Monday, November 10, 2008

Charles Ray

Charles Ray was born in Chicago. He studied sculpture at the University of Iowa with Roland Brener, who exposed Ray to many developments of Modernist sculpture, in particular the constructivist aesthetic of artists like Caro and David Smith. In an interview, Ray spoke of his artistic education and early influences.

"Caro’s work was like a template; I saw it as almost platonic. The formal rules as taught by Brener were a kind of nourishment for me. The actual working in the studio was, in a sense, the expression. I was taught that the finished sculpture was maybe the end of the paragraph. Once a sculpture was completed it was critiqued and put back on to the scrap pile. This way of working taught me to think sculpturally rather than to think about sculpture. At this time in my life the historical context of high Modernism was really beyond my grasp. I saw Caro as super-contemporary. His work was, and is, so alive. It bridges the gap between the inside and outside of my mind. "

Ray recapitulated many of the developments in twentieth-century sculpture in his first show in 1971 with an installation entitled One-Stop Gallery. The show was comprised of a collection of small sculptures, resting directly on floor. Some of the works, in their attention to materials, were clearly inspired by Minimalist artists like Robert Morris, while two small constructed steel sculptures invoke the traditions taught by his teacher, Brener; they were even painted the same red as Caro’s Early One Morning (1962, Tate Modern). One-Stop Gallery would anticipate the tone for much of Ray’s work to come in its plumbing and reinterpreting of the canon of twentieth-century sculpture without having his own work appeal to any particular period or style.

Ray’s work is difficult to classify. Style, materials, subject, presence, and scale are all variable. What is consistent is as critic Anne Wagner put it, “In all his seamlessly executed objects, Ray fixates on how and why things happen, to say nothing of wondering what really does happen in the field of vision, and how such events might be remade as art.” This and the level of art historical awareness behind his works has led many critics to call Ray a sculptor’s sculptor. Nevertheless, his art has managed to find a large audience, thanks in part to its often striking or beguiling nature. His most recent work is marked by its extreme labor-intensiveness. With Hinoki (2007, Art Institute of Chicago), Ray had a mold made of a large rotting tree he found in California. He then hired a team of Japanese woodcarvers to essentially re-carve the tree in Japanese cypress (hinoki), a different wood than that of the original tree. In a forthcoming interview, Ray made it clear that the purpose of the piece was not to photorealistically carve an exact replica of the tree. “The tree had that beautiful interior that fallen logs have,” he says. “It happens when bugs eat out the hard wood, so you have this hollow thing. All I knew was that I wanted to carve that, I wanted them to have a sense of that interior [of the log] because it’s in there, even if normally it couldn’t be seen. So that was really important. And then I became involved with the outside as well…It mattered to me that somebody had looked at it, and I wanted to make it matter to you.” Hinoki took four years to carve of what was a ten year project: from the initial discovery of the tree in 1997-1998 to its exhibition in 2007.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Carl Andre

a man climbs a mountain
because it is there
a man makes a work of art
because it is not there

carl andre


Andre was born in Quincy, Massachusetts and educated in Quincy public schools and at Phillips Academy Andover, where he became friends with Hollis Frampton and Michael Chapman. Andre served in the U.S. Army in North Carolina from 1955-56. He moved to New York City and in 1958 met Frank Stella in whose studio he developed a series of wooden "cut" sculptures.

From 1960-64 Andre worked as freight brakeman and conductor in New Jersey for the Pennsylvania Railroad. In 1965 he had his first public exhibition of work in the "Shape and Structure" show curated by Henry Geldzahler at the Tibor de Nagy Gallery.

Andre's controversial "Lever" was included in the seminal 1966 show at the Jewish Museum in New York entitled, "Primary Structures." In 1970 he had a one man exhibition at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, and has had one man exhibitions and participated in group shows in major museums, galleries and kunsthalles throughout America and Europe to the present. Andre's concept of sculpture as "place" is of singular importance to the evolution of his work and to minimalist work in general.

In 1972 the Tate Gallery in London bought his Equivalent VIII (1966), popularly known as "The Bricks", which consists of 120 firebricks arranged in a rectangle, and which was an international succès de scandale. Andre also writes concrete poetry which has been exhibited in the United States and Europe, a comprehensive collection of which is in the collection of the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam. He is represented by the Paula Cooper Gallery, New York.

While he is known primarily for his sculpture, Carl Andre also produced poetry from the early 1950s to the mid 1970s. Andre's poems, which were typed on a manual typewriter or hand-written, can also be read as drawings. They relate directly to the artist's three-dimensional work in that they incorporate the word as a compositional module, much like his signature use of bricks or metal plates. Loosely narrative in structure, the poems often include historical references and traces of autobiography. The poems obliquely evoke character and setting while incorporating various literary forms such as the sonnet, opera, or novel.

In 1988 he was acquitted (found not guilty) of murder in the death of his wife, artist Ana Mendieta.

Bucking Bronco

Maybe I shouldn’t let it bug me?
Stuck in my craw?
Is that the expression?
Sounds like some wet Victorian guttural abomination coming up in the devil’s throat
Feels even worse
Resentment exploits my lymph nodes
It jumps on the back of my hemoglobin, a bronco bucks and bolts to my brain, lassoing every good thought I ever had
Pulling it down into the muck
Watching its eyes fill with mud, shit and moss
Each involuntary gulp sucks …sucks…sucks
Hatred does not gag
Mud and vengeance only feeds
Maybe I shouldn’t let it bug me?

Black licorice jelly beans

I went to bed hungry from this god damned diet
I had a dream that I ate everything in sight.
Mostly sugar
If I eat a grain I might as well eat a god damned plantation!
My boyfriend owns this piece of art that contains black licorice jelly beans in it
I thought I’d even eaten some of them
I wasn’t sure what the fuck had happened
If it was real or not
I counted the jelly beans…
not that I knew how many there were before
But I think they’re all still there

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Brigitte Fontaine

Two Resounding Questions

Two resounding questions
That never left my mind
Why in the name of god don’t you just leave him?
The other
Stop fucking!
Stop fucking each other!
Why don’t you just stop fucking?
I suppose the answer to both questions lye in the stupidity of there being two questions at all

I understand

I understand
Or at least I think that I do
You remember those white muscled arms of his smeared with axel grease and dirt
You remember his black hair
Black as soot
The wings of a wet crow
You remember him singing, “Treat me like a fool,” one morning as our hound Goldie gave birth to seven dead pups
You remember all the ridiculous promises you never knew he wouldn’t keep
You fell for his religion, his games, his cock…
…his delusional forays into the green green wild
I understand
That I apparently don’t remember shit!
Or rather, shit is all I remember
I understand
Or at least I think that I do