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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.

gudmundsson aa

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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.

buisman dd

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

 

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Fernando Sánchez Castillo (1970)

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In his work Fernando Sánchez Castillo analyzes the relationship between art and (political) power. The artist presents us with a different view of, and interaction with, reality in his work. Sánchez Castillo often uses existing “traces” from the past as a starting point for his work and as material for his analysis and transformations. He does so—on the basis of strong social commitment—in a playful and humorous manner. Sánchez Castillo’s fascination with the history of his home country, with the civil war, the postwar era and the dictatorship, but also with today’s world, departs from a concern not only for the political and the revolutionary, but certainly for the social aspects of historical processes as well. Collective memory extends far beyond national boundaries and finds its way into the present. The artist plays with connotations that once sought images to match and, conversely, with images that now demand new connotations. The work of the Sánchez Castillo is an attempt to rewrite history, at least to make us aware of its complexity and traces, and also to show that history is a story that is constantly being constructed from the vantage point of power.

Fernando Sánchez Castillo was born in 1970 in Madrid (ES). He holds a degree in Fine Arts from the University of Complutense Madrid, and a MA degree from the Instituto de Estética Contemporánea, Universidad Autónoma, Madrid. He is a former member of the research group of ENSBA Paris. In 2005 and 2006 he was a resident at the Rijksakademie van Beeldende Kunsten in  Amsterdam (NL). Sánchez Castillo participated in the Research Team of the United Nations Geneva, PIMPA Memory, Politics and Art Practices. He had solo exhibitions at a.o. Shchusev State Museum of Architecture, Moscow (2019, RU); Kunstraum Innsbruck (2016, AT); Sala de Arte Público Siqueiros, Polanco (2016, MX); Stedelijk Museum ’s-Hertogenbosch (2016, NL); Centro de Arte Dos de Mayo CA2M, Madrid (2015, ES); OK Centrum Linz (2014, AT); Rabo Kunstzone, Utrecht (2013, NL); Kunstpavillon München (2013, DE); Kunstverein Braunschweig (2012, DE); Matadero Madrid (2012, ES); CAC Malaga (2011, ES). Group shows at a.o. Riga Biennial (2018, LT); National Center for Contemporary Arts. Moscow (2016, RU); Today Art Museum Beijing (2016, CN); Biennale Gherdëina (2016, IT); Centraal Museum Utrecht (2016, NL); Manifesta 11 Zürich (2016, CH); Albertinum Dresden (2015, DE); Palais de Tokyo (2015, FR); MOTA Tokyo (2014, JP); Goteborg Biennial (2013, SE); De Appel Amsterdam (2013, NL) and MAC Marseille (2013, FR). Works by Fernando Sánchez Castillo are part of international public and private collections.

the CAC Malaga exhibition catalogue is available at www.ftn-books.com

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Wyn Geleynse (1947)

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What better way to introduce a video artist with a video i found on the internet. Just a short video of 3 minutes introduces this Rotterdam born artist, but living almost his entire life in Canada.

 

Wyn Geleynse is a multimedia artist living and working in London, Ontario. Born in Rotterdam, Netherlands in 1947, Geleynse moved to Canada as a child and was raised in London, Ontario. Since 1969, he has exhibited extensively both in Canada and Europe. Considered one of Canada’s pioneer film and video projection artists, Geleynse’s career spans a period of nearly 40 years. His work raises questions about self and identity, commenting on the human condition with a subtle blend of irony and humanity. Interested in the notion of film projection as a metaphor for projecting one’s thoughts and desires, Geleynse worked primarily with installation-based projections in the past. In 2009, he produced an outdoor DVD projection work titled “Wyn Geleynse: The Peel Projection” for the site that will become the Art Gallery of Peel in Brampton, Ontario.

www.ftnbooks.com has 2 titles on Geleynse available:

 

 

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Lily van der Stokker (1954)

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I copied this text partly from the site of the Stedelijk Museum. The “Stedelijk” had their first van der Stokker exhibition ever. The reason…. the works by van der Stokker are strongly rooted in the collection of the Stedelijk Museum with their great collection of Conceptual Art.

Van der Stokker’s visual language of flowers, looping lines, clouds and curlicues in bold, bright colors, raises questions about what we regard as typically feminine. Her work can be placed in the tradition of feminist art, which does not conform to prevailing standards of good taste. As such, she often exploits concepts that are ‘banned’ from contemporary art, such as the frivolous and decorative.
The exhibition Lily van der Stokker – Friendly Good is her most extensive presentation in a museum so far and most of the works have not been shown in the Netherlands before.

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Often incorporating words and phrases, Van der Stokker’s work is firmly rooted in the tradition of conceptual art. Similar to her conceptual forbears (Joseph Kosuth, Lawrence Weiner, Robert Barry), Van der Stokker uses text to explore the essence of art, although as she does so, asks very different questions. Can artists show failures? Is it alright for art to be untrue? Or funny and sweet?

I am a beauty specialist. I have commissioned myself to research happiness and friendliness in my artwork, and with that I take a stand against irony and cynicism.

 

Lily van der Stokker (born Den Bosch, 1954, lives and works in Amsterdam and New York) ran a gallery in New York in the 1980s and staged one of her first exhibitions at Museum Fodor, Amsterdam (1991). In the 1990s she received international acclaim with shows at venues such as the Walker Art Center (Minneapolis), Centre Pompidou, (Paris), Villa Arson, (Nice). Her work has recently been the subject of important solos at Tate St. Ives (2010), New Museum in New York (2013) and the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles (2015). She has also completed several monumental public art projects such as the Celestial Teapot, Hoog Catharijne, Utrecht, (2013) and Pink Building during the World Expo in Hannover (2000). Lily van der Stokker exhibits at gallery Kaufmann Repetto in Milano, Air de Paris in Paris en gallery Van Gelder in Amsterdam.

 

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Sebastiaan Bremer (1970)

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One of the sites I visited on Sebastiaan Bremer wrote that his art is a mash-up of styles and techniques and I can agree with that description.

Sebastiaan Bremer, Living and working in New York, applies everything from paint and inks to physical etchings to his photographs, creating an utterly original art piece. Many of his photos are from his own past, personal mementoes that have become like a “distorted memory or a magical dream,” as Life Lounge describes.

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Because he uses photographs and prints the size of his works is limited. The maximum size I encountered was 120 x 120 cm.  Just leaf through one of the two publications available at http://www.ftn-books.com and you will notice that many of hs works would be even more impressive if they were executed on a larger size.  On average they are 80 x 60 cm. Still, these are in many cases intimate and highly personal works where Bremer used his childhood and personal life as the first layer of his work of art.

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Jan Hendrix (1949)

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This is the other Jan Hendrix. A contemporary of Jan Hendriks, but one that works from outside the Netherlands too and has a studio in Mexico. This land and its culture has a direct influence on his works. Hendrix is inspired by nature and this shows in practically all his works. The reason for this second blog on a “HENDRIX/HENDRIKS” is the catalogue i recently acquired . It is a galeria de arte Mexicano publication from 1980 in which series of polaroids are combined into some great works of art…..the subject….nature of cours and because i myself like the MOLESKINE notebooks i included a nice video of Hendrix and his use of the Moleskine’s

 

hendriks x

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Billy Apple ( Barrie Bates – 1935 )

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Billy Apple is considered to be a Pop Art artist, although he side stepped at some occasions his main works are related to the Pop Art movement. Coming from New Zealand but working and living in the US he made a career for himself knowing many of his great contemporaries personally.

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Billy Apple (ONZM) is an artist whose work is associated with the New York and British schools of Pop Art in the 1960s and with the Conceptual Art movement in the 1970s. He collaborated with the likes of Andy Warhol and other pop artists. His work is part of the permanent collection of the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa (New Zealand), Auckland Art Gallery / Toi o Tamaki (New Zealand), the Christchurch Art Gallery / Te Puna o Waiwhetu (New Zealand), The University of Auckland (New Zealand) and the SMAK/Stedelijk Museum voor Actuele Kunst (Ghent, Belgium).

Barrie Bates was born in Auckland, New Zealand in 1935. He left secondary school with no qualifications and took a job as an assistant to a paint manufacturer in 1951. Bates attended evening classes at Elam School of Fine Arts, where he met Robert Ellis, a graduate of the Royal College of Art in London.

In 1959 he left New Zealand on a National Art Gallery scholarship. He studied at the Royal College of Art, London, from 1959 until 1962. During his time at the Royal College of Art, Bates met several other artists who went on to become a new generation of pop artists; including David Hockney, Derek Boshier Frank Bowling and Pauline Boty. He exhibited frequently during his time at the College in the Young Contemporaries and Young Commonwealth Artists exhibitions along with Frank Bowling, Jonathan Kingdon, Bill Culbert, Jan Bensemann and Jerry Pethick.

In 1962 Bates conceived Billy Apple: he bleached his hair and eyebrows with Lady Clairol Instant Creme Whip and changed his name to Billy Apple. Apple had his first solo show in 1963 – Apple Sees Red: Live Stills – in London at Victor Musgrave’s Gallery One.

Apple moved to New York in 1964: he progressed his artistic career and also found work in various advertising agencies.

A pivotal event was the 1964 exhibit “The American Supermarket”, a show held in Paul Bianchini’s Upper East Side gallery. The show was presented as a typical small supermarket environment, except that everything in it — the produce, canned goods, meat, posters on the wall, etc. — was created by six prominent pop artists of the time, including Billy Apple, Andy Warhol, Tom Wesselmann, Jasper Johns and others.

Apple was one of the artists who pioneered the use of neon in art works (Apples to Xerox and Neon Rainbows). Other exhibitions and series include Art for Sale, The Given as an Art Political Statement, Transactions, Golden Rectangle, The Art Circuit etc.

In 2008 Apple was the subject of a feature length documentary called “Being Billy Apple”.

http://www.ftn-books.com has acquired the important UNION JACK poster by Billy Apple he made for his 2009 Witte de With exhibition. Now available at www.ftn-books.com

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Janine Schrijver (1966)

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Janine Schrijver (1966)  researches the relation between people and their surroundings. She searches for little signs of human contact and thus series of photographs came to exist which show daily life in the Netherlands during the last 3 decades. An interesting oeuvre of photographs in the tradition Ed van der Elsken made his photographs in the late Fifties, Sixties and early Seventies. I can recommend the book FOREVER YOUNG ( available at http://www.ftn-books.com). It contains photographs of people in the age of 55+ celebrating life in their own ways.

schrijver forever