When is a chair not a chair?

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Having to cut down a dying, 90-meter tree in my front yard yesterday was a sad event. But it brought to mind a mixed media artwork I created several years ago entitled ‘Life after Death’ that touches upon the cycle of life.

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Life after Death   Lilianne Milgrom  Wooden doll chair and ceramic trunk

Looking at this artwork reminded me that I often use chairs as an evocative motif in my art. Discarded chairs by the side of the road have always saddened me for some reason. The chair is a uniquely human object – an empty chair is a powerful signifier of the absence of people just as a chair can elevate the person sitting on it. A chair can take on human qualities and convey a wide range of emotions.

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The Office, still life   Lilianne Milgrom  Acrylic on canvas
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Amen  Lilianne Milgrom (Learn more about this installation here)

Many artists have used chairs as a conceptual vehicle to make political statements. One of my favorite artists, Ai Wei Wei, created a series of works whose fundamental building block was a simple wooden stool that was symbolic of China’s past.

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By re-configuring the stool to make it non-functional, he challenges China’s push for modernization at the expense of its traditions. By using multiple stools, the artist also visually expresses the loss of the individual in China’s rapidly industrializing society.  

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Grapes, a spiky cluster of wooden stools from the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), is part of Ai Weiwei’s repurposed furniture series

Another famous conceptual artist, Christo (1935-2009), renowned for wrapping buildings, bridges, and even islands in swaths of fabric, similarly wrapped a chair to distort its purpose and to ‘reveal through concealment’ according to art critic David Bourdon.

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Christo  Wrapped chair

One of the first artists to use ready-made objects as art was Marcel Duchamp (1887-1968). He is credited with being one of the fathers of modern art in so far as he upended all conventional notions of what constitutes Art. In the example below he uses a simple kitchen stool as a pedestal to elevate a bicycle wheel into an object worthy of being called Art. When it was first displayed it was met with outrage and incomprehension. Today it is an iconic symbol of Modern Art.

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Marchel Duchamp Bicycle Wheel (Recreated 1951 from a 1913 original)

At the Milan Design Fair this year, an 8-meter high installation paying homage to Italian designer Gaetano Pesce’s Up Armchair, was installed in the central Piazza del Duomo in Milan. Fifty years ago, it was conceived as an industrial design project that heavily implied his support for women to start standing up for themselves and to fight for equal rights.

Gaetano Pesce UP ARMCHAIR

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Check out all the chairs on show at Brooklyn’s newly launched Object & Thing, an art fair blending art and design with a non-curatorial approach to the 200-plus gallery objects.

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So next time you plop your behind into a chair, realize that a chair is not necessarily only a chair..

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Artist: Keith Haring
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Love is in the air

 

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Tour Eiffel     Lilianne Milgrom

Whether you’re celebrating your spouse, significant other, your offspring or your pet, who’s to question the healing power of Love. Here’s a quick slideshow of a few of my more romantic works to put you in the mood.

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ART BASEL MIAMI: PART II

As promised in Part I of my Art Basel post, here’s is a quick kaleidoscopic view of some of the innumerable artworks that caught my eye. Enjoy the tour at your leisure 🙂

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(This is a painting. Yes, believe it or not)

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Brilliant statement of our times…
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Another exquisite painting…
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Azerbaijani artist rethinking traditional rugs…Superb 

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And of course, there was people-watching galore…

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CHECK OUT PART I ART BASEL MIAMI FOR AN EYE-OPENING POST ON UNUSUAL ART HERE

 

 

Art on steroids: Art Basel Miami

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Miami: Hub of the rich and famous, home of art deco, Cuban-style hot rods, Latin culture, palm trees, blue skies and blue waters. It is also one of three international  cities to host Art Basel. For the uninitiated, Art Basel is one of THE most important annual events in the artworld. Galleries, artists, collectors and art lovers from all over the globe descend for a week of intense – and I mean intense – art immersion. I’m talking about hundreds of exhibiting galleries and over 100,000 visitors. If you get saturated after visiting a museum, you might want to think twice about visiting Art Basel!!! For me, though, it was Heaven.

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It would be impossible to relay the scope of paintings of every type, size, and subject, sculptures big and small of every material conceivable, photographic works and digital compositions. So for digestibility, I will focus on artworks that use unconventional materials. It’s a trend I found incredibly interesting and one that demonstrates the infinite creativity that artists bring into our lives. I challenge you, my readers, to guess what medium the following artworks are made from. (NB My sincerest apologies to those artists whose names I failed to record.)

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Ian Berry  Club Deuce

Nice nostalgic scene, right? Well, there’s a bit more to the artist’s method: used jeans!

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Detail

This next artist creates large and beautifully composed abstract compositions from….

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…collaged pieces of chipped paint collected from crumbling buildings all over the world!

By far one of my favorite work was by Italian artist, Andrea Salvador. These gorgeous works below blew my socks off – wait till  you see what they are made of…

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The big reveal:

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Salvador creates his photorealistic works from hand-chipped glass mosaic. I met the Venetian glass blower who created the custom glass colors ordered by the artist. Wow.

There were numerous artists whose works used traditional craft methods like quilting and embroidery to create fine art works that took the craft to a totally new level:

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I’m pretty sure you’ll never guess what material the next artist used to create this huge watercolor-like painting that had me stumped until I got the lowdown from the gallerist:

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Give up? Plastic bags fused onto a huge canvas…

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And another head scratching work…

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Jorge Otero  Untitled

Cuban artist Jorge Otero’s lifesized work was striking and fascinatingly unique. Venture to take a guess at how he achieved this beautiful effect? Woven photographs!

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I’m willing to bet that no-one recognizes the elements used in the following wall hanging:

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Used and stained computer keyboard keys…

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If you aren’t wowed by now, I don’t know what to say. I’ll leave you on a lighter note with an artist who has playfully and successfully ($2500 a piece!) re-purposed vintage bowling pins.

Check out my next blog post ART BASEL MIAMI PART II where you’ll find a broad range of art that caught my eye. In the meantime, wishing you all a wonderful Holiday Season. You can find out more about all the satellite art fairs here and  here.

This too shall pass…

Like many, many people living in the US right now, I am experiencing great anxiety about the state of this nation. It’s hard to believe that we will ever extricate ourselves from this free-for-all bog of lying, fear and hatred. A recent visit to the MOMA exhibition at the National Gallery of Victoria comforted me by reminding me of my mother’s wise words: ‘This too shall pass‘ – words that got me through some tough times. Hundreds of iconic artworks created over the past 130 years were on display, portraying the challenges that each new decade brought with it.

Walking through the highlights of New York’s Museum of Modern Art collection was like a visual walking tour of history.  The impressionist, cubist, surreal, abstract expressionist, fauvist, modernist and contemporary works revealed the artists’ responses to wars, culture clashes, political upheavals and inner turmoil.

I won’t even begin to attempt to walk you through such a content-rich and complex exhibition – I’ll leave that to the NGV’s curated site. But I will share a few teasers.

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Guess who the Belgian artist is? He went by one name beginning with ‘M’
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Prime example of the Dada art movement. Artist: M_ _ _ _ _D_ _ _ _ _ _
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When John Baldessari created this text painting everyone thought he was crazy. Now it hangs in the Museum of Modern Art in New York!

I also enjoyed the ephemeral contemporary installation by Roman Ondak, Measuring the universe. This dynamic installation was created by marking the height of individual museum visitors, creating a panorama of human height variables.

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View of installation gallery for Measuring the Universe

On site volunteers stand you up against the wall (just like your mom or dad did then they marked the kitchen doorway to check your growth) and mark your height along with your name and date. The names scribbled by the volunteers one on top of another become a black mass of jumbled individual names ultimately unreadable but representing all of humanity.

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Close up – can you make out where my name is?

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Ondak’s goal in this work is to unite people in a shared action. After all, we inhabit the same universe – that comes with privileges and obligations to treat one another as equals.

(Oh, by the way the Belgian artist’s name was Magritte and the famous Dada artist’s name was Marcel Duchamp).

NEWS UPDATE: I will be teaching a three-day collage workshop at the Western Wyoming Community College in Rock Springs to accompany my exhibition there in November. Stay tuned!

In my own backyard

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Johannes Vermeer ….Woman Holding a Balance

I love discovering new art experiences in far-flung places. Sometimes, though, I need to remind myself of the wonderful museums right here in Washington DC. I was fortunate to catch two major exhibitions at the National Gallery that are polar opposites in every way.  I began with the blockbuster show Vermeer and the Masters of genre painting. (A twitter-style primer: Johannes Vermeer is the most celebrated painter of 17th century Dutch Golden Age painting. ‘Genre’ painting captures scenes of everyday, domestic life).

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Nicolaes Maes Young Woman Making lace

These paintings are miniaturized, highly detailed glimpses into life in Holland in the late 1600’s.  Apart from appreciating the beauty and skill, two things stood out for me: First, the care taken by the artists to provide narrative clues. For example, look at this brothel scene by Frans Van Mieris.

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Frans Van Mieris Brothel Scene

Did you notice the dogs going at it in the lower right? The artist threw that in there just in case the viewer was in doubt as to where this scene was taking place…!

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Likewise, in Samuel van Hoogstraten’s View of an Interior (below) we see what appears to be an empty room. But somebody is definitely in there even though we can’t see them – note the shoes on the mat, the keys still hanging on the door…

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Samuel van Hoogstraten View of an Interior

Or in Gabriel Metsu’s Woman Reading a Letter, the maid is pulling back a curtain to reveal a painting of a stormy sea, connoting that the letter could be bringing bad tidings.

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Gabriel Metsu Woman Reading a Letter

This painting brings me to my second take-away from the collection of paintings in this exhibition: There was an awful lot of letter-writing taking place, which made me realize that texting obsessively is just a natural extension of our intrinsic need to communicate.

I was just in awe of the fabulously elaborate clothing and the sumptuousness of textures that seem to leave our contemporary, minimalist aesthetics lacking in some way…

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Keep this in mind for my next blog post that will feature minimalist sculptor, Anne Truitt’s solo show, also on exhibit at the National Gallery in Washington DC.

(The Vermeer exhibition closed last weekend. More on the National Gallery website)

MIAMI BASEL – A TEASER

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Art Basel Miami is THE North American art event of the year. It’s hard to overstate its hype and importance in the art world. Over 250 international and US galleries are represented, drawing more than 70,000 visitors to Miami. Every establishment in the city hitches a ride on this massive event. It’s an opportunity for anyone involved in art, food, culture and fashion to shine. I got a sneak peak at one small sliver of Art Basel at Wynwood Walls.

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Wynwood is the artsy/funky/upcoming neighborhood in Miami that boasts wall art that goes way beyond graffitti. In fact some of these magnificent wall paintings are protected 24/7 by uniformed guardians. I came across a number of selected artists for Wynwood Basel hard at work completing their giant commissions.

There were some truly magnificent walls. Here is a small selection.

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Wynwood Walls

One of my favorites was a clever take on Picasso’s famous bull composed of found objects:

Another 20′ wall was painted to advertise an exhibition at a nearby gallery. Impressive.

Next year I hope to get more than just a tiny taste of this global art destination.

Let’s welcome the New Year in with a smile. Say cheese!

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