May 27, 2011

Black and White and Read All Over the Armory

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“Hey, it’s like being inside a TV, Mama,” my son said.  Ryoji Ikeda’s spectacular installation at the Park Avenue Armory did remind some of us of the horizontal and vertical controls that cured the errant scan lines of yesteryear.

Upon entering the massive yet elegant Grand Marnier lit 19th century building for the opening reception, we saw the very shy, somewhat diminutive artist in sunglasses—How could this work of his be so colossal, extroverted, and commandingly powerful?

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Ikeda’s the transfinite is kind of like God for atheists.  An expression of mathematical data describing the infinite, it is immediate—overwhelming yet comforting.  Projections of parallel black and white lines and grids of numbers are perpendicular to the floor—a clean white beach—where people walk shoeless or recline to confer, dance and contemplate.  Occasional plinths dot the landscape, each topped with displays of data, white type rushing against black ground, mutating dynamically like a river you want to arrest with your touch.  For a textile designer, it is seeing patchworks of stripes and extreme close-ups of plaids rushing in contrasts. 

The transfinite is also the voice of mathematical output, accompanied by its own mewing resonant sound waves, like chanting mantras.  The Armory’s Drill Hall is transformed by its immersive starkness yet warmth, and we were filled with meditative awe and the experience of communion.

April 23, 2011

From Hitcher . . . to Stitcher

imageHuckleberry DelSignore, an artist in residence at the Berkshire Museum greeted us this past Saturday at the opening of her show, Concepts in Crochet.  Installed in an upstairs nook was a collection of organic, pop fiber critter masks she made, amidst a few extruded polyhedral tents.  Huck told us that most of the masks—which are easy to slide on and inhabit—were crocheted onto helmets.

imageimageimageimageWe had a blast, trying on all the masks and posing.  Soft, ample and not at all itchy, the one-size-fits-all masks are mossy and complex—looking in.  They offer the wearer a secure hideaway that disarms viewers by making them laugh.

imageThe blue yarn latticed tents—framed with metal armatures—were large enough to admit small people.  Believe it or not, Huck said, she uses the same stitch for all the work in the show.  She has also hitchhiked –back and forth across country to California several times—crocheting along the way.

February 08, 2011

Escherphilia

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I counted the days until the opening of M.C. Escher: Seeing the Unseen at the Berkshire Museum in Pittsfield, MA.  The show contains his classics and some of the rarest Eschers ever in one place—original pencil studies, lithographs, metamorphic scrolls, woodblocks and tzchotkes collected by him, including tiles he hand-painted to make his own tessellation patterns. Black-lit psychedelic posters, applications and appropriations of his work on record albums, magazines, and even polyester shirts convey the dichotomy of Escher as pop artist or master printmaker.

imageEscher, as you know is one of my core group of influences.  In seventh grade I did a lengthy research paper on him, which I presented to a group of novitiates.  I was and am still very entranced by his approach—by Escher’s interest in how we “see” things, his sublime technical prowess in printmaking and drawing, and his apprehension of the natural world.  And I am awed by his ability to illuminate and show the continuum to infinity, to illustrate the merger of opposites:  sea and sky, day and night, good and evil, two dimensions and three, order and chaos (Order and Chaos, a still life with a giant crystal at its core is one of my favorites.)  Escher starts in the physical realm but takes us to the philosophical one. His work is transcendent.

Prior to the opening reception, Jeffrey Price, one of the foremost Escher hunters, collectors, dealers and experts, gave an insightful overview of how Escher’s family life, mentoring teachers and travels informed his decision to do what he loved—be an artist.  At the show, I got to probe Jeffrey for more details about Escher’s life and work, and share Escherphilia.

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