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Národní Galerie Praha / Trade Fair Palace

We went for a short visit to Prague last weekend and walked over 30 miles within 3 days to explore the city. One of our first destinations was the Narodni Muzeum at the Trade Fair Location. It is at least a little confusing, but spread over Prague there are about six Narodni museums on all kinds of subjects. This Trade Fair Palace was the one i had on my list for a long time and been wanting to visit for some decades now, but never had a chance to, because Prague was out of the way for us but this weekend we finally went and were not disappointed. At the time of its construction (completed in 1928), this was the largest building of its kind in the world and the first Functionalist building in Prague. Today it serves the needs of the National Gallery. Knowing its age you must admire its architecture….a true avant-garde building which is unique, but because of its functionality hard to admire. It looks old and worn but the light within the buildling is unique.

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It houses one of the best International collections i have ever seen and its historic value is beyond any doubt. One of the first rooms you enter consists of a mini exhibition which , organized elsewhere would draw hundreds of thousands of visitors. The quality of the paintings and sculptures is superb and deserves to be visited and admired by many more than the handful of visitors we encountered during our visit.

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The small room houses a Picasso, Matisse, Bonnard, Seurat, Monet, Renoir, Degas statue, Maillol and ( personally i am not a great van Gogh fan) a spectacular and beautiful van Gogh.

We were so surprised to find so many of these beautiful paintings and to discover some great Czech art. It was a very nice visit and made us even more like the collection, because we specially came to visit the Giacometti exhibition, but in it’s wake we were treated on some of the most beautiful and surprising art i have seen lately.

Of course www.ftn-books.com has on all these artists some nice publications.

 

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André Masson (1896-1987)

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I remember a magnificent Masson exhibition at the old venue of the Musee de l’art Moderne / avenue Wilson in Paris. It was at the time i was living for 9 months in Paris and visited that museum frequently. They had the Brancusi Studio , which is now opposite the Centre Pompidou. I remember  the Masson exhibition being different . I expected a kind of surrealism like the paintings by Dali and Magritte, instead i found paintings which were far more abstract and reminded me more like the ones i had seen by Miro. Here follows a short biography i copied from Wikipedia.

His early works display an interest in cubism. He later became associated with surrealism, and he was one of the most enthusiastic employers of automatic drawing, making a number of automatic works in pen and ink. Masson experimented with altered states of consciousness with artists such as Antonin Artaud, Michel Leiris, Joan Miró, Georges Bataille, Jean Dubuffet and Georges Malkine, who were neighbors of his studio in Paris.

From around 1926 he experimented by throwing sand and glue onto canvas and making oil paintings based around the shapes that formed. By the end of the 1920s, however, he was finding automatic drawing rather restricting, and he left the surrealist movement and turned instead to a more structured style, often producing works with a violent or erotic theme, and making a number of paintings in reaction to the Spanish Civil War (he associated once more with the surrealists at the end of the 1930s).

Under the German occupation of France during World War II, his work was condemned by the Nazis as degenerate. With the assistance of Varian Fry in Marseille, Masson escaped the Nazi regime on a ship to the French island of Martinique from where he went on to the United States. Upon arrival in New York City customs officials inspecting Masson’s luggage found a cache of his erotic drawings. Living in New Preston, Connecticut his work became an important influence on American abstract expressionists, such as Jackson Pollock. Following the war, he returned to France and settled in Aix-en-Provence where he painted a number of landscapes.

Masson drew the cover of the first issue of Georges Bataille’s review, Acéphale, in 1936, and participated in all its issues until 1939. His brother-in-law, the psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan, was the last private owner of Gustave Courbet’s provocative painting L’Origine du monde (The Origin of the World); Lacan asked Masson to paint a surrealist variant.

www.ftn-books.comhas a few important Masson titles available

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Mail Art by Art & Project, 1970

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Followers of this blog must know by now that i have acquired a large collection of Art & Project Bulletins, publications and invitations. Among these invitations , many are considered to be true Mail Art and Art & project was one of the first galleries to communicate with its subscribers in this way. From the first 100 of exhibitions held at the gallery many are considered to be iconic, but some stood out. One of these exhibitions is still a classic in the history of the gallery. It is the 1970 Gilbert & George exhibition. First there was the bulletin send from Japan. with drawings of Gilbert by George and of George by Gilbert and secondly i must mention the invitation by van Beijeren and Ravesteijn. Handwriting in print to made it as personal as possible. Here is the example i have currently in my inventory which is addressed to Kees Schippers, the dutch conceptual artist.

gilbert george uitn 1970 b

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Martin Maloney (1923)

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I did not know anything about Maloney and stumbled upon an article by Elena Filipovic and it is a great introduction to this conceptual artist . I recently added the Bulletin 34, from 1971 to my inventory which is now for sale at www.ftn-books.com

The history of art is an ocean with many wrecks . Some floating on the surface, most almost inaccessible submerged on the seabed. As an art historian, you can surf the waves, and pick up the supernatant oeuvres, or you can go deep sea diving in the hope of discovering less known, less  obvious artists.
Today you must scrape the bottom to find literature mentioning the name Martin Maloney (1938 – 2003), and even then you will find only loose fragments and faint traces of an oeuvre .

However, this American artist once was amongst the founders of conceptual art. He had close contacts with the, now classical, conceptual artists and took part in a number of key exhibitions in the late sixties and early seventies.

During this period he was represented by the top galleries of the avant garde , such as Seth Siegelaub in New York, Konrad Fischer in Düsseldorf and Art & Project in Amsterdam. 
But the man did not refrain from criticizing the art establishment and his fellow artists , and even used criticism explicitly as the starting point for a number of postcard sized ” language pieces ” (”Designation Deposits” and ”Reject Deposits” , 1967-2001 ). This unruly and polemical art practice, coupled with his radical views and his particular temperament, isolated the artist more and more from the artistic context . 
By the time Martin Maloney, at the age of 65, died in Antwerp, he was materially impoverished and maintained only sporadic contacts with the art world .Maloney’s stubborn attitude obviously had other consequences too: because of his own (largely) chosen isolation, he cut himself off from the various channels that art history constructs: gallerists, collectors, critics ,curators ,conservators, art historians, fellow artists. Moreover, he himself destroyed much of his own work. All this results in his absence from the major, canonizing, publications since the seventies devoted to conceptual art .

By putting his radical critique in relation to the art world down on paper, Martin Maloney literally wrote himself out of art history.

After dropping out of university, in 1962, Maloney settled as an artist in New York. Initiall he had a special interest in the work of the postwar New York School painters like Ad Reinhardt , Barnett Newman , Mark Rothko and Jackson Pollock, but gradually shifted his attention away from the pictorial to the textual and non-material forms of art which from the mid- sixties began to emerge. He shared a studio with Lawrence Weiner and maintained relations with artists such as Carl Andre, Joseph Kosuth and Dan Graham.

In 1966, Maloney took part in the infamous ’25’ group exhibition, organized by the young art dealer Seth Siegelaub,who was to become the great promoter of conceptual art a few years later.

Maloney exhibited at Siegelaub several times and also had shows in several major European galleries. By this time, Maloney was  looking for alternatives to the traditional gallery exhibition. In many cases, his solo exhibitions would be accompanied with, or even take the form of an artist’s book. Examples are ‘Interguments’ (1969), ‘Fractionals’ (1970) ‘Reject Objects’ (1971) and ‘Five days and five nights’ (1970). The latter book was published in an edition of 500 copies in the framework of Maloney’s one man show at the MTL gallery in Brussels. Maloney locked himself for five days and five nights in the gallery to work on the resulting booklet of poetic statements. The conventional presentation of objects in a gallery made room for the direct communication of ideas in print .

For his next exhibition at London’s Lisson Gallery (1971), Maloney takes things even a step further. After distributing a poster designed by the artist, Maloney takes residence in the gallery and throughout the whole duration of the event goes into direct confrontation with his audience. The resulting insights and frustrations he wrote in white chalk on the black painted walls of the basement. After a short sojourn in London, Maloney moved to Amsterdam in 1973 and leaves behind the hardcore minimalist concept to include wood sculptures and painted text works. Four years later he returned to New York, to gradually retreat in the privacy of his studio, now serving as a laboratory for numerous installations and presentations.

 
From 1995 until his death he resided in Antwerp, where in 2000 he was invited by Flor Bex to realize a mural for the Museum of Contemporary Art (MUHKA). 

Maloney occupied a studio in a dilapidated building on the Jordaenskaai 13 .

What remained in the six rooms of Maloney’s Antwerp working and living environment were, in addition to a number of ”language pieces” and works on paper, the results of his latest artistic experiments: minimalist ‘floor pieces’ and corner stacks, composed of pieces of fallen ceiling plaster, wallpaper, fabric scraps, canvas and wooden beams from the solid oak doors in the building.

Like an architectural archivist Maloney recycled and ordered materials of the decaying building into geometric compositions. It is as if these material traces of a precise and time-consuming labor, the quiet, repetitive activity of the hands were a necessary remedy for the chronic anxiety of the mind .

Johan Pas , Ekeren , January 2004
pace Works”

“To live,” Walter Benjamin once famously wrote, “is to leave traces.” But one could almost say that the recently deceased artist Martin Maloney (1938-2003) lived to efface his. Largely forgotten and omitted from art history, the American artist is all but invisible in institutional collections of the conceptual art he participated in from an early stage.

Thus the title of Maloney’s first posthumous exposition, “Here to Stay”, captures all of the ambiguity of the artist’s oeuvre. The exhibition fills the vast decrepit spaces where the artist lived and worked in solitude for the last 8 years of his life while the Antwerp building was waiting to be demolished.

The works, like the space they occupy, are not there ‘to stay’ at all. Immanent destruction is a ghost that has haunted the building for years. And even though his arrival in this space was relatively recent, Maloney’s works made from the recycling of building detritus have evoked architecture and entropy since the late ‘60s.

He made floor-bound geometric ensembles, each composed of thousands of pieces of any one element: neat piles of fallen ceiling plaster, pyramids of broken bricks, layers of split timber from his studio’s oak doors, or thousands of identical maniacally cut squares of carpet. In his work, the ceiling sat on the floor and wall elements became precarious rubble in the corner. In short, boundaries were elided between architectural elements and sculpture, between object and installation.

These ensembles made infinitely mutable, fragile works—more often than not with nothing holding the components together. They could change form a hundred times… or simply be swept away. ‘Structure’, ‘edge’, ‘edged’, ‘angle’, ‘cut’, ‘split’, ‘split space’: these words line Maloney’s texts, canvases and painted brick-works. Even a sampling of his exhibition titles, “Up Against the Wall” (at Konrad Fischer, Dusseldorf 1971) or “White Walls are Animals” (at Micheline Szwajcer, Antwerp, 1980), give the sense that the constraints of architecture and space — particularly the exhibition space — were never far from Maloney’s thoughts.

For him, the gallery’s symbolic ‘white walls’ needed to be fought, resisted and shown for what they were. In 1971, he locked himself in the confines of the MTL gallery in Brussels for five days and nights. His solitary act and refusal to allow the gallery space its role in visual presentation was the ‘exhibition’, with only a published version of the texts he wrote during his stay in the gallery as material trace.

Martin Maloney’s contribution to David Lamelas’ Publication, Nigel Greenwood Gallery, London, 1970.

For his exhibition at the Lisson Gallery in London that same year, he painted the walls black and wrote lines of conversation and provocation on them during the gallery’s opening hours to incite the visitors who came to communicate with him. Little, if anything, is left of these meetings of the conceptual, the textual and the architectural, and one has the sense that this is somehow as Maloney wanted it.

Maloney was active as a conceptual artist in the ‘60s close to the likes of Lawrence Weiner, Carl Andre, Joseph Kosuth and Dan Graham. He made his material pile sculptures and conceptual projects alongside a vast body of intricately shaped canvases, highly structured language pieces, box sculptures, and painted statements on canvas.

Poster “Here To Stay”
 

To see some of what remains of this work on exhibit is to feel a ricochet of influences, references, and dialogues (with Weiner and Andre, of course, but also Frank Stella, Robert Smithson, Gordon Matta-Clark, Arte Povera…). Over time, however, he managed to alienate himself from his fellow artists, galleries, collectors, curators and art history alike. With the exhibition’s end, the works on show will travel to museum spaces that share little of the precariousness that make a building in ruin a fitting context for the artist’s complex, volatile work.

The form of the works and their dialogue with space will necessarily change, and Maloney would probably never have accepted such an exhibition at all. As he knew too well, white walls are animals indeed

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Jean Pierre Raynaud (1939)

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Raynaud has had a long career in Modern Art and until recently he was the perfect artists artist. Known and appreciated by his colleagues, but outside the inner circle of artists hardly known. He has had a fairly successful exhibition at the Stedelijk Museum in 1968, which catalogue was designed by Wim Crouwel, but beside that exhibition it lasted over 30 years in the Netherlands before the DE PONT museum decided to have another  Raynaud exhibition in 1999.

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( both catalogues available at www.ftn-books.com).

Of course Raynaud has had his exhibitions at galleries and museums, but the appreciation of collectors was not there. However in recent years his works have become more popular among collectors and since 2000 the appreciation of his works and prices start to rise. His works are characterized by the use of primary colors and in many a grid is used and part of the composition . There are several Raynaud publications available at www.ftn-books.com

 

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Alan Charlton ( continued )

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This was a great find … among the bulletins published by Art & Project in the Seventies were 2 by Alan Charlton bulletins and both had a special drawing inside. These drawings I want to share with you. The Bulletins are numbered 81 and 101 and were published in 1974 and 1977 and are available at www.ftn-books.com

charlton bulletin 81

charlton bulletin 81 b

charlton bulletin 101 a

charlton bulletin 101 b

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Dutch Graphic Roots – Cor Rosbeek

An important site on dutch graphics and dutch designers can be found over here:

https://www.dutchgraphicroots.nl

Here is the latest example of this site. This one is on Cor Rosbeek. One of the driving forces behind Rosbeek printers.

Cor Rosbeek

 

“Impossible doesn’t exist” and “I’m not selling print, I am selling trust.” Two sayings that characterize Cor Rosbeek who, together with his brother Jean, for long years ran Rosbeek printers in Nuth. The first maxim refers to the dedication shown by this printing house since 1963 to always deliver the best of the best, the highest of high quality print, and to be willing to listen closely to graphic designers. The Rosbeek’s capability to listen to and work with designers became legendary. The second saying indicates how supple and subtle they managed to perform their intermediary role between clients and designers. Rosbeek in Nuth, in the southern province of Limburg, were not just printers, they were actively participating partners in the print production process; they were important contributors to cultural developments.

 

The jury of the Best Book Award 1990 posing on the stairs in Stedelijk Museum. Cor Rosbeek second from left

The young Cor Rosbeek never showed any ambition of becoming a printer like his father. He’d rather become a commercial representative and drive flashy cars. Art wasn’t his cup of tea either: “I didn’t have the urge to create.” But Cor at age sixteen had to cope with his father’s sudden demise. As the oldest Rosbeek son he had to jump in and continue the family business. Born in 1944, he had grown up in the family home above the printer’s shop where his father produced all sorts of commercial print for small industries and for private people living in the area of Hoensbroek. His father’s prewar dreams of becoming the chief of the in-house printing shop at Bata’s shoe factory were disturbed by WW II. The Czech-born Bata owners, of Jewish descent, escaped to England. But Cor Rosbeek the elder knew about printing and by hard work single-handedly managed to build up a small business of his own, with only his sons, Cor junior and Jean, and their younger sister helping out when it was busy. In his off time, father Rosbeek liked to make music. He could play no less than thirteen different musical instruments.

The best ever
Cor Rosbeek went to trade school. Bent over maps and atlases he fantasized about other worlds. On Saturdays he put on his fashionable shoes and went dancing: rock and roll. But he was ambitious. He wanted to surpass his father and move on to a better world, he had an open mind as well as an eye for the modern times, and he explored whatever cultural life there was in his remote corner of the Netherlands. It was only later that he fell in love with the printing profession. “From that moment on no one could stop me, I wanted to be the best.”

Interior at Rosbeek in Nuth

His first client, the paint producer Jo Eyck whose company became a part of the Sikkens group and their distributor for Limburg, had taken over his own father’s management position around the same time as Cor. Jo Eyck was fascinated by anything related to art and design and already collaborated with designers. He was a perfectionist and a demanding client. Cor Rosbeek admitted he learned much from Jo Eyck: “Everything you do, should be done well and with quality in mind. Jo always aimed for a position in the quality-conscious market of architects, project developers and their clients. I noticed this was a highly effective approach. In his Heerlen head office Jo Eyck organized exhibitions about the role of paint in art, presenting artists such as Richard Lohse, Ad Dekkers, and Peter Struycken. He collected contemporary art and bought Wijlre castle to turn it into a private museum. He had architect Wiel Arets build a glass pavilion for a part of his art collection, the Hedge House, open to the public.” A second influential contact was with interior architect Herman Zeekaf, who sold modern furniture in Heerlen. With Zeekaf, too, Cor Rosbeek developed close ties. Zeekaf designed the new building for the printing company as well as later extensions and renovations.

Goodwill publications
The production of high-quality print in collaboration with leading designers became Rosbeek’s goal. The brothers looked at printers such as Meijer in Wormerveer and Steendrukkerij De Jong & Co in Hilversum, where graphic designers produced daring print projects including the famed Christmas editions of Drukkersweekblad en Autolijn and the Kwadraat series published by De Jong & Co. In their own region, Rosbeek acquired assignments through designers like Baer Cornet and Geert Setola from clients such as furniture producer ’t Spectrum, Océ van der Grinten copiers, Stork machines, and Randstad (temp workers). Wim Crouwel was one of the first designers coming “all the way from the West” to collaborate with Rosbeek on work commissioned by fashion importers Kreymborg. Jan Bons brought his calendar designs for Van Ommeren shipping. Others followed, bringing with them a growing number of clients, including Art Unlimited and the Rijksmuseum. These clients came from all over the Netherlands.

Many of these publications by Rosbeek are available at www.ftn-books.com

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Felix Vallotton (1865-1925)

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Felix Valotton is without a doubt one of those less familiar names in Modern Art, but still he is very important for the development of modern Art as we know it, because when you look at his works more closely you can discover the fundaments of abstraction.

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In 1893, he became a member of Les Nabis, a semi-secret, semi-mystical group of young artists, mostly from the Academie Julian, which included Pierre Bonnard, Ker-Xavier Roussel, Maurice Denis, and Édouard Vuillard, with whom Vallotton was to form a lifelong friendship. While the Nabis shared certain common ideas and goals, their styles were quite different and personal. While he was a member of the Nabis, he kept his distance; his jocular title among the Nabis was “The Foreign Nabi”, [10] Vallotton’s paintings in this period reflected the style of his woodcuts, with flat areas of color, hard edges, and simplification of detail. His subjects included genre scenes, portraits and nudes. Examples of his Nabi style are the deliberately awkward Bathers on a Summer Evening (1892–93), now in the Kunsthaus Zürich, and the symbolist Moonlight(1895), in the Musée d’Orsay.

His paintings began to be noticed by the public and critics; Bathers on a Summer Evening, presented at the Salon des Indépendents, was met with harsh criticism and laughter.  But they also woodcuts also attracted considerable and growing attention and clients, and he became financially secure. Between 1893 and 1897, he received many commissions for illustrations from notable French newspapers and magazines, including La Revue Blanche, and from foreign art publications, including The Chap-Book of Chicago. He also made woodcuts for the covers of theater programs and book illustrations. One of his prominent patrons was Thadée Natanson, the publisher of the Revue Blanche, and his wife Misia, who commissioned many important decorative works from the Nabis. Through the Natansons Vallotton was introduced to the avant-garde elite of Paris, including Stéphane Mallarmé, Marcel Proust, Eric Satie, and Claude Debussy.

During the Nabi period, he also produced a remarkable series of woodcuts. His woodcut subjects included domestic scenes, bathing women, portrait heads, and several images of street crowds and demonstrations—notably, several scenes of police attacking anarchists. He usually depicted types rather than individuals, eschewed the expression of strong emotion, and “fuse[d] a graphic wit with an acerbic if not ironic humor”. Vallotton’s graphic art reached its highest development in Intimités (Intimacies), a series of ten interiors published in 1898 by the Revue Blanche, which deal with tension between men and women. Vallotton’s woodcuts were widely disseminated in periodicals and books in Europe as well as in the United States, and have been suggested as a significant influence on the graphic art of Edvard Munch, Aubrey Beardsley, and Ernst Ludwig Kirchner. In 1898, he produced one of his most important series of woodcuts,

By 1900, the Nabis had drifted apart. One source of the division was the Dreyfus affair, the case of a Jewish army officer falsely accused of aiding the Germans. The Nabis were divided, with Vallotton passionately defending Dreyfus. He produced a series of satirical woodcuts on the affair, including The age of the Newspaper,which were published on the first page of Le Cri de Paris on January 23, 1898, at the height of the affair.

Another major event during this period was his marriage to Gabrielle Rodrigues-Hénriques, a upper middle class member of the Paris artistic and social elite. The union also brought to his household three children from her previous marriage. After a brief honeymoon in Switzerland, they moved to a large apartment on near the Gare Saint-Lazare train station. He also established a solid relationship with the Bernheim family and their gallery, which presented a special exhibition devoted the Nabis, including ten of his works. The marriage brought him financial security, and he gradually abandoned woodcuts as his main source of income. Thereafter he devoted his attention almost entirely to painting. www. ftn-books.com has some titles on vallotton available.

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Outsider Art of atelier de Herenplaats

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By chance i found a publication by atelier de Herenplaats. An artist studio for the mentally deficient and i was really surprised to find some great art within this publiucation. This Art Brut/Outsider Art is matured and must be considered as true art. The spontanious compositions delight and i have read on the site of de Herenplaats that many of their artist have had their ( international) presentations in galeries and museums.

de Herenplaats site can be found on this address: www.herenplaats.nl

and www.ftn-books.com has the Herenplaats publication now for sale in its shop.

visjes

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Erwin Olaf exhibition….

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The Erwin Olaf exhibitions at the Gemeentemuseum/ Fotomuseum are now closed for some months and what remains i sthe memory of a highly successful exhibitions with evn for me had some new elements in it which i did not have seen before. I had seen the cabinet with the peeping holes, but the Video wall with some 20 nude people who  crouched and erecetd themselves was impressing. The catalogue however did not do justice to the exhibition. Too large, too expensive and the lesser known moving images from the video walls were missing. Still a great exhibition to remember and for those collectors interested i secured some of the materials that were published to promote the exhibition .

olaf set x

These are available at www.ftn-books.com together with some other nice Erwin Olaf publications