January 2009 Archives

Rotho Meditations at Tate Modern

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rothko1.jpgrothko2.jpgJan. 29, 2009

LONDON  - In the early 1950s, Mark Rothko started making paintings that nearly everyone today could identify as a "Rothko." There were large paintings, usually two (sometimes more) rectangles of color on a colored background. Sensuous, almost cloud-like color shapes floating ethereally on equally sensual backgrounds. Because they have no recognizable images, when you look at them you feel only pure emotion. That was the radical idea that came in with the whole movement called Abstract Expressionism.

By 1956 or so, Rothko and other Abstract Expressionists had been on the cover of Life Magazine, were selling well in New York galleries and making money. At this time, Rothko was asked to paint a dozen canvases to decorate the soon-to-opened Four Seasons Restaurant in the Seagram Building, in New York City.

For this commission, instead of the multi-toned palette of his previous works, Rothko limited himself to a very small number of colors: red violet, orange and a dark red. The works were never installed in the restaurant. Rothko is quoted as having said he wanted to make the rich bastards who ate there nauseous, then of saying he designed these to be placed very close to the diners, then finally, refusing to sell the paintings to the restaurant at all because the place was just too inappropriate for his work.  At the Tate exhibition, these dozen paintings fill an enormous, dimly-lit room with their emotional presence. The low lighting is to protect the paint that turns out to be a commercial house paint rather than artists' oil, and the space is to accommodate stepping far back from these painting to see them glow back at you. You can't actually pretend to sit at a table next to them because there are little ropes keeping you two feet back, but when you do put a shoulder at least that close to them, they become the works of a man, not a shining star. They have splattered pain and brushy swirls of paint, which is something just about everyone has seen emphasized in a contemporary painting. 

Not a bad or nauseating view. We, almost 50 years later, live with faux painted walls, very busy décor and multiple TVs nearly everywhere we eat.

They do glow, though, viewed from afar, in this lighting, even with a hoard of people filling the gallery room. Rothko was incredibly perceptive to know that his work would look infinitely better in the Tate Modern than in a commercial restaurant. After this commission, he did a series of paintings that was even darker: blacks and dark blue and red violets. Several of this series were made to fill the walls of the octagonal, non-denominational chapel being built in Houston by architect Phillip Johnson. This dark palette was what Rothko used until his death in 1969.

They have such overwhelming somberness, viewers have always felt they described increasing depression over his deteriorating health and foretold his suicide. A couple quotable people on the audio guide said they thought Rothko's choice of color was intellectual. He had excluded images and had great success. Was he trying to exclude color to find another level of success?

One room contained paintings on paper done around 1964. These were mostly framed with a narrow, white border created by taping the paper on a surface, then the top half was painted completely black, and the bottom half varieties of gray. The gray, lower halves, became the dancing parts in this chorus line of similarly sized works. But again, the somberness is so pervasive, that I starting thinking of life and death. And actually found myself thinking that the top half - the black - was now the monotony of life, and the bottom half were guesses of what death might be like.

I'm not alone, other people walked into the room and looked like they were at a funeral. And obviously, the curators had found his daughter and an art historian to quote about how intellectual these were. Someone said he'd started a new series that was brighter.

We didn't see any evidence of this new series in this show that was organized to specifically featuring his later work. The last room of paintings was even darker. All were made in 1969.

I do think all Rothko's painting was intellectually driven because I've read what he's written about his work, and interviews. He read Neitzche and liked to listen to Mozart's Dissance Concerto or Don Gionanni while he worked. I think you can intellectually organize your work, try to make something that people will be drawn to, and try to evoke a specific response, but what happens when all those elements get put together sometimes turns out to be more (and often, unfortunately less) than what you intend. Intense emotion is what comes from these canvas.

Website Info from the Tate Modern:  Rothko
26 September 2008 - 1 February 2009

Mark Rothko Mural for End Wall (Untitled) [Seagram Mural] 1959 National Gallery of Art, Washington Gift of the Mark Rothko Foundation Inc.

Sponsored by
With additional support from
Access Industries

Exhibition organised by Tate Modern in association with the Kawamura Memorial Museum of Art, Japan, supported by Japan Airlines

With a donation from The Dedalus Foundation, New York
Media partner
The Times

Tate Modern presents an exhibition by one of the world's most famous and best-loved artists, Mark Rothko. This is the first significant exhibition of his work to be held in the UK for over 20 years.

Tate Modern's iconic 'Rothko Room' works are reunited for the first time with works from Japan. The Seagram Murals were originally commissioned for The Four Seasons Restaurant in the Seagram Building New York.

Rothko's iconic paintings, composed of luminous, soft-edged rectangles saturated with colour, are among the most enduring and mysterious created by an artist in modern times. In the exhibition his paintings glow meditatively from the walls in deep dark reds, oranges, maroons, browns, blacks, and greys.

The exhibition will also focus on other work in series, such as the Black-Form paintings, his large-scale Brown and Grey works on paper, and his last series of Black on Grey paintings, created in the final decade of his life from 1958-1970.

Rothko is the must-see exhibition of the year - book your tickets now to avoid missing out.

nogent2.jpgJanuary 26, 2009

NOGENT-SUR-MARNE - Just outside the highway ring that delineates Paris is more of what also looks like Paris - the suburbs. Nogent-sur-Marne is a town of about 75,000 inhabitants lying off the southeast corner of Paris proper. We went to the town to see a retirement home for old artists. We think this a unique idea, certainly not something the government of the U.S. is thinking of doing. It may be a unique place in France, too -- the only one of its kind.

The residence is owned by the national foundation for the visual arts, and consists of two large homes adjacent to one another that once belongs to two sisters. The home(s) are located in a large wooded park in a pretty crowded bedroom community. There are also two exhibition spaces for contemporary art in this facility. We luckily stumbled into one very well organized, well lit and modern one with a show of photographs by French artist Julie Ganzin.

The show, called Paysages Elementaires, was 60 or so photographs of natural places. Many of these were set up in pairs - diptychs. The artist's statement is below in French, and she's basically saying that the work is about the four basic elements of Greek physics: air, water, fire and land, but with her particular focus.

To discover her focus is a job that requires discovering subtle differences between the two parts of the pairs of images. There is a lot of disturbed ground, a lot of gray winter scenes of Italy, that puts many elements at the same level of natural attention grabbing. Often the newly finished house is more beautiful than a field of winter weeds. We learn that some of the photos are of land reclaimed by humans from the Po River others of southern Italy or rural France. Sometimes you can see a sea in the distance, sometimes remnants of a brush fire, sometimes a field of wind generators.

My companion thought the photographs were unnecessarily gray like the weather we have been getting used to in Paris in January. I think the lack of color saturation enhancement that she could have done with Photoshop made the works, each photo, more even, and demanding of intense effort to look at what was different in each one. The photos are not about the beauty of nature but the sameness of human interaction. Whether you cut a road to set a windmill or a new house the road becomes brown dirt. And without a lot of human care, grass and greenery can look like trash. And with very little effort trash can fill up a place and really make it look like a garbage dump. We have a saying in Colorado "Tread Lightly" and it always sounds prissy, but correct -- an easy solution where nature is already beautiful - already Photoshopped by a lot of sunshine and clear skies. But human society may need to actually encourage more treading - careful treading and with a concern for aesthetics as well as efficiency. Putting art-minded people to work, thinking creatively to make looking a more pleasant or interesting job.

link to website:

Julie Ganzin

Les Paysages élémentaires ne sont pas « miniaturisés », ni « stylisés », mais focalisés sur la représentation d'un des quatre éléments (la terre, l'eau, l'air et le feu). Ces paysages peuvent décrire un élément, tout autant que l'élément désigné sera le vecteur de notre perception du paysage, en ce lieu donné. Pour nourrir le jeu avec les mots, on peut dire que ce sont des paysages « réduits » à une perception élémentaire.

L'élément mis en exergue est lié à une activité humaine, nous y renvoie ou permet d'en détecter la trace (l'eau et les pompes à eau de la plaine du Pô, le feu et les départs de feu en bord de route en Campanie ou en Sicile, la terre travaillée des cultures intensives et des pépinières industrielles, les champs d'éoliennes, etc.). Les règles du jeu sont communes aux différentes zones géographiques parcourues. Et si ces règles de conduite permettent d'offrir une « lecture » du paysage dans l'entrelacement de ses différentes composantes, c'est aussi en se jouant de la dimension purement illustrative, voire académique, attachée à cette thématique.

Les associations en diptyque mettent en tension les images dans une feinte confrontation entre les éléments. Le projet découvre le paysage que nous sommes en mesure d'appréhender au quotidien dans l'intrication entre activités humaines et réalités naturelles. Les Paysages élémentaires donnent à voir localement ce que les acteurs du territoire « fabriquent ». Il se peut aussi qu'ils laissent parfois entrevoir le visage d'un paysage « politique » produit par des décisions et des mécanismes qui nous échappent.

La Maison d'art Bernard Anthonioz créée à Nogent-sur-Marne, par la Fondation nationale des arts graphiques et plastiques (FNAGP) présente des manifestations consacrées à la jeune photographie, à la vidéo, au graphisme,  et à l'art contemporain. Elle accueillera à terme une artothèque destinée à faire partager les œuvres appartenant au patrimoine de la Fondation.

1976-2006 : une fondation trentenaire

La Fondation nationale des arts graphiques et plastiques a été créée en 1976, à l'initiative de Bernard Anthonioz, par la réunion de deux legs faits à l'Etat : celui de la baronne Salomon de Rothschild et celui de Jeanne et Madeleine Smith.
La Fondation, reconnue d'utilité publique, a pour missions de soutenir les artistes graphistes et plasticiens, et d'encourager la création et la recherche dans ce secteur.
Depuis son origine, elle a plus particulièrement développé des actions à caractère social en faveur du logement ou de l'hébergement d'artistes en activité ou retraités.

Elle gère à ce titre, à Nogent-sur-Marne, une maison de retraite destinée en priorité à des artistes âgés ou dépendants, la Maison nationale des artistes. Par ailleurs, elle possède à Paris et à Nogent-sur-Marne trois ensembles d'ateliers où travaillent près d'une centaine d'artistes de toutes disciplines et de toutes nationalités.

Tout en poursuivant son travail dans le domaine social, l'ambition de la Fondation est de favoriser la visibilité de la création plastique contemporaine et d'apporter, sous diverses formes, son soutien à des actions susceptibles d'œuvrer dans ce sens : diffusion d'expositions en France et à l'étranger, aide à la participation d'artistes ou de galeries françaises à des manifestations à l'étranger, bourses, aides à l'édition d'ouvrages ou d'outils d'accompagnement.
L'ouverture de la Maison d'art Bernard Anthonioz constitue le premier jalon de cette nouvelle politique.

La Maison d'art Bernard Anthonioz : une nouvelle maison
pour la jeune création

La vocation de ce nouvel espace financé par la Fondation nationale des arts graphiques et plastiques, est de mettre en valeur la création contemporaine dans le domaine de la photographie, et du graphisme, disciplines moins exposées. La MABA souhaite donner la parole à de jeunes créateurs dans le cadre de collaborations avec d'autres institutions culturelles comme le Jeu de paume, le MAC/VAL, ou le Festival international de l'Affiche et des Arts Graphiques de Chaumont


La Maison d'Art Bernard Anthonioz accueillera à terme une artothèque constituée des œuvres de la collection de la Fondation nationale des arts graphiques et plastiques. L'ensemble couvre une période allant de la fin du 18ème siècle à nos jours. Cette collection rassemble des peintures mais aussi des pastels, des gravures, des dessins, des lithographies, des photos, des sculptures et même une collection d'œuvres d'art premier et plus particulièrement africain.

Particuliers, entreprises, collectivités et institutions auront la possibilité d'emprunter régulièrement des œuvres d'art moyennant un abonnement. Le catalogue des œuvres sera bientôt disponible sur le site internet de la Maison d'Art Bernard Anthonioz.

Si vous souhaitez être informé par e-mail dès l'ouverture de cette artothèque, nous vous invitons à vous inscrire à la lettre d'information de ce site qui vous est proposée en page d'accueil.

A Museum about Place

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Montparnasse1.jpgmontparnass2.jpgMusee de Montparnasse
January 23, 2009

PARIS - We have seen goofy photographs of artists that hung out in Montparnasse in the early part of the 20th Century. Pictures of Picasso in a toga, surrounded by others going to a costume ball. One very famous photo places the group on a little cobblestone street that is obviously a dead end (because there is a building at the end of it: an impasse, as the French say). Very little commercial traffic goes on this street and it is covered by an arch of ivy. Ivy covers the buildings on both sides of the little street. And all the artists in the picture are clowning and laughing. This is today where the Musee de Montparnasse is located today. It was formerly the studio of Russian artist Marie Vassiliev.

The building at the end of the impasse is called the Espace Krajcberg. Inside this little place is the work of Franz Krajcberg, which relates nature to art. The museum likes to use this space to relate the two areas because that was the purpose of Krajcberg life's work. We got to see about 10 sculptures of this artist that were made in Brazil from found wood - remnants of a forest fire and other natural events - that he has then refined into sculptural forms that he could sell in a gallery.  These were done in the '70s so they were very progressive. Today, my friends and I are always wandering the woods and pointing out or picking up cool things like this. We tend to arrange and leave them there, and call it "Land Art," but none-the-less we are following in this tradition. Up close, the work was nice - better than the photos.

In the main museum space, were photographs by several International artists about living in a foreign country. They were nicely done, and interspersed with a native inhabitant that will not leave its home - the ivy. Many of these images were very thought provoking - the graves of Chinese in different countries. The tight quarters of students (Yes, even smaller than our tiny rented apartment in Montparnasse.) Below you can read more documentation about the exhibition, called Déplacement, which has the very nice ambition to be about calling attention to foreignness in a time when there is global mobility. And note that it is partially sponsored by the post office.  

Exhibition Info:


10 décembre 2008 - 25 janvier 2009

Les photographes
Yannick Aleksandrowicz, Neckel Scholtus, Hortense Soichet, Julien Spiewak, Jasmina Tomic, Lorraine Turci,
Julien Vasquez, GAO Xin Wei, GUO Yi, JIN Xiang Yi, LI Chun Guang, LI Su, LIU Yong, SONG Yang, XU Ke, ZHU Jiong

Direction artistique
Hortense Soichet et Zhu Jiong

Direction du projet
Christian Mayaud et SU Zhi Gang \ CHENG Qiang
La mission photographique Le Voyage, initiative de l'Université Paris 8 et de l'Académie du Film de Pékin (Chine), est invitée à présenter le deuxième et dernier volet de ce projet dans le cadre de la programmation "Déplacer/Recréer".  L'exposition Déplacement propose un état des lieux de la société à l'ère de la mobilité généralisée.
La mission photographique Le Voyage est réalisée en partenariat avec La Poste.

Horaires d'ouverture :
Tous les jours sauf lundi, de 12h30 à 19h

Tarifs d'entrée :
Plein : 5 euros / Réduit : 4 euros

Le Musée du Montparnasse et
l'Espace Krajcberg sont heureux
de vous présenter le programme
des rencontres
  De l'art et de l'écologie

Rencontre à l'Espace Krajcberg de 19h30 à 20h30
De l'importance du Manifeste du Naturalisme Intégral aujourd'hui
- En présence de Claude Mollard, expert culturel et co-auteur de La traversée du feu avec Pascale Lismonde, biographie de Frans Krajcberg.
- Baptiste Lanaspeze, philosophe et éditeur, mène un projet éditorial en ligne Wildproject.

Rencontre au Musée du Montparnasse 15h à 18h

Regards sur la Chine : déambulation sur les territoires en mutation
- Hortense Soichet est co-directrice artistique de la mission Le Voyage. Elle est photographe et doctorante en esthétique.
- Zhu Jiong est co-directrice artistique de la mission Le Voyage. Elle est photographe et enseignante
- Zeng Nian, photographe, il fait des reportages entre la France et la Chine.

Rencontre à l'Espace Krajcberg de 19h à 20h30

Une charte pour une production culturelle responsable
- Sylvie Bétard, Co-fondatrice et directrice de développement de La Réserve des arts
- Jeanne Granger, Co-fondatrice et directrice de projets de La Réserve des arts

Réservation souhaitée : contactez Sonia Legros au 01 42 22 90 16

Jan. 23, 2009
PARIS--To see what a Montparnasse sculptor's studio looked like in 1900, we visited the former residence and workshops of the French, very popular, public sculptor Emile Antoine Bourdelle. His residence was a modest room three times larger than the small apartment we'd rented in the same neighborhood. There was not a oin cuisine (read hot plate, tiny frig and microwave), so someone cooked for him elsewhere. The studios were grand. Above waist height, glass makes up one entire. The light was good the day we visited, hardly raining on us, and so I can imagine you'd need the entire wall of glass just to be able to see what you were making. And there were several studios similarly built in a line on his property. He had been an apprentice to Auguste Rodin and the teacher of Aristide Maillol. He is interestingly in the middle of these two artists not so involved in character and roughness as Rodin, and not smooth and sensuously polished as Mallol. His women, however are very strong, and his men emotive.

He was known for making giant horses with army men on them and mythological figures including these four found in the front garden. These are named Eloquence, Force, Victory and Liberty. He was an extremely competent carver, and had a way of making portraits of people look like the person. In order to get public commissions, we got the feeling that he allowed himself to copy reality more than push a style or point of sculpture as Rodin did. They are momumental and don't have any of the ungliness (character) that Rodin got in trouble for including.

Here we are in this serious museum about a serious, commercial sculpture and surprise there are paper mache sculptures of figures with round ball heads, and a giant stick figure that moves its arms and is decoupaged with photographs. In a museum style that is not common in the United States, this traditional museum gave carte-blanche to a contemporary artist, Gloria Freidmann and she added these contemporary, colorful sculptures -- also figurative -- in any space of the museum. The contrast of new and old was very interesting. In the studio, there was a worktable covered with stuffed birds and other small animals. I wondered why he'd need models of animals when his subjects were predominantly human. It turns out these were an installation by Ms. Freidman.

Exhibition Info from www.paris.fr
(about the museum):

Musée Bourdelle
Façade du musée Bourdelle     Dans les jardins et les ateliers où Antoine Bourdelle (1861-1929) a vécu et travaillé, le musée Bourdelle abrite un ensemble exceptionnel de plâtres, de bronzes et de marbres de celui qui fut le praticien de Rodin,

le maître de Giacometti, de Germaine Richier et de Vieira da Silva. L'extension réalisée en 1992 par Christian de Portzamparc donne toute sa dimension à l'œuvre du sculpteur.
Depuis 2004, le musée accueille la création contemporaine : "Luciano Fabro Musée Bourdelle Convivio" ; Claude Rutault "les toiles et l'archer" ; Didier Vermeiren "Solides Géométriques, Vues d'atelier " ; "Felice Varini au 18, rue Antoine Bourdelle" ; "Laurent Pariente" ; "Sarkis Inclinaison" ; Alain Séchas "Rêve brisé".

18, rue Antoine Bourdelle
75015 Paris
Standard : 01 49 54 73 73
Fax : 01 45 44 21 65
(about this exhibition)
Gloria Friedmann ''Lune Rousse''

"La Lune rousse apparaît dans un ciel sans nuages avec l'annonce d'un lendemain difficile."

Carte blanche   est donnée à Gloria Friedmann  qui investit la totalité du musée Bourdelle avec un ensemble d'œuvres pour la plupart inédites, conçues en résonance avec celles du sculpteur.


Du 9 octobre 2008 au 1er février 2009.

Initiée dans les années 80 , l'œuvre de Gloria Friedmann, qui vit en France depuis 1977, aborde à la fois la sculpture, la photographie, le dessin, la gravure. La relation entre nature et culture est au cœur d'une réflexion qui en révèle et en interroge le caractère conflictuel. Jouant la théâtralisation, juxtaposant matériaux et objets, ses scénarios mettent en scène les représentants du genre humain ou animal, évoluant entre tragique et grotesque. La hardiesse et l'ingénuité de ces téléscopages constituent une véritable injonction à une prise de conscience.

Dès le Hall des plâtres , le visiteur est accueilli par un immense pantin, Metropolis. Porteur de l'image d'une foule anonyme, il s'agite sous l'action d'un mécanisme, métaphore d'un pouvoir occulte ; non loin, un personnage, Monsieur X, se présente vêtu des drapeaux des pays membres du G 8.

Eux, des animaux, naturalisés tels que biches, aigles, cochons, tortues, cacatoès, ou figurés sur un ensemble de gravures, LSD, envahissent l'atelier du sculpteur tandis que dans l'appartement de Bourdelle, l'artiste a disposé les éléments d'une vanité : Hello !, Tic tac, tic tac....

Le couple Oryx + Crake occupe la terrasse surplombant le jardin qui abrite, dans sa partie cachée, Garden-party, îlot de recueillement et du souvenir.

Dans les salles en enfilade, Le Parfait Amour, figures blanches et  inquiétantes d'une mariée portée par son époux, et La Matrix, personnage féminin portant contre son ventre une sphère représentant la terre, marquent un territoire dédié à Ecstasy, un travail de peinture réalisé à l'occasion de cette exposition.

Installés à la suite des bustes de Bourdelle, Les Cosmonautes nous confronte à l'espèce humaine. Ces bustes en terre cuite vernissée évoquent aussi la galerie de portraits d'un musée.

Avec Cabaret des squelettes en métal peint rejouent les scènes de l'amour et du suicide, avec un humour corrosif, devant les bronzes des deux monuments commémoratifs de Bourdelle, le premier érigé à Montauban, et le dernier Cours Albert 1er, à Paris. Painting as a pastime constitue le point d'orgue d'un « théâtre des matières » dont les protagonistes nous réservent des surprises...



Samedi 6 décembre à 15h.

Puce culture Commissaire
Juliette Laffon
Directrice du Musée Bourdelle
Musée Bourdelle
16, rue Antoine Bourdelle - Paris 15°

Puce culture Contact presse
Opus 64
Valérie Samuel et Patricia Gangloff
Tél : 01 40 26 77 94 - Fax : 01 40 26 44 98
E-mail : p.gangloff@opus64.com

Puce culture Musée Bourdelle
16, rue Antoine Bourdelle - Paris 15eme

Ouvert tous les jours de 10h à 18h sauf lundis et jours fériés

Futurists at the Pompidou Center

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pompidou1.jpgPARIS  -  The lights came on in Paris as the sun set, some on one wall of the Hotel de Ville were arranged like a constellation and blinked. It was lightly raining, now dark, and we sank into the courtyard to enter the museum of modern art in the Pompidou Center. In small dark square rooms off the giant entry hall of the center, the Beaubourg as the building is called, we left coats, went to the toilet, and bought tickets. Back in the center of the grand hall, we were directed to ride an escalator, walk through a glass-walled room, and back outside into what seemed like the cold, black night. Instead it is the glassed-in colonnade of escalators that take us to the 6th floor to see a show about Futurism.
I know that Futurism was declared in a manifesto around 1910 by Filippo Marinetti, a French Italian poet. He tried to include the Cubists like Picasso, Braque and Gris but they had their own manifesto and outlines for working. Intellectually, the curators of this show are telling us that these guys really were thinking along the same lines.

Marinetti wrote poems, got press in Figaro for the Futurists and drew cartoons. Umberto Boccioni stands out as the master artist - sculptor and painter - and the rooms with his work are extraordinary, beauty of the machine age, bright colors and dark shadows expressing hope for man-made inventions that will make the world a more wondrous place.

In these early years of the teens, Marcel Duchamp was painting. He mades "Nude Descending a Staircase." Cubists are trying to show all faces of something at one time, and Duchamp paints cubism and time. His Spanish-French friend Francis Picabia is painting on plywood - illustrating -- mechanical drawings.

The English speakers are making paintings of the Brooklyn Bridge (Joseph Stella) and wild, abstract still lifes from the English anti-Academy group of Vorticists, lead by Wyndham Lewis. David Bomberg occasionally removes even abstract reference to real things. Then the French-Russian couple, Sonia and Robert Delauney, remove all realistic subject matter to the point of making fabic desgn-like paintings of circles (Robert) and shape (Sonia). Of course, fabric did not look like this in the teens. This has come later, after it was done in art.

When the World War starts in 1914, it gets nasty. The most promising new British sculptor Brzeska dies in combat. The English get commissioned by their government to paint war and portraits. The Russian who have been doing Futurism and calling it Constructivism over throw the Czar in 1917 and democratize. They try to keep the hope of man-made machines and thinking alive. It is eventually autocratized into the Social Propaganda art we now think of as 20 Century Russian art. Then, a small group of artists and poets declare DADA. (Andre Breton, Tristan Tzara, Richard Huelsenbeck, Emmy Hennings, Hugo Ball -- and they invite Marinetti in).

Dada was an anti-art movement. The war was an anti-art movement, too. And after these two things, all the bright and shiny things from Futurism turned into surrealism. Intellectualism was dead, and dreamy emotive stuff was in. A short life for Futurism.

The show here at the Pompidou Center took you through all these countries and what they attempted in do. I was surprised at how little I'd learned about the Futurists in art school. Like it was an under appreciated movement between Matisse and the Fauvists and the equally emotional Surrealists.

Were does it fit in today. A Detroit artist Jeff Mills added his answer with a video installation that was in Room 3. It included a montage of stuff from the teens: ballet was big, film was just getting started. It was in a nice dark room where you could sit on the floor and relax. Be entertained. There was a lot of moving images to help us see into this futuristic thing. The futurists were brighter than the cubist, that's true. Looked like they were happier, and each artist is more discernible from others, even in his own country.

Just a few floors below it is the city's collection - displayed on two huge floors - of artwork since Matisse (1900). The Futurist show was intimate and huge at the same time, and they had open spaces where you could sit on chairs and relax or read the catalog.

Cabaret Voltaire, Zurich 2009

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cabaretV.jpgJanuary 20, 2009
Almost 100 years after Dada, we visited the cafe in Zurich where Hugo Ball, Emmy Hennings, Richard Huelsenbeck and Tristan Tzara started doing crazy things in protest to established art and the society that approved it and the First World War that was going on all around neutral Switzerland.

The Cabaret Voltaire has been restored in a very funky way. Upstairs is a nice expansive coffee shop with a back room set up for conversations on a same-level stage. Posters and Dada memorability are all over the walls.

Downstairs is the series display of contemporary art -- a series of Fluxus films at this time -- and little projects in a front room that has the distinct look of a museum gift shop cross with trendy new-age shops that surround this historic space in the old town, the pedestrian shopping area -- of Left Bank Zurich.

It's eerily hard to get. Just like Dada. Just like much of contemporary art.

Ice Sculpture Finale

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Sunday, January 18, 2009,

We go out while pink light was still on the Galibier to take pictures. The weather and clarity of the day would not get better. It started to snow.

We went in for coffee and baguettes with good French butter, and back out to hear the results of the jury. When the Popular Choice award was announced it was: the bear on a sheep, followed by the cardboard boxes, and topped by a dragon. Steuart had gotten Second Place - People's Choice. He was thrilled that people liked his sculpture. Then they announced the Artists Choice and Steuart again won. He was shocked, and incredibly honored. Artist's Choice is always the most coveted award. He and most of the artists don't really like the idea that these events are competition and shrug off awards, but being appreciated by  other artists is really meaningful. He probably only had one more vote than the next artist, he said.There were so many that were pushing the idea of ice sculpture.

He thought he was finished with getting awards, and then the decision of the jury was announced, and he given the top prize. He was speechless in both French and English.  The snow was blowing in hard from the Galibier by this point, and everyone cheerily posed for a group photo.day4award.jpg

We took more shots of the sculpture and then were treated to a great last lunch at the Crete Rond, another restaurant in Les Verney. Seafood in pastry, followed by a chicken breast, the cheese course and a great raspberry cake, A new wine was on the table, and then photos were passed out by Bernard Grange, the master of photo in the town -- just an hour or so, after the last image was taken. What a guy. Thank you Bernard.

Ice Sculpture Day Three

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January 17, Saturday
day3a.jpgBy the morning of the third and final day, Steuart still had three boxes sitting on the base. Nothing melted, nothing more. Several of the tabs on each side of each box were frozen in place. They would be supports to attach the flaps that would suggest this was a stack of opened boxes -- something that was destined for the recycling bin. He called the sculpture "Promises" when he sent the drawing and artist statement with his application to the competition.

While I helped by holding the power supply for the iron, a spectator asked what Promises meant, and I said, "what was in the boxes." The material was transparent, and implied emptiness. Drips from attaching boxes on top of boxes ran down the faces of the lower ones; drips from smoothing the top edge and deliberate melting of the surface had left the ice with a texture nicely reminiscent of cardboard. The whole piece has a nice quality of not being very tangible. Yet very ordinary.

Les Cartons people said when they figured out what Steaurt was making. He likes the idea of rising refuse to a pedestal. 
By the time the sun rose over the Galibier, and space blankets were brought out to protect the ice from the sun, most everyone's sculpture was at a place where its form could be recognized. A French guy, Pascal from Provence, had gotten his bear recognizable and the sheep underneath it, too. It made me smile. It was funny. There was a pile of chain links, a frog, a bonsai tree, a very modern elevator, a pyramid mix of snow and ice, a water bottle and graceful flame-shaped abstractions. One piece was carved on the ground by a French woman from Paris who hollowed out two halves of a bottle leaving a level of fluid appearing in the bottom of it, with a depression that looked a little like a pear was also in the bottle. On this morning there were four guys from the French army helping her lift the human sized bottle to the vertical, and then raise it into the air to set it on the meter high base. They were quite amused by their work.

The army trains in Valloire so they are ready for mountain operations. Each young Frenchman must still do obligatory national service, and for these men it involved helping artists. So French.

Lunch back at the Relais de Galibier was a great couscous salad followed by a Savoy-style Beef Burgundy. The wine was always the same, a red wine from Languedoc - across to the southwest of France. And it appeared on the table lunch and dinner, and was gone before coffee.

Lunch lasted until 3 or so, and Steuart slowly made his way back out to the pile of boxes. The freezing together of the parts was going very slowly, and he'd started to carve a checkered pattern into the snow base but was fearful that the snow that have been exposed to a lot of heat in the days before we arrived was going to collapse and send the entire stack to the ground.
When I arrived just before sunset, box four and five were sitting on his work table, and the flaps were having a hard time sticking. He added a solid block - an ice cube (four or six times the size of a drinks cube as the very topmost box. t would have to wait for a long while to see its place on top. For the next two hours Steuart put flaps on the bottom three boxes.

At seven thirty the pile was complete. Thirty minutes before the end of the competition. Steaurt are you finished? the chief of entertainment for the town of Valloire asked from the microphone. The jury would take its first look at the piece at 8 pm., followed by the spectacle of lights would begin, and the promenade of spectators would come by.  The army guys were carrying away all the unused ice, the removed snow, the tools, the tables, and making the ground nice around each sculpture. I want to keep the little blocks around the bases, Steuart tried to explain to them. It worked. He was done with 15 minutes to spare. Took a couple pictures under the spotlights. He had achieved a very voluminous piece from just one meter by one meter by ½ meter of ice. The finished piece stood two meters high on a meter high base. 12 feet.

The jury took in all 15 of the sculptures together, talking making notes, and then returning to the Relais for dinner and discussion, and the artists to their final dinner of the competition.

More Languedoc wine accompanied a duck breast in a lovely light sauce and baked potatoes slices. Here I am in France, walking everywhere, eating and drinking really well, and my pants are feeling loose. This is a great life.

Ice Sculpture Day Two

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On Day Two, January 16, 2009, the Ice Sculpture called "Promises" by Steuart Bremner continues to take shape.

Steuart left early to cut pieces of ice and cover them before the sun came over Galibier Pass and hit his work area. The Tour de France bicycle race has a habit of going over this pass one direction or another every summer. Le Col de Galibier is also often the site of spectacular crashes and more spectacular climbing along with other notorious passes like Alp d'Huez.

I'll not bore you with tales of more great food, just be aware that we had a starter course, a main course, wine, and a disappointing mere bowl of fruit for dessert and a great coffee before retiring for a wee nap before going out for the afternoon work that could only commence once the sun again went behind the mountains. This time it went to the west behind the black beaked mountain that I was told the name of in a long amount of French syllables and can only remember that I heard the translation of one that meant "Dominator."  Sunlight faded entirely from the rosy edges to blackness and still the chain saws worked to cut ice. Small sounds of ice chisels were the only other noise. Steuart was heating up the non-steam style iron he'd bought in St. Michel. He was going to iron the ice sheets, and stick them together into the first box by melting them and holding them together until they froze. The temperature in this ski resort was a mere -7 Celsius, about 20 degrees Fahrenheit. The freezing was going painfully slow. The mental pressure of placing the planes of the first box so that it would be perfect when more and more boxes of ice were stacked on top was stressful. Once the base box was in place there was going to be no going back. There wasn't enough ice to make a new one, and obtain the height Steuart wanted, and unsticking the frozen slabs would mean almost sure breakage. This isn't like welding, Steuart realized, where when you make a mistake you just heat it up and reposition and weld again.
Although it was warm for a winter night, standing and working out in it was also mentally exhausting, not to mention the fact that we were barely accustomed to being 8 hours ahead in time. The warm vegetable puréed soup was wonderful when we returned to the group table surrounded by artists. We sat surrounded by French speakers and by the fish course, we were silently hanging in and just trying to understand what was being said.day2_2.jpg

After dinner, it was out to make more boxes. After 2 a.m. Steuart returned in serious worry about how little he'd gotten done, and worried about the sanity of his project in its entirety. I slept and worked. Preserved my strength.


Ice sculpture in France

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day1.jpgArriving on the train from Turin just a few kilometers across the French border into the small town of Modane we had to wait for about an hour for the autobus that was operated by the French train service to take us to St. Michel de Maurienne, the town at the bottom of the valley below the ski resort of Valloire where Steuart Bremner, my partner in life and Limitless Idea Project, was to make an ice sculpture.

Valloire is a big expanse of mountain offering skiing to mostly French families. The far south side of the ski area dumps skiers into the little hamlet of Les Verneys where the blocks of ice where waiting for Steuart.

After a great dinner with the mayor of the town, the director of the tourism office and his staff, and all the sculptors' lots were drawn determining each artist's position in the line of snow bases. Each just over a meter high, stood naked when we all went out after dinner to start work. A pile of ice blocks totaling 1 meter x 1 meter by ½ meter, rested on the ground under tarps. Ice sculpting happens mostly at night because the sun can penetrate the ice, turn it white and eventually shatter it.

Artists from India, Holland, Italy Steuart from the U.S. and several regions of France all began that night's work after several glasses of wine and a great meal of pate, then a small beefsteak and fries, followed by cheese and a custard desert, by leveling the snow base. Those who were going to carve the ice as if it were a piece of stone joined two, three of four of the ¼ meter thick sheets together so they would be solidly frozen together by the next day. Everyone worried about how they would deal with the seams that are inevitable. Except Steuart. He was planning to assemble his sculpture.day1_2.jpg

I'd already given my gloves to one of the Indian men who really had very little idea of what it would be like to make a sculpture in ice or work in the cold. Both of the two Indian artists were expert stone carvers, cold weather novices. They had been to Colorado to a Marble Stone Carving Symposium in the town of Marble (where the stone for the Lincoln Memorial was quarried.) and so felt an affinity for us.

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