Norte Maar is pleased to present Giacometti and a selection of contemporary drawings, January 26-February 24, 2013. The exhibition features a single drawing (double sided) by the great modern master Alberto Giacometti. The work is on loan from a private collection, New York, and will be the source of discussion in a show as it is juxtaposed with and against the work of ten contemporary artists.
This is not the first time Norte Maar has brought historic material to Brooklyn. The Boys of Bushwick exhibition which open in April 2011 and featured the illustrations of Richard Haines, included loans from a work by Paul Cadmus and Pavel Tchelitchew. Additionally, Norte Maar has been noted for juxtaposing established artists with emerging talent as evident in it’s To be Lady exhibition currently on view in New York City. The show includes historic work by Louise Nevelson, Alice Neel, Louise Bourgeios, with work by mid-career and rising stars.
Alberto Giacometti (1901-1966) holds a special place in the history of 20th Century art. Any encounter with a work by Giacometti whether it is a drawing or painting or sculpture, provides an opportunity to access the strength and sincerity embodying the best art that contributed to the rise of Modernism. With an oeuvre stretching five decades, it is in Giacometti’s most mature work, say from 1947 to 1965, that his most successful and distinctive ability to obscure the boundaries of abstraction and representation are revealed. Giacometti struggled to uncover a personal kind of modernism that measured abstraction against the known, and the representational against subconscious mystery. His very process alludes to a sort of mythology of humanity, which Giacometti expressed so poetically in a short text of 1957, Ma réalité: Art, reality and the myth of life became one.
It is this hunt for artistic clarity that is the purpose behind this special exhibition, which juxtaposes the work of a selection of contemporary artists with a drawing by Alberto Giacometti.
Reality for me has never been a pretext to make art objects, but art a necessary means to render to myself a better account of what I see […] All that I will be able to make will be only a pale image of what I see and my success will always be less than my failure or, perhaps, the success will be equal to my failure. I do not know whether I work in order to make something, or in order to know why I cannot make what I would like to make. –Alberto Giacometti, Paris, May 17, 1959
The formal balance of volumes and voids is the trademark of any work by Giacometti. “Giacometti was saved from eclecticism because of his superior sense of delicate proportions and extraordinary gift for reducing his forms to a most powerful simplicity.”[i] Like many artists of the period—Brancusi, Picasso, Laurens, and Lipchitz—Giacometti referenced primitive art forms to hone simplicity. But unlike his colleagues, Giacometti “recreated the vital forces inherent in primitive carvings rather than merely borrowing their formal elements.”[ii] This approach brings Anthony Browne in line with Giacometti.
Describing his process Browne explains, “I started with circles, searching for pure form in pure abstraction. Circles became women – that divine, timeless image of the Venus figure. I looked to Neolithic and Ancient figurines, re-casting those tiny sculptures on a monumental scale in charcoal and ash, honoring the strength they embody, idolizing a goddess. Through drawing, I work to activate the line and energize the forms, going over the same contour again and again, honing in on them, carving out the figure from the page, rediscovering for myself the power Venus has held over artists across eras.”
Anthony Browne (b.1983, Colorado Springs, CO) received his BA from Hunter College in 2011. He has previously shown at Norte Maar as a featured artist in the exhibition BUILT (2011). He currently lives and works in Brooklyn, NY.
Maria Louisa Calandra.
Giacometti was famous for making drawings of the interior of his studio. These drawings became visual inventories and today stand as details of time and place. Finding inspiration to sketch what’s readily on hand and very often simply drawing the objects and the space of a studio connects Maria Louisa Calandra to Giacometti.
“My current ongoing project consists of visiting artists in their studio,” she explains, “While there, I draw their space and talk with them about their artwork and practice. We talk about their life as an artist. My visits become an intimate look inside the artist’s space, both literally and philosophically. My drawings become a study of detail; from the rag that slips under the corner of a painter’s table to a hidden collaged element found on the multi-layered surface of a canvas. Mostly, I hope to be giving way to new possibilities in embodying the idea of the artist’s practice.”
Maria Louisa Calandra (b. 1976, London, UK) grew up in Tampa, FL. She received her BFA from Ohio University in 1999 and her MFA from Cornell University in 2006. Calandra is currently working on an extensive drawing project in which she visits artists in their studios, spending a day with them drawing their space and talking to them about their life and work. She then writes about the experience and posts it along with her drawings on her blog Pencil in the Studio. She currently lives and works in Brooklyn, NY.
For Giacometti, “personal experiences and philosophical insights certainly were elements at the origin of his art.”[iii] This connection to a strong personal narrative is what Kevin Curran has in common with Giacometti. Creating works that recall childhood activities and interests, Curran adds a whimsical twist to his drawings and sculpture; these works take adolescent doodlings and inject them with a knowing irony and formalism. Early influences were books by J.R.R. Tolkein, Isaac Asimov, and Frank Herbert, and movies like Rambo, Commando, Top Gun, Karate Kid, and Stand By Me.
In his recent work, How to be a Man Curran continues his series of wallpaper drawings, creating a catalog of images connected to narrative theme. Here, the images are chosen to reflect the construct and modeling of masculinity in our culture. Drawing on a wide variety of source material, from illustration to clip art to sports and news photography, he reproduces found images in ink on paper in a way that recalls wallpaper and textile design. Curran says: “When I was a kid I had curtains that pictured different sailing ships and knots that captured my imagination. Making drawings that look like wallpaper is a way for me to talk about how people, from a very early age, search for and fumble with who they are and how they should act in this world, through toys and bedroom decor that is anything but neutral.”
Kevin Curran (b.1978, Cambridge, OH) received his BA in studio art and philosophy from the State University of New York at Oneonta in 2000, and his MFA in Sculpture from Tyler School of Art in 2006. Curran splits his time between New York and Tokyo, making and showing his own work, as well as curating shows first as the founder and director of Laundromat Gallery and later as a co-founder of AIRPLANE. His recent drawings and new sculpture were exhibited at Norte Maar in April 2012. His installation History of American Decorative Arts was on view at Governor’s Island Art Fair (Summer 2012).
Ryan Michael Ford.
Along with Arp and Picasso, Giacometti was one of the most authentic sculptors of his time.[iv] From his early Surrealist roots he created a simple vocabulary based on shapes—half-spheres, crescents, spikes, cones—and animated these forms into “scenes suggestive of sexual encounters and cruel confrontations.”[v] These suggestive scenes and their subconscious dreamlike compositions continued throughout Giacometti’s career. Ryan Michael Ford straddles the real and the surreal in his paintings and sculptures. It is this theme that Ford shares with Giacometti.
“Ford compiles materials with a self-taught, hand-made aesthetic,” writes Gabriel Bennet of Ford’s work, “He rejects the mechanized imagery of standardized technologies, focusing on technique instead of imagination. His process often involves translating mud splats, stains, smoke, and scribble through their ecstatic body into imaginative forms. This process of pareidolia, or perceiving significant material from vague or random stimulus, takes him from his shaman-like trance into divining new imagery and gathering new subjects for his painting, sculpture, & drawing. He is reenacting a type of surrealist mysticism. Without editing these free associations, he collects, weaves, and folds a tangled nest of surreal subjects into a single narrative structure.”
Ryan Michael Ford (b. 1979, Waterbury, CT) earned a BFA from Savannah College of Art and Design, GA, in 2002. His original inspirations derive from 12th-15th century Sienese paintings, Philip Guston, Francis Bacon, pop culture and video games. Known for comic symbolic abstraction, Ford delves a bit deeper into his psyche; his work titillates the mind with streaks of quiet violence and provocative tranquility. Although his work sometimes deals with serious topics and themes they are never without a mix of humor, pure absurdity and ridiculousness. His work is included in New. New York currently on view at the Essl Museum, Vienna. Ford lives and works in Brooklyn, NY.
Exquisite draftsmanship encompasses Giacometti’s entire oeuvre. In his drawings as well as his paintings one can see the artist analyzing space and measuring proportion. Drawing over, retracing through, and charting geometry is what connects the work of Libby Hartle to Alberto Giacometti. “I get really into the process of making a drawing,” Hartle explains, “For me, the meaning of the drawing comes from a combination of the process used to make it and the look that process achieves. My work is the result of drawing open patterns over and over on a piece of paper until only a solid field of shiny graphite remains. Next, I cut and recombine the drawing into geometric shapes and patterns. The time spent on each stage of the drawing working and re-working, and the imperfect attempts to piece the cut up bits back together, to order unruly compulsion through form, cannot be separated from the (relatively) finished piece.”
Libby Hartle (b. 1976, Seattle, WA) grew up in Colorado where she studied Literature and Fine Arts at the University of Denver. In 1997 she moved to New York to receive her BFA in Sculpture from the School of Visual Arts in 2000. Libby was Co-Director of HEREart Gallery in SoHo for four years and lived in a teepee at the HueyHAUS art residency in New Mexico in 2003. She has exhibited her multi-media work nationally. She currently lives and works in Brooklyn, NY.
Scholars note the influence of post-impressionist arranging of color planes to create a pictorial space in Giacometti’s work, “model[ing] according to Cezannean technique of building up volume with a patchwork of complementary colors and highlights.”[vi] It is this layering and modeling to reinvent space that connects Francesco Longenecker to Giacometti. “My recent drawings explore the relationship between architecture and landscape through invented space,” Longenecker explains, “These works are inspired by traditional cel animation and comprised of several layers of transparent and semi transparent surfaces. This allows for three different drawings to be placed directly on top of one another and viewed at the same time. The imagery of the preceding surface becomes the foundation for the mark making on the next. Where cel animation uses physical layering to separate the background from subject, I am using the layers to connect the background and subject creating a type of spatial netting that continually shifts from deep to shallow space, linking both setting and subject and conveying a sense of immediacy and discovery.
Francesco Longenecker (b.1981, Lansing, MI) received a BFA from Kendal College of Art and Design in 2005 and his MFA from New York Academy of Art in 2007. He is represented by RARE Gallery, where an exhibition of his work was held November 15-December 18, 2012. He currently lives and works in Brooklyn, NY.
Giacometti’s work may oscillate visually between natural forms in reality and the conceptual forms of abstraction, but introspection and self-analysis is always at the source. Through his paintings and drawings, Eric Mavko acts this introspection in his process. His distortional approach to composition is only tamed by its self-observant psychic analysis. “Drawing occupies an odd place in my studio practice,” Mavko confesses, “Usually I launch into a painting by drawing directly on the canvas, then paint gets layered on and on. Often it’s necessary to stop and jump sideways: to think smaller, and to think with fewer colors. I use drawing to restore order and clarity – to study parts of a painting that have become problematic. It’s representative of my practice overall. I constantly revisit and re-layer images and pile on subject matter. Tightening the composition with line and distorting by erasing through those lines but always searching for new relationships and meanings; new ways to unravel the significance of us and our surroundings.”
Eric Mavko (b.1977, Dayton, OH) graduated from the New York Academy of Art in 2005 and since has maintained a painting studio in Brooklyn. His work has been exhibited both in Brooklyn and NYC.
Giacometti famously said, “It’s the totality of this life that I want to reproduce in everything I do.” This totality is “the closest verbalization we can propose for the mythical dimension of Giacometti’s compositional ideas.”[vii] With the figure as his primary vehicle Giacometti sought out this totality. The work of Thomas Micchelli, with the figure at the center, seems to be on the same journey.
“Alberto Giacometti is a key figure in the development of my work,” states Micchelli, “I vividly recall discovering The Palace at 4 a.m. at the Museum of Modern Art when I was a teenager, and I regularly returned to his art – the early Surrealist phase as much as the signature Existentialist period – as I looked for ways to filter the influence of Modernist European figuration through the materials-based, formalist concerns of American postwar abstraction. The drawings in the series Facing AG (2012) approach specific Giacometti sculptures through a set of inversions: male figures become female and vice versa; the heavily reworked contours characterizing the late drawings and paintings are distilled to single, precise lines; the obsessive modeling that all but obliterates facial and bodily detail in the Existentialist sculpture is replaced by purposefully individuated features. I regard the series as a kind of leave-taking, a conflict without resolution.”
Thomas Micchelli (b. 1953, Newark, NJ) earned a BFA at Cooper Union, New York, in 1975, and co-founded City Without Walls, a non-profit gallery in Newark devoted to emerging artists. He received his MFA from the University of Pennsylvania in 1981 and has exhibited his paintings, drawings and videos in New York, Los Angeles, Philadelphia and elsewhere, most recently at Norte Maar, Centotto, Studio 10 and Schema Projects in Bushwick, Brooklyn, and Janet Kurnatowski Gallery in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. In addition to his studio work, he is a writer and editor for the weekend edition of Hyperallergic.com. His writing has also appeared in the Brooklyn Rail, as well as Art 21 and NY Arts. He currently lives and works in Chatham, NJ.
When creating a portrait, Giacometti’s goal was not to create an ever-greater physical likeness but to spontaneously create the apparition again and again, until “it resembled, as nearly as possible, the living presence, perceived at one glance, of the model.”[viii] Matthew Miller shares this approach to portraiture. “Miller’s work exudes what I would call the drama of subtlety,” writes Jonathan Stevenson, “In two small portraits of the same man, visually minuscule divergences-the adjustment of an angle here, a brushstroke there-yield alter egos in quite stark opposition: one vulnerable and probably gentle, the other impervious and latently threatening. The [work] conveys that being human is a serious business.”
Matthew Miller (b. 1981, Lancaster, PA) received his BA from Messiah College in 2004 and his MFA in painting from the New York Academy of Art in 2008. Recent one-person exhibitions of Miller’s work include shows at Famous Accountants (2011) and Pocket Utopia (2012). Miller is represented by Pocket Utopia and currently lives and works in Brooklyn, NY.
There is a unique technique at work in Giacometti’s drawings where “the untouched areas of the paper function at once as neutral support for the drawing and as the imaginary substance of the subject and its surrounding space.”[ix] This use of carving out negative space is mimicked in the work of Andrew Szobody.
“My current drawings linger on the surface, the thing-ness of the paper,” Szobody states. “Measured hand-strokes of the pencil act as literal reference points for the dimensional nature of the pieces. These same marks stand as detached and predetermined testimonies to the specific moments that produced them. The drawings then go on to suggest an event, a presence beyond the surface. Lines thicken or disappear to suggest shadows, past happenings, dynamics that stretch past the picture frame. Still, the basis for all of this is the unavoidable specificity and dimensionality of the work itself. And so the repetitious mark making serves as a shifting lens: now situating us unmistakably in the present; now showing evidence of a past event, a distant presence, a future potential.” Szobody’s rhythmic and almost geometry use of line also brings his work in touch with that of Alberto Giacometti.
Andrew Szobody (b. 1990, Honea Path, SC) spent his childhood traveling about the United States and overseas. He holds a BFA from Calvin College in Grand Rapids, MI. This is the artist’s first exhibition in Brooklyn. He currently lives and works in Brooklyn, NY.
[i] Reinhold Hohl, quoted in Alberto Giacometti: A Retrospective Exhibition, exh. cat. (New York: Praeger in association with Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, 1974), p.20.
[ii] Reinhold Hohl, quoted in Alberto Giacometti: A Retrospective Exhibition, exh. cat. (New York: Praeger in association with Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, 1974), p.20.
[iii] Reinhold Hohl, quoted in Alberto Giacometti: A Retrospective Exhibition, exh. cat. (New York: Praeger in association with Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, 1974), p.15
[iv] Reinhold Hohl, quoted in Alberto Giacometti: A Retrospective Exhibition, exh. cat. (New York: Praeger in association with Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, 1974), p.20
[v] Reinhold Hohl, quoted in Alberto Giacometti: A Retrospective Exhibition, exh. cat. (New York: Praeger in association with Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, 1974), p.20
[vi] Reinhold Hohl, quoted in Alberto Giacometti: A Retrospective Exhibition, exh. cat. (New York: Praeger in association with Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, 1974), p.33
[vii] Reinhold Hohl, quoted in Alberto Giacometti: A Retrospective Exhibition, exh. cat. (New York: Praeger in association with Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, 1974), p. 31
[viii] Reinhold Hohl, quoted in Alberto Giacometti: A Retrospective Exhibition, exh. cat. (New York: Praeger in association with Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, 1974), p.33
[ix] Reinhold Hohl, quoted in Alberto Giacometti: A Retrospective Exhibition, exh. cat. (New York: Praeger in association with Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, 1974), p.39