Sunday, February 24, 2013

Hilma af Klint: The Abstract Modernist You Need To Know

Hilma af Klint, they tens mainstay IV (1907)

The Swan (# 16) (1915

The Ten Largest: # 10, Age (1907)

Hilma af Klint is the abstract modernist you have never heard of, but need to know.  She began experimenting with abstraction c. 1900, and ultimately created around 1,000 paintings and drawings before she died in 1944.   

In other words, she is one of the great pioneers, along side Kandinsky, Malevich, Picasso, and Klee...but, as is all too often the case when the person wielding the brush (pen, horn, baton, etc.) is a woman, af Klint has been largely ignored as the history of modern Western art is told...until now...

The Modern Museum in Stockholm last week opened a major retrospective of af Klint's work (running through May 26th, moving then to the Museum for Contemporary Art, Berlin and the Museo Picasso in Malaga).  Click here for more information.  

Af Klint thus joins Sonia Delaunay-Terk, Sophie Taeuber-Arp, Hannah Hoech, Gabriele Muenter, Frida Kahlo, Lee Krasner and many, many other women who played central roles in the creation of the Modern.   How many others have we missed?  Keep re-evaluating and re-arranging the canon!  (*)

Click here for more on af Klint (her mysticism is particularly intriguing, especially as it aligns so much with the transcendentalism of, say, Kandinsky).  

(*)  Always seem to be running in place; haven't we been here before, forced to storm the walls over and over again?...from Hypatia through Christine de Pizan...and on and on.   Didn't Judy Chicago make these points decades ago?   Follow the scholarly & curatorial work of Linda Nochlin, Griselda Pollock, Faith Ringgold, Lucy Lippard.  

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Multimedia A Century Past: Sonia Delaunay-Terk & Blaise Cendrars, and Duncan Grant

Front Cover and Final Section of "La prose du Transsiberien et de la Petite Jehanne de France,"
A Collaboration By Sonia Delaunay-Terk and Blaise Cendrars, 1913

The MoMA's magisterial "Inventing Abstraction 1910-1925" (up through April 15th) reminds us that everything old is new again.  (Click here for the MoMA site for the exhibition).   No matter how hard we strain to create the New New Thing, the rupture that abstraction caused a century ago is still rippling and rending its way through our own time-- a Newness that we still struggle to get past, to overcome.  

Oh, and for all our emphasis on multimedia today, the Modernists beat us to that punch as well.  Most arresting for me- in the midst of so many familiar and iconic images- were the inventive mash-ups, the collaborative hybrids such as "La prose du Transsiberien..."-- a work inspired in part by a trip across Russia in the year of the first revolution, 1905.  (Click here for more on this revolutionary illustrated text).  

Collage is born at this time, Picasso runs headlong into African art, Klee takes the line for a walk, geometry is exploded and dissected, color leaps and somersaults, splashing into radial circles, costumes striped and hued, warping and expanding the human form...deliberately matched with atonal experiments in music, and the flickering motion of the new-born cinema.

The greatest revelation was Duncan Grant's "Abstract Kinetic Collage Painting With Sound," from 1914, which I had not seen before (it is on loan from the Tate).  Grant painted a series of abstract shapes on a roll c. ten feet long.   According to the Tate site:  "The artist made ["Abstract Kinetic..."] with the intention that it should be viewed through a rectangular aperture 24 in. (61 cm.) wide and of the same height—11 in. (28 cm.)— as the painting. As the painting was viewed, it was to be in continuous slow movement across the aperture, moving from left to right. Movement was to be effected by the scroll’s being mounted on twin spools, one on each side of the aperture and hidden from the spectator’s view, which would be turned by mechanical means. The artist intended that as the painting passed across the aperture the spectator should hear slow music by J. S. Bach." 

The piece has never been displayed as intended-- it is wall-mounted in one long band at the MoMA, with a film of how it would appear with the planned movement.   I could gaze for hours into the slow parade of perfectly aligned shapes, their colors a stately, transcendental expression of somber joy, the music a measured accompaniment.

Yet, at the time, no less than D.H. Lawrence (who saw the piece at Grant's workshop, and who liked Grant personally) derided it, saying "Tell him not to make silly experiments in the futuristic line with bits of colour on moving paper."

To see "Abstract Kinetic Collage...," click here.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Fairy Tale/ Folklore / Mythology: Passing Along a Call for Submissions

Natalia Andrievskikh (Binghamton University) contacted Lobster & Canary this week to say that she is guest-editing a special issue of Yellow Medicine Review devoted to fairy tale/ folklore/ mythology. 

She says: "We are not looking for stories and fairy-tales written for children: rather, we would like to see writing that appeals to broader audiences, while playing with fairy-tale motifs and aesthetics and tapping into the oral traditions of indigenous communities. Such works can blend the magic and the real, take a modern twist on a classic tale, or revisit the rich heritage of half-forgotten folk legends. Think Angela Carter, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Italo Calvino, Haruki Murakami, Marina Warner, Kate Bernheimer, and Neil Gaiman, among others. We are especially interested in multi-national submissions across marginalized cultures and ethnicities."

Submissions due March 1, 2013. Sub link:   Click here.

Yellow Medicine Review is new to Lobster & Canary-- here is how they describe themselves on their website: "Thanks to a generous grant from the Ford Foundation, on behalf of the Difficult Dialogues Initiative on the campus of Southwest Minnesota State University, a new publication, Yellow Medicine Review: A Journal of Indigenous Literature, Art, and Thought came into being.

The title Yellow Medicine Review is significant in that it incorporates the name of a river in Southwest Minnesota. The Dakota came together at the river to dig the yellow root of a special plant that was used for medicinal purposes, for healing. Such is the spirit of Yellow Medicine Review.

Yellow Medicine Review: A Journal of Indigenous Literature, Art, and Thought opens a new pathway for scholarly and creative expression. New paths lead to new places, into the territory where emerging voices and visions are beginning to take their places among already established indigenous writers, artists and scholars.

At this time, we encourage submissions from indigenous perspectives in the area of fiction, poetry, scholarly essays, and art. We define indigenous universally as representative of all pre-colonial peoples.

Contact us at: editor [at] yellowmedicinereview [dot] com"