concurrent with the British Museum’s African Textiles exhibition is Tate Modern’s blockbuster Lichtenstein exhibition. Pop art’s pow hit the public in 1962. Lichtenstein, Warhol, Wesselmann, Indiana and Rosenquist all had one-man shows. Lichtenstein famously used newspaper comic strips as his compositional and narrative framework although he was also influenced to a lesser degree by other media.
Have critics considered whether Lichtenstein, like Picasso et al, was influenced by Africa, particularly African textiles? The term “radical chic” arrived in 1970 when Tom Wolfe used it in his New York magazine feature Radical Chic: That Party at Lenny’s to describe the interaction of above Houston Street denizens like conductor Leonard Bernstein with those who lived below Houston (Greenwich Village etc). Did Lichtenstein similarly seek inspiration or kudos from African motifs as secondary supplement to his adaptations of American mass media? Whether yes or no, the compilation image above shows the visual relationship between the two. Your scribe suggests readers cross the Thames both ways to see Lichtenstein on the south bank and African art on the north, and judge for yourselves. DJ
Better to seek forgiveness than ask permission is a useful guiding principle for those who have a cunning plan but problematic superiors. Seeking forgiveness isn’t just for usual suspect rogue operators. Ramón Mor, padre at L’Hospitalet de Llobregat near Barcelona, had a cunning plan early last year to paint a wall at his church. Artist selection required the Archbishop’s permission. But the priest took a punt. He didn’t ask permission. He commissioned Rudi and his Madrileño amigo House to paint the blank apse of Santa Eulàlia. Rudi and House use aerosols. They are escritores de grafitis. Graffiti artists. Which explains why Padre Mor didn’t seek permission.
Santa Eulàlia de Provençana was built in the mid-1950s in a neo-Romanesque style to complement the adjacent thousand year old Romanesque church L’Hospitalet. The priest asked the artists to adapt their style to Catalan Romanesque. Flat colour, monumentality, lined, planar faces and rigid expressions.
The Virgin and Child are central, flanked by the patron saint of Santa Eulàlia and a family to symbolize the working-class neighborhood of L’Hospitalet. Of particular interest to COVER is the inter-generational family. A woman hands a thimble to a young boy. According to reporter Gerry Hadden the woman is House’s grandmother who was “a keen seamstress” (does this mean the boy is House?)
ABC España’s video of the artists, and the accompanying report ends with Rudi emphasising their painting is not street art. “Graffiti is a style” he says, “this is a wall decoration made with spray, but not in the style of graffiti.” His statement underscores why Padre Mor kept quiet. He knew art should be judged by results rather than tools. DJ
Humans since 1982 are a Stockholm-based design group. Their studio name is based on their date of birth, which causes your scribe to ask what were they before 1982? Too imponderable for a short essay. More ponderable is 1982 is the year famed Swedish photographer Dawid (Björn Dawidsson) began his tonal black & white series Arbetsnamn Skulptur, allowing your scribe to declare 1982 as an auspicious year in which to be born. Design Days Dubai have commissioned Human Since 1982 to create a special project – A Million Years – for the main entrance of the second edition of the Dubai fair (18 – 21 March 2013).
A Million Times is 288 single clocks arrayed in 12 rows. The hands move in apparent random fashion until a readable pattern appears and it becomes apparent the installation is carefully orchestrated with an unseen conductor directing the ensemble. Engineered by David Cox, the customised software is conducted via iPad. A still on the Victor Hunt website demonstrates how the work can take on the look of a cross-stitch canvas.
Clocks are often associated with the Latin phrase tempis fugit. Colloquial American English for the phrase is “time’s a wasting”, and it is. Book your ticket to Dubai now. Time – and Design Days Dubai – wait for no man. DJ
Today’s subject is subversive but sweet. Readers who decided not to splash the cash on the Roses rug your scribe recommended, may opt instead for the Valentine’s day gold standard gift – sugar. But if your yen is more cerebral and less Willy Wonka, consider a linked arm visit with your loved one to the Sugar Carpet at Smack Mellon in Brooklyn.
More than two tons of refined white sugar (presumably the unit measure is American tons i.e. 2,000 pounds x two, or the approximate weight of 29 Bridget Jones clones at the point when she most lamented her weight gain), were used by French artist Aude Moreau to create this iteration from her sugar carpet series. A smooth-sifted 24 foot long “carpet”, the design is simple and traditional with a Persian rug motif border. The carpet “blocks out the majority of the gallery restricting visitors to the perimeter of the space”, a viewing experience rather like Richard Wilson’s sump oil installation 20:50 which your scribe remembers with fondness from the Saatchi Gallery’s original St John’s Wood location in North London.
Gallery bumpf says Sugar Carpet “spotlight[s] the overlooked and undervalued process of production”. But the renaissance of ethical production and a public supply chain, championed in no small part by the those who design and produce bespoke, handmade carpets and rugs, allied with increased consumer demand for provenance and atelier craft, suggest this thesis is no longer valid. So too the suggestion sugar is “food”. Sugar’s reputation is in freefall. Its “domestic comfort” label still has legs, but calling sugar “food” is rather like President Ronald Reagan’s administration labeling ketchup a “vegetable”. Technically accurate but ethically compromised.
When Hurricane Sandy breached Brooklyn and flooded Smack Mellon, Sugar Carpet was washed away. Although remade with a two ton sugar donation, your scribe wonders whether a more appropriate response would have been to accept the flood as a subversive act of nature and let it become part of the ongoing performance of the Sugar series. Just as the sump oil in Richard Wilson’s 20:50 suggests the medieval concept of a cosmological sump as a collector of dregs, so too Sugar Carpet might be better viewed as both a sump and eulogy for the delicious, but nutritionally bankrupt, white stuff. DJ
Yesterday your scribe attended the press preview of the British Museum’s new exhibition Ice Age Art: arrival of the modern mind. The exhibition explores sculpture and drawings during the last European Ice Age (circa 40,000 – 10,000 years ago) and the “modern” mind that made them. But man’s been making marks much longer. Homo sapiens’ peripatetic journey brought our species to Europe around 43,000 years ago where they handily supplanted the rag-tag remnants of Neanderthal man. With competition between human species eliminated, our ancestors had a bit more spare time to whittle bone, carve stones and engrave flakes of mammoth ivory with decorative animal scenes and human likenesses. Life was good. Or at least getting better.
The period the exhibition covers is rich in stunning iconography and sophisticated techniques. Whoever carved The Lion-Man was able to deftly engineer the legs to take advantage of the hollow area of the mammoth tusk bone from which it’s carved. Smart. And while there are no textiles from this period, the exhibition includes references to wall art in the Lascaux and Niaux caves – art which dates back approximately 17,000 years. Lascaux was discovered in 1940 and by 1948 visitors clamoured to get inside. Inspired by the international fame of the caves, Olga Fisch, who founded the famous Folklore store in Ecuador, designed her 1950s series of Caverna rugs which includes Lascaux’s well-known spotted bull’s head in the rug’s upper register. DJ
The portmanteau word “carpetalogue” is the delightful moniker created to describe the ‘pages’ – i.e. carpets – in the current exhibition at Gallery Libby Sellers, London. Celebrating art and design studio M/M (Paris), the singular exhibition title is interpreted by your scribe as a witty contemporary update of the traditional festschrift – a volume of essays by different writers celebrating a remarkable individual. Instead M/M (Paris) – with a little help from their friends – celebrate themselves. And rightly so. Carpetalogue recognises M/M Paris’ twentieth anniversary and publication of the studio’s monograph.
The designs of the four hand knotted wool rugs (limited edition of twelve each) are drawn from the visual lexicon of M/M Paris, and made in Varanasi, India under the design direction of Gallery Libby Sellers and Abhishek Poddar, whose art/design credentials include carpet projects with Takashi Murakami and Julian Opie.
Michaël Amzalag and Mathias Augustyniak established M/M (Paris) as a graphic design studio in 1992. Their “free forms” graphic style is noteworthy on many levels, not least because the duo have elevated the furiously fast and dense ink doodles (e.g. Sirene above) familiar perhaps to many COVER readers from their own school notebooks, to the realm of fine art and design. Rather than a pejorative critique, this observation is a commendation to M/M Paris for pushing into the mainstream an art form practiced even before medieval secular illuminators inserted often quite naughty “doodles” in the marginalia or inside back covers of folios they were tasked to hand-illuminate.
Fitzrovia is London’s new gallery quarter, and on the last Thursday of each month the galleries host a late night. Gallery Libby Sellers is part of these festivities, and not only can COVER readers enjoy the Carpetalogue exhibition until 9 p.m., they can benefit from Libby Sellers’ “penchant for second hand books”, as the gallerist is creating a one night only pop up shop to sell some of her design book collection. Sharp elbows at the ready, your scribe will be there at the bell to dive into Sellers’ exhibition and book cornucopia. DJ
Too big to drop through the letterbox, your scribe’s cloven hoofed neighbour kindly delivered the package left in his custody by her postie. Inside was the new Fransje Killaars artist monograph published by 010 Publishers, Rotterdam. Killaar’s polychromatic textile, bedspreads and carpet installations are exhibited internationally, and installed in commercial, civic and domestic environments.
Although her self-described “alphabet” fabrics and carpets have a “found” quality, due largely to her idiosyncratic colours, juxtapositions and grid patterns, they are created under her direction at the Tasara Centre for Creative Weaving, Kerala, India.
Dual language essays (Dutch, English) by Bianca Stigter and Sven Lütticken frame Killaars work. Killaars was a studio assistant to Sol LeWitt, a founder of conceptual art, for more than a decade. Stigter describes Killaars as having “escaped the prison of painting”, but although the text understandably minimises discussion of LeWitt, echoes of Killaars apprenticeship with him are evident in her systemic style which combines what critic Sam Hunter described in his 1973 book American Art of the 20th Century when discussing LeWitt, as “severely reductive structural elements, usually geometric” and often in “serial runs or sets”.
The book’s design and production values are noteworthy. Conceptualised by Killaars and Thonik Amsterdam and designed by the latter, the sweep of colour images, many full page bleeds, is not interrupted by titles, captions or page numbers, rather the book ends with a schema of the layout with curatorial information beneath. The book is a delight to hold, admire and read. DJ