Saturday, October 28, 2017

Louisiana Museum of Modern Art[1]
Resource Review

Marie-Therese Wisniowski

This blogspot has a number of resource reviews of Art institutions that the author has visited over a number of years. For example my visit to The Louvre prompted a post in order that I could brag to you, dear reader, that it was a thrilling experience that you should not miss - if you are fortunate enough to be in that part of the world. I will never forget an innocent Marie-Therese sadly handing in her camera to the cloak room attendant, only to be asked by him in English - 'Are you not interested in taking photographs of some of the exhibits?' I snatched my camera back so quickly from his hands he only forgave me because of my sheepish and embarrassed grin. Of course he did not comprehend that I was Australian (after all the Australians he had met were uncultured and only interested in the Munich beer festival!) He muttered under his breath in French - "Les Anglais sont tellement incultes!" To which I replied in French - "Nous étions avant que les Normands ne nous envahissaient!" He laughed and nodded his head in agreement. I have never made that mistake again, but unfortunately very few museums and art galleries are as generous as the Louvre when I visited it.

I visited the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art outside of Copenhagen last month. The state of Louisiana in America was named after Louis XIV, King of France from 1643 to 1715. The suffix -ana (or -ane) is a Latin suffix that can refer to "...information relating to a particular individual, subject, or place." Thus roughly, Louis + ana carries the idea of "related to Louis." However the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art has an entirely different origin for obtaining its name. The original villa (which is now the museum) was owned by a man who had married three women - all with the same christian name - Louise! Go figure!

Louisiana Museum of Modern Art.

The building is very impressive being remodelled by Danish architects Vilhelm Wohlert and Jørgen Bo, who were inspired by the German Bauhaus and California Bay Area architecture with its last owner - Knud W. Jensen - being considered as the third force in its architectural design.

The garden surrounds - the Sculpture Park - is as impressive as the building itself. Is it a museum with a garden or a garden that pockets a museum? This dichotomy will always add to the lure of the place. However, the boundary between inside or outside fades into insignificance as the act of engagement melts the environment to the core focus of the art that confronts you.

Looking from the coffee shop across the bay.

Sculptures accessible to all.

Unless otherwise stated all information and photographs was obtained from reference [1].

The Collection[1]
The Louisiana was founded by Knud W. Jensen (1916-2000) who was a businessman in publishing. He had a great love for art and culture. For Knud, it was essential that the general public could access art and culture. He opened the Museum in 1958, although it took him and his architects some forty years to complete their vision. He was insistent that the Louisiana was a people's museum and so was not a museum designed for the art consignetti.

The Louisiana's collection has two origins, of which only one is visible today. The Museum's founder was originally a collector of Danish modernism, but was roused from his dogmatic slumber when he visited the 1959 dcumenta in Kassel and encountered international modern art.

Artist: Asger Jorn; Title: Dead Drunk Danes (1960).
Material and Technique: Oil on canvas.
Size: 130 x 200.5 cm.
Donation: The Louisiana Foundation.
Danish Modernism (reminiscent of American Abstract Expressionism).

Within a few years the vision for the Louisiana had changed, and so, not long after its birth, the Museum was reborn as the Museum of Modern Art. With the help of Danish Foundations and other donors, it slowly became possible to build a collection of modern art, especially postwar art, with not an insignificant emphasis on American Art, a rare feat in Denmark to this day.

Artist: Andy Warhol; Title: Close Cover Before Striking (1962).
Material and Technique: Acrylic on canvas.
Size: 183 x 137.5 cm.

Artist: Roy Lichtenstein; Title: Figures in a Landscape (1977).
Material and Technique: Oil and Magna on canvas.
Size: 272.5 x 423 cm.
Long-term loan: Museumsfonden - 7th December 1966.

The Museum also holds a collection of more contemporary artists such as Jonathan Meese, Elliott Hundley, Yayoi Kusamam and David Hockney - to name a few!

Artist: David Hockney; Title: A Closer Grand Canyon (1988).
Material and Technique: Oil on canvas.
Size: 205 x 744 cm.
Acquired with funding from the A.P. Møller and Chastine Mc-Kinney Møller Foundation.

As much as I love engaging with all the modern art masters in the Louisiana - Picasso, Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, Jim Dine, and Robert Rauschenberg, Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko, Moholy-Nagy, Sophie Taeber-Arp etc - their presence in Denmark is an on-going resource for the Danes, since it brought significant modern artworks into focus for the Danes and for Europeans visiting Denmark, but if you have been fortunate enough to visit significant art galleries in North America and in Japan, a lot of these modern masters are already buried in your sub-consciousness because of the past artistic acts of engagements.

What was truly mind boggling for me about the Louisiana were the sculptures inside and outside of the gallery. Their presence was breathtaking in quality and moreover, breathtaking in tackling all of your senses of scale, of confrontation and of placement. If I can only give you an inkling of what I experienced in this post I would have done well! Trust me, you need to be there to engage with the sculptured artworks - no amount of words or images will reflect your total experience!

What on Earth could that little fellow be looking at?

At this - of course!
Artist: Luise Bourgeois; Title: Spider Couple (2003).
Material and Technique: Silver patinated bronze.
Size: 229 x 361 x 366 cm.
Acquired with the support from Elner Torben-Hansen.

Artist: Ai Weiwei; First work: Tree (2009 - 2010); Rock(2009 - 2011).
Material and Technique (Tree): Wood and steel.
Size: Various sizes.
Acquired with the support from the New Carlsberg Foundation.
Second work in the foreground: Rock (2009 - 2011).
Material and Technique: Under-glazed porcelain, 7 works with individual dimensions.
Acquired with the support from the New Carlsberg Foundation (6 works) and donation Ai Weiwei & neugerriemschneider (one work).

Artist: Juan Munoz; Title: Half Circle (1997).
Materials and Techniques: Painted polyester resin and fiber glass.
Size: 12 parts with individual dimensions.

Artist: César; Title: Large Thumb (1968).
Material and Technique: Bronze sculpture.
Size: 183.5 x 103 x 83 cm.
Donation: The Louisiana Foundation.

The Giacometti Gallery is one of the major highlights of the Museum. Alberto Giacometti (1901 - 1966) is a key artist at the Louisiana, which has an extensive collection of his sculptures.

Title: Walking Man (1960).
Technique and Materials: Bronze sculpture.
Dimension: 190 x 112.5 x 28 cm.
Donation: The New Carlsberg Foundation.

Close-up of the face of the "Walking Man".

"Standing Woman IV" facing the "Walking Man" (1960).

Venice Woman II, III, V, VII and VIII (1956).

Title: Spoon Woman (1926/1927).
Material: Bronze.
Size: 145 x 51 x 20 cm.

I could go on and on about the inside sculptures, but alas, it is time to venture into the gardens.

A Jean Arp sculpture (1959) lazily sitting near the glass corridor of the North wing.

Artist: Henry Moore; Title: Reclining Figure No. 5 (1963-64).
Technique and Material: Bronze Sculpture.
Size: 250 x 386 x 182 cm.

Artist: Max Ernst (three works).
From Left to Right: The Large Tortoise (1967/76), Bronze, 99 x 80 x 117 cm; The Large Genius (The Large Assistant,1967/76), Bronze, 158 x 221 x 78 cm; The Large Assistant (The Large Frog, 1967/76).
All works donated by Max Ernst.

View of the Calder-terrace, seen here are Alexander Calder's works "Almost Snow Plow 1964/76" (left) and the mobile "Little Janey-Waney" 1964-76 (right).

Artist: Nobuo Sekine; Title: Phases of Nothingness (1970).
Materials and Techniques: Stainless steel and marble.
Size: 625 x 216 x 435 cm.
Donation: The Japan Foundation.

Artist: Jean Dubuffet, Dynamic Manor (1969/82).
Materials and Techniques: Ferrocement.
Size: 400 x 540 x 520 cm.
Long term loan: Museumsfonden af 7, December (1966).

[1] P. E. Tøjner, A Guide to the Museum, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art (2015).

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Ode for a Washcloth - The Hymn of a Tiger

Marie-Therese Wisniowski

When I curated the exhibition - "ArtCloth: Engaging New Visions" - I was mindful of the fact that fabrics and textiles as an art medium were still under a cloud with respect to art cognoscenti. Tapestries and Art Quilts have long been recognized as an art form - see my posts on the Australian Tapestry Workshop and on Art Quilts. However, surface designs and surface effects on fabric and textiles, that formed the basis of ArtCloth, are still considered "craft-orientated".

Some art critics were confused about attempts in trying to sub-divide the fabric and textile art field. Their simplistic notions - just call it "Textile Art" - indicated that they did not understand the differences and nuances this new continent of art demanded. Hence I wrote a post on: Why ArtCloth?

When I curated the first international ArtCloth Exhibition in Australia, there was not one Norwegian or Scandinavian invited to contribute their work to the exhibition. It was not because Scandinavia does not have a proud tradition in the textile art field. Rather it was because the exhibition focussed on "ArtCloth" and not on woven artworks.

It was therefore of great surprise to me when I visited the Soft Galleri in Oslo that I saw an ArtCloth installation by Elin Island titled: "Weights and Free Flock of Birds".

Artist: Elin Island; Title of Artwork: "Weights and Free Flock of Birds." Photograph courtesy of Øystein Thorvaldsen.

The person who was attending the gallery was most helpful. After an interesting conversation I bought a book that showcased artworks from the Norwegian Textile Artists (NTA) group titled: “Ode for a Washcloth - The Hymn of a Tiger”. Unfortunately it was written in Norwegian and as I am illiterate in that language I cannot add much to the intellectual rigour that many of the technical articles in this book deserved.

Alas, I have translated the "Foreword" of the book and so I hope the editors will not be aggrieved with my clumsy attempt to translate their prose into English. However, with all such tomes engaging the images yields so much more to the viewer. I hope you will enjoy this small snapshot of a wonderful book which should sit proudly somewhere in your library. Let's hope they decide to print an English version of the book in the not-too-distant future so that many of the articles contained in the book will become accessible to the English speaking world.

“Ode for a Washcloth - The Hymn of a Tiger”

The Norwegian Textile Artists (NTA) 4th anniversary has given us a golden opportunity to stop and look at parts of the organization's history and focus on textiles as an art medium in its own right.

Textile art spans a lot of visual and artistic practices, ranging from soft sculpture to installation and relational art projects, to purely formal and ornamental works. Textile material touches something deeply existential and encloses us through the course of life. According to Greek mythology, “Klotho” is one of the three fate goddesses. Klotho spun the thread of life, Lakesis determined its length and Atropos cut the thread - together they counselled the plunder and life of all mortals. "Klotho" is the origin of the English word "cloth" and can be translated into a cloth or piece of cloth in Norwegian. For us, a piece of cloth represents everything from the most beautiful silk mask to the greyest scarf.

“Ode for a Washcloth - The Hymn of a Tiger” discusses what influence textiles, that encompasses method, material and tradition, have had on the art scene today, and at the same time it also draws lines from today into textiles of the past ten decades. Our intention has not been to make a chronological presentation of NTA's history. On the other hand, we have chosen to invite many voices to tell about and so delve into aspects of the textile field.

The publication is subsequently divided into four parts: the anniversary exhibition and the NTA story; the professional development; textile art in public spaces and; theoretical perspectives.

Kirsti Willemse shares her own reflections from the work of the curator group. Anne Karin Jortveit gives a point in the organization's history, based on NTA's pre-digital archive. Gunvor Nervold Antonsen's detachable cover is a tribute to NTA and all its members throughout the ages. The poem is part of her performance shown during the opening of the exhibition, and has given the title to the exhibition and to this publication.

In the same way as the anniversary exhibition, where links are made between different years of work, we aim in this publication to give voice to different generations of artists. Four artists are interviewed about their practice. Unn Sønju was with the NTA's first board. Tove (Tuppen) Pedersen was active in NTA's early years. Hans Hamid Rasmussen is currently a Professor at the Oslo Academy of Fine Arts, and Line Solberg Dolmen is a graduate artist.

When textile artists were incorporated into the organisation, textile was recognised as art in line with, for example, painting, graphics and sculpture. This caused major ripple effects for single artists, in the form of paid assignments etc. We have therefore devoted an article to art in public spaces, and interviewed Marianne Magnus, Edith Lundebrekke and May Bente Aronsen about their experiences in producing public art.

How should you understand the textile concept today? Does it make sense to talk about textile art, and if so how? Two articles delve into these questions. Marte Danielsen Jølbo covers three works of art, all from 2016, in order to draw art-historical lines between the works and to discuss issues and theoretical issues rooted in, among other things, new materialism. Inger Bergström writes about the textile concept's space in contemporary art, and discusses the way in which the term circulates in today's art discourse.

In addition, we have invited literature writer Toril Moi to write a short essay from a feminist perspective, and author Erling Kittelsen to explore various textile art concepts.

This publication contains a comprehensive number of textile images. It includes works by the artists in the exhibition, and works that are featured in the texts.

The many voices in this publication emphasize diversity and breadth in scoping the textile art profession. Whilst working on the book, we discovered that each contribution could have been further detailed and further elaborated upon.

Our dream is that the “Ode for a Washcloth - The Hymn of a Tiger” will give inspiration to many new book releases. Good reading!

Ingvill Henmo, Lise Linnert and Sidsel Palmstrøm (editorial group).

“Ode for a Washcloth - The Hymn of a Tiger”
Some of the Featured ArtWorks in the Book

Artist: Else Marie Jakobsen; Title: The Rust Tears (1994).
Photograph Courtesy of K. Bjelland.

Artist: Aurora Passero; Title: Victorian in Attitude (2012).
Photograph Courtesy of Passero.

Artist: Gro Jessen; Title: Spell Particles 2 (2001).
Photograph Courtesy of T. Agnalt.

Artist: Sissel Blystad; Title: 10 (2013).
Photograph Courtesy of Blystad.

Artist Gitte Magnus working with "I had my own box to sit on".
Photograph Courtesy of Magnus.

Artist: Camilla Steinum; Title: It Shaves Behind the Windows (2015).
Photograph Courtesy of Thorvaldsen.

Artist: Gunvor Nervold Antonsen; This thread is this material under production in the studio (2016).
Photograph Courtesy of Antonsen.

Artist: Ann Cathrin November Høibo og Tori Wrånes; Title: Not Yet Titled (2012).
Includes woven materials from Else Marie Jakobsen.
Photograph Courtesy of E. Lande.

Artist: Else Marie Jakobsen; Title: The Moth Corrodes (1994).
Photograph Courtesy of K. Bjelland.

Artist: Ann Cathrin November Høibo; Title: Untitled (2016).
Photograph Courtesy of V. Kleven.

[1] Editors Ingvill Henmo, Lise Linnert and Sidsel Palmstrøm, Ode for a Washcloth - The Hymn of a Tiger, Norske Tekstilkunstnere (2017).

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Clothes of the Sami[1]
Art Essay

Marie-Therese Wisniowski

Sápmi is the name of the Sami's traditional lands, but it also denotes the Sami community and the people. The Sami live in what is commonly known as the Lapland region of Scandinavia. Note: Western historical records are poor and so whether the South of Sweden, Norway, Finland and Russia was previously occupied by Sami is still an open question.

The population of Sami is over 80,000 of whom 20,000 live in Sweden. There are nine different languages that span the North Sami, Lule Sami and South Sami in Sweden, with several of them so different that speakers cannot converse with one another. All are on the UN list of endangered languages.

Map of Samic language areas.

The Sami flag is common to all Sami. It was designed by Astrid Båhl from Skiboth in Troms, Norway and was adopted by the Sami in 1986.

The circle in the flag is a symbol of the sun (red) and the moon (blue). The colors come from traditional Sami dress (see below).

A Sami woman wearing a replica of traditional Kola Peninsula Sami dress.

The National anthem of the Sámi is - Sámi saga lávlla ("Song of the Sami People") with words penned by Isak Saba and music composed by Arne Sørlie, both are Norwegian.

The Sami's political status varies between the four countries over which their community spans (i.e. Norway, Sweden, Finland and Russia). In Sweden the Sami are acknowledged as an indigenous people and a national minority.

Around the turn of the last century, many politicians, the Church of Sweden and scholars saw no future for the Sami as a people and decided that reindeer herding was a doomed livelihood and so wanted to wash away their culture into a European framework.

Per Henning Nutti packing a castrated male reindeer (Lapland, 1950).

At the same time, racial biology classified the Sami as an inferior race and this classification was used as justification for keeping Sami outside of the industrial society and so discarded them from preparatory work needed in order to enter a modern European state.

Professor Gustaf Retzius (a racial biologist) and the Sami Fjällstedt from Härjedalen (probably 1905).

In so many ways the Sami society was well advanced from the emerging European state.The print below taken from - Olaus Magnus: History de gentiles septentrionalibus in 1555 shows a Sami women - with flying hair - shooting arrows during a hunt with the same skill as the men. Obtaining food in Europe was divided into hunters (men) and gatherers (women), whereas among the Sami there were no such divisions.

Women and men were hunters in the Sami society.

While the Sami were slowly being extinguished by stealth, from the sixteenth century onwards there was a growing interest in these people, who were then given the name Lapps. Grand ethnographical work such as Johannes Schefferus' book "Lapponia" was written in Latin in 1673. Not surprisingly it did not appear in Swedish until 1956.

Even today many Sami feel that they encounter discrimination and prejudice on a daily basis. In 1999 a man in Stockholm was reported to the police for incitement to murder or agitation against an ethnic group, since he had a car bumper sticker that declared: "Save a wolf - shoot a Sami". Needless to say no charges were laid against this act of folly.

This post hopes to showcase the clothing on the Sami - some traditional and others influenced by European life.

Jokkmokk Sami market in the first half of the twentieth century.

Clothes of the Sami[1]
Below are some traditional and non traditional clothes worn by the indigenous people of the Sápmi - the Sami. Unless otherwise specified, all photographs and information were obtained from reference [1].

The picture is of Lis-Mari Hjortfors' grandmother Inga, her grandmother's brothers and sisters and their mother. "Were they forced to pose for this photo," Lis-Mari ponders,'in order to document their racial features?"

Man from Kaalasvuoma, Kiruna, Lapland. His racial features are documented next to the photograph.

Inga Pirtsi using a sewing machine in her hut.
Jokkmokk, Lapland, first half of the twentieth century.

Man's cap from Karesuando, Lapland (1918).

Woman's cap from Karesuando, Lapland (1918).

Sami man - winter outfit.
Photograph Courtesy of Borg Mensch (1919).

Sami woman.
Photograph Courtesy of Borg Mensch (1919).

Children in school hut.
Jukkasjärvi, Lapland (1939).

A pewter embroidered belt (1872).

A man in a summer kolt.
Karesuando, Lapland (1918).

A Silver Collar.
Photograph courtesy of Mats Landin.

Confirmation celebration in Vilhelmina, Lapland (July, 2001).

[1] E. E. Silvén, M. Landin and C. Westergren, Nordiska Museet (2007). Catalogue for the exhibition "Sápmi".