Usually, I think of the sublime as a feeling of awe prompted by a vastness or an eternal existence, like landscapes or empty spaces. But there’s another kind, one that turns up unexpectedly, when the mundane is presented in an almost worshipful way.
Such is the work of Mary Sibande, a South African sculptor using fabric, photography, and molds of her own body to create a beautiful and, yes, sublime portrait of domestic servitude that transcends the idea of both occupation and the word, “service.” The trappings are there, but the images and traditions are both transformed into something more.
In her own words, which are much better than mine, she explains the origin of her recent work.
Amanze works with surrealism and figure—mashups? There’s a mystical element to many works, finely detailed figures and things floating in the white space of their surfaces.
It’s disturbing and charming at the same time. The sense of myth or spirit world imbues the drawings that also show us the plain, real, everyday. The open spaces have a quiet, meditative structure, where anything could happen, but for now the moment of stillness stretches.
Eisenman works with figures, or more accurately, with the body. She often puts a queer sensibility in her pieces, playing with gender expression and convention. She’s another artist who often puts humor into her work, which I always like to see in fine art.
So much contemporary art takes itself super seriously, and we could all do with occasional wind taken out of our hoity-toity sails. The sculpture, Sketch for a Fountain (2017), is a joyous and life-celebrating piece, something the world always needs more of.
I see echoes of other artists in her paintings, Guston and the realists (usually parodied) are two, historical painters edge in as well. The occasional crudeness—maybe grotesquery is more apt—belies her skill as a draftsperson. Enjoy, Boston.
Kalkou is a Danish sculptor who often works in pure white, as well as making photographs. Her work is, on the surface, very stately, pristine. But there is something of a smirk, or more accurately, an impishness within.
I’m always on the lookout for humor in fine art. Sometimes it’s overt, sometimes it’s obvious. For Sophia, it’s more an undercurrent.
If you can find a subtle, artful humor, you can create air pockets in the seriousness.
It’s only everything. Everything you were and are, all you’ve seen and heard. It’s all in the stew. It’s all past that fuels and lays the foundation for the future, and the act of making funnels it through a venturi tube of consolidation.
I’ve finished Mark Doty’s enthralling Still Life With Oysters and Lemon, underlining and line-marking as I went. A book ostensibly about Dutch still life painting from the 17th Century, it folds in an increasingly deep examination of art and personal experience bit by bit. It’s a lovely book on its own, but it’s also instructive on the ways art encompasses the things of the world and our inner interpretation of it.
There’s something exciting about art world controversy. Even in school, and getting angry about some sculpture or painting or exhibition I deemed “fake,” or “insincere,” or “pandering,” I still enjoyed the engagement those works provoked in me and in my fellow students.
So, anew, is the latest in back-and-forth arguments about the relative worth or meaning of a work. Heatherwick installed “Vessel,” a linked set of staircases, basically, in Manhattan, NYC.
For me, it most resembles one of those sets in sci-fi films where members of an alien tribunal gaze down on humans and condemn them to work in salt mines on some distant planet.
There are lots of sculptures to marvel over at Sailstorfer’s web site, and they range from static, pedestal-bound allegories to machines in motion to indoor-specific to outdoor manipulations. Expectations are twisted and new connections made in brilliant presentations that are simple on the surface but full of ingrained substance.
Take some time and poke around, Sailstorfer is masterfully repurposing things of contemporary society and rethinking their places.
This one, which is going to feature the work of newly-graduated MFA students, is something I’d like to see. But then, in the details, are things like the prestige of venue, and the million dollar cost.
I’m not sure it’s the direction I want to see. The art world is already so focused on sales, and this is more of the same system that pushes artists to structure work to market preferences.
I get the opportunity to the students, and congratulations to them for getting in on this. But I’d like to see a bigger push to strive for meaning and broad openness in both art and its exhibitions.
I’m always fascinated by artists who interact with the physical world in various ways. Especially when they turn the familiar upside down. Magda Sayeg does this sort of thing a lot, creating what I’d call interventions more than merely installations.
Using yarn as a medium has some deep connective salience. It’s familiar, but outside the context of a home or apparel, it brings a sometimes unnerving resonance to both natural and human made objects. Simultaneously, it adds touches of humor and cozy familiarity, drawing us in with bright color and warmth.
About the Author
Marcus is a maker of things and thoughts. He currently resides in Portland, Oregon.