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Posters by Willem Sandberg and Wim Crouwel…part 1

Last month i was able to acquire a small collection of Stedelijk Museum posters by Willem Sandberg and Wim Crouwel and because of my large collection of Stedelijk Museum material and the historical importance of these publications, i have decided to devote some of the blogs to the relation between the posters and the catalogues published with the exhibitions listed on the poster.

To start…. this very nice Sandberg designed poster he made for the Hunziker /van der Gaag exhibition. January ? Feruary 1962.

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Both female artists and both belonging to the COBRA mouvement.

Books and poster are available at http://www.ftn-boooks.com

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Gracia Lebbink (1963)

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

This blog is long time overdue. I met Gracia for the first time when she was designing the artist book LA STANZA VEDE by Kounellis for the Haags Gemeentemuseum in 1990. She was introduced to the Haags Gemeentemuseum by Rudi Fuchs who was the director at that time and because trusted her skills after being introduced to Rudi by  Walter Nikkels some time before.

Since, she designed for the Gemeentemuseum many publications and posters and build a prestigious agency on the way, “designing” for many cultural institutions and museums. Always recognizable, simple , beautiful designs and with a typography that invites reading the texts.

I mentioned Nikkels and Lebbink in the same sentence and that is not without a reason … I consider both to be the very best from the generations to follow Sandberg and Crouwel and because I have known Gracia professionally, she is placed on the no. 1 spot, followed at some distance by Walter Nikkels. It proves Rudi Fuchs had a nose to pick not only the best artists, but also the right choice in commissioning a designer with a project. Gracia had to stop her professional career in 2003, leaving us some very beautiful and appealing designs.

Because of my personal interest in her works I have collected many of Gracia’s designs for FTN-books. Many are available at www.ftn-books.com…..just search for Lebbink and you will encounter over 30 Gracia Lebbink designed publications available.

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Maria C.P. Huls (1950)

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Dutch-born Maria Huls has had education in the Netherlands but is now living since 1988 near Osnabrück. When I look at her work I do not see much of a dutch tradition in her sculptures. I find them more inspired by Minimal and Konkrete Kunst. This is the kind of art that inspires me and when I look at Huls her sculptures I find them very peaceful but full of tension because of the layered shapes and torsions.

Especially her Kleinskulpturen have these qualities. This another of those lesser-known artists that you discover while writing a regular blog. Maria C.P. Huls deserves a better presentation of her works.

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Gabriel Lester (1972)

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Yesterday a smaller sized blog on a recent addition, but this time you have to do more of an effort to learn something on this artist. Here is the text by Aaron Schuster on Gabriel Lester

More is Lester
On the cinematic in the work of Gabriel Lester

My title is in part inspired by a particularly felicitous slip of the tongue made during a lecture I attended in Brussels on the films of Marcel Broodthaers.  The speaker, wishing to express the great economy of Broodthaers’s productions, often made with meager means, presented the principle of his work as follows: Comment faire un minimum avec un maximum, or, as one would say in English, how to do less with more…  Of course, this ‘error’ is much more revealing of – in this case, not the speaker’s secret intention but – the actual situation, the essential wager, of contemporary art, especially in its relation to mass culture.  Put simply, the problem today is not so much maximizing scant resources or creating the greatest effect with relatively little means (think of the typical artist’s production budget compared with that of a Hollywood blockbuster), but how to introduce a cut or absence in the massive ballast of already existing things.  How to do ‘less’ with the ‘more’ of the world, or, if I can be forgiven this pun, how to lester it.  According to the Jewish doctrine of Tsimtsum, God created the world via a movement of self-contraction: in order for the world to emerge God first of all had to withdraw a part of Himself, to give up some of His all-encompassing Being, lest there be no space for anything to come into existence whatsoever.  Far from the world miraculously emerging from the void, the void itself is something to be actively produced.  What is fascinating about this mystical ontology is the way it puts negation at the very heart of creation.  The emergence of something new depends on the preliminary work of clearing away, of carving out a space in a universe that is already supersaturated, too full, too present, too much – the birth pangs of the new correspond precisely to the difficulty of this negative labor.  This particular understanding of the creative act has not escaped the attention of artists and philosophers.  Indeed, two of the most famous artistic pronouncements of modern times, Mallarm√©’s “Destruction was my Beatrice,” and Picasso’s “A picture is a sum of destructions,” point precisely to such a subtractive aesthetic.  Gilles Deleuze’s definition of painting is here exemplary: “the painter’s problem is not how to enter into the canvas… but how to get out of it.” (1) What does he mean by this?  Before any pigment has touched the painting’s surface, the canvas in a way already contains “everything [the artist] has in his head or around him,” (2) an amalgam of vague images, possibilities and visual clichés, so that the task of painting is to cut a path through the chaos.  (Balzac’s story “The Unknown Masterpiece,” one of the great programmatic texts of artistic modernity, spells out the dire consequences for the artist unable to find his way out of the canvas…)  Along similar lines, in her description of the writing process Marguerite Duras states, “What you’re going to write is already there in the darkness.”  Before the work of writing proper, a ‘pre-written’ text of amorphous ideas, half-formed phrases, and habitual formulas is already swirling about in the writer’s head, a kind of “black block” that must be broken up, pulverized if the sentences and paragraphs of the written piece are to take shape and become legible.  “I’m in the middle, and I seize the mass that’s already there, move it about, smash it up – it’s almost a question of muscles, of physical dexterity.” (3) To grasp what is at stake in this process, one needs to reverse that humdrum metaphysics which defines creation in terms of addition or filling in a void; on the contrary, the artist begins with an excess and his work is that of smashing up, stripping away, cutting through, getting out.  All artists are escape artists.

In the case of Gabriel Lester, the kind of cutting involved in his work is paradigmatically cinematic.  That Lester’s work is intimately connected with film has often been noted, and the artist himself has evinced some interest as a filmmaker in his video pieces.  Travel Without A Course (2004), for example, offers a kind of ‘portrait of the artist as a young screenwriter’, narrating an autobiographical journey to ex-Soviet Georgia where Lester intended to hole up with an old typewriter and knock out a script.  The string of wayward encounters that follows recalls the meandering character of another video, All Wrong (2005).  This short movie recounts the exploits of what is known in the psychoanalytic literature as a ‘normal psychotic’, a perfectly well-adapted person who floats through life without any inner psychological core, an actor with no existence outside his roles.  The piece is remarkable for its novel use of the now standard practices of sampling and remixing: all the images in the video were found on the internet via various search engines and later edited together to illustrate the story.  Here form and content go together, the amoral adventures of the movie’s main character imitating the aleatory wanderings of the typical internet surfer.  Beyond these more overt video experiments, however, it is primarily the installations that address the question of the nature of cinema, breaking down and re-deploying its different constituent elements and techniques.  Unlike many contemporary artists who use film as the starting point for their practice, re-cutting existing movies, replaying them under modified conditions, making videos in the margins of classic films, and so on, Lester works on a much more formal level.  For him film is not a given material to be manipulated, a privileged part of the daily spectacle, but first and foremost a way of seeing.  Indeed, Lester’s installation work might well be considered a post-cinematic art, that is, an art that has been shaped and formed by a distinctly filmic kind of perception, one made by a film-lover who has grown up with the movies.

How To Act (2000), Lester’s first and arguably still most visually impressive installation, described by the artist as a “dramatic light edit,” treats projected light as an autonomous element with its own rhythms and configurations.  The effect of the piece is akin to seeing the luminous patterns and random flashes emitted by a TV set in a dark room; without knowing what images they correspond to, the dance of lights takes on a life of its own.  How To Act presents a kind of zero-degree cinema, doing away with the ‘moving picture’ or film qua imaged story.  What remains is the flicker of the screen, accompanied by soundtracks taken from old VHS tapes, now calibrated and choreographed as an independent work.  Through this reduction the installation provides a kind of anamorphotic view on the movies, a look unable to make out the figures on the silver screen but entranced by the abstract light blobs that they are.  Habitat Sequences (2000) plays as well with the possibilities of lighting, this time in relation to a fixed set whose physiognomy radically changes as it is differently lit.  A standard living room appears like a crime scene in some hardboiled detective story or the setting for a lovers’ tryst as strategically positioned lamps switch on and off, revealing multiple and sometimes contradictory surroundings: a cozy corner here, a menacing emptiness there, a phone about to ring with an urgent message, a washed out overview, a tiny light burning in the darkness.  There is definitely something cold and calculated about this work, almost mathematical in its precision, as it enumerates the possible permutations of mood and feeling enabled by alternate lightings.  Rosemary’s Baby (2002) achieves a similar ‘sequencing’ effect though without the use of lights.  A room is sealed off, inaccessible to the spectator, save for cuts in the walls that permit six different views into its interior.  Lester’s reference is to the mysterious second apartment in Polanski’s film, behind Mia Farrow and John Cassavetes’s, where the satanic intrigues take place.  Just as the space of this apartment is hinted at throughout the movie yet always partially out-of-frame, so too can Lester’s room only be peeped into.  The voyeurism is heightened by the room’s disheveled d√©cor, looking as if ransacked by a burglar or wrecked in a domestic dispute: someone has been here before.  Altar (2001) and Cross Section (2006) employ the same cutting technique, the former consisting of a pub divided by wooden sheets into separate lanes, the latter a building with slices take out of it allowing for different peeks inside its network of rooms and corridors.  Lester cuts a room as if it were a film, and many of his installation works can be conceived as spatial edits, introducing temporal movement to an otherwise fixed or static environment. 

In one of his essays André Bazin argued for a “mixed” cinema, that is, for a cinema that would be enriched by its borrowings from the other arts. (4) Alain Badiou, taking up and radicalizing this thesis, describes cinema as “an impure art,” “the ‘plus-one’ of the arts, both parasitic and inconsistent.” (5) For Badiou cinema is an inherently hybrid medium, taking from theater, literature, music, painting, and so on, without having a ‘proper’ domain.  “Cinema is the seventh art in a very particular sense.  It does not add itself to the other six while remaining on the same level as them.  Rather, its implies them […] It operates on the other arts, using them as its starting point, in a movement that subtracts them from themselves.” (6) What is unique to cinema is the way that it mobilizes the different arts so that they become contaminated with one another, thus creating an impure, heterogeneous space: a supplement or a ‘plus-one’, not a Gesamtkunstwerk-style synthesis.  What Lester does is retranslate the impurity characteristic of cinema back into the realm of the plastic arts.   His installations isolate and examine different component elements of film like lighting, set design, music, and image, while subjecting them to a cinematic treatment (cutting, multiple takes, frame/out-of-frame tension, etc.).  In my mind, the two works that best exemplify this technique are Clock & Clockwork (2003) and Highlight (plan B) (2004).  The first involves a modish waiting room with a rotating wall – an old horror movie trick – that opens onto an eerily antiseptic clinical setting, a labyrinth of waist high tables with glass and metal partitions.  The installation’s menacing yet pristine aesthetics is an homage, according to the artist, to Kafka and Cronenberg.  The two versions of the waiting room (one brightly lit with a white cubical bookcase, the other with softer yellow lighting and chic wooden armoire) explore in a way similar to Habitat Sequences the effects of lighting on the creation of a space.  Even more than the latter, Clock & Clockwork feels like a virtual movie set, the backdrop for an imaginary, non-existent film, with small objects placed on the immaculate laboratory tables – a sponge, a pencil – suggesting elements of a story that remains untold.  Following a certain modernist logic, Lester’s installations evoke a hole or an absence, a missing film, an unknown narrative, a mystery figure, multiple perspectives that don’t add up.  If Clock & Clockwork conjures a quasi-cinematic atmosphere, Highlight (plan B) deals with the cinematic apparatus itself.  The viewer was first stuck by the impressive appearance of the object in the main hall of Brussels’s Palais des Beaux Arts: a cantankerous yet sleekly designed white machine, consisting of a large L-shaped support with multiple rectangular tubes jutting out the front.  The tubes function as periscopes, cutting up reality on the other side of the machine into small viewable chunks and vertically displacing them via a system of meticulously calibrated tilted mirrors.  You bend down and peer into the screen at your feet to see the designs on the ceiling; at eye level you view the tiles on the floor. (This inverted universe of mirror reflections is also reflected in the thin mirror strips that Lester discreetly attached to the sides of the columns in the hall).  An escape artist is above all an illusionist, a trickster like Houdini, and here Lester’s funky contraption charms his audience even though its trickery is perfectly transparent.  What is especially remarkable about Highlight (plan B) is the contrast between the elegance and simplicity of its visual illusion and the massive presence (even ugliness) of the technical apparatus needed to produce it – so great a device for such a rudimentary trick!  It is as if the material correlate of the transformation of the real into images was this huge stain in reality itself.  This is, of course, highly ironical, since today the means of technological reproduction have shrunk to tiny, pocketable proportions, while the capacity for image manipulation has become nearly infinite.

The Gabriel Lester publication is available at http://www.ftn-books.com

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Sigurdur Gudmundsson (continued)

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Just a simple message today…. I have added the very best book on Sigurdur Gudmundsson to my inventory. Published by Zsa Zsa Eyck who presented Gudmundsson several times in her gallery. A very large publication with over 300 pages and arguably the very best and most important book on the artist.

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Krikor Momdjian (1947)

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A first encounter with this artist is this publication on Krikor Momdjian ( now available at http://www.ftn-books.com)

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Krikor Momdjian is an all-round multimedia visual artist and poet. As an artist he lives and is inspired by the motto: ‘To life’! Guénatz. To create art and to paint drives and shapes his daily life as an artist. ‘As art is inspired through life, life is inspired through art”. From that perspective,being an artist provides him with the opportunity to experience intense contact with ‘the other’ in order to share daily happiness, sorrow, and concern about the future. Krikor’s triple identity (Dutch/Armenian/Lebanese) plays a pivotal role in the creation of his works, through which he seeks and expresses his own cultural identity and authenticity. Moreover, this feeling is strengthened by the interaction between the various cultures, such as his Armenian roots, his background and education in Beirut, Jerusalem,n Florence and Paris, and his current Dutch identity.

and here to finish is a poem by Momdjian

Salt Room Wanderings

When night falls
twinkling shadows
of the rainbow arise
my Salt Room companions
waking me up for dinner
angelic gazes bright
hypnotizing my soul
Where am I, in heaven?
why is earth shivering ?
darkness seems banned
as I look around
the dinner seems ready
the College scents divine
pouring into my veins
Muses I have always dreamed of
sitting with me now at table
we are singing, united in love
refreshing raindrops on our faces
the warm west wind gently
caressing our minds
my heart is now lifted up with you
my Love, my angel

5.5.2016
(at night in the Salt Room, Pembroke College, Oxford University)

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Helena van der Kraan (1940-2020, continued)

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A few months ago i wrote a short ” IN MEMORIAM” on the occasion of Helena van der Kraan’s passing away on her birthday at the age of 80 years,Bbut what i did not mention was that there was a very nice retropective on her ” Bears ” series at the Fotomuseum Den Haag, only one problem……Covid 19 made it for us almost possible to visit, but now that the museums can be visited again, we went to the Fotomuseum, Gem and Kunstmuseum to get an artistic “update” including the Bear series retrospective by Helena van der Kraan.

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Personally i love her  almost classic  way of photography, Linda was less charmed, but both we agreed that the combination of GEM and Fotomuseum ( also a Wegman exhibition) was time very well spend. Another reason to write this short blog is that i found a signed copy of the 1986 book published by van Beveren/Haags Gemeentemuseum and perhaps this shows best why i think that Helena will be remembered as one of our great photographers. Every photo is “classic” and timeless and where the photographs of her compatriot Saudek are getting more and more dated, the photographs of Helena grow on you and ripen and gain in quality by the year.

The exhibition shoudl have been closed on the 21tgh of UAgust , but because programs are continued at many of the museums the Helena van der Kraan Bear series is still to be viewed at the Fotomuseum. I do not know how long it still will be there, but i urge you to go when you have a chance.

Helena van der Kraan publications are available at www.ftn-books.com

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Jagoda Buic (1930)

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Joagoda Buic is now listed as a Croatian artist but in 1970 Seventies she participated for the former Republica of Iugoslavia at the Venezia Biennale. Her works can be compared to other artists like Pat Steir , but studying her works more closely is that their size in many cases differ.

 

Her works are oversized and abstract and the use of layers of Tissues makes them more like 3 Dimensional sculptural works. Flat against the wall or hanging from a ceiling their sculptural quality is always present. Recently i added the Venezia 1970 catalogue from the Jugoslavia contribution to my inventory. A nice and spectacular publications with 4 separate books in a cardboard sleeve. One on Buic and the other on Bernik and Dzamonja.

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The Buic portrait is one of the most intriguing women protraits i have seen lately , A beautiful adult face with an artistic life ahead of her.

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Magnum and LES GRAND TRAVEAUX 1989

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The French Republic commissioned the “creme de la creme ” of french photographers from the Magnum agency to contribute to a very prestigious photography project.

The publication was designed by Roman Cieslewicz and in it were contributions of the very best French photographers (Burri, Berry, Franck, Riboud and Kalvar) of the Magnum agency.

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Photographs of all the prestigious architectural projects which were commissioned by Georges Pompidou and François Mitterrand. The renovation and rebuilding of the Musee d’Orsay, Le Grande ARCHE, L’Opera and many others made this decade of the Eighties stand out and because there were so many projects realized it is important that the greates of French photographers documented these. This publication is now available at www.ftn-books.com

 

 

 

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Sjoerd Buisman (continued)

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A few years ago I wrote a blog on Sjoerd Buisman and explained that I admire his works since I met him at the Gemeentemuseum where he did a project with willow branches on the sides of the ponds of the Gemeentemuseum, but I could not find photographs of the project!

Now I can correct this omission since I bought 2 books on Buisman. One on his sculptures and other works from 1967-1992 and the other on his GROEIWERKEN in which I found the photographs I had been looking for for a very long time.

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Both Sjoerd Buisman titles are now available at www.ftn-books.com