Monthly Archives: December 2020

Spider woman Louise Bourgeois….but so much more

Louise Bourgeois is probably best known for her spider sculptures.  One of the largest graces/guards/threatens (depending on your personal reaction to arachnids) the entrance to the National Gallery of Canada.

Maman, Louise Bourgeois, 1999 National Gallery of Canada image

Maman, Louise Bourgeois, 1999 National Gallery of Canada image

From October 2017 to July 2019 San Francisco Museum of Modern Art produced the very engaging exhibition, Spiders. Because of their size, volume and apparent solidity, the sculptures invite interaction with the viewer, albeit tentatively, in some cases.

Spiders, Louise Bourgeois, SFMoMA 2017, T. Vatrt image

Spiders, Louise Bourgeois, SFMoMA 2017, T. Vatrt image

Spiders, Louise Bourgeois, SFMoMA 2017, T. Vatrt image

Spiders, Louise Bourgeois, SFMoMA 2017, T. Vatrt image

The exhibition also included more intimate pieces.

Spider, Louise Bourgeoise, SFMoMA 2017, T. Vatrt image

Spider, Louise Bourgeoise, SFMoMA 2017, T. Vatrt image

This smaller Spider from 2003 is made of stainless steel and antique tapestry.  SFMoMA calls it an uncanny combination of materials that is both beautiful and disconcerting.  The exhibition’s curator Sarah Roberts wrote about the artwork, referencing Bourgeois’ personal history.  She says that Bourgeois laid bare a more fraught and complex psychological landscape–bright with devotion and protection but also darkened with feelings of guilt, rage and fear of abandonment or failure.  

In a short video from the Tate Bourgeois says I transform hate into love.  That’s what makes me tick.

Spider, Louise Bourgeois, 2003, T. Vatrt image

Louise Bourgeois was born in Paris on Christmas day in 1911.  (Yes!  She was creating the Spider sculptures as an octogenarian.)  She studied mathematics and art in Paris. (Interesting to note: she had a print shop next door to her parents’ tapestry gallery in a suburb of Paris.)  In 1938 she moved to the U.S.A. with her American husband.

After they settled in New York City, she created The Personages.  I find this series as compelling as the Spiders, but for different reasons.

Personages, Louise Bourgeois, artoronto.ca image

Personages, Louise Bourgeois, artoronto.ca image

Personages, Louise Bourgeois, whitney.org image

Personages, Louise Bourgeois, whitney.org image

Hauser & Wirth’s catalogue of her work for Art Basel 2013 is definitely worth a look.  It includes images of Bourgeois, the Personages, and background information.

The appeal of Personages is multi faceted.   They are made of malleable, natural materials:  wood and plaster.  (They were eventually cast in bronze.)  The scale is more human-sized, as opposed to the intimidating size of the Spiders.  She successfully uses the Modernist aesthetic of abstract symbols to evoke the presence of individuals – people to whom she felt connected, but from whom she was physically separated.

In an interview with the New York Times, Bourgeois said this:  Suddenly I had this huge sky space to myself, and I began doing these standing figures. A friend asked me what I was doing.  I told him ‘I feel so lonely that I am rebuilding these people around me.’

Perhaps the emotion contained in the works – the yearning, the loneliness, the love, the regret – is what I find most appealing.  It’s palpable.  At this time of year, in the midst of a pandemic, those emotions resonate deeply.

 

 

All I want for Christmas…..

The Art Caravan has compiled a brief list for this year’s Christmas wish list. Since the best  gifts are books and art (dark chocolate goes without saying,) I chose one book and one work of art.

Without too much deliberation – it seemed an easy choice – Guerrilla Girls:  Art of Behaving Badly  is at the top of my list.  Goodreads.com gives it 5 stars.  The New York Times rates it as one of the Best Art Books of 2020.  It comes with a punch-out gorilla mask – who could resist?

Guerrilla Girls: The Art of Behaving Badly

Just for fun, I decided to make the choice of artwork hypothetical – price is not a consideration.  (It is, after all, a wish list.) This made the selection far more difficult.  I considered a sculpture by Oviloo Tunnnillie, the Inuit sculptor.   Here is my 2016 post about this remarkable artist, with several images of her sculptures.  The ones I like the best are of Sednas, and are in museum collections, so, hypothetically speaking, not available.  (One can makes one’s own rules in this game.)

I decided to shop for a print by Sybil Andrews, the British printmaker and welder (!) who eventually settled on Vancouver Island, after World War II.  Her linocut images, carved in the machine age style, are colourful and dynamic.

Skaters, Sybil Andrews, 1953, artsy.net image

It seems like the perfect choice, doesn’t it?  It’s a wintry scene, created in Canada, for someone with a fondness for printmaking and outdoor skating.

Since we know, and the pandemic is emphasizing,  that the best things in life aren’t things, I have a third and final wish, which is a non-material item.  (See above about making the rules.)  My wish is for high quality art education in all schools, at all age levels, as part of the basic curriculum.  This would include practical classes, wherein all students learn to draw, play a musical instrument, sing and participate in drama classes. In addition to the hands-on learning, art appreciation opportunities would be provided.  Students would attend art shows, and performances by professional actors, musicians and dancers.  Artists would regularly visit schools to lead workshops and give performances.

It’s a big wish, I know.  But think of all the benefits:  happier, healthier, creative individuals.  Employment created for artists and teachers. We know that art brings a myriad of benefits to our lives.  Wouldn’t it be wonderful if everyone had the same exposure to arts and culture?

The original Art Caravan

The original Art Caravan

I’d be happy to hear your three wishes.  And please, pass the (dark) chocolate.

 

Take a break from Netfl*x – virtual dance performances

The things we learn during a pandemic!  Who would have believed, pre-covid,  that watching dance presentations virtually could be enjoyable?  My few vague memories of professional dance performances are static/full stage view/one camera angle/small screen televised programs of traditional ballet.

Thankfully, the filming of dance has developed into a specialized art form.  Dance videos are a legitimate form of entertainment.  I got a glimpse of this a few years ago, watching this 2015 City and Colour music video of Dallas Green’s Lover Come Back.

Like a professional sporting event, it’s a different experience watching dance virtually, rather than in person.  I can hardly believe I am typing this, but it seems (based on my covid mandated dance viewing) that both in-person and videoed presentations can be satisfying experiences.  As long as the performances, choreography and filming are exceptional, the experiences are enjoyable, albeit in different ways. (Close ups: check.  Dancers’ expressions: check.  Going out for dinner with friends before or after: impossible right now.)

The Dance Victoria organization quickly pivoted to a virtual season of dance performances early in the pandemic.  You may recall my March post about Ballet BC’s presentation of Romeo + Juliet.   A highly anticipated, in-person dance presentation was cancelled; fortunately, a video of the performance was made available to subscribers.

Romeo + Juliet, Ballet BC (image by Michael Slobodian)

Romeo + Juliet, Ballet BC (image by Michael Slobodian)

Dance Victoria’s 2020-2021 season continues virtually.  Compagnie Hervé KOUBI, a French/Algerian dance company opened the season.  Watch this short video to get a sense of the physicality of this remarkable company of dancers. Here’s a trailer for  What the day owes to the night – the full performance I recently viewed….twice.

Compagnie Hervé KOUBI, What the day owes to the night, NY Times image

Some dance companies are offering free content.  Most of these performances have been created in response to the pandemic and its restrictions.  The Guggenheim offers these Works in Process. Highly creative, they are site specific, and take place outdoors, near Lincoln Center in NYC.  The National Ballet of Canada is presenting Expansive Dances, a series of three different solos.   Ailey Forward is available this month from the renowned Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre.

With all of the paid and free performances, there are supporting material and bonus features.  For example, the Dance Victoria interview with the artistic director, Hervé Koubi, was fascinating, and added to the enjoyment of What the day owes to the night. There is even a behind the scenes video for Expansive Dances.

Take a break from Netfl*x.  Download the Ailey Forward schedule, and watch some dance.  It’s another way to make this festive season just ‘a bit’ more unique.