Weekly roundup 31 July 2016

Lecture: Dr Jaime Tsai Marcel Duchamp and the Arensbergs (part of the AGNSW Collectors & Collections series).

Lots about what art might be, how it is received. There is the idea the artist could choose what was art, what was valuable. With that choice and the recontextualised object, originality, craft, authenticity and singularity were no longer given characteristics of art.

The artist’s personality and intention shouldn’t define the meaning of the work.

How do those two ideas fit? The artist’s choice and action define an object as art, but not its meaning. Perhaps only part of its meanings.

NGA Textiles collection Behind the scenes tour
Nine fortunate people were on this tour, led by Debbie Ward, NGA’s Head of Conservation, and (I think – didn’t quite catch it) Micheline Ford, responsible for the textile collection.

First we went into the storage area (there is also off-site storage). A large area, not originally intended for textiles, a complex warren of mezannine levels, rows of drawers and roll-holders.

Huari band 600 - 1000 AD

Huari band
600 – 1000 AD

I’d seen this piece in 2014, in the Gold and the Incas: Lost worlds of Peru exhibition. What a privilege to be able to see it closely, directly. The catalogue describes it as warp-faced double-cloth, woven as a tube with four warps (apparently warp ends not on the surface in a pick are loose inside).


Ballet Russes

Ballet Russes costume

In a sub-group of four there was plenty of opportunity to ask all our questions as we were shown various treasures. NGA has a large collection of Ballet Russes costumes and documentation. On the left is a costume that has been conserved, showing the original blue fabric on top which has been stabilised, and modern supporting fabric below. In this instance the conservators decided to replicate the original hemline of the costume, as an important element of the design.

India For Indonesian market

India
For Indonesian market

Then up in the huge artworks lift to the conservation area right at the top of the building.

The long cotton length shown on the right has been in conservation around 6 months, around half way through the task. We were shown the multiple swatches of modern fabric that had been dyed to match different areas (using modern dyes so no possibility of colour running). Treatment of the many stripes showed the multiple aesthetic judgments made during the process. The modern fabric patching one hole had been painted with stripes to avoid visual jarring. In another hole the cloth was left plain – drawn outlines still in the original were sufficient to maintain continuity.

Walking carefully past Pollock’s Blue Poles (undergoing a condition report prior to its trip to London – link), we went to the newly refurbished members lounge for wine, cheese, and some more questions including Eva Hesse’s Contingent (in its current state conserved as an object rather than a textile) and Robert Morris’s felt work (how to support the areas taking that enormous weight).

I actually joined as a Member of NGA for this tour (previously relying on reciprocal rights as a member of AGNSW) and made a special visit to Canberra for it. Thoroughly worthwhile.

Seen in Canberra

  • Agnes Martin. For some time now I’ve been wanting to see a work by Agnes Martin. Her name keeps cropping up – in the context of orthogonal structures (29-May-2016), in reading on Abstraction and Process (2-Nov-2014), in my final essay The Stripe for Understanding Western Art… Three of Martin’s works are currently on display at NGA, and I finally got to spend some time with them. The NGA now allows photography but the ones I took aren’t worth showing.

    Martin said “I don’t have any ideas myself. I have a vacant mind” (Martin, 1997, 1:03). I arrived at the works with an agitated mind – just before we’d arrived at our Canberra accommodation to discover some issues that eventually led to our extra-long weekend becoming an overnight stay. Twenty minutes with Martin’s works, looking and thinking, moving back and forward, trying to take a decent photo, examining the ways her lines interact with the subtle variation in the paint beneath, how they always end before the edge of the canvas… I was calm, glowing.

  • brancusi

  • Constantin Brancusi Bird in Space. These works used to be downstairs in what was an indoor sculpture area, a very high gallery with some external light. They were in a square pond. Now they are upstairs, up on a platform. The ceiling is lower, you can get a little closer, and the works are much more imposing. Instead of reflections in the water they are surrounded by intricate and rather beautiful shadows.

    Very interesting the different effect this placement has. The works looked more massive, heavier, less likely to spring into the air.

    In recent reading related to my grids and folds interest, I’ve come across Brancusi’s Endless Column – one example at Moma (link). The pedestal is an independent form, a rhythmic line that could extend vertically to infinity.

  • Bruce Shapiro Sisyphus

    Bruce Shapiro Sisyphus

  • Bruce Shapiro Sisyphus, seen at Questacon. A sandtable is shaped by a moving ball, controlled below the table using magnets. Mesmerising to watch. You can see more on his website – http://www.taomc.com/sisyphus/. Look for the time lapse video. Not as calming as watching the real thing unfold, but still amazing.

    Mixed Media for Textiles results. MMT Marksheet I wasn’t expecting these for a few more weeks, and to be honest at first was a little disappointed with 65. Most of the comments (the personal overall ones on the second page, not the boilerplate on page 1) were generally positive, but clearly the assessors are looking for more. It was a bit of a bump from the last one (85 for Understanding Western Art) and a hair under 66 for A Creative Approach, and I think I’ve grown enormously since then.

    Quite quickly that final phrase came to the fore – I have grown enormously since then. My goals for MMT had nothing to do with marks (they were Make the course my own; Take risks and challenge myself; Surprise myself; Enjoy myself). Indeed I quite often chose to ignore or vary course requirements to follow my own interests, consciously putting my own purposes over academic requirements. There were also all the small choices I made to move on, to stick to my timetable. There are places where the research was less rigorous, where I could have pushed for a little more resolution of some exciting experiment, and I chose not to. I always claim the mark doesn’t matter, it’s the learning and growth I want. I learnt heaps, I had a great time doing it, I’m proud of what I’ve done. I feel fine about the mark because it’s not the point. It’s rather nice to discover that, having caught my breath, my response lives up to my ideals.

    Reading and thinking
    Paul Schimmel and Jenni Sorkin (Eds) (2016) Revolution in the Making: Abstract sculpture by women 1947-2016 Hauser & Wirth Publishers.
    This book accompanies an exhibition of the same name, still on in Los Angeles. Wish I could get there.

    So far I’ve read the foreword and first essay – “‘What can be done, what I must learn, what there is to do…’: Process, materials, and narrative in the 1950s” by Elizabeth Smith. The essay focuses on Ruth Asawa, Lee Bontecou, Louise Bourgeois, Claire Falkenstein and Louise Nevelson. I can’t summarise the points that particularly spoke to me. It would be the whole thing. It will have to appear in bits and pieces, inspiring and influencing further work.

    I’ve been feeling daunted quite often over the past few months. Looking up from my studies, beginning to follow my own interests, the world is suddenly a much larger place. So many leads to follow – and without the focus and timetable of assignments.

    Thinking about grids, folds, dimensions and infinity, so I noticed a little explanation of a wormhole and folding space in a movie. Which led to some internet searching on topology and suddenly bumping into Leibniz again (see reading of Gilles Deleuze 24-Jul-2016). It also led to set theory – another bump because we were talking about that at work this week (in the context of data visualisation software we use). Then Brancusi came at me from a couple of directions. And it seemed every second sentence of Elizabeth Smith’s essay, and almost every endnote, was to be a new lead to be followed up. And none of that has led into new actual work, an actual thing (yet).

    Any advice on how to deal with this would be very welcome. At the moment I’m trying to focus on enjoying the ride, the process, and not ask “Are we there yet?”.

    References
    Martin, A. (1997) “Interview with Agnes Martin done in Taos, N.M. Nov 1997 by Chuck Smith and Sono Kuwayama” [online] Available from https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=_-JfYjmo5OA Accessed 28 September 2014

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