Month: March, 2012

A Streetcar Named Three Cornered Desire

John Chamberlain. Fantail, 1961. Painted and chromium-plated steel. 70 × 75 × 60 inches (178 × 190.5 × 152.4 cm). Collection of Jasper Johns. © 2011 John Chamberlain / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Photo: Jerry L. Thompson

In his lifetime, John Chamberlain was many things. He was a high school drop-out, a pilot, a party animal, a hair dresser. But perhaps most notably, Chamberlain was an innovative and poetic artist. Difficult to define, yet easy to spot, Chamberlain’s works–comprised mostly of used, misshapen car parts– blur the lines between Abstract Expressionism and Pop, and painting and sculpture. The Guggenheim is currently showing John Chamberlain: Choices, the museum’s second retrospective (the first was in 1971) of the artist’s work. The museum rotunda is lined with dozen’s of Chamberlain’s collages and monumental sculptures, paying homage to the artist’s prolific career, which spanned over 60 years.

At first glance, the show may seem redundant and mundane. It’s junk. It’s trash. It’s easy. That’s what I thought too. But after learning more about the artist and his work (in the form of 7 museum tours and one curator-led lecture), I realize that I not only like the work, but I also understand its place in the Modern art canon.

At play throughout the exhibition is a dialogue taking place between artist and media. Chamberlain looked for car parts and other metal pieces that would fit together and complement one another. Though heavy and architectural, his sculptures are never clumsy. In fact, they are just the opposite. The fragments work together to support each other, and in the case of Fantail (1961), they can even achieve a sense of weightlessness and movement. He has taken abandoned “junk” and given it new life and purpose.

Chamberlain also understood the quirky, and even playful, nature of the medium in which he chose to work. He honored the charm of his materials by bestowing blithe, non sequitur names upon his works. These titles include Whirled Peas, Lord Suckfist, and Three Cornered Desire. They invite the viewer to experience and interpret the works as they please, rather than relying on the titles for guidance, allowing their museum experience to be as freewheeling as Chamberlain was himself.

John Chamberlain: Choices is on view through May 13, 2012.

Image provided courtesy of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, NYC


Drawing Room

Dan Flavin (1933-1996) a carefully rendered and detailed sketch toward a lithograph of the proposed fountain in memory of Pablo Picasso, 1974 Ballpoint pen on loose-leaf notebook page 3 x 5 inches (7.6 x 12.7 cm) Collection of Stephen Flavin © 2012 Stephen Flavin / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York Photography: Graham S. Haber, 2011 The Morgan Library & Museum 225 Madison Avenue New York, NY 10016-3405

Currently on view at the Morgan Library is a unique exhibition which allows viewers to see a rare and personal side of artist Dan Flavin. The artist’s oeuvre is defined almost entirely by his fluorescent light sculptures. What many people don’t know, however, is that Flavin was also a patron of and contributor to the medium of drawing. I learned from Dan Flavin: Drawing  that the artist was a faithful and meticulous draftsman who explored the medium not only for preparatory purposes, but also as an outlet for poetic self-expression. The exhibition features dozens of Flavin’s personal drawings which include preliminary sketches for installations, as well as nautical scenes, landscapes, and portraits.

The works in the exhibition that I found to be the most powerful were the prelusive sketches that Flavin executed for works that were unfortunately never realized. For instance, the artist created and submitted a detailed plan for a memorial fountain to honor the life and memory of Pablo Picasso. The actual project never came to fruition, but the exhibition features two of Flavin’s carefully rendered drawings for the memorial. It is interesting to learn that even an artist like Dan Flavin, who had a long and fruitful artistic career, was not able to execute all of the grand and novel ideas that he had. The exhibition allows us to see that Flavin did, however, devote a great deal of effort and care to all of his projects, even those that were never seen to completion.

Dan Flavin: Drawing is on view at the Morgan Library through July 1, 2012

Image provided courtesy of the Morgan Library, NYC

Try This on for Sze

Random Walk Drawing (Eye Chart) 2011 Mixed media Courtesy of the artist and Tanya Bonakdar Gallery, New York Photo courtesy of Tom Powel

Currently on view at Asia Society is Sarah Sze: Infinite Line. This is the first exhibition to focus solely on works by New York-based artist Sarah Sze, who has been chosen to represent the United States at the 2013 Venice Biennale. Using everyday objects like strings, pen caps, measuring tapes and metro cards, Sze creates elaborate microcosms that toy with notions of perspective and scale. In Random Walk Drawing (Eye Chart) (2001), Sze has taken familiar, banal articles and carefully assembled them in a brand-new fashion, giving them new meaning and purpose. The duster, for instance, is precariously perched atop the pillow, allowing it to tower over Sze’s meticulously constructed network of paper and thread. It is no longer an instrument used for cleaning, but a tool used to demonstrate space and scale.

In addition to the installations, the exhibition also features prints, drawings, and collages by the artist. These, too, demonstrate Sze’s dedication to the exploration of and union between the mediums of drawing and sculpture.

Sarah Sze: Infinite Line is on view now through March 25, 2012 at Asia Society, New York