The Easel

27th August 2019

The Artist at Home with Her Art: Ruth Asawa

The craft / fine art distinction is an idea that just won’t die. Asawa studied under Josef Albers, absorbing his Bauhaus view that the artist is an “exalted craftsman”. Her beguiling knitted wire sculptures exemplify that view – a humble material transformed by manual effort. Recent exhibitions evidence growing critical engagement and endorsement. A background video is here.

William Kentridge retrospective: Africa’s largest modern art museum goes beyond identity politics

Kentridge regards himself as “basically a drawer”, taking inspiration from Johannesburg life and its “unsentimental” landscape. Starting out, he thought his work might have a “safe provincialism”. In fact, he is a major voice in African art. Sadly, even a landmark exhibition such as this is not immune from South Africa’s sour identity politics. Images are here and an interview with the artist here.

20th August 2019

David Hammons Taunts the Art World in Los Angeles

Hammons doesn’t maintain a public profile and doesn’t have a gallery relationship. If he wants to exhibit, he just asks a (“extremely blue chip”) gallery. His stellar reputation ensures ready agreement. Hammons is quoted as saying “the less I do, the more of an artist I am.” His infrequent shows are thus notable – indeed, it is difficult to decide if the linked piece reviews the art or the event.

I Learned Enormous Things: Hans Ulrich Obrist Remembers Marisa Merz

Merz was the only woman – and lowest profile – member of the 1960’s arte povera movement. Recent shows reveal her to be the “liveliest”. Her works were hugely varied, including a violin sculpture made of wax. “As we were installing the violin … it started to melt in the summer sun. Marisa wasn’t bothered: ‘Why would an exhibition have to last?’” An excellent video (10 min) is here.