One quiet morning in New York I met with the legendary German publisher Gerhard Steidl in the lobby of the Mercer Hotel in SoHo. Steidl is the last of the Mohicans in the world of print – a fiercely independent publisher who has maintained complete control and ownership of his house for over forty years. His art and photo books with the likes of Robert Frank and Bruce Davidson are revered as the best in the business. He also publishes literature in German, including books by the Nobel prize winners Günter Grass and Halldór Laxness.
The sculptor Francis Cape begins the introduction to his book We Sit Together thus, “Twenty Benches are gathered in the middle of a room. Each is built from poplar and finished in the same rubbed linseed oil. No two are the same. This is the sculpture Utopian Benches. I made the sculpture as a way of thinking – and talking – about communalism as both a historic and a contemporary alternative to [capitalist-driven] individualism.”
When Saberi approached me to write an essay for his monograph last year, I felt not only honored but also enthusiastic.
There is nothing like writing that gives me an opportunity to systematize and define what I think about someone’s work. This is no mean task since often what we like about creative work is ineffable.
The book is now out on the roster of the Italian publisher Atlante and is edited by Fabriano Fabbri, professor of art history at University of Bologna who has lately been delving into fashion design.
Fun is over and I am having a fancy dinner of ham and cheese baguette on my last night in Paris. The last of the Mohicans still congregate at Cafe Charlot, but the majority have already packed their bags. Since people often ask me about fashion week, I might as well make my observations public.
The 80 or so medium-sized, B&W photographs up at Yossi Milo Gallery by Provoke founder Takuma Nakahira in his first solo US show may initially read as street photography but what “Circulation: Date, Place, Events” really amounts to is an exercise in intellectual honesty, and a brutal one at that.
The prints on view were selected from negatives created by Nakahira during the Seventh Paris Biennale held in the autumn of 1971. When Nakahira was invited to participate he was in an intellectual rut after the publication of his classic photo book “For a Language to Come” (a rut documented with Daido Moriyama in his 1972 classic, “Farewell Photography”). As he describes it in “Photography, a Single Day’s Actuality,” one of his essays reprinted in the book “Circulation: Date, Place, Events”
In case you did not know, GUIDI, the Italian maker of shoes and bags, is also a tannery with a 120 year tenure, called Guidi & Rosellini.
Next season the company pays tribute to its heritage by relaunching the Guidi & Rosellini brand of shoes and bags. All products will be made from cowhide leather that will not be shaved before tanning, rendering each hide unique due to its varying thickness.
That a prominent artist today can still take up a historically serious subject has become a sort of an anomaly, as much of contemporary art seems to be stuck in the irony mode. The new exhibit by the German artist Anselm Kiefer called Morgenthau Plan, on view at the Gagosian gallery, is a cause to take a West Chelsea trip and, for once, not be disappointed.
Kiefer came of age in the devastated post-war Germany (he was born two months before the Nazis capitulated), a time when the specter of devastation and the widespread realization of what the Third Reich has wrought became an all-pervasive national tragedy. Much of Kiefer’s oeuvre reflects an almost therapeutic need to come to terms with the crimes of the previous generation of his countrymen. That he continues to do so in 2013 is a powerful statement.
Day is Long, Erin Shirreff’s second solo show of photographs, sculptures and videos at Lisa Cooley is invigorating in that it does so well what good writing is supposed to do, namely, show not tell. The works in this show and, really, all her shows, for Shirreff’s voice is and has been consistent and steady, unfurl at a stately pace in your mind to slowly reveal that what you see is not necessarily what you see: videos are not quite videos; photographs do not quite depict what you at first thought; and sculptures do (or do not) possess the physicality the eye and mind initially attributed them. First, you ask yourself what am I looking at, and when the answer comes, the “what” has bent. As noted by Jan Allen in one of the essays included in the just released and recommended first book on Shirreff, in the end you are looking at looking.
A 1970s cabinet from the German Democratic Republic with a frameless mirror on top, a low and narrow single bed, an Uzbek patterned carpet: the furnishings that fill the newly-assembled living-room in the basement of Dover Street Market are unmistakably Soviet. As someone born and raised in the USSR I immediately recognize the utilitarian shapes, yet the textures are unfamiliar: every piece is coated in a heavy mix of plaster, latex, liquid rubber and hessian that makes the objects look like ghosts of themselves. The mirror does not reflect anything, the carpet’s pattern is barely intelligible, the once-glossy wooden surface of the chest is rendered white and matt; the overall dreamlike feeling is that of stepping into the living-room of my childhood decades later, and finding everything in its old place but buried under the weight of time passed. This is the newly opened installation by Cherevichkiotvichki, the London-based shoe label that takes inspiration in abandoned spaces, time and memory.