Stephen Rees's blog

Thoughts about the relationships between transport and the urban area it serves

Archive for the ‘Art’ Category

WPC: Collage (part two)

with 3 comments

Yesterday I posted a collage of Trastevere in Rome. I mentioned that we had found the Villa Farnesina closed – so we had to go back. These are some of the pictures I took of the famous frescoes in the villa. Warning to those who may be in a highly puritanical workplace – some of these images may not be safe for work.

Posted as a second response to the Weekly Photo Challenge

 

Written by Stephen Rees

July 13, 2017 at 10:39 am

Monet’s Garden

with one comment

A new exhibit opens at the Vancouver Art Gallery today entitled “Monet’s Secret Garden” – here’s the Courier’s review. The first thought that crossed my mind was that there is not much secret about his garden. It’s in Giverny, Normandy and is about 45 minutes on the train from Paris, and is one of the most popular of the sites we visited back in 2012. Both the house and garden are open to the public and even in May it was crowded. Even so, very much worth the time. We also saw his paintings at the Marmottan and in the huge galleries off the Tuileries. I did put up a small album of some of my favorite shots on flickr, but I thought that this would be a good excuse to publish some of the others.

 

Written by Stephen Rees

June 24, 2017 at 1:28 pm

Posted in Art, photography

Tagged with , ,

Evil: A Matter of Intent

leave a comment »

The material below the line was sent to me by a pr firm working for a gallery in Florida. When I pointed out my location and the somewhat limited coverage of this blog they replied “Our experience over the years has guided us to cast a wider net due to the fact that South Beach and Miami attract so many millions of visitors from all over the world.”

So I have cut and pasted this material from the press release. It seems to me to be worthwhile in its own right, and worth drawing attention to even if it does not generate much tourist traffic.



Evil: A Matter of Intent features the work of over thirty contemporary and modern artists addressing the many faces of inhumanity. This pertinent group show features artists hailing from around the world with diverse backgrounds, including Helene Aylon, Judith Glickman Lauder, Grace Graupe-Pillard, William Sharp, Tamar Hirschl, John Lawson, Paul Margolis, Mark Podwal, Trix Rosen, and Arthur Szyk.

Presented in Miami Beach by the Jewish Museum of Florida-FIU, the exhibition is on view through October 1. The museum is located at 301 Washington Avenue in the heart of South Beach’s Art Deco District, and is part of Florida International University.

As the title reminds us during these precarious times, acts of evil are premeditated and intentional, motivated by selfishness and the desire to gain at the expense of others. On loan from the Hebrew Union College Jewish Institute of Religion in New York, this exhibition was curated by Laura Kruger and features more than seventy artworks that span from 1940 to the present, including mixed media paintings, works on paper, photography and sculptural works.

unnamed (7)

Sin Street, 2013 by Trix Rosen (photograph of performance artist Fred Keonig).

This photo has its roots in the shadows and violence depicted on pulp fiction book covers and film noir movie posters. At the core of these stories is an edgy morality tale, with temptation dripping from the lurid images and titles. “Bad Girl” characters live in a place and time where good is not always rewarded – nor is evil inevitably punished.

Watch the new video about Evil: A Matter of Intent

 

unnamed (8)

Thou Shalt Not Stand Idly By, by Ben Shahn, 1965 (lithograph).

Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel once asserted that the entire ethical teachings of the Hebrew Bible could be condensed into one sentence: an excerpt from Leviticus 19:16, “Thou shalt not stand idly by while your neighbor’s blood is shed.” Shahn illustrated this admonition by depicting a white hand reaching out to raise a black hand.
“Evil is not a cosmic accident, it does not just happen,” said the New York-based curator of the original version of this traveling exhibition, Laura Kruger. “Evil is a deliberate action or inaction. Evil is the violation of our common humanity.” The work of these artists shows how evil manifests in many forms including genocide, torture, slavery and fear of “the other.” The on-site design of the Miami version of this exhibition was created by Jacqueline Goldstein, the curator at the Jewish Museum of Florida-FIU.

The artists in Evil: A Matter of Intent demonstrate how evil is reinforced by indifference, bullying, cruelty and denial. Terrorist acts, murder, rape, destruction of culture and knowledge, pogroms, obliteration of cultural heritage, child abuse, poisoning of the earth and water, and murder are rampant and unceasing.

 

unnamed (9)

KKK Rally, Florida (circa 1950s)

unnamed (11)

Hiroshima, A Child’s Shirt, 2005, by Leonard Meiselman (oil on canvas).

A child’s shirt, intact but browned from the flames that engulfed Hiroshima when the atom bomb dropped, challenges us to reflect on the painful reminders resulting from war and its related necessary evils. Inspired by the Peace Museum in Japan’s display of such frayed, burned children’s shirts, this has become a life subject for Meiselman.

unnamed (10)

Child’s Drawing of Darfur, 2009.

Bakhid was eight years old when he saw his village in Darfur being attacked and burned by Janjaweed forces on horseback and Sudanese forces in vehicles and tanks. In 2007, the organization Waging Peace traveled to refugee camps in Eastern Chad, where survivors from the “ethnic cleansing” of non-Arab, black Africans now live. The genocide of Darfur, a region in the west of Sudan, was perpetrated by the Sudanese government and Arab militias since 2003. They committed horrific crimes such as burning and bombing entire villages and gunning down families. The organization asked the children in the camps to draw memories of the vicious attacks. The International Criminal Court accepted these drawings as evidence of the crimes committed by the Sudanese government. One young artist named Aisha said: “It is very kind to send us food, but this is Africa and we are used to being hungry. What I ask is that you please take the guns away from the people who are killing us.” Courtesy of the BBC and Ryot

These are artists who refuse to remain silent despite forces of intimidation or popular beliefs

Their voices and visions are direct and distinct, forever asking the viewer what he or she would do if placed in similar situations depicted in these works of art.

Grace Graupe-Pillard’s work was featured in the recent exhibition at New York’s Cheim & Reid Gallery (The Female Gaze: Women Look at Men), and has also shown at the Aldrich Museum, the National Academy Museum and the Bass Museum.

unnamed (12)

Boy with a Gun: Saturday Night Special, 1992, and Boy with a Gun: Homeless Man, 1987, by Grace Graupe-Pillard (pastel, cut-out canvas).

The artist’s powerful works call attention to the urgent need for gun control laws. In her series, Boy with a Gun (1987-1992), she suggests that a child’s game can become adult gun violence. What will it take to thwart the gun industry and stop the killing?

Their voices and visions are direct and distinct

unnamed (13)

Installation image – Boy with a Gun: Homeless Man, 1992, by Grace Graupe-Pillard.

Mark Podwal is well known for his drawings in the New York Time’s op-ed page. His work has been engraved on a Congressional Gold Medal, and is also featured in a series of decorative plates at the Metropolitan Museum.

unnamed (14)

There Arose a New King Who Knew Not Joseph, by David Wander, 2014 (mixed media).

Evoking the biblical passage from Exodus 1:8, Wander ponders the repetition of history. He contrasts the collapse of the 20th-century golden age of German-Jewish culture with the enslavement of the Israelites in antiquity. As governments and political powers shift, ranging from benign and supportive to deadly, they impact the entire status of the population.

unnamed (15)

Suffer the Little Children, by William Sharp, 1940 (etching).

As a soldier during World War I, Sharp witnessed war’s devastating impact on young children. This etching depicts young children, with the weary faces of old men, who were orphaned, forced to grovel, beg, and live by their wits on the open streets.

Helene Aylon’s career includes her Process Art in the 1970’s, anti-nuclear Art in the 80’s and her later G-D Project that spanned two decades. Her work can be found in collections around the world including the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, New York’s Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) and Whitney Museum and the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. In the mid-sixties, she painted her iconic 16-foot mural for the synagogue library at JFK airport. View the exhibition catalogue at this link.

unnamed (6)

First They Came for ….., by Linda Soberman, 2014 (lithoprint).

Soberman comments on the complicit indifference of those bystanders who witnessed evil during the Holocaust. The image of the “winking” woman whose face is covered by the quotation by Martin Niemoller, a prominent Protestant pastor and outspoken critic of Adolf Hitler, who spent seven years of Nazi rule in concentration camps.

unnamed (5)

Gallery image – installation of Exodus II, by Tamar Hirschl, 2005 (mixed media on vinyl).

This large work, with the map of France as the background, depicts the Nazis’ conquering of both land and people in their insidious march across Europe and North Africa. Hirschl builds on memories of her childhood during the Holocaust to highlight the misery and destruction that accompany imperialistic and genocidal ventures. Her work comments on the evil that continues to divide and destroy human connections.
“This exhibition is timely and powerful,” says Susan Gladstone, the Director of the Jewish Museum of Florida-FIU. “These artists tackle issues we are all confronting right now, at this juncture in history.They bring evil to light from a multitude of shadowy angles, capturing historical events and expressing outrage. They leave us, the viewers, to our own responses – and possibly to our own personal calls to action,” adds Susan Gladstone.

The artists in this exhibition are:
Andi Arnowitz · Helene Aylon · Debra Band · Riva Bell · · Rosalyn A. Engelman · Larry S. Frankel · Grace Graupe-Pillard · Barbara Green · Debbie Teicholz Guedalia · Carol Hamoy · Tamar Hirschl · Elizabeth Langer · Judith Glickman Lauder · John Lawson · Margalit Manor · Elizabeth Langer · Ruben Malayn · Paul Margolis · Richard McBee · Leonard Meiselman · David Newman ·Jacqueline Nicholls · Hedy Pagremanski · Mark Podwal · Faith Ringold · Trix Rosen · Marilyn R. Rosenberg · Ben Shahn · William Sharp · Linda Soberman · Arthur Szyk · David Wander · Grace Bakst Wapner · Paul Weissman.

unnamed (4)

Detail – Yesterday’s Children, by Paul Weissman, 2015 (inked woodcut, lockets, photos and resin).

A tour de force of printmaking techniques underlays a collage of baby pictures. These seemingly innocent children, on closer inspection, turn out to be photos of Adolf Hitler, Mao Zedong, Kim Jong-il, Saddam Hussein, and Joseph Stalin. The backdrop woodcut depicts the chaos of destruction they caused. Are genocidal maniacs born or bred, is it nature or nurture that is to blame?

unnamed (3).jpg
Detail – Yesterday’s Children, by Paul Weissman.

Are genocidal maniacs born or bred, is it nature or nurture that is to blame?

Written by Stephen Rees

May 25, 2017 at 11:12 am

Weekly Photo Challenge: Graceful

with 2 comments

Every Friday WordPress posts a single word prompt for a photo. Today’s is Graceful

The sculpture is called “Olas de Viento” and was installed in Garry Point Park in the City of Richmond BC by the Vancouver Biennale. The photo was taken in December 2009. I was very taken by the subject and made several images at that time. The City decided not to buy it and by March 8, 2012 it had gone.

The name translates as “Wind waves” and the sculptor is Yvonne Domenge from Mexico

It is now installed at Herman Park in Houston, who clearly have much better taste than the Mayor and Councillors of Richmond.

Written by Stephen Rees

January 20, 2017 at 11:40 am

Public Furniture | Urban Trees

with one comment

There is a sculpture exhibit on Spanish Banks at present. It is the latest manifestation of Vancouver Biennale – and the title is theirs. And that is really what has inspired this opinion piece. I think it is misleading – the furniture is not public. The artist, Hugo França comes from Brazil. This is what the signage at the exhibit says

Hugo França reimagines fallen trees in poetic ways, transforming them into beautiful sculptress for public enjoyment. The sculpting process respects the natural features of the trees, promoting minimum waste and the beauty of the natural organic forms, lines, flaws and imperfections. Their memory remains alive with their uniqueness, offered back to the community in harmony with the natural environment. This is the first time the artist is creating public sculpture outside Brazil and using a variety of of local wood species.

The pictures are all in a set on flickr which includes a Google map showing the location.

Public Furniture | Urban Trees 1
Public Furniture | Urban Trees 2
Public Furniture | Urban Trees 3
Public Furniture | Urban Trees 4
Public Furniture | Urban Trees 5
Public Furniture | Urban Trees 6

The signage also includes the warning “Please do not cross the line” (in large friendly capital letters) but as you can see from some of my images this seems to be moot. The line – a bit like crime scene tape – has been supplemented by snow fence, which has also fallen – or been taken – down. One of my flickr contacts Tom Abrahamson remarked “Elaborate and nicely done bench at the beach. Just have to hope that the usual brain dead idiots are not trying to put it on fire or damage it.”

This is an issue for all art works outside of private houses. Put something on display in public and unless you guard it night and day it is at high risk of damage. Even if the damage is unintentional. There are, of course, raw logs that end up on all our beaches. It is a feature of the remarkably careless way logs are moved around – in log booms.

River Eagle North Arm Vancouver BC 2007_0530

But also the natural erosion of the banks of streams and inlets mean that trees – or what remains of them – get cast up on beaches. In Vancouver these are carefully marshalled to provide a certain amount of amenity to visitors, who thus bring much less in the way of furniture to the beach with them. In other places, chairs, tables, loungers, windbreaks – and umbrellas – all proliferate. On many beaches around the world the provision of such amenities is a source of income.

4 poster beach bed

Yucatan Beach

At the beach in Spanish Banks near where the sculptures are placed, the city allows people to cut up spare logs for fuel or other purposes

Trunk full of stepping "stones"

The sound of chainsaws is as common at this beach as dogs barking at others. There seems to be a clear understanding of which logs are for cutting – and that people will not take the work of others for themselves. But somehow we are not so trusting when it comes to art.

Rainblossom Project

Not long ago near this location another art installation appeared. Red umbrellas hung from some trees. They did not last long. I saw some being “adopted”. Just as some people will pick flowers in public places. Though they do seem to respect the floral tributes left on benches.

bench marker and flower

I have heard of flowers being stolen from graves, and I am afraid some of my family’s monuments in a cemetery in East London were destroyed by anti-semitic vandals.

The art work benches are not actually public furniture – because they have not been provided for people to enjoy through use but merely by looking at them. Even though their very nature invites touch – they have been lovingly smoothed – and relaxation. Unlike the unfinished logs on this and other Vancouver beaches

View from the Boat House pano

The art is also not going to last very long in this state as the cut surfaces have not been “finished”. Exposed to the elements, they will decay. Indeed in their natural state trees decay and return to the soil even before they fall

Detail of downed tree

It isn’t the tree we want to preserve, it’s the work of the artist we value. But the work has potential value that exceeds that of the visual amenity. We long ago recognized that lawns – the product of careful gardening, extensive and expensive maintenance – are vulnerable when used for human activities, but we stopped putting “Keep off the Grass” signs in most city parks many years ago, recognizing the value of lawns for games, recreation or even a quiet snooze.

early tanner

The introduction of tables and chairs onto city streets was also a risky undertaking, but in New York at least, theft – or other unintended uses – does not seem to have been a problem.

I think it would be a Good Idea if we could turn the guys with chainsaws loose on some of the raw logs on our beaches to see how they could be improved. Not for firewood. Well not initially anyway: for the failed experiments, possibly. But to increase their utility – and quite possibly their beauty too. And pubic art will get used as a sitting place or a climbing frame, and needs to be sufficiently robust and secure enough to withstand that.

Art climbing

Art reduced to a bench

Art as adventure playground

Art climber

Written by Stephen Rees

April 20, 2014 at 3:43 pm

So, about that art we had …

with 3 comments

I was talking about that art lecture that I wrote about yesterday – and I recalled that at the time what was going through my mind, on the way home, was the difference between what Sans Façon does and what has been happening here. For a start in Calgary they are embedded as part of the project team. The art is actually part of the process from the start.

A good example was how they got involved in attaching drinking fountains to fire hydrants. These are not permanent installations, but temporary public amenities provided for events like the Stampede or the Folk Festival. It helps Calgary get across the message that there is nothing wrong with tap water – so there is no need to go to a vendor and buy bottled water, when the stuff that comes out of the tap is freely available. Originally, the water people saw a device that essentially plugged a commercial drinking fountain into a fire hydrant, and they just wanted the artist to design a label to stick on it. But Calgary has one of the largest and finest metal workshops in North America – a bunch of skilled and talented people who came up with a number of innovative ideas – and actually fabricated them. They then went and installed them where they were needed, and let them speak for themselves.

pano-fountains

Contrast that with the public art program on the Canada Line. As regular readers know, the process by which that amenity was procured leaves a bad taste in my mouth for a number of reasons. The cycle path on the bridge is a good example. It was an afterthought – literally bolted on after the bridge itself was completed. And the ramps on either side showing a degree of contempt for users that is hard to comprehend but only too obvious to its users. The ramps zig-zag. They do not provide not a smooth transition: they do not connect properly to the “network”,  the cycle routes on either bank. The art program is even worse. A bunch of ill considered, nearly always temporary installations. Most of which need to be “explained” by signage. It is very significant, I think, that there no signs on Sans Façon’s work, like Limelight. They trust that people will “get it”. And, of course, they do because they – the public – are the art, the performers, not just a passive audience.

Sans Façon does do temporary installations as well as permanent ones. Both have their place. But what sets them apart is their understanding of the place and the people in it – and the amount of effort that they make to ensure they have that before the piece is even considered, let alone installed. Can you say the same about any of this?

Public art at Langara 49th Ave

The bright orange bears were at least striking and memorable. Can you think what is there now? Didn’t think so.

Le Banc

I heard this referred to as “a used maxi pad”

Joe Sola is Not Making Art

And that goes for the public art program in Richmond too – these are all Biennale installations all of which were controversial, none of which remain in place

Untitled

“Olas de Viento” became one of my favourite pieces – far more distinguished I think than the laughing men that were kept at Davie and Denman. Garry Point seems bare and deserted after this bold red open work globe went. I still miss it. I will also admit to not really understanding it when I first saw it – but then that is probably the point of a lot of art. Guernica doesn’t mean much if you don’t know anything about who made it, when and why.

Cabeza Vainilla, Cabeza ordoba, Cabeza Chiapas

There was a glut of fibre glass giant heads, I thought, and I don’t miss any of them.

Lighting effect

The people who installed “Miss Mao Trying to Poise Herself at the Top of Lenin’s Head” had so little understanding of the artist’s intentions, that they lined up each of the horizontal slice perfectly. So it is perhaps not surprising that is was misunderstood as some kind of tribute to Lenin – since in communist countries, dignified busts of Lenin were all too common.

Lenin's head is all over the place

Actually once misaligned, as originally intended, the joke “Lenin’s head is all over place” sprung to my mind instantly. The feminization of Mao and her nudity, and tiny stature all speak for themselves. No-one ought to have misunderstood that – but they did.

All of this is a very strong contrast to the public art program on the Sound Transit rapid transit line to their airport which opened at around the same time. We even had a presentation about that here. And it seems I chose two of the same images then to illustrate that post as I did this one. No wonder I keep thinking I am repeating myself. We did go to Seattle soon afterwards, and I considered riding the whole of the light rail line just to see the art first hand. It turned out that when we got there there was plenty to do within the fareless square. We walked and cycled too – and the LRT got forgotten.

PS  SoundTransit has an rfq out now for an artist to aid in “identifying art opportunities for multiple artists at the facilities and 10 stations along the 14-mile light rail extension being designed from downtown Seattle through Mercer Island and Bellevue to the Microsoft campus in Redmond, Washington.”

Written by Stephen Rees

January 25, 2013 at 8:31 am

Posted in Art

Tagged with

What’s art got to do with it?

I went to Richmond City Hall last night to hear the first of the Lulu Series lectures. Though I made all sorts of what now look like very cryptic notes, all of the information is either on the web already or will be shortly. For a start, the whole thing was videoed and will be on the City’s youtube channel.  I was surprised they had one!

Sans Façon comprises two people Charles Blanc, a French architect and Tristan Surtees an English artist.

With the participation of artists, can urban infrastructure designs be re-imagined to renew the relationship between citizens and their environment? Artist and architect duo, Sans façon, explore the relationship between people and places through site-specific projects such as performances and permanent pieces in public spaces, and strategies that involve artists in the rethinking of specific places.

That quote is taken from the Lulu Series event page and I was pleased to discover that all of the material they discussed last night is available on their own website which saves me a lot of typing. They are currently working in Calgary with the  Utilities and Environment Protections department of the City of Calgary on Watershed+. They are part of the team of engineers and scientists developing new working methods and processes which have resulted in some very innovative projects. You really need to follow these links since their pictures convey much more than I can – even though at present you cannot see and hear their presentation. Their enthusiasm and humour made the event worthwhile – and they can do a much better job of telling you about what they do than I can.

But I do want to flag up an upcoming event this weekend

Limelight: Saturday Night is a live public art installation and a video work. Since 2010, the installation has visited more than 10 cities internationally discreetly replacing two conventional street light heads with outdoor theatre spotlights, creating an open invitation for passersby to perform and transform the street into a stage. Look for it in Vancouver, beginning at dusk on Friday, January 25, and Saturday, January 26. There will be two simultaneous installations happening at Granville and Hastings Street and Granville and 68th Avenue in Marpole. This will be followed by a Community Event at the Metro Theatre on Sunday January 27, from 5:00 – 7:00 p.m. 1370 Marine Drive SW, Vancouver.

Huffington Post covered the event here

Written by Stephen Rees

January 24, 2013 at 11:23 am

Posted in Art

Tagged with ,