Face to face with Giuseppe Maraniello.

Face to face with Giuseppe Maraniello.

Giuseppe Maraniello is interviewed by Alice Ioffrida

Giuseppe Maraniello was born in Naples in 1945. Since childhood, he showed his passion for art: as a matter of fact, one of the first things he tells me is the memory of the priest of his parish scolding him while he was busy drawing on a tiny piece of paper lying on the church stairs. He started studying art in the Naples Art Academy when he was 11 and then continued mixing with art circles and artistic personalities open to new experimentations during the sixties when the turmoil of the social changes arrived in Naples as a faint echo. The meeting with LUCA – born Luigi Castellano  – and the active role in the “P.66 Studio Group”, introduced him to the artistic scene of the sixties together with those that were against the commodification of art and the establishment of the art galleries and art collectors. His reformist and dreamy spirit was too big to remain within Naples, that’s why in 1971 he decided to move to Milan. This choice later proved to be the right move, and today Maraniello is amongst the masters of art that knew how to interpret the conceptual moment of that time while defining a personal style, allowing him to interpret in the best way the post-modern period that came after the fall of 1960s ideals. Maraniello’s works are designed with a constant regard to the reverse, to the opposite; antitethical elements, at times anthropomorphic, move along the line that separates painting from sculpting. This theme is at the core of his sculptures, his paintings, and his famous wood pieces. His photographic work, instead, is less known, and it expresses the social and political situation he found once arrived in Milan.

ph. Lorenzo Palmieri

In Naples, when you were very young, you were already very  active, attempting to represent best what was happening in the artistic circles of the time. What happened when your ambition drove you to Milan? 

“Naples was a restricted environment – Maraniello explains – and not very aware of what was happening, and my ambitions were focused on my artistic growth. I chose Milan because it was, and still is, very open to quality, and they recognized quality as valuable. Furthermore, the market, was very active and investments were big. I have never thought about getting rich by being an artist. I taught in Benevento at the School of Art and when I asked to be assigned in the Northern area they finally sent me to Busto Arsizio. An artist was my host during the first period, Pino, Guido Biasi’s brother that at the time lived in Paris. Bruno di Bello advised me to get an idea of the existing trends before presenting myself. I discovered a whole new world: it was 1971, the full conceptual and behavioural age, when all the most characteristic trends were happening here in Milan and while others were coming from abroad. One of my firsts gallerists, Luciano Inga-Pin for example, was hosting, Gunter Brus, Hermann Nitsch, Marina Abramovich and other artists from the alternative scene. For two whole years I hung out in many galleries without presenting anything in order to understand the direction art was taking.”

ph. Giovanna Biondi

In Milan, your first exhibitions were about the conceptual photography, an artistic practice already popular in the 1950’ thanks to the phenomenon of the “Extra-Mediality”. If we want to compare that historical period, full of strong turmoils and social protests with today, do you believe nowadays artists are less socially involved? 

“In my teaching period I noticed a certain resignation amongst the youth, meaning that they did not even claim their own rights. I believe it is a tendency that it must be linked to that moment, in fact it was a period where everything was accepted lightly. My generation, instead, was coming from an ideologized environment in which the socio-political aspect strongly involved us. However, with the fall of ideologies, we went from a deep conceptual work to one that was less politically involved and freer. We came back to a peculiarity that underlined the necessity to enjoy the pleasure of doing. Every artist locked himself in his studio and, in time, started doing very different things from the ones that were being done when there was political commitment. This is simply a matter of historical times, because the artist reflects the moment we live in. This doesn’t mean there aren’t true artists, I don’t believe that today there is less commitment by contemporary artists but I believe, that there is a different kind dedication”.

Devitalizzazioni 1973

Regarding your actual production, what are you working on at the moment?  

“This for me is a period of crisis, not just economical but also of ideas, I believe, I am reorganizing what can be defined as my life. A first book is already planned, thanks to the idea of Danilo Eccher, who decided to analyse the most consistent part of my production: the wood pieces. Other books should come after this one with the rest of my production. At the same time, I am busy creating the liturgical setup for a church in Calabria together with the architect Mario Cucinella, one of the most interesting architects of our time. It’s not the first time I have had to put works inside a religious building. I already worked with Arnaldo Pomodoro in 2001, we created a Christ for the Milwaukee cathedral; then in the US I also created an icon of Christ for the Yale University chapel. When I am the one that has always made devils!

Alice Ioffrida

Jwan Yosef in conversation with Alice Zucca

Jwan Yosef in conversation with Alice Zucca

Jwan Yosef is interviewed by Editor in Chief Alice Zucca

Jwan Yosef’s roots are firmly anchored to a polychrome and profound combination. Born of a Kurdish-Muslim father and Armenian-Christian mother, Yosef shapes his cultural heritage in a background characterized, since the very beginning, by an element of duality that promotes and enhances the intriguing foundations from which his transcendent artistic research develops. If Yosef’s heterogeneous religious experiences can shed some light on his conscious and deeply rooted sense of spirituality, the collection of geographical coordinates that he gathered during his life path can help us understand how his artistic themes evolved. A native of Syria, he grows up in Stockholm. “I never really lived in Syria. Growing up in Sweden I was considered Syrian; once I went back in Syria, there, I was considered Swedish”. Thus he develops an attitude of double that leads him to start a research based largely on the investigation of the intermediate states of duality. Construction and deconstruction, identity, the sense of alienation, the human need for belonging and the processes that man goes through to get there. A research that also focuses on the material itself and the object “Art work” as such as an object. 

Jwan Yosef, Portrait for XIBT © Photo: Nivin Yosef / Editing: Nicolas Wagner

Jwan Yosef has worked from Stockholm, London and now Los Angeles. Represented by Praz-Delavallade, LA/Paris and Stene Projects, Stockholm. Founding member of The Bomb Factory Art Foundation, London, UK. Having graduated his BFA from Konstfack (Stockholm) in 2009, he undertook his MFA at Central Saint Martins (London) in 2011. Recent solo/group shows include The church of the Artists, Rome (2019), Stene Projects, Stockholm (2018), Guerrero Projects, Houston (2018), Praz-Delavallade, Los Angeles (2018), The Goss-Michael foundation, Dallas (2018), De Markten, Brussels (2015), Divus Gallery, London (2013), UMELEC, Prague/Vienna (2013), Beers Contemporary, London (2013), Galleri Anna Thulin, Stockholm (2013) and Kulturhuset, Stockholm (2012). Yosef has contributed with both works and text to magazines such as Crush Fanzine, UMELEC and DSECTION. He has participated and been awarded the Beers contemporary award for emerging art (2013) and The Threadneedle Prize (2013). Yosef is part of the Public Art Collections of Karolinska (Solna, Sweden) and Stockholms Kulturforvaltning (Stockholm, Sweden).

AZ:  In the process of deconstruction and construction which is present in your practice it seems to me that, even in the act of the destructive abstraction, the final aim is always to achieve a form, which is often human since faces are what seems to catch your attention when and if you represent something. After all everything that’s physically present in this world has form, we know how a painting, a sculpture or a face are made and also their appearance is something we can recognize. 
The fact of believing we can recognize a shape is of consolation, we embrace the feeling of safety that comes from thinking that we are faced with something we can identify, that belongs to our heritage, something that we feel we can relate to, even though we might not understand it fully because, as the myths behind the shared sentiments of every culture teach us, although often hard to accept, everything is in constant change. 
In this meta-sculpture of the concept of representation all the elements are visible, there’s the canvas, there’s the structure supporting it, even the screws are in view anchoring it to a wall that’s also visible. There’s no falsehood, the process that gives birth to the artwork is exposed, as if it was seen through frames in a timeline where we can choose where to stop, dwell and then continue. What’s behind the illusion that’s so dear to a vast part of the art history of the past here is also put on display, it’s a realism that, although abstract, goes beyond representation, representing it in itself. We are, in our estrangement, forced to recognize the artwork as an element, as the form. 
And this is the key of this deconstructive dualism, which at the same time shows itself to us for what its nature is, for what was then, what is now and what could be in its potential. Almost with a cinematographic quality a story which is ongoing is shown in its transformative process. The materials which create the structure, the faces which are forced to change by nature itself, lifes in the making. Hints that are recognizable but when decontextualized through deconstruction, in their new context they open new perspectives and new insights about the concept of art, the idea of representation, and man, both as a single individual and as a part of the whole. 
Can you talk about this process of deconstruction and the relationship with the materials and the element of duality starting from your personal experience? 

JY:  I always consider a painting a point of a moving image, as in film. I strive to a form of panning or movement even though what is on view is a still or  stagnate piece; I still look at it as a movie still, something in constant motion. When you mention cinematographic quality I fully agree and feel an immediate satisfaction in your observation! Form and shape is essentially what I work with, where a flat painting transitions into a sculptural object. It’s making works and objects you can read from start to beginning and sometimes in a circular timeline almost. The beginning and the end, the construction and deconstruction are on view at all times. Hence the visibility and the ‘reveal’ of the wall and screws that hold up the painting; what is meant to be hidden is seen and equally important as the presented piece. What would be considered ‘destroying’ and crumbling a painting in this case becomes a work in full bloom, in this particular series the portraits are unfinished until they are sacrificed. It becomes a play of complexes, where I rather than making portraits I portray my own relationship to the actual material and mediums I work with. My own dual relation to oil on canvas painting and the result of that, it’s a little bit like killing your darlings in the end.

In the canvas works I destroy the material because I consider it holy and traditonal art material, whilst when I work on plexi glass, which is an industrial plastic material, the result is almost the opposite of that. Rather than breaking the material I try to mend it by painting a trompe-l’œil form of masking tape. Where the painted ‘object’ is appearing to tape the two separate plexi pieces, but being oil paint it only gives the illusion of functionality, it becomes completely useless in its apparent purpose.

All this is based on my own experience of duality in my background and upbringing. Where religious, sexual and the many roles I occupy as a person become the foundation to this constant portrayal of duality and complexes, both positive and negative; where destruction and mending becomes one. Where my own search for approval or belonging becomes adamant in my work. As much as the material itself plays a focal part in my narrative it is also a way of expressing my own personal history and complexity in how one relates to ones heritage. Being of Muslim and Christian descent, also of two in modern history, opposing cultural backgrounds (Kurdish/Armenian). Then being brought up in Sweden it nearly becomes a form of inception in alienation, as much as it is isolating it is also an almost liberating state, being without a state.

AZ:  Earlier I mentioned the concepts of appearance and perception, in a nutshell, your de-representations, both when they are figurative or when they’re not, always suggest the kind of story that is coming out of the canvas or that’s going in if we consider the engagement of the observer.
An expedient which is achieved thanks to reducing the elements involved in the totality of the components of the artwork and that paves the way to thousands of interpretative possibilities. Once again the element of duality is present – this time by subtraction – and it’s characteristic of your production, even more so considering the monochrome pieces in this series, since you show both everything and the bare minimum at the same time. All the elements are always visible, they remind us of what we are looking at, the object, but the canvas – the setting of the “dream” – is white, the image has disappeared.
Talking about the image and its nature, Blanchot said that “when there is nothing, the image finds in this nothing its necessary condition, but there it disappears”.
The positive quality of the image reveals itself oxymoronically in the fact that it is a limit in itself, compared to the indefinite, and as such it’s not a limit to ourselves, it doesn’t isolate us but it’s able to protect us from the pressure we have when choosing what to see.
The image can be used as a tool to support an ideology, a way of being or something to believe in. The image is what affects our existence, it helps us to make choices and we feel like we can control the absence which has become, for a moment, an “interval”, since the true essence of the image is to always represent something intangible, our feelings, a dictatorship, God. Their nonexistent materiality is frozen in a moment that is always in the past and, paradoxically, we can be in touch with it through the medium which the image is made of, could be visual or tactile, a painting or a photography.
The image therefore fulfills one of its functions which is to humanize the shapeless nothing, making it pleasantly available and allowing us to believe, as in the dept of a happy dream, that is apart from reality and that we find immediately behind us, as pure happiness and superb satisfaction, the eternal transparency of the unreal.
The image, according to the common analysis, comes after the object, it’s its continuation. We see, then we imagine. So, in the creative process, the potential image should come after the canvas. It’s only thanks to its support, the framed painting, that we can identify it for what it is even in its absence. So, in the end, the image comes always after the object.
But “After” also means that the object needs to distance itself in order to for it to be “captured”, let’s think about the act of taking a photo, or the act of thinking and remembering, it’s something comparable to the “distancing” from the canvas to which the image is subjected in your work. Therefore, in the nothingness, the idea of seeing something that finally belongs to us is generated, but in the act itself of becoming an image, it already turns into something else distant from us. It instantaneously changes into a moment in time that is experienced. As the elusive, the unrealizable, the unperturbed, the image becomes detached from its separated concept, it becomes itself the separation. Consequently, the image is always nothing more than the presence of an absence.
What does this absence represent for you? And what about the image?

JY:  It is funny when I sit down to think of the work I do and its relation to god, in many beliefs it is thought that no artist can take claim to their own work as they are merely a vessel or a tool for the constant light (art) that is flowing around us. My ego still struggles with that idea; it is frankly a constant battle even though I would like to think that idea being true I’m still eager to look at my work as something solely mine.

I find calm in an image that kind of whispers its message to you rather than screaming it in your face. The purpose on painting white canvases white, is again to play with my own relation and frankly fear of a ‘blank canvas complex’, as in that moment right before you start painting a painting, I completely fear that moment; such as ‘Am I ready for what’s coming?

Once I was flying in to New York and at the border control an agent was questioning me about my work and asked if I could show him images of my paintings; I pulled out my phone swiped to my white painted Object series and showed it to him. He looked at it and simply said ‘but there’s nothing…’ I laughed and frankly agreed. There was a white painted canvas being stripped off its stretcher frame, and his point of view was a legit one, there was really nothing to look at for him. I really enjoyed that moment and it keeps coming back to me every time I work on that series.

Technically my Object series goes from a painted image to a 3-dimensional object, sculpture if you want; it is almost a reversed process from your description of ‘first comes object/then image’. Again looking at the process as something maybe more circular than linear, no end or beginning really.

AZ:  The subtractive process of abstraction continues also in the development of the installation.
The materials and the perceptive quality reaffirm here their importance, after all it’s the material that creates the link between the potential idea and the existent, enabling us to interact with the space. The adhesive tape and the dialogue you establish between the different consistency of the materials you choose also recalls the concept of duplicity and perception. A material can refer to another one, the masking tape in tension is like wood, the duct tape is like steel, like beams of an architectural structure, but they’re so fragile to the touch that, their breakage – like a veil of Maya – has almost the power of driving us to negate or confirm our beliefs. It’s an ongoing process, through which one finds oneself in an epiphanic space, made once again of recognizable references (the cross, the geometry), intuitions and complexity but that also suggests an introspective solemnity to which the observer is magnetically attracted to once he finds himself in front of it, perceiving its vibrations and harmonies. 
Can you talk about these installations? 

JY:  The tape installation, Tensegrity, is really my take on art materials in its more direct form. There’s no painted version of the material but the practical object itself being used. It was a kind of a giant leap for me to branch out to installation work; instead of an extension of my painting it rather became a focal element in my practice. In my own head a total mind blowing experience. The simplicity of a tense and stretched tape piece attaching the wall with the floor, two separate entities, with both endings made as crosses (religious if you want and practical if you may), is for me in its minimal form a perfect element of harmony. Its vulnerable materiality where it can be pulled off in a whim makes the work even stronger for me. Where one single tape piece can look like a delicate fragile cross whilst an installation with 20 crosses in a row would look like a violent crusade. The use of silver tape representing construction, abduction or a tied up sexual act whilst the fragility of masking tape immediately refers to my daily use of art materials and simple functionality.

In the end the tape pieces and the painting completely imitate each other, where the use of color transcends from the painting to the tape and vice versa. My studio becomes this unified room in color and scheme. I always come back to a very muted color palette, my studio is the opposite of a messy colorful space and instead it is neatly white and under toned in appearance, much like the work itself; quite in appearance yet loud in its message, message of the in-between state of duality.

For instance my latest series ‘Trade in For Gold’ is literally a play of dualism where canvases are spray painted with acrylic gold paint and then written on with headlines and wordings I would find above pawnshops on Bethnal Green road back home in London, where I used to live. Looking at the value of real gold compared to the value of the art piece itself, where one eventually literally is trading in the work for gold (money). Also playing with my own heritages relationship to gold, where traditionally gold is still a proper currency somehow, it becomes almost a caricature of myself as an Arab. When as immigrants coming to Sweden in the 80s the one valuable commodity we would have as a family would literally be pieces of jewelry and gold. There is a grand satisfaction for me in completing that circle with paintings in GOLD, like almost tickling ones expected ability as an ethnicity.

In the end it becomes a very subtle play in duality, where I’m attempting to portray a state of no states or all states for that matter; almost a nothingness that for some spectators becomes invisible, for others a loud and violent act and for some a moment of harmony.

All images © Jwan Yosef, Courtesy Praz-Delavallade, Gross Michael and the Artist

Between nature and artifice, reality and fiction: the possible archaeology of Nicolás Lamas

Between nature and artifice, reality and fiction: the possible archaeology of Nicolás Lamas

by Ludovica Cadario

Human traces of a hypothetical archaeology leave a mixed sense of familiarity and estrangement in the observers while they experience works of  Nicolás Lamas. The Peruvian artist based in Belgium tries to make interact everything that belongs to the natural order with structures that belong to contemporary culture, deforming their spontaneous coexistence. Result of this process are multifaceted and heterogeneous objects that go beyond not just natural logic but also the logic of present day society. While science orders, measures, creates and arranges models, Lamas looks for cracks in what we try to define as reality, analyzing the relationship between knowledge and power and how these determine the way we interact with what we know.  

Nicolás Lamas

In his latest project,  Archaeology of the Darkness, exhibited at Meessen De Clerq in Brussels, Lamas analyzes the phenomenology of the modern way of living drawing his inspiration from the dynamics of archaeology and those of the biosphere, building a relationship between objects that belong to different realms. Organic remains and technological remains establish a dialogue and create possible entries in the archive of humanity. Lamas seems to be inspired by the theories of post-processual archaeology, negating any historical determinism and emphasizing the subjectivity of archaeological interpretations and the dichotomy between subject and object. He writes, deletes and rewrites data which appear as exercises that overlap layers of meaning that changes as time passes. Lamas manipulates the norms of time logic and creates an original iconography. For example he links a 6000 years old Sumerian tablet with fragments taken from a modern computer, opening up a dialogue about the contradictions between the omnipotence and obsolescence of new technologies. He reflects on information, its transmission methods, its learning process and its storage.

Photocopy machines, useless and nowadays obsolete, serve as a stand for copies of ancient statues. The theme regarding memory and the transmission of information, through the concept of the copy, brings to light the limitations of the hyper-technological society. The photocopiers are manipulated by the artist, they are opened and dissected and, like lifeless and amputated bodies, are testimony of the struggle of a technology that could not keep up with the pace of progress.  The copies of the classical ancient statues are symbols of a contemporary humanism and of stylistic and cultural canons that shape us and define our way of interacting as individuals in our society. The hybrid objects created by Lamas in some ways communicate an apocalyptic and post-human scenario. They are what is left of a reality that has disappeared, they document our obsessions, our wanting to leave our mark, and our need for cataloging, for conservation and classification and the traces and the proofs of our presence disappear and fall victim of the fragility of the medium, an old, obsolete copy machine.

Nicolas Lamas was born in Lima in 1980, he lives and works in Brussels. Lamas studied at the Hoger Instituut voor Schone Kunsten (Ghent, BE), attended the Facultad de Bellas Artes at the Universidad de Barcelona, (ES) and the Facultad de Artes Plásticas at the Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú in Lima. His works have been exhibited in various spaces, worth a mention are his solo-show: Becoming Animal, Tenderpixel (London); The Form of Decay, (P/////AKT, Amsterdam); Solo Project, Artissima (Turin); Before Disappearing, Design Museum (Gante); Ocaso, Galería Lucía de la Puente (Lima); Dysfunctional Links, Meessen De Clercq (Brussels); Potential Remains, DASH (Cortrique); To Contain is Not to Possess, Lokaal 01 (Antwerp); The Value of Formlessness, SABOT (Cluj-Napoca). He has also been part of international art fairs represented by the gallery Meessen De Clercq (Brussels).

Ludovica Cadario

Zimoun: analog sound platforms. / In conversation with Angel Moya Garcia

Zimoun: analog sound platforms. / In conversation with Angel Moya Garcia

Zimoun is interviewed by Angel Moya Garcia
Zimoun (Bern, Switzerland, 1972) uses simple and functional components to create sound platforms from an architectural point of view that combine raw and industrial materials such as cardboard boxes, plastic bags or old furniture with mechanical elements such as direct current motors, wires, microphones, speakers and fans. His work has been presented internationally in major museums such as the Museum of Contemporary Art MAC Santiago de Chile; Nam June Paik Art Museum Seoul; Kuandu Museum Taipei; Ringling Museum of Art Florida; Mumbai City Museum; Beijing National Museum of Art; LAC Lugano Museum; Seoul Museum of Art; MIS São Paulo Museum; Kunsthalle Bern; Taipei Fine Arts Museum; The Centquatre Paris; Busan Museum of Contemporary Art; MBAL Museum of Fine Arts; Kunstmuseum Bern; among others.

317 prepared dc-motors, paper bags, shipping container Zimoun 2016 Motors, wood, paper, metal, cotton, power supplies.
Dimensions: 6m x 2.4m x 3.5m. Installation view: Le Centquatre Paris, France. Photography by Zimoun ©

AMGYour research explores the mechanical rhythm, the tension between modernized models of modernity and the chaotic power of life, transmitting an instinctive depth through the acoustic buzz of natural phenomena. What was your education and what attracted you and led you to do this type of work?

Z: I didn’t study art nor music, but I was somehow active in this fields since I can remember as a little kid. Before I started to work with mechanical systems to generate real-time sound through motion I was often experimenting with multi channel sound systems (compositions for a number of speakers scattered in the space), as well as with reductive systems exploring visual structures and textures. I was mainly working with pre-recorded sounds of physical materials, for instance with the sounds of paper. Then at some point I started to wonder how I could get the work more direct, I didn’t want to record sounds first to play them later back in the space, but I wanted to create the sounds in real-time. This is when the experimentation with mechanical systems started and the visual intensities merged with sound and space.

117 prepared dc-motors, 210 kg wood, 170m rope Zimoun 2016 Motors, wood, metal, power supplies. Dimensions: variable. Installation view: Museum of Fine Arts, Taipei, Taiwan. Photography by Museum of Fine Arts, Taipei ©

AMG: Your work is internationally known for your incredible sound sculptures: architecture and objects such as cardboard boxes, wooden logs, plastic bags, electric motors or fans. Industrial or everyday objects that lose their functionality and become sounding boxes of mechanical devices. How do you exploit the expressive potential of analog sound and its relationship with space?

Z: The choice of materials relates to a general interest in simplicity. I’m interested in simple and raw, in unspectacular and pure materials. These are often materials from industrial uses or the everyday.  At the same time, the choice of materials relates a lot to the dynamics and behavior of the materials and their resonance properties. I’m also interested in sound as an architectonic element that creates space, but also in sound which somehow is inhabiting a room and interacting with it. In tridimensional sound structures, in spatial experiences and explorations of sound. The use of sound in order to create somehow static sound architectures that can be entered and explored acoustically, similarly to walking around a building. Elements like patterns, repetition and spatial structures in general, are taking part in this process. For instance, I often work with a large number of the same mechanical systems. Here the repetition interests me from different points of view: I’m looking for individual dynamics growing out of the systems. In that sense, each multiplied module is behaving in its own individual way. Having many elements based on the same materials and systems next to each other shows all these individual behaviors, differences and individualities. But multiplication also interests me in relation to the tridimensionality of the work. For instance, if many mechanical systems generating sounds are scattered all over the space, this creates a tridimensional space of sound. In that sense, a sound structure and how it unfolds within the architecture, can get very complex even if it’s based on many very simple, and sometimes even primitive, small mechanical systems.

198 prepared dc-motors, wire isolated, cardboard boxes 30x30x8cm Zimoun 2012 DC-motors, wire islolated, cardboard boxes, laboratory power supply. Dimensions: 4.75 x 8.5 x 14m / 15.6 x 28 x 46 ft. Installation view: CAN, Neuchatel, Switzerland. Photography by Zimoun ©

AMG: In the last decades we are witnessing an increasingly rapid technological revolution, which in the art world has led to increasingly experimental, hybrid, interdisciplinary and complex research. The search for new software for the production and manipulation of sounds, hardware implementation, multi-channel and multimedia installations or the availability of new technological devices have multiplied the possibilities of installations that work with audio. How could we place your work, definitely analog, with respect to research using media and more complex technological systems?

Z: The research I am doing within my mechanical sound work is focused on the physical material and the physical space and on the creation of somehow complex organisms or systems which are based on very simple elements. But it is less about controlling such systems in a sense of telling them what to do. My installations have two states. Either they are turned on, or off. I do not program the behavior of the mechanical elements on a computer, for example changing the speed of a motor over time, or turning motors on and off etc. I look for material based behaviors which unfold a complexity without me defining what they should do. I see my job here more like helping them to come alive rather than defining their micro-structural behavior. In that sense what I do could have been done already 50 years ago and it isn’t directly influenced by today’s technology and its new possibilities.

49 prepared concrete mixers Zimoun 2017 Motors, metal, pvc, lead. Dimensions: variable. Installation view: Le Centquatre, Paris, France.
Photography by Zimoun ©

AMG: The voluntary use of titles that describe your works simply as a list of used mechanical materials and components require the observer a further imaginative effort, making him actively participate in the completion of the work. What role do you think the individual can have in the construction, especially conceptually speaking, in your installations?

Z: I keep my works reduced, abstract and raw. That way they function more like an abstract code behind something, rather than creating just one connection to one specific theme or topic. In this way, the works can ideally activate the visitors somehow allowing them to make their own connections, associations and discoveries on different, individual levels. For that reason I also keep the titles very abstract, only describing the materials used. I create those works based on many different interests coming together and I see them in many different ways and layers myself. Subjectivity is the base of how we see, understand and don’t understand the world. In that sense, while exploring the works, the viewer starts to play an important and creative part as well. Great thoughts about a piece usually show the engagement of an interesting person.

36 ventilators, 4.7m³ packing chips Zimoun 2014 Motors, metal, styrofoam, nylon, wood, controlling system. Dimensions: variable. Installation view: Art Museum Lugano, Switzerland. Photography by Zimoun ©

Zimoun | Photography by Rolf Siegenthaler ©

Blurring the boundaries: Gerwald Rockenschaub

Blurring the boundaries: Gerwald Rockenschaub

Rhythm is the motto of the Austrian artist Gerwald Rockenschaub. He is an artist who works in both mediums, the visual art and music and his artistic spirit feeds on the intertwined relationship of composing music and creating visual arts. As an artist originated in the 80’s Neo-Geo movement (also known as neo-geometric conceptualism), Rockenschaub’s work makes him one of the revolutionary and innovative artists of his generation.The Neo-Geo movement, a post-modern art style, developed in contrast to regular figurative expressionistic painting. It defined a particular form of abstraction, applied as a social critique. 

Portrait of Gerwald Rockenschaub, ph. Jan Windszus, Berlin

Rockenschaub’s paintings are based on abstract codes and patterns from everyday life instead of the social and metaphysical utopias of the preceding abstraction. He erodes the characterisation of the image by deliberately leaving out everything that might compose distinctiveness in a painting. Linear structures, individual geometric forms and colour fields show influence in the aesthetic system of Bauhaus, Kandinsky’s features and even elements of pop art. His composition of electronic music comes reflected in technoid aesthetics of his work and their titles.

Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg , Blick in die Ausstellung © Gerwald Rockenschaub , ph. Marek Kruszewski

“ I take a similar approach to create a painting, an object, a sculpture or an exhibition concept as I do in composing a piece of music. I think very musically. Choreography, dramaturgy, rhythm, etc. always play a crucial role, especially in developing an exhibition concept.”

(Gerwald Rockenschaub, 2017)

Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg , Blick in die Ausstellung © Gerwald Rockenschaub , ph. Marek Kruszewski

Taking inspiration from the rhythm of music Rockenschaub plays with functionality and pseudo-functionality while blurring the boundaries between art, design and architecture. In his sculptural work, the artist comments on architecture and intervenes into the concept of the white cube. His work follows a linear thought process and rises dialogue between architecture itself, the artwork and spectator. His paintings as well as installations are often cooperating with the exhibiting space and are tailor-made to change the perception of it. His installations concern the structure, limits and questions of emerging spaces. In other words, he implements the accuracy and reduction of fundamental elements. The spectator is then challenged to new readings of situations raised by the artist’s gestures based on unapparent interventions with simple elements. The architectural and technical tendencies mirror in his use of materials, he is fond of industrial design material like aluminium, plexiglass, and PVC.

Gerwald Rockenschaub, Courtesy the artist and Courtesy Galerie Eva Presenhuber, Zurich : New York, Ph Matt Grubb

Gerwald Rockenschaub, Courtesy the artist and Courtesy Galerie Eva Presenhuber, Zurich : New York, Ph Matt Grubb

Rockenschaub was also one of the firsts to integrate the computer into his design process.He started shaping objects digitally and has also produced video installations. In Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg he, for instance, created a piece of shaking red dots as a metaphor for edginess and nervousness of our times. Notable are also his wall paintings which, according to Rockenschaub, also act as architectural installations made site-specific. The wall is scattered over with colourful geometrical shapes and random design elements that are minimal but don’t negate pop. The meaning is in the order in which all the features are perceived. It is like jumping from one motif to another across the wall according to the rhythm. Is Rockenschaub blurring the lines between music, interior architecture and art confusing us? Perhaps. But his unusual take on visual arts is what makes his work so engaging. Having to experience and explore the pragmatic context challenges the spectator and adds value to his work. As he says his work “always has to do with production conditions that lead to certain consequences and create a certain state of mind”.

Adela Smejkal

A look at the Los Angeles scene: Mat Gleason’s perspective on the recent editions of Frieze and Alac

A look at the Los Angeles scene: Mat Gleason’s perspective on the recent editions of Frieze and Alac

Gajin Fujita / Ghost Rider, 2018 / spray paint, paint markers, 12k white gold and 24k gold on six wood panels / 60 x 108 in. (152.4 x 274.3 cm) Courtesy LA Louver Gallery, Los Angeles


1. Vielmetter booth soloing Kim Dingle

2. LA Louver booth soloing Gaijin Fujita

3. The lone Warhol painting I saw in the whole fair was a portrait of Judy Garland done as a one off gift to Liza Minelli from Andy – consigned by Liza to Pace Gallery it could be yours for $4.5 Million.

4. A small Philip Guston of a Klansman with a gun, rare for the absence of pink which is only visible as an undercoat.

5. The Frieze gallery tent was smaller than the NY and London Frieze fairs, but it was mercifully free of those stupid sections that art fairs do (one year it was artists from the 1970s, so contrived, half the blue chip art world was from the 70s). The sectional booths are famously tiny and you’ve got the gallerist with a chair and a pile of collateral material and two people looking at something and nobody else can fit in the booth, what a croc, what a waste. Frieze LA had a simple winning formula: Everyone had a nice sized booth and let it rip. No forced themes.

6. Half the fair is secondary market stuff like John McCracken and the other half is artists walking around today that the galleries represent. A good balance.

7. People waiting in line for an hour for coffee or booze and I walked to the Paramount store on the lot where there is a Coffee Bean & TeaLeaf and had the best hot chocolate ever and was back on the floor in 20 minutes, refreshed.

8. No Koons, no Hirst (okay a forgettable one), no Kaws, and only one Peter Halley!

9. They hand you a free large bottled water if you walk in thru the VIP entry line even if you do by accident like I did.

10. Despite being so massive it was like wow efficient getting in and getting around.

Damien Hirst, Isolated Elements Swimming in the Same Direction for the Purpose of Understanding (Right) 1991 / Ph. Prudence Cuming Associates © Damien Hirst and Science Ltd. All rights reserved, DACS 2012


1. It’s a clubby little art world so you wonder how some of the scrub galleries got in the door. Daddy runs Paramount? Friends of Bettina? A few headscratchers who don’t buy full page ads in ArtForum with of course, lame wannabe trendy booths, subpar for this smart set.

2. You could walk thru the fair with a good comedian and have endless material.

3. Product, product, product – conceptual? political? controversial? 

Nope, nope and nope.

4. When you know the person in the booth doesn’t know shit about art like you do and you can’t do a fucking thing about it as you would appear to be a crazy man if you said your peace so you just look up at the ceiling of the fair tent and walk to the next booth.

5. Coldest, wettest month of the year, even in the desert, but its between the Oscars and the Grammies so “everyone” is in town.

Overall it was a good vibe, probably the best fair that has ever occurred in Los Angeles. You either like fairs or you don’t, I’m not on a crusade either way, there was art to see and people to look at, it was near the tippy top of the pyramid and if that bugs you at least you could see your enemy face to face, what the fuck more do you want?

ALAC 2019, Richard Heller Gallery, Los Angeles / Joakim Ojanen, Octopus ballin’ on home stone with little guest, 2018 – Ph. Alice Zucca XIBT Mag

The ALAC fair only reaffirmed my loathing of art that pretends to be outsider art but has its MFA at the ready. You cannot have it both ways. You cannot be an erudite member of the qualified club AND howl to the establishment “Lookit me and my first ancounter wiff a paintbrush I think I will paint me a piggly wiggly and other simple things”. Second on the list are the technique whores – “Lookit me, i do this one trick with the brush, cool right, you never seen that before because i am unique with my technique, and I do it again and again and again and in blue and then in yellow and oh oh oh look, look at this one, iss in black and white cuz i’m also a modernist if you collect that!”. 

The fair swayed between booths that were overhung to booths that oozed authenticity by having only a few things in them and lots of space around. Of course, when you are showing deskilled painting of pink blobs and bright green drippy splashes, emulating lean minimalist discourse is pretentious and, hey, stupid. The booths with crappy sloppy college art orgy fuckaround stuff that were crammed to the gills and reveled in the irony of the nosepickers being feted by the establishment – those were the most successful.

ALAC 2019, Functional Art gallery, Berlin, Anna Aagaard Jensen – ph. Alice Zucca XIBT mag

There were a few elegant booths with some nice work, nothing so memorable that you felt art history stabilize beneath your feet and then sway toward a new direction, but, frankly and positively, better than the last few iterations of this fair, three years ago being the nadir of all time when the blurry absloption paintings and plop-turdian ceramic sculptures were everywhere, literally all but three booths were the same market-ready ambiguities of passionless poop.

This year, a diversity of approaches. Shit is selling in a hot market these days and nothing was too radical or experimental (oh yeah sure, edgy for 1987 all the way but otherwise all safe and “good” product). So a mild improvement and a smaller ALAC with many mainstays graduating to Frieze and Felix fairs is okay, not necessarily worth the $49 uber round trip and a few people coughing on me complaining of their colds who will be revealed if I come down with something in the next few days. The $12 pressed juice didn’t change my life either but people assured me the food was good this time.

Mat Gleason

FRIEZE Art Fair LOS ANGELES 2019, David Kordansky Gallery, Los Angeles. Ph. Alice Zucca XIBT Mag

FRIEZE Art Fair LOS ANGELES 2019, David Kordansky Gallery, Los Angeles. Ph. Alice Zucca XIBT Mag

FRIEZE Art Fair LOS ANGELES 2019, Marian Goodman Gallery, New York. Ph. Alice Zucca XIBT Mag

FRIEZE Art Fair LOS ANGELES 2019, Night Gallery – Claire Tabouret, Los Angeles. Ph. Alice Zucca XIBT Mag

FRIEZE Art Fair LOS ANGELES 2019, Night Gallery – Claire Tabouret, Los Angeles. Ph. Alice Zucca XIBT Mag

FRIEZE Art Fair LOS ANGELES 2019, 303 Gallery – Doug Aitken, New York. Ph. Alice Zucca XIBT Mag

FRIEZE Art Fair LOS ANGELES 2019, Lisson Gallery, London, New York. Ph. Alice Zucca XIBT Mag

FRIEZE Art Fair LOS ANGELES 2019, Sadie Coles HQ, London. Ph. Alice Zucca XIBT Mag

FRIEZE Art Fair LOS ANGELES 2019, Sadie Coles HQ, London. Ph. Alice Zucca XIBT Mag

FRIEZE Art Fair LOS ANGELES 2019, Sadie Coles HQ – Ugo Rondinone, London. + 303 Gallery – Doug Aitken, New York Ph. Alice Zucca XIBT Mag

ALAC 2019, Richard Heller Gallery, Los Angeles. Ph. Alice Zucca XIBT Mag

ALAC 2019, Richard Heller Gallery, Los Angeles. Ph. Alice Zucca XIBT Mag

ALAC 2019, Marinaro, New York. Ph. Alice Zucca XIBT Mag

ALAC 2019 Art Los Angeles Contemporary Ph. Alice Zucca XIBT Mag

ALAC 2019, Ever Gold Gallery, San Francisco Ph. Alice Zucca XIBT Mag

A coversation with Andreas Emenius. The image is the thought. Not the words.

A coversation with Andreas Emenius.

Andreas Emenius is interviewed by Editor in Chief Alice Zucca
“The image is the thought. Not the words. […] I don’t really question anything around me.  All that flows through me is the stuff that becomes the image”

The versatile expressive universe of Andreas Emenius transforms, through the use of several mediums, recognizable elements of everyday life into a reality which, although it is still accurate, somehow appears more profound and feels in itself estrangfed playing on a perceptive ambiguity. To perceive the environment around us for what it is, for how it exists inside a defined space and at the same time how it is stored in our memory and how it could be interpreted through the personal experience. The investigation of the antithetic relationship between observation and perception is an element frequently present in his artistic research which often explores the contradictions present in a multifaceted reality that, in the end, finds a balance in a more comprehensive view and in the authenticity of its every, and not always coherent, defining nuance. An object, a neighborhood, a face, the trajectory of a movement can all be the means by which the image is generated and as such it can be inquired. “The image is the thought, not the words” Emenius states, every object is waiting to be looked at, as an image it could be named, acquire an identity, and indeed be interpreted on many levels in its coherent contradictions. And it’s always the image the expressive vehicle and its many ways of showing itself to us, it could be a static image, like a painting, or in motion as in a video. Artist and polymath, Emenius investigates form and abstraction through painting, sculpture, performance, graphic design and video. He is also curator and co-founder of the Nordic Contemporary Artspace an artistic platform and a catalyst for Scandinavian contemporary art. He worked together with various artists such as musicians Trentemøller and August Rosenbaum, directing their videos and designing their sets; prominent graphic designer Neville Brody; stylist Henrik Vibskov and important brands like Kenzo, Adidas and Nike. 

Andreas Emenius, COMING BACK FROM THE GAS STATION, performance


Different art forms such as painting, sculpting and video art can be used to express the same themes and the versatility of your creative process is a key element in your artistic work. Is your interpretation of reality more of a gesamtkunstwerk where every discipline is interconnected or is it more a question of finding the right vehicle to express your message, your vision and your perspective in the most effective way? Does your creative approach change depending on the medium you use or do you keep the same underlying intuitive rigour in everything you do?

I’ve always liked the idea of Gesamtkunstwerk, how things blend into each other and makes a whole. For me everything starts with drawing then moves on from there. I spend a lot of time looking at things not related to art (science, sport, news, films). I’m obsessed by faces, how they look back at you and physical movements and everyday objects which seems anonymous at the same time meaningful. First comes the thoughts then associative and intuitive work. No matter the media If it makes sense for me then I will just do it. There needs to be an intensity. A sense of an opening. I work fast before the work loses its urgency. What I am looking for is soul, presence and that the work has ambiguity.

Andreas Emenius, FIGURE 1, 2017, plaster, wood and paint, 50 x 71 in. (127 x 180.34cm.)




Andreas Emenius, MUSCLE MEMORY, installation view at SHIN GALLERY, NYC, 2018, Courtesy the Artist and Shin Gallery 


When we take our abstract understanding into the real world what we get is not an hypothetical vision of reality but the virtual result of what we comprehend perhaps in combination with the imaginative space we activate in the process. I am thinking about how you translate your experience in Chinatown in your work “Muscle Memory” at shin gallery through the use of a visual universal language, which in itself has something that relates to the background of each of us and goes beyond its environment. 
The way in which our perception is translated into our understanding is present in an element of familiarity and estrangement at the same time, that is implicit in the way we recognize shapes, archetypes, that are subconsciously part of the collective memory of a generation, and which activate experiential sensations. What shapes the world we live in, the human element, the urban scenery and even fashion, leaves traces of life which can then be identified and, filtered, and they become references and traits of the different cultures and environments we find in the world. The neighborhood becomes a dynamic force, alive, and through the ways it portrays itself it can often raise questions about day-to-day urban life, about the way we plan, build, consume and live our lives and our cities. 
Could you talk about this characteristic of the installation? And what about your experience as a Scandinavian man in New York City?

I agree, all the traces of life are there to give reference. But I don’t really question anything around me. All that flows through me is the stuff that becomes the image: thoughts, something I read, a screenshot of a bird, a face in the street, a logo, coca cola, memory of where I grew up… it all comes from the inside in the end. You select what somehow connects to try to get as close as possible. Like a direct connection to life. Feelings before the intellect. There’s more truth there. Of course, there are ideas, but I’m more interested in trying to be honest. The strange difference of the image of life and the experience of the environment you’re in. There’s a friction. Art is a space where you can exist, to think, and let all your (dark) thoughts about life, death, sex come to surface.

Andreas Emenius, MUSCLE MEMORY, installation view at SHIN GALLERY, NYC, 2018, Courtesy the Artist and Shin Gallery


Is there a common thread in all your projects? Can you talk about the themes that are fundamental to your work?

I found myself explaining less and less. The image is the thought. Not the words. The installations are made associative with a variety of references, hopefully they appear with synchronicity. Many paintings are kind of portraits, of people I see, meet, remember. I like to add everyday items, like cans of red bull, trainers, keys, luggage, swim suits with some references to popular culture, sport or locations that affected me in some way. Then make them appear more mythical – like demi gods – looking at the other world. The idea is seeing familiar things you can recognize that disappear into strangeness. And back again. It’s about balance between the near and the distant, or the clear and the foggy. I just really like things that seem both solid and disappearing at the same time, both heavy as concrete and light as a feather. Both low culture and fine culture. Both every day and otherworldly.

Andreas Emenius, MUSCLE MEMORY, 2018, Acrylic, Oil and Marker on Canvas, 60 x 72 in. (152.4 x 182.88cm.)


In the age of Access, a time when it’s hard to put artists in a box and in a definite artistic framework that fully describes them, you chose to co-found and to curate a space, the Nordic Contemporary Artspace, where artists and artworks are associated by a very strong common trait: their origins. An actual map of contemporary Scandinavian art. Could you tell me more about this project?

I co-founded Nordic Contemporary with Jacob Valdemar as a window to show artists we like from the Nordic region. I am Swedish so it made sense to put a geographical frame around it. There are so many great artists coming from this region. We wanted to give a platform as well as to see how turning our backgrounds and the environment we grew up in into the focus point would appear in Paris with its heavy art history environment. 

Video Still / August Rosenbaum, Nebula, Directed by Andreas Emenius


Performer, filmmaker, and director of short films and music videos, you also worked with Trentemoller and August Rosenbaum. In “Nebula” I feel the research for a pure synchronization between images, sounds and movement. Do you believe there is a component in the rhythm of electronic music which is able to emphasize this concept?

I love the repetitiveness of putting your hand down on a table over and over again, hitting a tennis ball for an entire day or playing the same tone on a piano for what could be forever. When I work I constantly listen to the same album for months. In Nebula you see a figure moving in an abstract sport arena. I liked the idea of comparing athletic movements with something more animal like. That it’s me in the video of course has significance but not more than it gives it intimacy. I thought of the figure as a caged animal while doing this. The other part of the video is about baptizing and transformation with water and milk being materials I use a lot. I am proud of this work however I feel I wasn’t brave enough in the structure of it, it still feels a bit too narrative. My dream is to make video into painting and vice versa. 

[fvplayer src=”https://vimeo.com/219652968″ splash=”http://www.xibtmagazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/emenius.jpg”]
Among your many collaborations I find very interesting your partnership with Henrik Vibskov, can you tell me about “The Fringe Projects” and “The Circular Series”?

I met Henrik when I was at school at Central Saint Martins, we connect in our way of seeing things, our references and fast production method. The Fringe Projects and The Circular Series we made mostly in 2007/2008. They are 10 works per series, sort of experiments where we use a signifier such as a fringe or a circle as ‘visual glue’ connecting the works, where we could allow our self to play and clash among ourselves, our background and our identity. In many ways it was a fun environment where we made work we couldn’t have done either of us by ourselves. We are still waiting to complete the Circular Series. So, stay tuned. 

Henrik Vibskov, Andreas Emenius, The fringe projects, Self portraits. Featured inside and on back covers of Japan issues of Dazed and Confused and Nylon Magazine.


Henrik Vibskov, Andreas Emenius, The fringe project, Installation exhibited at Zeeuws Museum, Middleburg, 2009

Could you give me some insights about your approach to your imagery of movement both in your film production and in your paintings?

Physical movement to me is important. In boxing, the way an elbow seems to move instantly yet with precision; a person’s shoulder appear more ‘hanging’ as their mind is drifting; a horse’s nostrils opening and closing after it’s been running; my memory of being a teenager, half sitting against a wall how my knee seemed to be moving though the leg was in a still position. I impose these details, or the idea of these details onto figures I paint or in characters in a performance. The photographer Edward Muybridge, the sculptor Umberto Boccioni and painter Francis Bacon are my movements heroes. 

Andreas Emenius, FIGHT, 2018 Acrylic, Oil and Marker on Canvas 48 x 60 in. (121.9 x 152.4 cm.)


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Are you working on something at the moment? What are your future projects?

I am working towards a solo exhibition at Nikolaj Kunsthal in Copenhagen that open in 2019. Performance that will be staged every day for five months in an installation consisting of sculpture, paintings and sound. I am also working towards some smaller painting projects that opens in New York in November at the Palace Hotel. 


Camera Abstractions: Keld Helmer-Petersen

Camera Abstractions: Keld Helmer-Petersen

Thinking about the fathers of artistic color photography it’s easy to recall great names such as William Eggleston and Stephen Shore who throughout the seventies, also thanks to great exhibitions (such as the one that Eggleston had in 1976 at the MoMA), have helped to impose this medium which, at the time, was still labeled by the critics as “vulgar and banal” because it was usually linked to commercial and amateur photography. But those aren’t truly the first great results obtained with the use of color film since, already in the forties, in Denmark Keld Helmer-Petersen had already showed its artistic potentialities and today he is regarded as the father of Danish modernist photography. Isolating the details and giving them a new meaning, Petersen’s aim is to catch the essence of modern life sublimating color and form (as Paul Cézanne did in his paintings) and deleting the depth of field thanks to the constant use of small apertures: the world therefore appears as a flat surface full of interesting geometrical patterns useful for stressing the importance of color. Inspired mainly by American and German photographers and architects (one above all Mies van der Rohe) he shares the ideas of Staatliches Bauhaus, a German school which is all about simplicity, abstraction emphasis and erasing of unnecessary details.

Helmer-Petersen gets his first camera in 1938, a Leica IIIc, as a gift from his mother for his graduation. With that and the 35mm, 50mm and 90mm Elmar lenses he will create all the pictures of his debuts. His first experiments are made with black and white films but, because of the Nazi occupation, they become hard to find so Keld turns to Agfacolor, a German film, with wich in 1948 he creates the work that will impress his name in photography’s history forever: 122 farve fotografier (122 color photographs). At that time the artist is 28-years-old and works in a library, after showing to the owner a selection of his photographs taken between 1941 and 1947 and getting a positive feedback he decides to invest his father’s inheritance in the production of the book, printing 1.500 copies. The value of the work is understood overseas too and so on November the 29th of 1949 the magazine Life dedicates to Helmer-Petersen a 7-page article entitled “Camera Abstractions”. In 1950 he travels to the United States to settle in New York first and then in Chicago to study at the Art Institute (where, among many others, the great photographer Harry Callahan was teaching) and to work for Life. In 1953 one of his photographs is displayed at the MoMA in the collective exhibition “Post-War European Photography” but, unsatisfied with the American lifestyle, Keld decides to go back to Denmark and propose himself as an architectural and design photographer opening his own studio in Copenhagen (1956), later becoming the photography teacher in the architecture school at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts (1964-1990).

Keld Helmer-Petersen photo Björn Dawidsson

Inspired by his stay in Chicago “Fragments of a city”, his second book, is released in 1960; here he experiments in the darkroom pushing black and white contrasts to the limit, celebrating surfaces, structures, fragments and spaces found between the huge constructions of the metropolis. In the mid-Fifties he shows his new works in a series of exhibitions in Denmark and Sweden curated by the designer Poul Kjaerholm and based on the contrast between image and background, opposing to a bright picture a dark panel and vice-versa. During the seventies the Danish artist will eventually start to work “cameraless”, creating the images directly in the darkroom thanks to the sole chemical reagents and looking for the ultimate minimalism; that spirit, in addiction to the discovery of computer graphics, will escort him until the end of his life. He dies in 2013 at the age of 93. Black and white represents for Helmer-Petersen both the Alpha and the Omega of his career: the 122 color photographs, so paramount for the history of photography, are to him nothing but an exception, a confirmation to the rule that will make remember him forever.

Luca Torelli

Many thanks to Jan Helmer-Petersen for the permission to publish his father’s pictures and to Dawid (Björn Dawidsson) for his wonderful portrait of the photographer.

A conversation with Gregory Hayes. Perfection is everywhere. Its limits come from the perception of the thinker.

A conversation with Gregory Hayes.

Perfection is everywhere. Its limits come from the perception of the thinker.
Gregory Hayes is interviewed by Editor in Chief Alice Zucca
Perfection is everywhere. Its limits come from the perception of the thinker.

Gregory Hayes explores the endless chromatic possibilities of painting by creating an original method of analysis which focuses on the study of gestures through painting and geometric analytical compositions.This process is done often using a dropper and acrylic colors, small drops are meticulously placed on a grid while layers of paint blend in the bottle. Therefore this results in drops of color which are the combination of various chromatic elements that blend in a swirl generating unusual and unexpected variations.When looked from a distance and as a whole the drops seem to blend in a single entity but they remain identifiable as single units when the viewer gets close to the work and looks at it in detail. The artist displays his skills by using structures which can be identified by looking at the marks left with a pencil revealing the grids where the drops of color are placed. Every element is a swirl of color which is unique and it’s part of the complexity of the entirety, still remaining harmonious as if it was a small complex painting itself which is able to reinforce the feeling of balance of the whole composition. Every drop, being made of multiple colors, escapes the rigorousness of the painting gesture. By trying to achieve the optimal formal precision the artist finds himself aware of the fact that such is unreachable. And it is this almost paradoxical contradiction which Hayes finds perfect in itself. In every series of Hayes’ paintings conscious choices and randomness coexist in a sublime formal symbiosis which leads to unpredictable scenarios that define original archetypes.

Coming from the experience of the American abstract expressionism the gestural component becomes a key element of your paintings and your artistic research. In your works two aspects seem to coexist, a rigorous method and a randomness since the drops, due to gravity and their unpredictability in their positioning and their movement onto surfaces, somehow slip from your control. At the same time, for example in the “Color Array” series, you try to limit their freedom with a predetermined scheme. How much is planned and how much is left to freedom and to the flow of inspiration in your compositions? Can you talk about the technique you use and how you prepare the base for your works?

I do plan in the way I make art, but within the structures I create I leave room for possibilities. In my work I strive for exactness, but perhaps it is paradoxical that in striving for perfection—and never reaching it—it is there that you actually find it. But perfection starts to look different. For me this is a key element in my artwork. It is the imperfect that becomes unique, the flaws that become interesting, the randomness that leads to new ideas. Perfection as an ideal is a limited perspective, but very ingrained in us all—very powerful. So to widen, or change, its hold on our ideas it could allow us to use this power to see more of the beauty that is around us everyday. Perfection is everywhere. Its limits come from the perception of the thinker. For me perfection is allowing each mark I make to reveal itself in that moment.  I have a pretty good idea of what I’d like things to look like, but I let it be open, to bend or flow as it needs to. Being ok with that—the boundary between control and lack of control— is what I’d consider perfect. 

Gregory Hayes, Untitled (OB), 2015, acrylic on canvas, 48 x 48 inches, courtesy Nancy Margolis Gallery NYC

How did you come up with the idea of using a dropper?

In my early days of making art I had no formal training in technique. I had done some line drawing and charcoal sketching of flowers and still life at a community college near Buffalo, New York in my late teens, but I had never yet painted. My knowledge was very limited. When I was 24 years old, I started to experiment with painting at Rocky Mountain College of Art + Design in Denver, Colorado, while trying to complete a degree. I really didn’t know how to use a paintbrush (beyond house painting), or oil or acrylic paint, or any mediums really, so I started to experiment with what was around me or what was on the material list for some of the painting classes I was enrolled in. I also didn’t really have a subject matter, so it all really became about understanding material in a matter-of-fact way. 

Gregory Hayes, UNTITLED (RBO), ACRYLIC ON PAPER, 2015, 24 X 24IN | 60 X 60CM

I basically started formulating compositions using geometry similar to doodles I did on my folders and notebooks in high school when I should have been taking notes in class, and I began mixing acrylic paint colors that I found appealing—a lot of trial and error at this point. I was then introduced to the work of artists like Frank Stella, Al Held, Barnett Newman, Josef Albers, Ellsworth Kelly, and Sol Lewitt. Seeing their work gave me many points of departure to move in. But what seemed to attract me most was organizing colors into groups, and finding out how they behaved and felt. The emotional impact of a painting through color seemed to be important to me and still is today. So from there I began to paint larger canvases with house painting techniques, using different brushes, painters tape, and the colors I had mixed.  Afterwards I would always have leftover paint colors in glass jars. The jars never really kept the paint for too long so at a certain point I remember beginning to pour and drip the paint onto extra canvases I had made, I guess I didn’t want the paint to go to waste. Because of this, I really started to feel like I could organize the space on the canvases in a similar way I did with a brush, but with less effort. It allowed for a new kind of freedom in what I was doing. I could also drip the paint into round circles very easily. From then on I started to organize the compositional elements of my paintings using circles from dripping paint from jars. 

Gregory Hayes, UNTITLED (RYB), ACRYLIC ON CANVAS, 2011, 60 X 60IN | 152 X 152CM

While I was attending Rocky Mountain College of Art + Design, the head of the painting department, Clark Richert, would often visit my studio to see what I was doing. He became a mentor to me and we would often talk about painting through math and science, and geometry. He was also a painter, so one day he walked into my studio with a small plastic bottle with a small nozzle, like a paint pen, that he had been using in his work to draw circles. He just gave it to me without any explanation and said, “What do you think you can do with this?” I began playing around with the small bottle and I realized that I could drip paint from it with remarkable control; so from there I began to use it to make all my works. My first series of painting I created with this technique was called “Vibrations.” In these works you can see how I was exploring the possibilities the drip bottle gave me in regards to size of each drop.  

Gregory Hayes, 1st Amalgamation, 2018, acrylic on canvas, 60 inch diameter, courtesy Nancy Margolis Gallery NYC

What made you shift from the use of a grid to a fluid movement? Can you talk about the Amalgamation, Ribbon and Reticulum series?

My earlier series of paintings are the most systemic in nature. In my Primary Array paintings a majority of the process is based on a mathematical formula called Ulam’s Rose. It creates the overall pattern you see on the canvas. I also created specific rules to disperse the color throughout the painting on a hand drawn ¼ inch grid that covers the whole surface of the canvas. I did this because I needed justification for my decisions. I needed reasons for my movements, and it felt more comfortable relying on systems. Although, the selection of the colors were always up to me, this was and remains an intuitive process, or as I like to say, a refined intuition—one that has years of experience behind it but still allows feeling to drive it. 

Gregory Hayes, UNTITLED (YGR), ACRYLIC ON CANVAS, 2011, 60 X 60IN | 152 X 152CM

When I shifted to the Color Array series I simplified the systems. In these paintings I used the ¼ inch grid for the compositional structure directly, by dripping paint in a spiral, starting from the center of the canvas moving outward, placing the drips within each cell successively. In these paintings I also started dripping swirling colors of paint instead of using one color at a time. A drip now could have 3 or more colors in it. I felt this brought more probability into the works. The spiraling of the drips and the changing swirling colors creates concentric square patterns with softly shifting hues that seem to make the paintings breath in and out when they are viewed from a distance.  When viewed up close they highlight the complexity that each single drip holds on its own.  

Gregory Hayes / Nancy Margolis Gallery NYC / credits: Alice Zucca

Gregory Hayes, 2ND AMALGAMATION, ACRYLIC ON CANVAS, 2016, 60 X 70IN | 152 X 178CM

As I started making my next series, Amalgamation, I felt I needed to find a way to have more freedom in the placement of the drips. So I decided to extract the grid and use a more intuitive manor of distributing the paint. I began dripping the paint in a motion like a snake swims through water, an “S-like” motion, from one end of the canvas to another trying to fill up the entire surface with ¼ inch drips of swirling color.  I also started to use more colors in each painting. For example, in my Color Array paintings I chose 3 or 4 colors to work with, but in the Amalgamation paintings I use up to 40 colors sometimes, making the color exploration more complex. Each series I create, I am trying to work away from the systemic process, and more toward an intuitive one. 

Gregory Hayes, 2nd Reticulum, acrylic on paper, 2017, 20 x 20in | 50 x 50cm

Gregory Hayes, Detail: 1st Reticulum, acrylic on paper, 2017, 20 x 20in | 50 x 50cm

For the Ribbon paintings and Reticulum works I wanted to find new ways to use paint, and distribute color on the picture plan. Both series involve a similar process of creating small ribbons of acrylic paint, either solid colored or swirled colored, about 12 inches long and ¼ inch wide, that can be picked up and arranged before it is pasted on the surface of a canvas permanently. The Ribbon paintings are fixed onto the surface in a more orderly way, putting more emphases on the color relationships. The Reticulum paintings are more about the weaving of the ribbons in an intuitive way, and about my physical manipulation of the ribbons because I am bending and twisting them. Overall, these paintings reveal to me that even a slight variation in the order of a process can create new pictorial complexity. Ultimately, creating theses newer work has helped teach me to make even better use of my intuition, and depend less on the systemic processes that defined much of my earlier work. By opening up my process in this way, I challenge myself as a painter and hopefully push painting as a whole further. Additionally, I feel the viewer will be able to engage with my paintings on a more emotional, rather than technical, level. 

Gregory Hayes, 1st Ribbons, acrylic on canvas, 2018, 60 x 63in | 152 x 160cm

Color has a fundamental role in your compositions, what is the relationship between the color and the final result and to what extent the choice of colors is based on a chromatic study?

My paintings are mostly about color, and the interaction of color. When choosing the colors for a painting I rely mainly on intuition. However, I have been immersed in my process for over a decade so there is a lot about how I think of color that comes from experience. Another thing I consider is the physical paint properties itself. For example, sometimes different colors have different viscosities when they come out of the tube, and can effect how they interact or flow with other paint as I drip them. This can create different types of swirls and a variety of color patterns unique to certain color combinations. Even the brand of paint can changes things. The different attributes change the outcome of a painting, which I find very exciting. Most of the time I like to explore color combination that I have not tried yet—to see how far I can push them. I often like to choose a set of colors to work with before I start, sometimes 3, sometimes 30; depending on what series I am painting. The end result of my process is a field of resonating colors that can take-up the viewer’s whole vision when the painting is viewed as a whole, or can be a very intimate experience by viewing each dot one-at-a-time. The colors in a painting interact in different ways depending on the colors in each dot and how they gradate into the preceding ones, as well as, what other colors end up surrounding it. I hope for my paintings to provoke emotions through the colors. An important one for me is joy. I get a great sense of joy as I create the works and want that to come through. However, each painting can have a very different feel to it, and can provoke many emotions in the viewer. The will of the artist is not always a fixed experience for the viewer.   

Gregory Hayes, PRIMARY ARRAY #19, ACRYLIC ON CANVAS, 2010, 48 X 48IN | 121 X 121CM

The visual impact of your works as a unity of undertones, and the colors and the patterns which emerge as they blend is able to create a stimulation in the viewer and psychic and emotional response through the impact of geometric shapes and color. Can you tell me more about this aspect? What do you want the viewer to experience while looking at one of your works?

I like how a flower can be so expressive. The variety of intensity and value in a flower’s color, and the complexity of its shape make it seem like each petal is a unique composition, each stem a random happening. Although when you look at it from a different perspective, a majority of the flower’s properties come from a systemic configuration: its patterns, color, and form are built from repetition and regularity. The magic of the flower is the balancing act maintained so well between its systemic and expressive nature. That to me makes looking at a flower an almost endless activity; a single blossom is an abundant display of beauty and mystery. Its shapes and colors constantly reveal the magnitude of details embedded in its mathematically fashioned form, but within the flower’s complexity there is an aura of effortlessness. It is this type of balance I strive to realize in my paintings. I want the colors to allure and captivate, but also to create tension and disarray; the structure to hold symmetry and balance, but also bend and wane organically. I would like the patterns to keep the viewer’s eye moving through the picture plane, or lead to fixating on a complex grouping of colors. However, the paintings are not necessarily about concentration or constant stimulation for the mind, or figuring something out. Rather, they are a place where the eye and mind can come across a sense of joy and stillness, a place where color and structure do not need to be thought about, but felt.

What are your future projects? 

I just got back from spending the spring in Paris where I was working on a new set of Color Array paintings for a show out there. So I plan to use the summer to experiment with new ideas I have with paint and color, and to realize some new drawings. However, I will mainly be working towards my 4th solo show at the Nancy Margolis gallery in NYC opening February 2019. 

Alice Zucca

Sol LeWitt: shaping the space between art and architecture

Sol LeWitt: shaping the space between art and architecture

In 1967 Sol LeWitt (Hartford, 1928 – New York, 2007) publishes his “Paragraphs on Conceptual Art”, in the magazine Artforum, establishing the leadership of the artist’s idea above its execution which could be entrusted to somebody else. The idea is the main instrument which enables the creation of art, its visual feedback instead is secondary, possible but not necessary. This principle was what gave birth to what was later defined as conceptual art, of which Sol LeWitt – as well as other artists such as Carl Andre and Donald Judd – was a pioneer. If the idea becomes the machine that makes art then the artist becomes more like a composer, or like an architect, a figure which suits LeWitt perfectly due to his great focus on space which is present throughout all his works. The artist is somebody who is capable of thinking and designing artefacts that will later be physically produced by somebody else without affecting their qualities and originality. Nobody would say, for example, that one of Beethoven’s piano sonatas belongs – intellectually speaking – to the pianist who’s playing it in a concert and not to Beethoven himself and similarly no one would think a great piece of architecture is just the result of the mere hard work of bricklayers. The same mechanisms needs to be applied to works of art: the concept, the idea is what is necessarily coming from the artist but the production can be, and in many cases should be, executed by external operators at any given time and in any given space.

Sol LeWitt, Floor Structure, 1963

Sol LeWitt, Cubic Construction- Diagonal 4, Opposite Corners 1 and 4 Units 1971

Having said that, one thing needs to be clarified: what is the idea? In LeWitt’s case, as well as in many other minimalists, the idea is what rewrites the coordinates in space, what separates it into its essential components in order to rearrange it in a more analytical way for the audience to experience. This is a concept which is not very different from what distinguished painters of the renaissance who used the perspective as their tool in order to breach the walls and the representation of reality. The same geometrical rigour is also present in LeWitt’s wall drawings which reshape the space in few orthogonal lines skilfully combined with the use of colours.

Installation view of Sol LeWitt’s Wall Drawing #260 at The Museum of Modern Art

Sol LeWitt – Wall Drawing #1136

The wall drawings can also become a way to push the boundaries and to subvert the concept of site specific works turning the space into a dependent variable that changes with the shattering continuity of the Scribbles which scrape and pervade the walls. More visual and spatial continuity is created by geometrical structures such as the Incomplete Open Cube or the Complex Forms which are tridimensional reproductions based on modular geometric drawings, structures which seem to give birth to one another connecting different areas inside the same building.

Sol LeWitt, Wall Drawing #263: A wall divided into 16 equal parts with all one-, two-, three-, four-part combinations of lines in four directions, 1975 / Disegnato la prima volta da Kazuko Miyamoto, Ryo Watanabe, Jo Watanabe, Qui Qui Watanabe, Prima installazione The Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1975, Courtesy Whitney Museum of American Art, New York

But the work which could probably be considered the ultimate manifesto of the artist and that most likely includes and summarises LeWitt’s concepts is Wall Drawing #263, a square drawn onto a wall, composed by sixteen smaller squares which, with its lines going in four different directions, seems to explore every possible geometrical scheme as if it was an universal basis. The notion of letting the executor to reproduce the artist’s original idea, during the years opened many possibilities for curators and enabled them to transform what was originally intended as a wall drawing into something different. In a 2003 exhibition at the Edams Museum for example the scheme was recreated on a window, therefore turning the drawing into a sort of lens capable of measuring the outside world. Even more interesting is the experiment made by the Fondazione Carriero in Milan, the curators (which included archistar Rem Koolhas) decided to reproduce the lines of the drawing on a enormous mirror which visually doubles the space in one of the baroque rooms of the building. The optical illusion is incredibly surprising in its simplicity: LeWitt’s grid becomes a way of measuring the room, its decorations and all the other artworks exhibited in that space and, in the end, even the observer. Sol LeWitt’s idea proves to be a dialogue which is still ongoing even more ten years after his departure, timeless proof that the space, as well as the artwork, is rewritten and re-experienced and remains up to date with the observer in the present.

Valentina Avanzini


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