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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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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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.

Paris – where life imitates art

There are many great cities around the world that boast a hip art scene and magnificent museums. But Paris oozes Art through its pores. The city’s history, its architecture, gardens, food, fashion and lifestyle are marked by a finessed artistic sensibility. It is a city that practices a mindful approach to all aspects of life, long before mindfulness became a 21st century catchphrase.

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Fountain at one of the entrances to the Grand Palais
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Reading room of the Keppler Hotel

Van Gogh and Titian are featured in Louis Vuitton’s new line of handbags

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One couple, two very different fashion statements
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A ham hock ready for carving. Not something I would eat, but I love the presentation
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Statue at Trocadero overlooking Eiffel Tower
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Neighborhood cafe. Very patriotic with the ‘bleu, blanc, rouge’!

America has the Stars and Stripes but France is all about stripes. One of France’s most notable artists, Daniel Buren, has crystallized the essence of the stripe in his iconic works. “It was the idea to have something very banal, but very strong,” says the artist in Interview magazine. He calls his stripe motif a visual tool that can transform any physical space.

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Painting by Daniel Buren at the Modern Art Museum, Paris
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Stripes play a big part in French fashion. I couldn’t resist…

EXHIBITIONS – TOP PICKS FOR THE SEASON

There’s always so much going on in Paris that it’s hard to know what to see when time is limited. Two noteworthy exhibitions are being shown concurrently at the Grand Palais – Rodin and Jardins. The Rodin exhibition marks the centenary of the sculptor’s death (1840-1917) and covers Rodin’s extensive creative universe. Jardins (Gardens) is a bit of a stretch from a curatorial standpoint, but there is something for everyone, from antique gardening equipment and Impressionist paintings of gardens, to installations offering contemporary interpretations of nature. Below are two of my sketches from these exhibitions.

I would also recommend two private collections that do not often hit the international circuit. On exhibit at L’Orangerie is the Ishibashi collection normally housed at the Bridgestone Museum in Tokyo. Fabulous. The Caillebotte painting is particularly exquisite. At the Jacquemart-Andre Museum you can catch Spanish businesswoman Alicia Koplowitz’s eclectic collection. Handpicked works by Goya, Tiepolo, Schiele, de Staël, Freud, Rothko and Bourgeois are among this enviable private collection.

Bon voyage!

Back in the U.S. of A

My latest trip to Paris was a whirlwind of activity – cramming my days with art, looking at it and writing about it. I have added a second publication to my resume – Vingt Paris. At night I made the rounds of gallery openings or vernissages. It was not all work, work, work, although I love what I do. I did manage to fit in a fair amount of shopping, visiting with friends and wining and dining. One of my good friends suggested having lunch at La Coupole, seeing that was a famous hang-out for many a Parisian artist in the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s including one Yves Klein.

I made a very exciting contact with a gallery in Paris that is interested in representing my work. Galerie Saphir is a small but well respected gallery in the 17th arrondissement. The gallerist, Francine Szapiro, has four galleries which she manages with her husband. Our first collaboration is already up and running – my small ceramic figurines can now be found at 69 avenue de Villiers, Paris! We are hoping that they will appeal as Christmas gifts….

We are also discussing introducing my paintings to her clientele. All very exciting. I have started a series I had in mind inspired by the home of one of my Parisian friends, Grace Teshima, whose Montmatre apartment doubles as a gallery. The salon is a beautiful light-infused space (see detail of one of my paintings below).

On a totally different note, I have been selected as one of 54 Jewish women artists from around the world to contribute to the artistic interpretation of the Torah. The project is called Women of the Book and is the brainchild of Shoshana Gugenheim, who is based in Israel. I will be receiving my piece of parchment mid-2011 and will begin working on my visual interpretation of my selected text at that time. So lots of work at the moment which should keep my mind off the coming Virginia winter…

How much can one person cram into two weeks? Plenty.

Impossible to sum up the incredibly rich, stimulating, creative and exciting time I have been having so far in Paris. So lets just take the last 24 hours as an example. But first just a few photos to set the stage….

OK. So now you get the picture  – no pun intended! Yesterday morning I turned up for ‘work’ at the Musee d’Orsay from 9:30 to 1:00 (I am going to be posting a separate blog detailing a very interesting art project I will be working on during the remainder of my stay. Essentially I have been authorized to be an official copiste at the Musee d’Orsay, hopefully capturing on video some of my painting as a type of performance piece). Following an intense painting session at the museum,a delicious lunch and coffee. I am not a coffee drinker, but the coffee here sure beats Starbucks! Then off to make my first ever prints from the copper engravings I have been working on. Just love the results and the impression the copper plate makes in the paper.

After a quick dinner of goat cheese, baguette, and  radishes I popped over to another artist’s studio to meet her artist’s group for some champagne and dessert. Painters, photographers, sculptors, print-makers.  Back to my own freezing loft to finish off a quick study of a striking looking woman who works at the museum and matches her outfits to her red and black striped hair.

Today I met some friends at the Grand Palais to see one of the most spectacular installations I have ever seen by Christian Boltonski. More coffee and then rush off to attend an opening of an exhibition by artist Gilles Hirzel at the Assemblee Nationale. Very chi-chi – had to be on the ‘list’ to get in. Very powerful works on canvas made from found materials. Don’t sit back yet. As evening settled in I was invited to yet another opening in the very chic Faubourg Saint-Honore. Chanel, Dolce and Gabbana and Dior stores rubbing shoulders with exclusive book stores and galleries and restaurants…Then a taste of Paris commuter traffic as I got a hair-raising ride back home. This weekend, I have an invitation to the unveiling of the next season’s Dior Menswear collection, another gallery opening and a dinner party. So sorry you can’t all join me! And oh yes, I did have to get a beret, didn’t I?