THE NASHER SPRING / 2018
Theaster Gates Double Cross, 2013 Wood, books, pots, plates, pans, neon lights 792 x 396 x 30 CM © Theaster Gates Image courtesy of the artist
FPO New Jeremy image to come from Allison V. Smith
Photo: Allison V. Smith
Our 2018 Nasher Prize Laureate Theaster Gates began his artistic career making ceramic vessels. In the years since, his work has expanded to encompass other forms of sculpture, as well as painting, filmmaking, performance, installation, and architectural intervention. He has continued to make pots, along with other ceramic objects. Ceramics are among the most ancient of artistic mediums. The earliest-known vessels date back as far as 10,000 B.C. Gates’s body of work is as extensive and wide-ranging as that of any artist working today, exploring and embracing new ideas, materials, and media. And yet he retains this atavistic element. He returns always to his earliest practice— ceramics. It is one that is a wellspring of sculpture itself. In celebrating the Nasher Prize, we honor great achievement in sculpture, recognizing artists whose record of work makes them figures of inspiration. But as the Prize looks back, reviewing the exceptional accomplishments of our laureates, even more it points forward, suggesting new directions and possibilities for the art form. Each of our three laureates—Doris Salcedo, Pierre Huyghe, and now Theaster Gates—define an artistic territory, develop and master a set of creative languages, while opening up new avenues for others to explore. Indeed, each year our Nasher Prize jury considers not only which artists generate the most compelling and significant work but which artists exert the greatest fascination and inspiration for younger artists. This spring, as the Nasher Sculpture Center looks again to the future with our celebration of Theaster Gates, we will simultaneously present an exhibition that—more than any show in the history of this institution—looks to the past, considering the very origin and earliest manifestations of sculpture. First Sculpture: Handaxe to Figure Stone presents stone objects, the oldest being approximately 2.5 million years old, made by some of our earliest Paleolithic
ancestors, the species known as Australopithecus afarensis, Homo erectus, Homo heidelbergensis, and Neanderthal. Several million years ago, these peoples began to craft stone tools—what we now call handaxes—chipping away at rocks to fashion objects that could be used for cutting, piercing, and hammering.
“From the very origins of sculpture to the future of the art form—that extraordinary sweep will be encompassed by the Nasher’s program this spring.“ While most of these early tools were just that—practical devices, often crudely shaped but effective for their purpose—some, our show argues, were much more. Millions of handaxes have been discovered in sites in Africa, the Middle East, Asia, and Europe, not to mention those that now fill the storages of museums of natural history and archaeology. A small percentage display attributes, such as perfection of form and fineness of carving, which exceed the needs of the task. The careful framing of naturally occurring elements—holes in a stone or a fossil perhaps—serves no practical purpose. “Gigantism”—the carving of large stones into handaxes that are too big to be useful—suggests their making was guided by aesthetic or symbolic intent. Just as today, a designer’s eye and skill can turn a mundane tool into a work of art, so, too, certain handaxes might be considered the world’s first sculptures. First Sculpture also examines a second type of Paleolithic stone object—those artifacts known as figure stones. These are rocks that bear a natural resemblance to a particular form—a human head or face perhaps, a human body or a horse. Recognizing these accidental resemblances, our Paleolithic forebears chose to accentuate them, chipping away at the rocks to frame or highlight the naturally occurring forms. If handaxes suggest the origins of design—the desire to make ordinary objects beautiful or meaningful—then figure stones—the first “found objects”—suggest the earliest manifestation of figurative art-making. That extraordinary sweep—from the very origins of sculpture to the future of the art form—will be encompassed by the Nasher’s program this spring. While the provocative arguments of First Sculpture: Handaxe to Figure Stone are certain to be debated, the central lesson of the show—that art-making is so fundamental to humanity that it precedes modern humans—seems inarguable. And in the work of our 2018 Laureate Theaster Gates, we see how one of the most advanced and ambitious artistic practices has at its origin, and as a continuing source of inspiration, the simple act of hands shaping earth.
Jeremy Strick Director 1
SPRING / 2018
THE NASHER Edited and designed by the staff of the Nasher Sculpture Center, Dallas, Texas. EDITORIAL
Jeremy Strick Nasher Sculpture Center Director
Leigh Arnold, Ph.D. Assistant Curator
Catherine Craft, Ph.D. Curator
Gail Host Marketing Manager
Jill Magnuson Director of External Affairs
Jed Morse Chief Curator
Christopher Mosley Manager of Digital Content
Lucia Simek Manager of Communications and International Programs
Anna Smith Curator of Education
Lindsey Croley Senior Graphic Designer
WITH SUPPORT FROM
Colleen Borsh Manager of School and Family Programs
Randy Guthmiller Manager of Visitor Experiences
Jacques Haba Senior Manager of Emerging Technologies and Evaluation
Lindsey James Manager of Strategic Events and Programming
James Jillson Membership Manager
Kirsten McIntosh External Affairs Coordinator
Lynda Wilbur Manager of Tour Programs
Carolyn Brown, Nan Coulter, Allison V. Smith, Kevin Todora Printed by Ussery Printing Company
Julie Baumgardner is a seasoned writer, covering the arts, design, travel, and tastemakers for The New York Times, New York magazine, the Wall Street Journal, Art in America, and many more. Though she’s a native New Yorker, she always feels at home in Dallas.
Alan Govenar is a writer, folklorist, photographer, and filmmaker. He is the founding director of The Museum of Street Culture at Encore Park and director of Documentary Arts, a nonprofit organization he founded in 1985 to present new perspectives on historical issues and diverse cultures. Govenar is a Guggenheim Fellow and the author of 29 books.
Katrina Brown is founding Director of The Common Guild, Glasgow, which presents an international program of artists’ projects, events, and exhibitions. She was also Director of the Glasgow International Festival of Visual Art in 2010 and 2012. In 2013, The Common Guild curated the Scotland + Venice exhibition for the 55th Venice Biennale. Katrina also served as Associate Curator to the nationwide project GENERATION: 25 Years of Contemporary Art in Scotland, in 2014.
Jason Reimer is a composer, writer, and filmmaker who co-founded the Oak Cliff Film Festival and is partner at Aviation Cinemas, the operators of Texas Theatre. He recently co-founded the creative production company Talented Friends, who collaborate with artists across multiple mediums and have inaugural projects slated for 2018.
GREGORY RUPPE RICHARD DEACON
Richard Deacon is a leading sculptor, a large-scale survey of his work was exhibited at Tate Britain in early 2014. In 2015/16 a ten-year survey – On The Other Side – toured to museums in Switzerland, Azerbaijan and Germany. In 2015 he retired from his post as Professor at the Kunstakademie Dusseldorf, ending 38 years of teaching at art schools in the UK and other countries.
Jeff Gibbons is an artist living and working in Dallas, Texas. Select exhibitions include The Power Station, The Goss-Michael Foundation, and Oliver Francis Gallery. His work has been shown internationally in Mexico, Denmark, Germany, Switzerland, and Japan. He co-founded the project space CULTURE HOLE (2016) with Gregory Ruppe.
Gregory Ruppe is an artist based in Dallas, Texas. He co-founded artist collective Homecoming! Committee, the project space CULTURE HOLE (2016) with Jeff Gibbons, and the film series SUNSCREEN (2015) with Danny Skinner. He has had exhibitions and performances in Brooklyn, New York; Zürich, Switzerland; Bern, Switzerland; Hiroshima, Japan; Glasgow, Scotland; London, England; Berlin, Germany; and Dallas.
Catherine Womack is a Los Angeles-based arts and culture journalist. A regular contributor to the Los Angeles Times and LA Weekly, her work has appeared in The Journal of Alta California, D magazine, and the Dallas Observer. Catherine is also a classically trained pianist and holds a master’s degree in music from Southern Methodist University.
Special Contributors 3
SPRING / 2018
6 FIRST SCULPTURE: HANDAXE TO FIGURE STONE
Exhibition curators Tony Berlant and Thomas Wynn describe their fascination with ancient tools and the possible origins of sculpture. 13 MEET THE CURATORS
Learn about First Sculpture curators, artist Tony Berlant and anthropologist Thomas Wynn. 14 A DAY IN THE LIFE
Artist Richard Deacon muses on a day in the life of a hominid, a human ancestor, 500,000 years ago. 18 THE IMPULSE TO CREATE: THINKING PREHISTORY ON A DALLAS STREET
Filmmaker, writer, and founder of The Museum of Street Culture, Alan Govenar makes connections between primitive tools and manifestations of modern-day resourcefulness. 24 FOUNDATIONS: FIRST SCULPTURE
Assistant Curator Leigh Arnold describes how Foundations: First Sculpture draws connections between the Paleolithic objects featured in First Sculpture and sculptures of the more recent past from the Nasher collection. 26 PICASSO’S HEAD OF A WOMAN: FROM STEEL TO CONCRETE
Picasso’s material inquiries of concrete for his pivotal Head of a Woman series are tracked in recent research by Curator Catherine Craft. 6
34 KATHRYN ANDREWS: DIE ANOTHER DAY
Pop culture and the history of conceptual art tangle in this recent Nasher acquisition. 36 MYTHICAL CREATURE
Filmmaker Jason Reimer praises the new documentary on Fluxus artist Joseph Beuys, to be shown as part of the continued Nasher and Texas Theatre art film partnership. 37 NASHER PRIZE 2018 LAUREATE THEASTER GATES
Assistant Curator Leigh Arnold plumbs the many layers of Theaster Gates’s dynamic practice. 24
54 THEASTER GATES PHOTO ESSAY
Let loose in the Chicago studio and rehabbed buildings of Laureate Theaster Gates, photographer Nan Coulter sends a detailed dispatch on the artist’s sculptural practice.
68 SCULPTURE IN THE CITY: GLASGOW
In anticipation of a spring edition of Nasher Prize Dialogues in Glasgow, Scottish curator Katrina Brown offers a primer on Glasgowâ€™s many sculptural offerings. 74 GATES ON VIEW AT THE NASHER
A first look at the 5 works by Laureate Theaster Gates, on view February through April. 76 LAUREATE REVEAL RECAP
See some of people who attended the 2018 Nasher Prize Reveal in September at the Rachofsky Warehouse. 79 NASHER PRIZE CELEBRATION MONTH
Find out details on the many programmatic offerings happening around Dallas celebrating the 2018 Nasher Prize Laureate Theater Gates. 81 IN THE STUDIO WITH NIC NICOSIA
Nic Nicosia, one of the upcoming The Great Create artists, chats with Nasher Curator of Education Anna Smith, with photographer Kevin Todora documenting the scene. 86 CAPTURING THE GREAT CREATE
Photos by artist Allison V. Smith relay the delight of this annual fundraising event. 88 AN INTIMATE ENCOUNTER WITH THE VIOLIN: SEASON FINALE OF SOUNDINGS: NEW MUSIC AT THE NASHER TO FEATURE ALEXI KENNEY 56
Los Angeles Times arts writer Catherine Womack takes a jubilant look at the last Soundings offering of the season. 90 GRUBNIK+SUZANNE
In anticipation of their SOLUNA performance at the Nasher in May, artists Greg Ruppe and Jeff Gibbons use images to tease out ideas for the commissioned piece. 94 PUBLIC SCULPTURE
The first in a continuing series about public sculpture in Dallas, Assistant Curator Leigh Arnold and photographer Carolyn Brown consider the Dallas landmark Fair Park. 98 ALTERNATIVE ART FAIRS
Julie Baumgardner talks with leading voices in the burgeoning, international alternative art fair scene.
On View: January 27 â€“ April 28
First Sculpture Handaxe to Figure Stone By Tony Berlant and Thomas Wynn Curators of First Sculpture: Handaxe to Figure Stone Excerpted from their exhibition catalogue essay
First Sculpture: Handaxe to Figure Stone is made possible by The Eugene McDermott Foundation and the Lyda Hill Foundation, with additional support provided by Nancy Oâ€™Boyle, Betty Regard, and the Museum of Street Culture. Neanderthal figure stone, Fontmaure, France ca. 150,000 - 50,000 Flint 12 1/2 x 7 1/2 x 4 1/2 in. (31.7 x 19 x 11.4 cm) Tony Berlant Collection Photo: Kevin Todora
edieval scholars called them “thunderstones”– curious pointed stones produced, they believed, by lightning strikes. Only as recently as 1797 did Western science recognize them for what they are: tools made long before the discovery of metals. Stone tools exist today in the millions; because they are stone, they have not decayed or disintegrated over time, and thus serve as time capsules from the human deep past. They inform us about our prehistoric ancestors – their skill, their ingenuity, and their aesthetic sensibility. Because stone tools were tools, archaeologists have always focused on the work they could do, on their function. But some of these tools are also visually arresting. They attract our gaze and cry out to be held, examined, and admired. And some of them are truly beautiful to our modern eyes. Archaeologists do acknowledge this visual appeal, but being trained as dour skeptics, they rarely grant this perspective much credence. Yet, as the examples in this exhibition will show, aesthetic considerations have very deep roots in human antiquity, and have been a significant part of human experience for almost 2 million years.
“ ...aesthetic considerations have very deep roots in human antiquity, and have been a significant part of human experience for almost 2 million years. “ The artifacts in this exhibition are of two kinds. The majority are manufactured stone tools. Using stone flaking techniques, prehistoric knappers made functional tools designed to do work, even though some of the objects in the exhibition may never have been used. Archaeologists have developed elaborate typologies of stone tools to facilitate communication, and some of these types may have been recognized by the makers themselves as distinct varieties, though of course without the same labels. The exhibition includes four of these types: spheroids, handaxes, cleavers, and picks. Handaxes predominate in the exhibition because their form was often “overdetermined”—their makers invested more time and effort in them than was necessary to produce a fully functional tool. Spheroids were also often overdetermined, but they are much less common in archaeological assemblages, and this overdetermination reflects aesthetic intent. The second series of artifacts are figure stones—naturally occurring stones that possess clearly evident shapes and patterns, including geometric forms, animals, human figures, and especially faces. Prehistoric people recognized these shapes and occasionally collected them, much as modern people still do. In many non-Western cultures people believe that these found objects have animate power. In the West, collectors occasionally insist on the intrinsic value of their figure stones, often requesting that museum curators accept them as donations. In the 19th century, early archaeological museums were inundated with such benefactions. Most serious archaeologists of the day quickly acquired a very negative view of such objects, an attitude that continues to this day. One result of this aversion is an almost complete absence of figure stones in organized, catalogued museum 8 3
Makapan pebble, Makapansgat, South Africa ca. 2.5 million Jasperite 3 x 2 1/2 in. (7.6 x 6.3 cm) University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa
Biddenham “Big Boy”, England Late handaxe ca. 300,000 Flint 11 x 4 in. (27.9 x 10 cm) The British Museum © The Trustees of the British Museum. All rights reserved.
Artifact, Egypt ca. 500,000-50,000 Flint 4 x 4 x 1 in. (10 x 10 x 2.5 cm) Tony Berlant Collection Photo: Kevin Todora Handaxe, Niger ca. 800,000-300,000 Hornfels 4 3/4 x 3 1/2 x 1 in. (12 x 8.8 x 2.5 cm) Tony Berlant Collection Photo: Kevin Todora
Makapansgat Pebble, Makapansgat, South Africa ca. 2.5 million Jasperite, 3 x 2 1/2 in. (7.6 x 6.3 cm) University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa Photo: Brett Eloff
collections (though what remains crated and un-accessioned in the deep dungeons of some museums is anyoneâ€™s guess). But avocational archaeologists never abandoned interest in figure stones, and many examples ended up in private hands. This exhibition highlights two such sets of figure stones, one of uncertain age found near Thebes in Egypt, and a second set, with more certain provenance, from the Neanderthal site of Fontmaure, in France. For an object to be included in this exhibition, there had to be evidence that it was recognized in prehistory, either by the context of the find or, more often, through evidence of modification.
Most of the artifacts in the exhibition are immensely old, at least from the parochial vantage point of contemporary art history. The oldest is about 2.5 million years old, and the most recent perhaps only 50,000 years old. Their makers were not modern humans; indeed, for the very earliest of the objects, such as the Makapansgat pebble, the makers resembled apes as much as they resembled us. Over this long span of time, the human brain evolved in size, shape, and function, and one of the most interesting neural developments occurred in the domain of aesthetic experience. If there is a coherent academic theory underpinning this exhibition, it is this: The human mind evolved to be sensitive to aesthetic phenomena, and stone artifacts trace some of this evolutionary story.
Meet the Curators
Artist Tony Berlant & Anthropologist Thomas Wynn
Organized by the Nasher Sculpture Center, First Sculpture: Handaxe to Figure Stone is the product of a unique curatorial collaboration between artist Tony Berlant and anthropologist Thomas Wynn. Berlant, an American artist born in New York City, is also known as an authority on Navajo weaving and was a co-founder of the Mimbres Foundation. He attended the University of California, Los Angeles, where he received a BA and MA in painting and an MFA in sculpture. His works are part of many collections, including the Art Institute of Chicago; Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Los Angeles County Museum of Art; Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; Philadelphia Museum of Art; The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; and Whitney Museum of American Art. Berlant has been studying and collecting prehistoric handaxes and figure stones for 18 years. Thomas Wynn is Professor of Anthropology at the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs, where he has taught since 1977. He earned his AB in Sociology/Anthropology at Occidental College, and his MA and Ph.D. in Anthropology at the University of Illinois, Urbana. His training was in the archaeology of the Lower Palaeolithic (early Stone Age), and his doctoral research opened a hitherto unexplored direction in Palaeolithic studiesâ€”the explicit use of psychological theory to interpret archaeological remains. Wynn is a pioneer in the cognitive interpretation of Palaeolithic artifacts and an internationally recognized authority on handaxes. He has long argued that handaxes were not merely functional tools, but were also invested with aesthetic value. Joining curators Berlant and Wynn as consultants to the exhibition and contributors to the catalogue is an impressive group of scientists, art historians, and artists, all of whom have an ongoing interest in handaxes and figure stones. These include Professor of Geography at the University of California, Los Angeles, Jared Diamond; sculptor Richard Deacon; Professor Naama Goren-Inbar, Archaeology, Hebrew University, Jerusalem; Professor John Gowlett, Archaeology, Classics, and Egyptology, University of Liverpool; Dr. Evan Maurer, independent scholar and Director Emeritus, Minneapolis Institute of Arts; and V.S. Ramachandran, Director of the Center for Brain and Cognition, Distinguished Professor, Psychology and Neurosciences, University of California, San Diego. The composition of the curatorial team, as well as the team of consultants, suggest the unusual fascination this subject exerts for those interested in both science and in art. 13
A Day in the Life By Richard Deacon Excerpted from his essay in the exhibition catalogue First Sculpture: Handaxe to Figure Stone
his is incredible: One day, sometime around 500,000 years ago, a large horse wandered out onto the mudflats beside a shallow and brackish lagoon at Boxgrove, in modern-day West Sussex, England. This was unusual; perhaps the animal was ill, or was injured from a predator’s attack or an ongoing hunt (a hole in one of the surviving scapulae is possible evidence of a projectile wound), or maybe it was just old. The group of hominids settled nearby noticed it, though, and some of them rushed over from their encampment. Perhaps they needed to deliver the coup de grâce to the struggling animal or perhaps it was already dead by the time they reached it. Whatever the details, this was an incredible boon for the group, a huge quantity of meat right next to where they were settled. But it came with problems. Such a large and heavy animal could not be carried back to the camp, and out there on the exposed mudflat it would soon attract attention— carrion birds were probably already circling, and who knows what else was sniffing the wind. They needed to butcher the kill quickly and take what they could, but a whole carcass was unmanageable with the tools they carried. A group of individuals was sent running to the exposed flint at the base of the nearby cliff to bring back half a dozen nodules. At least one of this group would have been experienced enough to select the right material. At the carcass, the others kept watch, scaring away the circling birds and keeping a wary eye out for more dangerous animals. Once the nodules were to hand, the hugely experienced knappers could set to work to produce the cleavers and axes they needed, quickly and decisively flaking the stone to extract rough cores, which they then finely flaked and shaped to produce the tools. These artifacts are sharp and need to be held securely in hands that would become increasingly covered in grease and blood. 14
Once the tools were prepared, the butchery could begin, slicing open the carcass, removing the hide, eviscerating the abdomen, and disarticulating the skeleton so that several of them could work at once. The meat was removed from the bones and set aside. Then the bones themselves were split to get at the marrow, which was presumably eaten on the spot. The group worked quickly and deliberately. When they had as much meat and offal as they could strip from the carcass, they loaded up and headed off back to the encampment, taking the cleavers with them to finish the job. Night fell. Hyenas appeared and gnawed at the remaining bones, scattering them a bit more. Sand and mud covered the abandoned flint flakes and pieces of bone, burying them and leaving them undisturbed for hundreds of thousands of years. As I say, this is incredible, an astounding amount of information, reconstructing the activity of a single day among a small group of hominids in a particular place some 500,000 years ago! We know about these hominids and the horse that nourished them because the wonderful excavation of the Middle Pleistocene hominid site at Eartham Quarry, Boxgrove, revealed not only the hominid occupation but also, a short distance away, the horse bones and flakes from the knapped nodules. These scatters have been carefully documented and the flakes painstakingly reconstructed back to their originating nodules, leaving a void in the middle corresponding to the handaxe produced. There is more. The delicate flakes from the final finishing of the stone tools are distributed some one to two meters away from the large flakes produced in the initial two phases of the knapping. This suggests evidence for a division of labor, perhaps that the initial piece was first roughed out, then handed to a more highly skilled individual to finish.
Handaxe, Algeria, ca. 300,000 Quartzite, 14 x 6 x 3 inches (35.5 x 15.2 x 7.6 cm) Tony Berlant Collection Photo: Kevin Todora
Three handaxes, Boxgrove, ca. 500,000. Flint, from left to right: 5 13⁄16 × 3 11⁄16 × 1 ¼ inches (14.8 × 9.3 × 3 cm); 5 1/3 × 3 ½ × 1 ¡ inches (13.7 × 9 × 3 cm); 5 1/3 × 3 × 1 1/8 inches (14.4 × 8.4 × 2.9 cm). The British Museum. © The Trustees of the British Museum. All rights reserved.
The excavation at Boxgrove, led by Mark Roberts and the late Simon Parfitt, both from the Institute of Archaeology at University College, London, was exceptionally rigorous, and exemplary in its multidisciplinary approach. The very fine grain of the investigation of the site and its evolving geology, context, and paleobiology establishes an accurate, but quite brief timeline for hominid occupation somewhere between 20 and 60 years before an incursion from the sea overwhelmed the site. During this brief period the site was regularly used by a group of hominids as something more like a supply camp (particularly associated with meat butchery) than a base camp. There is an absence of evidence of other food gathering – for mollusks or vegetable material, for example – nor much evidence for the further working of skins or other organic material and no evidence of fire. There is a lack of campsites, sleeping, or other activity areas. This suggests organized occupation during daylight hours. To me, this seems sensible, with the known and active presence of large and dangerous predators in the area, keeping the butchery site a distance from the base camp seems eminently wise! Among the handaxes found at the site are a few that are rather clumsy or not quite fit for purpose. These can be interpreted as “beginner’s attempts,” or the products of learning, so the group was settled and secure enough to contain young individuals and families and not just a roving band of hunters sporadically using the place. These various strands of evidence provoke an intriguing question. The quality of many of the discovered handaxes 16
is very high, reflecting not only the high quality of the local material available but also the presence of some very skilled individuals among the group—a conclusion reinforced by the apparent division of labor at the horse butchery site. Conversely, the presence of “learning attempts” and the conclusion that the encampment contained family groups suggests a level of security and stability that would infer persistent use of the site by the same group or successive generations of that group for protracted periods. Given the 20- to 60-year time horizon, the question becomes: Can we identify individual makers of the handaxes? Or, more precisely, given the multitude of handaxes found, would it be possible to say that some of them were by the same hand? To go from identifying the characteristics of a site occupied some half a million years ago to potentially identifying individuals is a huge stretch, but this is a question that the investigation permits and for which there is sufficient material to examine. Remember, this is a group of hominids. The bridge of empathy that would be established by answering the question in the affirmative is a strong link in the chain that connects the thesis of this exhibition—First Sculpture—with our lives. To this end, six of us—Tony Berlant and Tom Wynn, the driving forces behind First Sculpture; Mark Roberts, the lead archaeologist and coauthor of the paper on the excavation at Boxgrove; Dr. Natalie Uomini, Associate Lecturer at the Max Planck Institute for Human History in Jena, Germany; Dr. Freddy Foulds, Researcher and Palaeolithic Archaeologist at the University of Durham; and myself—met with Nick Ashton at the British Museum’s store in London’s East End to look at their entire
Three handaxes, Boxgrove, ca. 500,000. Flint, from left to right: 6 × 3 ½ × 1 1/8 inches (15 × 8.9 × 2.9 cm); 5 1/3 × 3 ¾ × 1 ½ inches (14.4 × 9.8 × 3.7 cm); 6 × 3 1/3 × 1 inches (15.3 × 9.3 × 2.6 cm). The British Museum. © The Trustees of the British Museum. All rights reserved.
range of Boxgrove handaxes and associated material. I’m an artist and have no claims to specialism in palaeoanthropology, although I have a deep and long-standing interest both in the subject and in questions about cultural origins. The question we were asking, though, is also one most art historians have encountered, a question of attribution that we would address by close attention to the material evidence. Incredibly helpful and supportive, members of the staff at the British Museum had carefully laid out the more than 70 archive boxes with their lids open, enabling us to examine, pick up, turn over, and compare, one to another, the museum’s 350 or so handaxes from the Boxgrove site. Each of us independently decided on how we would “look.” The parameters I eventually worked out for my viewing were: 1. Stratigraphy – finds within the same layer are rather more likely to be associated. 2. Material – there are varieties of flint on site and an experienced maker would know what they liked to work with. 3. Shape and symmetry (morphology) – look and feel – the assumption being that the more control you have, the more likely you are to produce something that is symmetrical and also conforms to an idea that you have about it. But this aspect of my examination also includes something like how the tool feels in the hand.
4. Fine finish – this is something like facture and reflects the ability to control the outcome of your activity as well as the subtle preferences that would arise from the ways you went about your task. 5. I also looked closely at those handaxes that incorporated or had been modified to accommodate embedded fossil or crystal material, features that might be described as decorative (or, perhaps better, as rewarding). We spent a day and a half looking at the British Museum’s collection of handaxes and then put forward our tentative views regarding why certain objects might reasonably be associated together into one group or another. Of course, we all had outliers, things that we had selected but were not supported by anybody else, but we settled on two groups of three and two pairs of handaxes around which there was common agreement. We believe that each group was made by a particular individual (not all by the same individual). This is a strong conclusion; these objects are not just good enough for the job in hand but made with sufficient refinement and particularity to carry a message across the millennia to us. My thanks to the exhibition’s curators, Tony Berlant and Tom Wynn, for giving me the chance to listen.
The Impulse to Create
Thinking Prehistory on a Dallas Street
By Alan Govenar
Over the course of human history, handmade tools have nurtured our well-being and helped us to survive. Of these, the handaxeâ€”archeologists and art historians maintainâ€”is the longest used, and perhaps, the most venerable. A handaxe is a prehistoric stone tool, and the overwhelming majority that have been found are essentially ordinary objects, which were likely used for tasks such as digging, cutting, scraping, chopping, piercing, and hammering. But some are exceptional, as the exhibition First Sculpture: Handaxe to Figure Stone demonstrates, raising new questions about aesthetics and intent: What prompts the maker of a handaxe to create an object that is exceptional, and that perhaps transcends its utilitarian function, becoming sculpture? At what point does an individual decide to make art? The ramifications of considering the handaxe as the first sculpture are profound, not only as it relates to our understanding of art, but in the way that it undermines conventional ideas about what art is and can be. In so doing, it also compels us to rethink the idea of the museum in its ever changing role in the contemporary world. While I never thought about the handaxe when I conceived The Museum of Street Culture in 2012, I can now see its relevance to the work I was then undertaking to energize new interdisciplinary perspectives to focus on areas of art, history, and ideas that had been marginalized, neglected, and overlooked. I had been approached by a group of volunteers 18
Mary Ellen Mark photographs on The Stewpot, Park Avenue, Dallas, October 2017 Photograph by Alan Govenar
Mary Ellen Mark photographs on The Stewpot, Park Avenue, Dallas, October 2017 Photograph by Alan Govenar
Are spoons and â€œhoboâ€? knives art? Not necessarily, but they do point to the ways the ordinary can become extraordinary. Certainly, individuals who are displaced or itinerant have the capacity to make art. We are only beginning to understand the complex relationship between creativity and survival.
Hobo Knives, ca. 1960s Courtesy Museum of Street Culture Photo: Alan Govenar
from the First Presbyterian Church of Dallas to help them organize exhibits and public programs related to the history of the 508 Park, a building they had acquired to expand the services and outreach of The Stewpot, which offers a safe haven for homeless and at-risk individuals, providing resources for basic survival needs, as well as opportunities to start a new life. The challenge of linking these social services with the history of 508 Park building was daunting. 508 Park was built by Warner Brothers in 1929 as a film exchange, where in the mid-1930s, 843 recordings were made of African American, Anglo, and Mexican music. While I had written extensively about different styles of vernacular music as distinct art forms, I realized that if the blues singer Robert Johnson, for example, had not been a musician, he might have been homeless, like so many others during The Great Depression. Historically, African American blues, Western swing, and Mexican conjunto music had such a great appeal because they gave voice to the voiceless—they spoke to the hardships, joys, and aspirations of people on the street. The street is a place where people of all cultures, faiths, and socioeconomic backgrounds coexist, and sometimes come together in unexpected ways. The Museum of Street Culture at Encore Park, in the heart of a historic area of downtown Dallas—flanked by the Farmers Market, City Hall, and the Main Street District— validates the history and everyday experience of people in public places through diverse forms of art, education, and new ideas, activating social change and building community. It is on the street and about the street. Over the next year, the photographic exhibition Looking for Home: A Yearlong Focus on the Work of Mary Ellen Mark, which opened in October 2017, will engage all areas of Encore Park, including The Stewpot, the 508 Park building, the 508 Amphitheatre and Community Garden. Through education programs, docent tours, and film screenings, The Museum of Street Culture hopes to involve artists and the public at large in an unprecedented dialogue about the experience of people who are often ignored, dignifying what is often seen as unimportant and irrelevant and breaking down stereotypes of both museum and homelessness. The parallels between the First Sculpture exhibition and the mission of The Museum of Street Culture are significant, especially as it relates to the importance of little-known, or completely unknown, makers of art forms that defy generalization—whether they are handaxes, drawings, paintings, or sculpture, or, for that matter, other artifacts of material culture, both utilitarian and decorative. Walking sticks or canes, for example, have likely existed since the need for them was identified, and perhaps their use dates back to prehistoric times, although, given the organic nature of the wood, roots and vines out of which they were made, they have not survived. Individuals who live on the street recognize the fundamental value of tools. Handmade spoons and knives are like handaxes to the extent that they are functional, although some are more ornate and elaborate. The origins of the spoon are unknown, but archeological findings can date the use of the spoon to as early as 1000 BC. Spoons, unlike forks or knives that are hand-crafted or manufactured, can be found, usually without handles, in naturally occurring forms, such as seashells or
shaped stones. Like the handaxe, the spoon was not merely functional, but could have exceptional characteristics. Spoons made from ivory, wood, flint, and slate might have decorations that were carved, shaped, or painted with an aesthetic intent for social and cultural purposes. Over the course of the Greek and Roman empires, spoons made of bronze and silver were commonplace among the wealthy, and this tradition continued for centuries. In the Middle Ages, the coronation of every British king included a ritual where the new monarch was anointed by a ceremonial spoon. During the Tudor and Stuart periods, it became customary to give an Apostle Spoon as a christening gift. The impulse to make functional tools into aesthetic objects is universal, whether it is evidenced in a handaxe, a spoon, or perhaps a combination tool that was and remains relatively easy to use. The so-called “hobo knife” dates back to the 19th century, when companies began to manufacture a utensil designed for eating when traveling, a compact tool that included a fork, knife, and spoon. One of the earliest was a slot knife, mentioned in Joseph Smith’s 1816 book Key to the Various Manufactories of Sheffield, but the design continued to evolve, and during the Civil War, the fork, knife, and spoon combination grew in popularity in the military, but also among the population at large, especially sportsmen and itinerant tramps and hobos. Are spoons and “hobo knives” art? Not necessarily, but they do point to the ways the ordinary can become extraordinary. Certainly, individuals who are displaced or itinerant do make art. We are only beginning to understand the complex relationship between creativity and survival. The Art Program of The Stewpot, for example, has demonstrated that providing training and a studio space to work can help homeless and at-risk individuals better their lives. Aside from the potentially therapeutic value of making art, the aesthetic possibilities are immense, even if the artists are not fully aware of the enduring impact of what they have created. For artist Jean Dubuffet, Art Brut was the raw expression of visions or emotions unfettered by the conventions of academic training. In La Collection de l’Art Brut in Lausanne, Switzerland, Dubuffet amassed works by the criminally insane who, during their incarceration or confinement in psychiatric institutions, felt compelled to create paintings, drawings, graffiti, and threedimensional objects without necessarily seeing themselves as artists. Like handaxes and spoons, works of Art Brut can challenge assumptions about cultural context and the gender of the individuals who created them. How can we know who made them? Women? Men? And are our suppositions and interpretations more about us than them? Exhibitions such as First Sculpture broaden our appreciation and knowledge of the interplay of art, history, and ideas, and catalyze new conversations about inclusion and exclusion — about trained and untrained artists — and the urgency to place them side by side in the canon of art history.
The Museum of Street Culture at Encore Park is partnering with the Nasher Sculpture Center by helping to support the involvement of the Paris-based Studio Adrien Gardère, which, in addition to providing exhibition design for First Sculpture, has developed a conceptual design plan for Encore Park Dallas in association with Oglesby Greene Architects, and designed Looking for Home: A Yearlong Focus on the Work of Mary Ellen Mark, the inaugural exhibition (October 1, 2017-September 30, 2018). museumofstreetculture.org 23
On View: January 27 – April 22
Foundations First Sculpture Written by Leigh Arnold, Ph.D. Nasher Sculpture Center Assistant Curator
To coincide with First Sculpture: Handaxe to Figure Stone, the Nasher Sculpture Center’s curators have selected works that draw connections between the Paleolithic objects featured in First Sculpture and sculptures of the more recent past from the Nasher collection. Many of the works on view can be related to the psychological phenomenon called pareidolia, in which the mind perceives familiar patterns or forms where none exist. Examples of this include seeing a man’s face in the moon or recognizing images of animals or faces in cloud formations. As the curators of First Sculpture argue, our ancient ancestors experienced pareidolia in the natural world and made aesthetic decisions that enhanced this effect in handaxes and figure stones. This phenomenon is also apparent in such works as John Chamberlain’s abstract crushed-car sculpture Williamson Turn of 1974, which takes on the appearance of a human skull at certain viewpoints. Willem de Kooning’s untitled bronze sculptures from 1969 similarly suggest the human figure in various poses, while Henri Matisse’s Tiari (La Tiaré) of 1930 associates the flower petals of a Tahitian gardenia with the facial features and hair of a woman. In Ana Mendieta’s untitled wood and gunpowder sculpture from 1985, the artist burned a silhouette of an archetypal goddess figure. Through the process of pareidolia, our brains recognize the human figure or face in what are otherwise abstract forms. Other works on view in this installation have a direct material or conceptual relationship to the objects in First Sculpture. Richard Long formed the concentric circles of Midsummer Circles (1993) from Delabole slate, which is native to the Cornwall region, where it has been quarried for more than 1,000 years—at least since it was first recorded in the Domesday Book of 1086. In Long’s installation, the material acts as an index of a specific place and evokes ancient ritual sites, such as Stonehenge. The forged-iron figures that comprise Alain Kirili’s Commandment V of 1980 are arranged directly on the gallery floor in a scattered but cohesive pattern. Whereas Long’s Delabole slate—a material rich with historical associations—was chosen and incorporated into a work of art, Kirili forged his figures in iron—an ancient process that dates back several thousand years. The work belongs to Kirili’s investigation into the unknown force that compels the artist to create, an urge that, as First Sculpture: Handaxe to Figure Stone suggests, is far more ancient and fundamental to our species than has been previously understood. 24
ABOVE: Richard Long British, born 1945 Midsummer Circles, 1993 Delabole slate, Diameter: 208 in. (528.3 cm.) Raymond and Patsy Nasher Collection, Nasher Sculpture Center ÂŠ Richard Long Photographer: David Heald Alain Kirili French, born 1946 Commandment V, 1980 Forged iron, Tallest piece: 12 1/2 x 6 x 7 in. (31.8 x 15.2 x 17.8 cm.) Raymond and Patsy Nasher Collection, Nasher Sculpture Center ÂŠ Alain Kirili Photographer: David Heald
Head of a Woman From Steel to Concrete Written by Catherine Craft, Ph.D. Nasher Sculpture Center Curator
In March 2016, I traveled to Paris to participate in a conference devoted to the sculpture of Pablo Picasso held at the Musée Picasso. It took place during the museum’s acclaimed exhibition of Picasso’s three-dimensional work co-organized with the Museum of Modern Art, New York. The Raymond and Patsy Nasher collection includes seven sculptures by Picasso, four of which played important roles in the recent wave of interest in this aspect of the artist’s work. The Nasher loaned Flowers in a Vase (Fleurs dans un vase) to the Museum of Modern Art’s exhibition (see The Nasher magazine, Fall 2015 issue. Head of a Woman (Fernande) appeared with other casts of the same work in the Paris version of the show. My talk at the conference focused on the Nasher’s large Head of a Woman (Tête de femme) and its sources in a group of smaller sculptures that includes the painted sheet metal Head of a Woman (Tête de femme), also called Jacqueline, also in the Nasher collection. While in Paris, I was able to research correspondence between Picasso and Carl Nesjar (1920–2015), the Norwegian artist who worked with Picasso on a series of sculptures in sandblasted concrete, to provide a fuller understanding of the work’s genesis and importance to Picasso’s ongoing engagement with sculpture.
The monumental concrete-and-gravel Head of a Woman (Tête de femme)1 has been on display in the garden of the Nasher Sculpture Center since the museum opened in 2003. Its origins lie in a visit made to Picasso in January 1957 by the Norwegian artist Carl Nesjar, who went to the south of France to ask Picasso to make a lithograph for the Aktuell Kunst society, started by the Workers’ Party of Norway to offer prints by subscription at reasonable prices. Introduced to Nesjar through a mutual acquaintance, the artist Eugène Fidler, and appreciating the democratic impulse behind the concept, Picasso readily agreed. Their conversation took an unexpected turn as Fidler encouraged Nesjar to show Picasso photographs of the new government building in Oslo with wall engravings that Nesjar had executed in Betograve, a new artistic process developed by the building’s architect Erling Viksjø, and the engineer Sverre Jystad.2
Collection Spotlight 26
In Betograve, forms packed tightly with gravel are filled with concrete; upon drying, the concrete surface can be sandblasted to reveal the underlying aggregate. The artistic possibilities were considerable, as the sandblasting could range from large areas to narrow lines. Picasso was intrigued, and on Nesjar’s next visit, Picasso agreed to allow him to use the Betograve technique to make monumental engraved drawings based on his work on walls of the Oslo government building. Picasso would make four drawings for the project, and gave Nesjar permission to base another wall on figures from his 1946 painting Triptych.3 Picasso’s enthusiastic response led Nesjar to make another proposal: to use the Betograve technique to create a large sculpture by Picasso. If the results failed to satisfy the artist, it was agreed that the sculpture would be destroyed.
Pablo Picasso Head of a Woman (Tête de femme), 1958 Gravel and concrete, 120 1/8 x 43 1/4 x 55 7/8 in. (305.1 x 109.9 x 141.9 cm.) Raymond and Patsy Nasher Collection, Nasher Sculpture Center © 2018 Estate of Pablo Picasso/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York Photo: Kevin Todora
Pablo Picasso Head of a Woman (Tête de femme), also called Head of Jacqueline, 1957 Painted steel, 30 3/8 x 13 3/4 x 10 1/8 in. (77.2 x 34.9 x 25.7 cm.) Raymond and Patsy Nasher Collection, Nasher Sculpture Center © 2018 Estate of Pablo Picasso/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York Photo: Tom Jenkins
The outcome was the 10-foot-high Head of a Woman, now in the Nasher collection. Nesjar’s photographs of it so pleased Picasso that the sculpture became the first of more than a dozen monumental Betograve sculptures by Picasso made in collaboration with Nesjar.4 Head of a Woman’s experimental status as the first sculpture in the Betograve technique sets it apart somewhat from the collaborations that would follow.5 Nesjar’s letters to Picasso show the surprising speed with which the two men developed a working relationship and friendship after their introduction in January 1957. Three months later Nesjar wrote of his plans to return to France to continue their lithography project.6 His summer visit to Picasso at La Californie, the artist’s home on the Côte d’Azur, proved momentous: Not only would Nesjar secure drawings for the Aktuell Kunst lithograph as well as the Oslo government building wall engravings, but he would also begin to talk seriously with Picasso about the possibility of using the Betograve technique to make a monumental sculpture.
The second factor steering Nesjar’s summer conversations with Picasso toward discussion of monumental Betograve sculptures was photography. In Nesjar’s letter of June 28, 1957, he mentions a conversation with Picasso of the day before and makes plans to visit the next day: Nesjar’s visits with Picasso thus coincided exactly with David Douglas Duncan’s photography sessions in Picasso’s studio, documenting, among other things, Picasso’s engagement with the two planar sculptures that would soon become the dual sources of the Betograve Head of a Woman: the Nasher collection’s steel Head of a Woman, and the lone wooden version of the five heads, now in the Musée Picasso (see photo, page 31).12 Several of Duncan’s photos show Picasso painting the Nasher’s steel Head of a Woman; as the other heads are visible in his photographs of the studio from this visit, it seems likely that this was the last of the group of five, and Picasso’s last sheet-metal sculpture until he took up the process again with Lionel Prejger some three years later.
That their engagement expanded so profoundly turned on two important factors. The first of these was a change in Picasso’s work since he and Nesjar first met at the beginning of the year. At the time of their introduction in the winter, Picasso was drawing and painting various subjects, including portraits of his companion Jacqueline Roque, bullfight scenes, and fantastic heads and figures. By the time Nesjar returned in late June, Picasso had returned to making sculpture, with a small group of planar sculptures and a number of related paintings based on the motif of the head of a woman. From this body of work would come Head of a Woman with Black Curly Hair (Tête de femme â la chevelure noire frisée),7 the painting selected as the source of the Aktuell Kunst lithograph, Nesjar would take a drawing based on this painting to the printer Fernand Mourlot in Paris after leaving the south of France, and a photograph of Nesjar and Picasso with the drawing subsequently circulated in the Norwegian press as news of Picasso’s involvement in the government building project spread.8
The likely coinciding of Duncan’s and Nesjar’s visits introduces another reason for the selection of these heads as models for the first Betograve sculpture. As other scholars have noted, their kinship with Picasso’s previous work includes their relation to compositions such as the 1928 Head (mentioned above) that are in turn associated with Picasso’s work on the Apollinaire monument, the artist’s years-long attempt to create a large public sculpture dedicated to the memory of the artist’s friend, the poet Guillaume Apollinaire. A 1929 painting13 merges a ferocious head with a gray monolith, with tiny figures beneath creating an impression of enormous scale. The parallels with such works heighten in the context of what are perhaps the best-known photographs from Duncan’s session, namely Picasso’s creation of a mise-enscène for the Musée Picasso’s pole sculpture, with cut-out figures, a feather-duster palm tree, and a sketched backdrop on a blank canvas behind, transforming the sculpture into a veritable maquette for an enlarged, monumental piece.14
Lately revived in depictions of Roque, the motif of a woman’s head poised atop a long, slender neck was a subject with a long history in the artist’s oeuvre.9 Predecessors include the 1913 charcoal Figure (Personnage) of 1913; the brass-andiron Head (Tête), 1928; 1943’s Bust of a Woman (Buste de femme), made from wire, string, and pencil on cardboard; and Woman with a Key (La Femme à la clé), 1954-57, constructed from fired clay and a real key, then cast in bronze. The last of these, with its elongated, tubular neck and life-size scale, may have particularly prompted Picasso to undertake a further exploration of the theme. In the spring and summer of 1957, Picasso made five sculptures featuring a woman’s head atop a long slender pole.10 Rather than being folded, as in the heads inspired by Sylvette David that preceded them, or punctuated with cut-out plays of positive and negative space, as in the sheetmetal sculptures that would follow, the 1957 heads feature discrete planes slotted into place atop a vertical pole. Spurred by Picasso’s portraits of Roque, the sculptures in turn fed the artist’s further explorations of the motif in painting.11
Photography was also an important part of Nesjar’s work – he used it extensively for documentation of the Betograve projects, and his correspondence with Picasso includes frequent mention of photographs enclosed with his letters.15 Although Duncan does not mention Nesjar in his accounts, the photographer’s shots of Picasso’s studio make it possible to establish Nesjar’s concurrent presence.16 Several photographs taken by Nesjar, usually dated to 1964 or 1965, show Picasso at La Californie, bare-chested and sporting a distinctively patterned pair of shorts or swimming trunks. Picasso wears them in the photograph with Nesjar and the Aktuell Kunst drawing, and in photos taken in the studio that show Picasso alongside, or gazing at, various pole sculptures—in one, Picasso poses with the Nasher’s steel head, still unfinished and surrounded by the small cut-out figures from the miseen-scène with Duncan with the lightly sketched backdrop on the blank canvas still visible behind him.17 Did Picasso’s exchanges with Nesjar about Betograve and the architectural project in Oslo spur his playful fantasies before Duncan’s camera? Or did Picasso’s ongoing immersion in the “Head of a Woman” motif during the spring and summer of 1957 revive thoughts of monumental sculpture? However the idea emerged, less than three weeks later,
Nesjar was writing to Picasso from Norway,“It would be very interesting to make a concrete sculpture after one of your iron sculptures...We talked about five to six meters. It would be a question of finding a dimension that harmonizes with that of a human being.(See photo, sculpture no. 2)”18 He proposed that on his return to France in the fall to bring Picasso a proof of the lithograph from Paris, he would make more photos of this sculpture, as well as drawings of it for the enlargement. But in late August he explained that an experiment was already underway: “Currently, we are doing the formwork of a ‘sculpture proof’ in half-size (around 3 meters in height) according to the photos I made at your home.”19 In the garden of Viksjø’s home outside Larvik and perhaps at the architect’s urging, Nesjar took advantage of the milder weather before winter’s onset to proceed, using the photos of Picasso’s pole sculptures made during his previous visit as points of reference. He built wooden frameworks to contain the gravel-and-concrete slab forming the planes of the figure’s head, and mounted scaffolding to “souffler” the head’s details.20 The experimental nature of this trial run is apparent from photos of the fabrication in the Musée Picasso’s photo archives.21 In one, the facial features sketched on the proper left side of the wooden form actually belong to the proper right profile of the source maquette, a reversal corrected in the final sculpture.22 In another photo, the treatment of the cylindrical supporting post had been sketched in differently than seen in the final result. By October 27, 1957, work on the sculpture was likely complete, as Nesjar wrote to Picasso that he had a collection of photos to show him on his upcoming visit.23 Nesjar was reportedly unhappy with the sculpture and had to be dissuaded by Viksjø from destroying the work, but when he showed Picasso the photos, the artist was delighted.24 The timeline reconstructed here from Nesjar’s correspondence and photos suggests that the Nasher’s Betograve Head of a Woman should be dated 1957 rather than 1958. (In fact, after Nesjar’s letters from the fall of 1957 and his visit to Picasso with photos of the work, all mention of the sculpture vanishes from his correspondence.) Head of a Woman’s status as an experimental “sculpture proof” may also account for its composition, which combines aspects of the Nasher’s steel Head of a Woman with those of the Musée Picasso’s wooden Head of a Woman, both of which were made from the same cardboard maquette, seen near the two heads in photographs Duncan took of Picasso’s studio at the time of Nesjar’s visit.25 Despite their structural similarities, the two heads are painted very differently from each other. In the Musée Picasso’s wooden head, the proper left side of the sculpture is a simple black or dark gray silhouette, recalling Picasso’s inclusion of many such profiles in his two-dimensional works. On the proper right – Nesjar’s source for the proper right profile of the Betograve Head – a great staring eye gazes out at the viewer, but as the viewer moves around the sculpture, a second, frontally oriented eye quickly comes into view, and in addition to the profile, the countenance resolves into a staring skull. In the Nasher’s steel sculpture, Picasso became more elaborate with the proper left side, spreading a combined profile and fully frontal face across the abutting sheets. The result is a series of often contradictory views that nonetheless evoke a single head, with the back of the sculpture conflating rear of
the head and profile, hair pulled back and both ears improbably occupying the same plane. The virtuoso left profile, which Nesjar would use for the proper left profile of the Betograve work, contrasts strongly with the simpler rendering of the right profile, a dichotomy previously deployed in the folded steel busts of Sylvette David. Although Nesjar’s letter of July 18 refers to “sculpture no. 2” as the model for a proposed Betograve sculpture, it is not clear which sculpture he meant. “Sculpture no. 2” may refer to the Nasher’s steel head, as it was the second sculpture to be made from the templates of the cardboard maquette, and Picasso was completing it at the time of Nesjar’s visit. Instead, the resulting “sculpture proof” combines aspects of both this and its wooden sibling – the proper left profile of the Nasher’s head and the proper right profile and banded pole of the Musée Picasso’s – and adds a few unique elements. The back view of the Betograve head, a contrast of smooth concrete and exposed gravel, is not seen in either of the smaller sculptures, and the four planes of the head meet in the concrete version at right angles, whereas in the smaller versions, the back plane, with the figure’s gathered hair, is set at an angle. Since Betograve was initially used on the flat surfaces of walls, it was logical that Picasso’s planar sculptures would be selected as the starting point for a sculptural collaboration, since these sculptures shared with the Norwegian technique a creative combination of material, line, and flat image. In the sheet-metal sculptures, Picasso used planar surfaces to generate works confounding expectations of the continuous three-dimensional contours typical of much modern sculpture. Each version of the Head of a Woman sculptures presents sharply delineated glimpses of individual forms, which can pass quickly from one anatomical reference to another, an eye reconfiguring into an ear with a slight shift in point of view. Nesjar unquestionably used the more striking of the profile views from each of the smaller sculptures, and moving the back plane to a 90-degree position would have undoubtedly simplified construction of the sculpture as well as Nesjar’s sandblasting of the requisite areas. His manipulation of Head of a Woman’s composition paralleled his procedure with the Oslo wall engravings: When Nesjar transferred the figures from Triptych onto the wall of the government building, he determined that three figures were too many for the wall, and so he removed one of them. Picasso approved of his decision after the fact, but he always had the option to reject Nesjar’s efforts. As many observers have noted, with their staring gazes and disembodied heads poised like trophies atop poles, the 1957 Head of a Woman sculptures have a strongly totemic character. Their atavistic character lends them an intensity belying their modest size, and interestingly, Picasso’s further forays into monumental works included attempts to render all the pole sculptures at larger sizes. In 1965, Nesjar succeeded in executing a monumental Head of a Woman in Sweden, and he likewise secured Picasso’s approval for Betograve versions of two of the other heads, although neither project went forward.
LEFT Pablo Picasso Head of a Woman (Tête de femme), 1957 Cut wood and paint, 31 x 12 1/2 x 10 1/4 in. (78.5 x 32 x 26 cm) Musée national Picasso-Paris, Dation Picasso, 1979 © 2018 Estate of Pablo Picasso/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York © RMN-Grand Palais (Musée Picasso de Paris)/Mathieu Rabeau ABOVE Pablo Picasso Head of a Woman (Tête de femme), 1958 Gravel and concrete, 120 1/8 x 43 1/4 x 55 7/8 in. (305.1 x 109.9 x 141.9 cm.) Raymond and Patsy Nasher Collection, Nasher Sculpture Center © 2018 Estate of Pablo Picasso/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York Photo: Kevin Todora
Pablo Picasso Head of a Woman (Tête de femme), also called Head of Jacqueline, 1957 Painted steel, 30 3/8 x 13 3/4 x 10 1/8 in. (77.2 x 34.9 x 25.7 cm.) Raymond and Patsy Nasher Collection, Nasher Sculpture Center © 2018 Estate of Pablo Picasso/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York Photo: Tom Jenkins
Picasso never saw in person any of the Betograve sculptures Nesjar made: Their collaboration had its origins in photography, and their working relationship would continue to be negotiated with and through photographs. From the first, Nesjar worked from photographs of Picasso’s sculptures, as Picasso did not want him to remove the works from his studio. Nesjar would then use photographs of the sculptures and of the prospective site to create a photomontage, showing the small work scaled up, for Picasso to approve with a signature and date. Nesjar would base his fabrication on photographs and measurements of the small sculptures made during visits to Picasso, then send the artist photos of the resulting sculpture in situ for his final approval. The printmaking project that initially brought them together served as a conceptual model for Picasso, who approved some of Nesjar’s photomontages with a notation usually reserved for prints: “bon à tirer” [good to pull, i.e., from the press].
Head of a Woman spent four decades in the garden of Viksjø’s summer house, and today still resides in a garden, at the Nasher. In 2012 it underwent conservation. Due to concrete’s porosity, the metal armature inside the sculpture had begun to rust and swell, causing the concrete and gravel to pop off in two small areas. Fortunately, the Nasher’s thenconservator John Campbell was able to stop the rusting and put the detached pieces back into place. Considering all its years outdoors in the disparate climates of Norway and Texas and its status as the first attempt to make a monumental sculpture using a newly developed process, this “sculpture proof” has aged quite well.
Sculptures by Picasso are commonly identified by reference to the number assigned to them in Werner Spies, in collaboration with Christine Piot, Picasso Sculptures: A Catalogue Raisonné (Stuttgart: Hatje Cantz, 2000). The Nasher’s Betograve sculpture is Spies 493A.
The first complete account of Nesjar’s collaboration with Picasso is Sally Fairweather, Picasso’s Concrete Sculptures (New York: Hudson Hills Press, Inc., 1982), which was based in part on extensive interviews with Nesjar; her account of his meeting Picasso and their first work together is on pages 25-39. According to Sylvia A. Antoniou-Nesjar, who has subsequently published extensively on Nesjar and Picasso, Viksjø heard of Nesjar’s mission to secure a print for Aktuell Kunst and asked him to show Picasso photographs of the concrete work being done in the government building. Antoniou-Nesjar, “Sylvette in Concrete,” in Sylvette, Sylvette, Sylvette: Picasso and the model (Munich: Prestel, 2014), 198.
Zervos VII, 290.
Duncan, 142-145, 157.
Since the 2011 terrorist attack on the government buildings, there has been a fierce debate in Norway regarding the fate of these buildings and their murals. The government recently announced plans to relocate the murals, demolish the old structures, and rebuild a new complex of buildings on the site. See http://www.nytimes.com/2017/10/19/arts/oslo-picassomural.html (accessed November 21, 2017).
Duncan published a group of the resulting photographs in The Private World of Pablo Picasso (New York: The Ridge Press, 1958). The Cahiers d’art publication also includes previously unpublished photos from these sessions.
At some point, Nesjar’s photographs were separated from his letters and are now in the Musée Picasso’s separate photo archives, but there does not seem to have been a record made of which photographs accompanied which letters. As Nesjar’s photographs are largely unannotated apart from indications of copyright, this makes the precise dating of photographs related to the first two years of his collaboration with Picasso. 16
For a list of projects by Picasso and Nesjar, see Antoniou-Nesjar, “Sylvette in Concrete,” 203.
Although Nesjar took photographs of (and, according to Antoniou-Nesjar, filmed) its fabrication, there nonetheless remains less documentation of this first effort than of the sculptures that followed. Sylvia A. Antoniou-Nesjar, “Picasso dans l’espace publique,” in Picasso.Sculptures (Paris: Musée national Picasso-Paris, 2016), 276. 5
In his letter of March 20, 1957, Nesjar wrote that he was planning to leave Norway on June 5; he also reminds Picasso of the details of the lithography project, adding, “I can pick up your drawings at your house and bring them to Mr. [Fernand] Mourlot to arrange the formalities of printing.” Letter from Carl Nesjar to Pablo Picasso, May 20, 1957, Archives Picasso, Musée Picasso, Paris, Box 107 (Nesjar) ARPECB1040. Translation by the author. 6
Paintings by Picasso are commonly identified by reference to the number assigned to them in Christian Zervos, Pablo Picasso: Catalogue raisonné des oeuvres, 33 volumes (Paris: Cahiers d’art, 1932-78). Head of a Woman with Black Curly Hair is XVII, 344.
It is entirely possible that Nesjar and Duncan met during Nesjar’s visit, as two letters from Nesjar in the following months include salutations to Duncan as well. Letters from Nesjar to Picasso, November 14, 1957 and March 4, 1958, Archives Picasso, Musée Picasso, Paris, Box 107 (Nesjar) ARPECB1040. 17
The photo of Picasso and Nesjar is in Fairweather, op. cit. n. 5; the photo of Picasso with the Nasher’s steel head, unfinished, was published in Antoniou-Nesjar, “Sylvette in Concrete,” 201. Other published photos of Picasso by Nesjar from this same session, showing the artist with other pole sculptures, include: Nesjar, Pablo Picasso with his maquette [Spies 650] for Kristinehamm’s Head of a Woman,” in Picasso’s Late Sculpture: “Woman”. The Collection in Context, p. 154; and “Picasso with maquette of Head of a Woman [Spies 495],” in Fairweather, 29. There are likely additional photos in Nesjar’s archive in Norway, which I was not able to consult; the photograph of Nesjar and Picasso was perhaps taken by Roque using Nesjar’s camera, as she did on other occasions referenced in Nesjar’s letters. 18
Letter from Nesjar to Picasso, July 18, 1957, Archives Picasso, Musée Picasso, Paris, Box 107 (Nesjar) ARPECB1040; translation by the author. Regarding the identity of “sculpture no. 2,” see below. 19
Letter from Nesjar to Picasso, August 29, 1957, Archives Picasso, Musée Picasso, Paris, Box 107 (Nesjar) ARPECB1040; translation by the author. 20
The Archives of the Musée Picasso’s correspondence file for Nesjar includes a Norwegian newspaper clipping dated December 3, 1957 showing this photo, which is also reproduced in Fairweather, 28. Archives Picasso, Musée Picasso, Paris, Box 107 (Nesjar) ARPECB1040.
Nesjar used the word “souffler” [blow] in his letters to describe the sandblasting process.
Photo Archives, Musée Picasso, Paris, photo box ARPPHBT0118.
See especially Elizabeth Cowling’s exploration of the motif’s history in Cowling, “Picasso’s Late Sculpture: Woman,” in Picasso’s Late Sculpture: “Woman”. The Collection in Context (Malaga: Museo Picasso, 2009), 28-137, passim.
The works, all titled Head of a Woman (Tête de femme), are as follows: Spies 492 (Nasher Sculpture Center); 493 (Musée Picasso); 494 (private collection), 495.II (Musée Picasso), and 650 (private collection).
Vérane Tasseau discusses the interplay of the sculptures and paintings, including Picasso’s use of a spotlight in his studio to project shadows of these sculptures onto blank canvases, in her essay “Picasso ou l’utopie des sculptures-architectures,” in Picasso: In the Studio (Paris: Cahiers d’art, 2015), 240.
Ibid., photo 5452. It is possible that the photo was printed backward, but it seems unlikely that Nesjar, attentive to all other details of the project, would have overlooked such a mistake in a photo he sent to Picasso. Letter from Nesjar to Picasso, October 27, 1957, Archives Picasso, Musée Picasso, Paris, Box 107 (Nesjar) ARPECB1040. The visit was imminent: Nesjar was flying to Nice on the 28th. 25
Spies 640, collection Musée Picasso; see Duncan, p. 138, and Picasso: In the Studio, ill. 14.
Spies 492 and 493; Tasseau pinpoints Duncan’s photo sessions involving these works as occurring between June 27 and July 3, based on the photographer’s schedule and the paintings visible on the easels in his shots, including Head of a Woman with Black Curly Hair, the source for the Aktuell Kunst lithograph and dated June 27, 1957. Tasseau, “Picasso ou l’utopie des sculptures-architectures,” 240. The Nashers acquired their painted steel Head of a Woman in 1997. 12
The Head of a Woman in Sweden is based on Spies 650; Nesjar got Picasso’s approval for projects based on Spies 494 and 495. In addition, in a project not connected with Nesjar, a large version of the Musée Picasso’s wood Head of a Woman was fabricated in 1993 in acrylic and installed at a ski resort in Les Cluses, Flaine, Haute-Savoie, France. 28
See photomontages in Fairweather, 118, 127, 139.
Kathryn Andrews Acquisition
Kathryn Andrews Die Another Day, 2013 Polished stainless steel, glass, brass, and certified film prop 79 x 55 x 6 in. (200.7 x 139.7 x 15.2 cm) Gift of Avo Tavitian © Kathryn Andrews Photography: Matteo D’Eletto, Courtesy of David Kordansky Gallery, Los Angeles, California
Written by Leigh Arnold, Ph.D. Nasher Sculpture Center Assistant Curator
Los Angeles–based artist Kathryn Andrews (American, born 1973) mines the American cultural landscape to investigate relationships between popular culture and power structures, in particular how images and brands are used to establish authority. Andrews’s work, which combines found objects, historic images, and references to art movements such as Pop art, Minimalism, and Finish Fetish, aims to show how meaning is contingent on context. To create her sculptures, Andrews will often rent materials from Southern California celebrity-themed shops—a t-shirt worn by Brad Pitt, for example, or a wedding ring donned by Ashton Kutcher. In using these props, whose value comes only through their proximity to celebrity, Andrews troubles the idea of precious materials. Often she combines a meticulously fabricated “framing” element with a second notable object, the juxtaposition of which invites a multitude of implied narrative projections, while simultaneously destabilizing traditional assumptions about the formal hierarchies of sculptural pedestal, armature, and object.
objects accrue significance in different contexts. The prop’s meaning shifts in relation to its Hollywood history, the viewer’s presence, and the dressing table’s seductive materiality, which references various art historical movements, such as Pop art, Finish Fetish, and Minimalism. The highly polished, meticulously produced sculpture is characteristic of Andrews’s consideration of the artist’s role and presence in the work, questioning the Minimalist’s insistence on the independence and objective status of the artwork. Her use of stainless steel—an anonymous, industrial material—nonetheless becomes associated with the artist through its repeated use.
A recent addition to the Nasher collection, Die Another Day resembles a large dressing-room mirror reminiscent of those found in Hollywood green rooms. Its slick structure supports a prop bullet from the James Bond film of the same name. Through the juxtaposition of the prop and the artist-fabricated mirror-polished stainless steel, the work is a contemporary consideration of the vanitas tradition and questions how
Die Another Day was exhibited in Kathryn Andrews/Alex Israel at Gagosian Gallery, Rome in 2014 and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago’s 2015 exhibition Run For President, which traveled to the Nasher Sculpture Center September 10, 2016 – January 8, 2017.
Nasher Acquisition 34
Die Another Day represents an important addition to the Nasher collection. Andrews’s sculpture expands the representation of conceptually oriented objects and offers a new path for consideration of issues—the role of the artist in art-making and the reconsideration of popular culture— initially explored by Minimalist and Pop art predecessors in the collection.
Joseph Beuys. Image copyright zeroonefilm/ bpk.ErnstvonSiemensKunststiftung_StiftungMuseumSchlossMoyland_Foto: UteKlophaus
A new documentary, Beuys, to be screened at the Texas Theatre in partnership with the Nasher, sheds light on the enigmatic artist Joseph Beuys Written by Jason Reimer
Joseph Beuys is a hard sell. Not so much to art patrons who’ve likely heard of the artist or seen his work, but to an average art house movie audience who want to be entertained, the name might not ring many bells. To that crowd, Joseph Beuys might reflect all the things the uninitiated dislike about modern art—that its punchline seems enigmatic and snobs are snickering at you if you don’t get it on first glance. But these false perceptions make the film Beuys, directed by Andres Veiel, a perfect addition to our ongoing collaboration between Texas Theatre and the Nasher Sculpture Center. Beuys emerged from a Germany decimated by world war and then seized in a kind of artistic midlife crisis. Decades later, the work of filmmakers like Werner Herzog, Wim Wenders, and Rainer Fassbender was all influenced by the destruction of former fascist Germany, as was the electronic music of Kraftwerk and Einstürzende Neubauten following that. Joseph Beuys was the rock star of the Fluxus movement that influenced them all. Until now, there has never been a comprehensive documentary about the elusive artist that chips away at his mythic persona that became his shadow. 36
An essential fuel to his work is a vested interest in destroying conventional views wherever possible. He relished heated televised debates, several of which are shown in the film and still seem outlandish today. One of Beuys’s main tenets was blurring the lofty term “artist,” making it an inclusive act with no participatory barriers between audience and creator. This was often done with common objects that lingered with surprising effect, making a jar of honey seem like a political statement or a walk through the forest seem like an act of artistic defiance. This film offers a doorway into Joseph Beuys’s thinking, as well as the complicated past with his own country and its role on the world stage.
Beuys at the Texas Theatre February 2 / 8:30 p.m. nashersc.org/beuysfilm
2018 LAUREATE THEASTER GATES
NASHER PRIZE This spring, the Nasher Sculpture Center will honor American artist Theaster Gates as the third recipient of the Nasher Prize, an international award presented annually to a living artist who has made an extraordinary impact on our understanding of sculpture.
written by LEIGH ARNOLD, PH.D. Nasher Sculpture Center Assistant Curator
With a strong focus on the material aspects of memory, history, and place, Nasher Prize 2018 Laureate Theaster Gates has established a new paradigm for sculpture by joining together disparate methods of artistic production—the creation of discrete objects and the rezoning, rebuilding, and re-territorializing of architectural spaces. In both approaches, Gates reactivates forgotten or lost associations inherent in discarded materials, such as decommissioned fire hoses, back issues of Ebony and Jet magazines, and reconfigured gym floors, to manifest spaces and objects that are at once intimate and expansive, humble and ambitious. Trained as a potter, with master’s degrees in urban planning and theology, Gates has synthesized these different areas of study into a diverse practice that incorporates sculpture, ceramics, painting, music, performance, architecture, urban planning, and community engagement. At its core, Gates’s practice is firmly situated in the manipulation of raw materials to create new forms, or what is otherwise defined as sculpture. As Gates says, “There’s room inside of a sculptural practice to reimagine what the raw material is, so that we can reimagine what the end sculptural work looks like.” For the artist, “raw material” includes such traditional sculptural media as clay, wood, and bronze, but can also include abandoned buildings, artifacts, and archives. Through his multifarious practice, Gates is revolutionizing how makers transcend disciplines by collapsing traditional categories and hierarchies into the singular calling of being an artist.
Though best known for his architectural projects, such as Dorchester Projects (ongoing since 2008) and Stony Island Arts Bank (ongoing since 2015), for which the artist has restored abandoned buildings in Chicago and recast them as cultural centers, Gates approaches all aspects of his work from the perspective of an object-maker: “I’m a potter. We tackle things that are at our wheel. We try with the skill we have to think about this next bowl that I want to make. And it went from a bowl, to a singular house, to a cultural district, to thinking about the city and at every point there were things that I didn’t know, that I had to learn.” For Gates, building-making is no different than ceramic-objectmaking, in that each results in the transformation of raw materials into something beautiful, or as he has put it, “the magic of taking the lowliest material on earth—mud—and turning it into something beautiful and useful.” Likewise, each method of production taps into the artist’s labor and direct use of his hands to mold and shape new forms. Gates grew up in West Chicago, where he witnessed black neighborhoods shift from thriving spaces of industry, commerce, and community, to areas blighted by abandonment. In the void of decline, new local economies developed linked to drugs and crime, and neighborhoods, such as Greater Grand Crossing, further deteriorated as the built environment fell into disrepair. Gates uses his work to impede these kinds of “slow catastrophes,” which he describes as:
ABOVE: Theaster Gates Civil Tapestry (High Yellow), 2012 Decommissioned fire hose 60 x 83 x 3 in. (152.4 x 210.8 x 7.6 cm) © Theaster Gates. Photo © White Cube (Ben Westoby) Theaster Gates Tar Baby II, 2016 Styrofoam, Bondo, tar coloring, vinyl foil and fabric 78 3/4 x 314 15/16 x 472 7/16 in. (200 x 800 x 1200 cm) © Theaster Gates. Photo © Kunsthaus Bregenz (Markus Tretter)
Theaster Gates Raising Goliath 2012 1967 Ford fire truck, magazines, steel and wire Dimensions variable ÂŠ Theaster Gates. Photo ÂŠ White Cube (Ben Westoby) Courtesy Johnson Publishing Company, LLC
Theaster Gates Ground Rules (Free throw possibility), 2014 Wood flooring 100 1/8 x 147 5/16 x 2 9/16 in. (254.3 x 374.1 x 6.5 cm) © Theaster Gates. Photo © White Cube (Ben Westoby)
The ways in which the slow erosion of the divine, the slow erosion of education, the slow erosion of family, the introduction of drugs, the introduction of a hopelessness that comes as a result of having economic centers and economic generators ripped from your neighborhood. […] So some of the restoration work that I feel like I’m involved in [answers the question of] what do you do with 52 closed schools? […] What do you do when the general condition feels like the condition of hopelessness? And I refuse to live in a hopeless, pessimistic environment. And as a result, you just have to work. Work to reconcile the lack of education, the immediacy of gun violence, the immediacy of drugs. And you have to do whatever you can within your means to try to be a stop-gap. I think that there are moments as a maker when I have to use my brain for other things. When I have to use my hands for other things. And to just be in the studio when there’s a [levee] broken outside…well it would just be a waste of my hands. Yet if Gates battles against decline, it also feeds his many projects in its material form as detritus that the artist recycles and reintroduces as art.
ABOVE: Theaster Gates Soul Manufacturing Corporation Locust Projects, Miami 10 November - 21 December 2012 © Theaster Gates Photo © Locust Projects Courtesy Locust Projects, Miami BELOW: Theaster Gates Migration Rickshaw for Sleeping, Playing, and Building, 2013 Wood, fabric, metal, plastic, Huguenot House remnants 68 x 104 x 46 in. (173 x 264 x 117 cm) Installation view: 13th Ballad, 18 May 6 October 2013 Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago Art © Theaster Gates Photography: Sara Pooley Photography, courtesy of the artist
Gates mines not only the remnants of sites, but his personal narrative as well: As the youngest of nine children and the only son, the artist observed his father support his family as a roofer and learned the realities of economics and hard labor at a young age. As an adult, the artist honored his father’s labor by using his roofer’s tools (which Gates inherited upon his father’s retirement) in the creation of a series of tar paintings replete with potent cultural, political, and art historical associations. Gates considers this series as a kind of conceptual work that equates vernacular labor with high art vis-à-vis Abstract Expressionist painting. With the inclusion of an Ebony magazine cover featuring the phrase “THE BLACK MALE” superimposed over three stylized African American male profiles, Gates’s powerful painting Ain’t I A Man (2012) is a metaphorical self-portrait whose title solicits a rhetorical, existential question concerning identity. Made using the tools of his father’s trade, with materials that reference both labor and aspiration, the painting alludes to aspects of Gates’s own identity and also to formal concerns such as surface and texture—situating his tar paintings among the gestural dripped and poured paintings of Jackson Pollock and Robert Rauschenberg’s black collage-paintings of the early 1950s. Gates adapted the phrase “Ain’t I a man” from the motto “Am I not a man and a brother” that appeared on medallions featuring an image of an African man in chains produced by 18th-century English potter, abolitionist, and Wedgwood company founder Josiah Wedgwood as early as 1787. The motto and image were also widely circulated as a woodcut illustrating John Greenleaf Whittier’s 1837 antislavery poem “Our Countrymen in Chains.” The African man’s profile on the medallion is strikingly similar to those depicted on the cover of the Ebony magazine in Gates’s painting, but in the context of the original illustration, the
slave’s uplifted gaze reads as supplication, while those profiles on the Ebony cover gaze upward in hope and aspiration. The conflation of histories, cultures, and narratives is a method Gates employs widely throughout his work. An early example is the artist’s performance and exhibition titled Yamaguchi Story: Plate Convergence at the Hyde Park Art Center in Chicago in 2007. Inspired by his interest in the history of Japanese pottery (and the time spent in Japan as an undergraduate student), Gates invited 100 guests to a dinner where he served traditional soul food alongside Japanese dishes, such as sashimi and sushi, on plates he crafted using ceramic techniques and materials from Itawamba County, Mississippi (a territory known for its rich clay and manufacturing facilities). During the dinner, Gates told his guests the story of the master Japanese ceramicist Shoji Yamaguchi, a survivor of the bombing of Hiroshima who fled Japan and settled in Mississippi after World War II, where he fell in love with and married a black civil rights activist. The Yamaguchis became known in the area for hosting dinner parties that doubled as salons for political discussion and cultural understanding. When the couple died in a car accident, their extensive pottery collection was left to their son, who founded the Yamaguchi Institute to carry on his parents’ work. Gates’s telling of the Yamaguchi saga moved many of his guests to the point of convincing them of its veracity and encouraging them (both metaphorically 46
and monetarily) to buy into the story. Gate revealed that the story was a fabrication on his part—a false premise to bring people together under the pretense of re-creating an evening “reminiscent” of a Yamaguchi dinner party. Gates has described this performance as a turning point in his career: The introduction of narrative into his ceramic practice allowed him to transcend the invisible dividing line between craft and “mainstream” art, and through this performance, Gates transformed from a potter to a conceptual artist. Gates’s use of performance to engage in cultural dialogue is a reoccurring method in his work. In 2012, the artist established the Soul Manufacturing Corporation and with the help of friends and master potters Matthew Dercole, Pei-Hsuan Wang, and Yuko Fukata created a factory in the back galleries of Locust Projects in Miami, where they threw pots and formed clay bricks, while engaging visitors in wideranging conversations. The Soul Manufacturing Corporation (SMC) repeated its performance at the Fabric Workshop and Museum in Philadelphia and Whitechapel Gallery in 2013. Aspects of it were performed by Gates as part of his project for the 14th edition of the Istanbul Biennial in 2015. While Gates’s performances as part of the SMC were intended to engage audiences in conversation and exchange, with their “factories” operating as gathering places for makers, at its core the SMC sought to find meaning through the production of things, using clay as its primary material.
OPPOSITE PAGE: Theaster Gates Ain’t I a Man, 2012 Wood, roofing paper and membrane, tar and paper 48 x 71 x 4 in. (121.9 x 180.3 x 10.2 cm) © Theaster Gates. Photo © White Cube (Ben Westoby) Courtesy Johnson Publishing Company, LLC
ABOVE: Broadside Collection, portfolio 118, no. 32a c-Rare Bk Coll, Library of Congress Rare Book and Special Collections Division, Washington, D.C. 20540 USA
Theaster Gates Quiet Riot with Tar 2012 Wood, fire hose, carpet, wire and tar 17 x 24 1/2 x 5 in. (43.2 x 62.2 x 12.7 cm) © Theaster Gates Photo © White Cube (Ben Westoby)
OPPOSITE PAGE: Theaster Gates Documentation of Tarring, Chicago, 2012. Photograph by Sara Pooley Courtesy of Theaster Gates Studio
Theaster Gates My Name Is Dave: A Hymnal, 2010, Performance, Milwaukee Art Museum. Courtesy of Theaster Gates Studio.
Theaster Gates, Soul Temple from the Series Tea Shack, 2008. Photograph by Sara Pooley. Courtesy of the artist.
Music is a significant aspect of Gates’s performance practice. During lectures, it is not uncommon for the artist to break into song, singing Gospel hymns that are either drawn from memory or improvised on the spot. Gates’s comfort with music and singing derives from his experience leading the choir of Chicago’s New Cedar Grove Missionary Baptist Church when he was just 14 years old. In 2010, for example, at the opening reception for his solo exhibition To Speculate Darkly at the Milwaukee Art Museum, Gates enlisted a 250-voice choir to perform songs he had adapted from the inscriptions on pots made by the well-known 19th-century slave and potter Dave Drake (also known as Dave the Potter). Since 2008, Gates has directed a band called the Black Monks of Mississippi, an experimental music ensemble of Chicago-based vocalists and musicians, who take inspiration from the diverse traditions of gospel, blues, and Buddhist chants. The Black Monks of Mississippi perform frequently at Gates’s exhibition openings and installations, notably as part of his exhibition Temple Exercises at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago in 2009; as well as Gates’s 12 Ballads for Huguenot House, 2012 for dOCUMENTA (13) in Kassel, Germany, where recorded performances played on monitors throughout the house’s many rooms; and during Sanctum, at the site of the ruins of Temple Church in Bristol in 2015. For the Bristol project, the Black Monks of Mississippi initiated a series of ongoing performances that filled a temporary architectural space constructed by Gates with music, spoken-word artists, and gospel choirs, nonstop 24 hours a day, for 24 days.
The collaborative aspect of Gates’s performances emerges strongly in his space-making projects, for which he is arguably best known. Together with local builders, architects, and hired hands from the neighborhood, Gates restored an enclave of buildings in Greater Grand Crossing, Chicago and reframed them as cultural centers for the neighborhood and as repositories and access points to Gates’s various archive collections that index black American culture. Playing off the double meaning of “projects” as both a community (as related to the American term for public housing) and an ongoing artistic endeavor, Gates seeks to create spaces that preserve the identity of the neighborhood and celebrate black culture, as he elaborates, “The goal was actually to create more opportunities so that more artists could do more in my neighborhood. Or to ensure that culture was alive for a long time as other kinds of building projects and processes were happening around me.” Each building had an initial purpose and function: The Archive House was the repository for archival collections and contained a library comprising the inventory of the defunct Prairie Avenue Bookstore; the Listening House functioned as a performance and listening space, where visitors could access the Dr. Wax Record Archive; and the Black Cinema House hosted film screenings, discussions, and workshops for neighborhood families to learn about the history of Black cinema and make movies of their own. But the functions for each building have since evolved with the needs of Gates, his studio, and the community. With the opening of the Stony Island Arts Bank in 2015, which Gates describes as 51
“an icon for new things happening on the South Side,” the artist consolidated his variously dispersed archives into the bank, centralizing this aspect of his practice and also opening up the other buildings to new possibilities and purposes. Currently, the Archive House functions as a pottery studio for Dorchester Industries, which makes objects and furniture to fund Gates’s ongoing space-making projects, while the Black Cinema House has been converted into the artist’s private residence. These functions will likely change as Gates adapts new spaces for cultural development and further expands his engagement with the community. In relating his spacemaking work back to his studio practice, Gates says: The part that feels exciting there is that whether it be art or space, it feels like it’s born out of a consciousness or ideology that just wants to consider material big or small, and give context to those materials or give a new context to a set of materials or give time and attention to a thing that hasn’t had time or attention for a long time. And you find that whether it’s a ceramic object, or a piece of fire hose, or a tar kettle, or a building, that all of those things require the same diligence as a maker. They may require an understanding of different contexts, like say the way that the Stony Island Arts Bank works is very different than the way a tar painting would work, but in a day, I have to consider both of those things. So, sculpture in that way is the ability to move between different kinds of projects with deep facility and a deep understanding and a desire to be trumped by the intelligence of the material and fight with the material over and over again, until something is born. In selecting Gates as the 2018 Nasher Prize Laureate, the jury chose an artist whose work addresses contemporary sculpture’s primary concerns: the status of object-making; the ever-expanding definition of sculpture to include consideration of space, place, and people’s interaction with it, and the urgent need to address relevant social and political issues. As Gates’s practice evolves, it will undoubtedly continue to help us form a basis of understanding the chaos of the world and recognizing the beauty hidden within it.
ABOVE: Theaster Gates in performance with the Black Monks of Mississippi. Performance was a part of the exhibition Theaster Gates: My Labor Is My Protest, September 7 - November11, 2012, White Cube Gallery, London. Photography: Benjamin Westoby, courtesy of the artist BELOW: Theaster Gates To Speculate Darkly: Theaster Gates and Dave, the Slave Potter, Milwaukee Art Museum, Wisconsin April 16 - August 1, 2010 © Theaster Gates. Courtesy Milwaukee Art Museum
THEASTER GATES was born in 1972 and grew up in West Chicago. He has degrees from Iowa State University, studied ceramics and urban planning at Iowa State University, and earned his master’s degree in fine arts and religious studies at the University of Cape Town in 1998. In 2006, he earned his second master’s degree in urban planning, ceramics, and religious studies at Iowa State University. Gates currently serves as the Chairman and Founder of the Rebuild Foundation and as Director of the Arts and Public Life Initiative at the University of Chicago, where he is Professor in the Department of Visual Arts. He lives and works in Chicago. 53
PHOTOGRAPHED BY NA N COULTER
Let loose in the Chicago studio of Theaster Gates and the rehabbed buildings of his project Rebuild Foundation, photographer Nan Coulter sends a detailed dispatch of the artistâ€™s expansive sculptural practice.
NASHER PRIZE DIALOGUES
SCULPTURE IN THE CITY: GLASGOW p
written by KATRINA M. BROWN Director, The Common Guild Glasgow, Scotland
This May, Nasher Prize Dialogues will present a discussion in Glasgow, Scotland. Hosted in partnership with the Glasgow International Festival of Visual Art and The Common Guild, one of Glasgow’s foremost visual art spaces, the talk will be centered on the role of appropriation and issues of copyright within contemporary sculptural practice. Katrina Brown, director of the Common Guild and one of the U.K.’s brightest curatorial lights, will moderate the conversation. Here for The Nasher, Brown gives a brief primer on the famously influential Glasgow art scene.
It’s nigh on impossible to avoid sculpture in Glasgow. It peppers the city’s skyline on the rooftops of some of its most prominent buildings. Known worldwide for the truly extraordinary Glasgow School of Art building by Charles Rennie Macintosh (which is currently closed for restoration after a major fire in 2014), Glasgow benefits from the broader architectural legacy of the city’s considerable wealth in the 18th and 19th centuries. Laudable as much of its architecture may be, many of these buildings are the product of the ill-gotten gains of the so-called “tobacco lords” whose wealth was predicated on the slave trade, a history that is only recently being addressed. Many, but not all. The building illustrated (right) is in fact the former headquarters of the Co-operative Wholesale Society, built in 1893 and part of Glasgow’s more socially responsible history with the labor movement. The sculpture, Light and Life, was remade in 2017 and overlooks the city from the south of the River Clyde. Nowadays, Glasgow is of course also widely known for its contemporary art scene and as home to many artists, including a significant clutch of Turner Prize winners and others with substantial, international careers, such as Cathy Wilkes, currently subject of a major retrospective at MoMA
PS1 in New York. A network of galleries and artist-run spaces in the city have supported many a nascent career, along with some good production facilities that include dedicated provision for sculpture at Glasgow Sculpture Studios. One of the great things about the city’s main contemporary art event, Glasgow International Festival, which takes place in alternate years, is that it takes us into many of these buildings, some known and some unknown, some wellestablished art venues and others called into service for the purpose of temporary exhibitions and projects just for the Festival. The riverside walkway was home to Susan Philipsz’s Lowlands in 2010 – adjacent to a permanent work by the late Ian Hamilton Finlay: a text carved in 1990 into a remaining pier of a long-gone bridge, which reads “All greatness stands firm in the storm.” The 2018 Festival, which runs from April 20 – May 7, will see a typical range of spaces brought into play, from major museums to artist-run spaces and temporary interventions in non-art spaces. Sculpture in its widest sense has tended to feature strongly in the program and 2018 is no exception. At The Common Guild, we will be presenting a solo show by Paris-based Katinka Bock, whose sculptural work often
Glasgow building Light and Life, 2017 At former Scottish Co-Operative Wholesale Society headquarters Morrison Street, Glasgow, Scotland
Mark Leckey Installation view, UniAddDumThs, (2013-15) Mixed media Dimensions variable Containers and Their Drivers, MOMA PS1, New York, 23 October 2016 - 5 March 2017 Courtesy the Artist and Cabinet, London
Urs Fischer, 0 (2015) Aluminium panel, aramid honeycomb, two-component polyurethane adhesive, two-component epoxy primer, galvanized steel rivet nuts, acrylic primer, gesso, acrylic ink, acrylic silkscreen medium, acrylic paint 243.8 x 194.9 x 2.2 cm 96 x 76.7 x 0.9 in ÂŠ Urs Fischer. Courtesy of the Artist and The Modern Institute/Toby Webster Ltd, Glasgow. Photo credit: Mats Nordman
Lubaina Himid, Naming the Money, 2004. One-hundred lifesize painted cut-out plywood figures, audio, dimensions variable. Courtesy the artist, Hollybush Gardens and National Museums Liverpool, International Slavery Museum. Navigation Charts installation view, 2017 © Spike Island, Bristol. Photo credit: Stuart Whipps
incorporates processes of alteration, or the effects of transition from one space to another. Other major shows include a new solo project by Mark Leckey in the main, cavernous, postindustrial space of Tramway, while The Modern Institute will be showing new work by Urs Fischer. Alongside such international artists, there are several opportunities to see the work of Glasgow-based artists in some interesting places: Lauren Gault and Sarah Rose will be making work for a section of the Forth and Clyde Canal; elsewhere there will be new work by Mick Peter; and Centre for Contemporary Arts will present a show by Ross Birrell, whose wonderful Athens–Kassel Ride: The Transit of Hermes—a work that involved five horses being ridden from Athens to Kassel—featured in documenta 14. Another great building—Govan Town Hall, built in 1897-1901 —will play home to an ambitious film work by Glasgow-based theatre director Graham Eatough and artist Stephen Sutcliffe. The building, once at the heart of the city’s prosperous shipbuilding industry, is now a hub for film production facilities. Eatough and Sutcliffe’s two-part film No End to Enderby was co-commissioned in 2016 with Manchester International Festival and the Whitworth, marking the 100th birthday of Manchester-born writer and author of A Clockwork Orange, Anthony Burgess. It muses on artistic legacy and is complex, smart, strange, and witty.
Across town, English artist Linder will be working with the wonderful Glasgow Women’s Library. Described as “the central general information resource about and for women in Glasgow,” GWL was established in 1991 in a tiny shop unit around the corner from the art school and has now grown to occupy its own dedicated space in a former public library, which also happens to be just a few minutes’ walk from the always-interesting David Dale Gallery. One of the highlights of the Festival, and sure to be one of the most visually exciting projects, will be an exhibition by Lubaina Himid, with new work conceived for the grand, central hall of the City’s principal public museum: Kelvingrove Art Gallery & Museum, a late Victorian extravaganza of a building and home to the City’s considerable collections, from Ancient Egypt, to 19th-century French painting. Himid, winner of the the 2017 Turner Prize, celebrates and explores Black history and identity in paintings, prints, drawings, and installations, which often involve near life-size, painted cut-out figures that surround the viewer. It promises to be a fitting and exhilarating fusion of the city’s architectural heritage with engaging contemporary art. Experience Nasher Prize Dialogues: Glasgow on May 2 at the Trades Hall of Glasgow. Learn more at nashersculpturecenter.org/Nasher-Prize-programs
GATES ON VIEW AT THE NASHER Theaster Gates Dirty Red, 2016 Fire hose, wood Five panels, overall dimensions: 60 x 260 1/2 x 7 1/2 inches (152.4 x 661.7 x 19.1 cm) © Theaster Gates
In celebration of Theaster Gates’s designation as the recipient of the 2018 Nasher Prize, the Nasher Sculpture Center will present works by Gates, on view in the museum’s Lower Level Gallery from February 17 – April 28, 2018.
REVEAL On September 19, Nasher Prize supporters and media were the first to celebrate the news of 2018 Laureate Theaster Gates at an event hosted at The Warehouse .
CLOCKWISE FROM THE TOP: Nasher Prize Chairs Derek and Christen Wilson with Jeremy Strick; Howard and Cindy Rachofsky with Jeremy Strick; Eric and Sheryl Maas; Carol and Don Glendenning, Jed Morse, Mary McDermott Cook, and Dan Patterson; Sharon and Michael Young. Photographer: Daniel Driensky
Theaster Gates Ebony Vitrine 1 2012 Lath, glass, paper and black felt 34 5/8 x 34 5/8 x 5 7/8 in. (88 x 88 x 15 cm) © Theaster Gates. Photo © White Cube (Ben Westoby) Courtesy Johnson Publishing Company, LLC
Theaster Gates Installation view of New Egypt Sanctuary of the Holy Word and Image and Elegua in Winter (2017), Theaster Gates. Courtesy of the artist, White Cube, and Regen Projects
NASHER PRIZE CELEBRATION MONTH Enjoy a monthlong celebration of 2018 Nasher Prize Laureate Theaster Gates, featuring public events and educational opportunities, including family activities, student workshops, and learning resources. Transportation funding for school tours is available. RSVP for all events at nashersculpturecenter.org/nasher-prize-programs
MARCH 6 / 7 P.M.
Nasher Prize Dialogues: Sculpture + History Sixth Floor Museum, 411 Elm Street, Dallas In partnership with The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza Nasher Prize Dialogues: Sculpture + History will look to the ways in which artists work with documents, found and archived materials, and research to create sculptural work that considers particularly potent historic moments and issues, as well as the current political climate. Taking place in Dallas, a city marked profoundly by the 1963 assassination of President John F. Kennedy and by racial inequality, Nasher Prize Dialogues: Sculpture + History will consider the complex ways in which sculpture tackles the past. Panelists will include artists Alfredo Jaar, Jill Magid, and Paul Jonas Ramirez, among others, and will be moderated by Ben Davis author and national art critic for Artnet News. FREE with RSVP. Watch the live broadcast on facebook.com/nashersculpturecenter.
MARCH 13 – 18 / 11 A.M. - 5 P.M. Spring Break at the Nasher Nasher Sculpture Center
Bring the whole family to enjoy a week of free admission at the Nasher and investigate big ideas through interactive resources about Nasher Prize Laureate Theaster Gates. FREE admission.
MARCH 25 / 1 - 4 P.M.
Student-Centered Festival 2018 Students Respond to Nasher Prize Nasher Sculpture Center In celebration of the launch of a student-created zine, the Nasher will host an afternoon featuring music, interactive projects, and student performances inspired by themes in the work of 2018 Nasher Prize Laureate Theaster Gates. FREE with RSVP.
APRIL 5 / 10 A.M. - 4 P.M.
Nasher Prize Dialogues - Graduate Symposium 2018 Nasher Sculpture Center The 2018 Nasher Prize Graduate Symposium offers master’s and doctoral students from any academic discipline the opportunity to present scholarly work on a host of questions and topics related to Nasher Prize Laureate Theaster Gates. The keynote presentation will be given by author, curator, and critic Matthew Jesse Jackson. The student presentations will be moderated by Kimberly Drew, social media manager at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and author of the Black Contemporary Art blog. FREE with RSVP.
APRIL 6 / 10 A.M.
Nasher Prize Dialogues – Juror Conversation Horchow Auditorium, Dallas Museum of Art Members of the 2018 Nasher Prize jury describe the process leading up to the selection of the 2018 Laureate. Moderated by DMA Director Agustin Arteaga. FREE with RSVP.
APRIL 6 / 1 – 4 P.M.
Nasher Prize Dialogues – Laureate Town Hall Wyly Theater Join Theaster Gates in an extensive conversation with interlocutors and the general public about his sculptural practice. Free with RSVP.
APRIL 7 / 7 P.M.
Nasher Prize Award Gala Nasher Sculpture Center Black-tie, seated award gala honoring Laureate Theaster Gates at the Nasher Sculpture Center. For tickets and underwriting opportunities, please call 214.242.5169 or email email@example.com.
The 2018 Nasher Prize is presented by JPMorgan Chase & Co. Founding Partners for the Prize are The Eugene McDermott Foundation and Nancy A. Nasher and David J. Haemisegger. The Nasher Prize Celebration Month is made possible by support from the National Endowment for the Arts and The Donna Wilhelm Family Fund. Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART) is the public transportation partner for Nasher Prize Month. Presenting Media partner: Belo Media Group. Media sponsors: KERA’s Art & Seek and PaperCity.
2018 NASHER PRIZE
DONORS The Nasher Sculpture Center wishes to thank the following sponsors and individuals for their generous support of the Nasher Prize, an annual international award presented to a living artist who has had an extraordinary impact on the field of sculpture. Their valuable support benefits public programming related to sculpture and the Nasher Prize, including family programming, lectures, installation of the laureate’s work, and a celebration of Laureate Theaster Gates on April 7, 2018.
2018 NASHER PRIZE CO-CHAIRS Christen Wilson Derek Wilson NASHER SCULPTURE CENTER DIRECTOR Jeremy Strick 2018 NASHER PRIZE JURY Phyllida Barlow Huma Bhabha Lynne Cooke Okwui Enwezor Hou Hanru Yuko Hasegawa Pablo León de la Barra Alexander Potts Nicholas Serota FOUNDER’S CIRCLE SPONSORS The Eugene McDermott Foundation Nancy A. Nasher and David J. Haemisegger PRESENTING SPONSOR JPMorgan Chase & Co. NASHER PRIZE MONTH SPONSORS National Endowment for the Arts The Donna Wilhelm Family Fund OFFICIAL VEHICLE Classic BMW / Sheryl and Eric Maas PRINT SPONSOR Ussery Printing Company PREFERRED HOTEL SPONSOR Rosewood Mansion on Turtle Creek PRESENTING MEDIA PARTNER Belo Media Group MEDIA PARTNERS KERA’s Art & Seek PaperCity
UNDERWRITERS Frost Bank Resolution Capital/ Debbie and Eric Green Cindy and Howard Rachofsky Christen and Derek Wilson Nancy and Clint Carlson Dior Joanne Leonhardt Cassullo and the Dorothea L. Leonhardt Foundation, Inc. The Kaleta A. Doolin Foundation Mark Giambrone Fanchon and Howard Hallam Nasiba and Thomas Hartland-Mackie Allen and Kelli Questrom Regen Projects Deedie Rose Catherine and Will Rose White Cube John W. Dayton Jennifer and John Eagle Marguerite Steed Hoffman and Thomas W. Lentz Cynthia and Forrest Miller Susan and Bill Montgomery Carolyn and Karl Rathjen Selwyn Rayzor and Rich Moses Vaughn O. Vennerberg II Sharon and Michael Young Kay and Elliot Cattarulla Lindsey and Patrick Collins Lisa Dawson and Tom Maurstad Marion T. Flores Patricia Villareal and Thomas S. Leatherbury Galerie Lelong & Co. Elaina and Gary Gross Cece and Ford Lacy Linda Marcus Jenny and Richard Mullen Lucilo Peña and Lee Cobb Bonnie Pitman Dr. Randall and Barbara Rosenblatt Lizzie and Dan Routman Lisa and John Runyon Cindy and Armond Schwartz Jaqueline and Peter Stewart Wendy and Jeremy Strick Jeffery Jackson and Sally Warren Marnie and Kern Wildenthal
2018 NASHER PRIZE HOST COMMITTEE Elaine and Neils Agather Laura and William Burlington Nancy and Clint Carlson Joanne Leonhardt Cassullo Richard Chang Mary McDermott Cook and Dan Patterson Beth Rudin DeWoody Kaleta Doolin and Alan Govenar Jennifer and John Eagle Stephen Friedman Mark Giambrone Joyce Goss Kenny Goss Debbie and Eric Green Carol Greene Fanchon and Howard Hallam Nasiba and Thomas Hartland-Mackie Marguerite Hoffman and Thomas Lentz Elisabeth and Panos Karpidas Jenny and Richard Mullen Nancy A. Nasher and David J. Haemisegger Taylor Olson and Laurence Chandler Lucilo Peña and Lee Cobb Allen and Kelly Questrom Cindy and Howard Rachofsky Almine Rech and Bernard Picasso Nancy and Richard Rogers Deedie Rose Catherine and Will Rose Lisa and John Runyon Esther Schipper Tania and Roberto Diaz Sesma Amanda Sharpe John P. Stern Donna Wilhelm Manuela and Iwan Wirth Sharon and Michael Young * As of January 5, 2018.
In the Studio
with Nic Nicosia Adapted from a conversation with Anna Smith, Nasher Curator of Education Photos by Kevin Todora 81
Dallas native Nic Nicosia became internationally known in the 1980s for his staged photographs, which played against the documentary nature of traditional photography by creating believable but fabricated narratives. Over the course of his career, Nicosia’s oeuvre has expanded to include films, drawings, and ultimately sculpture. We spoke to Nicosia in his studio about working across media and coming to sculpture through photography.
NIC NICOSIA: I always made the sets that were used in my photographs. I was envious of, just, being able to make something and show it. And Sandy Skoglund—who I knew—she was basically a sculptor. I always thought that was cool, but at the time I wasn’t showing the sets as part of my exhibitions because they’re never that cool. They’re only made to be seen one way. They’re not made to be walked around. Even my sculptures are really meant to be seen from one side for the most part. I’ve been working on trying to make that different. I love taking pictures. I get really jazzed when I photograph. I kind of get a little something that I get when I see a really good piece of art or something. But I go through periods of hating the work and loving the work as it’s being made. And with my photographs, it got to the point where I didn’t feel there were any stories to tell, and I was just so bored. It was too easy to come up with an idea and make the picture. It took me about 10 years later to figure out why that happened, and it was the portrait commissions I was taking, because I couldn’t really come up with the crazy shit I saw at people’s houses, and it sort of took away my need to direct and have people in front of me. So I stopped making staged photographs and just started to use photographic elements to make collages. I have a really good friend, Sue Graze, who used to be a curator at the Dallas Museum of Art, and she’s very honest with me, and I was showing her these things, and she goes, “Why are you doing this?’” I told her, “I just don’t want to make photographs anymore,” and she says, “Why? That’s what you do.” And when I heard her say that, I stopped working completely for a few weeks. I looked at the catalogue from my 20-year retrospective, and I thought, “Okay, if I do stop just making the staged photographs, what is it that I want to give up?” I kept looking at my own work and I realized that I didn’t want to give up messing around with light. I love lighting stuff. It was that simple. So that’s why I did a series about drawing, but it was photographed. And I did one about painting and I did one about lighting, and I did one about sculpture, and that’s when I was like, “This is cool.” For the first sculpture, I just made this thing out of—the art store guy said, “Try this Paperclay, it’s self-dry”—so I use Paperclay because I’m afraid if I make something in clay and take it to have it fired, it will blow up and I will have wasted all that time. I think the white surface looks good, and I like the handmade quality of it as well.
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Then the sculptures just kind of became it for me. Because now I can make my characters. I don’t have to cast them. The photograph came before the sculpture, and now it’s kind of gone the opposite direction. My sculptures are all about emotions, that’s really what they’re about. These characters—they’re things that I see in a coffee table… (laughs). It’s kind of hard to explain. I have pareidolia, right? Most anybody visual does. We have this pine coffee table in the room where the T.V. is, and also the room where I meditate in the morning, and so I’m not totally focused and I see the knots and the shadows kind of make these things, and I just draw them really quick. And then I make them. Here’s the good thing about doing drawings and doing sculpture: I can work every day on something. With the photographs, it was like, you build the set, you have to wait to have people come over. I take the picture and there’s nothing physical left over, and I would just destroy the sets. They’re only made to be photographed. And, actually, the first set of sculptures were made just to be photographed. I wasn’t intending for people to see them or to collect them, but they did. I never felt comfortable being called anything like a “sculptor” or a “photographer.” I just like that general idea of an “artist,” you know. I guess people see that as a pretentious term, but I never felt comfortable with an individual term. I think I’m good as a photographer. I like taking pictures and l love looking at photographs, but it’s just that I have this vision of what that is and I’m not that.
Nic Nicosia will be a featured artist at the sixth annual Great Create on April 29. Learn more about becoming involved with the Nasher’s family fundraiser by visiting nashersculpturecenter.org/greatcreate.
Kevin Todora is a frequent contributor to The Nasher. He is an artist and photographer who lives and works in Dallas, Texas. 84
Photos by Allison V. Smith
Every year, tens of thousands of students from hundreds of area schools visit the Nasher Sculpture Center for free. This is due in large part to the many individuals, families, and organizations that generously support the Nasher’s mission, especially as it pertains to art education. The Great Create is a particularly special benefit that raises essential funds for youth education by engaging whole families—kids included. The Great Create is “By Artists. For Kids.” A selection of artists, both local and international, lead the 12-and-under crowd through a packed day of interactive demonstrations, entertainment, music, and food, while kids 13+ act as apprentices to the artists for the day. This one afternoon of fun makes it possible for students from all over North Texas to experience the Nasher at no cost for the rest of the year. Dallas-based photographer Allison V. Smith was a featured artist at last year’s event, where she caught the spirit of what makes The Great Create one of the most joyous days of our spring season. She will join our roster of featured artists again this spring. Presenting Sponsor of The Great Create is PNC.
The Great Create / April 29 More information at nashersculpturecenter.org/thegreatcreate
Allison V. Smith is a frequent contributor to The Nasher. She is a photographer and artist who lives and works in Dallas, Texas.
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An Intimate Encounter with the Violin Season Finale of Soundings: New Music at the Nasher to feature Alexi Kenney
Written by Catherine Womack
Violins and cellos are social instruments. We see them most often in quartets, busily chattering back and forth with one another, or as part of an orchestra, their bows bobbing up and down in unison. To spend time with one stringed instrument alone is an intimate experience. Hairs fly. Bows and fingers slap and scrape against string and wood. Pitches quiver. Over eight years of Soundings: New Music at the Nasher, artistic director Seth Knopp has presented many thoughtfully constructed programs. One that stands out in my memory is a 2014 concert of solo cello music in which Alisa Weilerstein performed a pair of Bach suites alongside a selection of contemporary art music. The stylistic variety on display that evening highlighted the emotional range of the instrument. Weilerstein’s cello growled, moaned, wept, and sang. It was laid bare and exposed: cello as vulnerable muse.
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For this season’s Soundings finale on May 3, Knopp gives us a chance to commune with the violin. This time the young, lithesome violinist Alexi Kenney is our guide. A rapidly rising star, his tone is clear, precise, and sensitive. He also happens to be a student of Alisa Weilerstein’s father, pedagogue and chamber musician Don Weilerstein. The program, once again, juxtaposes contemporary compositions with the music of Bach. Pairing old and new is a winning formula. A great vintage jacket looks best with a new pair of designer jeans, and an antique rug is the perfect complement to hyper-modern furniture. Think back to multimedia artist Alex Israel’s 2015 Sightings exhibition at the Nasher. Israel’s brand-new, cotton candy-colored work Untitled (Flat) was positioned behind Rodin’s The Age of Bronze. The two pieces could not be more different in style or provenance, but together they were revelatory. Israel’s 21st-century Hollywood pose transformed Rodin’s statue, bringing its 19th-century contours into focus.
The contemporary pieces Kenney will perform on May 3 contrast and balance Bach’s virtuosic Sonatas and Partitas for solo violin, the centerpiece of which is the Chaconne in D minor. Bach’s Chaconne is a wildly athletic set of variations on a sorrowful, poignant theme. Rapid-fire arpeggios and double stops abound until finally, at the end, we arrive on a simple D. Kaija Saariaho’s Frises (2011) is intended to follow the Chaconne. It picks up where Bach leaves off, on a solitary D. To counter Bach’s furious explorations of harmony, Saariaho gives us a D that whistles like wind in the forests of her native Finland. Every 20th- and 21st-century piece on the program riffs off Bach’s Sonatas and Partitas in its own way. Essa-Pekka Salonen’s Lachen Verlernt (2002) is a more romantic take on the Chaconne. In Violin Phase (1967), Steve Reich’s propulsive, repeated patterns dance like a mid-century modern version of a baroque gigue. Iannis Xenakis’ Mikka (1971) reveals an alternative style of virtuosity in which a single, microtonal melodic line slips and slides around pitches like an erratic siren. At the center of all this will be Kenney’s violin. From Xenakis to Saariaho and back to Bach, the instrument’s most extreme
technical and emotional capacities will be explored. The violin is our muse this time, solitary and exposed. What will she tell us?
Alexi Kenney will perform at the Nasher on May 3. Tickets and more information at nashersculpturecenter.org/soundings.
Photo by Yang Bao
Soundings: New Music at the Nasher is supported by Charles and Jessie Price, Kay and Elliot Cattarulla, the Friends of Soundings, TACA, The City of Dallas Office of Cultural Affairs, and the Alice M. Ditson Fund of Columbia University. Additional support is provided by Nancy A. Nasher and David J. Haemisegger. Media Partner: WRR 101.1 FM. 89
GRUBNIK+ SUZANNE In anticipation of their SOLUNA performance at the Nasher in May, artists Greg Ruppe and Jeff Gibbons use images to tease out ideas for the commissioned piece. In partnership with SOLUNA
May 17 / 9 p.m. Nasher Sculpture Center RSVP for the event at nashersculpturecenter.org/engage
Artist Spotlight 90
A New View
Public Sculpture at Fair Park Written by Jed Morse, Nasher Sculpture Center Chief Curator, and Leigh Arnold, Ph.D., Nasher Sculpture Center Assistant Curator, featuring photography by Carolyn Brown.
The variety of contemporary practices in the public realm and responses to opportunities in public space reflect the relative freedom with which artists pursue their work today. Sculpture has been an integral part of the public square for millennia, but for much of that history, artistic practice was constrained by traditional notions of taste, beauty, and propriety, as well as limited sources for commissions. Kings, congresses, churches, and militaries—the traditional patrons of public art in the Western world—tended to take a narrow view of aesthetics and control the content of public commissions. The democratization of government in the United States and Western Europe in the 20th century produced a parallel democratization of the public square and expansion of artistic practice and its potential patrons. Businesses, private collectors, and museums now commissioned or presented works in public, sometimes as a means to distinguish their properties, but also in the democratic spirit of sharing important works of art and improving public space for the benefit of all. The notion that works of art can ennoble and elevate the human condition persists in this spirit, but is often expressed in abstract works of art—free of overt social, political, or religious agendas. Perhaps the most prominent example of the democratization of public art, Percent for Art programs, in which municipalities and other governmental entities dedicate 1 percent of the budget for public projects to commissioning art for the project site, began in the U.S. in the 1970s and expanded to most American cities in the 1980s and 1990s. These programs are largely responsible for the proliferation of public sculpture in the past 40 years.
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Despite the ubiquity of art in the public realm, the works are often passed by without consideration and their importance obscured by the passage of time. In a new series of articles, The Nasher magazine hopes to highlight some of the more prominent and overlooked public sculptures in Texas and illuminate the circumstances of their creation and their role in the public sphere. The series debut features a photo essay of the sculpture and architecture of Fair Park by Dallasbased photographer Carolyn Brown. In a bid for the State Centennial Celebration in 1936, the City of Dallas expanded and beautified the county fairgrounds in South Dallas. Practically overnight, the city gained more than 200 acres of parks and dozens of Art Deco–style buildings. Named a national historic site in 1986, Dallas’ Fair Park is the largest ensemble of Art Deco architecture in the United States and contains a large number of public sculptures that illustrate the history of Texas. Fair Park represents one of the earliest large-scale commissions of public sculpture in Dallas and as such, provides an introduction to one of the city’s most important, if overlooked, public spaces.
Carolyn Brown has traveled the world to photograph famous places and ancient architecture. She is a photographer, artist, and author who lives in Dallas, Texas.
Contralto on the Esplanade at Fair Park
CLOCKWISE FROM THE TOP: “The Spirit of the Centennial” by Raoul Josset at Fair Park Hall of State Entrance at Fair Park with the “Golden Tejas Warrior” by Allie Tenant Hall of State at Fair Park Historic Fountain with Hall of State in the Background
ALTERNATIVE ART FAIRS
Written by Julie Baumgardner
In April, during Dallas Art Fair weekend, the Nasher will present a 360 Speaker Series panel discussion: Going Rogue: Alternative Art Fairs. The talk will explore how pop-ups, gallery weekends, and alternative art fairs are innovating the market and offering collectors new ways to discover and engage with artists. At a time when established fairs abound, we consider events that disrupt, enhance, or even become the industry standard. Here for The Nasher, seasoned culture writer Julie Baumgardner chats with some of the leading voices in the alternative art fair scene. “What many fairs are now seeing is the discordant relationship between art and its need for context,” explains Ambre Kelly, who along with her other half, Andrew Gori, founded the Spring Break Art Show (SPAS) in 2012, a wildly curated collection of thought-provoking presentations often in unexpected locales—an abandoned school, a post office, even former Conde Nast offices in Times Square. SPAS is one of some 11 fairs that now constitute the “Frieze Frenzy,” as New Yorkers colloquially call the first week in May during which the London cast-off franchise moors itself to Randall’s Island, turning Gotham City into a veritable race of must-sees that include New Art Dealers Alliance (NADA), Collective Art+Design, and another London-transplant, Condo. “When we started our first official art exhibition as a ‘fair,’ we liked the idea of turning the excess that the art fair naturally came to represent on its head,” adds Gori. “Particularly with the influence of Art Basel/Miami, art fairs had a consumerist cachet we thought would be both interesting to borrow and crucial to disturb.” As their name suggests, satellite fairs emerged under the shadow of name-brand behemoths such as the aforementioned Frieze and, most important, Art Basel, as ancillary extensions and antidotes for the community of art collectors and professionals who descend upon a city to transact and trawl through the contemporary art landscape.
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By exhibiting at the same time as larger fairs, these smaller, more focused operations can piggyback off the clientele who come to town. But these upstart fairs are also “where artists can share and grow their practice among their contemporaries, and where latent discourses can mature and be renewed,” explains Touria El Glaoui, founder of the multi-outpost 1:54 African Art fair, which started in London alongside Frieze. It’s since grown to also operate during New York’s Frieze week as well and soon will have a February edition in Marrakech, Morocco to encourage the African collecting community to converge. Though the premise of a fair is to sell, satellite fairs aren’t simplified channels for engaging the art market. These new models have emerged in the past five years as a growing response to another phenomenon of the past decade: the art fair as the premier event in the arts calendar. There are now nearly 270 annual art fairs; 15 years ago, Art Basel, Art Cologne, and the Armory Show were the only necessary stops on the art fair tour. Similarly, a report in The Art Market | 2017, issued by UBS and Art Basel, found estimated sales at art fairs reached $13.3 billion (a quarter of global art sales total and 22% of total dealer yearly spending) in 2016, a 5% increase from the prior year and up 57% since 2010. Art fairs are the heart of the art market these days.
1:54 Art Fair Aida Muluneh, All in one, 2016 Digital Photograph 31 1/2 × 31 1/2 in 80 × 80 cm Courtesy of David Krut Projects and Sutton New York
LEFT Untitled Art Fair Mika Taanila, Tape without Eyes, 2016 Installation Size Variable Courtesy of balzer projects and the Artist RIGHT 1:54 Art Fair Billie Zangewa, Domestic Scene, 2016 Silk tapestry, 136 x 110 cm Courtesy of Afronova and Sutton New York
LEFT Untitled Art Fair Mika Taanila Tape without Eyes, 2016 Installation Size Variable Courtesy of balzer projects and the Artist RIGHT Paul Edmunds Parting, 2016 Telephone wire and wood 110 x 110 x 40 cm Image courtesy of Paul Edmunds and WHATIFTHEWORLD
Material Art Fair
As art creates more and more of an asset class, these independent satellite operations offer exhibition-worthy and highly curated presentations of emerging, overlooked and reconsidered artists, with “no corporate entities, no negatrons,” as SPAS’s Kelly puts it. Even the pioneering satellite operations have rejected the muddy commercial approach. As tells Jeffrey Lowman, founder of Untitled art fair in Miami, which began in 2005: “Untitled was founded because I saw an opportunity in the marketplace to create a fair that focused on artistic and curatorial integrity with the intent of innovating the traditional fair model to create a more interesting experience.” In an almost ironic twist of capitalism, for these independent acts the price of freedom is, in fact, less expensive. Operating at lower costs, a wider variety of artists can be featured in the fairs, while fostering a farther-reaching network. As gallerist and art fair creator Brett W. Schulz explains, “In Mexico City at that time, Zona Maco was the only fair. We had participated for three consecutive years in Maco’s New Proposals section, but it always felt to us like we were trying to fit a square peg into a round hole. At the price points we were managing, we could rarely sell enough work to break even and we felt like the context, size, and format of the fair were ultimately working against us. We weren’t even making helpful contacts. The entire experience just felt cold.” In turn, Schulz co-founded Material, soon entering in its fourth edition in February 2018. “Art fairs, when they’re done well, can create communities that continue to be felt and understood 104
throughout the year,” he says, “We wanted a fair for our generation.” More and more, these satellite fairs reject the straightforward sales approach and instead “offer the edge,” explains 1:54’s El Glaoui: “Satellite fairs remind us to challenge our perception of the art center, because the art world has many lively centers. We can instigate the changes we wish to see with a greater sense of vision and control.” What that often means, in cases such as SPAS or Material, is trading ideas and challenging convention through artworks that impose upon the art’s gambit. As Schulz says, “At the most basic, reductive level, the way I think about it is that if you want to see a lot of shiny, commercial, overpriced trophies, go to the big fair. If you believe in the transformative power of ideas, go to the independent fair.”
April 14 / 2 P.M. / Nasher Sculpture Center 360 Speaker Series Going Rogue: Alternative Art Fairs Panel Discussion
Support for all Nasher Sculpture Center exhibitions and programming is provided, in part, by the generosity of our Members and donors, and by the Texas Commission on the Arts. COVER: Handaxe knapped around a fossil shell, West Tofts, Norfolk, England Ca. 500,000-300,000, Flint, Approx. 5 1/4 x 3 in. (13.3 x 7.6 cm) Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, University of Cambridge
2001 Flora Street, Dallas, TX 75201 USA Tel +1 214.242.5100 Tuesday â€“ Sunday, 11 a.m. â€“ 5 p.m. nashersculpturecenter.org
This particular Linotype machine is said to have been manufactured in approximately the late 1890s and is one of several early-model printing apparatuses in the workspace. Photograph: Nan Coulter
Read the latest issue of the Nasher Sculpture Center's magazine. Editorial features include the upcoming First Sculpture: Handaxe to Figure...
Published on Jan 15, 2018
Read the latest issue of the Nasher Sculpture Center's magazine. Editorial features include the upcoming First Sculpture: Handaxe to Figure...