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Sam Francis (1923-1994)

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Sam Francis is a subject for a blog a long time overdue. Since i have been admiring the works by Sam Francis for many years now and of course there is a special connection with the Netherlands, because he has had many solo exhibitions in this country for over 30 years and not at the less important museums and galleries but at the very best ones. First there is of course the exhibition at the Stedelijk Museum with the beautiful Wim Crouwel designed catalogue. secondly there are the gallery exhibitions at gallery Delaive and third there is the Museum van der Togt/Cobra Museum exhibition. All of these exhibitions were accompagnied by beautiful large catalogues and available at www.ftn-books.com

My first interest in Sam Francis was raised in the early Nineties when i collected Swatch watches. Together with my brother in law we searched for the earliest of these watches and bought, collected and resiold them and one of these watches was a Christmas special by Sam Francis. We had multiple copies of this rare watch and the last one was sold some 5 years ago. Still whenever i hear the name Sam Francis i am reminded of this swatch collection. But from that time on i noticed that there is more to Sam Francis than just his Swatch watch. Just read this short biography which can be found on the Sam Francis site too:

Sam Francis (1923 – 1994) occupies a prominent position in post-war American painting. Although associated with the Abstract Expressionist movement and Clement Greenberg’s Post-Painterly Abstraction, unlike many American painters of he time he had direct and prolonged exposure to French painting and to Japanese art which had an individual impact on his work.

On leaving the U.S. Army Air Corps in 1944 owing to illness Francis took up painting as a hobby. He decided to make this a serious undertaking studying under David Park in 1947 and completed his BA and MA at the University of California. He was greatly influenced by Abstract Expressionism particularly the works of Clyfford Still and Jackson Pollock. In his use of space on the canvas to allow free circulation of strong colour and the sensitivity to light Francis developed his own style by the time his studies had ended.

Francis moved to Paris in 1950 where he met Jean-Paul Riopelle who was to remain an important influence, and study of Monet’s Waterlilies had a profound impact on his work. From a very muted palette of greys and whites he returned to the qualities of light and colour producing such works as Big Red 1953. He continues to develop the use of white space and increased the dimensions of his paintings for greater emphasis. During his period in Europe he executed a number of monumental mural paintings.

Francis returned to California in 1962 and was then influenced by the West Coast School’s preoccupation with mysticism and Eastern philosophy. Blue had become a more dominant feature of his work since 1959 inspired by personal suffering and the great joy of becoming a father for the first time in 1961. This led to combinations of hard colour and more disciplined structures with centrally placed rectangles during the 1970s. Eventually these more rigid structures gave way to looser configurations sometimes of snake-like forms with web-like patterns. Blue, sometimes brilliant, remained an important part of many later works.

The above publications and other Sam Francis publications are available at www.ftn-books.com

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Hildo Krop (1884-1970)

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Hildo Krop is truly the one and only city sculptor of the city of AMsterdam. When you see an ornament at a building or a statue on a square there is a fair chance that it was done by Hildo Krop. Krop was active in the period that Amsteram had its biggest growth .

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It was in preparation of the Olympic games of 1928 and many new buildings and parks were built in those days and if one wanted to make them more beautiful with a sclpture or statue, Hildo Krop was the artist of choice for many new projects in those days.

This was recognized by the Stedelijk Museum who devoted an exhibition to Krop in 1964 and had Wim Crouwel design the catalogue with the exhibition. Since that year there has been a growth of interest in Hildo Krop as an artist which resulted in a Museum devoted to Hildo Krop….location Amsterdam and on the internet at : http://hildokrop.nl

The Wim Crouwel publication is available at www.ftn-books.com

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Jo Baer (1929)

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There is a firm relationship between the Netherland and Jo Baer, because since the early years of her career she has had her exhibitions in Amsterdam. She is considered to be a Minimal artist, but personally i am not so certain about this. In her early days she was more related to the Hard Edge mouvement, but in later paintings a great emptiness fills the canvasses only enhanced by a painted frame or a simple scarce geometrical object making these paintings as typical Minimal paintings and in the last 2 decades she turns again completely and produces lyrical abstract expressionist paintings. When you look at these 3 stages of her career you can destinguish 3 completely different styles and approaches to painting, but with one constant…the artist Jo Baer

www.ftn-books has some of the dutch Jo Baer publications available

 

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Saul Steinberg (1914-1999)

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….and now for the other Steinberg…SAUL STEINBERG.

First i must say that writing a blog on Steinberg, can not do justice to the excellent site , which the Steinberg foundation has constructed on the life, times and art of Saul Steinberg. You can visit the site at : http://saulsteinbergfoundation.org

But some personal notes on the artist. Saul Steinberg is a very well known artist in Europe. He had his exhibitions at the Maeght galleries in the Sixties and Seventies and both the Stedelijk Museum and the Boymans van Beuningen museum in the Netherlands organized exhibitions on the artist. In the beginning i always had considered Steinberg to be an illustrator and not the artist he later became to me. Later i realized to look at his art in a way that his drawings were meant to be seen. A citation from his site makes this clear :

Saul Steinberg defined drawing as “a way of reasoning on paper,” and he remained committed to the act of drawing. Throughout his long career, he used drawing to think about the semantics of art, reconfiguring stylistic signs into a new language suited to the fabricated temper of modern life. Sometimes with affection, sometimes with irony, but always with virtuoso mastery, Saul Steinberg peeled back the carefully wrought masks of 20th-century civilization.

This is an artist to be discovered by a far larger audience. At this moment i think he is the lesser of both Steinberg’s  i recently wrote a blog on, but perhaps time will prove me wrong and i will think of his art just the way around in a few years. www.ftn-books.com has some nice and rare Saul Steinberg publications available.

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Jakob Gasteiger ( 1953 )

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It must have been in 1991 that i first encountered the publicatiions by Picaron editions. Among them was the Travel to Rome portfolio by Marc Mulders . On this specific item i wrote a blog some 2 years ago. Now it is time to devote a blog to another of their publications. The Jakob Gasteiger portfolio which was published in an edition of only 300 copies. It contains 8 special prints and certainly is one of the rarest of all Gasteiger publications and now finally for sale at www.ftn-books.com

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A rare and beautiful item and for those who do not know Gasteiger . here is an interview with him from 6 years ago to discover the man behind the artist:

 

JAKOB GASTEIGER By Karlyn De Jongh April 2013

The analytical painting of Jakob Gasteiger (1953, Salzburg, Austria) centralizes the process and act of painting itself. Gasteiger lives and works in Vienna, Austria. KDJ: For this year’s 55th Venice Biennale, you will make a room covered completely with carbon paper. Why did you choose to make this particular statement? What do you want to say with it? Why create a Black room? JG: For twenty years I have worked with paper as well, carbon and tissue paper. Before the introduction of computers and printers, carbon paper was used for copying. What you see are, strictly speaking, industrially produced monochrome charcoal drawings. Tissue paper is being sold in many colors as wrapping paper for presents. I stick these papers on canvas or, for an exhibition, directly on the walls of a museum or gallery. They are environments, graphic rooms which temporarily can be walked in, and at the same time murals. The color pigments of the papers come off when I stick them on the walls and you get, although I don’t use any paint here, the impression of a painting. The ‘treated’ walls are not black, however, depending on the brand the colors of the papers come off differently. KDJ: In an interview for Personal Structures: Works and Dialogues (2003) you stated that your basic concept is the question: Where is the boundary between graphics and painting and between painting and sculpture.” Now 10 years later, can you give an answer to this question? Has your answer changed over the years? Have you been able to extend these boundaries? Which boundaries would you still like to abolish? JG: In my works with tissue and carbonpaper I question the boundary between graphics and painting, my acrylics do the same with the boundary between painting and sculpture. But I am not especially interested in giving answers. Thirty years ago, when I started with this concept, I attached more significance to it. Since then my artistic activity has become independent, now I can draw on my wealth of experience. I do not want to eliminate boundaries either, I was interested in recognizing these boundaries in my work, but I did no tintend to abolish them. KDJ: When you are ‘researching’ the boundaries between painting and sculpture, the concept of space must be an important discussion point for you – if only as a consideration of the 2- or 3-dimensionality of your work. What does space mean to you? JG: The beauty of Japanese art lies in the “Ma”, the negative space or gap. It is considered to be a “filled emptiness”. This has inspired me as much as Japanese or Chinese tissue papers or lacquer painting. KDJ: Artists such as Hermann Nitsch, Toshikatsu Endo and Rene Rietmeyer have a strong urge to say something, wanting to be heard to create awareness and accomplish some change in humans and the way they think about the world around them. This is one of the reasons why Rietmeyer started PERSONAL STRUCTURES, for example. Maybe I am mistaken, but I have the feeling that you make your work for different reasons. It seems you are more introvert and create your works as a research for yourself. Am I right? Is there something you want to change in human thinking? JG: As an artist, I hardly have a missionary urge with my work. However, I would like to change human thinking a bit. Worldwide there are about twenty wars and more than a hundred violent conflicts. We are experiencing racism, discrimination, intolerance and violence all over the world. With my work as an artist there is nothing I can do about these problems, but as a politically conscious person I can express my disgust at this state of affairs. KDJ: In 1978 Marcia Hafif wrote the essay “Beginning Again”, in which she describes the situation of painting at that time as no longer being relevant. Her aim was – and seems to have been for the past 30 years – to go back to the question of what painting actually is. Although you seem concerned with the same subjects as she is, you are one generation younger than Hafif is, and were born in another part of the world. Was your situation different than hers? Why do you have this urge to question ‘painting’? JG: All questions of art reappear cyclically. How often has the end of painting been proclaimed… But every generation faces its new tasks which have to be analyzed in accordance with the time and for which new solutions have to be found. Abstract or non-representational painting is probably the greatest achievement in the art of the 20th century, and it is still relevant to me and my work. KDJ: In texts about “Radical Painters” and related artists, often there is a reference being made to the German word “Farbe”, which in English denotes to both paint and colour. Being Austrian, having German as your mother tongue, is there for you an existential difference between paint and colour? Or can we not see them separately? How does colour relate to material? JG: Paint is just material to produce my paintings. In this context, color does not carry meaning or content. A red painting is for me nothing more than a painting that was created from a material whose color is red. KDJ: When I visited your studio in Vienna, it had the impression of being a laboratory. It seems that developing new ideas, coincidences are sometimes important to get further in our development. When you work in such a clean space, is there still room for coincidences? What role do precision and exactness play in your work? To what extent is the act of making a new work an analytical practice? JG: I see myself as an architect who is planning and designing a building. It must comply with his ideas and it is not supposed to collapse. Nevertheless, there are many unexpected problems during the construction that require new decisions. KDJ: For making his brushstrokes, Lee Ufan grinds stone to make pigment out of it. You also sometimes use ‘unusual’ pigments to create your works, such as copper, glass, aluminium or iron. Why do you do that? JG: I already answered your question about paint and color stating that a red painting does not carry meaning or content. But a red image (or whatever color) nevertheless evokes in the viewer a mood, a feeling. I use different materials, grated to powder, that are atypical as pigments in painting. Copper, iron, glass, aluminum are commonly used for sculpture. Copper has something old-fashioned and reminds one of copper kettles or copper roof sheeting, while aluminum, as the metal of the 20th century, lets one think of airplanes or cars. One of my aluminum pictures is “faster” than one made from copper. KDJ: Joseph Kosuth once remarked about Rene Rietmeyer’s VENEZIA glass Boxes that they “suffer from aesthetics.” Opinions are always different, but to me, with regard to your choice of colour, your work does not seem to ‘aim’ for ‘beauty’. What role does beauty or aesthetics play in your work? JG: Especially with my graphics and my works with paper I try to keep to a dilettante approach. Whether the results are “beautiful”, I do not know. I believe that the terms “right” or “appropriate” are more suitable. Viewers have probably their own opinion about it. KDJ: The colours you choose for your work are – in my opinion – quite sombre. Having lived in Vienna for some time, for me these colors go very well with Vienna as a location. To what extent do you think your colour choices – or your work in general – is influenced by the location where you create your works? JG: I am not influenced by the location of my studio. My choice of colors is also not dependent on my whims and moods. Since I started to use iron, glass, copper, etc. as pigments some years ago, the colors do get a completely different meaning. There was one exception once: I made Yves Klein-blue images because I wanted to break the taboo of his ultramarine. But it was just a quote, I did not refer to Klein’s metaphysics. KDJ: Instead of a brush, you use a comb to apply paint to the canvas. What attracts you in this ‘tool’? Why not use your fingers directly, like Arnulf Rainer did? JG: When I started to occupy myself with analytical painting, I also questioned the tools to apply the paint with and I have tried various other tools instead of the commonly used brush. I wanted “impersonal” tools, so fingers were no option. I used timber, boards, nails or a saw-blade to work with the paint. Later I cut comb spatulas from cardboard, I still do that today. KDJ: In the PERSONAL STRUCTURES catalogue for the 55th Venice Biennale, Florian Steininger writes about your work that it is about “painting as process, aloof from the emotional and personal gesture.” What is meant by “painting as process”? Do you look at the process of this particular painting? Or is it also about the process of your œvre? JG: I believe both. The ever-repeated gesture of applying and structuring the paint material to create my images is a repetitive work process and to some extent the growth of my œvre in small changes is also a process over many years. KDJ: I have met you a few times in Vienna and Venice and you made a very “soft” impression on me. To me, you as a person seem quite receptive of emotions and it is hard for me to imagine that your works would miss this ‘emotional’ aspect. I think that always emotions have at least a small influence on the decisions we make, even when it is just from being hungry or wanting to have an orgasm. Is it your aim to exclude these emotions as much as possible – even though it can never really be accomplished? JG: Instead of “soft” I would rather say “well-disposed”. It applies to artists as well as to politicians or other people: those who shout, quickly lose their voice. I prefer tolerance and respect myself and other people as well. Making art is like an expedition. It is planned and prepared, and the expedition leader should keep a clear head. On the way you have to react to something unexpected or you must choose a detour. This is, more or less, my situation as an artist for over thirty years. But still it is not certain that the expedition reaches its destination. You could also reply with the famous quote that the journey is the reward. KDJ: In 2009, I interviewed Marcia Hafif in her New York studio. She told me about her work in relation to time and space. The concepts of time and space were understood by her in a very ‘concrete’ way: the actual location of the work, and the time necessary to produce a work. It seems that time has a broader meaning in your work. An important element in your work seems to be ‘change’, the change of yourself as well as from your work. Change is perceived over time. How do you understand time? What does change mean to you? JG: Of artists is expected that they always come up with something new. “New” receives much attention. I did not want to live up to these expectations, so I adopted an attitude of denial. I began to produce the same pictures again and again, to repeat myself. That worked out well, because soon people started to say that “Gasteiger makes always the same”. But because I am basically non-dogmatic, I have expanded the range of possibilities to express myself in the course of time. KDJ: In an interview for PERSONAL STRUCTURES: TIME SPACE EXISTENCE (2009), Joseph Marioni states that “the element of time, is that my paintings involve a visual transition.” In your paintings, is change only a visual transition? Or does it go beyond that and are they in fact different? JG: Works of art are rooted in the time of their creation. Good art is resistant to zeitgeist and fashions and keeps its importance beyond the time of its origin. KDJ: Being very interested in time and existence myself, for me it is quite difficult to imagine that a person like you or Marcia Hafif spend their life ‘researching’ materialistic elements of painting. After a certain number of years and having painted a certain number of paintings, I know that for me it would become boring. Why does this research matter to you? What keeps you from continuing? Or have you changed over the years and adapted your main concept accordingly? JG: Of course I have changed over the years, at least I hope so. In my art, however, changes are not an intentional decision. I let them happen.There are outstanding works – of myself and others –, they are a benchmark for my work. Working in the studio always means self-reflection and a commitment to high quality standards. Mistakes happen nevertheless, and over time there have been works that I would rather not have shown. KDJ: In 2003, you have stated that “art is man’s activity of creating something new, of researching, of discovering.” Are you still this same opinion? Why do you think it is necessary to create something ‘new’? JG: It is not necessary, it happens. KDJ: Seemingly having a similar concern in your art as Hafif and Marioni, what is so ‘new’ about your work? Is it not rather the fact that it is made by you, that makes the work particular? JG: Yes.

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Piet Dirkx “Zonder plan wel met Systeem”

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This is the subtitle for the Piet Dirkx/ Henk Visch exhibition at the gallery Ferdinand van Dieten-d’Eendt in 2008. A small gallery and now stopped, because of the changing art market, but this exhibition was a great one for this small gallery. The invitation is still one of the best Piet designed for one of his exhibitions.

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Jean Gorin (1899-1981)

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It took me almost 20 years to first see an actual work by Jean Gorin. I knoe if his great catalogue which was designed by Wim Crouwel for the 1967 Gorin exhibition. But at that time i was far too young to appreciate art in general, but since i took an interest in art, i took an interest in constructivist art and certainly Gorin is one of the great artists when you look and take in consider the reliefs produced by the other artist from his generation.

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He was a French neoplastic painter and constructive sculptor. He was a disciple of Piet Mondrian, and remained true to the concept of rigid geometricism and use of primary colors, but pushed the limits of neoplasticism by introducing circles and diagonals. He was known for his three-dimensional reliefs. His art developed along the same line as the art of Cesar Domela developed , resulting in complex reliefs that are now collected and appreciated worldwide. His appeal is still growing and personally i think his art is far better than the works Cesar Domela produced in the same period of his life.

I have to devote some special text on this publication, since the Crouwel designed catalogue is very special. It has the typical 60’s Crouwel dimensions, but what makes this one special is the embossed /relief printed cober, making this one, one of the very special Stedelijk Museum 60’s catalogues. Other titles are available too at www.ftn-books.com

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Gerry Schum ( 1938 -1973)

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Rightfully he may be called one of the true pioneers of Video art.

Because of his early contribtions to the collection of the Stedelijk Museum resulted in an exhibition ( which catalogue is available at www.ftn-books.com) and the hsitory and development of Video art during the last 50 years. Th Stedelijk has made a permanent presentation of his :

Schum made Land Art as part of his Fernseh-Galerie Gerry Schum. The German television station Sender Freies Berlin broadcasted this film on 15 April 1969. Schum was looking for a way to show modern visual art to a wide audience. He achieved this by broadcasting his film and video productions on television, bypassing the traditional institutions. The TV programme showed recordings of artistic interventions in the landscape by eight artists, including Jan Dibbets, Barry Flanagan and Richard Long. Schum’s own sober camera work is an essential element of the visual end result. Jan Dibbets’ contribution 12 Hours Tide Object with Correction of Perspective shows a tractor leaving behind a trapezium-shaped track on a beach. The position of the camera and the effect of the perspective mean that the viewer sees this shape as a rectangle. Dibbets was casting doubt on the reliability of representation via the camera and on the perception of the eye, as he had done previously in his ‘perspective corrections’.
It takes time to appreciate Video as an art form , but when you finally do so , there is an artist not te be missed and that is Gerry Schum.

btw. The Gerry Schum catalogue was designed by Wim Crouwel.

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Michel Cardena a conceptual artist ( 1934-2015)

 

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MIGUEL ÁNGEL CÁRDENAS was born in El Espinal, Colombia, in 1934 and died in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, in 2015. He studied architecture at the Universidad Nacional in Bogota (1952-1953) and visual arts at the Academia de Bellas Artes (1955-1957) and the Escuela de Artes Gráficas in Barcelona (1962), before moving to the Netherlands where he lived for the remainder of his life and adopted the artistname Michel Cardena. In 1964 Cardena was included in the seminal exhibition “New Realists and Pop Art,” which travelled from the Gemeentemuseum The Hague to Vienna and Brussels. In 1972 Cardena established an artist-run space called the In-Out Center along with a group of Amsterdam-based international artists. The In-Out Center hosted exhibitions of early video and performance art in addition to supporting conceptual and collaborative projects. Cardena’s work is in the collections of the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, Netherlands; Moderna Museet, Sweden; Gemeentemuseum, The Hague, Netherlands; and Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam, Netherlands, among others. His work was recently exhibited at the Instituto de Vision, Bogota, Colombia (2015) and at Andrea Rosen Gallery in New York (2017) and will be part of the exhibition ‘I am a native foreigner’ opened at the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam in September 2017.

Cardena is becoming more and more known and gaining importance for the conceptual art of the Sixties and Seventies. www.ftn-books.com has two important publications on the artist.

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Claes Oldenburg (1929)

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Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen. They are a couple and the reason i mention this is that without Coosje van Bruggen , Oldenburg would never have become the great artist he now is. van Bruggen has written all monographs on Oldenburg and is mentioned in every publication. van Bruggen was his second wife, but undoubtedly the one who had the greatest influence on him and his works. It was about 15 years ago that i for the first time encountered in real life some other work by Oldenburg than the screw from the Boymans van Beuningen collection.

We visited the Guggenheim in Bilbao and there they were ( nowadays the space is occupied by the MATTER OF TIME by Serra) Immense sculptures made out of polyester and painted in bright colors in a Gehry surroundings. The ensemble of both reminded me of a Disneyland setting, but these sculptures were so impressive that i, for the first time, realized the importance of Oldenburg as a sculptor. It is still a rare occasion that i encounter a large Oldenburg but since the Bilbao sculptures i am looking with different eyes to all Oldenburg sculptures including the very familiar SCREW at the Boymans van Beuningen museum. www.ftn-books.com has some nice Oldenburg publications available including the Crouwel designed Stedelijk Museum catalogue from 1977 and the Crouwel designed poster for this exhibition.