Category Archives: modernism

Carrying the Torch: Walter Early Sculptures

ImageDenise Furnish and Walter Early: Color Stories Installation View

This is the last weekend to check out the exhibition Denise Furnish and Walter Early: Color Stories. Here on the KMAC blog we have explored the processes, motivations and cultural implications behind Denise Furnish’s repurposed quilts, and now we take a deeper look into the salvaged and reshaped forms from sculptor Walter Early.

Walter Early arranges broken and displaced forms into new settings and new relationships. His work, A Day in May, was included in last summer’s 7 BORDERS exhibition here at KMAC. In that work he repositioned a set of tobacco sticks, removing them from the environment they are typically associated and presented them in the gallery, on a shelf, leaning against a wall. This was intended to give new context, form and meaning to this common tool for curing tobacco leaves. The sticks take on a vista like quality where a viewer can get a sense of looking into a forest or a line of tress along side a road. This idea of play in altering an object’s former meaning continues into Early’s recent sculpture made from clay, wood, MDF, and steel.

For the pieces on display at KMAC Early sourced his materials from fellow sculptors, who had thrown out some of their failed experiments intending for them to be melted down and destroyed. Taking his welding torch and working in a similar twentieth century modernist language as Anthony Caro and John Chamberlain, he manipulates the shape, color and volume of his metal castaways. Once the desired form is achieved he power coats the surfaces of his sculptures in bright, bold, monochromatic colors. Caro and Chamberlain are well known for pushing the formalist art boundaries of modernist sculpture. They are important in the context of Walter’s work as they both represent the shift that allowed for a broader range of materials and practices to be brought into the art discourse. Early furthers the objectives set forth by these artists, maintaining the relevance for the appropriation of found materials. Through a series of rigorous alterations Early presents anew these remnants from other artists, providing a narrative for the material as it moves from its previous state into its new form. After reworking the borrowed metal he reverses a pivotal move made by Caro, who famously removed sculpture from it’s plinth, and places the finished works onto pedestals, or in this case onto whitewashed pieces of furniture, reestablishing the previously abandoned forms as artworks, elevating them to a new domesticated status.

Denise Furnish on KMAC Radio

Tune into ArtFm Louisville for the KMAC radio hour today at 11am to hear Denise Furnish discuss her work currently on display in the museum. She will talk about her ongoing series of painting experiments inspired  by the use of discarded quilts. The discussion will address artist Robert Rauschenberg’s own use of a quilt in the “combine” Bed from 1955 and how this work became a direct influence on Furnish’s work. Image

Denise Furnish, Blue, 2005, 73″ x 68″ Discarded Catch Me If You Can Quilt, acrylic

The significance of the American quilt is bound to our nation’s pioneering history and is situated in a craft tradition that celebrates the ingenuity and collaborative spirit of early American women. After making new clothes for the family, quilting groups would convene to transform their remnants into uniquely patterned bedspreads and baby blankets. Furnish is inspired by this history and through her evolving process of reviving quilts that have been used as dog beds or thrown out due to being threadbare and worn she preserves the conversations that were had during the original communal construction of her fabric painting surfaces. The voices of the women and their care and concern for those around them is radiated and brought back into the foreground due to her use of bold, vibrant colors. Her process could be seen as a kind of repairing technique or decorative bandaging where the new surface becomes the focus and the craft is one of preservation and/or protection. The original fabric is covered forever, but it’s now safeguarded always there beneath the layers retaining its rich, storied past.

The current exhibition at KMAC called Color Stories combines Furnish’s work with a series of sculptures by Walter Early, who likewise fuses contemporary conceptual art practices that explore issues of consumption, waste, and identity with the challenges of modern art aesthetics surrounding form, color and production.

Listen in today for more info on this exhibit and enjoy some music selections inspired by the work.

The Sound of Saarinen

Arch from above by Connor Bell

On Friday January 10, 2014 KMAC will be host to AUDIOOPTICS #2, the second in an ongoing series of events occurring throughout Louisville that explore the spaces between our auditory and visual experiences of the world. This installment of AUDIOOPTICS consists of three sets of audio / visual pairings from a diverse array of artists. On the program for Friday evening are the Chicago based sound art duo Coppice (Noé Cuéllar and Joseph Kramer) presenting visuals prepared by Coppice.

The duo has produced original compositions for stage, fixed media, and performed installation settings since 2009. Drawing from their expanding glossary of study, the duo is currently focused on live repertoire with custom instruments, prepared pump organ, and  electronic processes.

Coppice
Coppice

The Louisville duo mAAs (Connor Bell and Tim Barnes) will play to a blueprint of the Gateway Arch in St. Louis, Missouri, the iconic monument to the westward expansion of the United States was built by Finnish American architect and designer Eero Saarinen, the subject of the current KMAC exhibition Eero Saarinen: Reputation for Innovation. When placed into this context Saarinen’s drawing takes on the quality of modern, experimental sheet music. It resembles a waveform, giving shape to the listener’s experience of the music.

Metastaseis (1953-54), mesures 317-333 : graphic by Iannis Xenakis
Metastaseis (1953-54), mesures 317-333 : graphic by Iannis Xenakis

Also performing is local musician, sound artist, and composer R Keenan Lawler with video by Louisville artist Mitchell Bradley. Bradley manipulates images and video from his trips through the outer limits of the city. He and his twin brother Matthew have also collaborated on a series of works that bring together overstocked toys from dollar stores and other items from the clutches of mass production. They have turned these materials into an unusual, yet playfully informed set of installations and sculptures that have been recently exhibited in shows at KMAC, The Speed Art Museum, and I.D.E.A.S. 40203. For over three decades Lawler has explored American Blues music, bluegrass, and rock all filtered through his extensive background in electro-acoustic improvisation. With an intensely focused technique utilizing western music tonalities Lawler works with masses of harmonic overtones and sustained textures using his trademark metal-bodied resonator guitar.

Mitchell Bradley color video still w/ R Keenan Lawler
Mitchell Bradley color video still w/ R Keenan Lawler

 

Bell and Barnes of mAAs sat in during the recent KMAC Hour on ArtFm Louisville to discuss the upcoming AUDIOOPTICS event, providing insight along the way into their creative drives and music making process. Connor Bell began the audiooptics series as a way to more closely examine the transferences that occur when image and sound makers are united. With the set goal of taking a more critical look at the interstices of musical creativity and visual art, these events are set at a distance from the production of typical synchronized music videos and more closely aligned with the intentions of artistic collaborations like the music and dance performances of John Cage and Merce Cunningham.

How to Pass, Kick, Fall, and Run was choreographed by Cunningham and accompanied by spoken text by Cage. Copyright:  Creative Commons (Attribution, Non-Commercial, Share-alike) Rights Held By:  University Musical Society
April 13, 1971, “How to Pass, Kick, Fall, and Run” choreographed by Cunningham with spoken word accompaniment by Cage.
Copyright: Creative Commons (Attribution, Non-Commercial, Share-alike)
Rights Held By: University Musical Society

Beginning in the mid 1950’s Cage and Cunningham set out to dismantle the narrative structures of choreographed dance music and introduced the element of chance between the movements of the dancers and the actions of the musicians, creating a new space for the viewing of performance related artwork that was less about the demonstration of memorization and more concerned with the discovery of uncharted connections between artistic practices.

Barnes has had previous experience combining experimental film and chance music as part of the group Text of Light. Formed in 2001 the group first set out to perform improvised music to the works of Stan Brakhage and other filmmakers. Their express intent was to, “improvise (not ‘illustrate’) to films from the American Avante-Garde (50s-60s etc), an under-known period of American filmic poetics.” Members of the group also include Lee Ranaldo and Alan Licht (gtrs/devices), Christian Marclay and DJ Olive (turntables), William Hooker (drums/perc), and Ulrich Krieger (sax/electronics).

mAAs setup
mAAs setup

mAAs creates music using modular analog synthesizers. First developed in the early 1960’s this equipment revolutionized electronic music, allowing for greater ease and portability in combining, composing, performing, and manipulating electronically produced waveforms.  Earlier methods for making similar music required bigger machines and a process known as tape splicing. This was used in an early canonical piece of electronic music, Poème électronique, for tape (1957-1958)  composed by Edgard Varèse. As with the Gateway Arch and mAAs this was  likewise conceived of as a companion piece to the work of an architectural icon. Varèse wrote the piece for the Le Corbusier designed Phillips Pavilion at the 1958 Brussels World’s Fair.

As you prepare your senses for the AUDIOOPTICS experience take with you this quote by art philosopher Susan K. Langer:

“The assignment of meanings [in music] is a shifting, kaleidoscopic play, probably below the threshold of consciousness, certainly outside the pale of discursive thinking. The imagination that responds to music is personal and associative and logical, tinged with affect, tinged with bodily rhythm, tinged with dream, butconcerned with a wealth of formulations for its wealth of wordless knowledge, its whole knowledge of emotional and organic experience, of vital impulse, balance, conflict, the ways of living and dying and feeling.”
― Susanne K. LangerPhilosophy in a New Key: A Study in the Symbolism of Reason, Rite, and Art

Event Details 

Friday, January 10th @ 6pm Doors, 7pm Performance

$6 General Admission | Free For Members

Purchase tickets at the door. Purchase tickets online.

Love By Design: The Saarinen Women

Loja Saarinen, 1932, Cranbrook Archives
Loja Saarinen, 1932, Courtesy Cranbrook Archives

Eliel Saarinen’s wife, Loja (Loy-a) was trained as a sculptor, photographer and model builder. She became a textile designer and weaver when Saarinen became the chief architect of the Cranbrook campus located in the Detroit suburb of Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. The campus consists of Cranbrook Schools, Cranbrook Academy of Art, Cranbrook Art Museum, Cranbrook Institute of Science and Cranbrook House and Gardens.

Studio Loja Saarinen, Loja (seated), 1930, Courtesy of Cranbrook Archives
Studio Loja Saarinen, Loja (seated), 1930, Courtesy of Cranbrook Archives

Studio Loja Saarinen was established to design and weave textiles, carpets, and rugs on a commission basis for many of the Eliel Saarinen designed buildings on the Cranbrook Campus. Consequently, Loja became the director of the weaving department at Cranbrook from 1929 until her retirement in 1942. At full production, Studio Loja Saarinen held close to 30 hand looms.

Kingwood School at Cranbrook, Textile design by Loja Saarinen. 1933, Courtesy of Cranbrook Archives
Kingwood School at Cranbrook, Textile design by Loja Saarinen. 1933, Courtesy of Cranbrook Archives

Eliel Saarinen began designing his house at Cranbrook in 1928, and he and Loja moved into the completed home in fall 1930. They lived in the house until Eliel’s death in 1950.

Living Room Saarinen House
Living Room Saarinen House
Swedish weavers making the rug for the Saarinen House.
Swedish weavers making the rug for the Saarinen House.
Loja Saarinen showing Eliel a cartoon of their tapestry, Sermon on the Mount, for Tabernacle Church of Christ (now First Christian Church in Columbus, Ind.), 1941. Courtesy of  Cranbrook Archives
Loja Saarinen showing Eliel a cartoon of their tapestry, Sermon on the Mount, for Tabernacle Church of Christ (now First Christian Church in Columbus, Ind.), 1941. Courtesy of Cranbrook Archives
Marianne Strengell with Loja and Eero Saarinen, 1958. Courtesy of Cranbrook Archives
Marianne Strengell with Loja and Eero Saarinen, 1958. Courtesy of Cranbrook Archives

In 1942, when Loja Saarinen retired from Cranbrook, Strengell replaced her as head of the Department of Weaving and Textile Design.

Aline Saarinen with art book, 1955. Aline and Eero Saarinen papers, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.
Aline Saarinen with art book, 1955. Aline and Eero Saarinen papers, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

Aline was the associate art editor and critic for the New York Times and recently divorced when she met Eero in 1953.  She was on a trip to Detroit to meet the young architect whose General Motors Technical Center had proved to be a great success. She was to write a profile of Saarinen for the New York Times Magazine, eventually published with the title Now Saarinen the Son authored by Aline B. Louchheim. She would become Aline B. Saarinen a little over a year later.

Early Art Criticism by Aline (then Bernstein). 1934. Courtesy of the Archives of American Art, the Smithsonian.
Early Art Criticism by Aline (then Bernstein). 1934. Courtesy of the Archives of American Art, the Smithsonian.

A look into the intimate correspondence between both Eero Saarinen and Aline Saarinen is available online, digitized by the Archives of American Art at the Smithsonian as the Aline and Eero Saarinen Papers, 1906-1977. Their letters track the history of their romance and provide an inside look at how two stars in their respective fields came to be partners.

Correspondence from Eero Saarinen to Aline, 1954. Courtesy of the Smithsonian.
Correspondence from Eero Saarinen to Aline, 1954. Courtesy of the Smithsonian.

After their marriage, Aline relocated to Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, where she continued to work as associate art critic for The New York Times and where she served as Director of Information Service in the office of Eero Saarinen and Associates (from 1954 to 1963). They had a son and named him Eames after Eero’s long time friend Charles Eames.

Eero, Aline, and Eames. Courtesy of Yale University Library
Eero, Aline, and Eames. Courtesy of Yale University Library

After Eero’s sudden death in 1961, she and Saarinen’s longtime partners Kevin Roche and John Dinkeloo traveled around the country, making sure the firm’s nine commissions under construction or in design (including the TWA Terminal, Dulles Airport, two residential colleges for Yale, the Gateway Arch in St. Louis and the CBS Building) were all completed as Saarinen buildings. In 1962, she published a book of his writings, including black-and-white photographs of his projects, Eero Saarinen on His Work. This book is currently on display at KMAC as part of the Eero Saarinen A Reputation for Innovation exhibit.