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May 2015
Vol. 34 No. 4

A publication of the
International Sculpture Center

This selection of shows has been curated by Sculpture magazine editorial staff and includes just a few of the great shows around the world.

Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, Washington, DC: Chiharu Shiota
Through June 5, 2015
Chiharu Shiota, view of installation at the Sack­ler Gallery. Shiota’s room-filling, yet delicate and poetic environments evoke remembrance and oblivion, dreaming and sleeping, and traces of the past and intimations of the future. Haunted by leftover traces of the human body, she collects everyday, personal objects—a burned-out piano, a wedding dress, a raincoat, sometimes even herself—and ritually encloses them in dense webs of black or red thread representing everything from an unknown universe to blood ties. The deportment of the threads— tangled or smooth, taut or sagging—projects specific emotional states. Her new installation at the Sackler conjoins more than 300 discarded shoes donated by a multitude of individuals, together with notes that preserve memories of their former owners. Bound together by separate threads that converge into a single point of origin, these avatars of individual lives come together a collective without beginning or end.

Web site www.asia.si.edu


Chiharu Shiota, view of installation at the Sack­ler Gallery.
Davis Museum, Wellesley College, Wellesley, Massachusetts: Parviz Tanavoli
Through June 7, 2015
Parviz Tanavoli, Poet Turning into Heech (detail). Widely acknowledged as the “father of modern Iranian sculpture,” Tanavoli, who has resided in Vancouver since he was blacklisted in the aftermath of the 1979 revolution, has based his career on a study of nothing. A leading influence among a generation defined by its commitment to conjoining Western Modernism and Iranian artistic practices, he has refined a complex system of symbols and motifs into a distinctive visual lexicon, fusing Persian traditions with a pop sensibility. He returns again and again to the Poet, the Prophet, and the Lovers, to walls, windows, locks, and birds—metaphorical figures that stand between realism and abstraction—but his most important explorations arise from heech, the Farsi word and symbol for “nothingness.” Taking their cue from the sensuous, elongated form of the calligraphic script, these works (realized in everything from bronze to fiberglass) come in many iterations, from the almost domesticated (seated on chairs) to the startling (confined in cages). This retrospective, which features more than 175 objects dating from the 1950s to today, presents his work in all its variations, from sculptures and paintings to ceramics, textiles, and jewelry.

Web site www.davismuseum.wellesley.edu

Parviz Tanavoli, Poet Turning into Heech (detail).

Figge Art Museum, Davenport, Iowa: Yuriko Yamaguchi
Through May 31, 2015
Yuriko Yamaguchi, (left) Cloud and (right) Fire & Water. Working with wire, cast resin, dried potato curls, onion ends, seed pods, leaves, and other unconventional materials, Yamaguchi creates striking particulate sculptures that seem to freeze energetic forces in mid-process. Caught between expansion and contraction, movement and stasis, her airy, delicate webs appear as miracles of construction, their minuscule elements held in spatial array by tiny wires. Yamaguchi’s extraordinarily close and complex relationship with her materials results in a dialogue of choices and adaptations that ultimately lead to metamorphosis of form and function. Organic and synthetic, ethereal and embodied, fabricated and evolved, these paradoxical configurations give shape to the increasingly complex interconnections that bind human beings, nature and technology, and biology and communication.

Web site figgeartmuseum.org

Yuriko Yamaguchi, (left) Cloud and (right) Fire & Water.
Frost Art Museum, Miami: Xu Bing
Through May 24, 2015
Xu Bing, Book from the Sky.Xu traces his fascination with books and language to his childhood: his mother, who worked at the Peking University Library, often “locked” him in the book storeroom. After learning an invaluable lesson from the communist campaign to reform the Chinese writing system, he has spent his artistic career exploring the realization that “words are something you can play with.” Language, for him, includes all forms of signification: leftover building materials from Beijing, for instance, pay homage to a dying culture and city, while cigarettes reveal the dynamics of capital and labor, tracing the interplay between economic development and social justice. “Writing Between Heaven and Earth” narrows the focus back to his acclaimed shu-based works (the Chinese character shu signifies books, written characters, and the act of writing). Book From the Sky, Book from the Ground, and Landscape Landscript all approach the art of writing as image, a creative well-spring capable of generating endless meanings (as opposed to rehashing received ideas)—a notion playfully reinforced in the interactive educational project Square Word Calligraphy, which transforms English letters into something resembling Chinese characters.

Web site thefrost.fiu.edu

Xu Bing, Book from the Sky.
Gem Museum for Contemporary Art, The Hague: Charles Avery
Through June 7, 2015
Charles Avery, Duculi (the Indescribable). “What’s the matter with Idealism?” offers a round-trip voyage to Onomatopoeia, the bustling port of an island that Avery first “discovered” five years ago. Far from a utopia, this fictive society mirrors all the ills of our own. Colonial outpost turned boomtown, turned depression-ravaged slum, turned gentrified culture capital and tourist destination, Onomatopoeia distills the rise and fall of cities, and cultures, around the world. Inspired by sources as diverse as William Blake and Joseph Beuys, texts, drawings, sculptures, and installations come together in an epic, immersive rendering of a distinct locale, its peoples and landscapes. An ever-growing reservoir of ideas and details breathes life into everything from economic strategies and artistic creations to the Islanders’ endless philosophical debate about the nature of reality (“The Eternal Dialectic,” concerning the existence of a mythical being called the Noumenon, which, despite the best efforts of hunters and adventurers, no one has ever glimpsed) and a re-creation of the municipal park, complete with specimens of the island’s flora and fauna.

Web site www.gem-online.nl


Charles Avery, Duculi (the Indescribable).
Hammer Museum, Los Angeles: Pedro Reyes
Through May 24, 2015
Pedro Reyes, The People’s United Nations (pUN), with (left) Colloquium (Caucus) Both an exhibition and an event, Pedro Reyes’s The People’s United Nations (pUN) puts the diplomatic and global problem-solving functions of the United Nations into the hands of ordinary people. Originally staged at the Queens Museum of Art, the project features a group of sculptures—including Drone Dove and Colloquium—graphic painted guides to current political, social, and environmental issues, and the pUN General Assembly (May 2–3), an experimental gathering of volunteer citizen-delegates representing the UN’s 195 member and observer states. Participants will test Reyes’s hypothesis that non-traditional conflict-resolution techniques drawn from social psychology, theater, and art, and enacted at a grass-roots level, can help solve the world’s most challenging problems, from climate change to wage disparity, to food shortages. The acronym pUN is no joke: for the past 15 years, Reyes has performed the role of jester, his pointed barbs and creative exper­iments reminding us that we have the power to enact radical liberation. 

Web site www.hammer.ucla.edu


Pedro Reyes, The People’s United Nations (pUN), with (left) Colloquium (Caucus)
Musée d’Art Modern (MUDAM), Luxembourg: David Altmejd
Through May 31, 2015
David Altmejd, The Orbit. Altmejd’s highly idiosyncratic sculptures conjure a “definitive dreamer’s” world of fascination and terror. Were­wolves, birds, giants, and deformed humans inhabit a fractured half-vegetal, half-mineral universe of shapes and organs in gestation, where mirrored, crystalline labyrinths shatter all stability. This “modern Gothic” sensibility, as one critic has termed it, draws from the same surreal wellspring as the cinematic imagery of Cronenberg, Lynch, and Barney, structuring, then dispersing mystical allusions in an almost natural flow of birth, destruction, and rebirth. Subject to flux and metamorphosis, Altmejd’s work patiently assembles the sediments of consecutive states, then reveals all in a sudden explosion of simultaneity. “Flux,” which includes new and previously unseen works, demonstrates how his roots in evolutionary biology have informed an aesthetic of the ruptured and the deteriorating in which evolving truths replace reassuring absolutes.

Web site www.mudam.lu

David Altmejd, The Orbit.
Museion, Bolzano, Italy: Rossella Biscotti
Through May 25, 2015
Rossella Biscotti, Le Teste in Oggetto. Biscotti uses cross-disciplinary montage to uncover hidden narratives and their relation to society. Combining filmmaking, performance, and sculpture, she reconstructs obscured moments and situations, as well as lives and stories subsumed by state institutions. “The future can only be for ghosts” features new works and traces of previous projects, including Le Teste in Oggetto (casts of five bronze heads of Vittorio Emanuele III and Mussolini produced for the aborted 1942 Universal Expo in Rome) and The Prison of Santo Stefano (lead casts taken from the cells of Italy’s 18th-century, Bentham-esque Alcatraz). These works and others draw contested political (and personal) histories and their afterlives together into unexpected, and unstable, forms that reflect how power structures and official narratives result in physical and psychological conditioning. A recent emphasis on sculpture brings a new dimension to Biscotti’s explorations of temporal and spatial fluidity: personal encounters and oral interrogations transform objects and contexts into a mutable, collective voice that blends sociopolitical critique with imaginative, evocative vision.

Web site www.museion.it

Rossella Biscotti, Le Teste in Oggetto.
Museu de Serralves, Porto, Portugal: Monika Sosnowska
Through May 31, 2015
Monika Sosnowska, Stairway. Sosnowska’s spatial propositions defy rationality. Though her “architectonisations” develop from mathematical rules, their surreal geometry is responsive and reactive, altering existing space and subsequent movement. Meandering paths, unexpected angles, and spiky trajectories demand constant physical and mental reorientation, transforming perception and experience. This show, conceived in dialogue with the museum’s architecture, features a range of installations and objects, including early corridor and pavilion structures that warp ordinary patterns of foot traffic, freestanding sculptures and interventions that allude to collapse and fragmentation, and large-scale wrought iron works that reassemble and reinterpret the bones of architectonic structure on a one-to-one scale. Within Sosnowska’s world, physical space becomes contiguous with mental space and the logical blends into the impossible.

Web site www.serralves.pt

Monika Sosnowska, Stairway.
Museum of Art, Rhode Island School of Design, Providence: Raqs Media Collective
Through May 31, 2015
Raqs Media Collective, An Afternoon Unregistered on The Richter Scale. Formed in 1992, New Delhi-based Raqs (Jeebesh Bagchi, Monica Narula, and Shuddhabrata Sengupta) started as a way for its founders to pursue documentary film-making, but its reach expanded into a larger sphere at Documenta 11 (2002). Since then, the collective has created highly compelling installations that still make use of film while engaging in progressively more complex and poetic conversations between video or still images and text, sound, software, performance, sculpture, and found objects. A Myriad Marginalia, which began as part of an exper­imental painting course at RISD, brings manuscript marginalia to life, celebrating the efforts of those unknown apprentices and scribes who injected new ideas into the pages of established texts. Inspired by a wide range of artistic, literary, philosophical, and narrative sources (from the medieval to the contemporary), their experimental manuscript explores the margins as a zone of possibility, dissent, and unexpected intimacy. The museum’s Lower Farago Gallery, the working space while Raqs is in residence, includes source material, work in progress, and the final piece—along with related projects. Visitors are encouraged to interact with the materials and attend class discussions and other events.

Web site www.risdmuseum.org

Raqs Media Collective, An Afternoon Unregistered on The Richter Scale.
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York: Monir Shahroudy Farmanfarmaian
Through June 3, 2015
Monir Shahroudy Farmanfarmaian, Untitled (Sculpture 2) For Farmanfarmaian, “everything is in geometry.” Though the native Iranian spent her formative years in New York (1945–57), mixing with Milton Avery, Willem de Kooning, Joan Mitchell, Louise Nevelson, Barnett Newman, and Andy Warhol, the inspiration for her best-known works came from a different source—the high-domed crystalline hall of the Shah Cheragh mosque in Shiraz. She later compared that transformative, 1966 encounter to “walking into a diamond at the center of the sun.” In Iran, she was a pioneer, studying traditional crafts, including Turkoman jewelry and clothing, coffee house paintings, and reverse-glass painting. The most celebrated, and perhaps the only, contemporary artist working in mirror mosaic, she established an atelier reminiscent of the collaborative Persian kitabkhana, in which designs circulated among craftsmen from different disciplines; her drawings (many included here) have informed works in a variety of media, from textiles to sculptural commissions, to interior design. After the 1979 revolution and a 26-year exile in New York, she re-established her Tehran workshop. “Infinite Possibilities,” which includes works from the last 40 years, features plaster and mirror reliefs, large-scale mirror sculptures grouped into “geometric families,” works on paper, and recent kinetic sculptures. Though Farmanfarmaian denies any connection to symbolic systems of sacred geometry, her animate, pulsating forms convey a similar vision of a perfected universe, transcending visual and spatial experience.

Web site www.guggenheim.org


Monir Shahroudy Farmanfarmaian, Untitled (Sculpture 2).
Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary—Augarten, Vienna: Rare Earth
Through May 31, 2015
Marguerite Humeau, Réquiem for Harley Warren (“Screams from Hell”). The game-changing foundation of our most powerful technological innovations, rare earth elements were first deployed on an industrial scale with the invention of the cathode ray television screen. They now enable everything from cell phones, tablets, and laptops to LCD screens, LED light bulbs, CDs, and DVDs; they are also integral to hybrid vehicles, medical technologies, weapon systems, and alternative energy sources. Unseen and dematerialized, these basic raw elements—also known as “conflict materials” because of the limited number of easily accessible mines—not only shape daily life as we know it and wield the power to determine global affairs, they also have the capacity to make or break the future of civilization. This exhibition features 10 new commissions and seven other works—one for each rare earth element—that underscore the finite materiality at the heart of our hypermodern, virtual condition. Works by Ai Weiwei, Erick Beltrán, Camille Henrot, Roger Hiorns, Ursula Mayer, and the Otolith Group, among others, chart our current position on an evolutionary trajectory leading from stone, bronze, and iron to oil and rare earth.

Web site www.tba21.org

Marguerite Humeau, Réquiem for Harley Warren (“Screams from Hell”).

Whitworth Art Gallery - Manchester University, Manchester: Cornelia Parker
Through May 31, 2015
Cornelia Parker, War Room.Parker’s work observes the principle that conservation of matter dictates that nothing is ever destroyed, merely transformed into something else. But what does it become? Is there meaning in the transformation? Her compelling treatments of familiar, everyday objects explore the nature of matter, test physical properties, and play on meaning and value. Using objects loaded with history and associations—from a garden shed and its contents to the remnants of segregated churches destroyed by acts of man and god, to a criminal’s sawed-off shotgun—she explodes, crushes, cuts, and stretches them until they enter a realm somewhere between states of being. This quasi-retrospective, which inaugurates the newly reopened Whitworth, features an impressive survey of her best-known works, as well as a new installation. Lit by four naked light bulbs, the walls and ceiling of War Room are entirely lined with blood-red paper punctuated by cutouts. These gaps, regimented in their relentless progression, correspond to the absences left by the manufacture of Remembrance poppies (45 million sold every year). Parker compares the experience to being inside a gigantic Op Art piece—a sickening one. Installed next to Cold Dark Matter, the negative matter of War Room becomes the logical consequence of explosive violence.

Web site www.whitworth.manchester.ac.uk

Cornelia Parker, War Room.


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