Thursday, April 19, 2012

Saul Leiter and Wim Wenders at the Deichtorhallen

The Deichtorhallen Hamburg had a retrospective of Saul Leiters work, including his photographs, paintings, collage and fashion photography.


I didn't find his paintings very interesting, but his paintings on photographs were really something special. His color palette was quite unexpected and sometimes you couldn't see any traces of the photograph so that if you weren't aware, it wouldn't be apparent that there is a photo underneath. His use of mirrors, windows and light distortion was constant through his art and fashion photography. Many of the techniques he used are commonplace today and thus don't sound very original, but he was one of their pioneers and he did it with such grace.

Wim Wenders had a photography show at the Deichtorhallen as well, at the Sammlung Falckenberg collection in Harburg. To my dissapointment, and for most of those who went that I spoke with, his photographic works were underwhelming. As my friend Lumen pointed out, you could stop his films at any given moment and find a much more interesting image than the ones presented in this show. I think part of the problem was the scale. The photographs were printed very large, which seemed to accentuate their banality. They were more impressive in the catalog than on the wall. In his statement, Wenders explains that he makes these images when he's getting lost while wandering and stumbling upon strange and quiet places. It surprises me that he has this strong feeling for the moments he captures, and he is such a talented filmmaker, but that feeling doesn't emanate from the photographs like they do in the films.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Louise Borgeois at the Kunsthalle

In honor of the great, late Louise Bourgeois 100th birthday, the Hamburger Kunsthalle has a show highlighting some of her major projects. One of her famous Maman (1999), giant metal spider sculpture, sits at the entrance to the museum. This project, she explains in the feature length documentary Lousise Bourgeois: The Spider, the Mistress, and the Tangerine (2008) (also at the exhibit), represents her mother and the sharp intellect she inherited from her. More personally, it represents a reconciliation with her mother.
The title piece of the show, Passage Dangeroux (1997), is a huge cage-like structure holding different “rooms” of found and sculptural objects representing memories of her childhood as well as the feminine psyche and psychological trauma. Unfortunately this impressive piece felt dwarfed by the large hall, I think it would have been more effective if it felt more closed in, in a smaller space.
My favorite piece in the show was, Untitled (1996),  an installation of sheer garments hanging from giant bones casting ever-so-slightly moving shadows on the floor. The delicacy of human life seemed suspended here. On my second visit to the show I noticed newly formed spider webs and a piece of blond hair hanging from the garments. These unintentional additions were so eloquent. 
 In addition to Bourgeois sculptures there are two wings of her 2-D work. One holds many rooms filled with framed fabric pages of the book Ode à l'Oubli (Ode to Forgetfulness) (2002), sewn with patterns and text. 
The other displays large scale etchings from the series À L'infini (2008). These look like watercolors depicting converging lines which represent thread. This thread is so significant because her mother was a seamstress and she associates her with the spider. The red colors invoke human organs and makes one think of the mother spinning the web of life.

Bourgeois long career involved her in many movements, such as surrealism, abstract expressionism and feminist art. She was one of the first female artists to be recognized and show with the other big names in museums. Her life and work paved the way for many woman artists as well as installation art, and her genuinely personal approach to art making has never wavered.