Louise Bourgeois, Spiral (2008) Left: 22 kt yellow gold plated silver
19.5 × 13 × 12 cm / 7 5/8 × 5 1/8 × 4 3/4 in Right: Rhodium Plated Silver
12 × 19 × 15 cm / 4 3/4 × 7 1/2 × 5 7/8 in Photo: Gorka Postigo
© The Easton Foundation/VAGA, New York
The Portable Art Project
20 April – 17 June 2017
Hauser & Wirth will debut its Portable Art Project with an exhibition of wearable objects commissioned from fifteen artists — works that exist somewhere between sculpture and bodily adornment. Organized by Celia Forner, who collaborated closely with the artists, the Portable Art Project includes unique pieces as well as editioned series, crafted from an array of materials ranging from traditional gold and silver with precious and semi-precious gems, to enamel, aluminum, bronze, and iron. The initiative began with an invitation to Louise Bourgeois, who in 2008 conceived different rope-like precious metal cuffs. In the years since Bourgeois designed these first contributions, the Portable Art Project has evolved to include John Baldessari, Phyllida Barlow, Stefan Brüggemann, Subodh Gupta, Mary Heilmann, Andy Hope 1930, Cristina Iglesias, Matthew Day Jackson, Bharti Kher, Nate Lowman, Paul McCarthy, Caro Niederer, Michele Oka Doner, and Pipilotti Rist.
Prior to the era of Modernism, boundaries remained firmly fixed between painting and sculpture, classified as ‘fine art’, and jewelry, which belonged strictly to the province of applied arts. By the turn of the 20th century, these boundaries began to blur. Such artists as Lucio Fontana, Georges Braque, and Pablo Picasso brought broader respect to jewelry as an art form via their experiments with wearable objects, while Surrealists Salvador Dali, Max Ernst, and Man Ray explored jewelry as a form of expression and self-assertion. American artist Alexander Calder was the first to make jewelry part of his ongoing practice, constructing wearable pieces that fit smoothly into his wider oeuvre. Forming jewelry as one-of-a-kind works developed by hand, the artist made these pieces not only as loving gifts but to advance his exploration of formal sculptural issues. He fashioned wearable objects with the dynamism of the human body in mind – small sculptures that were set in motion or defined in space by the geometries of the wearer’s body – and thus established a new threshold for the pursuit of jewelry as fine art. Over the course of his career, Calder created nearly 2,000 pieces of jewelry and inspired subsequent generations of artists to actively experiment with wearable sculpture.
The Portable Art Project expands upon this history in the present with new works by 15 artists, using Louise Bourgeois’ uncanny cuffs as its starting point. Bourgeois’ bracelets are swirling coils of rose gold, yellow gold, and rhodium-plated silver. Intimate counterpoints to the artist’s familiar large-scale sculptures of coiled aluminum, often seen suspended and in seeming motion, these cuffs bond the wearer with Bourgeois through an intense and active embrace.
The personal connection between artist and wearer is more explicit in Caro Niederer’s ‘Charm Bracelets’ (2009). Each consists of 7 charms that are in fact small framed photographs delicately imprinted on glass. Whereas traditional charm bracelets are beloved as three-dimensional records of a wearer’s own life, with each charm marking a biographical milestone, Niederer’s charms implicate the wearer in her life by depicting scenes of her home, studio, and travels.
Alluding to the sense of play often associated with personal adornment, Pipilotti Rist’s large-scale, gestural lucent polycarbonate and computer wire squiggle necklaces, called ‘Jewellery for Wintertimes’ (2016), offer up surges of color intended to ‘awaken the body in a timeless spring.’ Color and gesture likewise define Mary Heilmann’s seven bold disk necklaces, each a veritable breastplate of hollow silver disks lacquered in vivid hues. For Heilmann, the body is a canvas onto which beautiful pools of paint are poured, making the wearer ‘visible from across the room.’ Phyllida Barlow’s grand electroformed and enameled knots also emphasize color, suggesting futuristic bows of recycled fabric that evoke the urban clamor and wit of her acclaimed large-scale sculptures.
Whereas Rist, Heilmann, and Barlow offer up richly colored sculptural works that celebrate the properties of their inorganic materials, Michele Oka Doner’s pieces take on the monochrome atmosphere of an inky night punctuated only by stars. Her ‘Plankton’ bracelet (2016) and ‘Nekton’ neckpiece (2016), are comprised of diamond-encrusted, darkly patinated bronze that has been carefully twisted and tangled to resemble aquatic organisms that might cling to a wearer after a night swim. The artist often manipulates the metal of her finished wearable sculptures to fit a specific anatomy, merging work and wearer.
Paul McCarthy’s slyly elegant silver, yellow gold, and rose gold butt plug pendants offer a winking commentary on our desire for expensive playthings in a world where minimalist sculptures may become culturally indistinguishable from sex toys. Similarly, New York artist Nate Lowman merges high and low in pendants of steel with brown and champagne diamonds, shaped like the cruciform lifting mechanisms of tow trucks. Both works of collaged detritus and tributes to history’s treasured relics, his pieces riff on the contemporary relevance of one of the oldest forms of unisex jewelry known: the crucifix. Pendants are also the chosen form of Subodh Gupta, whose contributions to the Portable Art Project echo the large-scale studio sculptures of India’s everyday kitchen implements that are signatures of the artist’s oeuvre. Gupta’s gold necklaces are the mouths of humble jars and urns from which sparkling emeralds and diamonds tumble.
Known for dramatic architectonic works constructed from industrial materials, Cristina Iglesias has conceived jewelry that utilizes the human body as scaffolding for small sculptures. The Spanish artist’s contribution to the Portable Art Project comprises three unique aluminum pieces of ‘body armor’ that encircle the hip, shoulder, and wrist, respectively. John Baldessari’s elbow armor similarly addresses a particular portion of the anatomy with piercing yellow gold spikes protruding from overlapping silver plates. The blithe surrealism of this piece is echoed in the artist’s single nose earring; picture-less frame necklaces; and an enameled sterling flock of shoulder-perching birds with gleaming precious stone eyes.
Bharti Kher’s lion-headed ‘Warrior Bracelet’ (2016) is intended to both physically and emotionally transform the wearer. It is jewelry as talisman and protector; and by virtue of requiring the wearer to hold it in place via a concealed handle, it harkens to elements of performance. Kher has described this highly adorned gold-plated work as an empowering accessory, ‘a skin the shaman carries…Wear it to work and keep it in your bedroom for when you need to call into being your warrior.’
Whereas many works in the Portable Art Project are conceived to be noticed, several participating artists have responded with rings that are the initiative’s smallest and most discreet objects. The title of Stefan Brüggemann’s ‘Fool’s Gold’ (2016) alludes to the material used to create his pyrite ring, which is housed in a simple futuristic cube of the same medium. The surface of the pyrite, a mined mineral, is mottled with natural imperfections that give Brüggeman’s pieces subtle variation. Andy Hope 1930’s classical gold rings are deliberately stripped of details and, consequently, rendered timeless and universal.
By contrast, Matthew Day Jackson’s contributions stand apart for being compositional elements of larger sculptures. Mining the memento mori theme that has coursed through the intertwining histories of art and jewelry for centuries, Day Jackson has made two pieces centered around the skull as icon and adornment. The first is an electroformed, blackened silver skeleton wall sculpture that includes a removable ring. The gold skull piece consists of a wooden branch that rises 18’ from a stump carved with a beautiful forest scene. The top of the rod is encircled by a collage of gold forms fitted together, including an expressionistic skull ring with gleaming diamond eyes. In these works, Day Jackson posits the sculpture as a body in itself, with a work of jewelry adorning and serving as a clue to his intended meaning.
The exhibition also includes a commissioned series of performative photographs of celebrated Spanish actress Rossy de Palma, best known for her starring roles in the films of Pedro Almodóvar. Shot by Gorka Postigo, these images capture de Palma engaging with each work as an extension of her body and a tool for expressing identity: a talismanic conductor of physical sensation and emotion. As artist Subodh Gupta has observed, “When someone is wearing an artwork, his or her own body and persona become the context for the work, so it can entirely change the meaning of a work. In some senses, a certain amount of control that one may have had over an artwork, as the artist, is lost; you have to hand that over to the person wearing the work.”
The Portable Art Project exhibition will be documented in a fully illustrated catalogue.
Lackarbeiter (Varnisher), circa 1930/1972
Gelatin silver print 79.5 x 60.1 cm / 31 1/4 x 23 5/8 in
August Sander (1876 – 1964)
A significant selection of photographs from Sanders’ portfolio ‘People Who Came to My Door’ forms the heart of the gallery’s group exhibition ‘Serialities,’ on view in New Yorkfrom 18 February through 8 April 2017.
‘We are honored and delighted to join Julian Sander in assuming the mantle as guardians of August Sander’s illustrious legacy,’ remarked Iwan Wirth, Co-Founder and Co-President,Hauser & Wirth. ‘A decade ago, when our gallery presented the exhibition ‘Someone Else With My Fingerprints,’ it became crystal clear that Sander was not only a giant of the photographic medium, but one of the most revolutionary artists of the 20th century. His visionary approach to documenting people and places challenged accepted notions of what we are and how we live. He broadened perception. And his contributions continue to shape the way artists – including many represented by our own gallery – seek to interpret our world today.’
Gunther Sander August Sander in Kuchhausen 1956 / 1958
Gelatin silver print 16 x 22 cm © Galerie Julian Sander, Cologne
About the Artist
August Sander titled his larger effort to systematically document contemporary German society ‘People of the 20th Century,’ a project that Sarah Meister, Curator in the Department of Photography of The Museum of Modern Art in New York, has deemed, ‘the single most important body of work of the 20th century.’ Sander created portraits – or, to his mind, enabled self-portraits – of a broad cross-section of German society and categorized these portraits into archetypes: the Farmer, the Skilled Tradesman, the Woman, Classes and Professions, the Artists, the City, and the Last People, which portrayed individuals on the margins of society. His approach afforded all subjects equal dignity throughout this act of cataloguing, depicting them in a clear frontal style with extraordinary detail, their eyes boring into the camera lens and thus into the eyes and mind of the viewer.
This sober documentary aesthetic stood in stark contrast to the dominant photographic style of the day, which mimicked other art forms like painting, and to the work of Sander’s avant-garde peers in the ‘New Objectivity’ movement, who were similarly concerned with social commentary but photographed from extreme perspectives. Portraiture was August Sander’s lifelong love, and he would work on ‘People of the 20th Century’ from the early 1920s until his death, producing the bulk of the photographs during the years of the Weimar Republic. Sander also actively photographed the German streets, architecture, and landscape; the latter category dominated his practice during World War II in part because the subject matter was more acceptable to the Nazis, who con scated and destroyed his book of portraits entitled ‘Face of Our Time.’ The moral terrain into which Sander boldly forayed, exploring who can be represented and how, remains an important area of inquiry for visual art today, perhaps more timely than ever.
August Sander was born in Herdorf, a mining town east of Cologne, in 1876. While working at a local slagheap he serendipitously encountered a visiting landscape photographer. ‘My rst camera was for me the same magic box that it is for anybody coming to one for the rst time,’ Sander said. He purchased photographic equipment with nancial aid from his uncle. During his subsequent military service and in the years that followed, Sander served as an itinerant photographer’s assistant. In 1910, after working his way to being the sole proprietor of a photo studio in Linz, Sander moved to Cologne and opened a studio at 201 Dürener Strasse, where the majority of his portraits would be taken.
In the early 1920s, Sander befriended the Group of Progressive Artists in Cologne, a left-wing artist’s group spearheaded by Heinrich Hoerle and Franz Wilhelm Seiwert. It was around this time that Sander formalized the concept for his major project ‘People of the 20th Century,’ an effort to systematically document contemporary German society. He introduced the public to this project with an exhibition of approximately 100 portraits at the Kölnischer Kunstverein, which was followed by the publication of his rst book, ‘Face of Our Time,’ in 1929. ‘Face of Our Time’ included a selection of 60 portraits from ‘People of the 20th Century,’ which occupied Sander from the early 1920s until his death. The Nazi party, which had recently come to power, confiscated and destroyed Sander’s ‘Face of Our Time’ in 1936, likely because of the publication’s representation of marginalized groups and a heterogeneous German society. Around 1942, Sander left Cologne and moved to a small village in Westerwald. His studio in Cologne was destroyed in a 1944 bombing raid, but the negatives that he relocated to Westerwald – and by 1945 he had over 40,000 – survived. Unfortunately, only 11,000 of his 40,000 negatives made it to the Westerwald. Sander’s work was exhibited at the Photokina in Cologne in 1952 and included in Edward Steichen’s famous exhibition ‘The Family of Man’ at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City in 1955. In 1964, just four years after the Federal Republic of Germany awarded Sander the Order of Merit, August Sander died in Cologne.
Gunther Sander (1907 – 1987), who served as his father’s apprentice in the studio from May 1925 to April 1928 and worked with him in his photographic studio until 1936, continued to promote the work of his father after his death. Gunther organized several exhibitions and publications, including ‘Men Without Masks’ (1971, Verlag C.J. Bucher, Lucerne, Switzerland and Frankfurt am Main, Germany.) In 1984, Sander’s estate passed into the hands of his grandson, Gerd Sander. Gerd founded the August Sander Archive to organize and protect the artist’s work. In January of 1993, the August Sander Archive was acquired by Kulturstiftung der Stadtsparkasse Köln. Julian Sander follows in the footsteps of his father Gerd as a gallerist, representing the work of August Sander.
Sander has been honored with major solo exhibitions and inclusion in important group shows and public collections. Recent solo exhibitions include: ‘August Sander: Menschen des 20. Jahrhunderts, People of the 20th Century’ at the 30th São Paulo Biennial, Sao Paulo, Brazil, 2012; ‘Artists Rooms: August Sander’, Tate Modern, London, England, 2010; ‘August Sander: People of the Twentieth Century’, The Getty Center, Los Angeles CA, 2008, and ‘August Sander: People of the Twentieth Century’ which traveled from the Die Photographische Sammlung/SK Stiftung Kultur, Cologne, Germany, 2001, to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco CA, 2002 – 2003, to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York NY, 2004. Sander is represented in the following museum collections: National Gallery of Victoria, Australia; National
Gallery of Canada, Ottowa; The National Museum of Denmark, Copenhagen; Bibliothèque nationale de France; Centre Pompidou, Paris; Die Photographische Sammlung/SK Stiftung Kultur – August Sander Archiv, Cologne; Museum Ludwig, Cologne; Wallraf-Richartz Museum, Cologne; Museum Folkwang, Essen; Sprengel Museum, Hannover; The Walther Collection, Ulm; Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo; Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam; Fotostiftung Schweiz, Winterthur; Tate Modern, London; Victoria and Albert Museum, London; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston MA; Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago IL; Museum of Contemporary Photography at Columbia College, Chicago IL; Harvard University Art Museums, Cambridge MA; Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland OH; Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles CA; J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles CA; Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York NY; The Museum of Modern Art, New York NY; ICP- International Center of Photography, New York NY; New York Public Library, New York NY; George Eastman House, Rochester NY; Philadelphia Museum of Art; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco CA; New Mexico Museum of Art, Santa Fe CA; Seattle Art Museum, Seattle WA; Milwaukee Art Museum, Milwaukee WI; Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; and Centre Pompidou, Paris.
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