During Frieze London ONEROOM exhibits a precious selection of modern masterpieces.
Distributed along the four floors of the Victorian warehouse which constitutes the venue, the modern artworks establish a dialogue with ancient paintings and carpets as well as modern design rarity.
Artworks on display by Thomas Ruff, Marina Abramovic, Ugo Mulas, William Kentridge, Haim Steinbach, Hendrik Krawen, Vanessa Beecroft.
THOMAS RUFF Cassini 31, 2009
C-print 106,5x108,5 cm, Edition of 6
While Ruff’s approach and hence his explanation regarding his interest in astrophysics are no different to those evident in other series produced by him over the past quarter of a century, there is something in the sky, in the interstellar space, that seems to have fascinated him from a very early date. Photography has key in encouraging the exploration of the universe because the only possibility of overcoming the interstellar distances is in using optical tools. However, in a Pop universe even the most sophisticated science exists through its Pop dimension, which has furnished all our everyday horizons with a repertoire of fascinating images obtained from leafing through any newspaper or magazine, from the television at home or via the internet. In this sense the stars, the planets and the simple act of gazing at the cloudless night sky has opened up a new way of seeing and one that involves a certain emotional intensity, thus introducing us into the realm of art. The series Cassini could be referred to the Romantic obsession with vertical travel, traversing the earth’s surface from both above and below. It is a nocturnal journey or vol de nuit. Ruff makes typical use of previously elaborated graphic material for this explanation in the form of the vast archive of photographs taken by space observatories and their formidable visual tentacles, telescopes and probes. NASA website has an archive of black and white images of Mars. The photographs were taken with the HiRISE system (High Resolution Imaging Science Experience), which has been developed since 2006 by the University of Arizona. The artist was fascinated by the high-definition image of the planet, through which every minimum variation on its surface can be seen despite the distance. Ruff has thus not only had to analyze and select specific images, but also reworked them, endowing the photographs with a different meaning to that of their normal scientific function.
MARINA ABRAMOVIC Balkan Erotic Epic: Banging the Skull, 2005
Framed chromogenic print 104x104 cm, Edition of 7
The conflict in the Balkans during the second half of the 1990s touched Marina Abramovic deeply, bringing her back to her Serbian and Montenegrin origins, inspiring her art to become more evocative and symbolic.
The theme of energy is a primary focus in her work. This work is still different in respect to her previous works. The fertility rites of the Serbian peasants offer themselves to the falling rain. Since ancient times, the Balkan culture used the female and male sexual organs as tools against illnesses and the evil forces of nature. The purpose of these ceremonies was to remove the threat of destruction that a bad storm would have on crops. Through acts, Marina Abramovic’s concerns the sacred and mystic. It gives eroticism a role in the harmonious composition of the cosmos, because the body becomes the means by which rain becomes fertile and acquires meaning upon contact with the earth.
Through an act of imitating magic, it tries to drive away the threat, making its body in consonance with the primordial and erotic force that holds the universe. The images of this work can seem, for the nudity exists, intollerable to our modern and western sensibilities, but they are widely redeemed for the innocence and spontaneity that comes to them from a lost, primitive and pagan world. They reveal the primodial and archiac aspects that are buried deep within our conscience. Her work discovers the mistical quality of the body in its nudity, throwing a light on all her previous works.
UGO MULAS Sala di Michelangelo Pistoletto, Vitalità del Negativo, Roma, 1970
Pigment inkjet print on cotton fine-art paper 63x58x4 cm, Edition of 7
UGO MULAS Villa Panza di Biumo, opera di Claes Oldenburg, Varese, 1966
Pigment inkjet print on cotton fine-art paper 63x58x4 cm, Edition of 7
Ugo Mulas is a great example of contemporary art practice. In the middle of 20th Century, the works of Ugo Mulas comes along with the changes in the international artistic context, which moved his centre from the old continent to the new. In 1964 after meeting the new art protagonists at Venice Biennale, Mulas decided to move overseas and set up a photographic archive of the contemporary art practice in New York. He decided to create an archive in which were photographed the contemporary artworks in New York. This was really important for its historical and aesthetic value, the result of an interesting thought on the photography itself.
Marcel Duchamp, Lucio Fontana, Michelangelo Pistoletto and Roy Lichtenstein were just some of the artists that opened their studies to Mulas and they were some of the select few that satisfied his curiosity about the creative process. Mulas photographed the artists while they were working. Far from limiting himself to a particular style of portrait, he adapted the photographic style to each artist. Mulas doesn’t focus solely on the final picture, but also on the reasons behind its origins, its process and the later opportunity it presents through its different uses.
“When I photograph artists, I often try to go beyond the usual portrait, or the nice portrait, because I'm interested in clarifying and suggesting the connection between the artist and their final works”.
(Ugo Mulas, “La Fotografia”, Torino: Giulio Einaudi Editore, 1973).
VANESSA BEECROFT VBSS.006.MP , 2006
Digital c-print 76x59 cm, Edition of 10
The works of Vanessa Beecroft combine beauty and suffering, the aesthetic rendering of reality and an obsession with perfection. As the art critic Roberta Smith writes, the works of Vanessa Beecroft put us in front of an idea of beauty that becomes reality: “real time, real space, real flesh”. It’s the conflict between trying to achieve an ideal, the illusion of an order, at least as a point of reference, and its ineluctable fall. But the work with the black women has different references.
As Beecroft said, she read Pasolini when she was a teenage student in Italy and watched some of his early movies and documentaries. I was moved by his classical realism, the use of characters from the street who maintain their everyday appearance while being transported into a symbolic dimension. That is dialectical, and it redefines notions that we have of history, religion, myth, and the people in the street creating an image that is apparently neorealist, but charged by a destabilizing power. It demystifies history, religion, and class without sarcasm or criticism; it humanizes what is usually presented to us as inhuman. There is empathy in his work, sometimes paternalism. The Gospel According to St. Matthew is told in a believable way. Christ is a driven young man who doesn’t stop talking and having visions. He doesn’t have blonde hair or blue eyes. The whole picture is formal and aesthetic: it looks as if it belongs to the classical Italian painting tradition. The characters don’t speak much; they are portraits. The form that Pasolini used to communicate was complex, and it was revolutionary in content.
In 2005, Beecroft followed a strong impulse to go to the Sudan, after reading in the New York Times that there was a genocide, and connecting with it. She took a cameraman and a photographer with her on a trip to a Catholic mission in southern Sudan. She began documenting southern Sudan (not Darfur) and continued until 2007. as recently taken a turn to imagery based on travels in the southern Sudan. The series includes classically-composed photographs of a Sudanese Christ and enthroned Madonnas, as well as a self-portrait as a Madonna nursing orphaned African infants. Upon my arrival in the country, the first day, Beecroft was brought to three newborns who had no mother, and since she carried mother’s milk for my own child, she nursed them for several days. That act established a profound bond with that country, and in her mind, it justified my going there.
The Madonnas and Christ in the Sudan were the only things that Beecroft, as she quoted, could do in that environment. She was staying at a Catholic mission, and the imagery inspired me to take pictures in the local cathedral of local people in the guise of Christian icons.
Beecroft’s work is not planned but it is spontaneous. The Dinka, the tribes that she visited, are extremely contemporary-looking, striking people. They have been subject to enslavement and violence for centuries. They are aware of this injustice, which goes beyond the simple fact of their resources being stolen. They raised her interest in going deeper into the analysis of race and racism.
VANESSA BEECROFT VB66.138.VB, 2010-2011
C-Print with Diasec 127x165 cm, Edition of 6
In February 2010, at the Fish Market in Naples, which was originally designed by Luigi Cosenza in the late Twenties, Vanessa Beecroft presented to the public her performance VB66.
The following elements have influenced the work devised for the Naples Fish Market: the desire to reify the performance, to bring the original – the girls – to their simulacrum, the sculptures, the comparison with the classical sculptural tradition, the reference to the destiny of Pompeii, the colour black, the fragments of the bodies and the omnipresent presence of the volcano. The sculptural complex was placed inside the fish market as a monument to the city.
The work consists of a group of sculptures taken from casts of real people and from fragments of the casts and a vast group of girls with black make-up. Together, these elements constitute a performance devised especially for the fish market. The work took a year to prepare. The living bodies, the bodies that was cast and the fragments form a complex whole, a monochromatic sculptural group assembled on the tables of the market, like a transitory monument which presents elements from the past and the contemporary world. The use of black is dramatic and iconic, also acting as an element that has an estranging effect on the performance. The girls hide in the dark and are not easily recognizable amongst the sculptures. The fragments recall the carbonised bodies of Pompeii, the sculptural remains of the past; but it is also the visualisation of the unease of the female body, a theme that the artist explored in the previous performances: “the fragment is like me and my drawings, a limb can give more information than an entire body like the single word in a text”. In the fragment takes place the perceptive and sexual obsession of the viewer who is at the same time included and excluded by the work.
The fragments of the sculpture are among living bodies that highlight their individualism.
The living girls, with their white eyes set against the black make-up, recall the ivory of traditional bronze sculptures. Art lives in the present; the artistic tradition should not be closed within a museum but should deal with contemporary issues using forms that display awareness of tradition, renewing it thanks to the work of living artists. Black is a pictorial element, a large brushstroke that estranges the performance from real life. It is presented to the public as a show, taking it back and forth from reality to art.
The performance involves the inhabitants of Naples by presenting an image that belongs to their tradition, but at the same time allowing them to formulate new ideas and feelings related to their identity.
The images derived from this performance will be distributed worldwide, displaying an image of ancient and contemporary Naples within a beautiful example of rationalist architecture. As the artist said, “a market that holds an architectural monument is a luxury, where the art and architecture inform the life of the inhabitants and where the street becomes a museum without a ceiling.”
WILLIAM KENTRIDGE Small Silhouette 72 (Coffee Pot), 2016
Laser-cut stainless steel, painted with acrilyc based paint, 116x69 cm, Edition of 4
On April 21st, 2016, on the walls along the bank of the river Tiber in Rome was inaugurated the project of William Kentridge Triumphs and Laments. A huge monumental frieze 550 meters long that was created after the water-cleaning of the accumulated biological grim. The project represents the “procession” of 80 figures, 12 meters high, illustrating the triumphs and defeats of the Eternal city - from the death of Remus to the death of Pier Paolo Pasolini; from the bombardment of San Lorenzo district to the characters of La Dolce Vita. The artist creates a parade of highly unstable figures, that are not supposed to remain unchanged but to alter and eventually fade over the years: with this work Kentridge arrives to a new point in the art of representing the transient absolute. The passage of time that Triumphs and Laments catches so masterfully is explained by the final decomposition of the work, that will be covered by the pollution, as a symbol of the passage of time.
The charcoals and ink drawings made by Kentridge on the pages of old financial records, depict characters and scenes related to the history of Rome, revealing the process of study and inquiry conducted by the artist to imagine the frieze of Triumphs and Laments. The wall-sculptures made of steel painted in black are silhouette of objects and faces related to Italy. Kentridge’s work is signed by his interest on everyday objects, places and things. His drawings recall the 20th Century Expressionism.
The work, that combines a frieze cinematic sequences with drawings and performance, narrative and figurative representation, fixity and inconstancy of the images, evokes - through the magic of shadows that simultaneously generate illusions and meanings - the journey of migrants and all those who go towards unknown directions. The exodus takes place in the history of Rome and Italy. We are invited to take an introspective migration along the Tiber: to retrace the streets where we come from and, almost inevitably, to question ourselves where we go.
William Kentridge is one of South Africa’s pre-eminent artists, internationally acclaimed for his drawings, films, theatre and opera productions. His work draws on varied sources, including philosophy, literature, early cinema, theatre and opera to create a complex universe where good and evil are complementary and inseparable forces.
HAIM STEINBACH “Untitled (punches, pipe)”, 2012
Plastic laminated wood shelf; 2 metal punches; meerschaum pipe, 52,5x51,5x29,7 cm
The work is part of the series Collections presented at Lia Rumma Gallery in Milan in 2013. The concept of the exhibition came from the idea that everyone is a collector and all of us display objects in specific ways.
In his solo show at Lia Rumma Gallery, the artist selected objects belonging to private collections or those from flea markets, shops, or the artist's home and displayed and arranged them on patterns - “shelves” - designed by the artist, evoking both domestic and institutional spaces as places for presentation.
HENDRIK KRAWEN Silhouette Nr. 25, 2007
Oil on wood, 39x46 cm
Hendrik Krawen is a keen observer of progress and globalisation. For him the role of the humankind is central along with the way in which the human action is turned in fairly tangible ways that have a visible effect on the surrounding landscape.
The artist reflects on the lot of humanmankind, suspended between the loss of our original privileged condition and the continuous tension involved in regaining our original prosperity.
The subject matter of Krawen’s paintings is modernity and its contradictions. Using predominantly monochrome tones, his works provide us with an unusual perspective of the urban landscape, liberated from space/time references. The artist observes reality from an original standpoint. Just like the photographer’s lens, his eye seems to close in gradually on the visual field until it focuses on architectural details or individual figures, decontextualising them in the process.
This approach can be traced back to the artistic vision that developed in German photography during the second half of the twentieth century. Several specific details appear in his paintings: a window, an architectural detail, a wall in the suburbs, palm trees and electricity pylons. The landscape rarely features human figures and when they do appear, they seem to be suspended in metaphysical isolation, creating an alienating atmosphere.