Thursday, September 8, 2016

"Revolution in the Making: Abstract Sculpture by Women, 1947-2016 at Hauser Wirth & Schimmel


Lee Bontecou "Untitled" 1964

I’m sad. For the past six months I have lived among the artworks of the female artists who are in the “Revolution in the Making: Abstract Sculpture by Women.” As I write this, it’s September 4th, the last day of the exhibition. Today, my wife left for Japan, my co-worker will be leaving for school sometime next week, and the show is over today. All three “closings” depress me greatly. As I walk around the gallery today, I photograph the images with my eyes, regarding the artwork here, and memory recall will be the main source for me. There is the catalog, and it’s a nice one, but it’s not the same as seeing these works in front of you. I know in the future I will be discussing this show with another person who visited the exhibition, and due to our memories, I suspect that it will be a separate experience. I have never ‘shared’ a common memory. Each person who takes in an art work, usually have their own means in obtaining that piece in their memory. 
For example, I have looked at Louise Bourgeois’ sculptures in the gallery across from the bookstore. I also have been looking at Ruth Asawa’s beautiful, yet fragile works of art for the past six months. When you sit by the cash register, one eye tends to wander over to the gallery with the glass doors. Since the show opened, we have been receiving up to 200 people a day. Maybe more. Although the show is focused on women’s art, I tend to forget the gender, but I have a memory of the art. 

Magdalena Abakanowicz (Wheel with Rope" 1973

Magdalena Abakanowicz’s “Wheel with Rope” (1973) is a powerful presence in a room. Technically the work spreads out to the next gallery space, with its long rope attached to the oversized wheel. For me, it reeks of the early 20th century technology or even something earlier. It’s the most aggressive work in this show. And oddly enough the work fits in with the overall architecture of the Hauser Wirth & Schimmel complex. The building used to be a food processing plant during the turn-of-the-century. So, I imagine seeing a giant wheel on the premise in 1899, was probably not that much of an unusual sight. Still, “Wheel with Rope” is a very strong piece, especially when it’s placed inside a gallery space. What I have read on Abakanowicz was that she witnessed the powers of the Stalin years in Poland, her home country. My first thought was that the wheel is used to not move itself, but there to pull something in, that would be attached to the rope. The rope is thick, perhaps to hold a large ship or boat? The work was made way after the Poland issue, but still, the sculpture has a political feel. It’s very mysterious. 
The additional time I spent with this exhibition, the more I see it as a group of artists - not tied to gender, but more with the thought of sculpture as the medium that they all share. The first gallery, coming from East 3rd street entrance, was art by Ruth Asawa, Lee Bontecou, Louise Bourgeois and Louise Nevelson. As I mentioned, this is right by our bookstore. So I would glance into this room quite frequently. For me, this room of art was perfect. For one, the works in this show are put together in a chronicle order, so in a fashion, the show is set by time, not really theme - but it’s interesting to see the show as what was happening at a certain moment or time . The artists came from all over the world, so it didn’t focus on a nationality - but more what was happening with abstract sculpture. 
Ruth Asawa "Untitled [S.208, Hanging Three Interlocked Spheres, Each Containing Three Interlocked Spheres], ca. 1962 

The one lasting gift from this exhibition is that I was introduced to new artists. Oddly enough, I didn’t know Asawa or Bontecou’s work at all. I was impressed with Bontecou’s timeless brutality - and two feet away, was Asawa’s profoundly beautifully textural hangings. Sculptures to me are about space, and how that space is filled. I would think first-hand, that it must be difficult to share space with Bontecou’s wall-hanging sculptures. Yet, the delicacy of Asawa, really made her work stand out as well as Bontecou, due to its contrasting aesthetic. In many ways, it’s Beauty and the Beast. Not set as a character, but as works in the same room. Which is set quite elegantly, due to the room’s architecture. Space issues also come to light with Eva Hesse’s work for the floor “Augment” and the hanging on the wall works “Aught.” The beauty of both pieces I don’t think can be photographed properly, due to the fading of the latex material, which seems to have a life of its own. For me, photography tends to fail in front of a sculpture or a work that is two or three-dimensional. I think it’s important that the viewer is actually there and either sharing or standing by that specific space of the artwork. 

Sheila Hicks "Banisteriopsis" 1965-1966

I was also impressed with Sheila Hicks" "Banisteriopsis" which is made of linen and wool. In other words, yarn. I never heard of the word 'banisteriopsis' and later, I read up that it's a plant that grows in Central and South America. In the 1950s, she spent a great deal of time in that area of the world. There is something Peruvian or that part of the world regarding this specific piece. I think due to yarn. When I think yarn, I think Peru. No, I haven't the foggiest reason why. I find this the funniest work in the exhibition. For one, it's pleasing to the eye, but I tend to come to this room to visit the piece over and over again. 

Eva Hesse "Aught" 1968

The exhibition was co-curated by Paul Schimmel and Jenni Sorkin. One can always say 'why so-so is not in the show?" Nevertheless, they did an excellent job in making this exhibition work. For a more overall look of the show, here's the website:
http://www.hauserwirthschimmel.com/…/revolution-in-the-maki…
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