Leipzig School . . . from page 1
The first works encountered in this exhibit, in the Salt Lake Art Center's Street Level Gallery, are the drawings, mostly untitled, of Matthias Weischer. They are a good introduction to many aspects of the School. In plasticity, they bear a certain paucity of form, simple line and frequent interruptions of full color. The "rules" are there. The elements are sound. They are rational works, in the Classical sense. But they are also disorderly. Many iconographic references are alluded to -- pyramids, crosses, chairs and geometric patterns. These are within a melody of simplistic form and color. The images ' icons, settings, and colors have a psychological impact (as definitely do all the Leipzig School's work) in relation to the subjective. These do not resonate as surreal, but leave a certain state of unease, a, subjective perception upon the viewer of disquiet. Like in a Piranese, we are lost in a labyrinth, a nightmare even, of uncertainty and anxiety.
Weischer brings us closer to the height of the Leipzig school in his large-scale paintings. His "Chair" |0| and "Zweiteilig," |1| both painted in 2003, are apparently companion pieces. Both show a room with a hall leading obscurely away from the picture plane, with no human life other than two pin-ups, which may represent the human in this barren universe or the empty universe in the human. The other two paintings by Weischer are almost completely illogical, irrational as Kant might have noticed; they obey all the laws of the rational yet destroy any trace of reason to be found. These two compositions, "Tuch," and "St Ludgerus," are dense with iconographical images. But why are there legs sticking out from underneath the sofa? Why are there plants growing from the chandelier? Why do socks stand erect with no wearer? Why is a figure painted purely in white amidst darker colors? There is no sense in this, it is purely unreasonable; but that may be the purpose -- to paint in the Classical tradition yet defy the rational.
Neo Rauch, the elder member of this group of artists and defacto leader of the Leipzig School, has gained international prestige, in large part due to the Rubell family, who made this traveling exhibition possible and whose showing at the Mass MoCA in Massachusetts attracted great appeal for the Leipzig School and Rauch in particular. Rauch takes his experiments farther than does any other member of the Leipzig School. His compositions and colors are as complex as a Botticelli, yet his work is as different to Botticelli as the twentieth century is to the fifteenth. In the work of Rauch logic is lost. Nothing can truly be entirely explained, or even attempted to be explained. It is in the unexplainable, the absence of reason used within proper states of artistic Classical form that the viewer may find beauty in these works. Perspective, color, harmony, composition, figuration- all work in the classical manner, such as in "Das Neue."|2| At a glance this picture could have been a history painting in the Albertian sense of the word. But maybe it still is. All elements are there excepting one and that is cohesion. "Demos," could have been an Ingres.|3| Unfortunately we live in the twenty first century and Rauch will receive no Prix-de-rome. These works are no surrealist fantasy, they are reality given over to the absurd.
The work of Christoph Ruckhäberle presents a quality much found in the Leipzig School. His figures generally do not look at one another and there is little or no connection between them. This is slightly disturbing as so many sitters are in such close proximity and are children. Each seems lost in its own sphere. Human connection was something Renaissance painters till Raphael sought for and now it is being broken. All are lost in their absurdities. With Rauch's work as well as Ruckhäberle's, one cannot explain their imagery other than that they cast doubt -- not on structure or artistic form, but on truth, relationships, human interaction, and the loss of reason: subjective uncertainty.
In his polished, large-scale oils Tim Eitel paints beautifully his absurdities. He paints very attractive minimal landscapes with figures apparently lost without their sense of reason, doing irrational things, activities that are mind-numbing or acutely banal. In each grouping of two or three, such as "Verweis," they seem lost in their own reality, but we follow, with no apparent conclusion other than the subject's sense of obscurity
David Schnell has the final blow in the show. He displays his masterful use of perspective, yet it is we, vicariously walking through a tunnel, such as in "Bretter," or a series of crates, witness around us everything being blown to bits.|4| The very world around is us lost to destruction. The beautifully articulated forms blow apart, everything is blasted before us, a perfect denouement to the show.
Is this "blast" another dose of German nihilism or does the Leipzig school have a positive ideology, a "warning" for the future as do so many great artists of today? Have the Leipzig School lost hope for the future or is there a constructive statement of the East German society being made? Is the Leipzig school making commentary on the world's slipping grasp on the rational; on who we are, on our very society, which we are desperately trying to hold together? With the help of the Leipzig school and awareness such as this, possibly we can maintain this fragile society and those in East Germany will heed the Leipzig School's warning, and others like the School will do their part to galvanize what we have not lost and put and end to the absurdities and a loss of reason which we seem to see every day.
Exhibition Review: West Valley City
The Face of Utah Sculpture
by Kasey Boone
I can't remember the last time I went to an exhibition devoted solely to sculpture (I know it wasn't here in Utah), and I'm positive I've never been to West Valley City to look at art; but I accomplished both this month when I made my way through the maze of orange and white striped barricades on Redwood Road to visit West Valley City's Cultural Celebration Center. There, in the ground-floor exhibition space, I saw the third- annual Face of Utah Sculpture, on exhibit through August 1.
Often, in galleries, or even museums, sculpture seems thrown in among paintings, and while you might see the latter without the former you will rarely see the reverse. So it was refreshing to see this exhibition, the brainchild of glass-sculptor Dan Cummings,|0| in which complete attention is given to artists working in three-dimensions.
This exhibition shows the face of Utah sculpture to be relatively small in size (though this might have more to do with the exhibition space than with the artists). Within this scale, the variety and skill displayed provided for a pleasurable experience, one where though you might not be able to adequately describe the look of the entire face, the individual features carry enough charm to recall the visage fondly.
This year's selection betrayed no aesthetic bias. On display is an eclectic mix of traditional and contemporary sculpture. Kiln-formed glass, bronze, clay, stone, fabric and even paper (in the form of origami sculptures) can all be found. What the exhibit seems to say about sculpture in our state is that it is about a delight in the manipulation of material of all sorts. In fact, "3-dimensional works," as bland as the term may be, is more appropriate to describe the works here. Sculpture, referring to the carving out of something (whether stone or wood) is too limiting for what is going on here.
There are plenty of traditional "sculptures" in the exhibit, however. A whole central room has been given over to wildlife and cowboy-art bronzes by artists like Layne Brady and Tom Ramsbottom. I was unable to tell if this special room was to highlight or quarantine the pieces. Probably, it just made sense for practical reasons. Bronzes made their way out of this room, notably the graceful and gravity-defying figures of Warren Archer. Nathan A. Johnson's delicate and intricate "Windpod" shows that bronze can be used for something other than the sturdy and the figurative.
An interest in material (pun intended) is nowhere more evident than in Suzanne Larsen's "Ernie Putting on the Ritz," a light-hearted bust of a sheep decked out in a top hat made out of a dazzling array of stitched fabric.|1| Other materials used in the exhibit include: traditional stone -- from the art-deco styled horse, "Maximum Speed," by Dahrl Thomson to the elegantly simple zebra marble of Ellza Coyle|2|; glass, wonderfully translucent, in the case of Rod Millar, or opaque like an abstract painting in the case of Jack Bowman; paper (origami sculptures by Matt Jones); fabricated steel (Richard Prazen); and polymer clay, in the wildlife sculpture of Adam Rees.
The circuit of the exhibition space revealed a rich variety of artistic voices, complimenting and contradicting each other at every turn. The smoothed, amber colored surfaces of a burnt piece of cedar in Michael Begue's "Remnant of Burning Man" |3| was contrasted by the threatening spikes of Shawn Porter's "Invitatory Urchin."|4| The folk sculpture of Pilar Pobil was world's away from the slick metal surfaces of Darl Thomas' work. With this exhibit, Cummings and crew have shown that variety is the hallmark of our state's sculptural endeavors.
Unfortunately, the room given over to the Face of Utah Sculpture was relatively small for the project, so that while the diversity and quality of the work was surprisingly grand, the size of the works was not. At one time sculpture was all about size -- it was generally public and meant to impress or be seen from far away (Michelangelo's David was originally meant for a cathedral nook high overhead; hence its size). I don't know enough about our state's sculptors to know either way, but I hope that this exhibit serves only as a front showroom for the larger scale works that our foundries, kilns and metalshops are itching to produce.