Archive for Josef Albers

Sturm und Drang: Eva Hesse’s Sans II at SFMOMA

Posted in Bay Area Art Scene, Female Artists, Fine & Decorative Arts, Liz Hager, Mixed Media, Sculpture with tags , , , , , , , , on January 9, 2010 by Liz Hager

By LIZ HAGER

Eva Hesse, Sans II, 1968
Fiberglass and polyester resin, 38 in. x 86 in. x 6 1/8 in.
(Courtesy SFMOMA)

In the 10 short years that comprised her mature career, Eva Hesse (1936-1970) produced a considerable body of work, all of which is deeply and inextricably linked to neuroses born of the troubled events of her life. The facts are well-recorded—escape from Nazi Germany on a kindertransport, the divorce of her parents, the suicide of her mother when Hesse was 10. From these traumas germinated a potent brew of anxiety, inadequacy, separation and loss that drove Hesse’s interior life. She poured that life into her work, particularly her sculptural pieces, and it was often manifested, consciously or not, in the guise of anthropomorphic forms, bodily orifices, sexual references.

Seen from a distance, Sans II, Hesse’s 1968 sculpture currently on view at SF MOMA as part of the celebratory “75 Years of Looking Forward” exhibition, seems serene and orderly piece. But on closer examination the emotion is evident.

Hesse knew she would be an artist from and early age and pursued the goal with single-minded determinism. And yet, self-doubt was a constant companion on her journey. She studied under Josef Albers at Yale (graduating in 1959), but chafed against the yoke of formality imposed by Albers’ color theories.

Eva Hesse, Untitled, 1960
Oil on canvas
49 1/2 x 49 1/2 inches

Hesse began as a painter, drawn to the Abstract Expressionists (particularly Gorky and de Kooning). Beginning in the mid-60s, perhaps through the influence of close friend Sol LeWitt, she increasingly appropriated the vocabulary of the emerging Minimalist movement with its focus on pared-down geometric shapes. Hesse never gave herself over completely to Minimalism; the spontaneous gestural style evident in earliest drawings and paintings remained close at hand.

Drawing was an important part of Hesse’s oeuvre; among the hundreds of drawings she completed between 1960-1965 can be found the genesis of the ideas she explored in three-dimensional form. In particular, a small collection of powerful abstract ink and pencil works completed around the time of Untitled (below) introduced the nucleus of the ideas and forms that would form her first sculptural works.

Eva Hesse, Untitled, 1961-62
Black ink and wash on paper

The framing device plainly evident in a series of drawings similar to Untitled (below) was one antecedent of “compartment” sculptures like Sans II Hesse would complete in 1968/9.

Eva Hesse, Untitled, 1964
Oil on canvas, 32 x 36 inch
(Leeum Samsung Museum of Art, Seoul)

By the mid-1960s Hesse had became increasingly frustrated with the “tediousness” of transforming her drawings into paintings. Relentless restlessness and a happy accident turned her toward sculpture and it was through this medium that she began to realize her full potential as an artist. In 1964 she and her husband (sculptor Tom Doyle) were invited by German textile industrialist F. Arnhard Scheidt to live and work in his abandoned machine factory in Kettwig-am-Ruhr. Hesse began working with discarded objects from the factory floor, constructing “relief” paintings, in which the parts were often wrapped and other sculptural bits added.

Eva Hesse, 2 in 1, 1965
Enamel paint, tempera paint, ink, cord and metal belt on particle board, 21 1/4 x 27 x 9 inches

Upon her return to New York in 1965, Hesse felt encouraged to begin executing free-standing sculptures. Repetition of forms, including orderly grids and chaotic hanging, stacked, erect and spilling forms would engage her for the remainder of her life.

Eva Hesse, Untitled, 1966
Black ink with wash and pencil on paper, 11 3/4 x 9 in.

Sans II stands as a testament to the tension in Hesse’s work between order and chaos. The outward form may be an orderly grid, but the surface of its translucent membrane (made from fiberglass and polyester resin) is alive with texture and imperfections. The hand of the artist is suggested. The warm and inviting skin elicits the impulse to touch. Hesse once remarked : “If you use fiberglass clear and thin, light does beautiful things to it… it is there—part of its anatomy.” In a way this membrane—both structurally solid and delicate, orderly and sloppy—is a reflection of Hesse’s contradictory persona.

As it turns out, the membrane is also ephemeral. When Hesse began using fiberglass and latex to fashion her sculptures,  she was breaking with historical traditions, which dictated metal or stone as preferred sculptural media. She knew these new materials would deteriorate over time. According to SFMOMA, Sans II no longer retains either its original flexibility or strength. Like the site work artists of the late 60s (Robert Smithson was another close friend), Hesse seems to have embraced aging as part of the process of her art. This was nearly a generation before before the notion became fully popularized through the work of artists like Andy Goldsworthy.

Eva Hesse, ca. 1959 (© Stephen Korbet)

Sans II is confirmation that Hesse was ahead of her time. It is also a somber reminder that she was just beginning to hit her stride. One wonders where she would have gone from here.

Wider Connections

The Estate of Eva Hesse

Lucy Lippard—Eva Hesse

Eva Hesse at Tate Modern (2002-3)

Elizabeth Sussman & Fred Wasserman—Eva Hesse: Sculpture

Cindy Nemsner—Art Talk: Conversations With 15 Women Artists, Revised And Enlarged Edition (Icon Editions)

Machines & Marriage: Eva Hesse & Tom Doyle in Germany

Art on the Horizon: 2010 Exhibitions Calendar

Posted in Bay Area Art Scene, Contemporary Art, Drawing, Female Artists, Fine & Decorative Arts, Liz Hager, Painting, Photography, Textiles with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 2, 2010 by Liz Hager

By LIZ HAGER

Welcome to a new year of art.  Here we give you a small sampling of the exhibits to open in major museums (US) in 2010. If you needed an excuse to travel this year, here it is. Mark your calendars and feast your eyes!

NB: It’s not an exhaustive survey (and purposely does not include shows already opened), so let us know what we’ve missed through comments section.

Larry Sultan, Denise Hale, 2007/9, c-print.

January

“An Autobiography of the San Francisco Bay Area, Part 2: The Future Lasts Forever”—SF Cameraworks, Jan. 7–April 17.

“Long Play: Bruce Connor” SF MoMA, Jan. 16–May 23.

“The View from Here”—SF MOMA, Jan. 16–June 27.

“The Drawings of Bronzino,” The Metropolitan (New York), Jan. 20—April 18.

Miroslav Tichý—Untitled photograph.

“Miroslav Tichý” and “Atget: Archivist of Paris”—International Center of Photography (New York), Jan. 29–May 9.

February

“Playing with Pictures: The Art of Victorian Photocollage”—The Metropolitan (New York),  Feb. 2—May 9.

Malian textile.

Rhythm and Hues: Cloth and Culture of Mali” —Museum of Craft and Folk Art (SF),  Feb. 5–May 2.

“By a Thread”—San Jose Institute of Contemporary Art (San Jose, CA), Feb. 6–May 15.

“Wayne Thiebaud: 70 Years of Painting”—San Jose Museum of Art (CA), Feb. 16–July 3.

William Kentridge, Drawing for Stereoscope 1998–99.

“William Kentridge: Five Themes”—MoMA (New York), Feb. 24–May 17.

“Poetic License: The Fiber Art of Joan Schulze”—San Jose Museum of Quilts and Textiles, Feb. 16–May 9.

“Abstract Resistance”—Walker Art Center (Minneapolis), Feb. 27–May 23.

John Singleton Copley, Watson and the Shark, 1778, oil on canvas.

“American Stories: Paintings of Everyday Life, 1765–1915”—LACMA (Los Angeles), Feb. 28–May 23.

“The Sacred Made Real: Spanish Painting and Sculpture, 1600-1700”—National Gallery (Washington, DC), Feb. 28–May 31.

Josef Albers, Homage to a Square: Glow, 1966, oil on canvas.

“Joseph Albers: Innovation & Inspiration”—Hirshhorn Museum & Sculpture Garden—Feb.11–April 11.

March

“Stripes”—Seattle Art Museum, March 6–May 8.

“What’s It All Mean: William T. Wiley in Retrospective” —Berkeley Art Museum (Univ of California campus), March 17–July 18.

Hendrick Avercamp—A Winter Scene, ca. 1615-1619, oil on panel

“Hendrick Avercamp: The Little Ice Age”—National Gallery (Washington, DC), March 21–July 5.

“Epic India: Scenes from the Ramayana,” The Metropolitan (New York), March 31—Sept. 19.

“Building the Medieval World: Architecture in Illuminated Manuscripts”—The Getty Center (Los Angeles), March 2–May 16.

April

James Ensor, The Assassin, 1888, etching with gouache.

“James Ensor and George Baselitz: Graphic Works”—Seattle Art Museum, April 10–Oct. 24.

“Henri Cartier-Bresson: The Modern Century”—MoMA (New York), April 11–June 28.

“Ted Muehling Selects: Lobmeyr Glass from the Permanent Collection”—The Cooper Hewitt (New York), April 23–Fall.

Ellsworth Kelly—Cyclamen, 1964/65, pencil on paper.

“Plants, Flowers and Fruit: Ellsworth Kelly Lithographs”—Norton Simon Museum (Los Angeles), April 23–August 23.

May

Lucienne Day, Helix (textile design), 1970.

“Art by the Yard: Women Design Mid-Century Britain”—The Textile Museum (Washington, DC), May 15–Sept. 12.

“Gods of Angkor: Bronzes from the National Museum of Cambodia”—Freer Gallery (Washington, DC), May 15–Jan. 23, 2011.

“Yves Klein: With the Void, Full Powers”—Hirshhorn Museum & Sculpture Garden (Washington, DC), May 20–Sept. 12. In conjunction with the Walker Art Center, see November.

Renior, Whistler, Monet.

“Birth of Impressionism: Masterpieces from the Musée d’Orsay”—de Young Museum (SF), May 22–Sept. 6.

June

“Hiroshige: Visions of Japan”—Norton Simon Museum (Los Angeles), June 4–Jan. 17, 2011.

“Arshile Gorky Retrospective”—Musuem of Contemporary Art (Los Angeles), June 6–Sept. 20.

“Engaged Observers: Documentary Photography since the Sixties”—The Getty Center (Los Angeles), June 29–Nov.14.

July

Henri Matisse—Bathers by a River (three versions), 1910-1916.

“Matisse: Radical Reinvention”—MoMA (New York), July 18–Oct. 11

“Edvard Munch: Master Prints”—National Gallery (Washington, DC), July 31–October 31, 2010

August

“Robert Irwin: Slant/Light/Volume”—The Walker Art Center (Minneapolis), August 6–Nov. 21.

“Leo Villareal”—San Jose Museum of Art (CA), August 21–Jan. 9, 2011.

September

“Latin American: Light & Space”—Museum of Contemporary Art (Los Angeles), Sept. 12–Jan. 1, 2011.

“Van Gogh, Gauguin, Cézanne and Beyond: Post-Impressionist Masterpieces from the Musée d’Orsay”—de Young Museum (SF), Sept. 25, –Jan. 18, 2011.

October

Goya, The Anglers, 1799, brush and brown wash on paper.

“The Spanish Manner: Drawings from Ribera to Goya”—The Frick (New York), Oct 5–Jan. 9, 2011

“Colors of the Oasis: Central Asian Ikat”—The Textile Museum (Washington, DC), October 16–March 13, 2011.

“Guillermo Kuitca: Everything—Paintings and Works on Paper, 1980–2008”—Hirshhorn Museum & Sculpture Garden, Oct. 21–Jan.16, 2011.

November

Yves Klein, Untitled Anthropometry (ANT 100), 1960.

“Yves Klein: With the Void, Full Powers” The Walker Art Center (Minneapolis), Oct. 23–Feb. 13, 2011. In conjunction with the Hirshhorn, see May.


Stripped Bare: Amish Quilts at the de Young

Posted in Bay Area Art Scene, Liz Hager, Quilts, Textiles with tags , , , , , on November 25, 2009 by Liz Hager

By LIZ HAGER

Maker Unknown, Pine Trees motif, crib quilt, ca. 1930, Ohio.

As we have observed on these pages before (A Different Canvas), the line that separates art and craft can be narrow indeed, the distinction fueled by a contemporary fine art world intent on preserving its top-dog status.  Nowhere would the distinction seem to be more blurry than at the de Young’s current show Amish Abstractions: Quilts from the Collection of Faith and Stephen Brown.

Maker Unknown, Nine Patch Variation (Tartan) motif, quilt, ca. 1930, Pennsylvania.

While the curators are at pains to point out that there is no documented evidence that modern painters—Joseph Albers, Kenneth Noland, Frank Stella, or Victor Vasarely, for example—had any connection to the Amish quilting tradition, the visual similarities are inescapable.

Kenneth Noland, Interlock Color, acrylic (?) on canvas, 1973.

Josef Albers, Homage to a Square, acrylic on canvas, 1965.

Frank Stella, Marrakech, oil on canvas, 1964 (courtesy Metropolitan Museum of Art).

Maker Unknown, Roman Stripe variation motif, crib quilt, c.1915, Kansas.

Certainly, basic geometric shapes are fundamental to all human-made ornamentation, whether the ornamentation ends up as a decorative or fine art piece. The Amish quiltmakers, however, weren’t interested in making art. All aspects of Amish life are dictated by a list of written or oral rules, known as Ordnung, which outline the basics of the Amish faith and conduct. Ordnung vary from community to community (which explains why one Amish might ride in a car, but another eschews electricity), but the basic tenets encourage humility and simplicity, and with those,  avoidance of all but the basic forms of ornamentation in dress and accoutrement. Art for art’s sake is associated in the Amish world with pride, vanity, fashion, luxury, and wealth, all cardinal sins.

As a placard at the introduction to the show poignantly proclaims: “The women who made these quilts…lived in a world that was already stripped bare of self-involvement, pride, and even the need to create self-conscious works of art.”

Thus, what makes an Amish quilt “Amish” is precisely what differentiates this body of work from its high-art relatives on display downstairs at the de Young.

Rebecca Zouk, Bars, quilt, ca. 1910, Pennsylvania.

The Amish quilting tradition as outsiders know it, didn’t get underway until the late 1870s—in fact the overwhelming majority of quilts were made between the 1880s and 1960s. To start, quilters constructed their coverings from one solid color, often black, brown, or blue.  The earliest multi-color designs were basic square and rectangles, which slowly evolved into more colorful and bold patterns.

The boldly-colored shapes and their intricate patterning are a visual delight. But look closely at Rebecca Zouk’s Bars quilt from 1915 and you will see the most extraordinarily intricate designs precisely stitched by hand into the background fabric. The sheer joy of discovering this delicate expression of reverence and love (for the recipient as well as the work itself) throughout many of the quilts of the show is alone worth the price of admission.

Maker Unknown, Crazy Quilt motif, ca. 1930, Pennsylvania.

Amish Abstraction is not all dour seriousness. Witness the use of this crazy quilt  from 1930—the cacophony of the traditional motif is restrained, Amish-style, within 12 orderly squares. The Amish knew how to have their fun.

Wider Connections

Faith & Stephen Brown’s site—CollectionAmish Quilts & Modern Art

The Amish Quilt

Josef Albers—The Interaction of Color

Gunta Stölzl, Master Weaver of the Bauhaus

Posted in Christine Cariati, Female Artists, Fiber Arts, Fine & Decorative Arts, Rugs, Textiles, XC with tags , , , , , , , on October 31, 2009 by Christine Cariati

by Christine Cariati

Gunta Stolzl,Slit Tapestry Red/Green

Gunta Stölzl, Slit Tapestry Red/Green, 1927/28
Cotton, silk, linen 150 x 110cm

Gunta Stölzl, an innovative and influential textile designer, began as a student at the Bauhaus in 1919 and was named the only female Bauhaus Master in 1927—by which time she had made the Weaving Workshop the most profitable workshop at the Bauhaus.

In a letter to the Museum of Modern Art when they acquired her piece Wandbehang Schwarz-Weiss, Stölzl wrote:

The Bauhaus period was, for all of us, like a chamber of unalienable pleasures.

Gunta StolzlGunta Stölzl

Born in Munich in 1897, Stölzl studied painting, ceramics and art history at the Kunstgewerbeschule (School of Arts & Crafts) in Munich from 1913-16. After serving as a Red Cross nurse from 1917-18 during World War I, Stölzl became aware of the Bauhaus, which was founded by Walter Gropius in Weimar in 1919. Like many of the female students, Stölzl was an accomplished visual artist attracted to the Bauhaus by the presence of painters Wassily Kandinsky, Paul Klee, Johannes Itten, Josef Albers, Lyonel Feininger and others.

Kandinsky, Composition IVWassily Kandinsky, Composition IV, 1919
Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen, Dusseldorf

In the spring of 1920, Stölzl was accepted on a trial basis to the Bauhaus and enrolled in Johannes Itten’s Vorkurs (preliminary course).

Johannes IttenJohannes Itten, The Elements of Color

By the fall of that year she was awarded a full scholarship. Walter Gropius assigned painters to lead the workshops instead of craftsmen, which was in line with his ideas about elevating craft to the level of fine art, an approach that was very effective in attracting visually sophisticated students. The fundamental approach of the Bauhaus was to see things with fresh eyes, to discard old notions. Paul Klee called this approach “visual thinking.”

Paul KleePaul Klee, Ancient Sound, Abstract on Black, 1925
Oil on cardboard, 15″ x 15″
Kunstsammlung, Basel

This approach also contributed to a lot of collaboration and cross-pollination of visual ideas.

Stolzl Breuer ChairGunta Stölzl and Marcel Breuer, African Chair, 1921

Stolzl, 5ChoreGunta Stölzl, 5 Chöre (5 Choirs), 1928
Jacquard wall hanging Cotton, wool, rayon and silk
229 x 143 cm
Museum für Kunst und Kulturgeschichte, Lübeck

Klee, PastoralPaul Klee, Pastoral, 1927
Tempera on canvas, mounted on wood, 69.3 x 52.4 cm
Museum of Modern Art, NY.

Gropius had founded the Bauhaus on the principle of Gesamtkunstwerk (total work of art), where design, visual aesthetics and mastery of technique would come together. The admission policy espoused gender equality, but the reality was very different. Gropius was taken aback by how many women applied to the Bauhaus and quickly established a “Women’s Department” to channel the female students into the Weaving, Bookbinding and Pottery Workshops—and, with few exceptions, such as Florence Henri, this was what transpired. As it turned out, Gerhard Marcks, the head of the Pottery Workshop, did not want women in his department and the Bookbinding Workshop shut down in 1922. The result was that  the Weaving Workshop soon remained the sole option for many female Bauhaus students, who only had access to painting classes via the Weaving Workshop.

Anni AlbersAnni Albers, Wall hanging, triple-weave, 1926

When Gunta Stölzl joined the Weaving Workshop, it was languishing under the leadership of Georg Muche, the master of the Weaving Workshop from 1921-27, and Helene Börner—neither of whom had the skills to help the students advance their technique. Börner, who provided all the looms and equipment for the Weaving Workshop, had been trained as a Handarbeitslehrerin (home economics teacher) which garnered her little respect among the students. Stölzl soon took over the technical direction of the workshop. She was a person of tremendous enthusiasm and energy and she quickly understood the equipment and grasped the possibilities of weaving. She had an instinctive feel for the process, was passionate about experimenting with new materials and constantly explored new ideas in color and design and their applications for industrial design. In 1922 Stölzl studied dyeing techniques in Krefeld with fellow Bauhaus weaver Benita Otte and on their return established a dye facility at the Bauhaus. One of Stölzl’s students, Anni Albers, often said that Stölzl was an excellent teacher, “having almost an animal feeling for textiles.” Stölzl was appointed craft master of the Weaving Workshop in Dessau in 1925.

Benita OtteBenita Otte, Color studies, c.1925

Benita OtteBenita Otte,Wall hanging, 1923
Shown in Bauhaus Exhibition, Haus am Horn

In spite of the limitations placed on female students at the Bauhaus, many flourished there, particularly in the Weaving Workshop. At that time, women were often barred from traditional art academies, and, adapted to low expectations, found the Bauhaus relatively inclusive and the atmosphere exciting and inspiring. Stölzl, who was always pleased to talk about her days at the Bauhaus, later wrote about that time:

I believe that the most important of all was life itself. It was brimful with impressions, experiences, encounters and friendships which have lasted over decades.

Bauhaus LoomsWeaving Workshop at the Bauhaus, Weimar

Stölzl was inspired by Paul Klee’s passion for color and form and Kandinsky’s ideas about abstraction.  Kandinsky wrote in Concerning the Spiritual in Art:

The more abstract is form, the more clear and direct its appeal…The more an artist uses these abstracted forms, the deeper and more confidently will he advance into the kingdom of the abstract.

Exploring these principles, Stölzl guided the Weaving Workshop from personal, pictorial and decorative tapestry weaving to the production of innovative, abstract and geometric textiles for domestic and industrial use. In accordance with Bauhaus philosophy, textiles as art or a means of personal expression was discouraged, utility and simplicity were valued. Stölzl’s creative energies were devoted to developing new weave structures, the innovative use of synthetic fibers and exploring new dyeing techniques.

Gunta StolzlGunta Stölzl, Design for rug, 1926
Gouache on paper

In The Development of the Bauhaus Weaving Workshop, 1931, Stölzl said this about the Weimar years:

Gradually a change took place. We began to sense how pretentious these independent, unique pieces were: tablecloths, curtains, wall coverings. The richness of colour and form became too licentious for us; it did not adapt itself, it did not subordinate itself to living. We tried to become more simple, to discipline our means, to use these in a more straightforward and functional way. Thus we came to yard goods which could directly serve the room, the living problem. The watchword of the new epoch was models for industry.

Gunta StolzlGunta Stölzl, Upholstery fabric, c. 1925-30

For political reasons, Stölzl resigned from the Bauhaus in 1931 and moved to Switzerland where she founded a hand-weaving workshop in Zürich which she ran in one form or another until 1967.  At that time Stölzl disbanded the workshop, resumed tapestry weaving and pursued her own work until her death in 1983. Unfortunately many of the pieces she produced during the Bauhaus period are lost, but enough remain to assure her legacy. In 1976 she was given a solo show at the Bauhaus-Archive in Berlin and her work has been included in many retrospective shows about the Bauhaus.The Museum of Modern Art in New York mounted the exhibition, Gunta Stölzl and Anni Albers, in 1990. The curator of the exhibition,  Matilda McQuaid wrote:

The textile designs of Gunta Stölzl and Anni Albers are creative experiments in material, structure and color. Rejecting a nineteenth-century tradition of cloth-making that emphasized pictorial imagery, Stölzl and Albers altered the course of twentieth-century weaving by introducing new fibers and finishes and by revealing the fundamental woven structure, or the warp and weft, of the cloth.

A book about Stölzl’s life and work, with text and forward by her daughter, Monika Stadler, Gunta Stölzl: Bauhaus Master, has recently been published by The Museum of Modern Art. Also recommended reading: Women’s Work: Textile Art from the Bauhaus by Sigrid Wortmann Weltge.
Stölzl’s work can be seen in the upcoming exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art, Bauhaus 1919-1933: Workshops for Modernity, November 8, 2009-January 25, 2010. An accompanying monograph, Bauhaus Women: Art, Handicraft, Design by Ulrike Miller, will be available in November 2009.

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