Il pino sul mare, 1921, exhibition Carlo Carrà Metaphysical Spaces © Blain Southern Gallery, London


London - Blain Southern gallery solo exhibition about Carlo Carrà was very fascinating. Curated by Ester Coen, the exhibition “Carlo Carrà - Metaphysical Spaces” presented paintings and drawings, at the Blain Southern gallery, London. 

The Italian avant-garde artist Carlo Carrà is popular for his essential work in both Futurist and Metaphysical movement.

The Blain Southern exhibition focused on the paintings of Carrà. Lends are from public and private collections, and many are rarely shown in public. Significant works have been presented, revealing the intellectual and artistic legacy of Carrà. For the first time, the influential “Il Pino sul Mare” (1921) was displayed in the UK - a work considered very important by significant art historians. A dozen other works were displayed, including ”Mio Figlio” (1916), “Penelope” (1917), a group of Carrà’s key paintings that have not been presented together in over fifty years.

Leaders of the Metaphysical painting movement were Carrà and Giorgio de Chirico. The Metaphysical style is characterized by unreal views and sudden juxtapositions of elements. Even though the study of the two artists at first developed independently from one another, in 1917 together they officially drawn the rules of ‘Scuola Metafisica’.

Metaphysic was the result of the difficult approach of the two artists, when connecting with the soul by exploring a world of ordinary objects and buildings. De Chirico adopted a style made of multiple vanishing points and clashing perspectives.

Carlo Carrà, instead, realised works more pleasant and close to the reality, based on a single perspective. The stillness he conveyed seemed to go beyond surface appearance in search of a more spiritual, yet natural, dimension. His Metaphysical painting developed from his knowledge of the Italian Renaissance. Painters like Giotto and Paolo Uccello were the source of inspiration for its work, because Carrà felt the soul of the artist could be better shown using few focal points and horizontals.

The archetypal compositional techniques Carrà admired in these works led to his break with the dynamism of Futurism and to his creation of paintings with a stillness and form, which he termed a ‘condensation of expression’.

Confronting the dominant French vanguard, Carrà intended to bring Italian painting to its ‘essential purpose’ and so he reinvented Italian painting. Although the movement technically spanned only a few months, Carrà and a great many other artists drew from its doctrine even after its dissolution.

Furthermore, the Blain Southern gallery presented also a number of rarely seen works on paper, alongside archive documentation and photography from the Carlo Carrà family archive.

The exhibition at the Blain Southern Gallery presented the main metaphysical works of Carlo Carrà. It gives a great impression of stillness. It reflects a very Italian style, in an environment that brings back ideas of summertime in Italy. July was the most appropriate moment to open this exhibition. The Italian summertime is a particular period of the year, when everything changes, the mood of the people is different, and the everyday activities get slower by the hot weather. The work on show reflects this very nice period of the year. It also reminds the atmosphere of the poems of Eugenio Montale, Nobel laureate, who also firstly published in 1917.

Carlo Dalmazio Carrà was born in Quargnento, near Alessandria (Italy) on 11th February 1881. The son of a disgraced landowner, Carrà started to draw when just 12 years old, during a forced stability in bed. Soon after, he began to work as a mural decorator in Valenza.

In 1899-1900, Carrà went to Paris for the Exposition Universelle, to perform some pavilions decorations. Then moved to London, where he became interested in the works of John Constable and William Turner. In the UK, he was involved in politics, maintaining relations with groups of Italian exiled anarchists. However, he broke up soon, and went back to Italy in 1901.

In 1906, Carrà entered the Brera Academy, as a student of Cesare Tallone. There, he met some young artists destined to be leaders on the Italian art scene: Bonzagni, Romani, Valeri and Umberto Boccioni.

Carrà had a brief stint with Divisionismo, which he appreciates for its revolutionary style against the provincial Italian painting environment. In 1909 he joined the Futurism movement of Marinetti, and in 1910 with Boccioni and Russolo, he signed the Manifesto of Futurist Painters and the Technical Manifesto of Futurist Painting.

The radical political and artistic positions of Carrà are reflected in the monumental painting The Funeral of the Anarchist Galli, stylistically reworked after a trip to Paris in 1911, when the artist approaches the Cubism. In 1904, by accident Carrà attended the funeral of Galli, an anarchist killed during a strike. He was deeply impressed, and began to draw some sketches that years later will transform in one of his major works.

Back in Paris in 1914, a year later Carrà and the De Chirico brothers, Giorgio and Alberto Savinio, initiated the Pittura Metafisica movement, using the term "metaphysics" written by Guillaume Apollinaire in a review of a paintings exhibition by De Chirico, at the Salon d'Automne in Paris (1913).

As well as the enthusiasm of the artists, the "Metaphysical School" is also born from an unexpected coincidence. Due to the war and military service, in early April 1917 both De Chirico and Carrà are admitted to the neurological hospital Villa del Seminario, near Ferrara in the countryside. Both stayed there until the middle of August, together with painters metaphysical Savinio, Govoni, De Pisis, while Alberto Savinio was serving in Thessaloniki, Greece. Carrà was released from military service and returned to Milan, while de Chirico remained alone in Ferrara. They started a long correspondence, creating the "school" of metaphysical painting.

In 1918, together with the De Chirico brothers, Carrà collaborated with the magazine ‘Plastic Values’. A year later, he published his book Metaphysical Painting.

Like many other futurists, firstly Marinetti, Carrà was seduced by the fascism of Mussolini. He adopted reactionary opinions, and became ultra-nationalist and irredentist.

In 1922, Carrà also abandoned metaphysics, driven by the desire to "just be yourself". The painting must grasp that relationship which includes the need to identify with the things and the need for abstraction "and contemplation of the landscape is resolved then in the "construction” of a framework, both mountain and marine.

In recognition of his art, in 1941 Carrà was appointed professor of painting at the Accademia di Belle Arti di Brera, Milan. In the years of post war Carrà gradually changed the atmosphere of his landscapes and seascapes, with damped surfaces, less compact strokes and greater brightness. In 1962, at the Palazzo Reale in Milan was organized a retrospective exhibition of his work.

Following a sudden disease, Carrà died on 13th April 1966.

The exhibition was curated by Ester Coen, an expert on Futurism, Metaphysical art and Italian and International avant-gardes. Coen is Professor of Contemporary Art History at the University of L’ Aquila. She was assisted by Elena Bonanno di Linguaglossa, Director, Blain Southern in close collaboration with Archivio Carlo Carrà.

The exhibition “Carlo Carrà - Metaphysical Spaces” has been at the Blain Southern gallery, London, from 8th July until 20th August 2016.

Jeff Koons, Now, exhibition view , Newport Street Gallery, London © photo Prudence Cuming associates Victor Mara ltd

London – It was an interesting exhibition “Now” by Jeff Koons at the Newport Street Gallery of Damien Hirst.

The Newport Street Gallery is a new exhibition space from Damien Hirst who decided to organise his second show with Jeff Koons. Nowadays, they probably are the most paid artists in the world. However, Hirst has been a fan of Koons since first seeing its work at the Saatchi Gallery whilst he was at the university in the late 1980s.

The show was called “Now” because the work of Koons always has been focused on the present: about what is happening today. Of course, pieces made years ago are on time for that past period, not for today. For example, those Hoovers, most of the readymade objects were made in the 1980s and they have a taste of that time.

The displayed objects are coming from the personal collection of Hirst. They were chosen to best reflect the career of Koons for this solo exhibition and many of them are firstly exhibited in the UK. ‘Now’ was the first major UK exhibition to be devoted to the artist since ‘Jeff Koons: Popeye Series’, at the Serpentine Gallery (2009). Spanning thirty-five years of the artist’s extraordinary career, ‘Now’ features thirty six paintings, works on paper and sculptures dating from 1979 to 2014.

The Newport Street Gallery exhibition displayed one of the first works of Koons, ‘Inflatable Flowers (Short White, Tall Purple)’ (1979), a vinyl blow-up flower put on view on a mirrored floor tile - suggesting one of the most repeated artist topic, the inflatable. There were a number of his iconic wall-mounted Hoover sculptures, part of The New series (1980–1983), in which immaculate, unused household appliances are displayed in fluorescent-lit, acrylic boxes, dated from Koons’s time working as a Wall Street commodities broker. Two of the Hoovers, which remain eternally pristine despite being outdated, were included in Koons’s first solo exhibition, at New York’s New Museum in 1980. Part of that installation – originally displayed in the museum’s storefront windows – has been reassembled for this exhibition. For the artist, the readymade, whether in the form of a child’s toy, Baroque sculpture or advertising billboard, provides “the most objective statement possible”.

This exhibtion is Damien Hirst's homage to the artist who has influenced him most. Generally speaking, Jeff Koons is considered to be one of the most important artists of the post-war era. Since the late 1970s, his assorted practice has investigated themes related to taste, consumerism, mass culture, beauty, acceptance, and the role of the artist.

Some critics, however, disagree with that point of view. They do not accept in Koons’s work there is irony and that he represents the silliness of the world we live in. Koons was even put alongside D. J. Trump, because he transformed his art into business.

Nevertheless, some other critics adore him for the same reasons. We live in a world made of kitsch, porno and plastic, and this is why Koons represents us all like this.

Probably, a god approach should be adopted from the Romans proverb ‘In medio stat virtus’, which can be translated in English with ‘In the middle stands virtue’. Koons, in fact, seems to have commercialised his undeniable aesthetic. The craft ability of Koons is another pro, and the materials used are of quality, but maybe at the Newport Street Gallery those big spaces are not so convenient to give the right degree of emotion.

The exhibition explored the innate talent of Koons to mesmerize and to provoke. Employing easily-identified images, he investigated social mobility in the Equilibrium Nike posters, the ways alcohol is advertised to diverse demographics in Luxury and Degradation, and the evocative imagery of childhood toys represented in Celebration.

In the Made in Heaven series, Koons analysed the stigma and the shame that are intrinsic in contemporary conceptions of sexuality, and brought them back to a more biological aspect, through the use of erotic scenes images involving the artist and his then-wife Ilona Staller (aka ‘Cicciolina’).

Jeff Koons was born in York, Pennsylvania, on 21st January 1955. He studied at the Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore and the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. He received a BFA from the Maryland Institute College of Art in 1976. Since his first solo exhibition in 1980, Koons’s work has been shown in major galleries and institutions throughout the world. A full survey of Koons’s career was the subject of a major exhibition at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York, which travelled to the Centre Pompidou in Paris and to the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao. Koons lives and works in New York City.

Newport Street Gallery opened in Vauxhall, south London, in October 2015. Spanning five buildings, the gallery presents solo or group exhibitions of work drawn from Damien Hirst’s extensive art collection, which he has been building since the late 1980s.

Co -curated by Damien Hirst and Jeff Koons, the exhibition “Now” was at the Newport Street Gallery, London, from 18th May until 16th October 2016.

Ting  - Tong Cheng © Asia House, London.

London - “P’eng’s Journey to the Southern Darkness” by Ting-Tong Chang was a great exhibition at Asia House.

The Ting-Tong Chang solo exhibitionP’eng’s Journey to the Southern Darkness” was first London solo by Taiwanese artist. His work is focused on machines, from automata to avatars, and it analyses the ecological relationship between humans and nature.

The title of the exhibition originates from influential Daoist philosopher Zhuangzi’s text “Free and Easy Wandering” in which the fish K’un in the North Ocean turns into a giant bird called P’eng and sets to travel to the South Ocean, whilst a cicada and a dove mock him for its effort – mirroring the practice change of the artist.

The exhibition consisted of three kinds of installed elements, mixed around the room and with explanatory videos: taxidermy sculptures; self- sustaining ecologic system; and drawings.

Firstly, were displayed four sculptures of crows on elevated plinths and a collection of taxidermy birds, with internal computer circuits in their stomachs out in the open, pronouncing rejection letters from numerous open calls from which the artists was rejected. The number and the type of bird signify death in Chinese traditions and Chang playfully questions the proliferating bureaucratic art world of today.

Secondly, the birds were encircled by film documentation of various symbolic performances. Ting-Tong Chang collaborated with scientists and engineers to create a self-sustaining ecology installation within which he integrated himself, focused on the inter-relationship of consumption, industrial production and ecosystem.

“Whence Do You Know the Happiness of Fish?” (2015) is a large-scale installation combining durational performance art with science. With the assistance of biologist, Andreas von Bresinsky, Chang constructed an indoor fish farming environment using techniques and equipments from the aquaculture lab Fischwirtschaftsbetrieb. He lives in the exhibition space and feeds himself only from the pool. The fish caught are then cooked on a gas grill and consumed by the artist.

“Spodoptera Litura” (2015) is a live installation work developed in collaboration with the Department of Entomology of National Chung Hsing University and biologist Tuan Shu-jen. During the three-day-performance, Ting-Tong Chang seals himself in a greenhouse with hundreds of caterpillars (Oriental Leafworm Moth) and wild cabbage plants. An ecosystem is formed within the installation: the caterpillars are cooked and consumed by Chang for him to sustain himself. His urine is gathered and distributed through a watering system, providing nutrition to the plants. Finally, the plants provide nourishment for the caterpillars.

“Second Life: Habitat” (2016) uses laboratory processes as a means of artistic expression. It creates an installation at the interface of art and a natural scientific experimental set-up, converting the rooms into a rational ensemble of greenhouse, breeding chamber and factory. Ting -Tong Chang collaborated with prof. Haung Rong Nan and Department Graduate Institute of Entomology, National Taiwan University. In a series of greenhouses, the artist breeds eight thousand Asian tiger mosquito (Aedes albopictus), that go through all of their life cycle stages. Grown mosquito fly, mating and finally end its life cycle in a bug zapper. Each dead mosquito creates an electric signal to a computer system. Life of mosquito is then converted into a computer-generated avatar. These avatars are virtual human beings inhabiting a simulated island, members of the audience can control these avatars to wander around, talk and sleep. Their lifespan is 10 hours and will be terminated by the system. During the period of the exhibition, the artists donate 200cc of blood each 2 weeks. The blood transfusion devise is connected to a blood feeder. Each terminated avatar transmits a signal to the system and the blood is released into the feeder. It provides nutrition for the next generation of mosquito and the cycle of life-avatar-energy-electric signal is complete.

Third element of the exhibition was a series of drawings Chang made whilst he confined himself in these self-torturing ecosystems. The illustrations unfold his cynical yet comical imagination of the Darwinian survival-of-the-fittest ecology of the ‘artworld’ he has taken part in over the past decade as a migrant from Asia in London.

Ting-Tong Chang was born in Taiwan and received his MFA at Goldsmiths, University of London where he currently lives and works. Chang has exhibited and received a number of awards internationally. Recent solo shows include Edinburgh Sculpture Workshop (2014), Manchester Centre for Chinese Contemporary Art (2015), Christine Park gallery London (2016) and Asia House London (2016). Group exhibitions were held in Taipei Biennial (2008), National Taiwan Museum of Fine Arts, Warsaw Centre for Contemporary Art, Moscow Museum of Modern Art and Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts. Chang’s major awards are Edinburgh Creative Initiative Award 2013, Bursary Award 2015 of Royal British Society of Sculptors and RISE Award 2016 at Art Central Hong Kong. His works are collected by Taipei Fine Arts Museum and private collectors in Europe and Asia.

Supported by the Ministry of Culture (Taiwan), the exhibition P’eng’s Journey to the Southern Darkness” by Ting-Tong Chang was at the Asia House, London, from 23rd August until 2nd September 2016.

All the Eternal Love I Have for the Pumpkins, 2016 © Yayoi Kusama, co. Victoria Miro Gallery, London

London - Yayoi Kusama exhibitions are welcomed as regular to London. After the successful shows in 2012, the Victoria Miro Gallery in London has presented “Yayoi Kusama: Sculptures, Paintings & Mirror Rooms” an amazing solo exhibition.

This was the major exhibition of Yayoi Kusama at the Victoria Miro Gallery, London, to date. Also, it was the first time mirror rooms have gone on view in London since the artist key retrospective at Tate Modern (2012).

Displayed in all the three Victoria Miro Gallery’s locations, the Yayoi Kusama exhibition presented new paintings, sculptures and installations. The most intriguing location was at the Wharf Road galleries where the artist has created three mirror rooms: All the Eternal Love I Have for the Pumpkins, Chandelier of Grief and Where the Lights in My Heart Go.

The numerous visitors of those rooms were displaced by the innumerable multiplying reflections. Astonishing were the pumpkin sculptures, which were covered with polka dots, the distinctive brand of Kusama. The waterside garden installation was wonderful. The thick ‘infinity net’ pattern in her painting work is a Kusama’s compulsive repetition of these forms on canvas.

Yayoi Kusama has described her recurring motifs as a form of active annihilation, in response to the hallucinations she firstly experienced during her childhood. Returning to throughout her career, the pumpkin motif is also present in the form of new mirror polished sculptures.

Victoria Miro Mayfair presented new paintings from the significant ongoing series My Eternal Soul, which Kusama first began in 2009. Each is a flatly painted monochrome field that is plentiful with metaphors including eyes, faces in profile, and other more uncertain forms, often in vital combinations of colour. Painted flat on a tabletop, these brightly coloured canvases proliferate of free association between images, including eyes, suns, profiles, uncertain and tiny forms, together with the artist dots and nets brand.

Classifying the work of Yayoi Kusama is difficult. However, it is connected with Surrealism, Minimalism, Pop art, the Zero and Nul movements, Eccentric Abstraction and Feminist art.

Yayoi Kusama is born on 22nd March 1929, in Matsumoto City (Japan). She studied painting in Kyoto before moving to New York in the late 1950s. By the mid-1960s she had become renowned in the avant-garde environment for her challenging happenings and exhibitions. Since this time, Kusama's amazing artistic effort was realized through a wide range of media, including painting, drawing, collage, sculpture, performance, film, printmaking, installation, and environmental art as well as literature, product design, and fashion - remarkably her collaboration with Louis Vuitton (2012). She lives and works in Tokyo and has exhibited with Victoria Miro since 1998.

A sing of the fame of Yayoi Kusama were the long queues outside the Victoria Miro Galleries. Even in London, so many visitors for a private gallery exhibition are rare to be seen. Especially the last day, people started to queue in the early morning to have access later on. Visiting the installation inside was regulated by the staff using a stopwatch. You were allowed inside for 20-30 seconds only, depending from which installation visiting. The overwhelming participation confirmed Kusama is one of the beloved and most significant living artists in the world.

TIME Magazine just recently listed Kusama in between the World 100 Most Influential People. According to The Art Newspaper she is the world's most popular artist – based on figures reported for global museum attendance. Her exhibitions were consistently the most visited worldwide last year, with three record breaking museum tours simultaneously traveling through Asia, Central and South America and Scandinavia.

Yayoi Kusama is currently the subject of a museum tour throughout Northern Europe, from Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Humlebaek, (2015-2016) to Henie Onstad Kunstsenter, Oslo (2016); Moderna Museet, Stockholm (2016) and Helsinki Art Museum (2016-2017). Recent survey exhibitions include Infinite Obsession, 2013-2015, which was seen by over two million people during its two-year tour in South America; A Dream I Dreamed and Eternity of Eternal Eternity which travelled to institutions across Asia from 2013-2015 and 2012-2014, respectively. Yayoi Kusama, a major retrospective, was presented from 2011 to 2012 at the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid; Centre Pompidou, Paris; Tate Modern, London; and Whitney Museum of American Art, New York. Kusama represented Japan at the 45th Venice Biennale in 1993.

Works by the artist are held in museum collections throughout the world, including the Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris; Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, D.C.; Los Angeles County Museum of Art; The Museum of Modern Art, New York; National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo; Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam; Tate Gallery, London; Walker Art Center, Minneapolis; and the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; amongst many others.

Currently at Chiostro del Bramante in Rome, the exhibitionYayoi Kusama: Sculptures, Paintings & Mirror Rooms” was at the Victoria Miro Gallery, London, from 25th May to 30th July 2016.