Archive for June, 2010


Monday, June 28th, 2010



One could be forgiven for viewing Rosemarie Trockel’s most recent and most astonishing survey, “Deliquescence of the Mother,” as a dream (or nightmare) of domesticity and its oft-gendered (dis)appointments. There are sofas, “hot plate” works, “knitted paintings,” and ceramic objects that project off the wall like exploded dishware, yet each piece—no matter how familial or housebound its reference or material—seems distilled through the wary brilliance of the mind. In one of the huge glass vitrines filled with sculptural works that punctuate the show, a black bust reveals a sleeping face adorned by a corona of yellow wool tendrils. The yarn shoots out like sun striations, prompting the feeling that this dream of a show is a common one: We are all, to some degree, involved.

Comprising nearly one hundred works from the 1980s on, the exhibition opens with a lone 1992 video of a female torso turning round and round, her woolen sweater unraveling with each rotation. The work’s feminism is a given, but also implicit is the idea of the “mind unraveling”—for in Trockel’s work, the body and the mind are never far apart. See, for example, her white ceramic sofas. Modernist and monochromatic, each couch glitters like wedding china and is as sexless and lucid as a Robert Ryman painting. The sofas (one is titled Watching and Sleeping and Composing, 2007) double down on the artist’s purchase on the unconscious and its fruitfulness for the more conscious labors of artmaking.

Rooms devoted to distinct bodies of work, emphasizing their serial nature, follow. Trockel’s huge, magisterial “knitted pictures” are a revelation: The warp and weft of the wool assume the form of a minute, monochromatic grid, while simultaneously inhabiting the body of a Color Field painting. The works both court and subvert these self-serious, art-historical motifs (and the macho politik that went with them); that all could fall away with the pull of a string does not lessen the power of each “painting” but rather underlines it with a potent, witty weirdness. A recent series of collages are equally persuasive and formally expert—moody figures alternate with bits of foil, newsprint, and paint—and the evocative titles teem with male and female pronouns, a mixture of Brechtian pronouncement, pop-song lingo, and menace. That the show ends with a 2010 series titled “Dark Threat” is perhaps instructive. Lengths of black wool strung across white canvases conjure window blinds in a film noir: After all, what Trockel’s oeuvre lets in is blinding light, but—like any good noir (or Dickinson poem)—at ever so much a slant.

An exhibition of Rosemarie Trockel’s drawings is also currently on view at Kunstmuseum Basel, Saint Alban-Graben 16, until September 5.

Pigeon Pose

Saturday, June 26th, 2010


Last week a couple of pigeons nested in the window boxes of the apartment directly across our hof. I tried to envision the squatters as doves—they make the same sounds, no?—but couldn’t get rid of the idea of dirty New York pigeons slumming it in our Swiss courtyard. Then I came across this image of ceramic works by family friend Vicky Gold, a Philadelphia-based artist. Beautiful, right? And totally, defiantly weird. Yes, they are doing yoga. Love, love, love.

But ceramics, particularly by women artists, have been on my mind lately, as I prepare to write an essay about Beatrice Wood, who is having a retrospective next year in Cali as part of  “Pacific Standard Time, ” the Getty-organized series of shows exploring California art history from World War II to 1980. As I have been thinking about Wood—la “Mama of Dada”—it’s hard not to see traces of her influence on the spate of young female artists taking up the medium of ceramics again, often to strange and wondrous results: see Simone Leigh, Jessica Jackson Hutchins, and Sarah Crowner (the latter two were both in the Whitney Biennial this year), for example, as well as seminal matriarchs like Rosemarie Trockel, who has some glittery and aggressive ceramic works on view in her scarily good survey at the Kunsthalle Zurich right now.

In any case, a few days ago the pigeons across our courtyard suddenly left the building—for yoga class, no doubt.