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Marsden Hartley


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Marsden Hartley


MARSDEN HARTLEY´S
Maine

 


My own education [began] in my native hills, going with me—these hills wherever I went, looking never more wonderful than they did to me in Paris, Berlin, or Provence.—Marsden Hartley, “On the Subject of Nativeness—A Tribute to Maine,” 1937  

American painter and poet Marsden Hartley (1877–1943) was born and died in Maine, and his personal and aesthetic engagement with the state shaped his art. Hartley embarked on his artistic career in the early 1900s by painting the western Maine mountains, eventually becoming a member of the circle of artists promoted by the gallerist and photographer Alfred Stieglitz. 

Marsden Hartley (American, 1877-1943) Madawaska—Acadian Light-Heavy 1940 Oil on hardboard (masonite) 40 x 30 in. (101.6 x 76.2 cm) The Art Institute of Chicago, Bequest of A. James Speyer

Marsden Hartley (American, 1877-1943)
Madawaska—Acadian Light-Heavy
1940
Oil on hardboard (masonite)
40 x 30 in. (101.6 x 76.2 cm)
The Art Institute of Chicago, Bequest of A. James Speyer

" Hartley produced abstract paintings that placed him at the forefront of the international artistic avant-garde. "

Beginning in 1912, he adopted a peripatetic life, traveling throughout Europe and North America and returning to his native state on short, infrequent trips. While living in Berlin from 1913 to 1915, Hartley produced abstract paintings that placed him at the forefront of the international artistic avant-garde. Eventually his itinerant lifestyle took an emotional toll. At midlife he confided to Stieglitz, “I want so earnestly a ‘place’ to be.” Hartley repatriated to his native state in his later years and, in 1937, began transforming his identity from urbane sophisticate to “the painter from Maine.” 

This exhibition examines Maine as place and the place of Maine in Hartley’s art. It illuminates the artist’s wide-ranging representations of the state throughout his career, from early lush, Post-Impressionist mountain landscapes to glass paintings done at the Ogunquit art colony to canvases painted from memory while abroad to late, roughly rendered images of the rugged coastline, magisterial Mount Katahdin, and hardy people. It also includes works from The Met collection by other artists who shaped Hartley’s vision. Maine served as a slate on which Hartley manifested his ideas over time. It was an enduring source of inspiration defined by his personal history, cultural milieu, and desire to create a regional expression of American modernism. 

The exhibition is made possible by the Barrie A. and Deedee Wigmore Foundation, the Henry Luce Foundation, the William Randolph Hearst Foundation, and the Jane and Robert Carroll Fund.

Hartley was born in 1877 in Lewiston, Maine, a center of the state’s powerful textile industry. His English immigrant parents, who were drawn to the area by the mills, named their son Edmund. When Hartley was eight his mother died; he later attributed his lifelong loneliness to this early loss. His father remarried, and the family resettled in Ohio, where Hartley studied at the Cleveland School of Art until a local patron offered him a stipend to continue his training in New York. A teacher gave the aspiring artist a book by Ralph Waldo Emerson, igniting the interest in Transcendentalism that would contribute to the expressive tenor of his early landscapes.

In the spring of 1900, Hartley returned to Maine in search of inspiration. The state’s western border with New Hampshire, where the White Mountains preside, became the first place he claimed for his art. Over the next decade he moved between New York, Boston, and the cluster of small towns near the village of Lovell, Maine, establishing the itinerancy that would shape his life. Intimations of Hartley’s homosexuality entered his letters, and literature, especially the poems of Walt Whitman, provided an anchor for his emerging artistic identity. In 1906 Hartley changed his first name to Marsden, his stepmother’s surname. During these exploratory years he focused on Maine’s dramatic western mountains and the locale’s rural culture. His longest stay in the region, from 1908 to 1909, generated an extraordinary group of paintings and drawings. Returning to New York, Hartley secured the exhibition at Alfred Stieglitz’s gallery, 291, that launched his career. 

Marsden Hartley (American, 1877-1943) Canuck Yankee Lumberjack at Old Orchard Beach, Maine, 1940–41 Oil on Masonite-type hardboard, 40 1/8 x 30 in. (101.9 x 76.2 cm) Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian Institution.

Marsden Hartley (American, 1877-1943)
Canuck Yankee Lumberjack at Old Orchard Beach, Maine, 1940–41
Oil on Masonite-type hardboard, 40 1/8 x 30 in. (101.9 x 76.2 cm)
Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian Institution.

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Kostas Murkudis


Kostas Murkudis


AN INTERVIEW WITH KOSTAS MURKUDIS
Das Berliner Atelier

written by Annika Hatje
 


Through a movement of any kind, different approaches, shapes and stories develop to last yet aim at modifying again. In lieu of such fast-framed processes, today’s change seems to appear just a little bit faster than it did yesterday. To catch up with this dynamic, the individual needs to think inventive, adapt quickly, be aware of the situation finding oneself in and evolve upon such – Annika Hatje visited Kostas Murkudis in his atelier in Berlin and talked with him about his current collection, the inspiration resources and paradigms in fashion. 

Kostas Murkudis SS2017 LE MILE Magazine Alban E. Smajli

Entering his spacy atelier, illuminated by fluorescent tubes and warm wooden flooring, Kostas refines an environment that allows functionality and casualty, balancing a vigorous working atmosphere together with its homely attributes.
Going through the collection’s room, further towards the green garden with its prospering fauna, one enters the winter garden. It is silent and peaceful; reminding one of the spot you’d always dream off, to finally take a deep breath and loosen the strings attached to time. Here, architec
- ture and design objects are in fact a con- clusion of the interaction with shapes and colors. Versatile yet determent constitute characterizing attributes of a design object that acquires a status as such. Clothing can be such object, when inheriting the ability to master both attributes, created by Kostas Murkudis. 

" No boundaries, but eyes wide open towards the future implying the creation of face, guaranteeing for price challenges, production aims and freedom in creation "

Ambitiously inspired by his past collections, Kostas has been reconditioning his signature above what dictates trends, shapes and colors. Dedication - The artists mind is about stories to be told, transmitted through his unique aesthetics, following today’s function of body movements and lifestyles. It’s up to each individual to discover the clothes’ details, instead of discriminating one for its misuse. The collection in general stands out with its well applied haptic, it’s soft colored garment design (by Nadine Goepfert) and emphasizes a certain feeling of development within our society and its individuals. It’s a silent and smart fight, an innovative statement that embodies the progressive metropolitan wardrobe, where everything makes sense, every little stitch, pocket and detail, rein- forces the process of creation as a circle that nurtures itself and therefore continues infinitely. This in its core, functions as the catalyst, creating the desire to communicate. No boundaries, but eyes wide open towards the future implying the creation of face, guaranteeing for price challenges, production aims and freedom in creation. By skillfully reinterpreting the rules of beauty and norms of society, Kostas develops a certain distance to the pressure of today’s fashion industry dictate. Over the years, there had been developed a gentle, yet strong character that defines him as a person, influencing his collections. 

LE MILE Magazine by Alban E. Smajli presenting Kostas Murkudis SS2017 by Annika Hatje

" Within our postmodern environment we always tend to find appreciation of beauty. With creating a playful thought, defining freedom and detaching it from given codes, we get to question what is reality after all? "

Paris in particular has been crucial to his individual process towards being a designer, maintaining competitiveness, as this city constitutes creative freedom and acceptance of such within a society that evolves from the same impulses and desires. In its core values though, his creations do function on an artistic level, creating the basis of understanding, how to approach such in its holistic attempt.

Radiant youth, a human’s body and its attraction; the collection’s touch and playful features are characterizing his designs, keeping our senses and mind active, by allowing us to construe his composition in our own way. Accompanied by such freedom, it is actually the certain fondness on simplicity that’s creating space for complexity.

Within our postmodern environment we always tend to find appreciation of beauty. With creating a playful thought, defining freedom and detaching it from given codes, we get to question what is reality after all? Illusion and reflection hereby create a certain hyperreality, forming a context to evolve from. Regarding that, it is questioned whether there are actual scales that define beauty, limiting it to only an essence, or if the current development of limitation has been pushed boundaries. The essence is no longer an entity, as it now is rather used as an illustration of the various facets of beauty, manifested within major topics like gender, comfort, hierarchies and attraction. After all, contemporary aesthetics define its creator, deciding upon the placement of relevance: Being able to bend the idea of beauty, to manifest an object’s power in being visually appealing and raising awareness towards the importance of a long-lasting imagery, elucidates the current aesthetical dynamics in the creative industry.

Furthermore, and such is the initial indicator of successful designing, there is a given mindset that fashion continuous to be a consistent and independent platform, functioning as an expression of taste within the scope of cultural understanding. But most importantly it raises awareness on the relevance of innovation in an industry which mostly functions through consumption and reproduction Film though, well-functions as another projector for the idea of his collections.

It resembles another voice, channeling the garments from another angle and allows being playful, as well as challenging at the same time. It changes the way we develop a thought about certain aesthetics. Sequences of film almost seem like a puzzle, where its pieces are made out of various attributes that’s been put together. As an artist, Kostas Murkudis uses such platform to inspire but also question certain paradigms of several disciplines. His film collection’s aim is accompanied by a clear message, a regulatory parameter that is more or less visible, but reconciling its sequences. Moreover, he mentions in our talk that film in general is today’s way to communicate to a broad variety of generations. It is the bonding that we keep to our origin, and which made Kostas coming back to Berlin after such a long voyage within the fashion industry. Travelling professionally roots from curiosity and self-realization, but also from today’s natural understanding of being available at any time, worldwide. From designing his own line, to taking over the creative direction of other labels, as well as exhibiting certain pieces of his at the MMK Frankfurt and finally creating the costume design for the opera of Luzern, as well as their stage setting, one receives a profound idea of the scope of his work that in itself is tremendous and comprises major disciplines. His journey thus proves that there are no boundaries in creation Memories vanish, as experience continues to prosper. Going further, it creates confidence, a vital network and a team that contributes to facilitate and inspire. Gathering a strong set of creativity around oneself, attributes as craftsmans- hip, honest narratives and brilliant mastered compositions of fabric and design, develop naturally.
‘There had been so much happening in my life, I can’t remember everything’ – but somehow it all comes together when reviewing his works – most resonant, there is someone sitting in front of me who is kind-hearted, keeping a certain youth naivety and reveals his standing and thoughts only partly - always keeping a smooth tempo to it. I would even argue that such is one of the most desired skills of today’s open world: Keeping things to yourself and taking time to tell. 

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Ann Kuen


Ann Kuen


AN INTERVIEW WITH ANN KUEN
About a Muse 

written by Grenadine R.


Inspiration. Stimulation of the mind. Arising creativity. Blessed by the muse. There is always this very origin of a piece of art. Very seldomly it only develops from an inner self, from a core. There is always some kind of influence, a question that has been raised through society or environment. Or even a muse. The myths of muses have often been linked to divinity - there wasn’t a genius without the influence of a god, as Greek mythology says. But do we have to see a muse that extraordinary? 

Ann Kuen LE MILE Magazine by Thomas Sing

What does it mean to be a muse in this modern, fast world? What spirit is still needed, what spirit is still left? Ann Kuen, since recently the new muse of international artist Anselm Kiefer, working with him in his Atelier close to Paris, is herself artist, model and muse in one person.
I talk to her on a very late evening about being a muse and artist at the same time and the threshold between art and fashion. It is the simplicity, her down-to- earth attitude, maybe also her vigorous
Austrian German that makes her a very authentic individual, who seems to reflect sensibly on life, providing a feeling of why she is so inspiring to people. 

" I think I bring inspiration to the people - maybe that’s my task in life. "

It was last year that she started to work with Kiefer. Studying arts back then in Vienna but traveling a lot and working full time as a model, she thought it would be a good idea to leave the premises and work with the artist for a while. The job of a model and muse are closely connected to each other but still there are things that make big differences. Even more difficult is switching from being the object to being the creator. Both, being a model and a muse, but also being a muse and an artist can become a balancing act. We talk about the feeling to stand, sometimes even naked, in front of ano- ther person, who is creating an image of oneself. „It makes you strong, it keeps up a kind of aloofness." s a live model Ann is often stylized to a sculpture, raised to something special. Still there remains a passive part, where she is an active being but at the same time doesn’t create anything. In contrast, when switching the role, transforming to the other side, she can become the active part that is creating.

" It’s intimidating being portrayed, being eternalized through his [Kiefers] art. Its surreal to see yourself painted, clearly recognizable but in colours in which you would never see yourself. "

For her, it’s not easy to leave the state of passiveness, turning into the creator - taking the spirit only for herself.
„It’s not as easy as it seems, after being taken away from yourself, coming back to your inner core, to return to the person you really are, to find the place in your inner self where you are yourself.“
Her work „spletenija“ describes this conflict. She lived in London back then and her landlady had loads of packaging material. Almost by incident, very intuitively, she started experimenting with it, exploring what forms could develop out of it and started to shoot herself whilst working. Only later, producing the he- liogravures for an exhibition, she found out about the meaning of this work. „Iam a sculpture, fashioned and figured by others” - in this case she became her own muse. It is rather stimulation than inspiration what she gets from Kiefer, mostly regarding his attitude. Having preserved the child within him, he wants to fathom the things of the world and he is not afraid to fail - it’s even more so an important part in his works. Her adaption is an intuitive way of working. Where the piece of art will lead her is part of the process. To start with something simple, probably so- mething that appears to be meaningless will help raising fundamental questions. That’s why she likes to observe people. Spending time at airports a lot, she finds many people mostly controlled by basic instincts - sleeping, eating, going to the toilet. From observing to being observed she finds it often a schizophrenic act of being a personality and then becoming some object used for projection of the artist or the photographer. Fashion often lacks a respectful way of dealing with models, Ann reflects. Size, hair, leg length - categories are things that matter. Rarely it’s the character or the personality. The question arises if models are still the source for inspiration. It becomes in fact a tool for projection. As in Ann’s case, being a muse for artists, she feels much more respect for her very Self, for her personality and for the spirit she brings.
Becoming a muse is definitely something that one doesn’t chose to be. Still Ann thinks that its got do with certain skills, like a handcraft. „Knowing who you are, knowing your way, knowing what you love and being disciplined about it.“ It’s
a consciousness or a particular attention she receives through or pays to her surroundings, that shapes her, what she releases then again. Like a medium. This shape, often described as the energy or the spirit a person brings, is the veil of the muse.


Ann Kuen in her Atelier, photographed by Thomas Sing.

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Broomberg + Chanarin


Broomberg + Chanarin


BROOMBERG + CHANARIN
Hijacking Brecht

written by Andreas Hübner
 

“We still believe firmly that human suffering needs to be reported and documented,” says photographer Adam Broomberg, referring to the omniscient presence of war, violence, terror, murder, and genocide in modern-day society and imagery. Along with his partner in crime, Oliver Chanarin, Broomberg has recently finalized two highly acclaimed projects, War Primer 2 and Divine Violence. Both projects, in a rather ‘parasitic’ manner, reconsider the multiplicity of war imagery in the digital age, appropriating earlier works of Bertolt Brecht, such as the Kriegsfibel, and the playwright’s very own copy of the Bible. Devoid of shame, the photographic duo has chosen to follow Brecht’s lead, to explore the documentation, dissemination, and currency of war images in media and to ask why history coagulates around certain images. Refraining from the pure consumption of photographs, Broomberg and Chanarin acknowledge the blinkered neutrality of photojournalism and seek to conceive how an image becomes the image: “Our lives are so consumed by images that it’s important to understand the way they work: emotionally, politically, culturally, economically.”

" For War Primer 2, Broomberg and Chanarin appropriated Brecht’s 1955 Kriegsfibel. The duo purchased 100 copies of the 1998 English Kriegsfibel edition "

War Primer 2 and Divine Violence have spoken to each other from the very beginning. When researching for War Primer 2 in Berlin’s Brecht Archives, Broomberg and Chanarin stumbled across the playwright’s personal copy of the Holy Bible that had a photograph of a racing car glued to its cover. In many ways, the ‘cannibalized’ bible represented Brecht’s efforts to decode photographs, which he called hieroglyphs. To Broomberg and Chanarin, the bible as well as the Kriegsfibel encapsulated Brecht’s concern about the use of photographs in media: Both seemed to comment on the changing implications of photojournalism and to discuss the discursive relationship between image, caption, and context.

Curator Ann-Christin Bertrand of C/O Berlin has now decided to enter this multilayered discourse and to design an exhibition bringing together Adam Broomberg and Oliver Chanarin’s War Primer 2 and Divine Violence at Amerika Haus Berlin. Opening on September 30th, Don’t Start With The Good Old Things But The Bad New Ones will feature approximately 90 images from both projects and allow spectators to experience the kind of alienation and estrangement that are characteristic to the artist duo’s and to Bertolt Brecht’s works alike. 

" Sometimes disturbing, War Timer 2 and Divine Violence create a personal, intimate, sensual, almost sexual, occasionally sad but always deceptive atmosphere "

Inspired by Heiner Müller’s dictum to never use Brecht without changing him, Broomberg and Chanarin drew from the Brechtian concept of the photo-epigram to develop their very own montage technique. In Kriegsfibel, the great poet and playwright had added four-line rhyming epigrams or short poems to images from mass-circulation magazines, most often from Life. Meant to expose the brutal workings of capitalism, the photo-epigrams transformed a classical Greek form of poetry into a brief interpretative caption, undermining and reframing the meaning of the original news. In a quite didactic sense, the photo-epigrams were intended to trigger critical thinking and to aid “critical remembrance.” 

Over the years, Broomberg and Chanarin have not only earned a reputation as photographers, they have also been successful in positioning themselves among the critical thinkers and the avant-garde of contemporary photography. Their works have been widely exhibited around the world, including Tate Modern, The Museum of Modern Art, Victoria & Albert Museum, International Center of Photography, Musée de l’Elysée, and the Stedelijk Museum. For War Primer 2, they were awarded the Deutsche Börse Photography Prize in 2013, and the Infinity Award from the International Center of Photography in 2014, allowing them to build their own studio in London and to take academic positions at the Hochschule für bildende Künste (HFBK) in Hamburg, Germany, and the KABK in The Hague. 

For War Primer 2, Broomberg and Chanarin appropriated Brecht’s 1955 Kriegsfibel. The duo purchased 100 copies of the 1998 English Kriegsfibel edition. They then gathered photographs and video-stills from the internet, concentrating on images of the so-called “War on Terror.” These images, of course, had gone through many editing processes: They had been digitally compressed, ripped, reformatted and often disconnected from their former authorship. These somewhat ‘corrupted’ images were montaged, or more precisely, mounted by hand in the pages of Kriegsfibel, forcing them into a dialogue with Brecht’s photo-epigrams. Early on, the artists had envisioned coming forth with their own poetry, but, in the course of project, they abandoned the idea and decided to stick with the original photo-epigrams, unveiling photography’s ongoing occupation with war and catastrophe.

Discovering Brecht’s bible in the archives, Broomberg and Chanarin felt that their project was not yet finished, that it needed further investigation. Guided by an essay of Adi Ophir, they became aware of the entanglements between war, catastrophe, God and modern systems of governance: “Right from the start, almost every appearance he [God] made was catastrophic. Catastrophe is his means of operation, and his central instrument of governance.” Ophir’s argument provided a philosophical and political map for the Divine Violence project. The artists adapted Ophir’s reading of “the Bible as a parable for the growth of the modern state and the blurring between God and State leading to us blindly and naively accepting the radical punishment the State is able to meter out.” Hence, they began reading the bible, underlining passages abundant of violence and calamity. Simultaneously, they mined the Archive of Modern Conflict in London to produce images that could possibly question the stereotypes at play within the visual representation of conflict. In a very organic way, it all came together, war imagery and the holy scripture. This time appropriating a reproduction of the King James Bible, the duo set in to collage and keep collaging, generating layer over layer, blending images of conflict and biblical text, to eventually design an alternative form of the Holy Bible.

Sometimes disturbing, War Timer 2 and Divine Violence create a personal, intimate, sensual, almost sexual, occasionally sad but always deceptive atmosphere. Hijacking Brecht’s “distancing effect,” texts and images step outside their inhabited roles and force those into dialogue who came to passively ‘entertain the illusion’: the audience that is now left to reflect the use and abuse of photography.

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David Goldblatt


David Goldblatt


DAVID GOLDBLATT
The Transported of KwaNdebele:
A South African Odyssey, 1983 – 1984
Ex-Offenders at the Scene of Crime, 2008 – 2015 


 

New York, August 17, 2016 – Pace/MacGill Gallery is honored to inaugurate its U.S. representation of acclaimed South African photographer David Goldblatt with an exhibition of photographs from two series, The Transported of KwaNdebele: A South African Odyssey, 1983–1984 and Ex- Offenders at the Scene of Crime, 2008–2015. The exhibition opens on September 14 with a reception for the artist from 5:30 to 7:30 pm and will be on view through October 29, 2016. 

" Goldblatt’s photographic essay on homeland transport, The Transported of KwaNdebele, 1983-1984, illuminates the oppressive geographic displacement imposed by apartheid "

For over 60 years, David Goldblatt has documented the social and political developments of his native South Africa with a critical yet compassionate eye. Drawn “to the quiet and commonplace, where nothing ‘happened’ and yet all was contained and immanent...,” Goldblatt photographs the complexities of everyday life to reveal the far-reaching effects of apartheid and the post-apartheid conditions that continue to impact the country’s social fabric to this day. As Ingrid Sischy writes in her introduction to Kith, Kin and Khaya: South African Photographs, "David Goldblatt is a true misfit in the history of photography. A stand-out whose commitment to the medium is epic. He is one of a kind, and his images of South Africa, taken from the 1940s and still going, will only be more reverberative as time goes on."

" Affected by the ubiquity of violence and fundamental lawlessness in South Africa, where crime rates are among the highest in the world, Goldblatt  sought to look past statistics and expose the humanity of perpetrators in his series Ex-Offenders at the Scene of Crime, "

 

Goldblatt’s photographic essay on homeland transport, The Transported of KwaNdebele, 19831984, illuminates the oppressive geographic displacement imposed by apartheid. Commissioned for the Second Carnegie Inquiry into Poverty and Development in Southern Africa, these photographs depict the commuting workers of KwaNdebele, who spend between 3 1⁄2 and 8 hours each day traveling to and from their jobs in the metropolitan city of Pretoria. As apartheid policy required the segregation of black South Africans in tribal Bantustans or homelands, millions were forcibly relocated to remote, rural settlement camps that lacked employment opportunities. Heavily subsidized bus and rail services were established to facilitate the movement of workers between these camps and their workplaces in the country’s white economic centers. Goldblatt’s images follow KwaNdebele’s nightriders through their daily ritual of interminable, overcrowded commutes on dusty, rutted roads and render visible their physical and psychological experiences of alienation and dislocation. The bus ride alone speaks powerfully to the abhorrent conditions which so profoundly concern Goldblatt.Affected by the ubiquity of violence and fundamentallawlessness in South Africa, where crime rates are among the highest in the world, Goldblatt sought to look past statistics and expose the humanity of perpetrators in his series Ex-Offenders at the Scene of Crime, 20082015. Through prisoner rehabilitation organizations, he approached former criminals or ex-offenders on parole and photographed them at the life-changing sites where their crimes occurred. The gripping portraits are accompanied by personal narratives, summarized from interviews with the artist, which recount the subjects’ stories and felonies. As Goldblatt explains, his pictures contain no social agenda: “My interest in ex-offenders arises from a wish to know who are the people who are doing the crimes and to get a sense of their life and how they came to crime. Could these people be my children? Could they be you? Or me?” In 2012, at the invitation of the West Bromwich based community arts center, Multistory, Goldblatt expanded his project to include ex-offenders in England’s Black Country. 

David Goldblatt (b. 1930, Randfontein, South Africa) began working as a full-time photographer in the early 1960s. He has published numerous monographs of his work and is the recipient of the Infinity Lifetime Achievement Award from the International Center of Photography (2013), the Henri Cartier- Bresson Award (2009), and the Hasselblad Foundation International Award in Photography (2006), among other distinctions. In 1989, Goldblatt founded the Market Photography Workshop in Johannesburg to provide further education in visual literacy and photographic practice to disadvantaged learners during the apartheid regime. 

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Eva Stenram


Eva Stenram


EVA STENRAM
DRAPE

written by Julia Ahtijainen

 

Oliviero Toscani put it simply, he said that an artist is someone who is who he is and does what he does. Eva Stenram is a Swedish artist who works with photographs. To be exact, she is manipulating between nostalgic imagery and covered sexuality, sending her messages through objectification of a female body and disrupted body language. Stenram’s latest series named “Drape” takes under the loop female leg postures. This collection of photographic images is a mixture of black and white, and color images of women who had been photographed in front of an interior curtain, in other words, in front of the drape.

" We often speak about Italian hand gestures and their meaning, but why not legs? "

Certain poses play an important role in this collection, and while viewing it one has to consider the aesthetics of female legs in vintage photography. We often speak about Italian hand gestures and their meaning, but why not legs? For example, Drape (Centerfold II), 2012, the whole meaning of the image is behind the risen leg. Like in tango, the leg here is a beautifully sensual distraction. Tango is an incredibly sexy and courageous dance, a sultry game. And Eva Stenram knows how to play it. How to play within flat photography, digital cut photo, blending, physical disruption and hidden spots. Imagination runs free behind these drapped and undraped places.

“I was interested in blocking out the main areas of interest in the image – making the local point of the image disappear and instead make the background engulf the foreground,“ explained Stenram. With that being said, Eva Stenram redefines the role of the gaze. The phrase ‘male gaze’ was first defined by feminist film critic Laura Mulvey in 1975. In her book “Visual and Other Pleasures” she wrote that pleasure in looking has been split between active male and passive female gaze. The determining male gaze projects always its fantasy on to the female form, which is styled accordingly. And in Stenram’s work one can recognize a disruption of styling by cutting and hiding body parts in another possible way, in comparison to the traditional exhibitionist role, where women are simultaneously looked at and displayed, and their appearance being coded for strong visual and erotic impact. Or as Laura Mulvey puts it: “So that they can be said to connote to-be-looked-at-ness”. “Drape” is a representation of a world ordered by sexual imbalance, given it a certain dose of nostalgia and rebellion. Just like Albert Camus thought, that every act of rebellion expresses a nostalgia for innocence and an appeal to the essence of being, so is the collection “Drape” is rebelling and expressing at the same time the essence of being in today’s culture.

" It is a way for us to find peace in this neverending information flow of new meanings and connections. The feeling of nostalgia is a bridge between uncertainties of today and good old fundamental past "

Nostalgia here is a necessary thing. It is a way for us to find peace in this neverending information flow of new meanings and connections. The feeling of nostalgia is a bridge between uncertainties of today and good old fundamental past. Eva Stenram’s images evoke a certain amount of positive and healthy nostalgia. Which is more about the alteration of the pin-up body language, humoristic eroticism and the clichés of feminine posture. The ideals of materialistic femininity of the past. Here I would quote Mauritian visionary, painter and writer Malcolm de Chazal, who once said: “The idealist walks on tiptoe, the materialist on his heels.”

What is the ideal female? Or where is the female ideal? Is it she, who is hiding behind this drape? Flirting with us in her heels and sultry leg postures. Or is just a projection of idea of a female? Eva gives the viewer bits and pieces to think about that. And isn’t it strange how we still hold on to the pieces of the past while we long for our bright future?

 

 

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Gordon Parks


Gordon Parks


GORDON PARKS
Weapon of Choice

written by Andreas Hübner

october 2016
 

“Nothing came easy,” Gordon Parks, remarked in his 1990 autobiography, Voice in the Mirror, looking back a long and winding road that had turned the High School drop-out at age fifteen into an accomplished photographer, writer, and film director by the 1970s. Never one to disappoint, Parks had cleared the ranks, playing the piano in brothels, trying on a semi-professional sports career with the touring “House of David” basketball team, cleaning up after alcoholics in a flophouse: “I was just born with a need to explore every tool shop of my mind, and with long searching and hard work. I became devoted to my restlessness.”

That restlessness was to be condensed in the mid-1930s when Parks discovered the power of the camera. Taking a railroad job, he started reading the magazines discarded on the trains and incidentally ran into a remarkable group of photographers: Arthur Rothstein, Russell Lee, Carl Mydans, Walker Evans, and Dorothea Lange. Pushed into a new perspective on visual practice, Parks began visiting the Art Institute on Michigan Avenue during layovers in Chicago, gently wandering about the paintings of Claude Monet, Auguste Renoir, and Edouard Manet, only to frequent the boisterous movie houses afterwards. Here the newsreel caught his attention, and, inspired by the bravery and dedication of the cameramen, he became determined to take upon photography. Not before long, Parks left a pawnshop. For $12.50, he had purchased his weapon of choice: a Voightlander Brilliant.

" Encompassing the period in between 1942 and 1978, the curators have decided to not just concentrate on the photographic oeuvre of Parks, they also consider his expertise as a writer and filmmaker "

Opening on September 9, C/O Berlin is presenting the exhibition I Am You at Amerika Haus Berlin, highlighting the works of Gordon Parks. Staged in cooperation with The Gordon Parks Foundation, the exhibition will be on display until December 15, 2016, and then travel to FOAM in Amsterdam and the Kunstfoyer in Munich. Encompassing the period in between 1942 and 1978, the curators have decided to not just concentrate on the photographic oeuvre of Parks, they also consider his expertise as a writer and filmmaker. Altogether some 150 works are shown, vintage prints, contact sheets, magazines, and films. Parks is represented as both a protagonist of the Civil Rights Movement and a respected chronicler of celebrated figures. Profiling agents of change such as Malcolm X, Martin Luther King Jr. and Muhammad Ali, as well as popular darlings such as Duke Ellington, Ingrid Bergmann und Alberto Giacometti, his photographic endeavors would eventually bring together the worlds of politics, art and fashion. 

Born on November 30, 1912, in Fort Scott, a remote Kansas prairie town, African American Gordon Parks was not meant to become one of his country’s favorites. Amid poverty and racial segregation, he was distressed by the early death of his mother. The then fourteen year old mourned her sudden passing and, at the same time, feared his very own end. Slowly that restlessness would kick in. Sent away to live with relatives, he learnt to rely on himself, taking on odd jobs, eventually picking up photography. In the 1930s, with the camera at his hands, Parks made his ways into Chicago’s sprawling impoverished South Side. He sensed that even though a cheap apparatus, the Voightlander would empower him to make serious comments on the human condition. A new way of seeing and feeling opened up to him, one acknowledged by the Julius Rosenwald Fund: By 1941, Parks was awarded a fellowship and to serve a term with the Farm Security Administration in Washington, DC. He moved to the capital in January 1942, only to recognize that “racism was busy with its dirty work” in the city. Parks began to portray the bigotry of the American Way of Life and a society deeply entrenched in racism, segregation, injustice, violence, and poverty. 

" Sent away to live with relatives, he learnt to rely on himself, taking on odd jobs, eventually picking up photography "

I Am You includes perhaps Parks’ most famous image of the DC days: The “American Gothic, Washington D.C.” (1942). Shot during the year of the Rosenwald fellowship, it poses a strong juxtaposition to Grant Wood’s painting of the same title. Moving the scene from rural Iowa to the capital, the photograph features a single African American cleaning woman, Ella Watson, positioned in front of the star-spangled banner with a broom and a mop. “American Gothic” challenges racism head-on and unfolds Parks’ profound approach to photography. Self-taught, he did not just develop a unique style and versatility that transcended professional stereotypes, he also added to the conceptual transformation of photography. Parks developed the concept of image sequence, displaying human behavior or societal conditions as recurring processes. Hence, through photography, he explored innovative ways of narrative structure, placing him among the pioneers of the social documentary tradition.

After leaving the Farm Security Administration, Parks continued to portray people from all walks of life. In 1948, a photographic essay on a young Harlem gang leader, Red Jackson, earned Parks a staff job as a photographer and writer with Life magazine. The watershed had come, engagements with Condé Nast, Vogue, and other renowned fashion magazines were to follow. But Parks never got off focus; he managed to explore the spheres of art and fashion without becoming limited to glamour photography. A photojournalist by heart, he was able to produce that rare intimacy between photographer and subject and to transcend sheer voyeurism, creating moments of subtle mastery. In this sense, Park’s photographs of Ingrid Bergman represent his most iconic images. Exhibited at C/O Berlin, these photographs reveal Bergman’s vulnerability and, at once, resemble Parks’ take on the profession of the photographer: “I wound up being an objective reporter with a subjective heart.”

All the while, Parks rose to become an acclaimed filmmaker and writer. In the 1970s, he directed two Shaft movies, Shaft and Shaft’s Big Score, thereby introducing the Blaxpoitation genre to movie houses, confronting the audience with America’s poor urban neighborhoods. Parks later described the movies as noisy, but necessary films: “People come up and ask me if we really need this image of Shaft the black superman. Hell, yes, there’s a place for John Shaft.” Even earlier, Parks had become Hollywood’s first African American to direct a major film, when he had taken over the production of The Learning Tree, a drama adaptation of his 1964 semi-autobiographical novel of the same title. For the shooting of the film, he returned to his hometown Fort Scott after more than two decades. The atmosphere was tense, as essayist S. Pearl Sharp noted, for Fort Scott wasn’t too sure it wanted Parks and those Hollywood folks filming, putting a spotlight on their souls, telling a story about race and righteousness. Yet, Parks was not willing to let the opportunity slip away, he was willing to take upon the chance and to shed light on America’s troubled past and presence. He was to act as the American Renaissance man that we now experience at C/O Berlin and that still speaks to us today: “One hundred miles from Kansas City, Missouri, as the crow flies southward is my birthplace, Fort Scott Kansas. I went back this spring for the first time in twenty-three years. I rode into town on the tail of hard blowing storm; it was high noon but Main Street was dark as night.”

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Guggenheim Helsinki


Guggenheim Helsinki


GUGGENHEIM HELSINKI
ART IN THE CITY
The New Guggenheim takes over Helsinki’s South Harbor 

written by Toas Silem

october 2016
 

Guggenheim Museums embody quality art, design and architecture. They stand for innovation and honoring contemporary art for today and yesterday.

The concept of displaying art in a artistic environment has been translated into the 21st century through modern and thoughtfully designed architecture. When entering a Guggenheim, you don’t get to see art, you get to experience it. Every Guggenheim has a taste of its own. The Solomon R. Guggenheim in New York concentrates on abstract paintings while also displaying some impressionists, expressionists and surrealists. The Peggy Guggenheim in Venice shows works from the turn of the last century in Europe, expressionism, cubism, surrealism as well as works of the school of Bauhaus, Der Stijl and Art Déco. The Guggenheim in Bilbao focuses on contemporary art of the 21th century, not so much exhibiting paintings and sculptures but installations and video art. 

" The architecture of the Guggenheims museums is legendary and part of the commercial image and public perception of the Guggenheims, simply think of the Bilbao effect "

The architecture of the Guggenheims museums is legendary and part of the commercial image and public perception of the Guggenheims, simply think of the Bilbao effect. It was therefore with great suspense that the world awaited the announcement of the construction of a new Guggenheim.

In June of last year, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation decided on a winner of their design competition for a new museum building located in the capital city of Finland, Helsinki. With a staggering 1,715 submissions, the jury was finally able to select a well-deserved winner: Moreau Kusunoki Architects from Paris, founded by Nicolas Moreau und Hiroko Kusunoki in 2011. Kusuniki was trained and gained her first work experiences in Japan, while Moreau received his degree in Paris itself. They came to know each other in Tokyo and moved to France shortly afterwards. With the knowledge and experience from two different cultures, looking at the matter with fresh, young eyes, their design was chosen to be the future icon of museums. 

The design of the Guggenheim Helsinki invites visitors to engage with museum artwork and programs across a gathering of linked pavilions and plazas organized around an interior street. There architecture plays with the maritime flair of its location by mimicking the skyline of a fisher town. The nine pavilions are lying low while one lighthouse-like structure stands out. Because of the local disposability of certain materials, the building is planned to be made out of charred timber and glass, making the building environmentally sensitive. The layout is also intended to revalue the nearby Observatory Park and to guarantee access to the South Harbor via a bridge. The whole quartier of South Harbor will hence be tied together with the rest of the city.  

" Because of the local disposability of certain materials, the building is planned to be made out of charred timber and glass, making the building environmentally sensitive "

The novelty design of the Guggenheim Helsinki consists of nine individual pavilions, which are internally connected so that the visitors can follow the flow that the architecture is purporting. People will be able to enjoy art, architecture and environment all at once in the same space. Moreover, all of these aspects are intertwined, underlining a sense of community and belonging to the city.

During the announcement of the winners Richard Armstrong, the Director of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum and Foundation, thanked the many participants of the competition, especially the five other finalists, and looked enthusiastically into the future: “While the design competition has now ended, we are confident that its contribution to architectural discourse and the public imagination has only just begun.” Jury chair Mark Wigley, Professor and Dean Emeritus of the Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation at Columbia University, remarks that “the design is imbued with a sense of community and animation that matches the ambitions of the brief to honor both the people of Finland and the creation of a more responsive museum of the future." Architecture and art are given an opportunity to emphasize what they respectively need. The museum is being built with both disciplines and the environment in mind to reach its full potential.

A building is an artistic work on its own and it is supposed to be a considerate host to the art it will accommodate. Since contemporary art is really appropriating the spaces that it is given, we are anxious to see what kind of works the new Guggenheim will be able to display and what works will be inspired by the space.

There are many more architectural concepts that need to be realized and there is much more art that needs to be shown. Guggenheim Helsinki is the next brick in the never- ending road of art history. The Guggenheim-family is growing and the world is ready to see it. 

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Bill Morrison x DOK Leipzig


Bill Morrison x DOK Leipzig


BILL MORRISON
meets DOK LEIPZIG

written by Valerie McPhail

october 2016
 

Extending a week long, DOK hosts its annual event from October 31st through November 6th. The festival considers its mission, a dedication to documentary and animated film through the theme of disobedience that permeates throughout the various categories and divisions offered by the selections and its events.  

" What began as a gathering among filmmakers from different cultures and countries around the world “exchanging DOK Leipzig,” still today remains at the heart of this film festival’s function "

As the world’s oldest documentary film festival, DOK is a platform for international artists, undivided by geography and creative pursuits since 1955. Located in Leipzig, East Germany the event has evolved into the center for animated and documentary showcase. With a full calendar of events throughout the year — including projects and media research, partnership events and trainings for young artists, the festival seeks to support filmmakers in every aspect of their vocation. Since the festival’s establishment at the time of the Cold War Era, the event has become a worldwide event where creative experts share their depth of knowledge. What began as a gathering among filmmakers from different cultures and countries around the world “exchanging DOK Leipzig,” still today remains at the heart of this film festival’s function.  

Among various events that will occur throughout the week includes the screening of Bill Morrison’s “Decasia” and his accompanied Master Class. The New York-based artist and filmmaker’s “Decasia”, offers an experimental venture between animation and documentary. “Decasia” is a film contribution to the festival’s Reworking the Image Series, a collection of work that “demonstrates how artists intervene into the analogue film stock itself and create new work by scratching or etching. ‘Decasia’, “comprised of found footage collages, makes the decomposition of vintage nitrate film stock visible.” 

Previous to this DOK premier, the film directed, edited and produced by Mr. Bill Morrison himself, showed in 2002, among the biggest, baddest, and commercial film events: the International Film Festival Rotterdam, Vienna International Film Festival, Viennale, Sundance Film Festival and MOMA’s “My Way for Tomorrow” Program. Additional accolades for Morrison’s piece include the trailblazing claim as the “first 21st Century film to be added to the list of Library of Congress National Film Registry in 2013 and Village Voice’s J. Hoberman’s one of ten best films in 2003. “ The opportunities for exposure and recognition entice its mystery. “Decasia” is an enigma to the traditional film form. An original contribution to the Ridge Theater’s Live, Multimedia Theatricalization of Michael Gordon’s Symphony of the same title, the film was “commissioned, produced and presented in November of 2001 by the Europpaischer Muskimonat and Basel Sinfonietta.” Its American premier followed at the St. Ann’s Warehouse in Brooklyn a live event hosted in September 2004, years after its international debut.  

" A ghostly wisp takes over the screen in a reoccurring fashion. It monopolizes a collage filled with the private moments of everyday people "

The premise of the narrative focuses on “Man’s struggle to transcend his own mortality as the very fabric of his world disintegrates before his eyes.” Through nitrate-based elements and deteriorating product, the film creates a black and white nightmare. The destruction caused by the chemical concoction lends aid to the emotional effect the marriage between images and music can create. Shared thoughts from the narrator’s mind exposes the fear and anxiety pondered over this wrestle. Music exaggerates the tone of the film; the musical ballad runs through a series of screeches and symphonic alarms to accomplish its experience. That is a philosophical exploration of the first musical score, “Bang on the Can” of Co-founder Michael Gordon’s influence.

The art of filmmaking and its aesthetic is amplified by the grimy, flawed and distorted wave bleeding through these images. Characterized by ghostly imprints of distorted portraits of life in the 1930s when men wore uniform wife beaters and women, traditionally conservative overcoats. The contrast between the modern mixture and this old fashion frame of reference stirs curiosity.

A ghostly wisp takes over the screen in a reoccurring fashion. It monopolizes a collage filled with the private moments of everyday people: a women solemnly lost in her thoughts while standing aside a window sill, a male boxer caught in the act of swinging a punch, and presumably the responsibilities of pulling a wagon cart, strenuous outdoor labor — all the duties that consume day-to-day life. The Chicago born artists uses this juxtaposition to unleash his interest in hypnotic pictures. The films partnership with contemporary music sets the stage for his definitive work. “The Great Flood” (2013,) “Light is Calling” (2004) and “Miner’s Hymn” (2010) are among the impactful films and landmarks of his career. In the same respect as “Decasia,” these films depend on music as the soundtrack of dialogue and storytelling throughout. In the art world, Morrison is a fellow of the Guggenheim Museum of Art, receiving the Alpert Award, and in the film industry: a director of a vision for how the combination of art and music work together to show the relationship between art forms relative to everyday life.

This is the lasting effect of Morrison’s 2002 “Decasia.” Surpassing its idiosyncratic character, the film presents a natural understanding of art, such as a sensory experience found in the events of life. The director expresses this reality by enabling an artistic perspective to mundane images of the world. Fuzzy distortions cause the mind to focus on the people whose story is ruined by the chemical reaction eating away at the camera’s focus. Additionally, the dominating affect of the musical intensity leads the mind to conclusions. The two sensory effects lead the mind to feel the worries of the world. Discerning conclusions are a part of this experience. Even so, there is without a question or doubt of Bill Morrison’s impact. As this most recent acknowledgement proceeds, DOK Leipzig goes to show the extent of his contributions, as both an influencer and mastermind.

 

 

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Agnes Martin


Agnes Martin


AGNES MARTIN
ON THE IMPERFECTION UNDERLYING LIFE

written by Andreas Hübner

july 2016
 

“I paint with my back to the world” – in one sole sentence, Agnes Martin encapsulated the grounds of her art. Martin, the Canadian-born American painter, did not mean to portray the lavish glories of material existence, Martin meant to catch the intangible modulations of being: solitude, inspiration, and happiness. Placed by critics into a lineage with Minimalists, Martin, whenever asked, claimed kinship with Abstract Expressionism.
Even more so, she stressed her entanglements with the Classics, her art representing the Ideal in the mind as found in Coptic, Egyptian, Greek and Chinese traditions. Indeed, to her, paintings offered a key toward the art within “you,” that is a key toward one’s own mind.

Starting on October 7, 2016, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum will stage a major retrospective of the works of Agnes Martin, the first since her passing in 2004. In an immense effort, benefitting from the collections of such renowned institutions as the Tate Modern, London, the Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen, Dusseldorf, and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Guggenheim rotunda will be filled with paintings, drawings, prints, sculptures, and a film encompassing the wide array of Martin’s works. 

 Co-curated by Tracey Bashkoff and Tiffany Bell, the exhibition will trace the full breadth of Martin’s career, beginning with the surrealistic oils of her formative years, such as The Spring (1958) or White Flower (1960), and ending with her mature statements of the twenty-first century, most notably The Sea (2003) and Untitled #1 (2003).

" Martin resumed painting, at the same time refining and re-defining her spare style "

Born and raised in Saskatchewan Canada, Martin had moved to New York City in the 1940s to eventually receive a Master of Arts degree from Teachers College, Columbia University. Leaving New York City for Albuquerque to teach art at the University of New Mexico, Martin was to create her first semi-abstract, somewhat biomorphic pieces that set her on path to critical acclaim. Although she returned to New York City in 1957 to prepare her first one-person exhibition, housed by Betty Parson’s Gallery, Martin, in search of remote silence and solitude, would come ‘home’ to New Mexico perpetually, finding comfort in isolated towns of the state such as Cuba, Taos, and Galisteo. Here, influenced by the thoughts of Zen-Buddhism and the natural surroundings, Martin developed her meditative, contemplative, often transcendental style that she shared with other Abstract Expressionists, namely Mark Rothko, Barnett Newman and Jackson Pollock. 

In the late 1960s, Martin abandoned the art world altogether, leaving behind critics and devotees alike to build a mystic reputation that would celebrate her intricate multifaceted character: Once a farm girl of the Canadian prairie provinces, Martin now emerged as an author of gnomic statements, parables, and poems, deconstructing normative gender roles and appraising anti-intellectualism and anti-materialism. In 1974, after a hiatus of almost seven years, Martin resumed painting, at the same time refining and re-defining her spare style. Meanwhile, the paintings still showed close relations to her earlier works. She continued to favor the 6-foot-square format, but her canvases now lacked the monochrome fields that had come to dominate her projections in the 1950s and the early 1960s. Instead, bands, blocks and stripes of pale washed blues, various pinks, peaches and salmons now engrossed her works. Grounded in intense whites, Martin consequently set off to explore new modes of balancing the “material and immaterial, the literal and illusory, the precise and the inchoate, the sensuous and the austere.”

" influenced by the thoughts of zen-buddhism and the natural surroundings, martin developed her meditative, contemplative, often transcendental style that she shared with other abstract expressionists "

All the while, Martin had continuously been successful in manipulating her audience. At first glimpse, her oeuvre appeared deeply rooted in infinite symmetry, rectangles and squares, horizontal and vertical lines distinguishing most of the tableaus. Subtle pencil lines and pale color washes, providing the core structure, seemed to be arranged over and over again to resemble a sort of quietude and formal asceticism. However, Martin made sure to undermine this illusion and to express her abstract and conceptual reflections about the imperfections underlying life. Her initial impulse, her aesthetic advent was always the same, but in the course of laying out her canvases she constantly allowed for slightly different results, establishing the nuanced yet significant distinction between mere repetition and sophisticated seriality. She therefore corrupted the prevalent forces engrained behind rigid geometry: “My formats are square, but the grids never are absolutely square; they are rectangles, a little bit off the square, making a sort of contradiction, a dissonance.”

Martin’s works illustrated her awareness of imperfection. In this sense, the retrospective, that is to corrupt the Guggenheim Museum from October 2016 on, does not simply present a homage to the life and work of Agnes Martin, it furthermore is to be understood as a homage to the abstract notions of beauty, joy, and happiness; or, in plain words, a homage to the imperfection of life as such.

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The Return Of Surrealism


The Return Of Surrealism


TAGEN DONOVAN
THE NEW HYBRID OF ART + ADVERTISMENT

written by Annika Hatje

july 2016
 

Surrealism is on the rise again. Once almost forgotten, Surrealism has made its way back into consumer culture in recent years. New fashion collections and ad campaigns are implementing surrealist approaches to market and to fascinate, with labels such as Viktor & Rolf and Kenzo taking a vanguard role. However, surrealist advertisement is not a mere tool, to create a promotional poster or film, but it is also a reflection of society: We are ambivalent, we are mysterious, and we render ourselves audible though social networks. Who we really are, can only be discovered through deep friendship and good listening.
The approach of surrealism in advertisement evolved in France during the post-war era. It quickly made its way over to Germany, where groups like ‘Das Plakat’ and other activist groups laid the foundation of contemporary advertisement. Ever since, surrealist work has caught the consumer’s attention.
Surrealism itself was born in 1924, when, in Paris, poet André Breton interpreted Sigmund Freud’s idea about the unconscious mind. Painters like Magritte, Dali or Miró were soon to follow and to apply Breton’s ideas to their works. Surrealism quickly developed as a tool of critique, attempting to understand the human being in its entirety.
Accordingly, the Tate Modern Museum states: “The Surrealists sought to overthrow the oppressive rules of modern society by demolishing its backbone of rational thought. To do so, they attempted to tap into the ‘superior reality’ of the subconscious mind. ‘Completely against the tide,’ said Breton, ‘in a violent reaction against the impoverishment and sterility of thought processes that resulted from centuries of rationalism, we turned toward the marvelous and advocated it unconditionally.’”
In the world of advertisement, surrealism and social reality intersect. Strategic communication seeks to distinguish a brand from others, to evoke the people’s interest, or to express certain messages in a clever, intense and bold way. Advertisement is crucially bounded to surrealism, by its tools and in its core values: But whereas art strives for curiosity and exploration, advertisement longs for profit. Postmodernity provides the foundation for the application of surrealist art in advertisement. Both enhance and nurture each other through values and culture. Such relationship naturally creates a strong story, crucial to companies, when communicating their brand. Thus follows a simple question: Are we looking at art or at advertisement when focusing on a Kenzo campaign poster? In history, art was clearly defined as an entity of its own, but nowadays these rules, laws and cultural const- raints have vanished. Art has become a commodity and a means of commodification and as such it can narrow down a customer group and serve as an adman’s tool.

The hybrid of art and advertisement was first and most fa- mously discussed in Andy Warhol’s oeuvre. He elaborated advertisement in his artworks, questioned but never produced advertisement itself. While art had always been regarded as a medium to criticize and go beyond the rules of cultural norms, surrealist advertisement now added to the understanding of art as such. Surrealist advertisements, thus, en- hanced the mode of manipulation performed through art.

" in the world of advertisement, surrealism and social reality intersect. Strategic communication seeks to distinguish a brand from others, to evoke the people’s interest "

Ads fascinated by sheer appearance, projecting the artistic heritage and value of the products they were ultimately trying to sell. This idea has been pushed towards the edges by the Toiletpaper Magazine, a project initiated by Maurizio Cattelan and Pierpaolo. “Only” curating images, the magazine is regularly featured at art exhibitions and art book fairs. Printed on mugs and table cloths, its well- curated collections of images are causing all kinds of reactions. First impressions range from laughter to disgust. Still, the images to be seen in the magazine are highly critical towards certain issues in society and they resemble the pop art movement. Within the images, the different elements are clearly put out of context: Why wrap money in cling film? – “To keep it fresh and consum- able?” These surrealist images work with the same tools as surrealist painters do. They put objects, even more radically, out of context and built a new world that seems familiar as the viewer knows the objects but recognizes that they are put together in unusual ways. Furthermore, advertisement has become more and more sexualized in the past years. When looking at surrealist art works, the theme of sex, of course, has been employed many times. Sigmund Freud defined sex as the prior motivation in life and the catalyst for all unconscious acts of human beings. Although Freud later changed his mind, sex and notions of sexualization have remained in the art world and exert a powerful influence on advertisement as can bTHe seen in the photographs by Guy Bourdin.

" All I knew was that I wanted to feel something, even if nothing but loneliness would emerg "

Surrealist art in advertisement has also been influenced by René Magritte and his famous painting: “Ceci n’est pas une pipe.” Communicating ‘what you see does not exist in that specific moment’ became an initial theory in advertisement, promoting the idea of different layers that imply the power to sell a product and to manipulate society into accepting a product. Of course, consumers want to be fooled. Even in movies, like The Prestige, such ideas are promo- ted: “Now you‘re looking for the secret. But you won‘t find it because of course, you‘re not really looking. You don‘t really want to work it out. You want to be fooled (The Prestige, 2006). ”
With regard to surrealism, the fact that art still stimulates a certain prestige and helps create a highly respected branch has to be acknowledg- ed. Art will grant specific values to a brand and is therefore a highly appreciated means of advertising luxury brands. In result, contempora- ry luxury brands spread across continents and beyond borders, not only circulating certain products but also ‘western’ values. Now how do we con- sume art and advertisement then? Art and advertise- ment influence each other, indeed they have become a hybrid. Just think about Alexander McQueen or Raf Simons for Dior who took the creation of fashion and its presentation to a different level, apart from “weird” and “unaffordable” designs. It is the presentation itself and the clear distinction from commercial attempts that catches the atten- tion. Prada, for instance, does not only stand for outstanding designs, but also manifests its inspi- ration through curating artworks at Fondazione Prada. Luxury brands have started to own galler- ies, to collaborate with and to create funds to support artists. Surrealist art and advertisement now form a hybrid. We define ourselves by means of consumption. In building consumer groups through tools like surrealism, the value of a brand is sustained. Branding now can be conceptional ized as ‘throwing out’ your idea into the world like a fisherman throwing a net into the ocean. The more complicated and distinct your brand’s value and image is, the fewer but the more exceptional people are likely respond. Likewise, the coarser the fisherman’s net’s holes are the fewer fish he will catch. Nonetheless, the fish caught are the most exceptional ones. ‘Surrealist fisherman nets’ are rather coarse.

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But A Storm Is Blowing From Paradise


But A Storm Is Blowing From Paradise


BUT A STORM IS BLOWING FROM PARADISE
CONTEMPORARY ART OF THE MIDDLE EAST + NORTH AFRICA

written by Taos Silem

july 2016
 

Among Europeans, the Middle East and North Africa have always triggered the wildest visions of exoticisms: Pictures of the Sahara desert with its sandstorms blowing over orange dunes, images of paradisiacal oases on the horizons of hot steaming lands, notions of tamed camels with Bedouin riders covered from head to toe in white flowing tissues, ideas of Bazaars with traders for spices on the left and for fabric on the right, the air filled with the smell of coffee, the sound of foreign languages in the background.

Old world exoticism is still predominant in Western culture. Yet, said to be the cradle of civilisation, the Middle East and North Africa are as modern, complex and diverse a region as can be: Founding terrain of all three monotheistic religions, rich in history, in myths and stories, melting pot of cultures and ethnicities, concepts and philosophies, science and languages. Artists originating from the region are now depicting its modernity, complexity and diversity in the exhibition “But a Storm in blowing from Paradise – Contemporary Art of the Middle East and North Africa.”  

" Founding terrain of all three monotheistic religions, rich in history, in myths and stories, melting pot of cultures and ethnicities, concepts and philosophies, science and languages "

Taking place at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York from April 29 to October 5, the exhibition features a wide array of voices from this rapidly evolving part of the world. The spectrum ranges from works on paper over photographs, sculptures, and videos to installations. The curator Sara Raza tries to tie the works together in a common theme: Migration and Movement. That is the migration from nowadays refugees that come to seek a better life in Europe as well as the European movement of colonial times that left a lot of countries scarred. The artists explore the phenomenon, as Raza says, of “migration of ideas and people in an age of anxiety”.
This global subject is also present in the title of the exhibition. “But a Storm is blowing from Paradise” is a quotation from the German philosopher Walter Benjamin. The video installation of Ori Gersht, from whom the exhibition borrowed the title, treats the subject of Walter Benjamin’s journey through Europe. He fled from Nazis occupied France; on his way to the US he was caught in Spain where his visa application was denied. At this point, he was desperate enough to commit suicide.

Other works, like the installation “flying carpets”, realized by Nadia Kaabi-Linke, pay homage to present-day African and Asian refugees in Italy who are making a living as illegal street sellers. Kaabi-Linke used the outlines of the carpets, on which the immigrants display their goods, and transferred the shape into stainless steel objects. These crocked frames are hung from the ceiling on metal chains to create the sensation of depth, volume and weight.

Another crucial point for the exhibition is the formal umbrella under which the works are placed: Geometry and architecture. Most works have a specific architectural quality or are based on geometrical shapes. The subject of architecture respectively buildings is dominant in a few works. Geometry is applied as a concept to represent something logical and therefore “true” while at the same time opening up the question about what “truth” is. Traditional and social media are projecting a specific image of the Middle Eastern and Northern African region that is still soaked in colonial images and discourse. Not only this principal pushes the oriental countries into a certain corner but architecture is also a symbol of the colonial oppressors who left a lot of countries with their fingerprint of imperial buildings. Raza remarks that “architecture is seen as an ideological tool from former colonial powers.”

" some artists are making the connection between the worlds of the orient and occident by comparison of architectural styles "

Indeed, some artists are making the connection between the worlds of the orient and occident by comparison of architectural styles. Mariam Ghanis’ video installation contrasts the states of two big museums for history: The Dar ul-Aman Palace in Kabul, Afghanistan, and the Fridericianum in Kassel, Germany. The Fridericianum was the first public museum on the European continent and was destroyed and since restored after World War II. In contrast to the Dar ul-Aman Palace that almost completely burned down in 1969 and 1978 and never again reached its former significance, the Fridericianum rose again with the Documenta in 1955. In her video installation, Ghanis, thus, opposes the decline of the Dar ul-Aman Palace with the revival of the Fridericianum.
Kader Attia adapts the idea of rise and decay in his scale model of the Algerian world heritage site of Ghardaïa made out of Couscous. As an instable, slowly deteriorating object that represents the instability of this region. According to the artist, it is also a symbol of the “ruthless exploitation and cultural appropriation that occurred during the colonial period”. In spite of the dominant opinion that Europe brought cultural and artistic concepts to Africa, the opposite was the case in Ghadaïa. Le Corbusier, a Swiss architect and designer working in France, was inspired by the old Mozabite architecture and based his designs on the same principals of simplicity, geometrical clarity and the use of raw materials. Even Simone de Beauvoir described the site in her book “La force des choses” as “a wonderfully constructed cubistic painting”. The work of Attia is a perfect description of how colonialism and modernism impacted one another. The artist highlights: “Cultures have borders and the borders are very flexible. A culture is always in touch with an other one”.

In conclusion, the exhibition constitutes an accumulation of the problems, the history, the politics and the people of the Middle East and North Africa. The languages with which the artists work, are as diverse as the countries they stand for. But regardless of the different languages, media, shapes and sizes of the works, the message is clear: The concept of nations and borders has always led to disconnecting people. Raza emphasises that, through the exhibition, “we can open the discussion to multiple histories of art and create a museum that more faithfully represents the world in which we live.”

 

Louise Nevelson Le Mile Magazine pace london published by Alban E. Smajli.jpg

Louise Nevelson


Louise Nevelson


LOUISE NEVELSON
AT PACE LONDON

july 2016
 

Louise Nevelson was born in 1899 in Kiev and died in 1988 in New York City. She emigrated from czarist Russia as a child and grew up in Rockland, Maine. As an adult, she returned to Europe where she studied with Hans Hoffman. Upon her return to the United States, she served as Diego Rivera’s assistant and later as an art instructor in the Works Progress Administration. In 1941, she had her first solo exhibition, and in 1946, was included for the first time in the Whitney Annual exhibition, which she would participate in eleven more times. Nevelson exhibited her first all-black sculptures in the mid- 1950s. Although she worked in white and gold and later with painted steel, her developments in the 1950s sustained her work throughout the rest of her life.

Louise Nevelson was an iconic and vital figure in post-war New York, regarded for her groundbreaking sculptural environments as much as her persona, which was captured in memorable photographs by Cecil Beaton. Nevelson created her first assemblages in the mid-1950s, and quickly made an impact in the New York art scene with her pioneering approach to sculpture. Inspired by Cubism, Nevelson took scraps of wood and other materials found on the street near her studio and assembled them into free-standing and wall-mounted sculpture that she would paint a solid colour—most famously, black or white. Nevelson’s sculptures range from small assemblages to free-standing columns and monumental wall-based works consisting of multiple small compartments.

" Nevelson’s sculptures range from small assemblages to free-standing columns and monumental wall-based works consisting of multiple small compartments "

Although the physical form of the scraps remains unchanged in her work, Nevelson subsumes them in an entire system, creat-ing a unified whole from disparate parts. She insisted on the psychological and expressive virtue of her work, which was illustrative of a highly personal cosmology rooted in light and shadow.
The artist’s early collages, produced at a smaller size than most of her sculptures, provide important insight into her thinking and working process and the importance of wood in her work. Mostly unpainted, the collages reveal Nevelson’s use of raw materials, demonstrating an organi- sational logic that continues in her larger work as well. In addition to Nevelson’s iconic black monochrome sculptures, her current exhibition at the Pace gallery in London also includes steel maquettes Nevelson produced for public sculptures, now exhibited in Chicago and at Harvard University. These works, intended to be seen in the round, exemplify the heightened architectural quality of her work in the later decades of her career.
The exhibition coincides with Pace New York’s presentati- on of Blackness in Abstraction, a major exhibition organ- ised by Adrienne Edwards, a curator at Performa and curator-at-large at the Walker Art Center. The exhibition considers the eponymous theme, treating Nevelson and her expressive treatment of black as a historic anchor for subsequent generations of artists.
The exhibition at Pace London will be on view to 16 July 2016 at 6 Burlington Gardens and is the fourth solo presentation of the artist’s work ever in London and the first since 2009.

Kate Moss Le Mile Magazine co berlin exhibiton photographer juergen teller published by Alban E. Smajli.jpg

Allure


Allure


ALLURE
PHOTOGRAPHS FROM THE SUSANNE VON MEISS COLLECTION

july 2016
 

It shimmers quietly and timelessly from among all the rapidly changing fashions, trends and opinions. It appears only briefly in a fleeting combination of elegance, poverty and movement. Stance, attitude or allure is intangible, indescribable inconceivable and unattainable in the perpetual white noise of our zeitgeist. Yet it is the essence that radiates from deep within.
It oscillates between coolness and naturalness, with a fascinating mixture of staging and authenticity. However, the more it becomes a theme in itself, shifting into focus, the more it dissipates. Should one wish to grasp it, or seek an explanation, it dissolves. Yet how can the fragile, immaterial character of allure be held photographically? Photographers constantly take on this challenge anew - with the goal of capturing this ephemeral phenomenon, sometimes pontaneously, at other times as a visual composition. Whether fashion photography, street photography, reportage or conceptual  approaches the respective working context of the individual photos in not  significant in this compilation of the Susanne von Meiss Collection.

" It appears only briefly in a fleeting combination of elegance, poverty and movement "

Instead, all the photographs share the absence of the direct gaze of the person portraited into the camera and the subtle play with the hidden and the mysterious - that goes beyond sex or gender. Hence the main focus lies on detail views of individual parts of the body and accessories, as well as on silhouettes, movement or concealment. The individual photographs do not tell any explicit stories. They do not contain any direct narrative. They serve as diverse projection films for the viewers and their interpretation.
The Susanne von Meiss Collection representatively covers all genres and styles in the history of photography from the 1920s through to the present. It includes works by internationally renowned photographers, however for the main part it does not give preference to the iconic photographs but rather to unknown classics.

The personal selection ranges from Diane Arbus, Richard Avedon, Rene Burri and Henri Cartier-Bresson through Horst P. Horst, Irving Penn, Paolo Roversi and August Sander to contemporary artists such as Tracey Emin, Nan Goldin, Daido Moriyama, Richard Prince and Juergen Teller.
The group exhibition is divided thematically into three chapters: “pose”, “experiment” and “staging the situative”.
The photographs serve as a starting point for an art- historical analysis and observation, from an inner perspective, within the medium of photography. The collection will be presented to the public for the first time at C/O Berlin. The exhibition encompasses approximately 250 photographs including many unique and vintage prints, as well as photographs that were produced especially for the Susanne von Meiss Collection. The presentation has been curated by Felix Hoffmann and Birgit Filzmaier. A publication will be issued by Kehrer Verlag to accompany the exhibition. Two vintage photographs by Richard Avedon from the 1950s were the initial inspiration for the Susanne von Meiss Collection.
For 25 years now, the Swiss journalist, publicist and entrepreneur has been collecting photography with the special focus on “allure” a personal compilation that transcends individual genres, styles and artists.
The private collection currently includes approximately 400 works from Japan to South America. The art historian Birgit Filzmaier is curator and supervisor of the Susanne von Meiss Collection.

Vincent Fournier Le Mile Magazine published by Alban E. Smajli.jpg

Vincent Fournier


Vincent Fournier


VINCENT FOURNIER
BRASILIA

july 2016
 

Brasília is a city composed of reinforced concrete, a paragon of the tenets of modernist architecture and city planning. Enfolded by the artificial Paranoá Lake, the city fashions a curious structural plane; a grid-like formula of post-war modernism arranged into a light curve. Brasília was constructed in the late 50’s from scratch according to the blueprints by the urban planner Lucío Costa, land- scape designer Roberto Burle Marx and the architect Oscar Niemeyer. The three designers proposed a set of speculative opportunities for the future of architectural utopia; future, that some sixty years later has lost itself somewhere in the murky water between the past and pre- sent. A far cry from the buzzing city streets of Rio and São Paulo, Brasília is a plateau mostly of purpose-built bureaucratic and governmental settings.
The austerity of modernist architecture lends itself to Vincent Fournier’s photography series that bear the name of the concrete capital. Here, architect Oscar Niemeyer’s work constitutes the backdrop for Fournier’s retrospect of the grandiose dream of posterity. Fournier’s photo- graphs buttress Niemeyer’s consolidated vision that finds its counterpart from the urbanism of Le Corbusier; a political, as well as a technical project concerned with land use and its implications to transportation and physical activity.

" The photographs exist as carefully composed and colored geometrical entities, just like Tati’s, as if to remind us about the memory of a lost future "

In Fournier’s images, Niemeyer’s formalistic fictions appear like relinquished film sets from Jacques Tati’s Playtime. The photographs exist as carefully composed and colored geometrical entities, just like Tati’s, as if to remind us about the memory of a lost future. Interestingly, in the contrived landscapes and interiors Fournier delivers, anything human is expressed rather via lack than excess. Throughout the series only a handful of people is positioned in the image. 

In Fournier’s exterior shot of the Chamber of Deputies, Niemeyer’s concrete lines and curves appear like an absurdist outtake on governmental functionalism turned into an artistic experiment, more specifically into what appears like a flying saucer. Fournier’s image constitutes a language that from the outset seems purely aesthetic but reveals itself to be above all ideological, like all modernist architecture was. Fournier’s simple composition is elegant and clever, approaching the utopian object from an angle that provides us an opportunity to access the construction a new. Respectively, Fournier’s work highlight the sophistication and precision of Niemeyer’s practice.

Irving Penn Pace-MacGill gallery new york Le Mile Magazine written by Julia Ahtijainen published by Alban E. Smajli.jpg

Irving Penn


Irving Penn


IRVING PENN
THE ATTRACTION OF IRVING PENN

written by Julia Ahtijainen

april 2016
 

Viewing Irving Penn´s "Personal Work" is like reading between the lines. So simple and effective, yet his works tell the viewer more than expected. And here, expectations play conclusive role.

To begin with, attraction isn’t necessarily physical, even if it subsequently becomes so. The same can be said about Irving Penn’s work – it’s attractive. Not having any particular type, nor special fascination or object, be it a nude body, street signs, or a pitcher – he chooses carefully and has his preferences, but they aren’t fixed, they are extraordinarily attractive. Irving Penn is doubtlessly the most prolific and respected photographer of the 20th century. He’s mostly known for his fashion photography, portraits, and still lives. Penn's career included groundbreaking editorials for Vogue magazine, and innovative commercial imagery for clients such as Issey Miyake, Clinique, General Foods, and De Beers. Penn's extensive artwork explored the boundaries of personal and public expressions. He played within art and commerce through compelling images that expanded the creative limits of the photographic medium of the 20th century.

" A good photograph is one that communicates a fact,  touches the heart, and leaves the viewer a changed person for having seen it; it is in one word: effective "

Personal Work
Pace/MacGill Gallery NYC has exhibited Irving Penn’s “Personal Work” from January 29 – March 5, 2016, which included “Bone Forest” (New York, 1980), “The Fallen Pitcher” (New York, 1980), “Nude No. 55” (New York, c. 1949-1950), “The Bath (A) (Dancers Workshop of San Francisco)” (San Francisco, 1967), “Vacancy (with doorknob)” (New York, 1939) and many more. This carefully selected collection of images gave the observer another point of view on Penn’s work, more personal point of view.
In 1949, just a year before Irving Penn’s editorial images of the Paris couture collections created new visual aesthetics of fashion photography, Penn began what is considered perhaps his most personal but least known compilation: studies of tightly-framed, corpulent nudes that explore the beauty and physicality of the female form.

Women he chose as models and the way he pictured them was highly unconventional by fashion standards that time. Although charged with sexual undertone the images were extraordinary for that period, with twisted and stretched skins, folded fleshy body parts, mounded hips, puddled breasts and extra bellies. Even if most of the pictures lack limbs and heads, Penn’s figures are always complete in their partiality, just as ancient sculptures representing the Goddesses, so these nudes represent the Woman and fertility, embracing the concept of bodily beauty that is not prescriptive, nor trendy or exclusive.

" Not only within portraiture, but also with still life, Penn’s compositions are highly organized. They stand as assemblages of objects, articulating the abstract interplay of lines and volumes "

Unconventional Effects
Unconventional in both subject and composition, Penn’s series were also radical in technique. He drastically bleached, overexposed, and redeveloped his prints to create stunningly unusual tonal effects.
For example, a photograph “Woman Turning Over” (New York, 1995) having a painting effect concealed through bleaching, is still recognizable as a photograph. This image speaks humanity, and is excessively honest. Known for his pared-down compositional style, Penn often photographed his subjects in the natural light of the studio using minimal decorations and additions. His fashion images were accurate, sophisticated, appealing and effective. Photographer himself has said: "A good photograph is one that communicates a fact, touches the heart, and leaves the viewer a changed person for having seen it; it is in one word: effective."
Being successful at creating the effect of la femme with his series of “Nudes”, in unconventional forms and formats, also in creating commercial images that work as landmarks while travelling on the historic path of fashion and advertising. Penn’s work illuminates passion. Passion towards chosen subjects and techniques. Both, passion and attraction are personal, always straightforward, not needing extras.

Less is always more
Not only within portraiture, but also with still life, Penn’s compositions are highly organized. They stand as assemblages of objects, articulating the abstract interplay of lines and volumes. Penn was one of the first photographers to set his subjects against a simple grey or white background, using effectively the style notion of “less is more”. Penn's photographs are composed with a great attention to detail in a pure and simple way. His black and white prints are notable for their deep contrast, giving them a highly clean look.
Here, the question of truth is irrelevant. Because Penn’s work is attractive, honestly and simply attractive. One can stare at his subjects for ages, observe them, contemplate them. And his subjects… they don’t know that they’ve been observed for such a long time, they don’t know that they’ve been framed, captured into a frame of attraction.
Viewing Irving Penn’s “Personal Work” is like reading between the lines. So simple and effective, yet his works tell the viewer more than expected. And here, expectations play conclusive role. Here the expectations can be compare to the expectations of a marriage. So completely does he enter his photography that he and his subjects become engaged in a consensual relation, a mutual give and take that is more than plain passion or obvious love, it’s the everlasting attraction than anything else that possesses the viewer. Every object of Irving Penn becomes gradually attractively narrated. And this style of narration should be known and celebrated as the legacy of Irving Penn.

And it feels good to be attractive.

 

Peter Watkins The Unforgetting-Self Portrait 2011 courtesy The Ravestijn Gallery LE MILE Magazine_published by Alban E. Smajli.jpg

Peter Watkins


Peter Watkins


PETER WATKINS
THE UNFORGETTING


april 2016

I will have spent my life trying to understand the function of remembering, which is not the opposite of forgetting but rather its lining "

On the 15th of February 1993, Peter’s mother walked from Zandvoort beach into the North Sea to her death "

The Unforgetting is a series of works that explores the texture of personal memory, and is told through photo- graphy and sculpture and is presented in installation form.
It is a series of works made up of remnants, exploring the loss of Peter Watkin’s mother, and their shared German ancestry. Often borrowing from the language of museum presentation, these works explore the complexities of memory in the (re)presentation of personal narratives. How much of a person remains in the objects that are left behind, and what can these objects tell us of the trauma of loss, and of how memory so easily turns to narrative. The presentation of objects carry the weight of a family history, but the personal charge with which the images are made remains undisclosed and often obscured, encouraging a dialogue between the universal and the highly personal—images of cans of Super 8 withhold the images they contain; ceremonial glasses appear transpa- rent and emptied of liquid; and a spectral baptismal dress appears impossibly suspended, glazed behind yellow glass: a wash of colour in an otherwise monochromatic se- ries of works. 
The recurrence of wood throughout points towards the exploration of a certain rural Germanicity; but wood here also represents the passing of time, and of the “here I was born, and there I died,” as Hitchcock’s Proustian Madelaine exclaims in Vertigo, when pointing to the sawn sequoia tree. These works are universal in their stoic unwillingness to disclose their deeply personal roots; but woven beneath their surfaces are the stories and narratives that come to constitute the biography of the departed. This series finds its core, therefore, in the interplay between presences and absences—the absence of the mother, and the traces of her life explored in states of Unforgetting. 

Peter Watkins, The Unforgetting-Self Portrait, 2011
Courtesy: The Ravestijn Gallery

Muholy-Nagy by Alban E. Smajli LE MILE Magazine.jpg

László Moholy-Nagy


László Moholy-Nagy


LÁSZLÓ MOHOLY-NAGY
FUTURE PRESENT

written by Andreas Hübner

april 2016
 

“Art is the most complex, vitalizing, and civilizing of human actions;” in 1946, at the end of a lifelong struggle, the Hungarian born László Moholy-Nagy had come to reconcile the divide between human nature and industrial reality. In Vision in Motion, he declared art to produce a balance between social, intellectual and emotional existence. While Moholy-Nagy had always searched for ways to negotiate the present and envision the future, art now appeared to open a portal synthesizing attitudes and opinions, fears and hopes. In this sense, Moholy-Nagy has still a lot to contribute to post-modern society and debates: “The true artist is the grindstone of the senses, he sharpens eyes, mind, and feeling; he interprets ideas and concepts through his own media. In the midst of vast social controversies he cannot escape that task.”

" Art is the most complex, vitalizing, and civilizing of human actions "

Karole Vail, Associate Curator at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum New York, seems aware of Moholy-Nagy’s ongoing relevance. In a joint effort with the Art Institute of Chicago and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, she has organized and now presents the first comprehensive retrospective of Moholy-Nagy’s works in nearly fifty years, honoring the 70th anniversary of the Bauhaus master’s death. Starting on May 27, 2016, the Guggenheim will feature a long overdue presentation, bringing together more than 300 works from public and private collections, encompassing Moholy-Nagy’s many talents: collages, drawings, ephemera, films, paintings, photographs, photograms, photomontages, and sculptures. In result, visitors will have the chance to enjoy the artist’s early experimentations with light, A II and AXL II, and later masterpieces such as the 1942 B-10 Space Modulator. As an additional bonus, the exhibition has put Room of Present into reality, a fabrication of space, conceived by Moholy-Nagy in 1930, but never followed through during his lifetime. It seems the exhibition will finally pay tribute to the universal oeuvre of Moholy-Nagy.

Among scholars, Moholy-Nagy has long been acknowledged as the most comprehensive of the Bauhaus group, performing an Experiment in Totality. Walter Gropius, in 1947, was not shy to declare him successful simultaneously as thinker and artist, as writer and teacher. Influenced by Dadaism, Suprematism, and Radical Constructivism in the beginnings, Moholy-Nagy joined the Bauhaus School in 1923 and stayed until 1928. Here, in Weimar, he meant to become a productive component of the 20th century, that sought to represent an era of technology, of invention and construction of machines. “To be a user of machines,” he proclaimed in 1922, “is to be of the spirit of this century.”

" Walter Gropius, in 1947, was not shy to declare him successful simultaneously as thinker and artist, as writer and teacher "

Leaving Bauhaus, he began to distance himself from the technological monogamy of Constructivism, aiming to emphasize the present and future of humanity, exploring the new dimensions of the industrial society and translating the new findings into emotional orientation. He left Germany for London in 1934 and emigrated to the United States in 1937, settling in Chicago. In this new environment, Gropius, his longtime patron, was fortunate enough to secure Moholy’s leadership for The New Bauhaus that was later on renamed the Chicago Institute of Design. Henceforth, his genius ventured into all realms of science and art, fascinated more than ever by the riddles of space, light, and motion: “He incessantly strove to interpret space in its relation to time, that is, motion in space.” In consequence, some critics have stressed his influence on subsequent artists such as Adolph Luther, and, most famously, James Turrell.

In 1946, suffering from leukemia, Moholy-Nagy’s life circle came to an end. By then, he had not only established himself and his school of design among the renowned institutions of American art, but he had also developed a vision for the future that harmonically brought together technology and human existence: “The problem of our generation is to bring the intellectual and emotional, the social and technological components into balanced play, to learn to see and feel them in relationship.”

In this respect, Moholy-Nagy, his works and ideas, still remain notable today. Moholy-Nagy believed in the power of art and technology. He envisioned promoting social transformation and the betterment of humanity through artistic experimentation, design and creative multidisciplinary. The Guggenheim New York is right to honor him with a substantial retrospective and to open his oeuvre and concept to a wider audience, Present and Future.  

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Vasily Kandinsky


Vasily Kandinsky


VASILY KANDINSKY
WORKS

april 2016
 

A pioneer of abstract art and eminent aesthetic theorist, Kandinsky broke new ground in painting during the first decades of the twentieth century. His seminal treatise Über das Geistige in der Kunst (On the Spiritual in Art), published in Munich in December 1911, lays out his program for establishing an art independent from observations of the external world. In this and other texts, as well as his work, Kandinsky advanced abstraction’s potential to be free from nature. The development of a new subject matter based solely on the artist’s “inner necessity” would occupy him for the rest of his life.

From 1911–1913, Kandinsky’s artistic style moved steadily toward complete abstraction. He realized, however, that the development of such a style would have to be gradual in order to foster public acceptance and comprehension. As a result, many works from this period still contain fragments of recognizable imagery, such as the rolling hills and trees that appear in Small Pleasures (Kleine Freuden, June 1913). In the time following the 1917 October Revolution in Moscow, Kandinsky’s encounters with Russian Constructivist and Suprematist artists influenced his work. He distanced himself, however, from their respectively “mechanistic” and “pure” art by insisting that even his most abstract works retained expressive content. By 1920, the Constructivist avantgarde ultimately rejected his teachings and spiritual ideology. Shortly thereafter the artist moved to Berlin with his family, and in 1922 he began teaching at the Bauhaus, a school of art and applied design founded in 1919 in Weimar, Germany. Kandinsky found the Bauhaus sympathetic to his belief in art’s ability to transform self and society. There, he examined the relationship between primary colors and elementary forms, and the circle came to play a dominant role in the artist’s pictorial vocabulary, as seen in Several Circles (Einige Kreise, 1926). Following the close of the Bauhaus in 1933 due to pressure from the Nazis, Kandinsky moved to the Paris suburb Neuilly-sur-Seine, where he remained highly creative despite political turmoil and deprivation until his death in 1944.

" A pioneer of abstract art and eminent aesthetic theorist, Kandinsky broke new ground in painting during the first decades of the twentieth century "

The history of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation is intertwined with the work of Vasily Kandinsky more than any other artist of the twentieth century. Hilla Rebay, artist, art advisor, and the museum’s first director, encouraged founder Solomon R. Guggenheim to begin collecting Kandinsky’s work in 1929 and to meet the artist at the Bauhaus in Dessau, Germany, in July 1930. This introduction initiated an ongoing acquisition period of Kandinsky’s art, and more than one hundred fifty works have since entered the museum’s collection. The museum’s collection of Kandinsky works is the largest in the United States and the third largest in the world. Since the 2004 exhibition An Inaugural Selection, the Guggenheim’s Kandinsky Gallery has primarily featured a rotating selection of focused presentations of his work, arranged by theme, period, location of production, or medium.

Works by Vasily Kandinsky are on view at the Guggenheim in New York through spring 2016, the Guggenheim Museum presents an intimate selection of works by Vasily Kandinsky that trace his aesthetic evolution. The exhibition, which is on view in the museum’s Kandinsky Gallery, includes paintings selected from the artist’s early beginnings in Munich at the start of the century, the return to his native Moscow with the outbreak of World War I, his interwar years in Germany as a teacher at the Bauhaus, and his final chapter in Paris. 

Alex Trochut portrait LE MILE Magazine_published by Alban E. Smajli.jpg

Alex Trochut


Alex Trochut


INTERVIEW: ALEX TROCHUT
MR. TROCHUT

written by Alban E. Smajli
interview by Alban E. Smajli, Henrike Schneider + Akiko Kondoh

april 2016

Life chances. You are looking for challenges in life and New York is definitely a place that is offering all these excitements that you may be looking for after some years in the same city. So if I were from New York, I would probably want to be in Barcelona "

Alex Trochut is an independent graphic designer and illustrator. He currently lives and works in New York City. Born in 1981 in Barcelona, Trochut is the grandson of the well known Spanish typographer and printer Joan Trochut, who developed the typographic system Super-Veloz back in 1942.
After working at different studios in Berlin and Barcelona, Alex Trochut established his own design studio in Barcelona before relocating to the United States. Alex Trochut has developed a perceptive way of creating, employing a vivid visual style that surfaces in comprehensive illustrations and design practices. He focuses on the potential of words as a visual medium, pushing any verbal expressions to the limits so that seeing and reading becomes the same process and word and image become one unified articulation.
rochut manages to demonstrate that typography functions on two hierarchical levels: First, through the image of language and, second, through its reading, translation, or interpretation. His works meander somewhere in between art and design, they combine typography and illustration. His typographic illustrations remind us of actual digital and vital paintings that seek to interpret traditional typography in a very modern and artistic manner.

Drawing inspiration from the people that surround him, Trochut has worked for a diverse range of brands such as Nike, Adidas, Nixon, Coca Cola, MTV, AUDI, or Mumm. Katy Perry, The Rolling Stones, and The New York Times have been added to his ever growing client base. However, his works are never purely customer-oriented, they are always striving to define the limits between arts and client-centered practice. The champagne brand Mumm, for instance, invited Trochut to participate in an interactive installation back in 2015. While he was operating his tablet, the process of his creation was projected on an oversized screen so that typography, colors, and forms came together and an accessible masterpiece of art was realized.



Alban E. Smajli: Before starting with graphic design, having your grandparents doing graphic design, did this particular heritage inspire you to go down the same path, of course, in comparison, adapting to a digital, technical and a rather modern atmosphere?

Alex Trochut: I think it was more like a genetic memory because I never met my grandfather. My father was working in something else. My father died when I was born, so by the time that I was thinking to study graphic design, I had really no idea what my grandfather did in relation to what I was going to do. My grandfather was a printer and at that time printers and designers were the same. I said to myself, that's what he did it and it had nothing to do with the things I was going to study. I was going to study the future and these things from the past had nothing in common with it. And then, I think it was the first week of my school, they saw my name and asked “Are you the grandson?” and I was like “Yeah, yeah I am.” My grandfather obviously was a big gun. And so, I guess, I got attracted to typography. But I wasn't really trying to follow his steps, I think, things kind of led up to connecting typography and illustration together in an expressive way.

My first internship took me to Berlin, I was doing my Erasmus over there and I had the chance to work with „Xplicit" and „Moniteurs", who are very type-based, rational design studios. They are specialized in sign design, less interested in expression, but more focused on effect and function. It was a good experience for me, back in 2002, and I spent six months with them. Then I moved back to Barcelona and started working at “Toormix,” that´s a studio in the same kind of field. After that, I switched to „Vasalla“ which is way more expressive. In 2007, four years of experience in different companies later, I started my own freelance career.

AES: What do you prefer? The traditional way of applying the pencil and working on paper or is it rather the digital pen and screen? I mean, nowadays there´s so much you can do digitally, like creating complete authentic scenarios that never existed. There are just so many devices and options that sometimes I feel like you get so confused by using these modern technical tools.

AT: I was always more of a mouse guy, that was my tool. From there, about five years ago, I stepped into the Wacom – which allowed me to work with a tablet.

Right now, because you can choose and you can get the best out of every tool, I find it is way more precise to work with just pencil and paper. Your hand gets way more to the point, for example the letter shapes.

The Mumm project was the first installation that was interactive, and it was the first time we collaborated with a team. It was fun. And it‘s very cool right now when you see, that things are translating into different mediums and things are evolving so fast "

At the beginning, I was just using computer from step one on. It was more of a “learn and leave” kind of process that led me to just go ahead and take the pencil and paper. Now I am using pencil and paper half way of the process and then, in the end, I go to the computer. Back in the days, it was not very popular to work with another tool, especially when I started in the late 1990s and early 2000s. But nowadays, it seems totally mandatory for any student to go this path, it’s a very good direction for education. 

AES: After moving to New York, do you feel that the vibe of the city has now become part of your art works? How come you moved from Barcelona to New York?

AT: Life chances. You are looking for challenges in life and New York is definitely a place that is offering all these excitements that you may be looking for after some years in the same city. So if I were from New York, I would probably want to be in Barcelona. 
New York inspires me a lot. Most cities and their cultures inspire me. It is not the physical content, it is the people. They are what really pushes and inspires you, because everybody is following some dreams here; and you just see that many dreams obviously come true and that is really what pushes you to do better.

AES: Are there any impacts that may have influenced the spirit of your work?

AT: I don´t think the city really shapes me that much, I think many of my references come from other sources like the internet. I really feel like I am a son of the digital era, I mean we´re surrounded by the same things, no matter if it’s Tokyo, Barcelona or Berlin.

AES: For Mumm, you created a packaging design for three of their sparkling wines.
What is the concept behind your art design?


AT: This was meant to be an event at an art fair. So we thought it was a good opportunity to do a visualization of the product from a more abstract point of view. Not very literal though, I'm not trying to do very figurative representations of a sort of champagne lifestyle. I am more trying to make a connection between abstract painting and bubbles. Kind of an art connection that is very settled, yet very open.
There are three patterns, every pattern speaks to a different note or flavor in every bottle, Rosé, Dry and Extra Dry. Rosé has pioneer notes and is less bold and Dry is a bit more splashy, has bigger shapes and Extra Dry is darker and seems stronger. These are the backbones, the concepts, but they are super open. And I thought the art fair kind of allowed us to create a project that was less thought for an audience in the supermarket context.

AES: How was the design process together with Mumm?

AT: The label came first. Because the final products, the bottles, were already brought to me. From there, we could translate them into many things and one of them was the installation.

"There is a reference to abstract paintings, abstract expressionists and bubbles. And this conection leads us to this kind of aesthetic value "

AES: Is the art design inspired by artists like Pollock?

AT: There is a reference to abstract paintings, abstract expressionists and bubbles. And this connection leads us to this kind of aesthetic value. For sure, there are references to masters like Pollock.

Henrike Schneider: Do you want to concentrate on graphic design or are you going to focus on motion design in the future?


AT: I feel my abilities are more with the graphic world, but that doesn't mean, that things can't evolve into a video, an animation or whatever. The Mumm project was the first installation that was interactive, and it was the first time we collaborated with a team. It was fun. And it's very cool right now when you see, that things are translating into different mediums and things are evolving so fast. It’s nice to experiment and to try techniques that open many other options.

ALEX TROCHUT, New York City, Atelier, 2016.
photographed by Alban E. Smajli

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Alberto Burri


Alberto Burri


ALBERTO BURRI
THE TRAUMA OF PAINTING


april 2016
 

The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum had presented a major retrospective The Trauma of Painting—the first in the United States in nearly forty years and the most comprehensive in this country—devoted to the work of Italian artist Alberto Burri from October 2015 to January 2016. Exploring the beauty and complexity of Burri’s process-based works, the exhibition had positioned the artist as a central protagonist of post–World War II art and revises traditional narratives of the cultural exchanges between the United States and Europe in the 1950s and ’60s. Burri broke with the gestural, painted surfaces of both American Abstract Expressionism and European Art Informel by manipulating unorthodox pigments and humble, prefabricated materials.
A key figure in the transition from collage to assemblage, Burri rarely used paint or brush in conventional ways, and instead worked his surfaces with stitching and combustion, among other signal processes. With his torn and mended burlap sacks, “hunchback” canvases, and melted industrial plastics, the artist often made allusions to skin and wounds, but in a purely abstract idiom. The tactile quality of his work anticipated Post-Minimalist and feminist art of the 1960s, while his red, black, and white “material monochromes” defied notions of purity and reductive form associated with American formalist modernism. Bringing together more than one hundred works, including many that have never before been seen outside of Italy, the exhibition demonstrated how Burri blurred the line between painting and sculptural relief and created a new kind of picture-object that directly influenced Neo-Dada, Process art, and Arte Povera.

" With his torn and mended burlap sacks, “hunchback” canvases, and melted industrial plastics, the artist often made allusions to skin and wounds, but in a purely abstract idiom "

Burri is best known for his series of Sacchi (sacks) made of stitched and patched remnants of torn burlap bags, in some cases combined with fragments of discarded clothing. Far less familiar to American audiences are the artist’s other series, which this exhibition represented in depth: Catrami (tars), Muffe (molds), Gobbi (hunchbacks, or canvases with protrusions), Bianchi (white monochromes), Legni (wood combustions), Ferri (irons, or protruding wall reliefs made from prefabricated cold-rolled steel), Combustioni plastiche (plastic combustions, or melted plastic sheeting), Cretti (induced craquelure, or cracking), and Cellotex works (flayed and peeled fiberboard). The exhibition had unfolded on the ramps of the Guggenheim both chronologically and organized by series, following the artist’s movement from one set of materials, processes, and colors to the next.

Throughout his career, Burri also engaged with the history of painting, reflecting his deep familiarity with the Renaissance art of his native Umbria. The exhibition likewise revealed the dialogue with American Minimalism that informed his later Cretti and Cellotex works. In addition, the installation included an immersive new film commissioned by the Guggenheim Museum. Dutch filmmaker Petra Noordkamp documents Burri’s singular Land art memorial, the enormous Grande cretto (Large Cretto, 1985–89; with its last section completed posthumously in 2014) in Gibellina, Sicily, a town devastated by a 1968 earthquake. An enormous shroud of white cement covers the ruins, and fissures function as pathways that wind through an area of roughly 20 acres. The film captures Grande cretto as an experiential work of art filled with a sense of place and history.

Born in Città di Castello, Italy, in 1915, Burri trained to be a doctor and served as a medic in the Italian army in North Africa during World War II. Following his unit’s capture in Tunisia in 1943, he was interned at a prisoner-of-war camp in Hereford, Texas, where he began painting. After his return to Italy in 1946, Burri devoted himself to art—a decision prompted by his firsthand experiences of war, deprivation, and Italy’s calamitous defeat. His first solo show, at Rome’s Galleria La Margherita in 1947, featured landscapes and still lifes. After a trip to Paris in 1948–49, he began to experiment with tarry substances, ground pumice stone, industrial enamel paints, and metal armatures, and he formed accretions and gashes that destroy the integrity of the picture plane. He then traumatized the very structure of painting by puncturing, exposing, and reconstituting the support. Instead of using the traditional cohesive piece of stretched canvas, Burri assembled his works from piecemeal rags, broken wood veneer, welded steel sheets, or layers of melted plastic—stitching, riveting, soldering, stapling, gluing, and burning his materials along the way. His work demolished and reconfigured the Western pictorial tradition, while transforming the scale and affective power of modernist collage.

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Hoyland, Caro, Nola


Hoyland, Caro, Nola


JOHN HOYLAND, ANTHONY CARO + KENNETH NOLAND
A STORY OF A FRIENDSHIP

written by Julia Ahtijainen

january 2016
 

Visual art piece is like a novel, it provokes by telling a story. And all novels, of every age, are concerned with the enigma of the self. And I would say that the visual stories are even more selfish and self-motivated. If talking modernism, then there is a trio, three selfish gentlemen who skillfully play with our visual sense by revealing, they are John Hoyland, Anthony Caro and Kenneth Noland.

John Hoyland, one of the leading abstract painters in Britain, has once said, that paintings are there to be experienced, they are events. They are also to be meditated on and to be enjoyed by the senses, to be felt through the eye. And by this feeling one can experience the forgetting of being. Hoyland’s honesty drags you into his visual world, and six decades of dedicated visualization and fearless self-expression shows his mastery of the abstract art.
In the late 1950s and 1960s being lead by the experience of American Abstract Expressionism John Hoyland became friends Kenneth Noland and Anthony Caro. I keep on feeling that the world is small, and the friendship of these three cross-continental artists is a great example. It was a friendship that lasted and inspired, fed and influenced all three of them. That friendship gave the courage to step onto the next level of self-expressionism. To be a daring creative simply means you’re not afraid of your unique gift and you’ll do anything to channel it into something greater than yourself, and that is perhaps what can be said to summarize of Hoyland’s contribution into the world of abstract imagery.
Both Hoyland and Noland shared an interest in the possibilities offered by the new medium of acrylic paint: acrylic was crucial to Noland’s exploration of paint’s materiality and the possibilities of color, and for Hoyland it was becoming indispensable in enabling him to exploit distinctions between opacity and translucency, in his use of colors and forms and their dispositions.

Kenneth Noland is probably one of the best-known American Color Field painters, although in the 1950s he was thought of as an abstract expressionist and in the early 1960s he was thought of as a minimalist painter. I would say that Kenneth Noland is funky and playful, and at the same gracefully minimal. His works are definitions of modernism.

" To be a daring creative simply means you’re not afraid of your unique gift and you’ll do anything to channel it into something greater than yourself, and that is perhaps what can be said to summarize of Hoyland’s contribution into the world of abstract imagery "

One of my favorite pieces by Noland, Extent (1959), differs in it’s extent, from a shape and color selection, to the concentration point. It’s edgy yet warm, and friendly. It’s welcoming. Hoyland, Noland and Caro are similar, and yet so different, each one of them is a complete artist in itself. With their own narrative mode, they are never making a scene, they’re just being themselves.
The friendship of Caro and Noland had first begun in 1959 when Caro found his ideas sharpened by his encounters with the American artist, who was a leading figure among the post-painterly abstraction painters. Already well established as an important color-field painter and figure in the Washington Colour School, Noland left an indelible impression on his British peer with his commitment to the exploration of color’s psychic and phenomenological effects through serialized forms. The encounter had its influence on Caro’s practice, turning him away from the figurative style toward the kinds of geometric forms he had seen in Noland’s work.

Anthony Caro’s abstract sculptures challenge the irrational forces of the viewer’s soul. Caro violates the solitude of the viewer with his forms and transforms. His modernist works are usually characterized by assemblages of metal using 'found' industrial objects. And require advanced depth of feeling and meaning behind kind of a liquid architectural balance.
Caro’s sculptures are about contingencies and specifics: they evoke very particular emotions, thoughts and feelings depending upon the act of looking.

Helen Keller once said, that true friends never apart, maybe in distance but never in heart. From the mid-1960s onwards, the three artists continued to have a lively awareness of each other's work and maintained their friendship, meeting on both sides of the Atlantic, and keeping on perfecting their craft.
Hoyland, Caro and Noland all emerged in the wake of the first generation of the New York School and sought to continue the legacies of their abstract forebears. There is a great deal of reflection, study, experience, and passion behind it, but their tone is never serious, it is provocative.

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Freudenthal/Verhagen


Freudenthal/Verhagen


FREUDENTHAL/VERHAGEN
SURFACES, FACING THEMSELVES

written by Annika Hatje

january 2016
 

When walking through the streets of the modern global- city, one is surrounded by its wealth of impressions: Faces, facades of buildings, posters and screens, lining wide streets, packed with cars and traffic lights, and the flora, finely arranged.

For most actions, we don’t even need to think for ourselves – we are guided through foreign cities, our language is translated and even pronounced by our phone’s electronicvoice, a voice that we carry with us 24/7. And that’s fine. That certain comfort is well accepted all over and works in most global cities. the system has been adjusted and only varies in its range of facilities: Some cities employ busses, like Sydney, older ones prefer trams, like Milan, and some possess an ingenious subway net- work, like London. And meanwhile, we as products of the consumer society that continues to grow and to elaborate, we as vulnerable, fairly naïve human beings, go with theinsane speed of the global city, unable to notice how blind and insensitive we have become towards little changes, like our own well- being. therefore we’ve got treats, and nightlife, energi- zing food and drinks, medicine and creams. From day to day we wake up, breath, heal, fall ill, breath and heal – the cycle never stops, we call ourselves cosmopolites. That’s where Freudenthal / Verhagen do start from. With creating a multi-layered, almost dark and mysterious photograph, discomforting our visual impression, we’re forced to look beyond appearance to understand our incomprehension. We start questioning in general, if what we see is only a filter of the given truth.

An impressive step towards such developing mind-set dominates the artist’s video work. its surreal and unsettling screenings conti- nuously emphasize the fact that everything you see, cannot be trus- ted – with using the technique of layering, scenes are overlapped by others, comforting an impression or totally destroying it – i do here refer to their video work “Dear Mr./ Mrs”.

" Can we call such work pop art? Which genre does that piece of work belong to, as its range of colors does not match the typical palette "

Can we call such work pop art? Which genre does that piece of work belong to, as its range of colors does not match the typical palette. the meaning though, accusing nowadays blindness towards truth and insouciance, leads to such conclusion. 

Even Andy Warhol used these particular surfaces to create meaning in his work. Some might argue that his works, for instance the shoe series, only mirror the emotionless mass consumption in its single-layered “depth”. But we are comforted by what we see, so that the actual multi-layering is easily overlooked as it only gets visible, when having the knowledge about the artist’s oeuvre and his thoughts as well as being able to involve one’s own emotions. We almost forgot to feel actual interest, disgust or curiosity as our whole environment does comfort our eyes and minds. We ignore wars, climate change, even claim that such things doen’t even exist, only to live on in our own little bubble of single-layered, beauty. How moving the collages of Freudenthal / Verhagen become, when considering that we actually start thinking and wandering, when viewing their work. How overwhelming the feeling, when actually feeling real discomfort or even utter understanding. to claim that stepping out of such protected and externally controlledworldview would be devastating, wouldn’t be the right approach and truly not the intent of the artists. Without stepping out of our comfort zone, evident in the earthy, more or less dark grey color palette, they only give us a certain hint, a little whole (‘WHOLE’, an epic volume containing 25 years of their work), to be able to look behind and beyond given truths, so we start questioning and get back to our natural human behavior: we start being curios again! 

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America Martin


America Martin


AMERICA MARTIN
When I dream,
I dream of colors,
big bold colors

written by Andreas Hübner

january 2016
 

“Artists are storytellers,” America Martin’s concept of art is that simple – and that brilliant. To her, each canvas is free-destined; her job is to pull a story out of the canvas and lay it on top. Colors are the medium to put the story into line and form. Skies of blue and grey, oceans of yellow ocher and lavender, dashes of yellows, pinks and turquoises make up her palette. The paintings of the Colombian-American fine artist are large-scale, often times 112 by 112 inches, her sculptures exceed her own body measures by far. She wants to move things bigger than herself, she wants to challenge herself, and she does so because she is a dreamer. She wants to defy and create a story in the process.

To grasp the story, Martin is well-prepared. Rubber gloves and baby powder are set aside. Cardboard, razor blades, and knee pads, acrylic and oil constitute her tool kit. Green tea, burritos, and Jack Purcell shoes are her helpers in long dreamy nights. Then, Martin looks at the canvas, and listens to the story. Parts of which are her own roots, her finger prints: “They are always there informing and coloring every choice you make. My Colombian roots definitely have an impact on what I find beautiful aesthetically and what I’m drawn to.” 

Martin fell in love with art when she was nine. One day, she bought a large-scale book of the works of Vincent van Gogh at a garage sale. Twenty-five cents were enough to change her entire life. At once, everything moved from black and white into color. Martin had found her language. Soon afterwards, she was to begin an eight year apprenticeship with Vernon Wilson. Van Gogh’s Crows over Wheat Fields had inspired her to become a fine artist, painter, and sculptor.

" To grasp the story, Martin is well-prepared. Rubber gloves and baby powder are set aside. Cardboard, razor blades, and knee pads, acrylic and oil constitute her tool kit. Green tea, burritos, and Jack Purcell shoes are her helpers in long dreamy nights "

Residing in Silver Lake, CA, where she and her husband turned a former drapery and manufacturing business into a sun-drenched workspace and gallery, Martin has come a long way. At the age of sixteen, she sold her first drawing. The buyer was the notorious Danny DeVito. DeVito had come across her works through a friend. His purchase encouraged Martin to pursue her dream. Suddenly she realized that she might have a chance of making it in the world of fine arts. A year-long stint at the School of Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, further stimulated her dream and increased her interests in sculptural works. Still, Martin had to do it the old-fashioned way, knocking on Gallery’s doors, presenting work. In 2002, Joanne Artmann of Laguna Beach Gallery staged Martin’s first solo show. Countless other solo and group exhibitions in the United States were soon to follow. Galleries in cities such as Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York, Austin and Atlanta are currently representing her works.

Now, at age 35, Martin has somewhat set on an artistic agenda. Most of her works are about line and human form. Lines are her means to generate stories; lines ignite the plot and, as she puts it, choose the story. Form illustrates a sense of enthusiasm and hope, and human form is a reference to what Martin sees. Women are omnipresent, mostly in manners that remind us of Picasso, Matisse and Braque. But, even more so, her paintings are about the characters she stumbles upon during her neighborhood and nation-wide field trips. To develop ideas, Martin transforms herself into an anthropological photographer, takes her camera on a stroll and encapsulates the things and people that surround her. In a way, Martin goes into a conversation with the people and objects she is photographing and, as she points out, she carries that conversation on to the canvas.

While a voyage to New Orleans has recently led her to a series focused on music and Jazz musicians, Martin has portrayed a variety of characters in the past, among them boxers, Native Americans and abstracted nudes. Often, these characters display a sort of misogyny, most manifest in their eyes. Indeed, people’s eyes are dominant in her works. The eyes seem to see everything; they reflect shadows, weights, texture and emotion. To Martin, these emotions provide for her inspiration for they express joy, vigor, dignity and boldness. For art enthusiasts, they are a beginning of a dream, a dream of colors, big bold colors. 

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Kohei Nawa


Kohei Nawa


KOHEI NAWA
CATALYST SERIES


october 2015
 

Kohei Nawa ́s art explores issues of science and digital culture while challenging viewers ́ sensory experiences. He is interested in industrial mass-production and often works with synthetic compounds, using them to mediate between ideas of the real and the virtual, perception and illusion. In September, Nawa exhibited at Pace London and explored the idea of force, which he conceived as a set of invisible operations dictating the behaviour of materials. On the first floor Nawa was presented with drawings, sculptures and site- specific installations from four of Nawa’s Direction, Ether, Catalyst and Moment series.

Force in this sense refers to the gravity that exerts an influence on all things that exist in a space, the force that allows vegetati- on to grow up from the ground, and the force that enables slime mould to creep along a wall,” Nawa writes.

Gravity is the driving forces in his Ether series, which captures high-viscosity fluid into a solid state at the moment it is dripping downward. Appearing as a three-dimensional sculpture, the iterative forms of the droplets appear as an endless column and visualize the force of gravity while also creating a feeling of weightlessness.

>> Kohei nawa was born in 1975 in Osaka, Japan works and lives nowadays in Kyoto, Japan. After a semester abroad at the Royal College of Art, london, he received his PhD in Fine Art Sculpture from the Kyoto City university of Arts in 2003 <<

In his Direction paintings, Nawa pours black paint onto a vertically set canvas. He offsets the grain of the canvas on the stretcher by fifteen degrees, and then allows the paint to slowly drip down the face of the canvas, allowing the force of gravity to produce the lines of the painting. The repetition of this action creates a set of parallel stripes that cover the canvas. the relation between the points and the lines not only yields visual stimulation but also enhances the dynamic impression of the space as a whole entity. The speed of movement, direction and gravity resonate hereby inspiring sensibility.

His newest body of work, the Moment series similarly uses a two-dimensional plane to capture the forces of physics. Using a pendulum device, Nawa unleashes acrylic ink onto a paper surface, creating a swirling set of concentric circles and overarching lines. The orderly nature of the lines seems to contradict the haphazard nature of their making, yet Nawa’s work forces viewers to consider the effects of air pressure, distance, and the motion of the pendulum as agents in making the work. The exhibition included a site-specific wall work that was part of his Catalyst series. Like the Ether work, Kohei Nawa employs a fluid material in his Catalyst sculptures to highlight the transition between liquid and material states. In this case he used hot glue. Building on the legacy of post-im- pressionism and process art, the Catalyst works are net-like sculpture drawn directly on the wall.

the different dots and strands of glue accumulate into an almost biological form that seems to crawl across the wall. In his trademark series Beads, Nawa utilises stuf- fed animals collected from auction websites that he covers with glass beads, polyurethane foam or prism sheets. These materials fragment the exoskeleton of the sculptures into PixCell—a portmanteau of pixel and cell that refers to the constitutional elements of biology and digital forms. These bead-like forms absorb texture of the object and its colour, abstracting the core animal form into image cells, staging a confluence of the real and the virtual while questioning the status of both terms.

 

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James Turrell


James Turrell


JAMES TURRELL
SEEING YOURSELF SEE

written by Andreas Hübner

october 2015
 

Strolling around the draughty countryside of East of England, guarantees for a horizon awash of colors these days. While autumn is gradually taking over, exhibiting its standard palette of dreadful browns, reds, and yellows, a rather luminous show comes to an end at one of England’s finest stately homes: LightScape by James Turrell. Once called the veteran wizard of the illusionary, Turrell has turned the grand classical house of Houghton Hall and its country garden into a surface that emphasizes the very substance of light.

" STAGED BY DAVID CHOLMONDELEY, PROPRIETOR OF THE ESTATE, THE SHOW PRESENTS A NUMBER OF INSTALLATIONS WHICH CONNECT THE VISUAL AND EMOTIONAL EFFECTS OF TURRELL’S LUMINOSITY WITH THE PALLADIAN DARKNESS OF HOUGHTON HALL "

Turrell has thus revived a project that started about 15 years ago, when one of his Skyspace works was installed at Houghton. Ever since, he has experimented with the physical form of light, explored the aesthetic deconstruction of materiality and established light as a creator of space and reality. To Turrell, light is not a mere medium of depiction, reference, or use; to Turrell, light is “some THING,” that occupies space, has presence and feel, and hence is the ultimate object of art. In this sense, Turrell announces himself to be a “light artist.” 
Staged by David Cholmondeley, proprietor of the estate, the show presents a number of installations which connect the visual and emotional effects of Turrell’s luminosity with the Palladian darkness of Houghton Hall. Built for Britain’s first Prime Minister Robert Walpole in the 1720s, Houghton Hall is now enlightened by Enzu Green, Raethro Red, and Raemar Magenta. The installations, accompanied by sixteen others around the grounds and chambers of Houghton, reflect Turrell’s enchanting, contemplative, and almost transcendental approach. While light of all colors and facets is ubiquitous in every single installation, no luminous source is to be found: no L.E.D. fixtures, no projectors, nothing. Turrell’s illusion is perfect, almost entrancing and mystifying.

Of course, Turrell’s Quaker upbringing is long said to have influenced his work. Nat Trotman, the Guggenheim’s associate curator, once noted that “many of his pieces relate to Quaker meetings where people gather in silent prayer and meditate together until the spirit moves them to speak.“ Indeed, there is a “sort of quiet contemplation” that characterizes many of his pieces, but Turrell’s education in mathematics, geology, astronomy and perceptual psychology seems to have channeled his conceptions of light, art, and space even more so. However, in some ways, Turrell is still the aerial cartographer who in his early twenties crossed the deserts of the Western United States to supply remote mine sites with all kinds of necessities – and to explore the complex interplay of sky, light and atmosphere.

Over the years, Turrell has intensified his encounters with the medium of light to probe the sensory limitations of human perception that define contextual and cultural norms. His works have been widely acclaimed since his first showing at the Pasadena Art Museum in 1967. Ever after, an illustrious selection of major museums has featured solo exhibitions of Turrell’s works: the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam (1976), the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York (1980), the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (1984), and the Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg, Germany (2009–10).

" large-scale artwork that relates, through the medium of light, to the universe of the surrounding sky, land and culture "

Now a graybeard at 72, Turrell is experiencing a number of retrospective shows, foremost at that the Guggenheim Museum, New York (2013), and the National Gallery of Australia, Syndey (2014–15). Both place and discuss his oeuvre in the wider context of the post-postmodern art world. Once a leader of the Light and Space Movement in the mid-1960s, Turrell has carefully refined the minimalistic and geometric concept of that group and its fellow members, such as Robert Irwin and Doug Wheeler.
Yet, from 1972 on, Turrell has put most of his creative power, and most of his financial resources one may add, into the Roden Crater Project. Located in the San Francisco Volcanic Field, north of Flagstaff, Arizona, Turrell seeks to transform an extinct volcano cinder cone into what Michael Govan describes as a “large-scale artwork that relates, through the medium of light, to the universe of the surrounding sky, land and culture.” Consequently, Turrell has spent much of the last 40 years physically altering and changing the shape of the crater, in result, transforming not only the visual perception of the object itself, but also the relation between percipient and object. Here, at an elevation of approximately 5,400 feet, Turrell’s interest in interaction with nature and in understanding the place of humanity within the movements of planets, stars and galaxies becomes most obvious.

The Roden Crater is not, by all means, a modest project and only time will tell if it can succeed. A glimpse of how Turrell hopes to progress on this utmost venture is currently to be seen when facing the West Façade of Houghton Hall: Greens, blues, and whites interact with each other to create a harmonic lightscape that celebrate the essence of life and nature itself. Turrell, quite puristicly, himself says, “My work has no object, no image and no focus. With no object, no image and no focus, what are you looking at? You are looking at you looking” – and you are seeing yourself see, internally creating colors, deceiving reality.
 

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Michal Rovner


Michal Rovner


Michal Rovner
Panorama


july 2015
 

Michal Rovner is a renowned painter, video artist, photographer, and writer who exhibits her varied and evocative body of work. Born in Tel Aviv, Israel Michal Rovner studied cinema, television, and philosophy. While her college period Rovner founded Tel Aviv’s Camera Obscura School for studies in photography, video, cinema, and computer-based art with Arie Hammer in 1978.
Rovner offers the viewer a seamless blend of video, digital art, photography, painting, and writing, in order to express the intensity of her experiences while apply- ing appropriate symbolism to reflect the broader human condition.  1987, Rovner then moved to New York City, and started to write reviews about arts and culture for american and israeli magazines. In the 1990s, Rovner returned to Israel and began taking photographs along the Israeli border with Lebanon, capturing the struggles of the region during this time. These images were presented at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. A few years later, Michal Rovner offered a video installation that covered 17 windows along Park Avenue, leading to an exhibition at the New Yorker Whitney Museum. What makes her work so special is that Rovner often rephotographs, digitizes, colorizes, or transfers her works to different media in an effort to manipulate and continually redefine these works. Rovner is still active in the art community, and counts to be the world‘s most successful Israeli artist. Michal Rovner lives and works in New York and Tel Aviv.

Michal Rovner ́s evolved and articulated work explore the medium of using new LCD technology, specifically customized for her works. These large-scale, multiscreen works combine her signature human figures with the landscape elements which she has been exploring for the last two years. The brooding soulful expression of the human and natural worlds is intertwined through the use of increasingly bold abstraction. LE MILE presents Rovner ́s work Panorama which evokes Rovner’s themes of human interaction, dislocation and the persistence of history, while creating a new level of immediacy by further removing the narrative to its barest and most urgent elements.

I’M LOOKING AT A NEWSPAPER, I’M WATCHING TELEVISION. I WANT TO KNOW, I NEED TO KNOW WHAT IS GOING ON IN THE WORLD. I SEE DETAILS OF A REALITY THAT IS WORRISOME. EVERY WAR IS SHOWN, EVERY MAJOR ACT OF VIOLENCE IS SHOWN, BUT YOU ONLY GET A DETAIL. EVERYTHING IS SHOWN, BUT YOU NEVER REALLY SEE IT "

Since first showcasing her video work at her Whitney Museum of American Art retrospective in 2002, Rovner has pioneered the use of the moving image as a non- narrative, non-cinematic medium for the creation of painterly images and installations which, like painting and sculpture, conjure the timeless realities in a way the narrative arts cannot. Michal Rovner‘s discovery that the moving image need not be tied to a sense of beginning, middle and end, and instead may exist in a constant state of the present has opened up the possibilities of video for the 21st century.
Since her landmark exhibition at the Venice Biennale in 2003, Rovner has expanded her innovations in many directions. Backward, into the historical realm defined by the ancient stones she used as both medium and context; and forward into technological systems that allow for novel expression of her imagery. Adding painting qualities and gestural “brushstrokes” to video recordings of real-life situations, the new work respond to Rovner’s sense of disjointed reality.

I’m looking at a newspaper, I’m watching television. I want to know, I need to know what is going on in the world. I see details of a reality that is worrisome. Every war is shown, every major act of violence is shown, but you only get a detail. Everything is shown, but you never really see it.”

Highlights of the exhibition include Array, a work where Rovner’s fascination with archaeology confronts cyclical histories. Images of a black and white field mirror the texture of a drawing, a sketched diagram or an enlarged newspaper print. The human figures, organized in rows, repeat their movements, moving without advancing, in barren fields ploughed with dark lines.

Kalaniyot (Anemone) reveals the painterly qualities of this new body of work with its gestural lines that verge on obscuring the figures moving about in the background. Rovner creates an allusive tension as its deep red hues conjure images of a field of flowers and the aftermath of an upheaval.

The eight-panel work Trails resembles large sheets of paper with a panoramic drawing of a weave of paths. The human figures that navigate across the screen in different and seemingly infinite directions are woven into, and in some cases pulled down, by a black current that sweeps across the work. Abandoning any sense of narrative, Rovner is displacing her figures in fragmented sites. Time, as well, seems disrupted, like an event without a be- ginning or an end. These abstract, painterly video works explore reflections of a reality that is tough, enigmatic and troubling.

"Abandoning any sense of narrative, Rovner is displacing her figures in fragmented sites "

Michal Rovner ́s work has been exhibited in over 60 solo exhibitions including a mid-career retrospective at the Whitney Museum of Art, the Israeli Pavilion at the Venice Biennale, the Jeu de Paume, and the Louvre.

In 2006, Rovner began a series of monumental structures titled “Makom” (Place) using stones from dismantled or destroyed Israeli and Palestini- an houses from Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Haifa, the Galilee, and the border of Israel and Syria. She worked with Israeli and Palestinian masons to construct new spaces encompassing history, memory and time. In 2013, Rovner created the installation Traces of Life at the Auschwitz- Birkenau State Museum devoted to the 1.5 million Jewish children murdered in the Shoah. Rovner’s video installations have been exhibited at the Tate Gallery, the Stedelijk Museum, LVMH Headquarters, and YadVashem.

 

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Ernst Coppejans


Ernst Coppejans


ERNST COPPEJANS
Lutteur
Senegal and its Wrestling Culture

january 2015

 

Wrestling is the number one sport in Senegal. Champions are worshiped and treated like movie stars. Many Senegalese boys train fanatically to make their dream, becoming a famous lutteur ( wrestler ) come true. During a month I portrayed the boys from the small village Yene who gather on the beach, every day at the end of the afternoon, to train together. 

In Senegal, professional wrestling reigns supreme. Seeing as it's the national sport, those who successfully practice lutte sénégalaise, orlaamb, are considered heroes in their home country, treated like movie stars or royalty. Though unlike the WWE stars in America who transformed wrestling into an entertainment spectacle throughout the '90s, the burgeoning wrestling champions in Senegal are reaching new heights of popularity while attempting to maintain ties to their traditional folk roots. Amsterdam-based photographer Ernst Coppejans recently spent several weeks shadowing the men and boys who are working to become the next big laamb champions.

" Many Senegalese boys train fanatically to make their dream, becoming a famous lutteur come true "

His portraits capture the hulking subjects on a beach in the small village of Yene where they train. Contorted and posed, mid-grapple or lounging by the sea, Coppejans' images demonstrate a different kind of masculinity. The series, titled "Lutteur," began while Coppejans was traveling in West Africa, seeking to meet and photograph members of the gay community there. The resulting project, "Dans le Milieu," explores West Africa's laws that prohibit same sex relationships. While in Senegal, however, Coppejans became particularly fascinated with the wrestlers he saw on the beaches. After a bit of research, he decided to join the Senegalese hopefuls for a month, attending their tournaments and observing their practices.

"Champions are worshiped," Coppejans explained to The Huffington Post. "Many Senegalese boys train fanatically to make their dream, becoming a famous lutteur come true." The allure of fame and fortune from sport clearly crosses national borders. Talented lutteurs will wear talismans (gris-gris) and douse themselves in blessed liquid to better their chances of triumph, while connecting to the older folk rituals based on faith and luck. But while the majority of competitors make around $2,000 per season, the small percentage of elite winners can earn up to $100,000 per combat.

“There is a mirage, a sort of dream, that the youth of the country are living,” Malick Thiandoum, a sports broadcaster for Senegalese Radio and Television, stated to The New York Times. “But we are in the process of telling them, ‘Be careful, because there is a gap between what you believe and reality.'"

Coppejans captures portraits of the wrestlers, clad in loincloth and shorts, before they've been fully enveloped by this reality. "What I love about this series is that it is all about hopes and dreams," he added. "Not many make it as a professional wrestler, but they sure are gonna try. It's a way out of poverty and a way to a better life."

 

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Jenny Morgan


Jenny Morgan


AN INTERVIEW WITH Jenny Morgan
We are all setting suns

written by Mikal Shkreli
interview by Mairanny Batista & Mikal Shkreli


september 2014
 

Stare through the tinted glass and you will realize it´s a window into the big, bold and exposed world of Jenny Morgan.
Put your face on the window and once you enter, cup your hands around your eyes. A tunnel-like contruction, with brick walls on either side, starts to take shape. The light at the end of the tunnel is a brilliant self-portrait that serves as the physical and metaphorical focal point for Jenny Morgan ́s show. It's up to the viewer to decide how deep into the show they would like to go. Some will take a walk in and be entranced for hours, whereas others will turn away at the first sight of full-frontal nudity.

Born in 1982 in Salt Lake City, Jenny Morgan found her way to Denver for her undergraduate studies of Art and Design. While her Bachelor studies at Rocky Mountain College, she became first assistant of gallery owner Ivar Zeile. This relationship blossomed into a professional one as Morgan ́s career unfolded in 2006. Two years later Morgan graduated with a MFA from the School of Visual Arts in New York. The artist has worked out of the city ever since, with portrait commissions for New York Times and many exhibitions around the globe. Most of her time, Morgan has been interested in scientific writings of Sigmund Freud or Carl Jung. In her youth, she became obsessed with writing down her dreams in a dream journal and analysing them afterwards. Now, she more and more gets into theoretical scripts by authors such as Amit Goswami. Especially, the Kenneth Earl Wilber shows great influence in Morgan ́s work. Wilber mainly has written about mysticism, philosophy, and developmental psychology.

"I didn't see how my interests in metaphysics and psychology was connected to my work really until a few years ago, when the two roads crossed," Jenny Morgan said. "I understood why I was painting people and why I was thinking of them psychologically. I'm interested in knowing who they are on these multiple levels. Painting these people and thinking about them is just another form of analysis."

" I can’t really visually see things, and as a visual artist and as a kid I always wanted to be something external that I can see, to validate the internal feelings I was having towards it "

Morgan ́s portraits may be the only contemporary art pieces who so clearly draw inspiration from the paintings of Lucian Freud and his grandfather, the founding father of psychoanalysis Sigmund Freud. The blurred features, sanded outlines, and unique coloration push Morgan ́s art toward a revelatory abstraction and by this her pieces are deeply psychological. The surfaces are activated, sanded away and peeled back to reveal fleshy wounds. Her contemporary portraits use color and surfaces to highlight just how dramatic and fabulous a painting can be. To Morgan, a portrait isn ́t just a photograph, but a manifestation of one ́s spirit. She pushes her transcendent figurative paintings to a higher scale, the authentic degree of which intensify the psychological affection of her art. Jenny Morgan ́s genre of realism is fully her personal creation. Technically complex but experimental, plausible yet mysterious, she obscures the physical to illuminate the spiritual. Morgan ́s work both acknowledges and offers tools for recognizing the invisible lives reflected within and especially around us. Her paintings are both corporeal and ethereal and have both intrigued and haunted the viewer with tensely psychological portraits captured with masterful hand. Jenny Morgan clearly informs the spectator she is interested in depicting the figure and in going beyond the precision of realism in art.

Morgan ́s portrayals mostly seem to capture the same expression - a moment of hesitation, surprise or even insensitivity. They make the viewer ponder vulnerability and tangibility, as almost all of her characters have blurred eyes, hands, in general primarily genitals. The German visual artist Gerhard Richter has produced abstract as well as photorealistic paintings and mostly blurred his works to make the observer believe it ́s a photograph not a painting. And it looks like as if Morgan ́s photorealistic paintings were an progression of Richter ́s creation. Often the hands are transparent, sometimes patterned or even discolored. The largest oil painting of Morgan titled Kings and Queens from 2013 includes a 13-by-7-foot tour de force five giant, frontal, ghostly nude personages standing side by side. Their explicit bareness tempered with raw fragility and meditative strength. Demonstrating the psycho-social disunion that often can be seen in Morgan ́s works, they appear to occupy their own realm, contemplating themselves and their bodies, and seeking balance between the ID and the super-ego. Morgan’s subjects break the old tradition of the female gaze, but instead of confronting their audience, they seem to plead with them. They examine much deeper than the visceral way we respond to flesh. We can see some small peculiarities as for example washed-out faces or alien-like hands. These peculiarities are easy to gloss over at first glance, yet demand obsessive inquiry once you notice them.

Jenny Morgan continues to loosen the bonds and borders of traditional realism in painting, the evolution within her work has grown increasingly more vibrant and daring, resulting in a visual charge that carries excellent gravity. Her dedication to art, her ideals of art and her act as an contemporary artist have proven to be boundless. Morgan ́s art convolutes the personal with the general, carrying an emotional impact that resonates amongst those who are open to it.

Jenny Morgan: I’m still figuring out how to use that language, and how to reach a broader audience - what comes out is organic anyways - the trouble with sharing work that is inevitably spiritual.

" I find myself wanting to be everyone’s therapist, because you take in little methods of experience, and rework mental thought, and you see that translate into your life, and all you want is to share that with someone, just to have them experience that same movement in their life "

Mikal Shkreli: The work is powerful, what I’m sensing is an evolution, a growth in your work, I’m seeing themes characters and growth.

JM: I’m so sensitive to other people, hard time being around new people. Spirit animals, was visited by an owl, which means “i can see into the spirit world” I can’t really visually see things, and as a visual artist and as a kid I always wanted to be something external that I can see, to validate the internal feelings I was having towards it. It was the biggest struggle in my youth, and now I ́ve kind of gotten over that - let’s do a third eye opening” so, he did the ceremony, and I could feel him pulling at my third eye. The owl’s on top of my head, and when I closed my eyes, the owl slowly sank into my body and opened his wings into my arms, and opened his eyes behind my eyes - was the most authentic visualization, with an interplay with my body that I’ve ever experienced, and it was real, there was no separation between what was internally happening and what was externally happening with my body. So my third eye was blasted open, when I came back to the city and - i didn’t know if I could take in so much stuff, because I’m such an energy filter anyways. I haven’t learned how to separate myself from that yet. I’m in the process of building walls and the golden energy belt, it doesn’t necessarily feel real yet, still feels like it’s all in my head. But what feels real is how after everyone I encounter, and I have to get out of my body. That’s why it’s easier just to be in my studio all day and paint, and cleanse it out.
It’s another way to connect and cleanse without physically being with people. I’ve really realized from the past two years, working with these people, they’re all people from my life, and they come in, and I know I need to paint them at a certain time, so I ask them to pose for me, and while I’m working on them, I realized that I’m working on them in a different level, whatever I do to the portrait is magic realism in a way, i’m affecting them by affecting my portrait. It’s very ‘dorian grey’ it’s feeling more real, and I’ve had some stories come through to validate that shifting, through experiences, so I am trying to center myself in that, figuring that stuff out. And I know it’s coming out in the work, since November, the last show, the winter was really dark and depressing - I think for everyone - it pushed a lot of issues out. For me I was in the studio and all I wanted to paint was orange and yellow and gold, and this light was coming out of me, and I didn’t even know it was there, because I was so depressed, I kind of didn’t know where it was coming from, but it was coming out on the canvas, and having sunlight in my studio, even though it was horrible outside. So you can feel that warmth coming through, which has been helpful. And i was trained as a realist painter, super technical, and so, since my graduate studies, I’ve been working on ‘de-skilling’ myself, and beginning to get away from those formulas, and finding more abstract thought, but I have to teach myself how to think abstractly, which is basically what a spiritual practice is, because you have to conceptualize these ideas that aren’t in the physical world, and somehow make them reality, so seeing that connection between accepting spiritual concepts as reality, and accepting abstract mark-making as a reality, and understanding it as real when it’s on the canvas, because it’s just another language that I’m learning, and so the more I understand these spiritual concepts, the more I can make abstract work, which has been a big realization too, to make the connection.

MS: Have you found also that by unlearning the learning the concepts through art and spiritual experience, is that also affecting your daily life? 

JM: Yea, I mean, I find myself wanting to be everyone’s therapist, because you take in little methods of experience, and rework mental thought, and you see that translate into your life, and all you want is to share that with someone, just to have them experience that same movement in their life. I find myself talking about it a lot, but you can only share so much until you are pushing some of these boundaries, so I’m also learning how to communicate the positive things that I’m feeling, and to encourage people to experience that same thing without being this really annoying spiritual, new- agey person that’s like “Go to yoga and do this”, I love yoga, and yoga is this other new-age taboo thing in our culture where if you’re in it you understand it, but if you’re outside of it, it’s this trendy thing that’s happening, until you realize that once you change the energy flow in your body, your thoughts start to change. I’m also in the middle of a thirty day yoga thing, which I do every spring, to cleanse. and I’m finding all this anger coming up, even though I’m not an angry person, so I’m going through that.

MS: Would there be the potential of any possibility of painting animal spirits or energies of nature?

" And I was choosing people I felt emotional towards, but I’d be painting this masculine figure and I would have, an emptiness to it, it wasn’t getting me what I want "

JM: Well I know that my interest lies in the human being, and the closest I’ve gotten to other levels of spirits is with Siri and her cat, she’s one of my favorite models, for me she’s the archetype of the sexual goddess, she’s so self composed with her sexuality and eroticism, and I envy and try to take on when I’m painting her. When I photograph her, she’s very organic, she’s also a model, and whatever happens we go with the flow, and occasionally she’ll pick up her cat, and all of a sudden it’s her and her cat. I had no intention of painting her cat, but it’s there, and the interaction is really beautiful, it’s new and abstract. but I don’t know if I would ever want to full direct animal symbology in, or direct symbols, or direct sacred geometry. and I want the soul and the portrait of the person to dictate the energy that comes out, instead of placing it on top of them, or in that way, beyond color.

MS: Comparing your work from the last exhibit “How to find a Ghost” to the work I see now >>I’m noticing more confidence in the use of colors and vibrant techniques, a heightened depth and exponentially growing energy<< . Is that something you can feel yourself in your work, your development?

JM: Yea, I can feel, by looking back on it now, and having reviewers coming in to see my newer work, it is clear that my work is a little more potent, and I’m more comfortable with it, and especially in comparison to my last show, it was my first bigger show and platform, in Chelsea, and a gallery, the level of pressure to do things a certain way. No one was saying it, but I was feeling it. I’m beginning to shed that, a little bit, and ground into me, a little bit more, and having more faith in what’s coming up, and not if people will love it.

MS: Duality, regarding skulls.

JM: I think duality is a key phrase for it. The initial spark of the idea came from seeing other painter’s work, and I decided to take a skull and place it on a mirror, and took like a hundred images of this duality, and it was the same object but reflected in completely different angels, and something about that was really beautiful, and I’ve been meaning to buy an actual human skull, this is just a ceramic one, but even with this one, we place life on top of it, and it’s interesting to paint because it’s the only inanimate objects that has life-force, like in a way that a human does. And it took me a while to understand why I was so attracted to them, and of course there’s a common theme in our history, and they’re very common in our culture, but to actually sit and paint them feels like a portrait without an identity to it, it still feels alive.

MS: Like your paintings, alive. Your work felt like it was drawing me into a world, into the feminine beauty, and it’s very initiatory, and you feel drawn, it’s beautiful and it’s almost scary.

JM: Well good.

MS: It draws the eye, people are drawn to the feminine.

JM: And it’s taken the last few years that it is the feminine that I’m interested in. I was painting straight males for a while, because I felt like I should, to even out my portrait body of work. And I was choosing people I felt emotional towards, but I’d be painting this masculine figure and I would have, an emptiness to it, it wasn’t getting me what I want, but then I painted my friend David, a gay male, who embraces his feminine side, to where he feels almost split in two, and I could pull that out of him. Sometimes, I wonder if it’s just because that’s what I am relating to in them, that’s the reflection of me, that I can relate to them on a psycho-sexual level, too. 

JENNY MORGAN, New York City, Studio, 2014.
photographed by Mairanny Batista

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Edward Granger


Edward Granger


AN INTERVIEW WITH EDWARD GRANGER
I Still think I am a Kid

written by Alexandra Stevens
interviewed by Mikal Shkreli

october 2014
 

The life of a crayon is almost always cut short. Inside its paper sheath, a crayon is the same smooth paraffin down to the very last sliver, but they never seem to last past the halfway point. In a box of 30, half of them will break, and a few more will be lost, rolling under a desk to be swept up and disposed with paperclips and dust bunnies. Then for the remaining colors comes a point when a crayon is just too small to hold comfortably, like a piece of chalk, or a burning joint. You give it up and throw it away, useable remains rendered garbage. So what happens if you pick up those burnt out ends, if you attempt to breathe life back into the roaches? One piece alone might not have an impact, but reunite it with it’s forgotten friends and siblings, and suddenly you’ve brought forth an entirely new form.

I still think I’m a kid,” said Edward Granger with a laugh. The New York based visual artist just turned 25 this year; his demeanor often suggests he’s much younger, while his art speaks with the vibrancy and understanding of an old soul. Granger speaks slowly, deliberately, then all at once, often in repetition. He’s charming and relaxed, with a lilt of a southern accent. Best known for his colorful multimedia, bold murals, and excellent bone structure, Granger’s world is one of candy-colored confections and loud geometry. Recycled art supplies, most famously crayons and colored pencils, find a home on his canvases, forming swirling masses of organic pattern, heavily textured and multi-dimensional.

“In the South we have a word, sauvage, and it means wild one, one with no inhibitions,” he explains. Growing up in New Orleans, Granger’s French and Creole background manifests itself in his wild, pulsing visions.

“I like to combine that with the Fauvist movement, color over supremacy of form, and put a childlike essence into it. I think it’s really important to revert to that childhood imagination, because children think wild, they think bold, they think big. Children are always dreaming - they have no inhibitions, because nothing is stopping them. As you grow, you have more stipulations, because of fear, or judgement.”

“Do you remember anything at that age?” he asks of being a young child. “I vaguely remember things. I feel like at that age you see things and you just want to touch them - and you have to allow kids to do that. Touch the stove because it’s hot, and they’ll learn. Touch the stove because they think it’s beautiful, and they have no idea. Children are fearless like that.”


" So I’m taking my sauvage, my lack of inhibitions, my large fields of color, and my childlike play, and putting them together, "

Granger graduated from The University of Louisiana in 2011, with a bachelor’s in architecture and a minor in fine art. Once in the field, he quickly realized that architecture was just too structured, too logical for his liking. Looking for a little bit more freedom of expression, Granger turned to painting. He began working with found objects, partly to save money, and slowly developed a clear artistic method. Granger describes his creative process as putting form into chaos, reigning in the random and sporadic and bringing it to an understandable level of organization.

“If it’s too chaotic, adults are like ehh,” Granger intones. “So I’m taking my sauvage, my lack of inhibitions, my large fields of color, and my childlike play, and putting them together, then overlaying it all with my school of thought from architecture. Putting structure into something that is ultimately formless. That’s where I’m merging that gap, that’s where I’m meshing it all together. Bringing structure into things that are organic, that are fluid in nature.”

Granger’s work is all about layers and process, and his creative style usually entails a piece becoming virtually unrecognizable between layers. He documents his work throughout, insisting that each piece is ultimately undone - there is no definable point at which something is “finished.” The base layer is often created digitally, serving as a starting point for smears, drips, crayon nubs, and strips of cardboard. He focuses on putting all the sense into play, going past the visual with an emphasis on textures and smells. Granger describes the senses as leading how we chose to live our physical existence; he’s drawn to crayons for their nostalgic importance, their cultural connotations, and their distinct scent.

“I use materials that are produced in a quick manner, that are then extinguished just as quickly,” he said. Crayola LLC alone produces an average of 12 million crayons a day. “It’s waste, waste, waste. As a society, we are continuing to waste things. So I decided that instead of going out and purchasing something only to waste it, why don’t I just use materials that are already in abundance? I transform them, I obscure them, I create things from trash. A lot of the colors that happen, happen by chance.”

A worn-down nub of waxy Crayola is trash on it’s own; paired with a hundred of it’s brothers and sisters, something starts to take shape.


" Doing that actually makes me more patient in life, patient with people. It’s a meditative processE "

“The broken colored pencils?” Granger says, gesturing vaguely. “Doing that actually makes me more patient in life, patient with people. It’s a meditative process.” Granger’s website features cropped shots of his hands, floating over a half-finished canvas, holding pieces of paper, plastic, and pencil. Layers of color overlap on the completed side, like scales on a fish, but the tiny piece between his fingers looks daunting next to the empty space on the unfinished side. His colored pencil pieces are the result of thousands of pieces, meticulously laid out side by side, a time-consuming and repetitive process. “In the beginning, I don’t think,” he explains, slowly, as if going through the motions in his head. “I don’t want to think. There’s no plan, no scale, no measured out shit. I use my intuitive notions, my subconscious, to create something.” Granger scrounges for dejected paint chips at Home Depot, adopting other people’s leftover bursts of color. His creations are then giving poignant and cheeky titles, like I Tried to Find You But Got Lost in Your Free Spirit, or When You Lose the Fear, the Flower Will Grow in Thought and Mind.

“I came up with that quote a few years ago, when I was just out of school and in my New Orleans studio creating,” he says of the latter phrase.

“I’m essentially thinking of color, and all these bold movements, as the flower. When I lost my fear, everything came together.” Granger describes his world as “becoming trippy,” comparing it with the sudden perspective shift of a psychedelic trip. One moment you’re just sitting on your friends’ couch; the next thing you know, the music is reverberating through your skin, the light is pulsing, the pattern on the carpet is rippling and dancing.

“Sometimes when you do drugs, it suddenly sparks - everything’s colorful, everything’s loud, everything’s beautiful. For me, the minute I lost that fear is when everything became colorful for me.”


" Just as we humans live our lives, everything is about growth and decay; with plants, with resources - it grows, and then it dies "

Recently, Granger was commissioned by the International Contemporary Furniture fair to create a chair in collaboration with design company Bend. Bend’s “Lucy” chair, created out of post-consumer metal, served as as Granger’s canvas. His chosen medium, of course, would be recycled art material - creating a multicolored mosaic from unwanted yarn. The vibrant seat, covered in hand-woven thread patterns, has since been traveling as part of sustainable art installations and events put on by Bend, meant to highlight the impact of production on the environment.

“Just as we humans live our lives, everything is about growth and decay; with plants, with resources - it grows, and then it dies,” said Granger. He shows me a picture of the chair, unfinished, that looks very different than the completed work that appears online. “It’s just the cycle of life, and it’s what I utilize in my work. I put things on, then remove them. Put things, on remove them. All these layers consistently start to show up, and they just bleed through, bleed through, bleed through.” He describes his process like an unintentional song, or an accidental nursery rhyme. “Then you get a final image of I don’t know how many layers, ten, twelve layers of things that I’ve pulled off, put on, pulled off, put on.”

Granger’s circular inclinations are apparent throughout - visually in his art, behaviorally in his manner, through the cadence of his speech.

“When I started to really come into myself and understand my art, I realized that everything, from the conversations that I have to the way I walk to the way I touch, is a form of art,” he explained, impassioned. “I’ve become a living piece of my art - it’s not just on a canvas. I’ve become a stepping stone towards art, and momentum. I didn’t understand how people because so successful until I realized that they’re so passionate about what they do, that they become their art.”

Granger’s New Orleans upbringing infused his life with color, the city’s Latin-French fusion overflowing with vibrancy in its culture, its design, its food.

“There, the buildings would all be painted a different color,” he says, looking out at the window at the monotone New York City streets. “This here is grey. It’s all bricks, and grey.” He blows a raspberry.

“When I came from New Orleans, I was all about color, about color theory. I realized that a lot of artists just revert to black and white, thinking it’s elegant. People are scared of color, so how can I show them that color isn’t scary? Forms are not scary. Keeping a childlike innocence is not scary. So many people lose that, and then you see them lose themselves.”

Since coming to New York over two years ago to pursue his artistic dreams, Granger has truly made himself an example in the power of colors, laughing in the face of monotony.

“I feel at home here in New York more than I ever did in Louisiana. I feel more inspired here, my voice is heard by more people here, I have so much going on here. The chaos produces tranquility,” he says without a drop of sarcasm, though he laughs.

“Being in New York definitely changed my style. Back then, in Louisiana], it was a lot more organic. I’m a lot more structured here, I’m more responsible, I’m more stimulated intellectually. I’ve become very disciplined in my work. I have a repetitive motion, I have a certain style. I have colors that I gravitate to. Even though I say it happens by chance through what I find, in a material sense, I can sort of dictate how they then come together. I really do feel like I’ve found that dialogue between the object and the artist.”

He pauses for a long time when asked for a favorite color. It’s not a very good interview question, usually, and rarely asked by people over the age of twelve. It’s a unmarred symbol of juvenilia, a marked reminder of the exact loss of innocence Granger previously described. He takes the question seriously.


" Have you ever seen the sunset, when it goes from blue to pink? Those two colors are so ethereal, and they’re on opposite ends of the spectrum "

“Hm... my favorite color,” he ponders. “I definitely resonate through blue and pink,” he says finally. “Have you ever seen the sunset, when it goes from blue to pink? Those two colors are so ethereal, and they’re on opposite ends of the spectrum.”

Brooklyn Art Space in Gowanus is hosting an open studio on October 18th and 19th, giving people the opportunity to visit Granger in his creative realm. Works will be on display, both complete and in progress, and the artist himself will be around to chat about his work. “New works out of the E. Granger studio,” he recently posted as a caption on Instagram. “Can anyone guess the material?” he teases. The image is of an unfinished piece, pastel stripes laid out in overlapping ribbons over a white background. Many guess candy, or fruit stripe gum. Another person suggests tulle and crayon, several others say post-its. Somebody else says dead unicorn parts. He posts another image almost a week later, the same colorfully striped bits laid out in an entirely different pattern, leftover pieces of material scattered around the canvas like confetti. What looks to me like sour belts in the first image now looks like paper or plastic, and the ambiguity is intriguing.

“I see you, I see your face, but how can I show you something else? Something you don’t always see, something that you only see in a dream, something I only see what I do acid - can I show you that? It’s merging what’s out there,” he waves his hands in the open space before him, gesturing towards the there, “with what’s in here,” he points to himself. “That aura that lays between - what is that? Something is going on there, and I want to know what it is.”


EDWARD GRANGER, New York City, Atelier, 2014.
photographed by Alban E. Smajli

Ghada Amer LE MILE Magazine3.jpg

Ghada Amer


Ghada Amer


 

 

An Interview with GHADA AMER
The Brain of the World -
A look into the creative mind of Ghada Amer

written by Mikal Shkreli
interview by Alban E. Smajli & Mikal Shkreli

march 2014
 

A few light knocks on the door standing at the end of the hall evoke a muffled "hello" and curious expectations.  A bright smile greets us, then welcomes us to the studio, quietly tucked away on the west side of northern Manhattan.  Ghada Amer, an internationally known and recognized artist who has been featured in various museums around the world, lets us into her creative space to spend some time getting to know her, the soul behind the provoking and sometimes controversial artwork that she shares with the world.  Also in the studio, longtime friend and sometimes creative counterpart, Reza Farkhondeh greets us as well while he paints soft pallets of florals onto a large canvas, outlining the shape, layering the colors for definition and depth.  I recognize his name and his style of work from the collaborative art that I found on Ghada's website.  "We have been working together on and off since school times," Ghada explains.  Pleased to meet him, we are gently ushered through the hallway and into the larger studio room in the back, surrounded with windows in the top corner of the building, the setting sun lights up the white walls and illuminates the hanging brushes of all kinds, shapes and styles.

Ghada offers us tea and walks over to the kitchen to prepare some.  We gander around the space, observing several large pieces of untouched canvas leaning against a plastic-covered wall, supported by upside-down paint buckets, ready to be meddled with.  Three tables are spaced in the center of the room, dining-room style and parallel, providing separate stations for focus on specific projects, ones specifically that require the hand embroidery work that Ghada is most known for.  Before the stacked canvas frames in the corner of the room stands the table with a work in progress mounted on top of it, straddled between two rolls that support the section of focus.  Loose threads hang low in various colors.  This appears to be what Ghada has just been working on before we arrived.  The piece is hard to make out, but stenciled letters spell out a famous quote of Eleanor Roosevelt which is repeated, stitched in with thread, and remains as a backdrop for a larger image that is being formed above them, of which is not yet readable.  The focus is on the letters, but in the final piece, the larger image can be read, but so far to us, the whole picture's beauty is still a mystery.  And even so, the detailed work and aesthetic in what we can see is just as captivating.  

Ghada returns to the room and sits at the table with the unfinished embroidered art to pose for some pictures of her in action.  "This is how it's done, the process," she reveals.  "It looks like this takes a lot of time!"  I observe. "Yes" she admits. She threads the needle diligently and gracefully through the canvas, outlining the letters.  As she weaves, I notice stencils on the walls, of letters, shapes, and even a fly swatter that can be used as a stencil as well. Or maybe not.  Besides them are a series of organized plastic cabinets filled with smaller paint brushes, colored pencils and spools of thread.  

The high-pitched screams of boiling water summon Ghada out of her seat and back into the kitchen. We prepare a fitting space for the filmed interview. Ghada returns with the tea and sits on the stool, of which she decorated with glued thread of many colors, and adjusts her posture before the center white canvas that leans against the wall. I inhale the aroma of the tea in my hand, burning my tongue a bit on an eager first sip, and we start our interview.  

Being educated in Paris and Nice, Ghada was born in Cairo, Egypt, and has spent much of her time in the United States. She is mostly known for her multi-layered embroidery work which display themes of sexuality, eroticism and feminine art. One particularly well-known collection is titled, "You My Love", displaying acrylic and embroidery on canvas of female bodies, poised in sexual ways, alluring, mysterious and profound as well.  I asked Ghada if there are any other collections of art that she has done that might be shadowed by this series.  "My garden work" she explains, "people don't know it because it is in remote places and because it's not in a gallery, not in a museum, art centers, stuff like this, so people haven't seen it."  The garden work consists of a series of installations within abandoned gardens in different locations around the world, some in Italy, others in Indiana.  One specific installation is the word 'LOVE', dug deeply into the ground as it it were a grave, "it was experimental" she adds, "I wish people (will) know more about these works." Ghada's work is loaded with meaning and they are all visually captivating.  Refreshing to the eye in their unique perspective of presenting concepts and images, ideals and perspective. I ask Ghada about her drawings and prints, of which I found on her website, which display Disney characters in provocatively sexual ways through the use of layered imagery. I ask about her intent and specifically inquire about her message, when it comes to these pieces.  

"Well, I don't have a message in general anyway, in my artwork. I don't like this term, a 'message', because a message is something that you can speak. And I don't like this word in general, 'feminine' arts, that say 'this is how you should feel, this is what I feel´ … I have a problem with the wording of the question, but it's important to say that I don't particularly like to have a direct message, and this is what differentiates my work with other feminists work that have a very clear message. 

But in this particular Disney work with the sexuality, it's because we think that children have no sexuality, like suddenly you become sexual at 18 … so for me this is a big problem in our society … how to raise children in terms of sexual education and how we don't put sexuality in any of the children in terms of their desires, how they form, so this is what I'm trying to … some children are sexual more earlier than others, and in kids you can see them, and it's very shocking, and what is this sexuality? It's so taboo, because people think you are a pervert. It's not about being a pervert, but about being conscious that this is something that exists and needs to be addressed."  

GHADA AMER, New York City, Studio, 2014.

Mikal Shreli: Ok so, artistic expression, expressing oneself, or even sexually expressing oneself, they both can relate to freedom, freedom to be ourselves, freedom to be who we really are, our desires; is that something that's important to you?

Ghada Amer: You know,  what is important, it's something I wish and is important to me particularly to be free with my sexuality, (laugh) it's the only way I can deal with the problems of how I grew up, my culture, my taboos. I grew up in a conservative culture, and how I wanted to know more about sexuality, and it was taboo, even to think about it, and then I discovered even in the West it's taboo … it's my own way to find freedom, I don't know if you call it freedom…knowledge! Because freedom, you can never find.  I don't even know what it means, freedom. But knowledge, I prefer … sometimes, even if you understand, you cannot just achieve this freedom, even if you want, it is so, a stitch in you.

MS:  We can try but we won't get there.

" Exactly. It's all the education, it was imprinted, and we have to correct it, but sometimes it's very difficult to correct it"

GA:  Exactly. It's all the education, it was imprinted, and we have to correct it, but sometimes it's very difficult to correct it.

MS:  But then, art can be a way to educate, to share knowledge in some ways.

GA:  Yes, I believe, but education, it's a very personal path, so just everybody has to find their own knowledge. I don't want to be like 'oh this is how you should think'. People find how they want to think, and what they want to think. 

MS:  So can art do that as well, and we are interpreting it for ourselves so everyone has their own interpretation so it can lead to education for oneself.  

GA:  Exactly because we are asking questions, to work this knowledge.

MS: This kind of goes with the lack of message.

GA:  That's exactly why I have a big problem with the word 'message' because message is a very unilateral kind of education, 'you have to think that way', 'this is the world'. No, I don't want this.  

MS:  Very interesting, because your art can reach more people in deeper ways, more profound ways.

GA:  Yes, yes, beyond cultural education as well, like people that, I don't know the culture, Japanese, Chinese, South American as well, it's all about the human being, not about 'cultural' knowledge. I finish the last sip of my tea and place the ornate cup onto the empty table beside me. "But did you see the new work? You should look at the new work!" Ghada exclaims. We get up from our seats and make way towards the desktop computer behind me, of which I had failed to notice earlier. She opens a PDF file with images of the exhibition titled, 'Rainbow Girls', that is featured in the Cheim & Read gallery. "I wanted to do this because when we think about feminism, we think, 'oh it's over and we have resolved many problems'. I wanted to take some quotes that are short, and that do not criticize men, because the woman, if she has been oppressed, of course partly it is because of men, but partly because she let herself be oppressed. She should stand up fight, instead of fighting the man and society, she should get her freedom back ... so I wanted to give power to women but without critisizing whose fault or whatever fault, we just have to go back and fight and be powerful because we are powerful." 

One of the quotes that is repeated as the backdrop for a piece of the exhibit is "Nobody gives you power, you just take it."  Ghada explains that she wanted to use these quotes, "like prayers that you repeat repeat and repeat … a mantra that you repeat and it becomes. I did it on the portraits and on the landscapes. This is the principle actually." I comment on the power of words themselves, even if they are a backdrop in the work, and Ghada responds, "and you don't particularly want to read them, these new works are totally different; you can read them if you want, and then you loose the image, but you can go back and forth, the perception." Considering the shifting nature of her work, I ask Ghada if her exhibit is steering away from her previous work or choosing to expand on what she has already done. "You know, it's evolving. It's more me, very refreshing to do this body of work, to play with words. I always worked with words anyways, from the gardens to the sculptures, but this is the first time that I worked with words and figuration." We assemble ourselves back into our original positions, me by the table and Ghada before the white canvas atop the decorated stool.  

MS:  You also use Arabic in this exhibit for the first time. Now you have the power of words in a different language, a different alphabet. Are you trying to reach a different audience?

" That's exactly why I have a big problem with the word 'message' because message is a very unilateral kind of education, 'you have to think that way', 'this is the world'. No, I don't want this "

GA:  Yes. I speak four languages, French and Arabic are my two best languages, but in this particular series, I actually translated the French quote from French into English. I didn't translate any quote from English to Arabic. I chose the quotes that are from my culture, how the people speak because in my country and the Arab world they are very active and interested in art and I want to say something to them. This is why I chose to speak in Arabic. And English because I know that they can understand it and everybody else can understand. The Arabic ones, unfortunately here they can't understand it, but it's okay, it doesn't matter to me, at least I can reach them, it's very important that I can reach them. If I say this (the Arabic quotes) in English it always feels like it comes from the 'others or 'other culture', than if you say it in your own language, especially in my culture, where language is so important and art and calligraphy, that I don't like particularly because I always thought I would never make calligraphy, but this time calligraphy was very important to me. 

MS:  Would you like to share one of the Arabic quotes that you do have?

The first Arabic quote that Ghada shares with us comes from the controversial move made by Amina Sboui, in which she painted the Arabic quote, "my body belongs to me, and is not the source of anyone’s honor" across her nude chest, and posted the photos on the internet. It ultimately lead to her arrest in Tunisia. Ghada explains her inspiration and the importance to be extremely receptive and alert to her surroundings. And in particular, the quotes were chosen because they are meaningful and short. The second quote Ghada shares is, "the woman revolts in the north, revolts in the south, revolts in the west, revolts in the east, and revolts against the body politics, and be the brain of the world."

MS:  It's like a poem.  

GA:  Yes, exactly.  


I comment on Ghada's sweater, woven thread that reminds me of her artwork and ask if she made it herself, "my mom did!  She inspires me!"  Laughter roars in the studio and the topic of family is brought into the room. "No, it's not easy for me," Ghada explains about her mother, "It bothers her, and it's good, that's exactly what I want.  And it bothers a lot of people in Egypt."  Ghada discusses a situation with another close relative whom did not approve of her work at all,  "I told him, 'You don't have to look!  Why did you look? I am not forcing you!  You are forcing me to think like you, but I am not forcing you!’’  Ghada's work was shown in Egypt in 1994 in a private gallery and although it was a big risk, Ghada shares her surprise that some notable people in Egypt have supported her since then.  Although these strong reactions aren't unique to the Egyptian audience, "even from Americans, I get some very strong reactions; I was very surprised … they are scared of the children … they are afraid it will pervert them.  But you know, I have two nephews and nieces and they are normal and they grew up with all of this art around them and they are totally okay."  Ghada's eyes light up with a sense of pride and truth, and we agree that all cultures have the same taboo, that women have traditionally been represented behind the man.     

" It bothers her, and it's good, that's exactly what I want.  And it bothers a lot of people in Egypt "

We finish our interview and Ghada returns the empty tea cups to the kitchen. We pack our bags and put on our coats and notice Ghada and Reza doing the same; their working hours at the studio are over, and we are all going home. "I like to do my work with Reza because he is a man and I am a woman and sometimes we switch roles; he does the landscape with flowers, and they think that he does the erotic and I do the flowers and landscape." We all laugh and Ghada continues, "and sometimes I ask him, 'can you give me some of your flowers' and he takes some of my women, and then we draw them and we break the boundaries … there is this idea that men have to be only 'macho' and there are men that are really feminist and this is how we work together because for men as well, it's not fun to have this role as the dominator, who always brings the money and all of this."  Ghada pauses and admits, "if I was a man it would be very stressful."  More laugher emerges "… so as well, the work we do together is very interesting politically and in this art as well, not only the quality of art, but the energy, and we think, 'we're going to fool you'; I can be a man if I want, he can be a woman, in terms of the art." We descend the stairs and find the outside world to be cold, wet, and the four of us run through the dark streets towards the nearest subway. Hopping onto the C train downtown, Mairanny gets off first, and a few stops later I have to exit the train as well, leaving Ghada and Reza together with smiles on their faces, waving at me through the gritty subway window as it carries them onto their next destination. I think about the beginning of our interview, realizing that Ghada is a strong force in the art world, loudly standing in silence as a homage of strength for women, men, individuality, expressive sexuality, and the strive to attain freedom. Without imposing any of her views, Ghada's work carries heavy knowledge in significance and meaning, yet purposely and tactfully lacks a message; the reaction, the response, is the magic of its essence.  But where does this essence come from?  What is steering Ghada?  As I await for my crosstown bus, I remember my last question with her.  

MS:  Do you have somewhere you want your art to go, a direction, let's say, are you trying to steer it to a certain place?

GA:  The art steers me.  I don't … It takes me.  

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Alban E. Smajli + Lisa Moneret


Alban E. Smajli + Lisa Moneret


 

 

ALBAN E. SMAJLI + LISA MONERET
Projekt #58c4d7
The Cuban Communism and its light blue

written by Mikal Shkreli

january 2014
 

We descended onto the island, with some expectations and preconceptions of what we were about to experience. 
However, what we didn’t realize was the reality of the stories we heard, existing in the multifaceted, aesthetic stimuli that enlivened our senses, that lead us to the same truth; we are now in Cuba. Like a safe place in the fast-changing world, Cuba exists as an island where manmade time stands still and nature takes over the measurements.
A rather large island, Cuba is a living memory of a world where humans developed towns and villages in accordance with nature; in the pastel colors and in the ease of shapes in the architecture that reflect the wind’s travels as it carries the scent of the ocean. I found our presence to be humble, honest, sincere, and real. As the birds fly overhead and the ocean waves lap onto the shore, the steady hum of diesel fueled cars and distant music echo in harmony together under the ever present sun, which watches over this land. The ground feels more like the real earth, and the energy is steady yet moving, as the hummingbirds flutter nearby, carrying their hurried energy beyond blooming flowers and past carengines. We walk on the ground, with unsettled dirt from the driving cars on the street.

Of course, the scent of smoked meats and grilled onions pass through the air as well, and again, this harmony of human existence, with its rightful melodic accompaniment in the song of nature, is joyfully played, without effort, without stress, but with the natural highs and lows that we all repeat on earth as the sun soars from one end of our vision’s sight towards the next. The view might be iconic, as the type of cars with small subtleties in detail such as the round rear view mirrors distract us from the larger picture. However this is life, and beyond the stillness in time for the women pushing strollers, the men in jackets walking by governmental buildings, and the men selling fruit on the street, Cuba is home. We take a taxi towards the water, speckled with tiny boats that float by the dock without anyone in them, being governed by an old castle of stone that prominently waves the national flag. Walking back towards the larger roads, we pass small streets with houses dressed with balconies, lined with women drying towels, sheets, clothes, as the sweat accentuates their furrowed foreheads and falls down the crevices of their plump faces. In the present moment, the feeling of eternity remains in the ever present ‘now’,

Alban E, Smajli + Lisa Moneret, Cuba, 2014.

 

" Almost a miracle, the sun seems to race from the sky and fall into the ocean, bringing with it, adornments that change color, change scent, change their energy that fills up the air we breath when we continue to explore Havana "

and somehow in contrast, every passing hour has a complete dif- ferent feel than the one prior. Almost a miracle, the sun seems to race from the sky and fall into the ocean, bringing with it, adornments that change color, change scent, change their energy that fills up the air we breath when we continue to explore Havana. The houses too change their appearance, and their solid structures that stood strong in the sun, are now majestically placed to reflect the light of the moon on their colors, which now only seem to be in hues of blue, in this magic hour of dusk. At night, the heat stops rising from the ground, and the scent of the white mariposa, the butterfly jasmine, along with the cool, ocean air, sweeps through the streets that have become even more quiet. The air brings with it scents of stone, of metal, of a history that took a long time to build, and that happened to stand still like tombstones in a forgotten graveyard. We find a tree with oranges and can smell their sweetness from the outer skin. A baby cries nearby and we are reminded, that in this particular world that took time to build, had stopped its growth in reference to most of the world’s change, but what does take the lead, is nature.

 

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Mary Ellen Mark


Mary Ellen Mark


AN INTERVIEW WITH Mary Ellen Mark
Eternal iconic photography that speaks the voice of truth in frame

written by Mikal Shkreli
interview by Alban E. Smajli & Mikal Shkreli


july 2014
 

On a sunny day in SoHo, I meet up with Alban E. Smajli outside the studio of well-known photographer, Mary Ellen Mark. Waiting for the buzzer to let us upstairs, I review my notes on some background research on the artist. Mary Ellen was born in Philadelphia and after receiving her Masters Degree in photojournalism, she traveled to Europe under a Fulbright Scholarship. Making her way to New York a few years later, Mary Ellen has created a notable name for herself in photography, art, and the world of social culture, her work featured in exhibits worldwide. The door buzzes and we enter the elevator. The door slides open directly to the studio, and we step out, looking around the high ceilings and at the endless items across bookshelves, desks, countertops. We walk past copy and printing machines of various kinds and find one of Mary Ellen’s assistants behind a computer, informing us that Mary Ellen will be with us in just a few moments. Escorted to a few chairs around a humble table, Alban E. and I prepare our questions and Mary Ellen emerges from a region unknown, deeper within the studio.

With two braids parted down the center of her head and extending down her back, Mary Ellen approached us with a smile and wide eyes that peered through her small framed glasses. Her dress, resembling ethnic-wear from Central America, worked cohesively with her hair and the cactuses that adorned the space. And between the cacti and other desert friendly plants, skeletal figures stood with poise, watching our meeting.
Mary Ellen’s work has been revered and known for their subject matter, displaying aspects of society not commonly represented in the spotlight of mainstream culture. She photographed Vietnam War demonstrations, celebrities, transvestites, women’s liberation movements, and everyday people in the New York City streets, with and without their awareness of being photographed. When asking about her choices in subject matter for her work, I ask Mary Ellen, “how do you decide?” To which she responds,

" SOMETIMES YOU PHOTOGRAPH SOMEONE YOU DON´T EVEN KNOW, ON AN ASSIGNMENT, AND THERE ARE SOME PEOPLE THAT ARE JUST INTERESTING TO WATCH. SO YOU CHOOSE THEM BECAUSE OF THAT "

Mary Ellen Mark: Just on the frame (...) basically, you decide how you want to make a frame (...) so it looks right. When you’re in a studio, it’s one thing, but when you’re on location, you want to change the background and make sure it works perfectly as a frame.

Mikal Shkreli: Is there something particular about a person or a person’s image that would draw you to bring more of an intimate scope with photography?

MEM: Well, I mean, sometimes you photograph someone you don’t even know, on an assignment, and there are some people that are just interesting to watch. So you choose them because of that.

The choices that Mary Ellen makes for her images are very particular, explaining that “each situation is totally different.” She continues, admitting that “you don’t want to kind of repeat yourself (...) but each situation calls for something very different.” I glance around and notice numerous frames of her work high up on the walls, noticing her range in work.

MS: Do you have any preference between street photography or portraits?
MEM: Well, basically, my feeling, the hardest photography to do is street photography. Those are the people’s work I’ve really admired from the beginning. That’s why I became a photographer.

MS: Do you try to create a story when you see somebody?
MEM: I try to make a frame of it that says something.

I take a moment to glance around the studio some more, noticing wooden carved figures of roosters, Micky Mouse, Jesus, and more skeletal images and figures, even color skeleton streamers hanging from the lights, resembling the Day of the Dead, providing a deeper feel into Mary Ellen’s native essence, her style, her interests, her mysterious appeal that translates into her photography, causing the eyes to linger for an extra amount of time, piecing together the puzzle, figuring out what is being shared. I ask Mary Ellen about the dynamics in shooting.

MEM: If you’re doing a portrait, you have to take a certain amount of control - you have to be in control. They have to feel that you know what you’re doing, then they have a respect for you. It’s a balance, there is a very delicate balance.

MS: Do you feel a certain sense of responsibility to bring people to life in a photograph, by exposing them or sharing them to the world in a particular way?

MEM: Yea, to be honest. Pictures can lie very easily, so you have to be honest, have respect, or not have respect, whatever, with what you want to say with your camera - not to lie to people.

MS: So what are you trying to say with your camera?
MEM: Each situation is totally different. You’re trying to make an image that’s memorable, maybe iconic. If you’re lucky, you know, iconic.

Innovative enigmatic, resourceful, and ready to readjust to change and circumstance and situations and work with them in order to produce the most fruitful result of art, Mary Ellen is a true artist; open with her approach and unique in her view on life and how to capture it, in essence.

MS: What do you hold as the power in photography, your photography?

" I guess I’m always afraid that I’m going to see something amazing and miss it in fILM. As long as I can still shoot film and get film - but there’s a transition "

MEM: I think the power in photography - it’s very difficult, now everyone is a photographer, so the bar has been lowered. There’s not as much respect and there’s a lot of really bad scenes being shot that aren’t good. And people don’t know the difference, so, what do I respect, I respect people who’s work I think is great, and whose work hasn’t been lowered by the bar. Everyone’s a photographer now, so people think it’s easy and anyone can do it. In a way it is easy, it’s very easy to take an average picture, that’s a piece of cake. To take great pictures is really hard.

MS: What is the distinguishing level?

MEM: You just look at it. Helen Levitt, Irving Penn, they take great pictures. You just know it when you look at it. It’s talking to you, it’s saying something to you.

We take a momentary break from the interview while one of Mary Ellen’s assistants asks her a few questions. I observe the large bookshelf behind me, full of books, organized with labels, mostly on photography. Mary Ellen has seventeen published books of photographs, with numerous contributions to publications such as Vanity Fair, Life, The New Yorker, Rolling Stone, and more. Before the rows of books are cartoon figures of Popeye, George Bush, Queen Elizabeth and a few other fun notable figures.

Alban E. Smajli: Do you still shoot analog?

MEM: Yes. I have a digital camera, I mean, I do, but you know, I mean, I think it’s a different medium, you know, and I love film, my whole life I’ve always done film. I have a really great digital camera, but I haven’t used it yet. But I think it’s different from film and it is different. I guess I’m always afraid that I’m going to see something amazing and miss it in film. As long as I can still shoot film and get film - but there’s a transition. I’m not the only one, there are other people shooting film.

Continuing on the subject of analog versus digital photography, Mary Ellen explains that “it’s a different mindset, it looks different, especially for black and white. I shoot mainly in black and white. I think for color, digital can be very beautiful sometimes, but for black and white, I like silver prints. But people put a lot of pressure on you to shoot digital.” Mary Ellen then refers to the annual Easter Parade that took place a day prior, “everybody was taking pictures. Everybody! I mean, I’m talking

from five years up to like, old men with their cameras. And people are being shoved and pushed, and it’s just really - there’s no more borders.

In the evolution of photography, experienced by our social culture, from analog to digital, to handheld phone-tography, the bar has been ‘lowered’ to a playing field without borders, where anyone can snap a photo. But what distinguishes a great photo is something that speaks, something eternal. Mary Ellen still captures the honesty of what is, the actuality of a subject from a perspective lens. Not through manipulation of image and representation, but through a focused aspect of perception through lens, Mary Ellen Mark grips at the core of photography, allowing art to be formed in a still image within a frame, iconic. 


 

MARY ELLEN MARK, New York City, Studio, 2014.
photographed by Alban E. Smajli

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Herbert Nauderer


Herbert Nauderer


VIDEO-INTERVIEW WITH HERBERT NAUDERER
REMBRANDT BALLETT -
A collection of 800 drawings

written by Mikal Shkreli

march 2014



Artistically expressive, Herbert Nauderer's collection of hand drawings focus on the exaggeration of one element that pulls the images into a realm of surreal and comic fantasy. In this world of imagery Herbert creates, visual language speaks loudly in new and unknown forms, somewhat reflective, other times emotionally evoking, and often comical. Born in Fuerstenfeldbruck, Germany in 1958, Herbert studied at the Academy of Fine Arts in Munich. He steadily practices art through drawing, painting and graphic work and is one of the most influential drawers in German contemporary art. This particular collection is said to be a visual translation of his interpretation of the sounds of the drums; as a percussionist in a band, the experience is fuel for the collection, using emotion and personal expression from one medium onto the next. 

" Each even space addresses emotion entirely dIfFerent than the one prior, creating a rhythm in his visual work, pulling the viewer on a plethora of emotional communication "

All drawings are all on the same format of 21 x 15cm, and presented uniformly without borders or frames. Each even space addresses emotion entirely different than the one prior, creating a rhythm in his visual work, pulling the viewer on a plethora of emotional communication. When addressing the work as a whole, at a distance, we can view if in a grand way of the larger picture of their constitution, as a musically dynamic song sung by the creatures of our heart that wears many faces. Herbert comments, "drawings often bypass prevailing trends. The kind of status report they represent is just what I like. It ́s something timeless and is a law unto itself." 
Featured is a small portion of 800 drawings that has been evolving for over 10 years titled `Rembrandt Ballet'. The title was chosen because Herbert saw the drawings as adaptations to Rembrandt's figure studies.

HERBERT NAUDERER, München, 2014.
video  Bodo Kessler, courtesy: NUSSER&BAUMGART

Alban E. Smajli Selma and Erona.jpg

Alban E. Smajli


Alban E. Smajli


alban e. smajli 
I told you I am Tall

written by Mikal Shkreli

march 2014


An intimate look into a simple life, a place captured between stillness and motion, moments in a day through the eyes of children. The images are playful, direct, and powerful, reminiscent of spending actual time outdoors, running with children, playing in the world, regardless of the environment. The two cousins Erona and Selma run through the streets of an old town, posing, playing, simply living. The series was completed in the black and white photography in 2012 in the northern part of Kosovo in the town of Vushtrri. Taking place in the hometown of photographer Alban E. Smajli, the story is titled "I told you I am tall" and was created to express the easy way of life children enjoy in their childhood.


" These photos are taking in exactly the same place and neighborhood we used to live in the 90s "
 

The black and white effect allows the illusions for the photos to be timeless and relatable, like the memories of our innocent pasts. Smajli recalls how these photos remind him of how he and his family "used to live in Kosovo in our childhood before my parents decided to leave the country because of the military unrests." He continues, "I was not wondering why we are not going to kindergarten or to school. I just remember playing all day and night long with my brother. It was a lovely time. And seeing these two girls spending every moment together in joy and carefree, makes me reflect my life in young ages. It ́s a nice retrospective reflecting. These photos are taking in exactly the same place and neighborhood we used to live in the 90s." As if existing in only a dream world, the photos emit fantasy and perspective, reflecting a particular self observation through the eyes of the beautiful world of our imaginations. 

SELMA, Vushtrri, August, 2014 - video