Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Hilma af Klint

From this article in the New York Times:
“Kandinsky was actively campaigning for himself as being the first abstract artist, constantly writing his gallery and saying, ‘Hey, you know, I was the first! I painted the first abstract painting in 1911!”’ said Julia Voss, an art historian and art critic for the German daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. “He was obviously successful, as he’s widely considered the father of 20th-century abstraction. But all the while, af Klint, much more privately, had already been creating these striking, abstract visuals for years.”
In the March edition of the arts magazine Tate Etc., Ms. Voss campaigned on af Klint’s behalf, arguing that the Swedish artist, not Kandinsky, was the first abstract painter of the 20th century.
Georg Imdahl, a professor at the Academy of Fine Arts Münster in Germany and an art critic for the daily Süddeutsche Zeitung, is more hesitant on the matter. “She developed somehow outside the art scene of the time, so I think we need to learn more about her intentions as an artist,” Mr. Imdahl said. “That said, there are several of her works which I would consider integrating into a discussion of the genesis of 20th-century abstraction.”
The exhibition adds to the global debate about the canon of contemporary art. “In which box does this strange artist belong?” Ms. Müller-Westermann said of reactions to af Klint’s works. “Is she in the same box as Kandinsky and all the abstract pioneers, or maybe it’s easier to say it’s not art at all, just some woman who did something crazy?”
She continued, “The category does not interest me so much, to be honest; what intrigues me is simply to consider what is there. What did she see, what do we see?”

Fictitious interview that addresses some of the ways Hilma af Klint's work affects a contemporary audience.

Wolfgang Laib

New York City, November 1986:

Klaus Ottmann: You studied medicine. How did you get into art?Wolfgang Laib: The more I knew about the natural sciences, the more I saw that they were too narrow for me and it’s just not what this body, what all these things are all about.
Ottmann: Did you ever think of going into something like holistic medicine?
Laib: No, because that would have been too small a step, and I tried to make a big step. It’s not about homeopathy or anything like that.
Ottmann: What kind of art did you start with?
Laib: I left university and half a year later I was already making my milkstones.
Ottmann: Where did you get the idea for the milkstones?
Laib: The milkstones are the direct answer to what I left, to what I found milk and stone are about. Because milk is not what is told in hygiene. You can teach everything about this liquid but have no idea of what it is.
Ottmann: When did you start working with pollen?
Laib: That came about two years later. This, of course, I would also have never done without studying medicine and avoiding an art college.
Ottmann: Tell me about your work process.
Laib: For years I had no studio at all. I collected my pollen from early spring to August/September, and then, in the late fall, I started to be very free, not being fixed to a space. So my studio was where I collected my pollen. Then, when I was doing more and more work, I bought a beautiful space, but it’s less of a studio and more like a space where I want to see my work in and be with it.
Ottmann: How long does it take you to collect pollen for one single piece?
Laib: It’s very different from one pollen to the next. Dandelion, for instance, has very little pollen and blossoms only for about four to six weeks. So I get only a small jar of dandelion pollen during one summer, and the piece is therefore very small. Pine has much more pollen, so I can make a large piece in the same time.
Ottmann: Do you collect the pollen just around where you live or do you collect also while you travel?
Laib: No, I always thought that would take away the concentration. It wouldn’t become more, so I collect only around my studio and the village where I live.
Ottmann: Does the pollen change with the time?
Laib: You have to be very careful because of the humidity, but I have pollen that is fifteen years old. For instance, with dandelion you have to be more careful, because it is very coarse, very organic. (excerpt from Journal of Contemporary Art. The rest of the interview can be found here.)