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Documenting terror

Serbian fashion photographer Jovana Mladenovic is exhibiting her new series Monumental Fear at the LIBRARY in London, as part of the first-ever Balkan art exhibition to be held in the city. Her haunting series explores and documents Second World War monuments in former Yugoslavia. The artist’s aim is to bring to life a period of history forgotten by many of the younger generation.

Interruption, presented by Contemporary Balkan Art, showcases 40 works by Balkan artists including paintings, sculptures, photographs, prints and graphics. It is showing at LIBRARY on St Martin’s Lane until mid-May.

Mladenovic is in conversation at the club on April 25th. The subject of the talk is the artist’s new series and how brutalism and architecture formed a national identity in former Yugoslavia.

Photo: Jovana Mladenovic, Kosmaj Monument (2016).

 

 

 

Reaching the heights: Martin Chambi’s pioneering photos of Andean people

The Peruvian photographer Martin Chambi is not a household name like his famous compatriot, Mario Testino, but his pioneering photographs of indigenous people were ahead of their time.

Martin Chambi transcended his impoverished start in life to become one of the Andean country’s most prized photographers.

Martin Chambi was born in 1891 into a Quechua-speaking peasant family in one of Peru’s poorest regions, Puno. The region, located to the southeast of the country, borders Lake Titicaca.

When his father went to work in a goldmine in Carabaya province, Chambi went with him and it was in this unlikely place that he first experienced photography. He got to know the mine’s resident photographer, who taught him the basics of photography. This early brush with photography planted the seed that would develop into a lifelong passion.

In 1908, Chambi headed to the more cosmopolitan city of Arequipa, where photography was more advanced and sophisticated. He became an apprentice in the studio of another photographer. Nearly a decade later, after a long period of training, he set up his own studio. He started then to publish his own postcards of landscapes, something he pioneered in Peru.

But it was Chambi’s move to Cusco, the ancient city of the Incas located high up in the Andes, that really made his legacy. Chambi relocated his studio to the former Inca capital in 1923 and began photographing not only society figures but also Cusco’s indigenous people.

He also travelled in the region, photographing the ruins of the Incas, locals and Andean landscapes. His pioneering work is now recognized as one of the first major indigenous Latin American contributions to photography. Yet the historic and ethnographic nature of his photographs should not be emphasized at the expense of its artistic worth.

Martin Chambi’s photographs featured in an exhibition at the Museo de Arte de Lima (MALI) earlier this year, called Chambi.

Photo: Celia Chambi playing with children. Cerca 1960. Impresión digital sobre papel. 28 x 28 cm. Archivo Fotográfico Martín Chambi, Cuzco.

 

The everyday through new eyes: Andrés Durán’s Edited Monument series

Chilean photographer Andrés Durán’s recent work has centred on reinterpreting everyday sights in Santiago, his native city. In the series, Cartel House (2001), he documenting hidden locations in the city’s residential outskirts via appropriated billboards. Meanwhile in Viewpoint (2011), he captured inverse perspectives on advertising.

In his latest body of work, Edited Monument (2014), he digitally transforms Santiago’s public sculptures, resulting in images that trick our perceptions. Neglected military figures, politicians and national heroes are seen from a new perspective, with their pedestal inverted and placed over the top of the effigy. In this way, he draws our attention to historically and politically important statues that have long been forgotten about – expect perhaps for the occasional photo by a passing tourist.

Durán was born in 1974 and is currently a professor in the digital image department at Universidad ARCIS in Santiago.

Photo: Prócer de pie, 2014, (S#1, P#2) © Andrés Durán. Courtesy of the artist and Metales Pesados. Santiago.

 

 

Alienation and solitude as beautiful: Safwan Dahoul’s Dream series

Syrian-born Safwan Dahoul explores the physical and psychological effects of alienation and solitude in his figurative paintings. Born in 1961 in Hama, Dahoul’s ongoing Dream series is partially autobiographical.

His work is thought to recreate a subconscious impetus towards drawing inwards that takes place during times of crisis, whether it be in mourning or political conflict. His contorted female protagonist, who is a recurring figure in the series, is freed from any known location. These ambiguous paintings are currently on show at Ayyam Gallery, Dubai, until May 21st, 2016.

Dahoul was initially trained by leading modernists at the University of Damascus before travelling to Belgium, where he earned a doctorate. He later became a prominent member of the Damascus art scene.

Photo: From the Dream series. Safwan Dahoul. 180 x 200 cm. Acrylic on canvas 2015. © Safwan Dahoul. Photo courtesy of Ayyam Gallery, Dubai.

To hell and back: the Brazilian artist making dramatic works

Brazilian-born Tiago Carneiro da Cunha has made a body foray into painting in his latest body of work, Trânsito dos Infernos (Transit through Hell). The artist, who has gained a reputation in the past for his sculptures and video work, has made a body of oil paintings that are the result of four years’ research.

These intense, sensual works evoke dramatic landscapes and characters using a simple, unmixed palette. Though innately recognizable, these scenes are also exotic, fantastical – and in their strangeness, disconcerting.

The artist was born in São Paulo in 1973 and now lives and works in Rio de Janeiro. He started out drawing comics that was published in underground magazines in Sao Paolo, before working as a freelance illustrator for the Folha de S. Paolo newspaper. He later went on to study art at the Parsons School in New York and Goldsmiths College in London.

Tiago Carneiro da Cunha’s paintings are currently on show at Galeria Fortes Vilaca in Sao Paolo. The exhibition Trânsito dos Infernos brings together 20 oil paintings.

Photo: Noite de Terror, 2015, by Tiago Carneiro da Cunha. Photographer: Eduardo Ortega. Courtesy Galeria Fortes Vilaca.

 

Playing with identity in the work of Sawada Tomoko

Sawada Tomoko plays with notions of identity through the traditional medium of self-portraiture. Her OMIAI♡ project sees the artist herself dress up in costumes, wigs and other ingenious disguises – including weight gain – to transform into various characters. The project, which verges on performance, consists of thirty self portraits, aimed at representing a different kind of woman in a playful and coyly subversive way.

The images mimic the traditional form of photography that would be taken during the Japanese custom of omiai, an integral part of an arranged marriage. The images are presented in vintage frames selected by the artist, again mimicking an old tradition – of displays of photographs in the windows of local photo studios in Japan.

Tomoko was born in 1977 and raised in Kobe, Japan. She studied at the Seian University of Art and Design.

Her photographs featured earlier this year in the exhibition The Younger Generation: Contemporary Japanese Photography, which took place at the Getty Center, Los Angeles, and featured the work of five contemporary photographers born in Germany who emerged in the last two decades of the 20th Century.

Photo: OMIAI, 2001. Tomoko Sawada (Japanese, born 1977). Copyright: © Tomoko Sawada. The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Purchased with funds.

 

 

 

 

Not just a fantasy: Hellen van Meene’s uncanny portraits

Dutch-born Hellen van Meene is best known for her portraits of young girls, which pulsate with psychological tension. These elegant images show girls in various stages of adolescence, though the realism in these photographs is threaded with a fantastical element.

The resulting uncanniness is redolent of fairy tales, but also of images from art history, recalling the works of artists like Vermeer, Velasquez and Millais. Characterized by their use of light and their exquisite elegance, they combine classical references with gothic horror, alluded to in these images of solitary, faceless, sometimes headless, girls.

The artist, who works from the outskirts of Amsterdam, is well versed in the traditions of classical painting. She was born in Alkmaar, The Netherlands, in 1972, and now lives and works in Heiloo, The Netherlands.

Untitled, Chromogenic print, 2015, 16 x 16 inches, edition of 10. © Hellen van Meene, Courtesy of the Artist, Yancey Richardson Gallery.

In search of childhood: the ‘double self portraits’ of Chino Otsuka

Chino Otsuka was born in Japan in 1972 but left to study in the UK when she was just ten years old. Her enigmatic photographs are to be located somewhere at the intersection of these two worlds. The photographs in her series Imagine Finding Me, seen here, are what she calls “double self portraits.”

They are inspired by the idea of the artist talking with her younger self. These half-light photos are digitally retouched to seamlessly combine images of herself as a child with those of her as an adult. In this way, she is like a voyager back in time, re-visiting her former self as though in a dream. The resulting images are beautiful and dreamlike.

1976 and 2005, Kamakura, Japan, 2005. Chino Otsuka (Japanese, born 1972). ©Chino Otsuka. Wilson Centre for Photography.

 

 

Ishiuchi Miyako and postwar Japan

The work of Japanese photographer Ishiuchi Miyako lies at a crossroads between the personal and the political, the fictional and the documentary. She has been interested in the subject of postwar Japan, particularly the impact of American occupation and Americanization on her native country, for the past four decades.

Miyako was born in 1947 in Kiryu. She grew up in Yokosuka, where the United States had set up a naval base just a few years before she was born. As a young person, she disliked the prevalence of American culture in the city. In the 1970s, nearly two decades are she first lived there with her family, the artist returned to her hometown armed with a camera, taking photos as a kind of catharis. The Yokosuka Story series of photographs that resulted speak of solitude, desolation, and pain.

In another series, entitled Apartment, Miyako went in search of tumbledown apartment buildings, like the one her family inhabited when she was growing up. For this evocative series, she documented cramped living conditions and derelict buildings in Tokyo.

Ishiuchi Miyako studied textiles at Tama Art University in Tokyo in the 1960s, before later adopting photography as her primary mode of artistic expression. A retrospective of her work was held at the J.Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles earlier this year.

Photo: Ishiuchi Miyako (Japanese, born 1947). Yokosuka Story #58, 1976-1977. © Ishiuchi Miyako.

Painting the inner life of nature: the beguiling work of Hilma af Klint

The elusive Swedish artist Hilma af Klint (1862–1944), the subject of a new exhibition at London’s Serpentine Galleries, is finally bursting into the limelight. The artist, today considered a pioneer of abstract art, was an obscure figure in the art world until very recently.

But this was partly of the artist’s own doing – she herself stipulated that her abstract work should be kept out of the public eye for two decades after she died, out of fear that she would be misunderstood. Indeed, it was not until the mid-1980s that her works were seen publicly.

Moreover, whether through geographical distance or deliberate intent – she had little to do with other artists working at around the same time, and who had similar preoccupations to her. Even though she worked at the same time as well-known abstract artists like Wassily Kandinsky and Piet Mondrian, she worked in isolation from the European avant-garde.

To continue reading this article, please download the latest issue of The Kurios here.

Photo: From The Ten Largest , 1907, by Hilma af Klint and courtesy of Stiftelsen Hilma af Klints Verk and the Serpentine Gallery.

An anthropologist from the future: Kapwani Kiwanga breaks with the ordinary

Canadian-born Kapwani Kiwanga was the Commissioned Artist for this year’s Armory Show in New York. Her on-site installation, The Secretary’s Suite, is an interactive installation that investigates the complexities of gift economies. The artist’s visit to the United Nations’ art collection last year inspired the piece.

The Secretary’s Suite is composed of a single-channel video and a viewing environment inspired by the 1961 office of the United Nations Secretary General. Through the installation, Kiwanga played with concepts of fact and fiction to explore the practice of gift giving found in popular culture, religious ritual, and global relations.

Kiwanga was born 1978 in Hamilton, Ontario and is now based in Paris. Trained as an anthropologist and social scientist, her unconventional artistic practice is characterised by the idea of herself as a ‘researcher’ in her own projects. Her varied practice takes the form of videos, sound and performance.

Research areas that have informed her practice include Afrofuturism, the anti-colonial struggle, collective memory, belief systems, vernacular and popular culture. The artist’s work is characterised by a documentary mode of representation, which she combines with various material sources, and testimonies.

In one of her best-known works, the Afrogalactica trilogy project (2011 – ongoing), she assumes the role of an anthropologist from the future who explores across vast fields of knowledge relating to Afrofuturism, hybrid genders and African astronomy. The Kurios spoke to the artist about her most recent work and her artistic practice in general.

What inspired The Secretary’s Suite?

Usually in my work I do something that is linked to the space I’m invited to work in. I’m interested in doing “field work” on the ground. Also my work isn’t really medium-specific.

When I visited the UN I was really taken by the display of gifts, of artistic gestures made on the part of a country to the UN. That started a kind of snowball effect into larger questions of what it is to give and receive and link us together in ways which are of course sometimes completely altruistic but often are ways in which we almost engage obligation through someone else to create social ties.

Some of your work like the Afrogalactica trilogy is on-going. Is The Secretary’s Suite likely to continue?

 I seem to work in projects so there are things that I like to build upon in chapters, and I researched a lot for this project so there’s the strong possibility that it could continue.

It has been said that belief informs your work. How so?

Belief is something that motivates my work a lot but belief in a larger sense – political, ideological, spiritual and religious as well. This anthropological foundation also is often present – often in methodology, in terms of reading articles and books.

What was your journey to becoming an artist?

I knew that I wasn’t going to be an anthropologist quite quickly before I finished my studies but I was still really interested in the subject.

I moved to the UK and was doing work in television – working in documentaries – because I was interested in it being a more accessible terrain than academia for example, but that felt a bit too constraining for me because there’s a format for television of course, time-wise but also because you have a lot of people involved in the final edits.

So that wasn’t really something that I was comfortable with in terms of the work that I had done and I started looking into different places in which I could express and transmit my ideas, and contemporary art seemed to be the place.

I came to France and I did a postgraduate programme here then I followed on with another postgraduate programme, and it became clear that this is how I like to work.

A lot of your work seems concerned with African themes? Is that because of your African heritage?

Africa and the diaspora come up a lot in my work, simply because I think that it’s an area geographically, historically that is very, very rich and has these resources of things to explore, which I haven’t seen in discussions enough.

African heritage plays into it, but I think it’s more one’s upbringing. I grew up in Canada where it’s a very multicultural society. I was lucky enough to have very close friends who are from Africa but also different parts of Asia so I think it’s also this multicultural mix that influences my work and this idea that there are multiple perspectives – not just one way of doing things.

Photo:  Kapwani Kiwanga photographed for the Armory Show, 2016. Photo courtesy of Brunswick Arts. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Art from elsewhere: Issue 5 out now

In Issue Five of The Kurios, we take you on another journey through art from elsewhere. From contemporary surrealist collage by Belgian artist Sammy Slabbinck to the hallucinatory photographs of Tierra del Fuego tribes by a German pioneer, here are our highlights from this issue:

–We’re in Buenos Aires to see uncensored photos of Mexican icon Frida Kahlo before she was famous, in a captivating show at the newly-opened FoLa.

–Contemporary African art and design is under the spotlight at the Guggenheim Bilbao, as a complex continent emerges from the shadows – we give you the highlights of the show.

–The bewitching photographs of Martin Gusinde are testament to one of Latin America’s lost civilizations, the Selknam, who lived for thousands of years in isolation at the southernmost tip of the world. The Kurios goes to the end of the world to check them out.

–We profile the glistening landscapes and skilled portraits of Australia’s Tom Roberts, which reveal a trail-blazing creativity that helped to define a national consciousness.

–Read our eyewitness account of a daring new exhibition at London’s Tate, which explores the role of artists in the British Empire.

–Check out the work of Belgian artist Sammy Slabbinck who uses vintage photographs to create surreal contemporary collage that is both whimsical and witty.

–Acquaint yourself with the beautifully challenging works of Iranian-born Farhad Ahrarnia interrogate the West’s centuries-long fascination with the East.

The Kurios’ first limited edition, printed magazine is also going to be launched in the next few months…watch this space!

The Arab world writ large: Walid Raad

New York’s MoMA is showing the first comprehensive American survey of the Lebanese-born artist Walid Raad (b. 1967). It features his work in photography, video, sculpture, and performance from the last 25 years.

Raad’s work is informed by his upbringing in Lebanon during the civil war of 1975–91. His work is also preoccupied by the socioeconomic and military policies that have shaped the Middle East in recent years.

Two of Raad’s long-term projects are the main emphasis of the show: The Atlas Group (1989–2004) and Scratching on things I could disavow (2007–ongoing). The Atlas Group is a 15-year project exploring the contemporary history of Lebanon. In it, Raad produced a series of fictionalized photographs, videotapes, notebooks, and lectures that related to real events and research into audio, film, and photographic archives in Lebanon and elsewhere.

In his ongoing work, Scratching on things I could disavow, Raad expands his focus to the wider Middle East. The work examines the recent emergence in the Arab world of new infrastructure for the visual arts, including art fairs, biennials, museums, and galleries. It looks at these alongside the geopolitical, economic, and military conflicts that have defined the region in recent years.

Walid Raad is on at MoMA, New York, until January 31, 2016.

Photo: Walid Raad. Hostage: The Bachar tapes (English version). 2001. Video (color, sound), 16:17 min. The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Gift of the Jerome Foundation in honor of its founder, Jerome Hill, 2003. © 2015 Walid Raad.

 

The originality & elegance of a little-known style icon

Countess Jacqueline de Ribes (b.1929) is not a household name like other style icons such as Audrey Hepburn or Jackie Kennedy. But to those who knew her, the French aristocrat’s style was like no other. A new show at New York’s Met celebrates her originality and elegance, featuring haute couture and ready-to-wear pieces primarily from de Ribes’s personal archive, dating from the late 1950s to the present. Uniquely, the exhibition also features de Ribes’ fancy-dress balls, which she often made herself by cutting up her haute couture gowns to make something fresh, and subtle.

The countess developed an interest in fashion as a child who enjoyed fancy-dress. As an adult, she had no shortage of haute couture designers who wanted to dress her – she would become a muse to many. But de Ribes was not destined to play a passive role. She used what she had learned from her exposure to the haute couturier’s drapers, fitters and cutters to establish her own design business.

From 1982 until the mid-1990s, de Ribes directed the business until she was forced to close it due to health problems. In its heyday, the company attracted a number of famous female clients including Joan Collins, Barbara Walters, Cher, Danielle Steel and several members of the Rothschild family. De Ribes has also produced and directed plays and television programmes, and has supported many humanitarian causes around the world. She was made a Chevalier of the Legion d’honneur in 2010.

Jacqueline de Ribes: The Art of Style is on at the Met, New York, until 21st February 2016.

 

Illusion & spectacle: the video art of Theo Eshetu

London-born Ethiopian artist Theo Eshetu was showing recently at Tiwani Contemporary, his first solo exhibition in the UK. Working exclusively in video art, Eshetu combines the formal components of film with anthropological ideas, as a way of examining the notion of culture itself. He draws on his joint European and African upbringing in his work, combining themes and symbols from his dual inheritance. Eshetu lived in Ethiopia until the age of five.

Eshetu’s acclaimed 2014 work Anima Mundi, an immersive multimedia and video installation, is included in the show. Situated within a mirror box, a flickering globe of moving images “alludes both to the multiplicity of ways to perceive the world and the capacity of video to create illusions,” according the show’s curators. The viewer also becomes part of the installaton as their own image is reflected ad infinitum. The artist may have wanted to represent the idea of life as a spectacle, or could be alluding to the proliferation of images in contemporary life.

Works from The Mirror Ball Constellation (2013) are also featured in the exhibition. Eshetu created the work by placing a disco ball in the Polynesian Boat room at the Ethnological Museum in Berlin. The disco ball reflects photographs showing traditional masks and globes, but the images are partially covered with tiny pieces of mirror. The work could be seen as a comment on the preoccupation with performance and spectacle in the modern world. Eshetu currently lives and works in Berlin.

Photo: Theo Eshetu, The Mirror Ball Constellation (No.1). 2013-2015. 120 x 100cm. Photo courtesy of Tiwani Contemporary.

Image game: Adriana Varejão’s challenging work

In a new series of paintings created for Dallas Contemporary, Brazilian artist Adriana Varejão (b. 1964) explores themes of colonialism and cultural identity. The artist has used her own image as a starting point, then changed her appearance through adding facial markings and altering the tone of her face. In this way, she manipulates her ethnic background and the manner in which her image is interpreted.

Varejão’s rigorous practice is informed by cultural and historical research. For each series of work, she investigates fields such as art history, anthropology, colonial trade, demography, and racial identity. In her early work, she made graphic depictions highlighting what she perceived to be historical inaccuracies and hierarchies of power during Brazil’s colonial period. She would often allude to the subjugation of native people by Portuguese conquistadors and the evangelisation by Catholic missionaries.

Varejão lives and works in Rio de Janeiro. In 2013, she won the Mario Pedrosa Award from the Brazilian Association of Art Critics, which recognizes the Brazilian contemporary artist who most contributed to national culture the previous year. He work has been displayed in museums worldwide.

Adriana Varejão: Kindred Spirits is on until December 20th 2015 at Dallas Contemporary.

Photo: Adriana Varejão. Kindred Spirits. Oil on canvas, 2015. Installation view at Dallas Contemporary, 2015. Photography: Kevin Todora. Courtesy of Dallas Contemporary.

 

Alternative reality: Sara Ramo’s blurred boundaries

Spanish artist Sara Ramo (b.1975) recently presented new works, including videos, photographs and sculptures – at Galeria Fortes Vilaça in Sao Paolo. The works in Os Ajudantes (The Helpers) blur the boundaries between reality and fiction. In one video, twelve masked creatures wander through a dark landscape, playing musical instruments. Under the flickering light of bonfires, their appearance comes and goes, lending the video a mysterious atmosphere. Bereft of any narrative, we are left pondering the reality of these odd creatures, which at times appear familiar and at other times, completely foreign.

In the series Matriz e a Perversão da Forma (Matrix and the Perversion of Form), the artist presents sculptures made of dental stone. Each piece is a mixture of the real – its material is something we recognize – but the shape is unfamiliar. As in the video, we are confronted with fragments of a whole, which has a distancing effect on the viewer.

Sara Ramo was born in 1975 in Madrid, Spain, and currently lives and works between the city of her birth and Belo Horizonte, Brazil. Her work figures in various important collections, including those of MAM in Rio de Janeiro, Instituto Cultural Itaú in São Paulo, and Fundacione Casa di Risparmio di Modena in Italy).

Photo credits: Sara Ramo. Matrizea Perversãoda Forma (Casca Laranja), 2015. Dental stone and pigment. 3 pieces: 73x 50x 75cm/ 27x 76x 63/ 72x 64x 44cm. Photo: Eduardo Ortega. Courtesy Galeria Fortes Vilaça.

Art from elsewhere: issue 4 of The Kurios out now

Issue Four of The Kurios is out now. Here’s a selection of highlights from the latest edition:

Australian printmaker Jessie Traill was as adventurous in her travels as in her art – but her genious is barely known outside of her country.

Chilean photographer Leonora Vicuña’s lyrical images capture nightlife in her native Santiago as well as in Paris and Barcelona.

Tarsila do Amaral revolutionised Brazilian art in the early 20th Century, forging a path for generations of Latin American artists to ‘go native.’

South Africa-born Oliver Kruger documents Johannesburg’s youth culture in his striking series of photographs Golden Youth.

The Kurios pays a rare visit to the former home and studio of Argentine expressionist painter Raquel Forner, in the bohemian heart of Buenos Aires.

The Kurios is available to read on iPhone, iPad and online. Subscribe here or search for The Kurios App in the iTunes store.

 

Documenting youth: Oliver Kruger’s striking photographs

In the striking series of photographs Golden Youth, South Africa-born Oliver Kruger documents Johannesburg’s youth culture. After visiting a street festival with a friend, the artist decided to set up a studio on the sidelines of the event and take portraits of people attending the festival. The result is a series of sensitive yet psychologically probing portraits of his sitters.

On the surface, flamboyant dress gives us a very real sense of the sartorial preoccupations of Johannesburg’s youth culture. But these are not photos from fashion pages, as these intimate shots prize out an intimacy from their sitters, however tough they appear. Kruger was born in Stellenbosch in 1977 and now lives and works in Cape Town.

Oliver Kruger was profiled in the November/December issue of The Kurios.

Photo: From the Golden Youth series, courtesy of Oliver Kruger.

Candid tales

The Black Book of Arabia is a collection of candid tales about women’s lives across the Middle East, written by artist and entrepreneur Sheikha Hend Al Qassemi. These fantastical tales – of women falling in love, preparing to marry, going to university – are less conventional than they seem at first. They are filled with twists and surprises—and a whole gamut of characters from sultans to paupers to sorcerers.

In one story, a princess is betrayed by a friend who literally tries to steal her wedding; in another, a jealous wife lures her husband into falling in love with another woman. These are universal tales that read simply, without literary pretension, as though the stories are being passed down to us by word-of-mouth. Their simplicity however reveals some emotional truths about the meandering paths we take through life.

The Black Book of Arabia is published by Bloomsbury Qatar Foundation Publishing (2015).

 

Revolutionary in Rio

A young girl’s long hair is blown by the wind, while she stares ahead at a small collection of trees. Three heads – human or animal we are not sure — protrude from wellington boots on the pavement. It is hard to describe what it happening in the paintings of Tarsila do Amaral (1886-1973), even though the colours and the shapes are vivid.

Upon first glance, some of these works can resemble France’s Henri Rousseau, the self-taught artist who captured now-famous jungle scenes. In others, she is more like the Belgian surrealist Rene Magritte. But in all her work, she is overwhelmingly Brazilian – with her bold use of colour and indigenous subject matter. Her legacy can be seen in the vivid work of contemporary Brazilian painters like Beatriz Milhazes.

Indeed, Tarsila (as she is known in Brazil) has been described as the Brazilian painter who best achieved a nationalistic modern style in her country. She is also credited with having revolutionised Brazilian art. The much-loved artist is one of a number of female Brazilian artists recently examined in an exhibition at the Museu do Arte do Rio, Tarsila and Modern Women in Rio.

Tarsila began to study painting in 1916. She spent a considerable amount of time in Paris, at that time a mecca for anybody with artistic ambitions. At first, she took classes with the conservative French artist Emile Renard. Later she studied with less traditional French painters, including Fernand Leger. It was not until 1922 that Tarsila began to show an interest in Modernism.

However Tarsila’s time in Paris did not totally convert her to French art. In fact, quite the reverse appeared to happen – though introduced to new concepts of Modernism, the artist began to hanker for a more purely ‘Brazilian’ style of art. She wrote to her family in 1923:

“I feel myself ever more Brazilian. I want to be the painter of my country. How grateful I am for having spent all my childhood on the farm. The memories of these times have become precious for me. I want, in art, to be the little country girl from Sao Bernardo, playing with straw dolls, like in the last picture I am working on…Don’t think that this tendency is viewed negatively here. On the contrary. What they want is that each one brings the contribution of his own country. This explains the success of the Russian ballet, Japanese graphics and black music. Paris has had enough of Parisian art.”(1)

 In the same year Tarsila returned to Brazil and began to make trips to parts of the country that would inspire her art. She visited the historic towns of Minas Gerias, which are inland of Rio. These colonial-style towns, which date back to the 18th Century Gold Rush, are loved for their Baroque-style churches, cobblestone streets and ornate mansions. Tarsila wrote: “I found in Minas the colours I had adored as a child. I was later taught that they are ugly and unsophisticated.” Her experiences of popular culture in Brazil led to a new style of painting: she started to express herself through a mixture of naïve art and Cubism. She had picked up the latter from her French mentor, Leger.

Please continue reading this article in the November/December 2015 issue of The Kurios.

(1) Quoted from Latin American Art of the 20th Century, Edward Lucie-Smith (Thames and Hudson, 1993), p.42.

Photo: Tarsila. Source: O Estado de São Paulo – Seção de Periódicos da Biblioteca Máriode A ndrade (Wikimedia Commons).

 

Constructing modernity

Radical Uruguayan artist Joaquin Torres-Garcia (1874–1949) epitomised individuality in the arts. A key figure in Latin American modernism, his influence nonetheless extended much further than the continent of his birth. A number of North American artists, including Louise Bourgeois and Barnett Newman, felt his idiosyncratic influence.

The artist was born in Montevideo. He left for Barcelona aged 17, where he trained as an artist. In the Catalan capital, he became active in the local artistic movement known as Noucentisme, or “Nineteen-hundreds Style.” The artists and intellectuals that worked within this movement were reacting against what they considered the aesthetic excesses of Modernisme.

Noucentista art was characterized by a return to order. Its artists set out to embody the timeless values of the Mediterranean through their art, as well as revive the classical past. In the decorative arts, the values of Noucentisme were seen in an emphasis on traditional hand-craftsmanship.

As one of the leading members of Noucentisme, Torres-Garcia became a well-known painter during his years in Barcelona. His first major commission was for a series of monumental frescoes for a room in Barcelona’s historic Palau de la Generalitat, in the Ciutat Vella, or Old City. In the frescoes, Garcia featured industrial scenes alongside pastoral, Arcadian scenes of Mediterranean life. They are considered one of the most important manifestations of Catalan Noucentisme.

In one of the last frescoes of the set, Torres-Garcia incited some controversy. In Lo Temporal no es mes que simbol (The temporal is no more than symbol), a faun plays music to a crowd. This seemingly inoffensive scene was harshly criticised at the time by conservative artists and intellectuals for its depiction of a classical figure in a modern style. A scandal ensued, and the political leader of Catalonia, Enric Prat de la Riba, died. In the aftermath of the scandal, Torres-Garcia was dismissed from the commission.

To continue reading this article, please subscribe to the November/December issue of The Kurios. 

Photo: Joaquín Torres García. (Uruguayan, 1874? 1949). Construcción con formas curvas (Construction with curved forms). 1931. Oil and nails on wood. 191/2×161/8×1/2?(49.5x41x1.3cm).The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Given anonymously, 2012. © Sucesión Joaquín Torres-García, Montevideo 2015. Photo credit: Thomas Griesel.

 

Defining a nation

Olya Ivanova photographed some of Russia’s most traditional people for her evocative Village Day II series of photographs. She travelled to the small and remote Vologda region in Northern Russia to carry out the project. The photographer, born in Moscow in 1981, is interested in articulating Russia’s modern-day cultural identity, especially in the country’s remote towns and villages.

Village Day takes place every year in August. Villages all over the country take part, inviting musicians, staging performances and drinking into the night. It is more than just a celebration of Russia’s traditional villages however; it brings together rural life, Soviet rituals and modern pop music, according to Ivanova.

“My research is between photography and visual anthropology. I photograph people at village festivals to articulate Russia’s national identity and understand who we are as a nation. Village festivals are a great time to communicate with people, to find entire families ready to be photographed,” she said.

Ivanova received a BA degree in literature in 1998, before graduating from Moscow’s Institute of Contemporary Art in 2014. She now lives and works in Moscow.

The photographer is featured in the November/December issue of The Kurios, available here.

Photo: From the Village Day II series. Courtesy of Olya Ivanova.

Eggcentricity

The Argentine artist Federico Manuel Peralta Ramos (1939 – 1992) and his famous egg sculpture are examined in a new exhibition at the MALBA, La Era Metabolica (The Metabolic Era). The sculpture, known as Nosotros afuera (Us Outside) and originally made in 1965, has been specially reconstructed for the show.

Peralta Ramos was one of the country’s most eccentric artists. At the vanguard of modern art in Buenos Aires in the 1970s, he has been linked to the Dadaism art movement and is also considered a pioneer of conceptual art in Argentina. He made himself the subject of many of his works.

One of six siblings born in the Argentine coastal city of Mar del Plata, Peralta Ramos would study at the Instituto Di Tella with Marta Minujin, another key figure in Argentine 20th Century art. She would go on to become a pioneer of conceptual and performance art in Argentina, becoming one of the country’s most subversive artists.

Several other Peralta Ramos works are featured in the show including the 1981 work Mi vida es mi mejor obra de arte (My Life is My Best Work of Art) and Mandarina cósmica (Cosmic Tangerine) from the mid-1960s. The work of a number of other artists is also on display, including Petra Cortright, Marcelo Galindo and Eduardo Navarro.

La Era Metabolica is on at the MALBA, Buenos Aires, until 15th February 2015.

Santiago nights: Leonora Vicuña’s lyrical work

Chilean photographer Leonora Vicuña (b.1952) creates timeless, lyrical images that capture nightlife in her native Santiago as well as in Paris and Barcelona. Her photos immortalize these nocturnal scenes, giving us a rich array of bohemian characters, including musicians, waiters, transvestites and vagabonds.

During the dictatorship of General Pinochet in the 1970s and ‘80s, Vicuña spent some years living and working in France. She was one of the founders of the AFI, the first association of professional independent photographers in Chile, which fought for the restoration of democracy in the 1980s.

Vicuña, who is also a Professor of Photography in Santiago, has been employing colour pigments and pencils on the surface of her silver gelatin prints since the late 1970s to bring her images of popular culture to life. In this way, she is able to add a personal touch to the images and recall the atmosphere of the original scene.

The photos are a nostalgic, personal interpretation of everyday activities – playing cards, dancing, having a drink at a tapas bar – that take place in public spaces. They are masterly versions of family photo album snapshots, with the energy, dynamism and spontaneity of the original scenario intact.

As well as photography, Vicuña has experimented with poetry, animation and cinema. She is a member of the artist collective known as Grupo 8. The daughter of two writers, she studied social sciences in the University of Sorbonne in Paris, then photography at the Escuela de Foto Arte de Chile in Santiago.

Vicuña’s work has been exhibited internationally since 1980 and is included in public and private collections around the world. She has been the recipient of various awards and grants including the Fondart Grant from the Republic of Chile, twice in 2001 and 2006, and The Altazor Award of the National Arts, Chile, in 2010.

Vicuña is profiled in the November/December 2015 issue of The Kurios. Get your digital issue here.

Radical leanings

Cultural production in Eastern Europe and Latin America in the 1960s and 1970s shared certain characteristics, namely radical experimentation and a dissemination of ideas. There was also a marked scepticism towards authority, including artistic authorities and hierarchies. As such, there was an emphasis on creative production outside of the market. The parallels between cultural production in these geographically distant regions are explored in a new exhibition at New York’s MoMA.

At that time, anti-art magazines circulated and radical artists operated in underground collectives that were outside of the cultural mainstream. There was a proliferation in process-directed exercises, games, gatherings, walks, alternative music, and concrete poetry. Anti-art groups sprung up, like Gorgona in Yugoslavia, Aktual in Czechoslovakia, and El techo della ballena (The Roof of the Whale) in Venezuela.

A community of avant-garde artists operating in Argentina in that period is explored in some depth. The artists Oscar Bony, David Lamelas, Lea Lublin and Marta Minujín – who were all associated with the influential Instituto Torcuato Di Tella – confronted mass media communication. These politically-engaged artists emerged from a period of repression under the regime of General Juan Carlos Onganía.

Post-1968, a year which saw student uprisings across Europe, a new generation of politically-engaged artists emerged in both regions, where the emphasis now switched to video art and performance. Croatia’s Sanja Iveković, Cuba’s Ana Mendieta and Serbia’s Marina Abramović are among the artists from this period to feature in the exhibition. In the 1970s, artists turned more to displaying their work in public spaces, as seen in the work of Bosnia’s Braco Dimitrijević, whose work Casual Passersby I Met At consisted of oversized photographic portraits of anonymous people that he displayed on billboards around the city of Zagreb.

Photo: Oscar Bony. La Familia Obrera (The Working Class Family). 1968. Gelatin silver print. The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Latin American and Caribbean Fund.

September/October new issue of The Kurios hits your screens

The September/October issue of The Kurios is out now, with lots of beautiful photos and fascinating content. Here are our highlights…

Soviet sensuality: Nikolai Bakharev’s intimate photos of holidaymakers

One man’s daring: Polesello’s experiment with Latin American art

Colourful days down under: sublime hand-coloured photos from 70s Australia 

A city in transition: Horacio Coppola captured Buenos Aires in its heyday 

Forgotten corners of Azerbaijan: Aida Mahmudova’s nostalgic paintings

Lest we forget: a century of West African portrait photography

The new issue is available to read as an app for your phone and iPad, or as desktop edition. Get your copy here.

A vibrant city in motion: Horacio Coppola’s Buenos Aires

Argentine Modernism is under the spotlight in a new retrospective at New York’s MoMa focusing on the works of Horacio Coppola and Grete Stern. Coppola, an Argentine of Italian descent, and Stern, a German Jew, met at the Bauhaus, the experimental German art school, in the 1930s.

With the rise of the Nazi regime and the subsequent closure of the Bauhaus, they moved to Buenos Aires in 1936, via London, where they got married. With the knowledge and training they had received in Germany, they soon established themselves as pioneers of Modernism in Argentina, combining a sharp eye for abstraction and design with local themes and subject matters.

One obvious approach to examining their work has been to consider the axis of influence between Germany and Argentina. However, another interesting and novel comparison is between Buenos Aires and Paris, as the Argentine capital has often been considered ‘the Paris of South America’. In a post-colonial context, such a claim is deceptive. It implies that Buenos Aires is simply an imitation of the Parisian capital, with its leafy boulevards and café culture, and that it lacks its own character.

This claim can be challenged through an in-depth analysis of Horacio Coppola’s street photography, which is celebrated as the first modern portrait of the Argentine capital. By comparing it to Eugène Atget’s photographic portrayal of Paris, we can reveal and start to appreciate the particularities of Coppola’s art, as well as the specific character of the porteño experience itself.

Eugène Atget’s project had no artistic pretensions of its own. His shots of Paris were intended as archival and support material for artists. Whilst other photographers of the late 19th Century also photographed Paris, Atget was the first to capture the French capital by portraying its insignificant streets, the less important details of the city’s architecture and its invisible inhabitants such as rag-pickers.

It was not until after the photographer’s death that the Surrealists discovered and appropriated his work precisely because his approach created uncanny and nostalgic illustrations of an everyday existence that had long since disappeared. Carry on reading about the photographer, and see more images of his work, in the latest issue of The Kurios.

Words by Emilie Janvrin

Photo: Horacio Coppola. Calle Florida. 1936. Gelatin silver print, 5 11/16 x 7 5/16?(14.5 x 18.5 cm). Collection Léticia and Stanislas Poniatowski © 2015 Estate of Horacio Coppola

Conflict remembered: Jo Ractliffe’s photos of Angola and South Africa

African photography is under the spotlight at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, with a moving exhibition of work produced in the last decade by the South African photographer Jo Ractliffe.

South African photographer Jo Ractliffe (born 1961) explores the themes of conflict, history, memory and displacement with her camera. She has described her work as an attempt to “retrieve a place for memory.”

Ractliffe was born in 1961 in Cape Town and currently lives in Johannesburg. She completed her BAFA and MFA degrees at the University of Cape Town.

Three recent series of photographs are featured in this show, focusing on recent conflict in her native South Africa and neighbouring Angola.

Her earliest series Terreno Ocupado (2007–8) was produced around five years after the end of the Angolan Civil War (1975-2002), during Ractliffe’s first visit to the capital, Luanda. Her images of shantytowns speak of struggle and land occupation, highlighting the vulnerability of the city’s infrastructure post civil war.

Her photographs highlight the imprint that the Portuguese colonial occupation of Angola had on Luanda. She also explores the poor economic conditions of the city today. Carry on reading about the photographer, and see more images of her work, in the latest issue of The Kurios.

Photo: Jo Ractliffe. Woman and her baby, Roque Santeiro market, 2007. From the series Terreno Ocupado. Inkjet print, 2015. On loan from the artist, courtesy Stevenson, Cape Town and Johannesburg. © Jo Ractliffe. Courtesy of Stevenson, Cape Town and Johannesburg

Rogelio Polesello: the Argentine ‘industrial artisan’

The bright colours and bold shapes of Argentine artist Rogelio Polesello fast-forwarded Latin American art into the 20th Century. A year after his death, he is remembered in a comprehensive retrospective at the MALBA in Buenos Aires.

Possessing a basic knowledge about the career of Argentine artist, Rogelio Polesello, already tells us a great deal about this artist’s work. Born in Buenos Aires in 1939, Polesello spent his formative years working as a graphic designer in the advertising industry. The art that he would later develop bears a strong resemblance to the forms of commercial advertising he would have been working on day-to-day.

His experience of commercial work is also evident in his openness to interdisciplinary creative work, pushing the boundaries of what is traditionally considered ‘art.’ His work at times verges on architectural form and design, as well as public art interventions.

Polesello graduated in 1958 from the Prilidiano Pueyrredón Fine Art School. A year later, he would have his first solo exhibition at the Peuser Gallery. He began to experiment with optic art, taking geometric paintings composed along Constructivist lines as his point of departure.

In his later work, the optical component of his work becomes stronger. In the most challenging of these, the optical effects overwhelm and break the image up to the point where it is barely recognisable.

Carry on reading about Rogelio Polesello, and see more images of his work, in the latest issue of The Kurios.

Photo: Rogelio Polesello. Wing. 1966 Colección MNBA. Photo courtesy of MALBA.

Reinventing the Renaissance: South Africa’s Wim Botha

South African artist Wim Botha’s expressive new series of sketches, More’s the pity, depict Michelangelo’s iconic Renaissance statue, Pietà. These 119 sketches, in oil on canvas and ink on paper, are based on a mirror image of the classic frontal view of the famous marble statue, which is found in St Peter’s Basilica, Vatican City.

Botha experiments with colour and line through the repetition of the same modified image, which is seen as abstract in some instances, and figurative in others. In this way, these works disrupt the historical and conceptual meanings of the original piece, and revitalize the work in a contemporary way.

Carry on reading about Wim Botha, and see more images of his work, in the latest issue of The Kurios.

Photo: Wim Botha. More’s the pity (series of 119 sketches). Photo courtesy of Stevenson Gallery.

Domestic friction: Mexican artist Pia Camil’s ‘homely’ Modernism

Mexican artist Pia Camil draws inspiration for her objects, seen in the following pages, from contemporary consumerism, incorporating signs and objects from everyday life. The artist, born in Mexico City in 1980, also reclaims abandoned structures from highways, driven by her belief in the failure of capitalism.

Her wide-ranging practice, which takes in hand dyed wall hangings, ponchos and ceramic vases, often ends with the presentation of multiple objects in the same room. She also undertakes live performances that experiment with notions of domestic space.

Her work appears to create a friction between domestic comfort – indicated by the ‘homely’ crafted feel of many of her ceramics and textiles – and a more hard-edged Modernism. Carry on reading about Pia Camil, and see more images of her work, in the latest issue of The Kurios.

Photo: installation view: Pia Camil. Pangaea II. Image courtesy of the Saatchi Gallery, London (c) Justin Piperger, 2015

The Belgian engineer who captured the lives of Chile’s remote Mapuche

The Belgian engineer Gustave Verniory (1865-1949) arrived in Chile at the end of the 19th Century to build a railway in the remote region of Araucanía, in the mid-south of the country. The region, occupied by indigeneous Mapuche tribes, had not become part of Chile until the 1880s.

Verniory came to know a group of Mapuche people, and he began to photograph them, in their everyday attire. He also captured images of the railway’s construction and other viaducts and bridges that had been built as the Chilean government drove modernization of Chile’s remoter regions. His photos document an interesting time in the history of the province when industrialization was rapidly changing the lives of the Mapuche.

The government had occupied Araucania in the 1880s to end the resistance of Mapuche tribes. Subsequently European and Chileans settled in the area, with the population of Araucania growing considerably in the early 20th Century. A region of mountains and lakes and fertile agricultural land, it came to be known as the “granary of Chile.”

Around one third of Araucanía’s population is still ethnically Mapuche, and it remains one of Chile’s poorest regions. It is at the centre of ongoing Mapuche disputes with the government based on land claims.

Gustave Verniory: photographs of the construction of a railway in Mapuche territory is on at the Museo de la Memoria y los Derechos Humanos, Santiago, until 27th September 2015.

Photo: Gustave Verniory. Le premier phonographe en Araucanie. Courtesy Museo de la Memoria y los Derechos Humanos.

Bringing abstraction to India: Nasreen Mohamedi

Nasreen Mohamedi (1937-1990) distanced herself from traditional Indian art practices in the early 20th Century, going on to become one of the first Indian abstract artists. Her non-figurative works were highly unusual at a time when Indian art schools were dominated by academic realism and an anthropomorphous aesthetic left over from the colonial period.

Mohamedi’s art is now the subject of a retrospective at Madrid’s Reina Sofia that explores the intersections between the artist’s life and work. The exhibition features drawings, paintings, photographs and collages and focuses on the artist’s production from the 1970s.

The artist’s career was defined by “the rigours of self-discipline and self-control,” the curators said. Her art leads us towards a “personal vision articulated around a frugal aesthetic and the use of simple mediums, where the mathematical, the metaphysical, the mystical were adopted in her search for a subjective and immaterial world,” they added.

Nasreen Mohamedi, Waiting is a part of intense living, is on at the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, Madrid, until 11th January 2016.

Photo: Nasreen Mohamedi, Untitled (1977). Courtesy of Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia.

The artist as an agent for change: Russia’s El Lizzitsky

Russian artist El Lizzitsky (1890 – 1941) is being shown for the first time in Ireland at the Irish Museum of Modern Art, alongside the works of a number of Irish artists. One of the most important figures of the Russian avant-garde, El Lizzitsky’s life and career were founded on the belief that an artist could be an agent for change.

Born to Lithuanian Jewish parents, he started out illustrating Yiddish children’s books to promote Jewish culture in Russia. He later designed various exhibition displays and propagandist works for the Soviet Union, alongside his mentor Kazimir Malevich. El Lizzitsky also helped Malevich to develop Suprematism, and he was in charge of a suprematist art group known as UNOVIS. Interestingly however, El Lizzitsky developed a suprematist creed of his own, known as Proun.

El Lissitzky: The Artist and the State is on at the Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin, until 18th October, 2015.

Photo: El Lissitzky. Proun. Street Celebration Design, 1921. Courtesy of Irish Museum of Modern Art.

 

 

Searching for the ideal: contemporary Asian art

After Utopia: Revisiting the Ideal in Asian Contemporary Art at the Singapore Art Museum explores the idea of utopia, a term originally coined by the writer Thomas More in the 16th Century to describe a fictional island in the Atlantic Ocean. From the Greek works for “good place” and “no place” the word refers to a place that possesses near perfect qualities.

The exhibition is centred around four approaches to the idea of utopia. “Other Edens” explores how gardens are used as a symbol of the ordinary paradise to which we want to return, while “The City and its Discontents” locates our search for paradise in the contemporary worlds we inhabit. “Legacies Left” examines the ideologies that have left their mark on societies around the world in the last century. Meanwhile the final section “The Way Within” eschews grand narratives, locating the search for a utopia within the self.

The image of a garden representing a utopia is seen in Geraldine Javier’s Ella Amo’ Apasionadamente y Fue Correspondida (For She Loved Fiercely, and She is Well-Loved). Javier, who was born in the Philippines in 1970, uses the image of a woman in a garden as a powerful metaphor for beauty and fertility.

This work explicitly references the Mexican artist Frida Kahlo, renowned for her self-portraits, but also refers more obliquely to Eve, the first woman in the Garden of Eden.

The painting, which features framed insets of embroidery with preserved butterflies, also refers to death in the hanging foliage and other symbols. The work references Dutch vanitas painting of the 17th Century, a popular genre of still-life painting that would symbolise death and the transience of earthly pleasures through painted collections of objects.

Among the other works in the exhibition, Sitting by Thai artist Kamin Lertchaiprasert comprises 366 carved figurines, each in a meditative sitting position, referencing the number of days in a leap year. The figurines “poetically mark the passage of time, and serve as embodiments of mindful perseverance and the importance of keeping at this practice, day after day,” the curators said. “This meditative repetition encourages a certain stillness and looking within oneself, thereby giving rise to self-awareness and peace as one is reconciled with the world,”according to the curators.

After Utopia: Revisiting the Ideal in Asian Contemporary Art is on until 18th October at Singapore Art Museum.

Photo: Geraldine Javier. Ella Amo’ Apasionademente y Fue Correspondida (For She Loved Fiercely). Singapore Art Museum Collection.

 

The iconic Iranian arts festival that was ended by the revolution

For a decade between 1967 and 1977, the Festival of Arts was held among the ancient ruins of Persepolis and Shiraz, two ancient Persian cities. The festival, which was always held in the summer, was brought to an end by the Iranian revolution of 1978 out of fear for the safety of its performers.

It is now the subject of a new exhibition at the Whitechapel Gallery in London, which has brought together original theatre posters, programmes and archive film and photographs from the festival.

In its heyday, it was an eclectic melting pot of music, theatre and performance hailing from both East and West. A number of iconic performers took to the stage, including Indian sitar player Ravi Shankar – who famously inspired the Beatles, and the American composer John Cage.

As well as music, avant-garde experiments in other art forms were prominent. American dancer and choreographer Merce Cunningham’s dance troupe performed calisthenics – synchronized physical training — among the ruins. A play by English poet Ted Hughes and Iranian author Mahin Tajadod, Orghast, was also staged.

Iran’s music traditions were also well represented with Hassan Kassai, Jalil Shahnaz and Ahmad Ebadi among the performers, all considered maestros of Persian classical music. A host of other non-Western music was also represented, from as far afield as China, South Korea, Nepal and Vietnam, among others.

A Utopian Stage: Festival of Arts Shiraz-Persepolis is on until October 4 at the Whitechapel Gallery, London. http://www.whitechapelgallery.org

Photo: Mantra, Karlheinz Stockhausen (composer), piece for 2 pianists, Alfons & Aloys Kontarsky, Stockhausen Panorama, Saray-e Moshir, 1972. Courtesy of Stockhausen Foundation for Music, Kurten.

Forgotten corners: Aida Mahmudova’s tender paintings of Azerbaijan

Aida Mahmudova’s tender paintings address memory and nostalgia. The Azeri artist, born in Baku in 1982, draws her inspiration from the landscape and architecture of her native Azerbaijan.

She works across installation, sculpture and painting to capture forgotten corners of a country that is fast developing and is in danger of forgetting its past. Her work also deals with the friction between reality and fiction, and the impermanence of identity. Her sense of ephemerality can be gleaned from the gentle layering of these works.

As well as being an artist, Mahmudova — a niece of the president of Azerbaijan –is an important figure in Azerbaijan’s small but growing arts scene.

To continue reading, please subscribe to the September/October 2015 issue here, or by searching for The Kurios App on your mobile device. 

Photo credit: Aida Mahmudova. The neighbours. 2015. Mixed media on canvas. Courtesy Leila Heller Gallery.

 

An eclectic life: Brion Gysin’s North African odyssey

The unconventional British artist Brion Gysin (1916-1986), whose work was heavily influenced by North Africa’s Sahara Desert, is the subject of an intriguing solo exhibition at London’s October Gallery, called Unseen Collaborator.

The Africa-focused gallery has had a long relationship with Gysin, being the first to show the artist’s work in the UK in 1981. This new exhibition brings together a number of previously unseen paintings, from Marrakesh crowd scenes to calligraphy and grid works and architectural photographs.

It also shows us Gysin’s work in other fields, including collaborations with writers and musicians like the jazz maestro Steve Lacy; and a rarely-shown film of the artist by Francoise Janicot, Brion’s Devils. The work on display spans three decades, from the 1950s to the mid-1980s.

Gysin had his first retrospective in the United States in 2010, but is little-known in his home country, perhaps due to the fact that he spent most of his life abroad.

Influenced by cultural practices in New York, London, Paris and Tangier, Gysin produced thoroughly eclectic work and was once described by the writer William S. Burroughs as the “only man I truly respect.” The two artists collaborated frequently, in both writing and painting, giving their creative collaboration the nickname ‘Third Mind.’

Gysin and Burrough’s radical experimentation has influenced iconic cultural figures from David Bowie to Patti Smith to Keith Haring. Underground movements including the Beat Generation also came under their sphere of influence.

To continue reading, please subscribe to the September/October 2015 issue of The Kurios here, or by searching for The Kurios App on your mobile device. 

Unseen Collaborator is on at October Gallery, London, until 3rd October 2015.

Photo credit: Brion Gysin, Night in Marrakesh, 1968, work on paper 19  x 22 cm. Photo: Jonathan Greet, courtesy October Gallery, London.

The intimacy of colour: Australian hand-coloured photos from the 70s

The 1970s saw a revival in hand-coloured photography in Australia, and the technique remains a significant aspect of the practice of many artists today. The hand-colouring of photographs enables an artist to personalize and individualize a print , as well as imbue it with warmth and intimacy.

Australian artists like Ruth Maddison, Miriam Stannage, Micky Allan and Robyn Stacey revived the technique of hand-colouring photographs. They were recently on show at the National Gallery of Australia in Sydney, as part of the Colour my world: hand-coloured Australian photography exhibition.

The hand-colouring of images goes back a long way in the history of photography. In the mid-19th Century, when photography was still a nascent art form, artists applied paint, dye or other media to black and white images. Hand-colouring would be used either to add aesthetic or economic value to an image, or to correct a photographic mistake. In the early 20th Century the practice declined as modernist artists sought greater technical purity.

To continue reading, please subscribe to the September/October 2015 issue here, or by searching for The Kurios App on your mobile device. 

Photo credit: Ruth Maddison. Christmas holiday with Bob’s family, Mermaid Beach, Queensland 1977/78. National Gallery of Australia, Canberra. Purchased 1988.

 

 

Sensual in the Soviet Union: Nikolai Bakharev’s stunning photos of bathers

Russian photographer Nikolai Bakharev originally trained as a mechanic before working as a Communal Services Factory photographer in the 1960s. His arresting photographs of bathers were taken during the 1980s and 1990s when photographing nudity was strictly prohibited in the Soviet Union.

In this way, these images of bathers on public beaches in Russia blur the boundaries between the public and private, and create a tension between public posing and private activity. From under a conservative exterior, a furtive eroticism emerges.

To continue reading this article, please subscribe to the September/October 2015 issue here, or by searching for the Kurios App on your mobile device.

Photo credit: Nikolai Bakharev, No .14, from the series Relation, 1980. Gelatin Silver print ©MAMM, Moscow / Nikolai Bakharev Collection of the Moscow House of Photography Museum.

Clouds talking: Yo-Yo-Gonthier and the erasure of memory

The group show Presences, at the Ivory Coast’s Galerie Cécile Fakhoury, brings together the work of four artists: Nestor Da, François-Xavier Gbré, Yo-Yo-Gonthier and Cheikh Ndiaye. The gallery has been turned into a shared studio space for the exhibition.

Yo-Yo Gonthier’s work (seen in the photo above) is inspired by exploration, conquest, discovery and voyage, both of the physical and fantastical kind.

Through film, drawing, printing, photography and performance, the artist “invites the viewer to a historic reading of universal forms and subjects,” the curators said. “Yo-Yo Gonthier is a composer – of lines, of meaning, of sounds. The materiality of his work is the result,” they added.

Yo-Yo Gonthier was born in Niamey, Niger, in 1974. The artist now lives and works in Paris. His work deals with the erasure of memory in the Western World through its preoccupation with speed, technology and progress.

To continue reading this article, please subscribe to the September/October 2015 issue here, or by searching for The Kurios App on your mobile device.

Presences in on at Galerie Cécile Fakhoury, Abidjan, until 26th September 2015. http://cecilefakhoury.com

Photo credit: ”Nous souffrons de cette capture désirée’.’Série ”Le nuage qui parlait”, photographie argentique. © Yo-Yo Gonthier 2013

Capturing West Africa’s elite: the photography of a different era

A new exhibition at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, In and Out of the Studio: Photographic Portraits from West Africa, presents over a century of portrait photography in West Africa. Many of these works, which were taken between the 1870s and the 1970s, are being displayed for the first time. There’s a broad selection of images on show, including postcards and original negatives as well as conventional photographs.

The choice of photographers is similarly broad, taking in both amateur and professional photographers who captured life in Senegal, Mali, Gabon and Cameroon, among others. What is interesting about these photographs is that they present us with an image of Africa that is seldom recognized – it is often presumed that photographs of Africa from earlier eras were taken by foreign photographers.

West Africa, where photography arrived in the 1840s, became a booming photography centre on its own terms. In other words, photographic production was not controlled just by foreigners – rather it was adapted by locals to their own traditions and aesthetic preferences.

European and African-American photographers were nonetheless still part of the mix – with photographers from diverse backgrounds establishing studios down the Atlantic coast to cater to a rich local clientele.

“By the 1920s, significant West African urban centers had a deeply rooted photographic culture: photography had dramatically impacted notions of personhood as well as the ways in which those notions were expressed,” the Met said.

“From the 1950s to the 1970s, during the transition from the colonial to independence era, photography became a lucrative and flourishing business beyond the main urban centers,” it added.

West Africa’s lucrative photography business was sustained by a burgeoning middle class, whose tastes were formed by culture that came from far and wide –India, the United States and Europe as well as Africa.

Some of the photographers featured are well-known, others less so. Self-taught Seydou Keïta, born in Bamako in 1921, is remembered for his highly artistic photographs of Malian people between the 1940s and 1960s.

To continue reading this article, please subscribe to the current issue of The Kurios here or by searching for The Kurios App on your mobile device.

Photo credit: Seydou Keïta (Malian, 1921/23 – 2001) Reclining Woman, 1950s-1960s Gelatin silver print, 1975. 5 x 7 in (13 x 19 cm) Gift of Susan Mullin Vogel, 2015 ©Keïta/SKPEAC.

Deccan opulence

An exhibition at New York’s Met brings together some two hundred works of art from the opulent Deccan courts of India.

The Deccan sultanates were five dynasties of Afghan, Turk, Mongol and various other ethnic backgrounds that ruled kingdoms in the south-west of India during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.

Featuring paintings in a lyrical poetic style, vivid textiles and intricate metalwork, these works are the result of a unique melting pot of cultural influence in the sultan’s courts.

The splendour of these courts, which were built on the wealth of the diamond-rich regions of the south-west, attracted artists, writers and traders from Europe, Africa and the Middle East. Their influences combined to produce artwork of compelling beauty and lyrical charm.

Sultans of Deccan India 1500-1700: Opulence and Fantasy is on at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, until July 26th 2015.

Image: Attributed the Bombay painter (probably named Abdul Hamid Naqqash). Sultan ‘Ali ‘Adil Shah II Shooting an Arrow at a Tiger (detail). Bijapur, ca. 1660. Ink, opaque watercolor, gold and probably lapis lazuli pigment on paper. The Ashmolean Museum, Oxford. Lent by Howard Hodgkin.

Double take

The pioneering Argentine photographer and filmmaker Horacio Coppola (1906-2012) was a key Modernist figure. He was one of ten siblings born to Italian immigrants in Buenos Aires at a time when photography was only an emerging art form. He travelled to Europe in the 1920s and 1930s, where his early experiments with photography began to take on a Surrealist edge.

Coppola is the subject of a new retrospective at New York’s MOMA, alongside his wife German-born Grete Stern, also an artist.

Coppola enjoyed walking the streets of London, waiting for moments of Surrealist uncanniness to appear. In this photo, taken in London in 1934, clothes and shoes for sale outside a shop swing in the wind, giving the strange sensation that they are being worn.

In another photo in the exhibition, also taken in London in 1934, he photographed a display of various antiques at a flea market in the city, including the reflections of passers-by in the mirrors. Viewed more closely, the reflection of a sculptural bust can be seen in the mirror too, alongside the reflection of a real person, adding to the strangeness of this scene. Coppola liked to explore a number of Surrealist techniques in his London photos, including doubling, chance happenings and surrogates.

From Bauhaus to Buenos Aires: Grete Stern and Horacio Coppola is on at MOMA, New York, until October 4th 2015. For more about exhibitions worldwide, read the latest issue of The Kurios Magazine.

Photo: Horacio Coppola. London. 1934. Gelatin silver print. 5 11/16 x 7 3/8″ (14.5 x 18.7 cm). Committee on Photography Fund. © 2015 Estate of Horacio Coppola

Violence meets art

Colombian artist Doris Salcedo (b. 1958) is the subject of a new retrospective at New York’s Guggenheim Museum. Over the past three decades, Salcedo’s sculptures and installations have addressed the often-violent history of modern-day Colombia. Her work also addresses other forms of social injustice, some of which are the result of colonialism and racism.

The exhibition, displayed over four floors, features the artist’s most important series, made between the late 1980s and today. It also includes a video documenting her site-specific public projects and architectural interventions. Check out the latest issue of The Kurios for more exhibitions news from around the world.

Doris Salcedo is on until October 12th 2015 at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York.

Photo: Doris Salcedo, Plegaria Muda (detail), 2008–10. Wood, concrete, earth, and grass in 122 parts, dimensions variable. Courtesy Alexander and Bonin, New York.

A History, in objects

Captain James Cook landed on the east coast of Australia in 1770. The landmass he alighted on was larger than the continent of Europe. For the next more than one hundred years, the British would rule the land as a series of colonies, which would eventually join together to become modern-day Australia in 1901. But the country’s history goes back much further than Great Britain’s involvement.

People are believed to have lived in Australia for between around 40,000–60,000 years. The first people to arrive were the Australian Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders. They came by boat from nearby islands that are now known as Indonesia.

Each Aboriginal group settled in a different area of the country and had its own languages, laws and traditions. They lived in diverse environments ranging from lush rainforest and desert-like landscapes to inland rivers, islands and seas.

They lived off fishing and hunting, and invented tools like the boomerang. However they never farmed. Their religion is known as the Dreaming, and art and music was important to them.

The cultural habits of Australian Aborigines are examined in a new show at the British Museum, The BP exhibition Indigenous Australia: enduring civilisation. It is the first major exhibition in the UK to present a history of Indigenous Australia through objects, and includes artwork made up to the present day.

The first section of the exhibition includes many objects from the Torres Strait Islands. These small islands lie in the Torres Strait, the waterway separating Australia’s Cape York Peninsula in the far north with the island of New Guinea.

The indigenous people from the islands, Torres Strait Islanders, are normally referred to separately to the rest of Australian Aboriginals. Culturally and genetically, they are part of the Melanesian people, along with the people of Papua New Guinea.

Two spectacular masks in the exhibition come from the Torres Strait Islands. These turtle-shell masks would have been used in ceremonies before the arrival of Christian missionaries. The most stunning of the two masks features goa nut, cassowary feather, shell, as well as turtle shell, and is shaped into a human face and a bonito fish. Please continue reading this article in the  July/August issue of The Kurios.

The BP exhibition Indigenous Australia: enduring civilisation is on at The British Museum, London, until 2nd August 2015.

Photo: Kungkarangkalpa; Kunmanara Hogan, TjaruwaWoods, Yarangka Thomas, Estelle Hogan, Ngalpingka Simms and Myrtle Pennington (2013) © The artists, courtesy Spinifex Arts Project.

Revolutionary in Brazil

Tarsila and Modern Women in Rio at the Museu de Arte do Rio pays tribute to a number of female Brazilian artists, who worked between the end of the 19th century and the end of the Second World War. The women featured were all selected for the revolutionary work they did, albeit in very different areas of creative production.

Tarsila do Amaral (1886–1973), known simply as Tarsila, is the central figure of the exhibition. Considered to be one of the leading Latin American modernist artists, she was a member of the notorious Grupo dos Cinco (Group of Five), perhaps the biggest influence on modern art in Brazil.

She is also credited with having inspired Oswald de Andrade’s famous essay Manifesto Antropófago (Cannibal Manifesto), a key Brazilian cultural text which argued that the country’s history of of “cannibalizing” other cultures is its greatest strength.

Tarsila and Modern Women in Rio is on at the Museu de Arte do Rio until 20th September 2015.

Photo: Tarsila do Amaral, O Lago (The Lake) (1928). Courtesy of Museu de Arte do Rio.

History of violence

A dynamic new exhibition at the Museo de Arte Latinoamericano de Buenos Aires (MALBA)  brings together the work of several international artists whose work has strong social and political themes.

Featuring the works of Brazil’s Jonathas de Andrade, Argentina’s Leon Ferrari and Lebanon’s Walid Raad, the show includes works dealing with the conquest of Brazil by the Portuguese, the military coup in Chile, the civil war in Lebanon and the Tiananmen Square Massacre in China.

Photo: Liu Wei, Unforgettable Memory (2009). Courtesy of MALBA.

Memorias Imborrables (Indelible memories) is on at MALBA until 20th August 2015.

Dream or reality?

Zimbabwean-born Virginia Chihota makes highly introspective work that occupies a place between dream and reality. The quietly striking works showcased in the following pages are from her series munzwa munyama yangu (A Thorn in my Flesh).

Her expressive paintings result from a mixture of screen-printing and ink on paper, and the artist has said she finds inspiration in solitude. Chihota moved to Triploli, Libya, in 2012 and has spoken of how the culturally isolated experience of living in a foreign culture has fuelled her work.

Continue reading about Virginia Chihota in the July/August issue of The Kurios. 

Photo: Virginia Chihota, The Root of the Flower we do not Know, screenprint on paper, 2014. Courtesy of Tiwani Contemporary.