Gas Station In Chelsea, NY Transformed Into A Sheep Filled Art Installation

Francois-Xavier Lalanne-  art installation

Francois-Xavier Lalanne art installation 1

photo by Scott Lynch art installation

photo by Scott Lynch

The old Getty gas station at 24th Street and 10th Avenue in Chelsea, which will be leveled and turned into a development project, currently houses an art installation created by Francois-Xavier Lalanne that features a flock of sheep.

The gas station was completely transformed for the Sheep Station, with rolling hills of green grass and 25 grazing “Mouton” sculptures enclosed with a white picket fence.  For the project Michael Shvo partnered with Paul Kasmin Gallery, who handles Lalanne’s estate, (Lalanne passed away in 2008).  Shvo co-purchased the site and plans to build luxury residences there.  During the construction, the Getty station will supposedly feature several other exhibitions, and the finished residency says it will do the same.

Lalanne was born in southwestern France, but lived and worked in Montparnasse.  Influenced by artists such as Constantin Brancusi, Man Ray and Marcel Duchamp, Lalanne is attributed to creating his own brand of surrealism.  He sought to demystify art, which he regarded as a funhouse rather than a cathedral.

The sight of the 25 epoxy stone and bronze sheep is startling and surprising against the industrial backdrop of Chelsea and certainly feels more fun than sacred.  Indeed, Lalanne enjoyed working with animal forms because “everyone can recognize animals throughout the world.  You don’t have to explain what they are or mean.”

The installation is up through October 20th.

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A New Library For Birmingham, England Is Not Just A Building But A Work Of Art

Birmingham Library work of art

Birmingham Library work of art

Birmingham Library work of art

Earlier this month Birmingham, England opened its grand new library in the city center.  The city hopes that the impressive metal-clad work of art, which cost around $295 million to build, will become a key element in redefining Birmingham’s image.  Currently the largest public library in the UK, and the largest public cultural space in Europe, the library is certainly hard to miss.  Mecanoo with engineers, Buro Happold, were enlisted in 2008 as the designers behind the project after winning an international competition run by the Royal Institute of British Architects.  Mecanoo designed the exterior of the building, with its filigree pattern of metal rings over gold and silver glass facades, to reference the city’s artisan tradition.

Speaking at the opening was Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani teenager who the Taliban shot for campaigning for women’s right to education.  Now residing in Birmingham Yousafzai stated that “Let us not forget that even one book, one pen, one teacher can change the world.”  In the first eight days of being open the library surpassed 100,000 visitors.

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Lauri Lynnxe Murphy’s Bee Allergy Doesn’t Stop Her From Collaborating With Them

Murphy - sculpture

Toward Obliteration, 2012  Ash wood, Glass, Laser-cut Baltic Birch and 4000 live Honeybees

Toward Obliteration, 2012 Ash wood, Glass, Laser-cut Baltic Birch and 4000 live Honeybees

Lauri Lynnxe Murphy - sculpture

From 2010 to the present, Lauri Lynnxe Murphy has been collaborating with bees in the creation of her artwork.  Despite a bee allergy, Murphy remains committed to her practice, which she describes as being “research-based.”  Seeking to understand the nature of bees, Murphy depends on them to make works such as Listen, symbolizing the need to pay attention to the signals bees use for communication.  Or We’re Sorry, Murphy’s apology and simultaneously the bees’ apology for any disruption either collaborator may have caused the other.  Similarly, her honeycomb sculptures are co-created with the bees.  Murphy chooses to work with bees, or other materials that she feels allow her to appropriately explore issues surrounding ecological and political concerns.

Other than the current threat to the bee population Murphy has recently been concerned about nuclear power, particularly following the tsunami-induced collapse of Fukushima.  Murphy produced a series titled, Doilies of Imminent Destruction.  That’s an amazing title for some pretty delicate work.  The series began as a “meditation on the banality of our dialogue surrounding our fearsome power to irreparably alter an environment, and an investigation into the corporately chosen, idealized representations of these disaster sites prior to the disaster.”  Each doily depicts the site of a nuclear disaster: Chernobyl, Deepwater Horizon, Fukushima and Three Mile Island.  Why doilies?  Murphy recognizes the doily’s function as beautifying, or covering up the ugly or tarnished.  They also reference an old-fashioned nostalgia of domesticity and desired perfection.

I am drawn to Murphy’s work not for the beauty of it, although it is quite captivating, but rather for the delicate, yet powerful call to arms it requests of the viewer.  Whether it is her work about nuclear disasters subtly imploring us to concern ourselves with the danger of this technology, or her work about bees suggesting we need to be aware of the beauty and vulnerability of the bee’s ecosystem, Murphy’s work merits our contemplation.

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Caitlin Ducey Makes Beautiful And Obsessive Art With Drinking Straws

Caitlin Ducey - sculpture

sculpture

Caitlin Ducey - sculpture

Portland, Oregon based artist Caitlin Ducey uses plastic drinking straws as the focus of her sculptures.  In her exploration of material, process and pattern, Ducey appreciates the simplicity and accessibility of the straw.  She notes that it is such a mundane, everyday, disposable item.  For her the idea that it is so commonplace is part of the appeal.   The act of devoting so much time and attention to something as simple as a straw becomes part of her process.

To create her pieces Ducey carefully stacks each straw usually using no glue or adhesive.  Her method is obsessive and detail oriented.  It also gives the sculptures a fragility that makes them all the more alluring.  As a viewer passes by her works she will experience a kind of tunnel vision, only able to see through the straws immediately in her path.  It is this feature that gives the sculptures the life-like quality that I found most captivating.  Ducey manages to transform an ordinary plastic object into an entrancing sculpture with a remarkable organic quality.

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Catherine Chalmers Incredible Photographs Of Insects

Catherine Chalmers - photography insects

Catherine Chalmers - photography insects

Catherine Chalmers - photography

Catherine Chalmers manages to make captivating and beautiful those creatures that cause most of us to feel squeamish.  Chalmers travels the world to capture images and video of rodents and insects in their habitats.  Being one part scientist and one part artist, Chalmers is interested in bringing focus to nature using art as her vehicle.

For her most recent project, Leafcutters, which was partially funded by a Guggenheim Fellowship, Chalmers captured the activities of ants.  She was intrigued by the many similarities they have with humans.  She noted that like us, they inhabit almost every ecosystem on Earth, are one of the dominant species in their habitats and they impact the grand structure of other biological systems.  Beyond that they also wage war, take slaves, raise and keep other animals for food, and are also capable of making their own antibiotics.  They’re also, as Chalmers demonstrates, highly photogenic.

Chalmers American Cockroach series, equally beautiful and tough, captured arguably the world’s most dreaded insect.  Forcing us to confront our discomfort with cockroaches Chalmers wondered if she could seduce people into liking them because, as with the ants, they’re a lot like us.

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Doug Aitkin Transformed A Moving Train Into Kinetic Sculpture And Alternative Art Space

Doug Aitken - installation

Doug Aitken - installation

I considered Doug Aitken to be a big thinker when I read about his Song 1, a huge sound and video installation enveloping the Hirshorn Museum, or his Mirror, a video project that consists of an L.E.D screen that’s wrapped around the facade of the Seattle Art Museum.

With his latest project, Station to Station: A Nomadic Happening, Aitken has taken “installation” to a whole other levelFor three weeks this September a train decked out with L.E.D lights will travel from New York City to San Francisco making 10 stops along the way (next stop St. Paul, Minneapolis on Sept 12).  Aitken designed the train as a kind of kinetic sculpture, or studio.  At each stop artists, musicians, writers, filmmakers and other creatives will participate in site-specific happenings.

Aitken’s goal with the project is to address some big questions, such as “Who are we?  Where are we going?  And, at this moment, how can we express ourselves?”  In an effort to create this “modern cultural manifesto,” Aitkin invited individuals such as Olaf Breuning, Urs Fischer, Christian Jankowski, Lawrence Weiner, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Dan Deacon and Dave Hickey (and many others) to participate.  Everyone involved was asked to reconsider the way they create.  Ed Ruscha, for instance, thought up a cactus omelet that will be made and served to participants in Winslow, Arizona.

The project, made possible by Levi’s, will also raise funds for various cultural institutions across the country through ticket sales (yes you can get tickets if they are still available for the happening in a city near you) and donations from partners, institutions and the public.

The concept of Station to Station confronts and challenges the system whereby art is, all to often in today’s society, created solely for museums and galleries.  Station to Station embraces the key components of a 1960s happening, especially spontaneity and audience engagement, but the enormity of scale raises the stakes.  I admire Aitkin’s ambition particularly because, in the spirit of a true happening, Station to Station could go off without a hitch, or could go completely awry.  Whose to say though which would be worse?

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Beth Campbell’s Artwork Is Toying With Your Perception

Blue Lamps, 2010

Blue Lamps, 2010

Stereo Table, 2012

Stereo Table, 2012

Bookshelf Loveseat, 2013

Bookshelf Loveseat, 2013

My parent’s bathroom at the house I first lived in had a full-length mirror behind the sink, which also had a mirror.  As soon as I was tall enough to see over the counter, I remember staring at an infinite number of my own reflections bouncing back and forth and I recall the frustration that I could never find where the reflections ended.  This is the memory invoked when I saw Beth Campbell’s work for the first time.

Working in a variety of mediums: drawings, sculpture and what she calls “architectural interventions,” Campbell’s body of work toys with perception.  Her Potential Future Based on Present Circumstances drawing series maps possible outcomes to present decisions.  These were the first works I saw by Campbell and I recall thinking how brilliant, but impossible they were.  Like me and my reflection in the mirror, Campbell was trying to make sense of the unrealistic and perhaps impractical idea that we can know what might have been.  Their humor and neurosis seemed so quintessentially human to me that I became an instant lover of her work.

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Robert Mapplethorpe – From The Formal To The Provocative

Ken Moody and Robert Sherrman, 1984

Ken Moody and Robert Sherrman, 1984

Calla Lily, 1984

Calla Lily, 1984

Raymond, 1985

Raymond, 1985

Robert Mapplethorpe (1946-1989) was an American photographer known for his stylized black and white photographs.  Mapplethorpe’s body of work is varied, he captured subject matter ranging from fellow artists to nudes.  At times his works are simply beautiful, such as his photographs of lilies, and at others controversial, such as his homoerotic and S & M images, but always his work is provocative.  In his own words he was “looking for the unexpected…looking for things I’ve never seen before.”

Mapplethorpe was born in 1946 in the suburbs of Queens.  Though he never graduated, he attended the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn.  In the late 1960s he met Patti Smith, who would become a life-long friend.  Together they moved into the Chelsea Hotel and made art.  Smith’s book, Just Kids, wonderfully documents their time together.

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