Classic Mark di Suvero sculpture in a lot along 11th Avenue in the Chelsea neighborhood of New York.
After seeing Kwang Young Chun’s Aggregations at Sundaram Tagore Gallery (read our review of that show), I knew I needed to check out his solo exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum. I expected more of the same style of abstract triangulated paper constructions, but on a larger scale. And I was not disappointed.
These large other-worldly constructions are formed from small tightly folded prisms of mulberry paper. This thin and delicate paper is prized as an artistic material but also has mundane uses as wrappers. Chun primarily sources his paper from old books.
The freestanding central piece, which I believe was Aggregation 15-JL038 (his titles all rather cryptic alphanumeric combinations), was particularly intense and seemed like a cratered surface of a large asteroid. The remaining pieces were wall-mounted, but still combined light and shadow, roughness and smoothness, in a similar way.
There is something I find deeply captivating about Chun’s sculptures. They seem like something I might have generated on the computer, but they are made of paper. They seem solid and heavy, but fragile at the same time. I also liked the juxtaposition of blue with the otherwise grayscale elements. I found myself sitting in the middle of the gallery and contemplating each of them for a long time, longer than I usually sit with individual pieces on a whirlwind trip through a museum.
Blue seemed to be the color of the day. Even before reaching Kwang Young Chun’s exhibition, I was greeted by Infinite Blue, a survey of art and design objects from the museum’s collection.
I have long been drawn to blue – along with purple, it is a color I welcome into my own art and design, and one of the few colors that I wear. It’s also historically a rarer color and one that is not often found in nature (other than the blue tint of the sky and water). The exhibition goes through different places and periods of art and craft incorporating blue, often juxtaposing traditional objects with contemporary art. For example, the Chinese porcelain in the image above was paired with contemporary paintings by Chinese artist Su Xiaobai.
I tend to be most drawn to objects that are more abstract and geometric. As such, the section featuring 19th-century American decorative arts did nothing for me. By contrast, I enjoyed seeing a Korean 19th-century porcelain bottle with 20th-century American designs in blue glass.
I do, however, have a soft spot for fish.
The most powerful element tying the entire exhibition together was the opening piece, one of Joseph Kosuth’s neon text works 276 (On Color Blue).
And this is perhaps a fitting way to close this article. There was more to see and share from this visit to the Brooklyn Museum, but we shall save that for a subsequent article.
Our final Wordless Wednesday of 2018 takes us back to New York and a view looking west from Manhattan towards Jersey City during a winter sunset.
Please also check out our latest video: Episode 99.
“Twin” apartment buildings in the Bronx, east of the Grand Concourse, as seen from the terrace of the Bronx Museum of Art.
We at CatSynth are admirers of brutalism, as anyone who follows us on Twitter can attest. We love the geometric forms, how it screams “modern”, and how it makes such an intense break with tradition. And I will admit, I also have a little fun using it to poke fun at the architectural conservatism prevalent in places like San Francisco. But above all, it provides a singular beauty to built spaces.
Brutalism perhaps reached its zenith in the former Yugoslavia during the period between the end of World War II and 1980, a period that is highlighted in a current exhibition at the MoMA, Toward a Concrete Utopia: Architecture in Yugoslavia, 1948–1980. It highlights the work of several Yugoslavian architects in the period and pieces ranging from prosaic apartments to public arenas to monuments. The buildings themselves are, of course, not on display in the museum, but their stories are told through models, photographs, and examples of interior objects.
A convergence of factors came together which allowed these modernist experiments to flourish. Yugoslavia broke away from the Soviet bloc in 1948 and began to forge its own socialist path and identity. It constituted itself as six republics in a federation in which traditional regional identities were subordinate to a new and modern whole. At the same time, the country was devastated by World War II and needed massive rebuilding. Finally, new ideas in architecture were emerging along with new materials, notably advances in concrete, steel, and glass allowed a new built environment to take shape.
The simple forms and surfaces were used for everyday buildings, such as apartment complexes, schools, and medical facilities. But rather than just one-offs, they become part of a unified cityscape, a grand plan. This was perhaps no more so than in Skopje, the capital of Macedonia, which was devasted by an earthquake in 1963 and largely rebuild using modernist design and principals.
There are, of course, numerous rectilinear designs, sometimes in steel and glass, and sometimes dominated by concrete. But concrete also allowed for the exploration of curved structures and organic shapes. We see this in many of the large civic arenas, but also in the brutalist monuments built in the post-war period. This “cell-like” structure in Macedonia takes it to the extreme, looking at once like an organic organism and a spaceship.
Wandering through the exhibition, one cannot help but imagine being the real spaces. For me, the modernist, severe style brings a sense of calm and welcome that more traditional styles don’t always provide.
Sadly, the Yugoslavian experiment ultimately failed, with country breaking apart and the entire region plunging into extreme nationalism and devastating wars in the 1990s. This is a cautionary tale as we watch the plague of nationalism rising around the world, including in the United States. Many of the architectural works in this exhibition did survive the wars. But they do face continued challenges to their survival, including maintenance and a push to return to more “traditional” forms. The “Skopje 2014” initiative, for example, is both farcical and tragic. Despite these challenges, I hope the countries of the region will recognize and preserve the legacy of their modernist period for years to come.
This article only scratches the rough, hardened surface of the wealth in this exhibition. It was truly a wonderful experience, even if so much was in my imagination through the artifacts. Toward a Concrete Utopia: Architecture in Yugoslavia, 1948–1980 will be on display at the Museum of Modern Art in New York through January 13, 2019.
The Art of Paper is a multi-artist exhibition currently on display Sundaram Tagore Gallery at their Chelsea location. The term “works on paper” often refers to drawing and print, but the medium and can be used in so many more ways. Each of the artists in the show uses paper in a very different way, showcasing its breadth and versatility as a raw material for art.
Korean artist Chun Kwang Young creates fantastic three-dimensional sculptures from mulberry paper. This thin and delicate paper is prized as an artistic
Some are flat and wall-mounted while others are freestanding. But in all cases, they are three-dimensional full of complex depth and texture.
The jagged triangular elements seem sharp, even a bit dangerous up close. But at the same time, they seem fragile, like delicate crystals that could fall apart among touch. When viewing closer, they seem soft, especially as the details of the paper come into view, including the original printed text from the source material. There is something almost science-fiction-y and other-worldly about the result that I find captivating.
Chun has a simultaneous solo exhibition from his Aggregations at the Brooklyn Museum, which we will be reviewing in a separate article.
The work of Anila Quayyum Agha also uses paper as a basis for sculpture with a very different set of styles, techniques, and sensibilities. She is best known for her works featuring paper laser-cut into large intricate forms. Many of the paper cuts are assembled into cubes placed in immersive spaces with light.
Being in the space of this piece and viewing it from all angles was a captivating experience. It doesn’t seem like paper, but rather intricately carved stone or metal. S
In contrast to Agha’s highly intricate designs, Miya Ando’s work is more subtle and spare. She is known for more abstract work in metal, but she brings that work to paper in her “moonlight” pieces for this show.
Paper is often white, but it can be many different whites and shades in between those gradations. The subtle changes give the round form a very natural feel in contrast to the stark white background.
There are several more artists in this show, more than we at CatSynth are able to cover in this article. For more information, please visit the gallery’s website. They are located at 547 West 27th Street, and the exhibition will be on display through December 15, 2018.
We at CatSynth took a break from our busy schedule of art, friends, and family in New York to visit the Brooklyn Cat Cafe.
The concept of the “cat cafe” originated in Japan, but has spread around the world, including at least three in New York. Like Cat Town in Oakland, it is an all-volunteer effort focused on finding foster and forever homes for the cats in their care. It is located in a small storefront on Atlantic Avenue in the shadow of the bridges and downtown Brooklyn, but a peek inside reveals a space covered in cats.
Many were napping, like the line above, but they are also quite playful and affectionate. They are, of course, cats.
This sweet black kitty greeted me with a nose kisses.
Hilda was perhaps the most playful on this evening, looking visitors in the eyes as she played with various toys. She especially liked this wires dangling from the main table.
Burton was a big fellow and quite a character. A very friendly cat, he minded me a big of our friend Marlon, aka “the big
One of the hardest parts of traveling is leaving behind my cats. So having cat cafes is in the cities I visit is most welcome. The change to play with cats, cuddle them, and pet them can brighten the stormiest night.
The cats are clearly loved and well cared for, and there are rules for visitors that help ensure a safe and respectful space for them. Most of these fall under the rubric of “don’t be a jerk”, but there are also reminders of the fact that each cat has a different level of comfort with human behavior. If a cat is wary of being pet, respect their boundaries. If a cat needs a break from human interaction and wants to hide (and I can certainly sympathize with that), let them. And the result is a place filled with love among human and feline alike, and many cats have found their forever homes through visits to the cafe.
The Brooklyn Cat Cafe is run by the Brooklyn Bridge Animal Welfare Coalition, which is dedicated to finding homes for cats and other animals in their community. They opened the cafe in 2016.
By our one-year anniversary in May of 2017, the cafe had welcomed over 35,000 visitors — an average of over 95 visitors cuddling with our cats per day — and placed over 250 cats in permanent adoptive homes.
To find out more about the cafe, including visiting, adopting cats, and how to donate or volunteer, please visit their website.
We at CatSynth spent the better portion of a recent afternoon at the Whitney Museum of American Art, taking in the entire museum top to bottom. In the first of our reports, we start at the top with a survey of the work of artist Mary Corse.
The exhibition – Corse’s first solo survey at a major institution – focuses on her work in the mid-to-late 1960s as part of the West Coast Light and Space movement. Like many of her contemporaries, Corse was very interested in the use of light as a medium in itself, but her output of light works was almost entirely focused on flat art, i.e., the kind you can hang on walls. This made her a bit of an outlier in the movement.
At first glance, it might be tempting to dismiss her work as “another round of white-on-white paintings from the 1960s.” But what makes it interesting is that light is at the center, rather than texture or pigment; and that she delved into emerging technologies and media to move beyond painting.
The most intriguing pieces in the exhibition were those that used plexiglass and lighting technologies. Corse studied physics and engineering in preparation for this body of work. We see this in her series where custom Plexiglass elements of different depths are juxtaposed next to one another allowing different amounts of light to pass through.
It is a subtle but fascinating set, and I found myself moving back and forth and looking from either side in my own exploration.
Corse also made her own light elements with a variety of technologies, including this piece from 1968 which employed an argon light and frequency generator, once again with her own custom plexiglass. I would have loved to have seen it in
Looking at the bands within the light, I immediately found myself thinking of the amplitudes in a time-varying sound wave, or perhaps a frequency-domain spectrum. It would have been quite interesting to “hear” it.
The final set of work in the exhibition takes an abrupt turn, making the end of this period in Corse’s career. In 1970, she moved from Los Angeles to Topanga Canyon and embarked on her Black Earth Series of paintings.
Beyond the obvious switch from white to black, there is a break from technology and a return to working with more traditional materials and textures. The “black” in the Black Earth Series are ceramics made in her own kilns. The glossy material is reflective, but also thick and covered in bumps and curves. This is in stark contrast to the plexiglass surfaces of her earlier work and makes a fitting bookend for the survey.
Unfortunately, the exhibition is closing this weekend, but if you happen to be in New York I recommend checking it out. It makes a fine escape from the overwhelm and sensory overload of holiday season.
Looking south from the top-floor terrace of the Whitney Museum on an anomalously warm late-November day in New York City. We see an iconic New York rooftop water tower juxtaposed with 1WTC and other newer buildings.