Monday, November 29, 2010

Michael Krebber, "Miami City Ballet IV"

Michael Krebber, "Miami City Ballet IV", 2010.
Photo from Galerie Daniel Buchholz, Berlin, 2010

I stopped by Bergen Kunsthall the other day to see the exhibit of four artists that is currently showing there. Among all the works that are included in that show, the one above, by Michael Krebber, gave me the most momentous moment of seeing "something".

But what was it that I saw?

For starters: Three primed canvases in a vertical pile that is halfway covered by a polka dot "hood", with a smear of black paint up towards the right.

This seemed quite meaningless to me. But knowing how rear it is, - that experience of not immediately connecting a visual uttering with some kind of perceived message, I was thrilled. And even more so when I found out that the work is titled "Miami City Ballet IV".

The connection between the covered up canvases and the title "Miami City Ballet IV" made no sense to me. I could find no literal connection, apart from thinking of other artists that have painted ballet, - Degas, for instance. But bringing Degas's impressions of dancers into my moment at Bergen Kunsthall, just seemed like an irrelevant distraction.

- Or maybe the three canvases could be perceived as stopped in moment, lined up and covered by a mutual piece of costume? No, the title "Miami City Ballet IV" left me with an even stronger notion that this work does not give any direct meaning in and of itself. (But the exciting experience of actually trying to find one, and feeling very close to finding it, was what made that moment at Bergen Kunsthall worthy of bringing on.)

What I found when I looked for meaning outside of the artwork itself, you can read below the next pictures. But that is more or less random information which ends up confirming a notion that this work is not a painting in any traditional singular sense, but a "painting" that is only concerned with the premises of "painting" as a general notion, and with the context that makes works like "Miami City Ballet IV" possible.

(If you are uncertain about the term "context", please look at this former post).

Michael Krebber, "Miami City Ballet I", 2010.
Photo from Galerie Daniel Buchholz, Berlin, 2010

Michael Krebber, "Miami City Ballet II", 2010.
Photo from Galerie Daniel Buchholz, Berlin, 2010

Michael Krebber, "Miami City Ballet III", 2010.
Photo from Galerie Daniel Buchholz, Berlin, 2010

Since then, I have found the paintings "Miami City Ballet" numbers I-III. They were included in a show Michael Krebber had at Galerie Daniel Buchholz in Berlin this summer.

Michael Krebber, "Miami City Ballet", Installation view, Galerie Daniel Buchholz, 2010

And this was how the paintings were installed: Three of them to the left, and then the covered up ones to the right. With a big box clad in fabric between.

Michael Krebber, "Miami City Ballet", 2010,
invitation card photo,  Galerie Daniel Buchholz, Berlin, 2010

I also found out where the artist got the title from: The entire show at Daniel Buchholz was titled "Miami City Ballet", and here is an excerpt from the invitation card written by Krebber:

"'Miami City Ballet" shall be the first stop in, or the downbeat of a series of ”new” exhibitions
following a lengthy period of inactivity. I took the photograph on the invitation card during a
Douglas Crimp lecture. It shows the photograph being projected—of Edward Villella—the ballet
dancer and later founder of the "MCB"—in the midst himself of holding a lecture. He shows his
arm; looks at it and—according to Crimp-comments on it. That he is “beholding” his arm is un-
knowable from my blurry photograph. More or less the same applies here, too.

[...] At this point we put in the picture of Paul Swan, the actor and dancer who once held the title: "Most Beautiful Man in the World"; Swan who appears and dances beside a curtain behind which he disappears for a costume change or some other preparation but doesn’t reappear except perhaps when no one can believe it any more.[...]

- So was this what Michael Krebber intended all along: Covering up the paintings ("painting") until no one can believe in them (believe in "it") any more?


On December 2, David Joselit will speak about "Painting Stripped Bare" at Bergen Kunsthall.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Nicholas Nixon, "The Brown Sisters"

These were the photos I was looking for yesterday, when I got distracted by Harry Callahan's "Chicago". I had never before seen that beautiful image of trees on the shore of Lake Michigan. And I had never seen "The Brown Sisters" either, - not until one of my former high school students showed them in class last year. - Thank you, Sofie!

I let my students browse the MoMA Photography Collection on the internet, and their task was to choose one or more pictures to present in class. Sofie gave a very inspired - and inspiring - talk about "The Brown Sisters", - about affection, connection, and differences. And about growing older.

I think these photographs fit well on a day when most people in the USA are getting ready to give thanks. They may inspire thankfullness about having a family, and perhaps feeling close and connected.

The time span that is so evident on these women's faces and bodies, forms a very important part of Nicholas Nixon's project (he has photographed the sisters every year from 1975 to 2008). Their age is accentuated, but the last two photos show that they are not ashamed of growing older. - Why should they be?

- And why do I even bring up this issue?
Well, maybe because I turned 40 a year and a half ago, and I do not like being targeted by all those who want to help me look younger...

I will rather listen to the actress Liv Ullmann who refuses to put on makeup that would hide her great life from showing on her face; I will look again at the portrait of Georgia O'Keeffe that tends to make me a little better able to love my own wrinkles; and I will give thanks to Nicholas Nixon for sharing the beauty of growing older.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Harry Callahan

Harry Callahan, "Chicago", c. 1950. Museum of Modern Art.

Looking for another photographer's work in the MoMA database, I just stumbled upon this image.
And I instantly fell in love.

It has got such intensity and near symmetrical beauty that I felt physically pulled towards it.

There is the white snow, - horizontal, and the black trunks, - vertical. Such powerful contrasts that would have been too harsh if it weren't for the calm grey water and sky that flow in between. The water and the sky form an even expanse, with a barely discernable horizon. But there, over to the right, is a glimpse of light.

Six tree trunks are rooted in the white snow, rhythmically organized in pairs. The pair to the left and the pair to the right seem well established, whereas those two trunks in the middle are a little more hesitant. The branches, though, are not shy. They blend together and form a web that almost entirely covers the sky.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Fred Sandback (+ more on Juan Muñoz)

Fred Sandback at Dia Chelsea, 1996. Photo: Dia Art Foundation.

On Friday, I wrote about one of the two sculpture shows I saw together with my former art history professor, Dag Sveen, at Dia Chelsea in 1996. Among all the different shows we saw that day, neither of us remember more than these two: Fred Sandback and Juan Muñoz (see Friday's post). - That may say something about the quality of their work, don't you think?

It's not easy to find photos of works that were shown 14 years ago. But the one above is from that very Sandback show at Dia.

As far as I remember, the yarn he had used in those sculptures was red, and it was put up in vertical rectangles without any perceptible attachment to the ceiling.

It was fascinating to walk around those shapes that were so modest, and still feel so strongly affected by their presence. I felt required to respect the shape they outlined. Crossing the horizontal line that was attached to the floor seemed impossible...

Fred Sandback at David Swirner, 2009.

It is a general defining feature in sculptures that they have a certain volume, but in Sandback's sculptures volume is perceived almost only indirectly, as the shape they outline.

Fred Sandback at David Swirner, 2009.

In this photo, you can see how the string seems to have grown quietly out from the ceiling. And even though they are made from string, the sculptures look surprisingly solid, almost like wall panels dividing the gallery space.


Juan Muñoz, "Five Seated Figures", 1996. Photo from: The City Review.

Right after I had written about Muñoz' "A Place Called Abroad" on Friday, I went to an opening where I ran into Dag. So we talked some more about that show, and he reminded me of the slightly-less-than-human scale Muñoz has given his figures. This is crucial to their double appearance, - as both familiar and foreign. If you merely give them a fleeting glance, they seem quite vivid and familiar. But if you look more closely, you notice their slightly washed out features and puppet-like limbs.

(The photo above is taken in Sotheby's New York exhibition space. This group of sculptures with mirror was sold at Sotheby's on November 11, 2009 for $1,202,500.)

Friday, November 19, 2010

Juan Muñoz, "A Place Called Abroad"

Juan Muñoz, "A Place Called Abroad", 1996, Dia Art Foundation.

Reminiscing with my former art history professor, Dag Sveen, about the day we spent together roaming New York City art galleries back in 1996, I found out that among all the shows we saw that day, neither of us remember more than two, and those are the same two! - Both were at Dia in Chelsea, and both were sculpture/installations.

The scrawny picture above is the only one I have managed to find from Spanish artist Juan Muñoz' "A Place Called Abroad". He had changed the gallery space into an eerie streetscape and naked interiors inhabited by figures absorbed in something we as viewers were not invited into. It gave us an uneasy, but very interesting feeling of being foreigners in "A Place Called Abroad".

What I have found, though, is this beautiful video, made as homage to the artist who died in 2001, by Ray Anderson

The music is by Alberto Inglesias, and it is apparently the same music as Juan Muñoz listened to while he installed the work. (It certainly adds to the melancholy mood...)

Fred Sandback's subtle string sculptures were the other works both Dag and I remember from that gallery crawl. I'll get back to that someday soon.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

MOMENTs in film

"The Unbearable Lightness of Being", 1988.
Picture from nighthawknews

I hope you are up for a post that stretches the definition of art and gives an almost embarrassingly personal account of certain precious moments I experienced around twenty years ago, when I saw something that made me understand more about art (but also about love and communication...)

The first time I watched "The Unbearable Lightness of Being" (in 1988) I realized that film is not only entertainment, but also art. I was not particularly moved by the love story it tells, but (... I am aware of how pompous this sounds....) Sven Nykvist's fantastic cinematography made me see the world in a new light!

"The Unbearable Lightness of Being", 1988, Picture from stickyfingers

I was probably too young and immature to be very fascinated by Sabina (Lena Olin's character). I wanted to be like Tereza (Juliette Binoche), -  able to see beauty in harsh realities.


A little later that year I watched "The Good Mother", a mediocre film that I can hardly remember. But one scene made a lasting impression. When I saw the mother (Diane Keaton), who is in danger of losing custody of her little girl, talk to her by the kitchen counter one morning, I understood that it is possible to communicate with children in ways that crucially enhance their feeling of self worth.

It took eleven years from I watched that film until I became a mother myself, but that "Good Mother" character still represents an ideal that I strive for.

"The Double Life of Veronique", 1991. Picture from David Bordwell's website on cinema

"The Double Life of Veronique" gave me a similar kind of inspiration as I had got from "The Unbearable Lightness of Being": The cinematography, the music, and the way the main character (Irène Jacob) experiences the world around her.

"Shadowlands", 1993. Picture from

Love is difficult (that must be the obvious reason why it is the theme of so many stories). But the film "Shadowlands" made me understand what my challenge is, and I am still working on it...

I would be very happy to hear if you have had similar experiences with MOMENTs in film :-)

Monday, November 15, 2010

Robert Rauschenberg at Black Mountain College

Black Mountain College: experiment in art, ed. Vincent Katz, 2002,
Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia

When I read that Gagosian Gallery now represents the estate of Robert Rauschenberg and is showing a museum quality retrospective exhibition of his work at their 21st Street Chelsea space, I came to think of the documentary film about Black Mountain College I did research for as an intern at David Royle Productions in New York in the early 1990s. I was only at the production company for a semester, and I never got to see the film finished, but I was fascinated by what I learned:

- Black Mountain College was such a magic place! Beautiful, as you can see from the picture above, and very important as a hub for artistic experimentation and collaboration in the early careers of great artists like John Cage, Merce Cunningham, Robert Rauschenberg and many others (...Cy Twombly, Kenneth Noland, Susan Weil, Denise Levertov...)

Robert Rauschenberg, "White Painting", 1951, Gagosian Gallery.

Robert Rauschenberg was adamant about distancing himself from the Abstract Expressionists. He wanted to minimize evidence of the artist's hand, and painted a series of all-white and a series of nearly black paintings. According to Vincent Katz in Black Mountain College: experiment in art, John Cage has said that Rauschenberg's white paintings gave him the push to compose 4'33'', his very important silent piece.

Many collaborative and experimental happenings were staged at Black Mountain College, and "Theater Piece No. 1" which John Cage "orchestrated" in 1952 is considered the first one. There was film, there were slides, Cage talked about music and Zen Buddhism from a stepladder, Cunningham and other dancers moved through and around the audience, and Rauschenberg's white paintings were suspended above.

Viola Farber in "Summerspace", 1958 by M. Cunningham,
Design: Robert Rauschenberg, Photo from: MONDOBLOGO

In 1958 he designed the set and costumes for Cunningham's "Summerspace", first performed in New London, CT, with music by Morton Feldman.

Robert Rauschenberg, "Bed", 1955
Museum of Modern Art, Photo:

And while he was still at Black Mountain College (the school closed in 1956), he acquired the quilt that he used in one of his first Combines (what he called the kind of works he is most famous for having made, in which he used found objects).

Tornsey and Elsley in their book Quilt Culture: Tracing the Pattern, p. 149:
The Log Cabin quilt used in Bed once belonged to artist Dorothea Rockburne. She recalls, "It was kind of special to me because I had it at the time my daughter Christine was born, and she used to spend a lot of time on it. I didn't actually give Bob the quilt, it just sort of appeared one day. We were living at Black Mountain College then, and when you sent the wash out things had a way of appearing and disappearing. I remember when I first saw the painting he had made of it I thought 'Oh! That's the quilt that I had!' It was a wonderful experience seeing it."

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Stian Ådlandsvik

"One Day All Sheds Will Be Useful", 2006

Installation view: "Historical Detour (Consequences of a Slip of the Tongue Awarding
Denmark the North Sea)", 2006, Galleri Erik Steen.

The photo of the shed in the field hangs on the wall right outside my office. And the pallet stands up against the wall below it. Even though, many people who come by have a hard time noticing the connection between them. - Can you see it?

There is such a romantic feel to that photo: The tough, but at the same time sheltering mountainside, and the dark clouds in contrast to the soft sunlight that shines on the patches of snow.

But what about the the boards that are missing from the shed's wall? - Well yes, exactly, the pallet has been made from them. And it has become a beautiful pallet, carrying years of rain, snow and sunshine on its surface.

As romantic as all this may seem, the work's title introduces a political perspective: "Historical Detour (Consequences of a Slip of the Tongue Awarding Denmark the North Sea)". ... What if?

- If his native country were not entitled to sell oil from the North Sea, would the artist Stian Ådlandsvik then be making pallets from all the sheds that are no longer in use ("One Day All Sheds Will Be Useful")? - Or maybe then all the sheds would still be in use, like they were about fifty years ago...

Documentation: S. Ådlandsvik and Lutz-Rainer Müller,
 "You only tell me you love me when you're drunk",
Hordaland Art Centre, 2010

Installation view: S. Ådlandsvik and Lutz-Rainer Müller,
 "You only tell me you love me when you're drunk",
Hordaland Art Centre, 2010

Installation view: S. Ådlandsvik and Lutz-Rainer Müller,
 "You only tell me you love me when you're drunk",
Hordaland Art Centre, 2010

Documentation  (from Hordaland Art Centre)

The other pictures document a work Stian Ådlandsvik recently executed together with Lutz-Rainer Müller in Bergen, Norway, and on the island Askøy, right outside of Bergen. It was titled You only tell me you love me when you're drunk and consisted of three parts: A model of a house which was to be demolished (bottom pictures); the house itself, altered according to the state the model was in after having travelled around the world; and sculptures made from the materials that were torn down.

More information about this project can be found at Hordaland Art Centre.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Entrée at BGO1

Michael Johansson, "27m3", 3x3x3m, site specific installation, 2010. Entrée at BGO1, Bergen Art Museum.
Photo: Vilde Andrea Brun.

These days, at Bergen Art Museum, there is a cube put together from stuff that has been collected at different artists' studios. It is the work of Michael Johansson, who has done similar sculptures in many other venues.

Michael Johansson, "27m3", 3x3x3m, site specific installation, 2010. Entrée at BGO1, Bergen Art Museum.

The dimensions of this cube fit very well into the room in which it is exhibited, - in such a way that it activates the space around itself, and seems to be of perfect size. Since the walls and the space around the sculpture are (almost) empty, it is as if lots of stuff that has been lying around, somehow magically imploded into a perfect cube...

And by transforming into art transportation boxes, monitors, file drawers, and light bulb packs etc., this sculpture pays homage to the tedious everyday studio effort that has been carried out to produce all the other works that are exhibited in the same collective show, - while also directing our attention behind the scenes of the art museum.

When I first saw this sculpture, I enjoyed its formal aspects very much: The composition of colors, shapes, and different sized objects. Does anybody else come to think of a Mondrian painting?

Gabriel Johann Kvendseth, "First we take Manhatta, Bow & Arrows", 2010. Entrée at BGO1, Bergen Art Museum.
Photo: Vilde Andrea Brun.

Then, quietly, in the corner of the room, these three arrows have been shot into the wall. Well, one is broken, and the back part of it lies on the floor. This subtle and delicate work by Gabriel Johann Kvendseth goes well together with the big and loud colored cubical sculpture. Sometimes a quiet whisper becomes more audible than high-pitched insistence...

(This one room in the exhibition BGO1 at Bergen Art Museum has been curated by Entrée)

Monday, November 8, 2010

The Red Wheelbarrow

so much depends

a red wheel

glazed with rain

beside the white

(William Carlos Williams, 1923)

To me, this poem has always been about seeing. - Ever since I first read it in early fall, 1989. I remember the moment exactly; because "The Red Wheelbarrow" was presented in the very first lecture I attended at the University of Bergen, during the first couple of weeks that fall semester, before I went back to New York.

Professor Orm Øverland used it as an introduction to English literature and asked what the meaning of it was. I answered that it shows us the importance of noticing beauty around us, even in unspectacular, everyday objects.

I still appreciate this poem very much. I think it says something important about what art is, and can be. Visual art points out beautiful, interesting, shocking, funny...etc... aspects of life, that we may not notice on our own. And artworks often draw heavily on their context; a big part of a work's meaning may be generated by the surroundings in which it is presented. - Just like the image of the wheelbarrow in Williams's poem is something we can see more clearly when we imagine its red color next to the white chickens, an image that we most likely would not have been able to appreciate if he had not pointed our attention to it.

What do you think this poem is about?
Is there another poem that tells you something similar (or different!) about art?
Then please send it to me by e-mail, so that I can include it in my poetry page (

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Olafur Eliasson (+ maternity care in Ethiopia)

"Your strange certainty still kept", 1996, Tanya Bonakdar Gallery

A rule I have set for myself in writing this blog, is always to present works that I have experienced "live" and that have made a lasting impression on me.

That is true of "Your strange certainty still kept". When I saw this at Tanya Bonakdar gallery in 1996, it was the first time I came across Olafur Eliasson's work, and it made me want to see more. The problem is, now, so many years later, I can only remember that I very much liked this work, but not why...

"The weather project", 2003, Turbine Hall, Tate Modern, London, UK.

And having announced that rule, I go ahead and break it right away...
I never got to experience "The weather project". But I would have liked very much to lie down on the floor in the Turbine Hall at Tate Modern, bathing in the light from the big "sun", while looking at my reflection in the mirror that covered the ceiling high up above me in the "sky"...

"Many small fireflies",
ongoing, Maternity Worldwide.

What I do get to see everyday, though, is the "Many small fireflies" screensaver that I got when I donated 30 euros to Maternity Worldwide's work in Ethiopia, where they give women life saving maternity care.

On my black computer screen, a myriad of fireflies light up, each representing a donation that has been made to Maternity Worldwide. Thus, for every person who donates, a new firefly is ignited, and this way your contribution becomes part of the artwork itself.

(Here you can see what it looks like.)

Friday, November 5, 2010


"The Calling of St. Matthew", 1599-1600, San Luigi dei Francesi, Rome. (Reproduction cropped top and bottom.)

This is one of Caravaggio's most famous paintings, "The Calling of Saint Matthew". I have seen it in reproduction so many times and was very exited to get to see it "live" when I was in Rome recently.

I enjoyed its technical mastery and composition, - particularly the light that comes in from the top right corner, falls on Christ's hand, and illuminates the sitting men's doubtful looking faces and the money in front of them on the table.

And it was interesting to see, within the walls of a church, the greedy counting of money in such a gritty and cellarlike room. But I experienced an even greater contrast between the next two paintings and their ecclesiastical surroundings. They are placed on either side of the very colorful and celestial "Assumption of the Virgin" by Carracci, in Santa Maria del Popolo.

"The Crucifixion of Saint Peter", 1600-1601, Santa Maria del Popolo, Rome.

"The Conversion of Saint Paul", 1601, Santa Maria del Popolo, Rome.

Do you see how literally down to earth Caravaggio has chosen to tell these two stories? - The dirty feet and dug up gravel on the ground below the cross in the first picture. - And the tangle of horse legs and human legs in "The Conversion of Saint Paul". Here, the spiritual is brought down not only to the contemporary everyday, but to the very practical and dirty reality of pushing a cross into a vertical position, or possibly being stepped on by a horse when one has been struck to the ground by a blinding vision of Christ.

In both paintings the light serves not only to accentuate the main character, but also to create a very intimate visual room for us to enter. And you can see how the light creates a similarly intimate setting in the last painting, where Christ helps his mother crush the head of a snake that symbolises original sin.

"Madonna of the Palafrenieri", 1605-1606, Galleria Borghese, Rome.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Rivane Neuenschwander

Rivane Neuenschwander, "I Wish Your Wish", photo from Armando Rampas.

Still waiting for Marc Horowitz to call me, I came to think of the Rivane Neuenschwander show I saw at the New Museum in New York this summer.

Well, yes, I did merely look at most of the show (titled "A Day Like Any Other"), but in the piece that you see here ("I Wish Your Wish"), I also participated.

All the walls in the lobby gallery space at the New Museum were covered by little holes (10,296 in total), and from each hole hung a silk ribbon with text.

Rivane Neuenschwander,
"I Wish Your Wish", photo from Pittsburg City Paper.

I entered the room carefully, while trying to figure out what it was all about. The text on the ribbons looked like prayers, and in some of the holes the ribbons had been replaced by rolled up paper (see photo blow). 

All the colors, the pattern and texture that from a distance looked almost like tapestry... It was beautiful. And being surrounded by so many people's wishes felt sacred.

Rivane Neuenschwander, "I Wish Your Wish", photo from Shotgun Review.

By the entrance to the gallery there were pencils and paper. So I wrote my special wish on a piece of paper, rolled it up, and went to pick out a ribbon on which somebody else's wish was printed. It took me a while to find the right one. I had to consider many possible wishes, but ended up tying a pink ribbon around my wrist, with a wish that was supposed to come true when the ribbon fell off...


There was also another work in the show that required audience participation. In "First Love" a forensic sketch artist would listen to your description and make a drawing of your first love:

Rivane Neuenschwander, "First Love", photo from jaunted.

(The exhibition has travelled on, and is now at the Kemper Art Museum in St. Louis.)

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Marc Horowitz

Marc Horowitz, "The Advice of strangers"

I have had so much fun checking out other art blogs today that I have not had time to write any post.

Just see what I found: "The Advice of Strangers"
And read my comment to that Artlog post... I hope he will call me...

Monday, November 1, 2010

Harald Fenn

Harald Fenn, "Urban Melancholy", Oil on MDF, 1998.

Today I'll give you a small retrospective of the Norwegian artist Harald Fenn's paintings. The exhibition is hung chronologically, and I have chosen paintings that show the change in his work from straight lined abstraction in which the different textures in the lines create a certain depth of field (above), via:

Harald Fenn, "Pastorale Golden Green", 2000.

Straight vertical lines on top of blurred out crossing lines which remind me of squinting my eyes against sunlight reflected on water in the summer.
Then further on to:

Harald Fenn, "Exterior 01", 2005.

Lines that have softened and hang down limply. The title tells us that we are still outdoors. Maybe the light shines through foliage now. We seem to be enclosed in the green somehow, but in the next picture we get a much better overview:

Harald Fenn, "Interventions no 5", 2007

Voila: There is discernable landscape in the background. However, Fenn still keeps a balance between the abstract brush-painted lines in the foreground and figurative spray-paint in the back. So we go on to:

Harald Fenn, "Horizon", 2010.

The lines having disappeared completely. Here we get a clear unfettered view of the ocean and the sky.

This is my favorite painting from Fenn's current show at the Erik Steen Gallery. And it forms a turning point, I think, in his continuous movement toward larger depth. Quite naturally, that is, since one cannot ever gaze further than the horizon...