Monday, March 14, 2011

Black Kites and Seeds

Sunflower Seeds - Ai Weiwei

Last week I was in London. I was there to visit family and friends and to have a couple of days rest before the last couple of months or so leading to my next exhibition, Ġmiel il-Ħrafa. Rest I did not. But I did manage to go and spend a couple of afternoons at the Tate Modern. Just love the place. Of particular interest are the installation/sculpture by Ai Weiwei and the exhibition by Gabriel Orozco. Orozco was my main reason to go there. 

Weiwei's work, part of The Unilever Series, titled Sunflower Seeds is made up of millions of  porcelain sunflower seeds spread out on the floor of the Turbine Hall.

Each seed has been individually sculpted and painted by specialists working in small-scale workshops in the Chinese city of Jingdezhen. Far from being industrially produced, they are the effort of hundreds of skilled hands. Poured into the interior of the Turbine Hall’s vast industrial space, the 100 million seeds form a seemingly infinite landscape. 

The scale of it, the process behind it and the work involved to produce this sculpture is impressive. The work is full of contradictions, it is large yet made of very small parts, the parts look like seeds yet they are porcelain, you would assume they were mass produced yet all seeds are unique, individually hand painted and the fact that they represent organic matter placed in what represents Industrialisation with both objects (the exhibit and exhibition space) not being what they seem to be. Unfortunately the work was intended to be walked upon but visitors can no longer do that. Apparently walking on the surface was producing dust that was hazardous if inhaled over a long period of time. 

Black Kites 1997
My main reason for going to the Tate Modern was Gabriel Orozco. Orozco, described by Francesco Bonami as "one of the most influential artists of this decade, and probably the next one too",  is one contemporary artist that I always wanted to see but never had the opportunity to do so. His work is varied, photography, found objects, paintings and drawings, sculptures and whatever the artist deems fit to convey a message. 

I particularly fell in love with Black Kites 1997, a found object, in this case a human skull where the artist's confrontation with mortality is more than apparent. The artist superimposed a chequerboard on the skull, painstakingly inscribing the grid using a graphite pencil. The laborious process was done a few months after the artist  had emerged from hospital following a collapsed lung. This harlequin-esque  skull leaves you wondering who is laughing at who.  Black Kites stands in the middle of a room surrounded by the Obit series, a banner-like series with obituary headlines from the New York Times. Removing name and age of the subjects, these headlines range from the intriguing to the funny, from the provocative to the banal. 

Other Orozco's works were particularly intriguing, particularly Horses Running Endlessly, a variant of Chess with four colours of square where only Knights populate the board and La DS 1993, where an old Citroen DS was cut in 3 parts and sticking back the outer parts while removing the central part. The result is a single seater without engine. Both pieces epitomise the artist's statement  'I'm not inventing, just reinterpreting'. 

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