Posts Tagged ‘Joseph Cornell

02
Nov
12

Exhibition: ‘Two of a Mind’ at the Laurence Miller Gallery, New York

Exhibition dates: 12th September – 17th November, 2012

RAY K. METZKER: Pictus Interruptus
RUTH THORNE-THOMSEN: Expeditions

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I like both these bodies of work but it is the enigmatic Expeditions that leave the most lasting impression on my subconscious, out imagining the abstract distortions of Metzker in my mind’s eye. While the images of Pictus Interruptus are interesting in a textural way, the photographs of Thorne-Thomsen are truly magical – like a photographic version of Joseph Cornell’s boxes they engage you wistfully, holding you in a quiet, silent, attentive dreamspace. Some of the photographs are almost Jungian in their holistic balance. Photographs such as Levitating Man and Trio are truly memorable, and in our over saturated media environment it is wonderful to find images that make us slow down and inhale their aura. You contemplate these images: that is the word, contemplation. Enjoy.

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PS. Prima Materia, a title of one of Thorne-Thomsen’s series, “is, according to alchemists, the alleged primitive formless base of all matter, given particular manifestation through the influence of forms… The alchemical operation consists essentially in separating the prima materia, the so-called Chaos, into the active principle, the soul, and the passive principle, Mind-body dichotomy, the body. They are then reunited in personified form in the coniunctio, the ritual combination of sol and Luna, which yields the magical child – filius philosophorum – the reborn self, known as the ultima materia.” (Wikipedia)

Jung undertook an analysis of the ritual and processes of alchemy and found that while the alchemists were trying to turn lead into gold by melting the lead down and reforming it as gold, what they were actually doing was letting go of their old identity and reforming it anew. This could be seen as an early form of psychoanalysis that encouraged the process of what Jung calls individuation, the emergence of a new identity as the ego dissolves into the Self. “The symbols of the individuation process…mark its stages like milestones’, prominent among them for Jungians being ‘”the shadow, the Wise Old Man…and lastly the anima (female) in man and the animus (male) in woman”‘. Thus ‘there is often a movement from dealing with the persona at the start…to the ego at the second stage, to the shadow as the third stage, to the anima or animus, to the self as the final stage. Some would interpose the Wise Old Man and the Wise Old Woman as spiritual archetypes coming before the final step of the Self’.” (Wikipedia)

I see elements of this inner work in the art of Ruth Thorne-Thomsen.

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Many thankx to the Laurence Miller Gallery for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

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Ray K. Metzker
Pictus Interruptus (77FK42)
1977

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Ray K. Metzker
Pictus Interruptus (77EY24)
1977

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Ray K. Metzker
Pictus Interruptus (78AD23)
1978

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Ray K. Metzker
Pictus Interruptus (78BW19)
1978

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Ray K. Metzker
Pictus Interruptus (80FP9a)
1980

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Ray K. Metzker
Pictus Interruptus (77FK28)
1977

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Ray K. Metzker
Pictus Interruptus (77FW60)
1977

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Ray K. Metzker
Pictus Interruptus (76EO4)
1976

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“Laurence Miller Gallery is pleased to present Two of a Mind, photographs by Ray K. Metzker and Ruth Thorne-Thomsen, made between 1976 and 1991. Presently husband and wife, these two influential photographers independently created innovative and highly personal work that challenge our willingness to believe and stimulate our need to imagine.

Both achieved this by inserting images and objects into the view of the camera, turning reality on its head. Ray Metzker’s Pictus Interruptus series, made between 1976 and 1981, offers us inexplicable images – landscapes and cityscapes disrupted by abstract forms that combine, complement, and contrast with recognizable elements of the city or the land. Coat hangers, magazine images, folded paper and board were some of the items placed before the camera lens. Ruth Thorne-Thomsen’s Expeditions and Door series, as well as Prima Materia and Songs of the Sea, made between 1976 and 1991, also utilized the insertion of objects in front of her pin-hole camera, things like plastic and metal toys, children’s charms, ornaments and trinkets. The resulting images feel like poems come to life – credible enough to seem real, yet imaginary enough to seem like dreams.

Ray (born 1931) and Ruth (born 1943) met in Chicago in 1980, and immediately felt a kinship of spirit and mind. Each had been pursuing a personal photographic vision which took reality as a starting point and then explored the world of the imagination to challenge the general belief that what a photograph presents is truth. Metzker was more intrigued by the possibilities of form and space, while Thorne-Thomsen pursued the possibilities of mythology and dreams. For each artist, reality and artifice became intertwined and inseparable. This is the first exhibition in which their photographs are presented together. This showing of Metzker’s images also coincides with a major retrospective of his work at the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles, opening September 25th and continuing through February 24, 2013.”

Text from the Laurence Miller Gallery website

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Ruth Thorne-Thomsen
Echo Wisconsin
1991
from the series Songs of the Sea

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Ruth Thorne-Thomsen
Icarus Figure Wisconsin
1993
from the series Songs of the Sea

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Ruth Thorne-Thomsen
Paper Palms California
1981
from the Expeditions Series

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Ruth Thorne-Thomsen
Trio Wisconsin
1991
from the series Songs of the Sea

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Ruth Thorne-Thomsen
Levitating Man Wisconsin
1983
from the Door Series

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Ruth Thorne-Thomsen
Chair Over Point Wisconsin
1983
from the Door Series

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Laurence Miller Gallery
20 West 57th Street
New York, NY 10019
Tel: 212.397.3930
Fax: 212.397.3932

Opening hours:
Tuesday – Friday 10 – 5.30, Sat 11 – 5.30

Laurence Millery Gallery website

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12
Dec
08

Review: ‘The Art of Existence’ exhibition by Les Kossatz at Heide Museum of Modern Art, Melbourne

Heide Museum of Modern Art has brought together nearly 100 pieces of work by the Australian artist Les Kossatz in an eclectic survey show, appropriately titled ‘The Art of Existence’. Featuring sculpture, painting and mixed media from the 1960s to the present the exhibition is appropriately titled because Kossatz’s work addresses certain archetypal themes that affect human existence: “His life-long fascination with the natural world and desire to understand both its human and animal inhabitants; exploration of the systems of knowledge and codes of behavior that structure individual and communal life; and his critical and playful reflections on contemporary behaviour and the mysteries of existence.”1

 

Les Kossatz. "Digger's glory box" 1965

 

Les Kossatz.
‘Digger’s glory box’
1965
silk, felt, canvas, cardboard, wood, brass, ink, fibre-tipped pen and synthetic polymer paint 
106.0 x 76.0 x 7.0 cm 

 

Strong symbolic paintings are the focus of the work in the 1960s, paintings that address the shocking brutality of war and its aftermath, when soldiers return home. To the observation that these are of the ‘pop-style’ school of painting suggested by the Heide website I feel these works are also influenced by the collage of Cubism, the boxes of Joseph Cornell and the dismembered bodies of Francis Bacon. They engage with the symbolism of war and remembrance: memory, myth, and the banality of heroism and sacrifice.

The key work in this series is the painting ‘Diggers throne’ (1966). This is a powerful disturbing image, effervescent and unnerving at the same time. It features a disembodied arm on the hand of a throne, surrounded by a wonderful kaleidoscopic assemblage of pictorial planes, artefacts and memories – an English flag, the flag of St George, a crown, medals and the words RSL. The arm reminds me of the Francis Bacon painting ‘Study after Velázquez’s Portrait of Pope Innocent X (1953)’ as it rests, roughly drawn in pencil on the arm of the throne, drawing the eye back up into nothingness.

 

Francis Bacon. "Study after Velázquez's Portrait of Pope Innocent X (1953)"

 

Francis Bacon.
‘Study after Velázquez’s Portrait of Pope Innocent X (1953)’

 

The ‘Diggers throne’ painting also features these prophetic words:

“throne slow to rot
and twisted the memory
becomes sacred.
Bloody was the truth
And this a chair.”

 

All other work in this period seems to flow through this painting – the other large paintings, the small canvases featuring individual medals and the less successful hanging banners. But it is to this work we return again and again as a viewer, trying to decipher and reconcile our inner conflicts about the painting.

 

Les Kossatz. "Ram in sling" 1973

 

Les Kossatz.
‘Ram in sling’
1973
cast and fabricated stainless steel and sheepskin
29.3 x 126.5 x 66.0 cm  

 

As we move into the 1970s the work changes focus and direction. There emerges a concern with the desecration of the Australian landscape investigated in a series of large paintings and sculptures. In ‘Packaged landscape 1’ (1976) a steel suitcase with leather straps, slightly ajar, fulminates with artificial gum leaves trying to escape the strictures of the trap. In ‘Caged landscape’ (1972) nature is again trapped behind steel wire, weighed in the balance on a set of miniature scales. The paintings feature trees that are surrounded by concrete and the rabbit becomes a powerful symbol for Kossatz – a suffering beast, strung up on fences, a plague in a pitted landscape of chopped down trees, erosion and empty holes.

Into this vernacular emerges the key symbol of the artist’s oeuvre – the sheep. In 1972 Kossatz began a series of sculptures of sheep, “initially inspired by the experience of nursing an injured ram.” For Kossatz “the sheep represent the hardship of pioneer existence, the grazing industries prosperity, environmental concerns and the sheep act as narrative devices, potent metaphors for human behaviour.”2

The first sheep presented ‘in show’ is ‘Ram in Sling’ (1973). In this sculpture a metal bar is suspended in mid-air and from this bar heavy wire mesh drops to support the fleecy stomach and neck of the ram almost seeming to strangle it in the process, it’s metal feet just touching the ground. Again the scales of justice seem to weigh nature in the balance.

The themes life and death, order and chaos are further developed in the work ‘Hard slide’ (1980) where a sheep emerges mid-air from a trapdoor, two more tumble down a wooden slide end over end and another disappears into the ground through a wooden trapdoor opening. Sacrifice seems to be a consistent theme with both the earlier paintings and the metallised sheep:

 

“The completed life cycle, down the trapdoor, down the chute, after sacrifice by shearing.”

Daniel Thomas 1994

 

Les Kossatz. "Hard slide" 1980

 

Les Kossatz 
‘Hard slide’
1980
sheepskins, aluminium, Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga sp.), leather, steel
372.0 x 100.0 x 304.0 cm (installation)

 

Further sculptures of sheep, both small maquettes and large sculptures follow in the next room of the exhibition. This is the artist is full flow, featuring the inventive taking of 2D things into the round, investigating the key themes of his work: the contrast between nature and artifice, or humanity.

The small maquettes of sheep feature races, gantries, sluices, pens, trapdoors and paddocks. Sheep tumble in a cataclysmic maelstrom, falling with flailing legs into the darkness of the holding pen below. These are my favourite works – small, intimate, detailed, dark bronzes of serious intensity – the sheep becoming a theatre of the absurd, suspended, weighed and balancing in the performance of ritualised acts, a cacophony of flesh at once both intricate and unsettling. Their skins lay flayed and lifeless disappearing into the ‘unearth’ of the slated wooden floor of the shearing shed. The sheep “can be viewed metaphorically as a commentary of the existential situation of the individual and collective behaviour.”3 As Kossatz himself has noted, “It is hard to bring a piece of landscape inside and give it a living animated form. The sheep somehow gives me this quality of landscape.”

But we must also remember that this strictly a white man’s view of the Australian landscape. Nowhere does this work comment on the disenfranchisement of the native people’s of this land – the destruction of native habitats that the sheep brought about, the starvation that they caused to Aboriginal people just as they bought riches to the pastoralists and the country that mined the land with this amorphous mass of flesh.

 

Les Kossatz. "Guggenheim spiral" 1983

 

Les Kossatz.
‘Guggenheim spiral’
1983

 

Recent work in the exhibition returns to the earlier social themes of memory, war, remembrance, religion, shrines, atomic clouds and temples but it is the work of the late 1970s – 1980s that is the most cogent. As Kossatz ponders the nature of existence on this planet he does not see a definitive answer but emphasizes the journey we take, not the arrival. Here is something that we should all ponder, giving time to the nature of our personal journey in this life, on this earth.

Here also is an exhibition worthy our time and attention as part of that journey. Go visit!

 

 

 

Exhibition dates: 22nd November – 8th March 2009

Heide Museum of Modern Art
7 Templestowe Road
Bulleen Victoria 3105 Australia
T +61 3 9850 1500
F +61 3 9852 0154
info@heide.com.au

Website:  www.heide.com.au

 

1.  From the Heide website at www.heide.com.au
 2. From wall notes to the exhbition
3. From wall notes to the exhbition 




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Marcus Bunyan black and white archive: ‘The Songs of Eternity’ 1994

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Dr Marcus Bunyan

Dr Marcus Bunyan is an Australian artist and writer. His work explores the boundaries of identity and place. He writes the Art Blart blog which reviews exhibitions in Melbourne, Australia and posts exhibitions from around the world. He has a Dr of Philosophy from RMIT University, Melbourne and is currently studying a Master of Art Curatorship at The University of Melbourne.

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