Andrea Cohen has a deep interest in the materials she uses for her art. In her newest exhibit at the Walter Maciel Gallery, she uses materials most would consider trash to create interesting and thought-provoking sculptures. One of these includes a tree made of hydrocal plaster, which is made to look like a tree from a traditional Chinese landscape painting.
Her work really stuck out to me because I was attracted to her unusual materials and the way they look together. Imagining how a work would look with these different materials sounds very strange, but her works have immense aesthetic quality. They are much more interesting than other sculptures because they seem very fragile but also very crafty.
She often uses tree branches, Styrofoam, felt, wire, and paper mache. She said most of her sculptures were bending under their own weight so she brought the branches in to make a “ready-made organic line” and said, “it seemed like they just belonged together.” She said she wasn’t trying to make a political statement about one material vs. another or nature vs. industry, but rather that it was all about the structure. Tree branches add a natural look to the otherwise futuristic structures. There seems to always have been some sort of link between nature and art and now Cohen has just actually put the two together.
Myers, Holly. “Art Review: Andrea Cohen at Walter Maciel Gallery.” Los Angeles Times, July 5, 2012. Web. 28 October, 2012.
Threewalls gallery is showing Diana Guerrero-Maciá’s exhibition, “The Uncertainty of Signs” from November 2- December 15, 2012. Maciá’s work consists of five large-scale collages, twenty-six smaller works, and a furniture piece.
Although Maciá uses many different materials, she used mostly felt in this collection of works. In the piece titled “Nomadic Future” (Figure 1), Maciá uses pieces of felt shaped as rainbows, stars, smiley faces, butterflies and hearts, along with big red x’s. In this piece and the rest of the works in the collection, there is a definite sense of connectivity. This piece has lines that intersect some of these symbols and other symbols are placed between the lines. Overall, there is a definite theme of lines in her work. Some of the other pieces also had similar connections. For example, another piece consisted of a grey background with red lines going off in several directions, with bits of black and white scrap felt added on the lower right corner. Again, the viewer is offered this sense of connectivity where everything inside the vicinity purposely connects or touches in some way.
One of the larger canvases appeared to be created on a type of cloth that was meant to be a sign. It has holes around all the edges as though it would be tied to a structure instead of placed on a wall. This piece contained very little color, except for the two small felt rainbows. There was also one black “x” or a cross on the bottom right corner. The other geometric pieces placed on the canvas seemed to resemble both the outlines and inner workings of an intricate spider web. This piece again conveyed the sense of connectedness because the web-like structures drew viewers’ eyes in towards the close center.
The twenty-six smaller pieces were titled “A-Z” because each tile was supposed to reference a letter of the Latin alphabet. This is not an easily observed purpose since the only actual letter portrayed is a red letter “a.” Mainly from these works, there was again the sense of connectivity and a sense of distortion. The distortion stemmed from the fact that a few of the textiles included photos that were altered or placed in an unusual way. One also portrayed part of a flower painting but was interrupted by paper and felt. Many of these textiles had multiple layers of material.
Another interesting thing about these twenty-six smaller works was that a lot of them also involved sewing and needlework. This is rarely seen anymore. There were several textiles that included felt being sewed both to other pieces of felt and paper as well. Many include themes of line, some with and some without vibrant colors palettes. The small textiles do not all have the same frame lengths or style but the collection is aesthetically pleasing because of the color palette and theme of lines.
The artist’s furniture piece, called Let x=x (Figure 2) very closely resembled one of the twenty-six smaller textiles in design. It appeared that the small textile was a blueprint for the construction of the furniture piece; however, two of the colored benches were switched around in order. This piece consisted of similar color shades as the rest of the works “thereby referencing the fabric in a physical, touchable way” (Sorkin). This shows viewers how Maciá changes up her work and isn’t afraid to play with designs and patterns. This again gives the audience that same sense of connectivity but instead of tying everything in one piece together, two pieces in the same room are connected.
Franco Magnani is a memory artist. He paints intricate canvases of his hometown. His paintings document his memories of his childhood and growing up in Tuscany. Bob Miller had seen Magnani’s work and “suggested that the paintings, coupled with photos of the same views, might reveal something about the accuracies, distortions, and inventions of the artist’s memory.”
In fact, in 1988 these works were displayed in San Francisco, California as part of an exhibit called “Memory.” This exhibit was divided into 8 parts: “The Senses, with an interactive exhibit about each of the five senses and its connection to memory; Remembering What’s Meaningful, showing the connection between personal meaning and memorability; Forgetting, which showed how the ways in which we forget and distort events can help us construct a kind of anatomy of how memory works; Faces (they’re important, and people like them); Remembering Without Thinking, about implicit or unconscious memory; The Brain; Personal Memory, focusing on autobiographical memory and its deep connection to a sense of self; and Shared Memories, about the relationship between memory and culture.”
After not seeing his hometown for nearly 30 years, Magnani created portraits “almost photographic precision” of Pontito, Tuscany. It has also been said that Magnani suffered a mysterious disease where he encountered wildly vivid dreams of Pontito. “No one … has felt the heat and pressure of a reality as indefatigable as that which day and night converged upon the hapless Ireneo,” Borges writes in a sketch entitled “Funes the Memorious.”
Susan Schwartzenberg traveled to Pontito to photograph village scenes from the exact angles Magnani painted them from. These photographs were then show side by side with the paintings so that people could compare and contrast and analyze the skills of memory.
Magnani grew up in a family of five children. In 1942, his father died while Italy was in a war and depression. His mother worked in the fields but his family was often hungry. He “remembers not so much the suffering of those years as the sense of purpose and intensity with which the family lived.”
Oliver Sacks, a neurologist described this sickness as including “high fever nightmares, maybe there were seizures” and he would see Pontitio as it had been before the Nazi’s came. He sometimes references these dreams as “visions.” Magnani would state that he could see a three-dimensional model of Pontitio rise up in front of him, which he could then paint accurately.
Franco Magnani utilizes sensory memory, which encodes visual information, but sensory memories are usually short-term. Long-term memory tends to encode things semantically while short-term tends to encode information acoustically. “In 1974, Baddeley and Hitch proposed a model of the working memory, which consisted of three parts: the phonological loop, the visuo-spatial sketchpad, and the episodic buffer. “ The visuo-spatial sketchpad stores visual and spatial information and helps with imagining images.
Magnani also painted his church and in his perception, the church appears larger than in reality, perhaps because the church had been an important part of his life.
Magnani shows extraordinary talent when recalling these intricate images. This shows how memories can follow us throughout our lives and have serious impacts upon the rest of our lives. They can also be inspiring. Although there aren’t many people with talent like this, most people can relate to the feeling of nostalgia of their childhood home.
His works also show the imperfections of memory. Although his paintings are extremely accurate, there are still narrower streets, different textures, and slight alterations made to the scenes of Pontito. Sometimes added buildings and objects are even added to scenes. Magnani “uses not only his memory, but a kind of projective imagination, to move his mind’s eye through the town.”
Michaud, Jon. “Back Issues: Franco Magnani.” The New Yorker. 2010. 4 December, 2012.
Pearce, Michael. “Memory.” Exhibit Files. 2008. 4 December, 2012.
“What’s New in the World: A Memory Artist.” The Exploratorium. 1998. 4 December, 2012.
“Franco Magnani: The Memory Artist.” Web of Stories. Web of Stories. Web. 4 December, 2012.
McLeod, Saul. “Working Memory.” Simple Psychology. 2008. 4 December, 2012.
Minimal in Vision, Complex in Meaning
Donald Judd had a very different perspective of art than other artists of his time. He envisioned art as something both aesthetic and historical and thought these two classifications didn’t necessarily have to be separated. He believed in looking at work as a whole. Judd once said, “Things that exist exist, and everything is on their side” (Zwirner 19). In other words, he believed that humans are one with the world and the objects around them. He often argued the importance of sensory emotions over conceptual thought. Through his art, he questioned people about what they truly know about the world around them and about the nature of the world itself. Donald Judd began as a painter and soon switched from canvas to sculptures, often using everyday objects in his sculptures. He was not interested in exploring the values of represented space and illusion but rather was focused on portraying what he called “real space.” Donald Judd argued through his work that actual space is more emotionally powerful and moving than two-dimensional paint on a canvas.
According to Richard Shiff, Judd “produced his art as a way of preserving a unity of thought and feeling, reason and sensation, the whole works.” This belief of his that thought and feeling had to happen all at once when viewing art not only influenced his transition from paintings to sculptures but also inspired him to utilize reductive forms in his work. Since Judd was also an art critic, he had a strong background in philosophy, which can be seen through his work. All of Donald Judd’s work was created with an aesthetic purpose, but he utilized aesthetic forms to communicate a greater idea about sensory wholeness. In many of his works, he used materials to create many different types of boxes which conveyed a sense of real space using different variations of form. He would vary the different sizes and placement and color of the columns placed inside the usually white boxes. However, color was not always meant to represent something. Judd once said “[Color’s] existence as it is the main fact and not what it might mean, which may be nothing,” (Zwirner 59). Judd used contrasting materials and colors to convey a wide range of moods and emotions to the viewers.
Judd’s work was constantly classified as “minimalism” but he detested that term and tended to think of his work as “the simple expression of complex thought” (Serota 7). In art such as his, work that constitutes being called minimalism, there is not really any detail which leaves form as the biggest influence on our perception of it. Rudi Fuchs once wrote that Donald Judd “found a way or method to organize colour as, almost, a narrative without a notable presence of shape,” (Serota 22). This meant that the color was independent from the shape of the work itself and he did not pick out the colors he would use prior to the creation of the work. Instead, he chose them visually and compared the brightness and clarity of different shades against others. Another reason he stood out from other minimalism art was that his works were stunningly beautiful. Fuchs also wrote that “that is why many people distrusted these pieces,” (Serota 24). Other minimal art was known to be objective but Judd utilized his subjective sense of beauty. One of the ways he did this was by using intense color.
Judd was so interested in portraying real space that he completely switched from paintings to creating sculptures. Many of his works include multiple subjects where the space between them is just as purposeful as the actual space they are taking up. He also utilized the degree of projection from the wall to manipulate real space. He talks a lot about real space rather than illusionism or literal space, to mean three-dimensional and the space the objects take up in addition to the projected space outside of the object.
He has claimed that painting and sculptures are just “containers” whereas his art is neither of the two because they are three-dimensional and have volume yet “lack parts which frees the work from both composition and effects as well as liberates the work itself from traditional European allusions to the body” (Davis). His works have a different effect than filled objects such as solid cubes would because the openness leaves room for projection and space outside of itself. They are extensive and convey an idea of wholeness. Judd saw the use of industrial materials as “aggressive and necessary for the identity of a specific object in its objectivity based in a neutral inaccessible way” (Davis). In other words, he didn’t want his work judged by the materials used but needed something that would require participation from the audience.
Judd believed that form in mass could more accurately depict and cause emotional reactions than painting on a two-dimensional canvas because with paintings, there is no real space. There is only literal space. Aaron Davis said “This is perhaps the most powerful effect of the work, its transitive ability to exist outside of itself both in real space, and rhetorical space.” Judd demonstrated this ability through simple ratios he came up with after simply looking to distribute proportion. He saw painting as a passive container for art whereas his work was an active element. His works also sometimes appeared weightless. Figure 1 shows an untitled work by Judd where Richard Shiff wrote about the vertical bars as being “simply ‘there’, without a generalizing relationship (of support and dependency) that would transform them into some kind of anthropomorphic anecdote” (Serota 33). David Raskin wrote, “Object status-the palpable combination of material and image- was the source of art’s ‘power,’ of its ‘amplified intensity” (Serota 84). He called his art “Specific Objects” because they were neither sculpture nor paintings.
Although he strongly believed in real space and preferred sculpture to two-dimensional works, he would sometimes make two almost identical works, but then place one on the floor and the other would hang on the wall. He didn’t see any real difference between the two settings since both still were three-dimensional and expressive. He thought that since the scale, sequence, color, and material were alike that the works were still of equal standing. He always hoped to be able to become limitless in his work and to be completely free of rules. He tried to create work that could hold a lasting emotion. He believed “all first-rate art has been based on an immediate phenomenon” (Serota 34). This phenomenon then, will create a lasting impression and will interest the viewer.
He believed he made an important contribution in the exploration of space in art because it was poorly understood before him. He said “the smallest simplest work [of mine] creates space around it, since there is so much space within…” (Serota103). Judd used mathematics and proportion to shape the viewer’s perception of the work. He eventually began to make works that deliberately occupy space and call attention to themselves.
For the most part, people thought of minimalism as consisting of art with excessive formal reduction but Judd never believed his work was reduction. He believed that he was taking complex ideas and complex thoughts and simplifying them visually. Although aesthetically, his works may appear simple and minimalistic, there is a larger idea behind them of merging feeling and thought. Judd once said “the main thing wrong with painting is that it is a rectangular plane placed flat against the wall…In work before 1946 the edges of the rectangle are a boundary, the end of a picture.” (Meyer 22). But he specifically detested the European paintings that relied on illusionistic space and preferred the new American painting that promoted unity. He believed it was necessary for sculptures to have simple design and the scale of the typical new paintings being created. Judd used a simplified format for his work that meant there was no meaning beyond its material components and that viewing was a completely subjective experience and perception of the real space. Judd eventually became “absolutely consistent, developing objects that were only slight modifications of his early works” (Meyer 38). During this process, he also became angry with the placement of contemporary work and began to only do semi-permanent and permanent installation of his works.
Donald Judd’s main purpose for creating art was to convey this idea of sensory wholeness. He believed that feeling and thought had to happen simultaneously for a true reaction from a piece. He used real space to hopefully connect these two components of a reaction in the viewer’s mind. He was very concerned with the audience and their reactions in this way. He thought the best way to manipulate real space was to create art that wasn’t exactly two-dimensional but wasn’t strictly three-dimensional either. Through his work, he argued that actual space is more emotionally moving than paintings. Although the term minimalism may apply to the aesthetic vision of his artwork, the philosophy behind his work could not be described as minimal. He created art by taking very complex thoughts and concepts and simplifying it visually.
Davis, Aaron. “‘What You See is What You See’: Constructing the Subject-Object.” Art & Education. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 October, 2012.
Meyer, James. Minimalism. London: Phaidon Press Limited, 2000. Print.
Serota, Nicholas. Donald Judd.Millbank, London: Tate Publishing, 2004. Print.
Shiff, Richard. “Every shiny object wants an infant who will love it.” Art Journal. 70.1 (Spring 2011): p6. Academic OneFile. Web. 12 October. 2012.
Zwirner, David. Donald Judd. Gottingen, Germany: Steidl, 2011. Print.