Building the Lightbox AP1

I have built a large Lightbox, at 4ft tall and 3ft wide, the general size of the box reflects the limits of my own bodily gestures, reaching my height and arm span. Each element of the box has been handmade, the wooden interior structure, the perspex cut to a particular size, and the reflected edges being carefully placed.  The interior light is created using bight electric mains LED’s. I have incorporated several influences from previous research and painting exploration, mainly the plying of the paint across an impermeable surface.

A large percentage of my exploration with surface and paint mainly focused on its flatness. I had to consider how I wanted the paint to inevitably ‘sit’, and how I was going to get the paint to pool and spread as I would like. My original design focused more on the layers of colour, rather than the mark making within the paint. I found it very difficult to get the paint to evenly pool across the surface, having to instead intervene with a large squeegee. I chose acrylic as my medium, due to its flexibility when testing mediums. I was able to use a mixture of translucent stains and brighter pigments that vibrate on the synthetic plastic surface.  When applying the paint, I had to adapt my technique due to the lack of absorbency of the surface. I used a hybrid method of letting the paint pool in some areas, and pulled the paint around using a large squeegee tool mirror the working of Richter, Reed and other abstract painterly styles.

Throughout the process of layering paint onto the perspex sheets, I kept reflecting how the box would look as a complete unit in the space chosen to exhibit it in. I needed to consider how the paint layers were going to interact, making sure that I was achieving the greatest spectrum of colour I could manage. I collected any material I found that used colour to attract a particular response from the viewer: an encounter of conflicting colours that create a discord of perception (all imagery I have collected can be seen on my blog, linked below). I decided that I wanted this piece to sit alone, a monolith type object sat in the exhibition space.

The use of low budget materials feeds directly into the low-fi nature of early space travel as well as the makeshift/gatherer quality of survival and working in an art school. The beams of bright colour acting like a lighthouse, beckoning and immersing as they viewer surveys the exhibition. The fluidity and vibrancy of the pigments I used created a highly bright, vivid piece.

A main criticism would be the lack of any other surrounding structures that I had originally planned. I worked too closely with the one piece, forgoing those other structures that would have been placed in and around the exhibition, popping up around others work. If I had worked on several light boxes, I could have created a more vivid environment that pulsed with colour, not just one single object attempting to do the job that 3 or 4 other boxes could have achieved.

I would also tweak the placement of my box within the exhibition space. Instead of having the main front facing directly outwards, straight into the line of sight of any viewer entering the space, I would rotate by 90º to illuminate more the exhibition. The ‘back’ of the box is shining directly onto a large back wall, which creates a kaleidoscope of colour against it. However tweaking the movement would allow for the back to be seen more directly by the viewer, as well as creating a more dramatic lit backdrop for the other pieces in the show.

Colour Bible AP1

Brights/ Neons that clash inspire a highly tuned, intense palette
Neons with a touch of calmer pastels: off-kilter gradient
Neons with some toned down shades: a pop of bright colour that catches the attention.
Gradients: A colour story that can be read.
Mostly tones down swatches with a spark of neon: a shouting combination.
Pastels: pretty, low-fi and 1990’s aesthetic
Two clashing bright neons, offset with a calmer yellow provides a rest bite for the eyes.
SELECTED COLOUR PALLETE FOR LIGHTBOX GOING FORWARD

Early Sci-fi Media AP1

As part of my research in both this module and previous modules, I immersed myself with sci- fi and traditional film/media techniques, most importantly the use of primitive materials. A main influence came from 2001: A Space Odyssey, the monolith sat amongst a primitive form of man, acting as a beacon of the unknown future. The use of low budget materials feeds directly into the low-fi nature of early space travel as well as the makeshift/gatherer quality of survival and working in an art school. The beams of bright colour acting like a lighthouse, beckoning and immersing as they viewer surveys the exhibition.

Stanley Kubrick: 2001: A Space Odyssey (1961)
Stanley Kubrick: 2001: A Space Odyssey (1961)

Kubrick’s colour pallets, explore two complete opposites in terms of space and light. Scenes stretch from either very chromatic with a splash of bright pigment, which zones the observer into a key element/event happening on screen that they need to be focusing on. Or a completely vibrant screen with an element of contrasting colour, which creates a sense of discord and claustrophobia (especially when red is used).

Stanley Kubrick: 2001: A Space Odyssey (1961)

The monolith became symbolic of human’s need for space domination, and the development of technology reaching beyond our inhabited world. Kubrick used this symbol by literally placing it in a primeval version of our world, directly contrasting the ‘modern’ and the ‘primitive’.

Stanley Kubrick: 2001: A Space Odyssey (1961)
Stanley Kubrick: 2001: A Space Odyssey (1961)

When moving around the monolith, crisp mirrored edges reflect the space and work around it, further confusing the viewer. The piece looks integrated into the space, both hidden behind the mirror and yet dominating, touching the surrounding space with its light.

Stanley Kubrick: 2001: A Space Odyssey (1961)
NASA Space Shuttle Re- Build (2008)

I find the idea of man using primitive materials to build a vessel (space ship or monolith) that can transport (physically or spiritually) to another plane one of, if not the greatest achievement of the human race. Early space shuttle missions required tin foil, and other such household items in order for the ship to function, and protect the passengers inside from imminent death. Such a thin and flimsy piece of material can withstand live in an environment devoid of anything and made up of vacuum.

Likewise, early sci-fi media used what would be considered basic techniques to create visual phenomenon that are still stunning to witness. For the majority of the human population, the closest we will ever come to touching space, is through these films/ photographs. We can recreate what we think space would feel like, but never actually reach out and touch any of it. My work is my attempt to build my own piece of space phenomenon, using such primitive techniques/ materials (wood, foil, lighting) to create something visually dazzling. To encourage the viewer to loose their monotonous worries, and consider their place in the wider universe.

Georges Méliès: A Trip to the Moon (Colour Restored) (1902)
NASA Space Telescope (2013)
NASA Space Telescope (2003)

James Turrell AP1

Wide Out (1998)

Since the 1960s, James Turrell has created an expansive body of work that offers profound revelations about perception and the materiality of light. With their refined formal language and quiet, almost reverential atmospheres, his installations celebrate the optical and emotional effects of luminosity.

Turrell emerged as one of the foremost artists associated with what is known as the Light and Space movement, which began in Southern California in the mid-1960s. Building on his early research into sensory deprivation (particularly the Ganzfeld effect, in which viewersexperience disorienting, unmodulated fields of color), his art encourages a state of reflexive vision that he calls “seeing yourself seeing,” wherein we become aware of the function of our own senses and of light as a tangible substance. These perceptual concerns are coupled with a deep commitment to the natural world and an interest in orienting his work around celestial events. 

Jacob’s Rain (2007)
The Light Inside Blue (1999)
Wide Out Pink (1998)
Joseph’s Coat (2011)

Turrell’s kinesthetic art is an invitation to experience energy in relation to light, sound, wind, and the canvas of a changing sky by quieting the mind and observing. Opening our senses and our consciousness to the world around and within us, while lying on a bench or the floor to experience the sky, allows and even encourages a transformation of one’s perception.

The Light Inside Pink (1999)

Wedgework: the use of projected light creates an illusion of walls or barriers.

Key Lime Pie (1998)
The Hazing

Corner Shallow Space: is created in a convex corner; the light creates an illusion of a three dimensional object.

Afrum-II Green (1970)
Raethro II Peach (1970)
Raethro-II (1969)

Turell’s transforming light installations encourage the movement and realisation of energy, of dynamic molecules, and the give and take of this seemingly innocuous hole to the sky gives a chance to pause, to listen, to feel and breathe, and yes, to see.

Joseph Albers AP1

Homage to the Square (1961)

Joseph Albers (Glass, Colour and Light)

A New Light: Joseph Albers’s Work in Glass

  • Windows bring light into darkness.
  • Window light overcame the darkness or blindness of all that had preceded.
  • Where previously there had been confusion, and vision had been obscured, once the sun’s rays passed through glass there was, literally enlightenment.
  • Windows not only invite brightness but also allow the old to be discarded.
  • Glass enabled Albers to realise his most cherished goals: with this relatively ordinary form of matter, he could make a piercing light shine brightly and the old and dark disappear.
  • With glass, the artist could give exultant voice to a range of resplendent, and seemingly holy, colours.
  • Art should provide something else: a life, an awakening, a removal into another, brighter sphere.
  • Glass’s translucency, its vibrant transmission of colour, its mutability, its ability to be cut, assembled and sandblasted in myriad arrangements that bear no direct evidence of personal handwriting made of all the spiritual and visual possibilities resoundingly, gloriously apparent.
  • Glass is sacred, the stuff of revelations. It represented thinking of another sphere, an acceptance of the inexplicable.
  • As with any mediums in which Albers worked, the artist noticed what others were ding, but still found in it a unique and unprecedented opportunity.
  • Glass permits the process of transformation so pivotal to Albers’s notion of the value of art.
  • For his early assemblages, he picked up disregarded fragments, the garbage became jewels.
  • In later works, glassmaker’s samples acquire a celestial radiance; an orderly grid becomes a source of euphoria; stencils and the machinery of sandblasting help make objects that dance with rhythmic leaps. (12)
  • In the opaque works, the artist achieved an illusion of translucency, so that light that is actually reflected appears to be emanating from a direct source.
  • Homage to a Square:
    • His ‘platters to serve colour’: application of six to ten coats of white Liquitex gesso on top of a hard, unyielding surface creates a luminous and neutral setting where colour can have its fullest voice.
  • Glass as a material was too fragile, the loss too painful. The possibilities for spiritual purity had been truly shattered by human brutality.
Homage to the Square (1962)
Homage to the Square (1964)
Homage to the Square (1962)
Homage to the Square (1962)
Park (1924)

Albers: Glass, Colour and Light

  • Before artists knew how to render light illusionistically- when light could only be represented emblematically (e.g. halo)- it was universally understood as the manifestation of a divine presence.
  • It represented illumination, enlightenment and the grace through which man could orient himself among the dangers and pitfalls of the world.
  • This tradition in the arts began to undergo radical changes around 1800, as first evident in the work of Francisco de Goya.
    • I his prints, Goya used light and dark in terms of their metaphysical meanings but simply as black, white and intermediate values of gray.
    • The struggle for new meanings and aesthetic functions for light and dark is one of the most fascinating phenomena of Modern Art.
    • In the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, the need to explore light was a paramount concern of artists raging from the Impressionists, who insisted on a morally neutral basis for all visual experience.
  • By containing a luminous inner image within the darker outer frame, and using discrepant scales, he translated the purpose and meaning of medieval stained-glass windows into a modern mode.
  • As in stained glass, the central “light image” can be perceived only by opposition to the darkness that surrounds it.
  • Albers’s played with similar relationships of image to ground, of transparent to opaque, of light as pulsating life against a passive expanse of a single hue.
  • Park (1924)
    • Albers’s imparted to Park a far soberer, intensely disciplined style that would make his later work., leaving behind those impulses rooted in the spontaneity of Germany and French expressionist tendencies.
    • Park sacrifices the exuberant profusion of shapes of the earlier works but retains the lyrical freedom of their wide chromatic range.
    • Yellows, purples, oranges, whites and green give a staccato, syncopated quality to the composition, which the wire-mesh covering adds irregular ornamentation.
    • Albers’s finally did away with diversely shaped elements and substituted them for logical tectonic organization, which orders distinct groups of green, blue and white rectangles into a modular system.
    • The slightly wider strips of leading divide the areas of colours into distinct colours or into checkerboard arrangements.
    • In the vertical configuration of olive-green squares on the left, the thicker strips not only outline the particular chromatic group but also accentuate the shift from left to right of the lower block of squares.
    • Although far from uniform, the arrangement of the individual squares and the linear structure retain an architectural rather than expressive effect.
    • Albers renounced the lavish bouquet of rubies ultramarines, yellows and greens of the earlier panels, reducing his palate in Park to a narrow range of green and blue hues, highlighted by sparse, small areas of white.
    • Instead of arranging distinct colours for variety and contrapuntal complexity, Albers now concentrated on constantly shifting subtle modulations in colour groups, creating what can be called a climate of colour.
    • One small area of Park stands out in serene but insistent contradiction to the work’s severe economy in colour range and the basic form of the square: the two rectangles and squares of a mildly glowing pink to the right of the center.
    • Within the context of the repetitive web of squares surrounding it, the black lines within the pink area declare themselves very eloquently to be a cross, which we can perceive as a purely formal device or as a mystic symbol.
    • Isolated and diminutive, the area asserts itself as the heart of the entire composition and sets the tones to which all others are attuned.
J Scherben im Gitterbild (1921)
Josef Albers in the Guggenheim Museum, New York, 2017.

Mark Rothko AP1

No.1 (1954)
UNTITLED, (1952)

Colourfield Painting:

Section One: The aesthetics of Colourfield, minimal, hard edge, serial and post-painterly abstract painting.

  • Presence:
    • Post painterly abstract paintings, like all paintings demand that one sees them in the flesh (22).
    • The colours, shapes, patterns, forms, canvases, stretchers and scale of the paintings are crucial; one has to see them up close (22).
    • The canvases of the sixties usually had thick, solid stretchers: and thus a definite volume and mass; they were environmental as well as painterly (22).
    • Painterly abstract paintings are very physical paintings, paintings emphasize the frontal aspect, one can walk around the sides and look at them from other directions (22).
    • Post painterly abstract and Colourfield paintings are not domineering in the way of Rothko and Motherwell. (22)
    • The very lightness and bright colours of Colourfield paintings dispel the sense of being overwhelmed by the paintings. (22)
  • Colour:
    • Colour was the one element of painting that Sixties art was successful at exploring. (23)
    • ‘My purpose is to render my emotion. This state of soul is created by the objects which surround me and which react within me: from the horizon to myself, myself included. For I often put myself into my pictures, and I am aware of what exists behind me’ (H. Matisse, 143) (23)
    • Colour has been central to postwar and contemporary artists such as Barnett Newman, Joseph Albers and others. (23)
    • The Sixties was an era of which drew attention to the physicality of art works. Colour was another element in the physicality of an art object. (24)
  • Flatness:
    • Clement Greenberg noted that any mark made on the surface of the canvas alters the state of the canvas. ‘[t]he first mark made on a canvas destroys the literal and utter flatness’.  (25)
    • When one confronts a painterly picture, they first see the bare canvas. Its stops the viewer up short. (25)
    • Something is different about Colourfield paintings, one doesn’t at first notice what it is. One looks closer: yes, the canvas can be seen. This bare canvas is not a sly reference on the painters’ part to the manufacture of the painting. (25)
    • The artist is not showing the canvas to the viewer to show how the painting is made, much like a movie camera can move out of frame to reveal lights, as set, etc. (25)
    • The paint on the canvas is somewhat representational, paintwork is referring to somethings outside of itself. (25)
    • Many artists sink into a trance state or muse state when they create. A form of pure meditation. (25)
  • Bare Canvas:
    • Three dimensions are real space. They get rid of the problem of illusionism and literal space, space in and around marks and colours. (26)
    • The limits of painting are no longer present. A work can be as powerful as it can be thought to be. Actual space is intrinsically more powerful and specific than paint on a flat surface. (26)

Section Two: ABSTRACT EXPRESSINISM AND SIZTIES COLOURFIELD PAINTING

  • Presence:
    • Flatness in painting is necessary. (28)
    • Donald Judd said that paintings are rarely, if ever, totally flat. ‘Two colours on the same surface almost always lie on different depths’. Colour, especially oil pain, covering all of much of a painting is almost always both flat and infinitely spatial. (30)
    • Barnet Newman’s paintings empahsised vertically, frontality, flatness, single colour, all-overness, unified space and grand scale. (30)
    • ‘The present painter can be said to work with chaos not only in the sense that they are handling the chaos of the blank picture plane but also in that they are handling the chaos of form. In trying to go beyond the visible and the known world they are working with forms that are even unknown to them. They are engaged in a true act of discovery in the creation of new forms and symbols that will have the living quality of creation’. (Newman, The Plasmic Image) (31)
  • Mark Rothko:
    • Rothko’s art is considered ‘heroic’ because it attempts to achieve something great in the world of Existential suffering. Out of the pain and suffering rise Rothko’s spiritual Stonehenge’s. (34)
    • It is transcendence comes from its aim to go beyond the usual realms of art in terms of content and form. (34).
    • Max Kozloff: “Ignition that results from the impact of a fierce pallet upon an aloof and fastidious temperament [which] flusters exhaustion and begins to hold the haunted spectator longer than he intended”.
    • The closer one looks at the late works, the more one sees that Rothko was exploring the same formal aspects that have always concerned painters: (38)
      • The relation between colour and size, scale and shape.
      • The relation between spirituality and matter.
      • The relation between tone and luminosity.
      • The relation between proportion and colour
      • The relation between surface texture and inner tumescence.
White Centre (1950)
UNTITLED (No. 73), (1952)
UNTITLED [blue, green], (1956)
UNTITLED [red, green], (1956)
UNTITLED, (1949)

Like Richter, I have closely looked at Rothko throughout my progression and practice development. I have studied his method of paint application, mainly the layering of thin coats to build a deep void space of colour. I have concentrated on his choice of colour, principally his colour pairing. I find his piece that use conflicting pigments, more in tune with my current colour choices. I am working with mainly highly tuned, vibrant pigments similar to those I experienced in NYC, but using those colours to create a conflict. This conflict stems from a personal standpoint, reflecting the inner confusion that I am currently experiencing. Immersing myself inside of these pigments (through light), encircling and cradling me at the heart of the conflict, allows me to untangle and manoeuvre my way through.

The Phenomenon of Colour Exhibition Proposal

Alfred Drury: The Artist as Curator

  • Alfred Drury’s studio (1890s-1900’s) was used as a stage for his visual demonstration of practice to his clients.
  • In the arrangement of his studio he demonstrated a wide range of talents, from exhibition ready pieces to modestly sized works intended for private use in a home. 
  • The display purposely excluded his more monumental works, his larger scale memorials and architectural sculptures.
  • It is interesting to note the contrast between the homely display intended for known patrons with the more impressive (and anonymous) exhibition of sculpture for an international crowd that he would exhibit to later on.
  • The Paris Exposition Unerverselle of 1900 represented the whole of Drury’s fame as an exhibiting artist- but it was also the occasion for an innovative experiment in artistic self-curation by a fellow sculptor Auguste Rodin. 
  • Rodin held his own retrospective at the Pavilion de l’Alma alongside the Paris Expoisition, therefore implying a criticism of the institution of the world’s art fair as an effective venue for the display of sculpture.
  • A solo exhibition was unusual for a sculptor, which ultimately showed how a loose and open arrangement of works could be equally as successful as the rigidity of official sculpture exhibitions.
  • The Drury studio photograph seemed to solve the issue of how to exhibit smaller works within a larger space, use the studio style to house the smaller pieces- taking them out of the ‘white cube’.
  • The current use the the white cube space would not fit the more sentimental work of the 1900’s as Drury had achieved with his self curated studio exhibition.
  • Grouping together smaller works enhanced their visual impact as a series of composed figures, giving the display greater coherence and a sense of flow through a unforgiving space (white cube).
  • Exhibitions always pose problems when judged as art history, as the works of art available to display may achieve a prominence that exceeds their art-historical significance.
  • It can be argues, therefore that while exhibitions can be definite in starting clear visual proposition, they can never be definitive. 
  • In conclusion, the reflections on the experience of curating Alfred Drury:
    • 1ST: The difficulty of exhibiting structure- the difficulties of multiple viewpoints, nightlines and lighting.
    • 2ND: The issues with the systems of display, and whether to arrange objects strictly according to argument or to maximise visual effect.
  • To what extent the aesthetic effect of artworks is enhanced or impeded by the mediating interoperation of the curator is a perennial question and a complicated matter of emphasis.
  • The danger of romanticising an object or gesture is that the work of art appear to drive its meaning from the ensemble rather than as an autonomous object in its own right. 
  • The opposite approach- to detach the artwork from its historical context and present it in a transcendental present- also has its risks.
  • Whichever approach is adopted its only presents the work of art in a provisional rather than a permanent arrangement. 

When Artists Curate  

Experimenting With and Without Curators

  • Nicolas Bourriaurd named the exhibition as the place where experimentation is most visible.
  • The task of understanding art involved being with artists, and the place where this occurs is in exhibitions.
  • Exhibitions come from the same domain as the artists; the frame of understanding overlaps with the moment of self-presentation.
  • To be experimental sometimes takes the form of adapting the format of exhibitions and sometimes it is done in the name of exercising free creativity.
  • SIMON STARLING ‘NEVER THE SAME RIVER (POSSIBLE FUTURES, PROBABLE PASTS) 2010-2011.
    • An exhibition that represented an imaginative history of institution, in this case one respected by London’s artist community.
    • Objects used were placed in the exhibition space in the same spot that they were originally shown during the fifty-year history.
    • This created strange juxtaposition between the objects.
    • This exhibition suggested chance and random encounters, reminding us that a ‘collage’ of historical events is as likely to produce anomalies as it is sense.
    • Starling’s exhibition seems to set works against each other, displacing them not only from their previous exhibition context but from whatever social or historical context they might ordinarily claim.
    • On the other hand, it was clear that the exhibition’s structural-concept was a result of explicit choices.
    • This form of curating was neutral, the show instead foregrounded other people who has made other decisions at other times.
    • The exhibition reduced both artistic and curatorial authority; as a gesture in the form of an exhibition, it remains memorable precisely because it broke with what was expected of an artist-curated show.
  • Conventional exhibition- whether due to their architecture, the burden of maintaining a collection, or their requirements to sell art- fail to reproduce close correspondence between showing and what is new about the artworks.
  • A challenge of showing contemporary art is how to handle the presence of the artist.
  • Elena Filipovic curated a series of shows, reflecting the relationship between artists and institutions, hosted in three separate venue and was involved with three different artists.
    • At each venture, an exhibition was curated by the museum, and then halfway through the show an artist was invited to re-curate it.
    • The project offered different possibilities for curating the work of a single artists, it demonstrated different ways of working with contemporary art and the degree to which curating is an act of interpretation.
    • There were many levels of experimentation in this project, from designing an innovative concept for a retrospective exhibition to working sequentially across institutions and individual perspectives.

Museums and Not-Museums

  • The museums holds a particular framing device (fictional trope) that allows it a certain level of autonomy.
  • For many artists the ‘museum’ points to the history of arts institutionalization and its continues power over contemporary art.
  • The museum can be at once be a theme, a symbol, a place, a history, a site of conflict and an unfillable proposition.
  • It is a useful and durable concept through which art can engage with how art it exhibited.
  • Photography, which was invented more or less at the same historical moment as the museum, was initially put to use to support these ideas, for example by promoting its ideology of universality (page 100).
  • Photography got into the museum, it was utterly disruptive because of its nature as a multiple- a readymade.
  • Photography was used a tool to intervene in the interpretive protocols dominated by mass communication.
  • The museum has done its job.
    • It’s not possible to make things in a museum that are radical enough to have a power influence, because the important things have already been done.

Inside the White Cube (The Ideology of the Gallery)

Notes on the Gallery

  • The history of modernism is framed by the ‘idealist’ sterile space of the white cube.
  • The space is considered before the artwork.
  • The ideal gallery subtracts from the artwork all cues that interfere with the fact that it is ‘art’.
  • The artwork is isolated from everything that would distract from everything but itself.
  • The sanctity of a church, formality of a courtroom and experimental laboratory of a courtroom all come together to produce a unique chamber of aesthetics.
  • Anything in such space can become art due to the intense perception put upon them.
  • The outside world must not come in.
  • Walls are painted white; the ceilings becomes the source of light.
  • Shadow less, silent space gives the gallery a limbo like status- the mass of visitors seem out of place- an intrusion.
  • Any image seen of a white cube space contains no visitors.
  • A paradox is created, a space built to house art completely, yet not welcoming anyone in to see the art.
  • Art is kept in complete isolation, a perfect and pristine storage room.
  • The French Salon inhabited what a gallery should be: a space with walls full of pictures- the wall itself having no intrinsic value, it’s a means to an end.
  • One main issue can be drawn through this hanging method: artwork placed close to the ceiling or the floor both are unseen by viewers.
  • The white cube space can offer complete uniformity for all artists, each artist has space to exhibit, no fighting or overcrowding.
  • Each painting was seen as self-contained, isolated from its neighbors or its heavy frame, space was discontinuous.
  • The 19th Century was taxonomic, categorization became key.
  • The way in which paintings are hung makes assumptions about what is offered.
  • Once the wall become and aesthetic force- it modified anything placed upon it.

The Eye and the Spectator

  • The forces that crushed four hundred years of illusionism and idealism together and evicted them from the picture translated deep space into surface tension.
    • This surface responds as a field to any mark on it.
    • One mark was enough to establish a relationship not so much with the next as with the aesthetic and ideological potency of the blank canvas.
  • What went on that surface became the beacon of conflicting ideologies:
    • Caught between its substance and its metaphorical potential, paint re-enacted in its material body the residual dilemmas of illusionism.
    • A paint became subject, object and process, illusionism was squeezed out of it.
  • The mainstream (Cézanne to Colour Field) glides along the wall, measures it with vertical and horizontal coordinates, maintains the propriety of gravity and the upright viewer.
  • The mainstream viewer is continually reintroduced to the wall, which in turn supports the canvas- its surface now so sensitive that an objects on would cause it to blink.
  • In front is an open space in which the viewer’s sense of his own presence becomes an increasingly unmistakable shadow.
    • The impure space in which he stands is radically changed.
  • The picture plane keeps out reality- it is after all, a form a purity.
    • Reality does not conform to the rules of etiquette or subscribe to exclusive values.
  • The flow of energy between concepts of space articulated though the artwork and the space we occupy is one of the basic and least understood forces in modernism.
  • Modernist space redefines the observer’s status and tinkers with his self-image.
  • Space now is not just where things happen; things make space happen.
  • If the picture plane defined the wall, collage begins to define the entire space.
    • The fragment from the real world plonked onto the pictures surface.
  • Space is not clarified only in the picture, but in the place where the picture hangs- the gallery.
  • As we move around that space, looking at walls, avoiding things on the floor, we become aware that the gallery also contains a wandering phantom- the spectator.
  • Structure and experience, the city outside, the space inside- spiral around one work: transformation.
  • The picture plan is an idealized transforming space.
    • The transformation of objects is contextual, a matter of relocation.
    • When isolated, the context of objects is the gallery.
    • The gallery itself becomes, like the picture plane, a transforming source.
  • All mixed movements have a theatrical component which runs parallel to the gallery space.
  • The empty gallery is not empty.
    • Its walls are synthesized by the picture plane, its space primed by collage.
  • If often feels as if we can no longer experience anything if we don’t alienate it first.
  • We objectify and consume art, the to nourish our nonexistent selves or to maintain some aesthetic starveling.

Context as Content

  • The unexpected visitor summons anticipation, insecurity, even dread.
  • To paint something is to reset it into an illusion, dissolving the frame transferred that function to the gallery space.
  • Enough energy is generated to allow both artist and audience to presume they are fulfilling their social roles.
  • The artist/audience relation can be seen as the testing of the social order by radical propositions and as the successful absorption of these propositions by the support systems (galleries, museums, collectors etc).

The Gallery as a Gesture

  • From the 20’s to the 70’s: the pedestal melted away, leaving the spectator waist-deep in wall-to-wall space.
  • As the frame dropped off, space slid across the wall, creating turbulence in the corners.
  • Collage flopped out of the picture and settled on the floor as easily as a bag lady.
  • All impediments except “art” were removed.
  • No longer confined to a zone around the artwork, the new space pushed gently against its confining box.
  • Once completed by the withdrawal of all apparent content in the gallery becomes a zero space, infinitely mutable.
  • The gallery’s white walls are identified with spirit, filmed over with “pictorial sensitivity’.
  • The blanched display case is an epigram on the idea of exhibition; it raises the prospect of serial contexts (in the empty gallery, the display case contains nothing”.
  • By making art an artificially within the artificial, it suggests that gallery art is a trinket, a production of the boutique.

Commissioning Contemporary Art (Louisa Buck and Daniel McClean)

Brief History of Commissioning

  • There is no single way of commissioning contemporary art: it is in its very nature different to every circumstance.
  • The art of commissioning is almost as old as the making of the artwork itself.
  • Throughout the centuries various forms of commission have been crucial both for the creation and display of art and for its dissemination into a wider cultural and environmental context.
  • Artists have been commissioned for purposes of prestige, propaganda, celebration, commemoration, philanthropy or pleasure- and usually a mixture of all of these- direct patronage has traditionally had a status that extends beyond mere acquisition.
  • Public or private, institutional or individual, the process of working with an artist to produce a bespoke piece often denotes a particular level of commitment and discernment that can elevate the act the the highest level of artistic and cultural engagement.
  • Commissioning art has therefore always been an effective means for patrons to ensure a good image for posterity.
  • Dominique and Jean de Menil brought a time- honoured practice of commissioning art alongside collecting into the late twentieth century.
  • Unlike the monarchs and statesman of the previous centuries, the De Menil’s starting point was the arts itself and its impact on the viewer.
  • This desire to make art an intense and personal experience points to a vital realignment on the part of the patron, which lies at the heart of the best contemporary commissions up to the present day.
  • According to Dominique de Menil, the aim of the couple was to “preserve some of the intimacy we had enjoyed with the works of art”.
  • This philanthropic desire to open up a privileged private experience to a wider audience can be traced back to the emergence of the public art gallery during the 18th and 19th centuries and its attendant concern with making art appreciation accessible to the whole of society.
  • The market economy boomed after WW2, commercial companies and corporations increasingly began to acquire and commission art in a similar manner to the great courts and noble families of earlier centuries.
  • While companies dip and dive, companies continue to recognise the benefits in terms of profile, image- enhancement and workforce satisfaction that can accrue from having artists produce pieces specifically for their premises, even if, when times are leaner, they may choose to reduce their commissioning activities.
  • In recent years, commissions have often been linked to a place as well as to a patron.
  • In the greatly expanded global art world of the 21st Century, commissioning is now just one amount many means of obtaining art, yet the adventures commissioning of a radical artwork is widely considered to be amount the most prestigious form of patronage, in contrast to acquiring work that had already been produced.
  • Today’s various commissioning models are not neatly and mutually exclusive.
  • Both conceptually and practically, the commission of contemporary art have become an increasingly complex affair.
  • Elements from different commissions models are often combined to enable a particular project: for example, a private individual or a  group of patrons may co-sponsor a project for a civic site or partner with a commissioning organisation, while public museums across the world increasingly rely on partnerships with private patrons and the commercial sector to enable them to achieve particular commissions.
  • Alongside the greatly expanded range of options and opportunities for commissioning, the art itself is also now infinitely more varied than the paintings and sculpture of previous centuries. 
  • In many of today’s commissions, the permanent and monumental has been replaced by the temporary, the ephemeral and the immaterial.
  • Increasingly, there has been a burgeoning of performative ‘live’ commissions that work with site, event and situation in radical ways beyond the traditional art object as we understand it.
  • Yet whatever the motivation, the medium of the era, at the heart of any commission lies the relationship between artist and patron.
  • This has always been delicate and potentially volatile dynamic requiring careful management with a strong element of risk, although with the promise of great benefits.
  • Today is can be complex and long-drawn-out process to commission an artist, especially a well known one, to produce a unique piece.
  • At other points, however the artist has been more beholden to the patron: The Renaissance may have ushered the notion of the artist as a distinct autonomous individual as opposed to the usually anonymous medieval artisan, but even in the highest profile commissions what would now be regarded as the demeaning of great talent was standard practice.  
  • The emergence of new social forms in the 19th century with the Industrial Revolution and saw gradual shift away from the European patronage system towards the evolution of a fully fledged art market where artworks were individually brought and sold.
  • Accordingly, artists were increasingly esteemed for their originality of vision, rather than their particular skills.
  • This growing autonomy and authority of the artist coloured not only the development of contemporary art, but also the attitude of the artist towards patronage.
  • While commissions still took place, they increasingly tended to be portraits or more conventional decorative schemes, with the work of more progressive artists often proving to be less immediately conductive to the desires of the patron and the sometimes limited parameters of the commissioning process.
  • Now that artists are being commissioned to produce multimedia works both temporary and permanent, and for museums, biennials and domestic spaces as well as within a public realm that can span from the traditional plaza to cyberspace, what has always been complex activity has now become ever more intricate and freighted with ethical, legal and financial considerations.

Why Undertake a Commission? THE PATRONS PERSPECTIVE

  • Various protocols, procedures and agendas in sourcing and approaching artists through public and commercial galleries, art consultants and art fairs all require careful negotiation, alongside the need to grapple with the countless forms and concepts of contemporary art.
  • As a result, specialist curators, commissioning consultants, independent producers and commissioning agencies increasingly play a key role played in the process.
  • What distinguishes a commissioner to a normal purchaser of contemporary art? It is not simply a matter of acquisition, since many of today’s commissioned artworks are brought into existence for reasons other than individual ownership.
  • Forging a relationship with an artist: can involve an intense relationship with the artist, the patron- whether public body, commercial organization, private foundation or an individual- can both actor in and witness to the artist’s vision.
  • Creating a Culture: due to the nature of the commission, it carries with the excitement of being involved in bringing something new and unknown into the world, and thus potentially having a direct role in adding to art history.
  • Adding luster and a spirit of adventure: the commissioned artist is highly regarded, then their prestige can in turn reflect favorably on the patron.
  • Enhancing the environment: the ability to improve people’s surroundings by commissioning an artwork is a desire for many commissioners and artists.
  • Integrating art into architecture: the conventional approach is for the architecture and/ or client to specify the location for an art commission within the building or development, but increasingly architects are inviting artists to be team members from the start of working with consultants to appoint artists as early in the process as feasible: the latter approach being crucial if the client and architects wish to solicit several design proposals before making a choice.
  • The power of regeneration: many commissions are developed not only to enhance an environment, but also to play an active role in regenerating the surrounding public realm.
  • Fulfilling planning obligations: ‘Per cent for art’ policies are traditionally the largest single reason why artworks get commissioned in the public rhealm- many countries operate such schemes in which public bodies (public transport, health authorities, etc) either choose or are required by law to donate a small percentage of refurbishment budgets to commission artists.
  • The art of placemaking: art commissions set within the ‘ideal place’ of the sculpture park can sometimes extend to the artist being invited to design the entire place itself. In societies where there is little or no ‘critical mass’ of institutional or commercial frameworks for contemporary art, the act of commissioning can be crucial in finding a place for art and in giving it both relevance and an audience.
  • Commissions enable artists to make work when other important support structures, such as galleries, collectors and museums, do not exist.
  • Commemoration and celebration: the commemoration of an individual with a sculpture or painting or the celebration of an event with a memorial still drive many commissions.
  • Commissioned portraiture is one of the oldest forms of commemorative art and every year innumerable individuals are portrayed to order, with their likeness preserved using the most traditional or painterly and sculptural techniques.

Why Undertake a Commission? THE ARTISTS PERSPECTIVE

  • Make your dreams come true: commissions enable artists to create ambitious works that might not otherwise be possible, the commissioner can give artist access to specialist technical, curatorial and practical support, as well as funds.
  • Commissioning suits the practice: with many artists producing elaborate installations, architectural interventions or ambitions film pieces, the only way that these expensive and space-hungry works can come into being is through the act of commissioning.
  • Reaching different audiences: commissions in public and/or outdoor spaces can expose an artist’s work to a greatly expanded audience and one far beyond the art world. Many artists believe that in the importance of making art available to members of the public who would not necessarily visit a gallery or museum.
  • Triggers for change in practice: artists often find that the challenge of a commission can inspire new developments in their work which can alter their career trajectory and send their practice in new and unexpected directions.
  • New Partnerships: collaborations with new mediums and medias can again propel practices in new directions.
  • Increased recognition: the recognition that accompanies a high-profile commission can provide a valuable boost for artist and open them up to a range of new opportunity. Public commissions, in particular, can attract wide- spread coverage in diverse sectors of the media.

Guiding Principles: THE COMMISIONER

  • Know your intentions: it is important to have a clear idea why the work is being commissioned and not simply being brought, the intentions and process must be clear. The best commissions are born not only from a deep engagement with the art but also from an awareness on the part of the commissioner as to what kind of artist and work chime with their aspirations.
  • Seek best advice: a curator of public gallery may know of the best or most suitable artists to consider, many would-be patrons wishing to commission new site-specific artworks readily admit that they have neither the specialist knowledge nor the time to initiate and manage the commissioning process. A commissioning agent on the other hand, will have the know-how and will be fully equipped to organize the entire process from start to completion. It is important to select an independent curator whose first commitment is to the art, rather than to the commissioning client.
  • Work with the artist: the commissioner has be prepared to enter into a relationship with an artist that is almost similar to a marriage and can often require similar management in all aspects. Even though this relationship can be less fraught is a commissioning agent is involved to mediate and facilitate between artist and client, clarify of intention and communication are nonetheless essential.
  • Be prepared for some changes: carefully considered and implemented, for both commissioner and artist alike, a commission represents a leap into the unknown. There should be a degree of fluidity at many levels: the artists’ ideas can change during the early development stages, and the technical realities or constraints of production may mean that the outcome is different from that was expected for hoped for.
  • Commit to all stages: a successful project must be managed at every stage from its inception to its afterlife, with the custodian as well as investigator.

Guiding Principles: THE ARTIST

  • Know what you want: a work might evolve over the commission process, but it is vital that the artist maintains a clear idea of that they and the commissioner expects from the outcome. No matter how open the project, there are always constraints in the commission process, ranging from physical and financial limits to health and safety regulations.

The Moving Image:

  • With film and video assuming ever more significant status as an art form, institutions are commissioning an increasing amount of time-based work.
  • When film and video works are commissioned, it is often necessary to involve a large number of investors and practical supporters, and then institutional curator has to well versed in these practical and fundraising aspects.
  • However, the emphasis also differs from that of a conventional film producer, as an institutional curator will also often be expected to work closely with the artist and provide creative input.