Rococo appeared in Paris, during the reign of Louis VX in the18th century. The unique style was characterized by its ornate and decorative quality, curving and complex designs, and fixation on modeling natural elements. Seen in architecture, sculpture, painting, and interiors, rococo was meant to produce awe and impress at first sight. Mediums frequently used were various colored, rare woods, porcelain, and gilded bronze. With a distinct digression from previous styles, Rococo artisans created objects and spaces with the wild elements of nature in mind. Frequently, there were brighter colors, greater detailing, and boastful displays of wealth. Rococo was an expression of the flamboyancy and playfulness that was prominent during Louis XV's reign, and equally the grandeur that was so infamously associated with his decline and the rise of the Enlightenment.
The Morsbroich Castle was built during the height of the period's popularity and is currently home to the Morsbroich Castle Municipal Museum that features international modern and contemporary art including their newest exhibition, The Flexible Plan. This group show examines the survival of Rococo through contemporary art. The title refers to Rococo's break from the consistency of the Baroque, a previous, predominant art style. As the castle itself is a pinnacle example of the Rococo style, it provides a rich backdrop for the selection of works. Through painting and sculpture, these artists have explored the core fundamentals of the movement and have produced work that mirrors the vibrant and decorative elements of the original style.
Rococo remains a staple style for tourist visits throughout Europe, specifically in France at Versailles and the Louvre, however contemporary examples of the ornamental designs are more rarely seen. With a rich, historical context and an outstanding backdrop, The Flexible Plan offers a comprehensive experience that beautifully intertwines the old and the new.
At the age of 97, Los Angeles-based artist Luchita Hurtado has been painting surreal compositions for 80 years, but only recently has she garnered fame, thanks to a recent biennial, Made in LA 2018, at the Hammer Museum. As the only deviation from the contemporary, the 11 paintings included in the show were all painted in the 1960s and 70s. Although these paintings are decades old, the content remains modern in the midst of the #MeToo campaigns.
Hurtado was born in Venezuela and moved to New York City as a child, but has since lived in Mexico City, San Fransisco and now, Santa Monica. Her life has ironically been filled with artistic inspiration. Married to two artists and collectors, Wolfgang Paalen and Lee Mullican, Hurtado has a son, Matt Mullican, who is also an artist. Familiar friends with modern giants such as Man Ray, Rufino Tamayo, Agnes Martin, and Isamu Noguchi, Luchita Hurtado watched as other careers flourished while continuing to paint. Although, Hurtado showed at multiple exhibitions, her professional career did not take off.
Many of Hurtado's works are self portraits that appear foreshortened at the edges of her canvas, looking downwards. In contrast with her nude body, Hurtado utilizes patterned rugs and blue skies as backdrops. This perspective is rarely seen compositionally and even more unique aesthetically. However, Hurtado's perspective and the perception tools she uses provides a more feminist viewpoint. Particularly in tune with women's movements of the 1960s and 70s, Hurtado's representation of her own body is a statement of her personal presence and power. Amidst the ever changing backdrops, her body is the only constant. She also employs symbolism such as fruit; referring to sexuality, and traditional pattern work seen on baskets and blankets, referencing domestic labor and family. Hurtado was also interested in environmental movements during her life, which can be seen in her more surrealist landscapes. Within desert landscapes and mountains, Hurtado merges the human body. Breasts become sand dunes, feet become hill tops, and implied body parts connect with the natural world. Hurtado proposes that the earth is as much a living thing as the human body and we are ingrained as its presence as an organism.
With remarkable content still very relevant to the current sociopolitical environment, Hurtado's unique perspective is finally being rightly launched into a more mainstream eye. In comparison to her peers, Hurtado stands alone, showcasing a surrealist foundation but with a strong central feminist theme.
Title image: Matthew Wong, The Beginning, 2017. Courtesy of The Office Magazine.
In the late 1960s, during a tumultuous social and political period for the United States, an art group was established in the south side of Chicago. AfriCOBRA began with only a few members, all devoted to promoting and defining the "black aesthetic". Equal part activist and artist, these individuals strove to aid in the Black Power Movement through positivity and empowerment of African Americans. This year marks AfriCOBRA's 50th anniversary, and in celebration of the movement's importance and its continued strength, Kravets Wehby Gallery in New York City is presenting a new exhibition, entitled AfriCOBRA: Now. The show will highlight work by each original member of the collective comprehensively showcasing the group's origins as well as its enduring development over the past 50 years.
Founded in the home of Jae Jarrell and her husband Wadsworth Jarrell, AfriCOBRA was conceived as a place where their friends could gather and create. Other founding member Jeff Donaldson later wrote their 1969 manifesto, Ten in Search of a Nation, which laid out the collective goals to "preach positivity to the people" through both abstraction and realism. A central theme in the manifesto described the need for art to fall into one of three categories; definition (imagery that deals with the past), identification (imagery that related to the present) and direction (imagery that presented the future). As a core objective, these artists attempted to take the pain from the past and the present and transform it into positive action. Many of the works can be defined by their use of bright colors, electric designs and integration of image and powerful text. This illustrative idea was meant to help shape black art communities around the country, invigorating positive, forward action, and it was ultimately successful. Today, the AfriCOBRA movement still acts as a mentor for several contemporary African American artist such as Kerry James Marshall and Kehinde Wiley.
Never fully recognized for their pioneering ideals, many of these artists are still not acknowledged today by leading art markets as valuable. Much of the imagery was not seen as favorable and sometimes even "scary". It is only until recently that the movement and its founding group were seen as leaders of the black arts movement and an integral part of the civil rights movement.
See more about the exhibition at Kravets Wehby Gallery.
Title image: Barbara Jones-Hogu, Relate to Your Heritage, 1970. Courtesy of Culture Type.
As a major fan of public art, I find that the selection and curation of artwork within our natural spaces supplies an important and necessary feature for any community. The perspective of artwork as something that interacts with its environment engages viewers in a new light; outside of museum walls in a space more familiar. As with any artwork however, comes maintenance and condition upkeep. Unfortunately, public art faces numerous challenges to retain its original vibrancy. In the hopes of restoring and sustaining key public icons, conservators teamed up with an unlikely partner to innovate the industry; the United States Army.
This paint has been created with the likes of artists Tony Smith, Louise Nevelson and Alexander Calder in mind. Public art icons who use matte paint in many of their sculptures. However, this super team of art scientists has added many more artists to their roster including Claes Oldenburg and Ronald Bladen. The success of their paint research offers the hope of even making their final product available for commercial use.
Read more about the Getty Conservation Institute and this project.
Title image: Conservator Abigail Mack works on Louise Nevelson's sculpture City on High Mountain (1993).