Sunday, May 11, 2008

Gustav Klimt in Neue Galerie

What I had to skip last year was Neue Galerie, but luckily, this year I went there to see a Klimt exhibition, which in itself is a source of hope, happiness, inspiration, and freedom.

The building itself, placed right across Central Park on the Museum Mile, is a graceful 1914 construct.

The exhibition allowed us to indulge ourselves into the mindset of late 19th early 20th century. It was a tiny assembly of eight paintings, but nicely supported by more than 120 drawings by Gustav Klimt, the controversial artist of the Wiener Sezession. (controversial, particularly because of his university paintings which reveals his critical take on science, and his strict belief in freedom of art)

Wiki says

"In 1894, Klimt was commissioned to create three paintings to decorate the ceiling of the Great Hall in the University of Vienna. Not completed until the turn of the century, his three paintings, Philosophy, Medicine, and Jurisprudence were criticized for their radical themes and material, which was called "pornographic". Klimt had transformed traditional allegory and symbolism into a new language which was more overtly sexual, and hence more disturbing. The public outcry came from all quarters — political, aesthetic, and religious. As a result, they were not displayed on the ceiling of the Great Hall. This would be the last public commission accepted by the artist. All three paintings were eventually destroyed by retreating SS forces in May 1945. His Nuda Verita (1899) defined his bid to further shake up the establishment. The starkly naked red-headed woman holds the mirror of truth, while above it is a quote by Schiller in stylized lettering, "If you cannot please everyone with your deeds and your art, please a few. To please many is bad."

I think his self-standing, overtly sexual, lush, sensual, and unromantically beautiful female figures are the result of the same freedom he takes so seriously, and that allowed him to reflect the psychoanalytical gaze to his model's. I only blog a few of the paintings I have seen today, but his more exciting work is here.

New York, once more...

Another CSD session. Little sign of progress as to changing any developmental or environmental patterns... So after a week of hectic field work, I spend the weekend seeking some peace in aesthetics, only to see how art is sometimes much more capable of inverting politics and relating it to life than institutionalised platforms.
(My earlier visit to Boston to be covered later)

Let's start with Guggenheim.
Cai Guo-Qiang's exhibition titled I Want to Believe was incredibly powerful.
Cai's focus on sociopolitical issues, especially relating to acts of terrorism, has become a central feature of his work since 9/11. The most overt example, Inopportune: Stage One, simulates the trajectory of an exploding automobile tumbling through space, offering up the contradiction between a spectator's abhorrence of violence and attraction to the abstract beauty of some violent images. Nine white American-made cars are positioned in various stages of tumbling through the air. The first car remains inert on the ground. As each subsequent vehicle progresses through the sequence in mid-air, electric light rods protruding from their bodies emit blinding, flashing lights that mimic exploding fireworks. The palette of the light rods begins with a white, hot light, and grows progressively warmer and more vibrant as the angles of the cars rise and the “explosion” progresses through time, then quiets down into soft hues of purple and pink and at last a soft blue. The last vehicle lands on the ground, absent of any color, as if the car explosion never happened. The overall composition has the look of stop-motion photography or a sequence of freeze frames from a movie.

Head On exemplifies how local history and culture play a central role within Cai's working process. In this tableau, a pack of 99 life-sized wolves gallops at full force toward a transparent glass wall, leaping through the air in a unified arc, only to collide head on into the unyielding barrier. The wall—first realized to the exact height and thickness of the Berlin Wall—represents society's tendency to search only for the obvious, missing instead what may not be immediately evident but ultimately more dangerous. In Cai's artistic iconography, wolves possess a ferocity and courageousness similar to tigers and achieve heroism through their collective unity. In this installation, however, their cohesiveness leads to their ultimate downfall. Here, through the emblematic imagery of wolves, Cai intends to address the human fallibility of following any collective ideology too blindly and humankind's fate to repeat mistakes unthinkingly.
Click here to see more pictures.