Monday, January 24, 2011

“This is private property - we're here to sell art"

Incident In Art Land

From the New Yorker:

"Quietly moving through the Anselm Kiefer show at the Gagosian gallery on its final afternoon were eight people wearing black T-shirts that bore the show's portentous title—“Next Year in Jerusalem”—in English, Hebrew, and Arabic. They didn't speak unless spoken to; they took pictures of themselves standing before some equally portentous works of Holocaust-evoking art. (Everyone was taking pictures; the catalogue cost a hundred dollars.)

Only if approached did one of the group explain that they were part of an organization called U.S. Boat to Gaza, which plans to sponsor a ship in the next flotilla to sail against the Israeli blockade. Half of the group had left, and they were reduced to four by the time that gallery representatives asked them to leave, unimpressed by their claims to be extending the discussion that Kiefer had begun. Morality. Guilt. Jewish tragedy, past and present. (“This is private property,” a gallerista in towering heels shot back. “We're here to sell art.”)

A call to the police was threatened. In response, the activists put on their jackets—covering the offending Passover phrase, even while complaining that it had not, to their knowledge, been copyrighted—and asked if they might stay. Without reply, the representatives walked away...

Ingrid Homberg had gone to Gagosian that day to lift her spirits. A delicate blonde woman in her late fifties, she grew up in Germany—she is roughly of Kiefer's generation—but never felt that she belonged there; she moved to New York with her young daughter in 1980, and the city has proved a much happier fit. In recent years, however, she has been ill (fibromyalgia, arthritis) and suffers frequent pain. Still, she was immediately buoyed by Kiefer's magisterial landscapes, in which massive wings overhead suggest the judgment of God. The gallery was filled with such disturbing images. She had earlier noticed the people in the T-shirts, and now she approached them, hoping to discuss the feelings that the artist's work provoked.

But there was no discussion. Two police officers arrived just a moment after Homberg did, and ordered the group out. Including Homberg. She said that she had no reason to leave. She asked one of the officers—“Young man,” she addressed him, and he did look very young—why they did not allow the group to speak. And that was it. His partner grabbed her by the arm and began to pull her out..."
More here

Considering the nature of Anselm Kiefer's work and the themes of history, destruction, rembering and forgetting, societal guilt, judgement, atonement and more that run through it like strata, I find this story not only particularly ironic but also damningly telling.

I think that one phrase says it all; “This is private property... we're here to sell art"

Anselm Kiefer, Flying Fortress (2010), foreground, with Cetus (2010), in "Next Year in Jerusalem" at Gagosian Gallery

Monday, January 03, 2011

TRACES - alleyways & spandrels: An Exhibition

I have an exhibition of some work from my project TRACES - alleyways & spandrels up at the McMullen Art Gallery in Edmonton until January 28th.

TRACES alleyways & spandrels

Edmonton's 1100 km of urban and suburban alleyways are like the backbone of the city's identity. Unnoticed and unregarded routes and pathways through the city, much of the time un-peopled yet full of the evidence of people.

Back yards often seem less regarded than front gardens, more off-guard and by the time the alley is reached, it is dustbins and recycling boxes, left over bricks and spare siding - every now and then punctuated by a garden of beauty and pride, unrestrained nature or some peculiar product of whimsy.

The alleyways are the pathways through the city's identity. Still public, yet intimate. Domain of dog walkers, jogging soccer moms, garbage collectors, handymen repairing fences, fierce old ladies on solitary walks, afternoon gardeners and schoolboys dreaming and imagining adventures. Yet all encountered only infrequently - more often it is the traces, the evidence of these lives that is encountered.

"The city, however, does not tell its past, but contains it like the lines of a hand,
written in the corners of the street, the gratings of the windows,
the bannisters of the steps, the antennae of the lightning-rods, the poles of the flags.
Every segment marked in turn with scratches, indentations, scrolls"

Italo Calvino, Cities & Memory

The McMullen Art Gallery is located at the University of Alberta Hospital
(TRACES is in the After-Hours Gallery which is the exhibition space
which runs along the wall of the main corridor)

After-Hours Gallery (McMullen Art Gallery),
University of Alberta Hospital (next to the east entrance),
8440 – 112
Edmonton, AB