Casey Kaplan

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Artist News

Installation view, Diego Perrone, Self Portraits, Casey Kaplan, New York, 2017

Diego Perrone interviewed by Charlotte Laubard about Self Portraits and Herbivorous Carnivorous in Mousse

February 8, 2017

CHARLOTTE LAUBARD: There was a small thing that happened years ago when we both lived in Turin that seems to me to say a lot about your relationship with the world. We went to the cinema to see a film. I don’t remember the film, but I remember very well that at the film’s emotional apex, when everyone had tears in their eyes, you started laughing uproariously. And the more hyperbolic the cinematography became in creating these emotions, the more you laughed. At that point the people sitting beside us got angry: they were furious because they had been torn from their voluntary suspension of disbelief, and we actually had to run out of the cinema. What is your relationship to belief?

DIEGO PERRONE: It is a very vast argument, but I am certainly fascinated by the immersive aspect that belief can produce. And above all I am interested in the languages and tools that make this belief possible. Therefore, my relationship with belief is concrete but at the same time irrational. I think I nurture myself with the wonder that produces this phenomenon in order to create a different effect. “If I could only remember what comes after ‘abra’ I would make the whole audience disappear” is a famous quote from Harry Houdini, who besides being known as a magician was also known for unmasking fake spiritualists.

CL: It seems that your work is a constant attempt at pushing the limits of what is representable, from the relative common acceptance of things to the meaning of images. In recent works that you are showing right now at two galleries, Casey Kaplan and Massimo De Carlo, drawings and sculptures of skulls invaded by fish and tractors, you go beyond the convention of inserting a foreign sign in someone’s head. An image that in the public imagination represents the activity of imagining, like that man “is thinking of a fish or of a tractor.” In the case of your sculptures, on the other hand, the fish float on the skin and the tractors plough through the epidermis. How are these images born?

DP: The tractors work the skin and render it fertile like soil, and the fish make it liquid and muted, like sound underwater. What happens in these two different kinds of landscapes happens in the intermediary space between the inside and the epidermis, as in how someone who is underneath a blanket still allows their volume to be seen externally. I remember Shivers (1975), an old David Cronenberg film, where in Italian the title is translated as “The Demon Under the Skin.”

CL: Speaking of this, I find a curious tension in your work. On the one hand it seems like you think in images, yet on the other your work expresses a strong interest in materials and the manipulation of those materials. Can you tell me about your recent relationship with a material that is very difficult, namely glass?

DP: Above all, in these most recent sculptures, it is very important that each one is a single block of glass. You can look inside the composition of the material itself and nothing is hidden, the profundity of the piece is nude. Each of these pieces was thought of as a low relief, but being composed out of more types of glass with different colors, the first thing that I notice looking at them is the spots of color within them. This means that you create an ambiguity between the sculptural mass and the image that is, by its very nature, two-dimensional.

CL: A complicated process. Where did you make the sculptures, and how did you work with the company specializing in glass manufacturing?

DP: When I first contacted Vetroricerca, the company in Bolzano that worked on the production of these recent sculptures, I was completely inexperienced and unaware of the limits and possibilities of glass. I worked with them and tried to bring the material and the technical aspects to the extreme, staying at the limits of what was possible. There are measurements, weights, and times to strictly respect; even the molds must have precise characteristics that have to be respected. It is not a material that you leave to behave as you think it will. I had to accept many compromises, and the challenge was finding solutions to circumvent the rigidity of the material and to rediscover the strength of my vision. In the final result one can perceive a kind of internal natural harmony that was completely unexpected but comes from meticulous technique, a precise determination in which the pictorial results are enhanced by chance.

CL: I always had the feeling that your visual imagery tended irremediably toward something of the obscene, in the literal sense of os skené (outside of the scene), meaning something that would not be suitable for the public. I think, for example, of the girl that has her boyfriend cut her ear off, Angela e Alfonso (2002); of Totò nudo (2002); of the dog dying on the outskirts of a city, Vicino a Torino muore un cane vecchio (2005); or of the imaginative strength needed to formalize the instantaneous moment of casting a bell, an underground process (2007). Now you talk about “natural harmony,” of “pictorial results.” What to you hope to achieve in this phase of your artistic path?

DP: As you rightly said earlier, my practice is very much based on visual results. In this case the term “pictorial” was intended. Thinking of the transparency of these sculptures and therefore of light that normally serves to make surfaces legible, in this case it goes inside. The texture is read with difficulty, as are the volumes; the plastic requirements are lost in becoming solid and the totality of the mass becomes heterogeneous. I would say “hologram” rather than “monument,” and “screen” rather than “relief.” I am not sure if all of this relates directly to being “outside of the scene,” but I think that both the drawings and the sculptures are almost empty, almost like holes in the environment.

CL: This reference to emptiness is intriguing! This way we can come back to one of your works that I consider seminal: I pensatori di buchi (The Ponderer of Holes, 2002). That also seems to me like an attempt at representing emptiness, something that is itself outside of the scene of life, the well that we seek to fill unceasingly and that generates all belief, both religious and artistic.

 

Artist News

Giorgio Griffa
Canone aureo 868, 2015
Acrylic on canvas
55.1 x 67.7" / 140 x 172cm

Giorgio Griffa will participate in the 57th International Art Exhibition, Viva Arte Viva in Venice

57th International Art Exhibition 

May 13 – November 26, 2017

Today, in a world full of conflicts and shocks, art bears witness to the most precious part of what makes us human. Art is the ultimate ground for reflection, individual expression, freedom, and for fundamental questions. Art is the favourite realm for dreams and utopias, a catalyst for human connections that roots us both to nature and the cosmos, that elevates us to a spiritual dimension. Art is the last bastion, a garden to cultivate above and beyond trends and personal interests. It stands as an unequivocal alternative to individualism and indifference. It builds us up and edifies us. At a time of global disorder, art embraces life, even if doubt ensues inevitably. The role, the voice and the responsibility of the artist are more crucial than ever before within the framework of contemporary debates. It is in and through these individual initiatives that the world of tomorrow  takes shape, which though surely uncertain, is often best intuited by artists than others.
VIVA ARTE VIVA is an exclamation, a passionate outcry for art and the state of the artist. VIVA ARTE VIVA is a Biennale designed with artists, by artists and for artists, about the forms they propose, the questions they ask, the practices they develop and the ways of life they choose.
Rather than broaching a single theme, VIVA ARTE VIVA offers a route that moulds the artists’ works and a context that favours access and understanding, generating connections, resonances and  thoughts. The journey unfolds over the course of nine chapters, or families of artists, beginning with two introductory realms in the Central Pavilion, followed by another seven across the Arsenale through the Giardino delle Vergini. Each chapter represents a Pavilion in itself, or rather a Trans-Pavilion as it is trans-national by nature but echoesthe Biennale’s historical organisation into pavilions, the number of which has never ceased to grow since the end of the 1990s. This semantic nod addresses  the often debated relevance of the national pavilions, whilst going beyond it, as each chapter mixes   artists of all generations and origins. There is however, no physical separation between the various pavilions, which flow together like the chapters of a book. From the Pavilion of Artists and Books to the Pavilion of Time and Infinity, these nine episodes tell a story that is often discursive and at times paradoxical, with detours that mirror the world’s complexities, a multiplicity of approaches and a wide variety of practices. The exhibition is intended as an experience, an extrovert movement from the self to the other, towards a common space beyond the defined dimensions, and onwards to the idea of a potential neo-humanism. This movement of the self towards the unknown, where experience and speculation are at the forefront is in and of itself a response to a conservative environment, defying bias, distrust and indifference.
VIVA ARTE VIVA also seeks to convey a positive and prospective energy, which whilst focusing on young artists, rediscovers those passed away too soon or those who are still largely unknown despite the importance of their work. These discoveries and recoveries give way, in each pavilion, to a communion of artists from several generations, offering perspectives on questions that were often broached as early as the 1960s and specially the 1970s. These issues are revisited by artists in today’s world of constant anthropological and societal change. The artists’ interpretations hinge on forms that reflect the concerns of the civil society. After all, art may not have changed the world, but it remains the field where it can be reinvented.
Starting with the Pavilion of Artists and Books, the exhibition  reveals its premise, a dialectic that involves the whole of contemporary society, beyond the artist himself, and addresses the organisation of society and its values. Art and artists are at the heart of the exhibition, which begins by examining their practices, the way they create art, halfway between idleness and action, otium and negotium. The Roman otium, and its Greek predecessor scholè, originally understood as a privileged moment, is nowadays improperly translated as idleness of pejorative connotation, or leisure, which is not far removed from entertainment. The word otium, in contrast with the business world  or negotium, from which the artist can never really escape, implies a space for free time, for inactivity and availability, a space of productive idleness and mind work, of quietness and action, a space where the work of art comes to be.
The decision to become an artist, in and of itself, requires taking a stance in society, one that is today broadly popular and widely acknowledged, but is perceived nevertheless as an act of calling into question work -and its by-product: money- as the absolute value in the modern world. Being an artist means differentiating between the private individual and the public individual, not as a person of media but as someone who is confronted with the res publica. Indeed, while the artist produces artworks that are meant to be commercialized, the modes of production of his or her disposal include an alternative within which the need for inactivity or rather non-productive action, for mind wandering and research, remain paramount. This position inevitably has consequences on the way in which free time is perceived by society: it is no longer a time to be spent or even consumed, but a time for oneself.
The Pavilion of Colours 
According to well-known neuroscientific studies, colours do not exist in themselves but are the result of a cognitive function performed by the human brain and eyes as they decipher reality. Colours thus appear to be a particularly subjective source of emotion, which calls to reconsider the relevance of the phenomenological approaches of art. With a fine balance between finesse and transparency, light and spirituality, haptic experience and visual explosion, loaded sometimes with anthropological, even political, connotations, The Pavilion of Colours can be described as the “fireworks” at the end of the journey through the Arsenale, where all the questions presented in the preceding pavilions come together to provide what might be described almost as an “out-of-self” experience prior to the final chapter.

Artist News, Gallery News

Diego Perrone, Untitled, 2016, glass casting, 29.8 x 33.8 by 10.8". Photo: Andrea Rossetti

Art in America Reviews Diego Perrone, Self Portraits

Glass is a material long associated with illumination, enlightenment, and the divine. The cast glass sculptures featured in Italian artist Diego Perrone’s exhibition “Self Portraits” hold out the promise of personal revelation. Elegantly displayed on white plinths, many of the untitled works (all 2016) are vaguely cranial in shape. But instead of offering a transparent glimpse into the seat of reason and intellect, the sculptures appear as elegant monuments to opacity. Perrone adulterated the glass forms by adding minerals and pigments in uneven patches during the casting process. Brilliantly colored crusts give way to clouds of mellow hues that seem to diffuse slowly through the glass. Other aspects of the casting process were executed with mechanical precision. Crisp and detailed renderings of ears, koi fish, and tractor equipment emerge from the works’ surfaces. These forms have previously appeared in Perrone’s sculptures, and here they look almost like stock images rather than personal symbols. More reminiscent of Medardo Rosso’s impressionistic sculptures than stained glass windows, Perrone’s “Self Portraits” embody a notion of self that melds alluring display and an act of withdrawal.

William S. Smith

Artist News

Brian Jungen and Duane Linklater, Modest Livelihood, 2012 (video still), Super 16mm film to HD Video (Silent), 50:00 minutes

Screening of Brian Jungen and Duane Linklater, Modest Livelihood, at NYU Center for Media, Culture and History

THURSDAY / FEBRUARY 2 / 7:30-9 PM

DEPARTMENT OF ART HISTORY

SILVER CENTER, ROOM 300
100 WASHINGTON SQUARE EAST

MODEST LIVELIHOOD (50 min, 2012, Dirs: Brian Jungen and Duane Linklater)

This experimental work by indigenous artists BRIAN JUNGEN (Dane-zaa) and DUANE LINKLATER (Omaskêko Cree) takes self-determination over First Nations lands as its central concern.

On the occasion of Duane Linklater’s solo exhibition From Our Hands NYU Steinhart’s 80WSE Gallery December 8 2016 – February 18 2017.

Screening followed by a discussion with filmmaker Duane Linklater and Hrag Vartanian, founder/editor of Hyperallergic.

Co-sponsor: Native American and Indigenous Students’ Group at NYU

Artist News

Jonathan Monk, The Sound Of Laughter Isn’t Necessarily Funny, opens at The Gallery at De Montfort University in Leicester, UK

27 January to 11 March 2017

Jonathan Monk is one of the world’s leading contemporary artists. He lives and works in Berlin and his work is held in private and public collections across the globe.

In this exhibition, three sculptures inhabit the space – a grand piano, a pair of grandfather clocks and a dismembered doll that has passed through the artist’s family. Each of these is mechanically animated and their actions mark the passing of time in seemingly arbitrary ways. All the objects have a gothic resonance to them. Their animation suggests human presence, as the piano plays itself and the dolls eyes flicker open.

This is Jonathan Monk’s first exhibition in Leicester, the city in which he was brought up. Previous solo exhibitions include Museo d’Arte Contemporanea di Roma, Rome, Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin, Palais de Tokyo and Musee d’Art Moderne, Paris, and Institute of Contemporary Art, London.

Artist News

Jordan Casteel, Timothy, 2017, Oil on canvas, 78 x 60"

Jordan Casteel in conversation at MetFridays at the Met Breuer

FRIDAY / JANUARY 27
6:30–8:30 P.M.
Free with Museum admission

Get a taste of art school! Learn the fundamentals of drawing with contemporary artists and drop in for talks led by creatives from a variety of disciplines. Drop in anytime at The Met Breuer and The Met Fifth Avenue.

The Met Breuer

Short Talks 
6:30–8:30 pm, Floors 3 and 4, multiple locations
Hear creative voices across a variety of fields respond to the work of Kerry James Marshall.

Jordan Casteel, artist
6:30 pm & 7 pm
Floor 3

PUBLIQuartet, Quartet in Residence, The Met
7:15 pm & 7:45 pm
Floor 4

William Villalongo, artist 
7:30 pm & 8 pm
Floor 3

Sheryll Durrant, urban farmer and food justice advocate
7:30 pm & 8 pm
Floor 4

Drop-in Drawing with Randy Williams
6:30 pm & 7:30 pm
Floor 4
Walk, talk and draw with artist Randy Williams to understand concepts that are fundamental to the practice of Kerry James Marshall. Materials are provided, but you may bring your own sketchbook; pencils only. Space is limited.

Artist News

Sarah Crowner, Backdrop (After Rodhe, 1961), 2017, 2, Acrylic on canvas, sewn wall hangings, 59 x 265”. Photo: Kris Graves

NEW INSTALLATION BY SARAH CROWNER OPENS AT THE WRIGHT RESTAURANT ON JANUARY 29

A new installation by American artist Sarah Crowner will open at The Wright restaurant, located in the landmark Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, on January 29. Commissioned specifically for The Wright by the Guggenheim, the project consists of four works that will enter the museum’s permanent collection. The project is the second in a series of interventions in the restaurant that the museum opened in 2009 with an installation by Liam Gillick, with the intention of activating this social space as a platform for creative production.

Sarah Crowner physically dissects and reshapes the legacy of modernism in works that at first appear to be geometric paintings but are in fact meticulously sewn canvas collages. Informed by the interdisciplinary practices of earlier visual artists who engaged the applied arts, poetry, theater, and dance, she merges the rarified tradition of abstraction with techniques and materials common to decor and craft. Crowner is also interested in a painting’s potential to function as an environment or performative setting rather than a discrete object on a wall, frequently juxtaposing her canvas works with interventions to the floors and walls of a gallery.

Crowner’s installation for The Wright restaurant directly immerses the viewer in a dynamic composition. A curving backdrop formed from stitched, painted canvas is suspended along one of the walls. In line with the artist’s focus on reviving overlooked currents of 20th-century abstraction, this work splices and repeats motifs from a woven tapestry that Swedish artist Lennart Rodhe (1916–2005) created in 1961 for the sumptuous Operakällaren restaurant in Stockholm. Handmade terracotta tiles with white, blue, and yellow glazes comprise three additional works that complete the overall interplay of color, line, and pattern. Utilizing the architectural elements of a functional, inherently social space, Crowner expands the notion of what constitutes a painting and considers how the surrounding human activity might alter the experience of her work, and vice versa.

This presentation is organized by Katherine Brinson, Curator, Contemporary Art, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, and Ari Wiseman, Deputy Director, Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation.

Crowner’s installation in The Wright was made possible through the annual support of the Guggenheim’s International Director’s Council (IDC), as well as generous additional support provided by Mr. and Mrs. J. Tomilson Hill. Founded in 1995, the IDC is devoted to expanding and strengthening the museum’s contemporary collection in all mediums. The group is comprised of art collectors from around the world who share a commitment to the museum’s mission, which includes acquiring and preserving a collection that reflects the most important aesthetic achievements of 20th- and 21st-century visual culture.

Artist News

Installation view, Mateo López: Undo List, The Drawing Center, New York, 2017

Mateo López’s first solo U.S. Museum show is now open at The Drawing Center, New York

January 20 – March 19, 2017

Mateo López: Undo List is a multidisciplinary installation that will be the Colombian artist’s first solo museum exhibition in the United States and that will feature works on paper, sculpture, performance, and projected film. Trained as an architect in his native Bogotá, López has long used drawing as a conceptual tool to cross disciplines and aesthetic categories. Drawing is more than an artistic medium for López; it is a way of conceiving and indeed inhabiting the world. Simple drawn constructions that can be manipulated in various ways; trompe l’oeil paper renderings of two and three dimensional objects (for example, near-exact replicas of lined sheets of paper); drawings made out of the leftovers produced by cutting into other works—these are just some of the devices López uses to reveal that, as he says himself, just as everything manufactured was at one point a drawing, so too, “an image is not flat; it is an atmosphere, it contains time and space.”
Organized by Claire Gilman, Senior Curator
Mateo López: Undo List is made possible by the support of the Rolex Institute, Estrellita Brodsky, Ana Sokoloff, and Ann and Marshall Webb. Additional support is provided by the Embassy of Colombia in the United States through the Promotion Plan of Colombia Abroad of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Colombia.

 

In tandem with Mateo López: Undo List, The Drawing Center will host a series of performances the following Thursdays:
January 26, February 2, March 2, and March 16: performance with dancer and choreographer Lee Serle.

Artist News

Sarah Crowner’s Monograph is now on sale through MASS MoCA

Known for colorful and boldly graphic paintings made of sewn canvas, as well as patterned tile structures that transform architecture into painting (and vice versa), Sarah Crowner works in a variety of media spanning the divide between the fine and applied arts.

An interview with Crowner accompanies essays discussing her practice and her exhibition at MASS MoCA (on view through February 12th 2017). With a vibrant design that echoes Crowner’s sensibility, this book – the first monograph on the artist – examines Crowner’s inclusive yet singular vision.

 

Click HERE to purchase

Artist News

Kevin Beasley, Untitled (hollow), 2016, Resin, housedresses, kaftans
80 x 73 x 36". Photo: Jean Vong

Artist’s Eye: Kevin Beasley in conversation on Beverly Buchanan at the Brooklyn Museum

Saturday, January 14, 2017

3:00–4:00 p.m.

Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art, 4th Floor

 

This series of intimate, in-gallery talks by contemporary artists illuminates our special exhibitions with fresh and alternative perspectives. Kevin Beasley responds to Buchanan’s work in the exhibition Beverly Buchanan—Ruins and Rituals.

 

Free with Museum admission.

Uncategorized

Installation view, Simon Starling: At Twilight (After W.B. Yeats' Noh Reincarnation), Japan Society, New York , 2016-2017. Photo: Richard Goodbody, Courtesy the artist and Japan Society, New York

Simon Starling: At Twilight at the Japan Society, New York closes this Sunday, January 15

 Japan Society Gallery hosts the solo institutional debut in New York City of Turner Prize-winning artist Simon Starling with his major new installation, Simon Starling: At Twilight (After W. B. Yeats’ Noh Reincarnation) this fall. On view from October 14, 2016 through January 15, 2017, the ambitious, new multimedia production by Starling, commissioned and premiered by The Common Guild, Glasgow in the summer of 2016, incorporates major Western Modernist as well as classical Japanese artworks, juxtaposing Japan’s traditional, centuries-old and highly ritualize masked, dramatic theater (“noh”) and its influence on the avant garde.

In conceptualizing At Twilight, Starling looked back to the early 20th century and W.B. Yeats’ dance play At the Hawk’s Well for inspiration. Yeats, who never traveled to Japan but was greatly inspired by Japanese noh, wrote the play alongside American poet Ezra Pound, who was an early translator of noh plays into English. First staged in 1916 in London, At the Hawk’s Well helped spark interest in noh and Japanese culture among Western audiences. At Twilight commemorates the centennial of the original performance and weaves together Starling’s research of classical and Modernist artworks with his own contemporary pieces to explore the impact of traditional Japanse art on the 20th-century Western avant grade. At Twilight reimagines Japan Society’s galleries as an immersive theatrical environment for visitors, including a “forest” of new masks and costumes by Starling (in collaboration with master mask makers Yasuo Michii and costume designer Kumi Sakurai); a video reenactment of the climactic Hawk’s Dance from Yeats’ play (choreographed by Javier de Frutos and Scottish Ballet); and archival materials that Starling used as research displayed alongside masterpieces of early 20th-century Modernism. The installation brings to life the surprising personal and professional interconnections that Starling discovered through his research. Key figures who collaborated with Yeats on the 1916 production are represented as noh masks, including Pound, Nancy Cunard, Michio Ito (the Japanese dancer who played the Hawk in the original 1916 performance) and Yeats himself. By incoporating these notables through newly crafted noh masks, modeled after artworks by Constantin Brancusi, Jacob Epstein and Isamu Noguchi, Starling reveals the multiple sources of inspiration in the arts around WWI. One of the exhibition’s highlights is a mask representing Cunard, based on a 1928 abstract sculpted portrait of her by Brancusi.

Simon Starling: At Twilight includes important loans from The Museum of Modern Art (New York), The Noguchi Museum (New York), the Ruth and Elmer Wellin Museum of Art at Hamilton College (Clinton, New York), and the Estate of Constantin Brancusi. At Twilight is organized by Japan Society in collaboration with The Common Guild, Glasgow, Scotland. In conjunction with the exhibition, a new catalogue is being co-published by the Japan Society, New York; The Common Guild, Glasgow; and Dent-de-Leone, London—and is available beginning October 14. The 80-page hardcover book and full color tabloid includes reproductions of Starling’s new works and installation views, with texts by the artist, Yukie Kamiya (Director, Japan Society Gallery) and Katrina Brown (Director, The Common Guild). The artist’s solo exhibition at Casey Kaplan is scheduled to open on February 16, 2017.

 

SIMON STARLING: AT TWILIGHT REVIEWED BY JASON FARAGO IN THE NEW YORK TIMES

Artist News

N. Dash, Untitled, 2016, Adobe, oil, pigment, acrylic, gesso, string, linen, jute, wood support, 91 x 90 x 3.3". Photo: Jean Vong

N. DASH JOINS THE GUGGENHEIM COLLECTION

Artist News

Jordan Casteel, Jared, 2016

CASEY KAPLAN NOW REPRESENTS JORDAN CASTEEL

Jordan Casteel (b. 1989, Denver, CO) received her BA from Agnes Scott College, Decatur, GA for Studio Art (2011) and her MFA in Painting and Printmaking from Yale School of Art, New Haven, CT (2014). Using her own photographs as a source, Casteel paints intimate portraits primarily of African American men in domestic environments and in street scenes. Casteel’s subjects are known to her, whether familial, from her local community or newly acquainted through the process of sitting for a photograph (such as “Glass Man Michael” who has a sidewalk shop on 125th street outside Casteel’s former studio at the Studio Museum in Harlem). With vivid tones, shadowy contours and swift, gestural brushwork, texture merges with color in compositions that remain fluid between figure, object and background. Though staged and sourced from reality, Casteel’s proportional and perspectival deviations cast her subjects in indicative surroundings that are treated with similar degrees of deference. Authentic in her representations, Casteel is astute in communicating temperamental identities through facial expressions, the subtle placement of hands, and informal stances. With frontal positioning and direct eye contact, the larger than life-size portraits level the playing field between subject and viewer.

Jordan Casteel has participated in artist-in-residence programs at Yaddo, Saratoga Springs, NY (2015); Lower Manhattan Cultural Council Process Space, Governors Island, NY (2015); The Studio Museum in Harlem, New York, NY (2015); and is currently an awardee for The Sharpe-Walentas Studio Program, DUMBO, NY (2016). The artist has recently participated in exhibitions at venues such as Diggs Gallery, Winston-Salem State University, North Carolina (2016); James Cohan, New York (2016); HOME, Manchester (2016); Vicki Myhren Gallery, University of Denver School of Art, CO (2016); Gund Gallery Gambier, Kenyon College, OH (2015); and Sargent’s Daughters, New York (2015) (solo). From 2015 to 2016, Casteel’s work has been featured in publications such as Artforum, New York Times, Flash Art, New York Magazine, FADER, Time Out New York, The New York Observer, Interview, and Elle Magazine. On January 28, 2017, Casteel will present a solo exhibition titled Harlem Notes at the Harvey B. Gantt Center, Charlotte, NC. Her inaugural exhibition with Casey Kaplan in New York is scheduled for September 7, 2017. Casteel is an Assistant Professor at Rutgers University-Newark. She lives and works in New York.

Artist News

Installation view, Trisha Donnelly, Serralves Villa, Porto, from June 30 to September 10, 2016, Photo: Filipe Braga, Courtesy the artist and Fundação de Serralves, Porto.

TRISHA DONNELLY AWARDED 2017 WOLFGANG HAHN PRIZE

 

MUSEUM LUDWIG, COLOGNE

Award ceremony: Monday, April 24, 2017, 6:30 p.m.

Exhibition: April 25 – July 30, 2017

The Gesellschaft für Moderne Kunst am Museum Ludwig will present the 2017 Wolfgang Hahn Prize to Trisha Donnelly. With this prize, which has been awarded annually over the past twenty-three years, the organization will recognize the extraordinary oeuvre of this artist, who was born in 1974 in San Francisco and now lives in New York.

The prize includes the acquisition of a work or a group of works by the artist for the collection of the Museum Ludwig. An exhibition of Trisha Donnelly’s work will also take place at the museum, and a catalogue will be published to commemorate the award.

The jury for the 2017 Wolfgang Hahn Prize included this year’s guest juror Suzanne Cotter, director of the Serralves Museum of contemporary art in Porto; Yilmaz Dziewior, director of the Museum Ludwig; Mayen Beckmann, chairwoman of the Gesellschaft für Moderne Kunst; as well as Gabriele Bierbaum, Sabine DuMont Schütte, Jörg Engels, and Robert Müller-Grünow as board members of the Gesellschaft für Moderne Kunst.

Mayen Beckmann, chairwoman of the Gesellschaft für Moderne Kunst, offered the following statement on the selection of the artist: “The jury was enthusiastic about Trisha Donnelly’s diverse work, which resists interpretation. With sculptures, drawings, performances, films, and photographs, she creates works that lead us as viewers into entirely different spheres of perception. Her consistency and radical approach to questions of aesthetics or reception were an important reason for honoring Trisha Donnelly with the Wolfgang Hahn Prize. This is very much in keeping with the spirit of Wolfgang Hahn, who saw the connection between life and art in the avant-garde.”

Suzanne Cotter, director of the Serralves Museum of contemporary art in Porto: “The Wolfgang-Hahn Prize is one of the most inspiring awards for contemporary artists of its kind, and it is with enormous pleasure that the prize this year goes to Trisha Donnelly. Trisha Donnelly is without doubt one of the most compelling artists of our time whose work offers entirely new ways of experiencing and thinking about form, at once synaesthesic and disruptively transporting. As an artist she occupies a position of committed resistance to the easy appropriation of art as something contained and ultimately controllable. At the same time, the extraordinary generosity of her work, that touches on the visual – in particular the photographic – , the spoken, the aural and the physical, is electrifying in its permission”

Yilmaz Dziewior, director of the Museum Ludwig: “For us as an institution whose mission is to collect contemporary art, the presentation of the prize to Trisha Donnelly is excellent news. I have followed Trisha’s work closely for years; she brings the problem that artists have long worked on— namely, what the very concept of an artwork means—into the future. Her independence and resistance to all forms of appropriation are essential elements of her work, as is her ability to adjust to the specific exhibition venue and context, only to overturn everything, to dispense with any context of meaning, and to directly appeal to the viewer. The Wolfgang Hahn Prize thus once again sets new standards by recognizing an extraordinary and pioneering artist.”

Art Fairs, Artist News, Gallery News

Matthew Brannon, War Correspondent, Saigon 1967, 2016, Photo: Pierre Le Hors

CASEY KAPLAN AT ART BASEL MIAMI BEACH

STAND J4

DECEMBER 1 – 4
PREVIEW: NOVEMBER 30

EXHIBITING ARTISTS:
KEVIN BEASLEY, MATTHEW BRANNON, SARAH CROWNER, N. DASH, TRISHA DONNELLY, HARIS EPAMINONDA, JONATHAN GARDNER, LIAM GILLICK, GIORGIO GRIFFA, BRIAN JUNGEN, MATEO LÓPEZ, DIEGO PERRONE, HUGH SCOTT-DOUGLAS, SIMON STARLING AND GARTH WEISER

Artist News

Nathan Carter, Two Absolutely Fabulous Flying Machine Pilots aviating and navigating the DRAMASTICS band thru Turbulent skies. If there's one thing they know how to do its fly high on dihydrochloridebenzelex (detail). Photo: Kelly Shroads Photography.

Nathan Carter and MCA Denver present: A Three Day Dramastics Blowout

NOVEMBER 17-19, 2016

MCA DENVER

NOVEMBER 17: ARTIST TALK + FILM SCREENING

7PM, BUY TICKETS HERE

Artist Nathan Carter talks about his work and the inspiration behind his exhibition, Ladies and Gentlemen, Meet the Dramastics, plus a screening of the short film, The Dramastics Are Loud AF. With MCA Denver’s Director and Chief Animator, Adam Lerner.

NOVEMBER 18: LOUD AF DINNER PARTY

8PM, SOLD OUT

A late night, Loud AF Dinner Party hosted by Nathan Carter, with a menu from Chef Jamey Fader of Jax and Lola.

Plus a surprise performance by secret guests. Tickets include dinner, drinks and dessert. Plus a screening of the short film, The Dramastics Are Loud AF.

NOVEMBER 19: DRAMASTICS DANCE SPECTACULAR (a dance party)

8PM – 1AM, BUY TICKETS HERE

Dance party with DJ Mike Disco, to take place in Carter’s gallery, featuring a special performance of The Dramastics Are Loud AF soundtrack, in addition to multiple bars, and access to the museum after hours.

Artist News

Simon Starling, Pictures for an Exhibition, 2013-2014 (detail), Two gelatin silver prints, 23.6 x 18.9" / 60 x 48cm each, Framed: 45.3 x 35.4" / 115 x 90cm each

Simon Starling: Collection Works at the Rennie Collection, Vancouver

November 18, 2016 – March 25, 2017

The intricate work of British artist Simon Starling is the subject of the latest exhibition held at Rennie Museum. This marks the first time the Turner Prize recipient has held a solo exhibition in the West Coast since 2002. Starling’s practice explores meditations on fundamental ideas about sculpture, mass, and material, an exercise that stimulates alternative views of our modern world. His multilayered, multimedia works at the historic Wing Sang building will map a complex network of spatial and temporal journeys that dislocate the museum-goer.

Included in the exhibition is Project for a Masquerade (Hiroshima) (2010), a complex trajectory of overlapping narratives interconnecting art, literature, and theatre to spotlight the machinations of history. The work presents itself as a performance of a traditional Japanese Noh play that masterfully entwines Eboshi-Ori, the 16th Century Japanese tale of personal reinvention, with the rhyming saga that surrounds Henry Moore’s dichotomous sculpture, Atom Piece. Starling works with Yasuo Miichi, a Noh mask maker, to create a set of 8 masks for the reimagined cast of Eboshi-Ori. The masks float disembodied within a constructed “mirror room”, a heavily ritualized space adjacent to the stage where Noh performers assume their characters’ identities. Instead of a stage, the viewer is presented with a multifaceted film made up of visuals of the mask-making process alongside a web of disjointed auditory narratives. The polymorphic elements all follow a predefined path orbiting the idea of reinvention. Starling’s modern rendition reveals the multiple meanings embedded in an object, in this instance a Henry Moore sculpture, opening it up to infinite meanings to come.

In the more recent Pictures for an Exhibition (2013-2014), 36 silver gelatin prints are dispersed around the museum wall. A culmination of the artist’s extensive travels across the US and Europe, the photographs showcase the fates of 19 Constantin Brancusi sculptures first shown at the Arts Club of Chicago in 1927 as well as the anecdotes of provenance the artist collected along the way. Coupled with two vitrines containing accompanying miscellanea, the work charts a network around ownership and power, loss, and transaction.

Elsewhere, Starling’s works ruminate on material transformations through the re-use and recycling of existing forms, materials, and images. One Ton, II(2005) can be viewed as variations on a single motif, a microcosm made up simultaneously of a stratified geological deposit, a sculpture, and a photograph. A series of five platinum photographs depict an open air platinum mine in Potgietersrus, South Africa, whose ore contents determine the production, size and the quantity of the exhibited prints. A keepsake of Potgietersrus, the work exists as a sculptural attestation to the energy consumption embedded within mining. The translucent surface of the handmade prints is juxtaposed with the brutality of the labour implicit in their engineering.

Three White Desks (2008-2009) takes a sidebar story from art history to investigate the system of connections between electronic data and actual matter. A framed photo of a Francis Bacon desk is resuscitated through a trio of desks of similar size and shape, with each consecutive desk replicated via an increasingly compressed electronic image of its predecessor. Presented akin to a sculpture, the desks greet viewers atop their travel crates instead of plinths. Their similarities and differences in estimations bear testament of their genealogical roots, with the differences commenting on the principle of generational loss and the fragility of reception.

Simon Starling’s (British, b. 1967) work has been the subject of solo and group exhibitions throughout the world, including the Whitney Museum of Modern Art, New York; ZKM, Karlsruhe; Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; Kunsthal Charlottenborg, Copenhagen; Hiroshima City Museum of Contemporary Art, Hiroshima; Mario Merz Foundation, Turin; The Power Plant, Toronto; Fundació Joan Miró, Barcelona; Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney; the Hammer Museum at UCLA, Los Angeles; and the 53rd Venice Biennale. He is the recipient of the 2005 Turner Prize and the 1999 Blinky Palermo Prize. He lives and works in Copenhagen.

Artist News

LIAM GILLICK IS PARTICIPATING IN THE AVANT MUSEOLOGY SYMPOSIUM AT BROOKLYN MUSEUM THIS FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 11

Avant Museology Symposium

November 11, 2016

6:00–9:00 p.m.

@ 7 pm – Liam Gillick, Anne Pasternak, and Nancy Spector

Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Auditorium, 3rd Floor

 

This event is now at capacity, but you can be placed on our waitlist. View the program details. Watch this event on Livestream.

Taking its cue from e-flux’s recently published Avant-Garde Museology (distributed by the University of Minnesota Press), this two-day symposium, being held November 11 and 12, addresses the memory machine of the contemporary museum and its relationship to the current artistic practices, sociopolitical contexts, and theoretical legacies that shape and animate it. It asks the question: Can contemporary museology be invested with the energy of the visionary political projects contained in the works it circulates and remembers?

 

Speakers include:

Bruce Altshuler, Director, Program in Museum Studies, New York University

Lynne Cooke, Senior Curator for Special Projects in Modern Art, National Gallery, Washington, D.C.

Kimberly Drew (a.k.a. @museummammy), curator and blogger, New York

Liam Gillick, artist, New York

Boris Groys, Global Distinguished Professor of Russian and Slavic Studies, New York University, and Senior Research Fellow, Karlsruhe University of Arts and Design

Juliana Huxtable, artist and DJ, New York

Fionn Meade, Artistic Director, Walker Art Center, Minneapolis

Molly Nesbit, Professor of Art History, Department of Art, Vassar College, and contributing editor of Artforum, New York

Hans Ulrich Obrist, Artistic Director, Serpentine Galleries, London

Anne Pasternak, Director, Brooklyn Museum

Nikolay Punin, art theoretician (1888–1953), Russia

Irene V. Small, Assistant Professor of Modern and Contemporary Art and Criticism, Department of Art & Archaeology, Princeton University

Nancy Spector, Deputy Director and Chief Curator, Brooklyn Museum

Anton Vidokle, artist and editor of e-flux journal, New York

Fred Wilson, artist, New York

Arseny Zhilyaev, artist, Moscow

 

The museum of contemporary art might well be the most advanced recording device ever invented: a place for the storage of historical grievances and the memory of forgotten artistic experiments, social projects, or errant futures. But in late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century Russia, this recording device was used by a number of artists and thinkers as a site for experimentation. Edited by Arseny Zhilyaev, Avant-Garde Museology documents the progressivism of the period, with texts by Aleksandr Bogdanov, Nikolai Fedorov, Kazimir Malevich, Andrey Platonov, Aleksandr Rodchenko, and many others—several of which are translated into English for the first time.

At the center of much of this thought and production is a shared belief in the capacity of art, museums, and public exhibitions to produce an entirely new subject: a better, more evolved human being. And yet, though the early decades of twentieth-century Russia have been firmly registered in today’s art history as a time of radical social and artistic change, the period’s uncompromising and often absurd ideas in Avant-Garde Museology appear alien to a contemporary art history that explains suprematism and constructivism in terms of formal abstraction. In fact, these works were part of a far larger project to absolutely instrumentalize art and its rational capacities and apply its forms and spaces to a project of uncompromising progressivism—a total transformation of life by all possible means, whether by designing architecture for life in outer space, developing artistic technology for the resurrection of the dead, or evolving new sensory organs for our bodies.

Today, it is hard to deny the similarity between the bourgeois museum and the contemporary liberal dogmas of open-ended contemplation and abstract self-realization that have guided curatorial and museum culture since the dismantling of the Soviet Union in the 1990s. This symposium will investigate the social and artistic decisions of a critical period of left politics as well as contemporary museological culture. In shedding this light, an explicit question suddenly emerges: Under a regime in which social experiments and upheavals become abstract formal gestures, what has the political application of historical memory become?

Avant Museology at the Brooklyn Museum is the first part of a two-city symposium exploring the practices and sociopolitical implications of contemporary museology. Developed by e-flux in collaboration with the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, the symposium culminates in a two-day program at the Walker Art Center on November 20 and 21.

Artist News

Matthew Brannon, After the War, 2016, Silkscreen and hand painted elements on paper, 58 x 40.25",
Framed: 62.5 x 44.75", Photo: Dawn Blackman

Matthew Brannon in Frieze Magazine November/December issue

Matthew Brannon Goes to War

BY GEORGE PENDLE

There’s a copy of the New York Times on a table in Matthew Brannon’s studio. It’s folded open to a story about Barack Obama visiting Laos, the first US president to do so. ‘Did you know more bombs were dropped on Laos than on any country in history?’ Brannon asks. ‘And yet Americans know so little about it.’

Brannon has recently come to know a lot about it. A huge amount, in fact. And he continues to learn more each day, since he’s in the midst of a seemingly boundless project that focuses on the Vietnam War. ‘Concerning Vietnam’ has seen him interview suspicious veterans, visit obscure mid-western artillery museums, dig through reams of declassified documents and devour innumerable books and essays on the subject. Over the past year, this obsession has poured out into his artworks.

It all appears to be a radical departure from the work for which Brannon is best known: elegant, mid-century-modern-style screen prints, often of luxury consumer items, which are undercut and transfigured by disquietingly acerbic captions. The precise and playful maliciousness of these works, their economy of style and structure, seems quite at odds with tackling a subject of such grim seriousness and hydra-headed complexity as the conflict in Vietnam. So, why has Brannon gone to war?

‘It wasn’t that I chose Vietnam as a subject,’ says the artist. ‘In fact, when I first became interested, the last thing I thought I was going to do was make an art project out of it.’ Brannon found himself being drawn to the topic when his wife was diagnosed with cancer. Her chemotherapy and radiation treatments saw him shuttling between hospitals and home. As his art practice went into deep freeze, he began reading about Vietnam – for reasons he can’t quite explain – and, in the midst of his own personal trauma, he found distraction, fascination and ballast in the central trauma of the American 20th century.

‘When you’re reading about Vietnam, especially when you’re reading from the perspective of veterans, they always talk about the discord of being in this horrifically stressful, frightening, violent landscape and then the otherworldliness of being back in the US. And, in some way, I had a sympathy for that, spending most of my time in hospitals and then trying to work out what to do with my time when I was out of them.’ It wasn’t until he’d read thousands of pages, and his wife’s cancer had receded, that he decided to try and make art about it.

Concerning Vietnam; Oval Office November 1963 (Kennedy) (2016) shows a Bloody Mary cocktail sitting atop a book, copies of Life and Time magazine stacked neatly on top of each other, a green map, two telephones, a cigar, a large model sailing ship and various letters strewn around a teal backdrop. The disparate objects make it seem like a painting from Brannon’s past, but then you notice what it’s lacking: a caption. In the past, the artist’s captions acted as what he has called ‘an irritant’. The screen prints drew you in with their illustrative guile and the captions left you spluttering and re-assessing the images’ now-suspect beauty. Devoid of such guidance here, you are left to read the images yourself. Closer inspection reveals that one of the letters is from the US Secretary of Defense, Robert McNamara, announcing the conclusions of a recent trip to Vietnam. It speaks of ‘favourable military trends’ and ‘no possibility of a successful coup’. Yet the copy of Time on the desk, dated a month later, has ‘Military Coup in Vietnam’ splashed across the cover. Whoops. The book the cocktail rests on is about the climactic battle of the First Indochina War – a disastrous loss for France against the anti-colonial, communist Vietnamese – that had occurred ten years previously. It’s a warning being used as a coaster. Look closer at that cigar, too. The band around it tells you it’s Cuban, and now the back of your brain is patching together the narrative: this is taking place just one year after the Cuban Missile Crisis. One emergency has bled into another. It’s as if America has a death wish, and no amount of model boats are going to help. The objects – rendered flatly, without shadow, seemingly without any weight at all – are, in fact, freighted with real-world significance and Brannon is carefully curating them to explain the ensuing calamity. Here, the world is about to tip into disaster amidst bad intelligence, willful ignorance of the past and a collection  of sentimental tchotchkes.

‘Concerning Vietnam’ seems so sui generis that when I tried to think of similar ‘evidential’ projects – by which I mean the portrayal of items dense in real-world information – two very dissimilar examples came to mind. The first was Hans Haacke’s artworks from the 1970s and ’80s, tracking systems of influence and power by displaying financial records. The second was traditional still-life painting, in particular the table in Hans Holbein’s The Ambassadors (1533), with its collection of odd and obscure objects, none without import. If Brannon’s prints can be called still lifes then they run deep, plumbing the fathoms of research, intent on showing how the most calamitous event in American history since the Civil War can be explained in scraps of paper and desk toys. In the artist’s hands, every knick-knack becomes a memento mori.

‘I’ve always been somebody who looks back,’ says Brannon, ‘and, as a believer in psychoanalysis, I definitely don’t think that looking back is an unproductive strategy.’ The historical constraint of his project has, perversely, allowed him to flourish. Brannon’s colour palette has broadened, as have his screen prints. Some works consist of over 80 screens painstakingly layered on top of one another, the most complex work he’s ever done. Nor has the profundity of the subject matter dulled his wit: take the knowing equivocality of the title of the project, for instance. Nevertheless, the drollness of the past has transformed into a deeper comic resonance. The jibing non-sequiturs have been replaced by a narrative that is both more cogent and more bleakly comic. Lunch Meeting (2015) depicts a delicately sketched map of the Ho Chi Minh trail – the vital supply route for the North Vietnamese forces – pinned next to a sandwich order form for President Johnson and his cabinet. The artwork references the Tuesday lunches at which Johnson and McNamara would choose their bombing targets. Without even knowing this, however, the contrast between the trail’s complexity and the simple boxes of the order form suggest the discrepancy between the war’s actuality and the simplistic view of it taken in the chambers of power.

Or take Trying to Remember (August 2nd, 1964) (2016), a hand-drawn reconstruction of the USS Maddox, the destroyer which was said to have been attacked by three North Vietnamese torpedo boats in 1964, and thus gave America a reason to launch itself into the war. Here, however, it seems so placid, so innocent, ploughing dutifully through the waves into a disastrous future. ‘I wanted it to be like a doll’s house for old men,’ says Brannon, and it has that playful feeling to it – even though it was soon to start an inferno in the nursery that would set the rest of the house on fire.

Interestingly, however, we never see the flames, just the totems and amulets that portend disaster. Desks are the war zones here; violence is hidden beneath political euphemism, folded maps and coffee pots. Ordinarily, art related to the Vietnam War conjures images of polemic: the Art Workers’ Coalition poster And babies (1969), a brutal colour photograph of bodies left behind after the My Lai massacre, or Peter Saul’s hideously psychedelic ‘Vietnam’ series from the mid-to-late 1960s. Brannon’s project offers quite the opposite: it’s a strikingly bloodless autopsy. And, while parallels to the current misadventure in the Middle East can be easily drawn, Brannon seems keener on seeking understanding than outrage.

‘A number of people have said: “Oh, you’re making political art,” and I hesitate to use that word. I think, in its strictest sense, political art would hopefully influence elections, legislation, whereas this is much more a historian’s way of thinking about it.’ There is no doubt that this work demands a lot more from the viewer, too, than expressions of horror. To follow Brannon on his journey requires application and a certain amount of faith in the artist. This is not a role he takes lightly. ‘Previously, I was trying to make what I thought people wanted to see, to try and feed the machine. Or I was making something to ruin their day. But I’ve lost that in this work. It’s a different kind of responsibility.’

Brannon has ambitions that his work could move outside the conventional contemporary art venues, and that he could rope journalists, historians and other artists into interacting with it. He is already planning a text counterpoint to his pictures. A deft and erudite writer, he has begun a series of essays with titles such as ‘Michael Herr Doesn’t Want to Talk about Vietnam’, ‘A Short History of Napalm’ and ‘Lunch with Lyndon (Tuesdays 1965–68)’. Lectures, sculptures and films will all soon follow. His project could become as diffuse as the Vietnam conflict itself, causing conflagrations far beyond the art world. Brannon chooses to embrace this gargantuanism: ‘I’ve made these bold claims saying it’s a five-year project, a ten-year project, just because in the art world somebody makes a suite of paintings and, after they show it, it’s like: “That’s that.” I really want to be clear with everyone that that’s not the case here.’

Matthew Brannon is an artist based in New York, USA. Brannon has presented solo exhibitions at venues including Casey Kaplan, New York (2015); Marino Marini Museum, Florence, Italy (2013); and Portikus, Frankfurt, Germany (2011). His most recent novel, An Irresponsible Biography of the Actor Laurence Harvey (2014), was published by Onestar Press, Paris. The artist’s solo show, ‘Vulture’, is at Hiromi Yoshii, Tokyo, Japan, until 5 November; in autumn 2017, he will have a solo show at David Kordansky Gallery, Los Angeles, USA.

Artist News

Simon Starling in collaboration with Graham Eatough, At Twilight: A play for two actors, three musicians, one dancer, eight masks (and a donkey costume), 2016, performance, Holmwood House, Glasgow. Performers: Adam Clifford and Stephen Clyde; musicians: Joshua Abrams and Natural Information Society; commissioned by The Common Guild in collaboration with the Japan Society, New York. Courtesy: the artist and The Modern Institute, Andrew Hamilton/Toby Webster Ltd, Glasgow; photographs: by Alan Dimmick

Simon Starling in Frieze Magazine’s November/December issue

LIVE: SIMON STARLING

By Chris Sharratt

Holmwood House, Glasgow, UK

‘Knowing too much can stifle creativity – a little knowledge is perhaps more potent.’ In a video on the Common Guild’s website, Simon Starling discusses the genesis of At Twilight: A play for two actors, three musicians, eight masks (and a donkey costume) in W.B. Yeats’s interest in Japanese ‘Noh’ – an ancient form of traditional Japanese dance theatre that was the inspiration for the Irish poet’s short play At The Hawk’s Well (1916). While the comment is in relation to Yeats’s creative process, it could just as easily be applied to Starling’s own play. This re-imagining/remix of Yeats’s mythical production uses the original as a lens with which to focus on a pivotal moment in history, drawing a little from each of the many academic and literary texts that were the source material for its script and staging.

First presented in 1916, At The Hawk’s Well was the result of a fortuitous meeting of minds. Introduced to Noh by Ezra Pound – who from 1913–16 was Yeats’s secretary and lived with him at Stone Cottage in Ashdown Forest, Sussex – it was the arrival in London of Japanese dancer Michio Ito¯ that provided the knowledge and skills to realize the performance. Ito¯ performed the play’s signature dance as the ‘Guardian of the Well’, wearing a patterned hawk costume designed by the illustrator Edmund Dulac – choreographed here by the Venezuelan dancer Javier De Frutos, with the recorded performance projected onto the back of the stage.

All images: Simon Starling in collaboration with Graham Eatough, At Twilight: A play for two actors, three musicians, one dancer, eight masks (and a donkey costume), 2016, performance, Holmwood House, Glasgow. Performers: Adam Clifford and Stephen Clyde; musicians: Joshua Abrams and Natural Information Society; commissioned by The Common Guild in collaboration with the Japan Society, New York. Courtesy: the artist and The Modern Institute, Andrew Hamilton/Toby Webster Ltd, Glasgow; photographs: by Alan Dimmick

Yeats’s play tells of a young Irish warrior, Cuchulain, and his search for immortality at a magic well, taking this hero of Irish folklore and imbuing his story with Japanese theatrical tradition. A hundred years after its first staging, At Twilight … incorporates sections of this theatrical curiosity while providing a window onto a ‘twilight moment’ in history. In 1916, Europe was on the verge of major change and the realities of war were violently encroaching on the art movements of the time, in particular the modernist vision of human progress in the machine age. Yet, while that might suggest a rather downbeat, serious affair, it represents only half the story. There were dark moments in this clever and beautifully staged play, but At Twilight … was also gently funny, drawing much humour from the Yeats/Pound, mentor/mentee relationship and, in particular, Pound’s energetic attempts to coach Yeats, 20 years his senior, in the finer points of fencing.

Presented on the lawn of Alexander ‘Greek’ Thomson’s mid-19th-century Holmwood House in Glasgow’s south side, with the audience seated on cushions as daylight faded on a late summer’s evening, the combination of setting and staging made for a magical experience. With props and costumes ‘borrowed’ from Starling’s equally engaging ‘At Twilight’ exhibition at The Common Guild, the simple set consisted of nine charred, ‘blast tree’ sculptures either side of the small stage: a reference to the scarred battlefields of World War I. Their black branches were adorned with eight masks – a fundamental element of Noh theatre. These masks were the play’s key theatrical device, enabling the two actors – who, unmasked, introduced themselves as Starling and the play’s co-writer and director, Scottish theatre producer Graham Eatough – to step in and out of characters. More than this, the masks also acted as doorways to other people and stories that intersected the splintered narrative, with a particular focus on the short-lived vorticist movement.

The mask representing Pound, for instance, was based on a bust by the French sculptor Henri Gaudier-Brzeska, who was killed in the trenches in 1915. Other masks represented the head of Jacob Epstein’s brutally mechanistic Rock Drill(1913–15) – an embodiment of male aggression that Epstein dismantled in 1916. (‘Violence was no longer an impulse to be celebrated,’ concludes ‘Starling’ in the play.) The wealthy socialite and patron of the arts Nancy Cunard – who hosted the first performance of At The Hawk’s Well at her London residence and with whom Pound had an affair – was represented by a mask based on Constantin Brâncus¸i’s beautifully abstract sculpture, Portrait of Nancy Cunard (1925–27).

As all these references suggest, this was a historically rich production – as much theatrical lecture as play. (The inclusion of a blast tree lectern emphasized this point.) Densely packed with factual asides culled from letters, history books and biographies, it nevertheless possessed a delightfully light touch thanks to its sprightly pace and the weirdly propulsive, Noh-style acoustic soundtrack provided by Joshua Abrams and Natural Information Society. And the donkey costume of the play’s title? A glumly grey Eeyore of Winnie-the-Pooh fame, which the actors appeared from at the start and got back into at the end. A.A. Milne, we were told, based Pooh’s Hundred Acre Wood on Ashdown Forest and, when Yeats and Pound were dabbling in Japanese theatre, Milne was writing war propaganda for the British government. A little bit of information that brought another layer of intrigue and entertainment to this exploration of the half-light before the dark.

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