A Saturday Afternoon’s Triple Catch: Zurn, Borofsky & Clemente

by on May 23, 2009

This Memorial Day weekend we hit the jackpot Erdal and I, catching three exciting shows down in Soho. The First show was Unica Zurn at the Drawing Center at 35 Wooster St., second show was Jonathan Borofsky at Deitch Projects at 76 Grand St.,third one was Francesco Clemente at Deitch Projects at 18 Wooster St.

Unica Zurn: Dark Spring,The Drawing Center, NYC, through July 23rd

Unica Zurn was a German artist and author (1916-1970). Already an established author in postwar Berlin, Zurn was introduced in the early 1950’s to the practice of automatic drawing, and to the Paris Surrealists with whom she would collaborate and exhibit, by her partner, Hans Bellmer.

Though largely unrecognized contributions to late surrealism, the resulting drawings and texts, the majority which were produced during an intensely productive two decades also marked by a series of mental crisis, are imbued with the movement’s fascination with the poetic force of madness and Zurn’s own vivid experience of illness.

At once playful and haunting, Zurn’s body of work in drawing evinces one of the most febrile imaginations of the past century, tragically cut short by her suicide in 1970.’
Source: The Drawing Center release for show.

If you’re a fan of Paul Klee’s whimsical drawings or simply just a great fan of art that deeply explores the private worlds of the artist and their imaginations which are wildly out of the gate, then this is a must see!  Go! See this show and be prepared to be taken completely!

Each one of the 50 ink and watercolor drawings on paper is so fascinating and intricately detailed you find yourself being pulled in at once and then wanting to seek out what exactly it is that’s going on.  She was obsessed with faces so they are many to be found here along with all kinds of creatures.  Birds, Fish, amoebas, snakes and dragon like insects morph out of human heads and bodies.

There are fossil like creatures laying just like they would be found embedded in rocks which seem to be awakened back into life by what appears to be massive amounts of cells dancing inside its body. Worlds within worlds teem with such profound and provocative imagination you will definitely feel as if you’ve been taken by her hand as she dove down into the very core of her being.

Follow the link to see Unica Zurn Books

Jonathan Borofsky, Five Large Paintings, Deitch Projects, NYC, through June 20th

This was that kind of show that seriously! We both felt like we never wanted to exit! And as it was, we did hang out for some time.  Firstly, there was just a great marriage here between the space and the pieces so upon entering you already felt giddy.  I looked over and Erdal was shining with a giant smile and I all of a sudden felt acrobatic for some reason and couldn’t help but act like a ten year old kid!

Borofsky’s five playful and huge paintings all measuring 12×12 were the perfect scale for the cool white box that the gallery is. These paintings were so colorful, the palette so enticing I was quickly reminded of Matisse’s cut outs and felt just about the same sensation I feel from them which is lots of joy and energy.  I loved the compositions and also that they weren’t painted totally flat adding some depth, texture and light to them.

The white spaces are beautiful and share the same importance here as the colored forms. Barofsky infact refers to the white shapes as “light that connects us all together”.
With my own work I am so on the tail of the power of white lately I  believe I left there with the white spaces pulsating in my head just as much as the colored spaces.

About the Artist:
Jonathan Borofsky (b.1942), is an American artist who in the 1960’s sought to interconnect minimalism and pop art with his art.
Borofsky has become widely known for his large-scale public sculptures like Walking to the Sky that was installed at Rockefeller Center in 2004. Most recently, Borofsky has completed the 65-foot People Tower for the Beijing Olympics, as well as a 100-foot version Walking to the Sky for the city of Seoul. A 36-foot tall sculpture from the Human Structures series was recently installed at 555 Mission Street in San Francisco.
Prior to focusing on art in the public realm, his site-specific gallery and museum installations in the 1970s and 80s redefined the way art was installed and experienced.

The Human Structure series, which he began developing in 1999, focuses on the notion of humanity building itself. Like his complex installations of the past where all the seemingly disparate elements were linked together by his systematic ritual of counting numbers, the work in Five Large Paintings shown in this show unites Borofsky?s humanistic focus with his structural concerns to create something that is considerably greater than both.

Borofsky continues to express the most integral theme in all of his work-that everything is connected, and that all is one.
Source: http://www.deitch.com

Follow the link to see Jonathan Borofsky Books

Francesco Clemente: A History of the Heart in Three Rainbows, Deitch Projects, NYC through May 30th

This has always been one of my favorite galleries; it’s enormous, with incredible natural light and always feels charmingly raw to me.  We walk in and I see these extra large watercolors and at first I feel overwhelmed and go sit on these cool little bleacher stairs they put in in the middle of space and I am able to relax and focus more from this point of view.  I love the idea of these watercolors because watercolor is simply impossible to correct so you know there’s not much in the way of doubt or insecurities -as Clemente cites one of Ginsberg’s mantras, ‘First thought – best thought’.  I think the choice of medium is perfect here not only because they are so spiritual but because you feel like you can enter in easily with the airy and lucid qualities of the watercolor.

There is much to feel from these as they take you on a journey into his mind where we see the heart is the lead character, a generative power that brings a proliferation of images and luminosity.
In Clemente’s narrative the heart goes from isolation to fragmentation, to entanglement and then finally to freedom, transformation and metamorphosis and it is his belief that one should only follow paths that have a heart.  I am so grateful I caught this amazing show.  I have always been intrigued by Clemente since the 1980’s.

Francesco Clemente (born 23 March 1952) is an Italian painter.
In this show, A History of The Heart in Three Rainbows, a monumental suite of large-scale watercolor paintings by Francesco Clemente, wrap around the perimeter of the gallery, creating an atmosphere of contemplation and ritual.  The work continues the artist’s ongoing project of transforming spiritual life experience into art. The lightness of the rainbow represents a breakthrough from the darkness, from the long night of the artist’s darker palette.

For Clemente, the rainbow is a bridge, a structure to bring things together, like religion in its original sense. The rainbow represents the necessity to connect different worlds. The translucence of the rainbow connects with the translucence of watercolor. The rainbow unmasks the nature of light and watercolor brings the light out of paper. In watercolor, the artist does not build the highlights – they are the parts the artist does not touch. The light is behind the paint.

The artist considers his paintings to be ritual implements. They function as mnemonics, keys to remembering the practice of daily ritual. The harlequin that appears in the narrative is an icon of the fragmentation of self, a surrogate for the artist and a link to man’s primeval nature. The artist notes that the earliest image of a harlequin is a man covered in leaves. The webs, cages and fences in the paintings may mean confinement, but they also connote the interrelationship of all things, and ultimately, freedom.
Source: http://www.deitch.com

Follow the link to see Francesco Clemente Books

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

1 susy June 17, 2009 at 8:12 pm

I’m pretty sure we were at the Unica Zurm show that same weekend! It was fantastic. While normally I’m not a big fan of fantastical/surreal drawings, there was something really explorative and expansive about hers. She’s a mysterious figure.

2 Micci Cohan June 18, 2009 at 6:01 pm

Hey Susy! Yes! that day was perfect we were maybe next to each other and didn’t realize it!
I love seeing shows at the Drawing Center, the space and the lighting are great.
Great you liked it too! She is one of my favorites.

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