Tate Modern….SOUL OF A NATION: ART IN THE AGE OF BLACK POWER

 

This morning the Volkskrant mentioned and reviewed another Tate Modern exhibition in which afro-american artists have the leading role. I did not visit this exhibition , but it will be on my list should i visit London in the coming months. The exhibition will be open until the 22nd of October and shows the importance of afro-american artists in the sixties and seventies. None of them have become the household names in Modern Art as we know now and perhaps the only artist who reached “star” status by the end of the eighties was Jean-Michel Basquiat, but he originally was born in Brooklyn and part Haitian, not Afro American.  Then i realized that my inventory has very few books on or by Afro American artist. Is it because their art is less appealing? I do not think so, The Dawoud Bey and Kara Walker books i have, show great art, but i think the true reason is that Afro American artists did not get a good platform to show their art in the best possible way. Fewer Museum and gallery exhibitions have been organized  with them than with non afro-american artists and that is the reason this exhibition is important and possibly paves the way for artists from other cultures and countries which are lesser known. The mentioned artists Bey and Walker are available at www.ftn-books.com

 

John Heartfield ( Helmut Herzfeld 1891-1968) ….a DaDa artist

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John Heartfield is considered as one of the inventors of the PHOTOMONTAGE. Together with George Grosz he experimented with this new technique. Because of this  new technique he made some of the most powerful anti Nazi statements in art.

On the back of a photograph which was taken in 1912 his name is written as “Helmut.” While living in Berlin, in 1917, he anglicised his name from “Helmut Herzfeld” to “John Heartfield,” an English name to protest against the anti-British fervour sweeping Germany. In 1916, crowds in the street were shouting, “Gott strafe England!” (“May God punish England!”)

In 1917, Heartfield became a member of Berlin Club Dada. Heartfield later became active in the Dada movement, helping to organise the Erste Internationale Dada-Messe (First International Dada Fair) in Berlin in 1920. Dadaists were the young lions of the German art scene, provocateurs who disrupted public art gatherings and ridiculed the participants. They labeled traditional art trivial and bourgeois. Heartfield was a member of a circle of German titans that included Erwin Piscator, Bertolt Brecht, Hannah Höch, and a host of others.

Heartfield built theatre sets for Erwin Piscator and Bertolt Brecht. Using Heartfield’s minimal props and stark stages, Brecht interrupted his plays at key junctures to have the audience to be part of the action and not to lose themselves in it.

He is best known for the 240 political art photomontages  he created from 1930 to 1938 to expose fascism and The Third Reich. These famous works of political photomontage were an astounding cohesive critique of the rise of fascism.

Heartfield’s artistic output was prolific. His 240 political montages appeared as covers for the Arbeiter Illustrierte Zeitung (AIZ, Workers’ Illustrated Newspaper) from 1930 to 1938, a popular weekly whose circulation (as large as 500,000 copies at its height) rivaled any magazine in Germany during the nineteen thirties. Heartfield’s anti-nazi photomontages were featured monthly on the AIZ cover, an important point, because most copies of the AIZ were sold at newsstands. His anti-fascist art mocked Hitler, fascism, and The Third Reich on major street corners throughout Berlin where Heartfield lived until he nearly escaped assassination by the SS in April, 1933.

It was some 30 years ago that the art / photomontage were first recognized as true works of art and the van Abbemuseum presented them in a special exhibition of which the catalogue is available at www.ftn-books.com

Jeff Wall (1946)…coincidence or staged?

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The scenes that Jeff Wall photographs look random and by chance, but reality is …..they are completely staged.

Since the 1980s, Wall  ( Born in Vancouver/Canada) has produced critically acclaimed work in the form of color transparencies backlit by fluorescent light strips and presented in lightboxes. He was one of the first artists to make photographs on a large scale. The standard lightbox was created for the primary purpose of outdoor advertising. In Wall’s work, this medium became a platform for his figurative tableaux, street scenes and interiors, landscapes and cityscapes. Wall explores themes such as the relationships between men and women and the boundary between metropolis and nature. He offers social commentary on violence and cultural miscommunication, and conjures seductive nightmarish fantasies and personal memories. These scenes provide the basis for photographic reconstructions of Wall’s experience. They derive their inherent suspense from a combination of extreme realism and sometimes elaborate artifice.

www.ftn-books.com has some important publications by Jeff Wall available.

 

 

Alfa Romeo… is it art or design?

When Rudi Fuchs made it director for the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, one of the first acts was to fund his exhibitions with promotional activities by commercial industries. One of the first that got a chance to show his new products within the museum was Alfa Romeo who showed their new models Alfa Romeo GTV and the Cabrio version.

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Sketches , clay models and the end product . Every aspect of the creation of these models was shown. Special poster and some leaflets with the exhibition made this a true museum exhibition , but was this the right place for such an event….personally i do not think so.

alfa sm a

Although a car can be a “piece of art” it does not belong in an art museum , but certainly can be presented in a car museum. But still it must have been good for the museum funding, because since many other commercial activities have taken place , but none as outspoken as the one for ALFA ROMEO.

Because of my personal interest in cars www.ftn-books.com has some publications on the subject.

Gilbert & George/ Naked shit paintings

The blog of yesterday reminded me that Piero Manzoni was not the only artist who used faeces as a subject in their art. Gilbert & George is another example who used the subject in a far more explicit way than Manzoni did. With the canned Manzoni multiple it is still uncertain if the contents is the same as the label indicates , however with Gilbert & George it is no question at all, because the pictures show the subjects as they are.

Still the composition and execution are 100% recognizable Gilbert & George, but personally i like the more society and critical related subjects better and far more pleasing to look at, but just to show that many more artists used the subject it is nice to devote a blog on these 2 great artists.

 

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Books on Gilbert & George are available at www.ftn-books.com

George Hendrik Breitner (1857-1923)

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What makes this painter so special for me?… Possibly because he made one of the paintings i truly admired when i was young.

One of the first times i visited the Rijskmuseum and the Stedelijk Museum i encountered this beautiful woman, lying on a couch, wearing nothing but a red japanese kimono. Everything is the paintings was new to me. Dutch impressionism, the loose touch with the brush, the high details and the sensuality in the painting made it beautiful to me. What i did not know at that time, is that Breitner was one of the first to use photography as a start for his paintings and this girl in a red kimono ( name was Geesje Kwak , a famous model at that time) would be painted in many versions and depicted on many paintings. There are “Red Kimono” paintings in the collections of the Rijksmuseum, Stedelijk Museum, Museum Twenthe, Teylers Museum. A few years ago there was this exhibition in the Rijksmuseum on all these versions of the girl in the red kimono. Unfortunately i did not visit it , but i still have some excellent catalogues on Breitner available at www. ftn-books.com and study this wonderful painting.

 

These and other titles on Breitner are available at www. ftn-books.com

 

Eva Besnyö (1910-2003)

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Born in Hungary, educated by Pecsi and advized to continue her education in Berlin she met John Fernhout, the son of Charley Toorop and married him and became a dutch citizen. She worked and lived practically her entire life in the Netherlands and because of the contacts she made through her husband she became one of the most important artist photographers of her time. She contributed to many publications with her excellent photographs and for the DOLLE MINA movement ( Womens Liberation movement) she was the house photographer. Personally i find her 50’s and early sixties photographs the most intriguing . They stand out from the rest. I was surprised to find so many books with her photographs in my inventory but one has to be mentioned separately. Eva Besnyö in Bergen is special.

For more Eva Besnyö search at www.ftn-books.com on Besnyo and find more