Sunday, January 18, 2009

Fairytale in Berlin at Scion Space, Art of Two Germanys: Cold War Cultures at LACMA, and UCLA Open Studios in Culver City

Both Germany and Berlin have emerged from the tumultuous 20th Century to become one of the world art centers in the 21st Century. Two exhibits showing right now portray the vitality and dynamism of Modern and Contemporary German art.

The first show, Fairytale in Berlin, showing at Scion Space, closes soon on February 7th. This show is a must see. The exhibit shows 10 artist and one artist collective all working in Berlin. "Fairytale of Berlin associates itself with the legend of life within Berlin's sub-cultural niches, the place yearned by many migrated creatively. And of course does especially this art scene of Berlin have grave downsides in store for the art producers, having to deal with an increasing surplus of art being only one example. The show wants to reflect this situation where aspiration and reality often collide.
(Showing) Berlin-born artists as well as national and international "art-exiles" - the chosen artists have their origins in Germany, Romania, Canada, Switzerland, Bulgaria and the United States. They join in identifying with living and working in Berlin albeit in the most different of ways, all together creating a subtle and fresh approach: Berlin as a new or old home is the common source of inspiration and friction.
The artists of the show also represent different art scenes within Berlin, covering various art genres and techniques." Not only does the show represent Berlin's current art scene, the artist's work also link and show influences to Berlin's past. From Expressionism, Dada, Constructivism, to post modernism, Berlin has payed a significant role in the development and forming of these art movements. Christl Murdrak's installation shows influences of Kurt Schwitter's Murzbau combined with psychedelia and Op art. Erik Anderson, Franziska Klotz, Iva Vacheva, Mari Lou and Paul Bogati are definitely influenced by German Expressionism and by New Objective realism. The Neulant/Van Exel collective show influences of Constructivism and Bauhaus movements. The photography in this show by Ingo Mittelstaedt is excellent. His works portray still lifes and genre scenes that remind one of Thomas Struth, and Thomas Demand The show is curated by Janine Bean of the Janine Bean Gallery in Berlin. The show is a statement of the dynamism and vitality of the Berlin art scene. Looking at the works, presentation and speaking with the artist on the night of the opening, I feel a sense of optimism about the creative spirit that survives the worst of times, especially the events of the 20th century. If you do not get a chance to see the exhibit, check out the website. It has press, photos, links and a downloadable catalog.

The next show I went to was Art of the Two Germanys: Cold War Cultures at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. The show curated by Stephanie Barron, is a survey show of art from both West and East Germany between the end of World War II to the fall of the Berlin Wall. The show is impressive. I loved the work of A.R Penck, Anselm Kiefer, George Baselitz, Joseph Beuys Gerhard Richter and other notable German artist that worked both in the East and West. What amazed me about the show was the artistic activity happening in East Germany. The show portrays the usual social realist works you would expect in a totalitarian communist country. However, what was even more compelling was the work of Hermann Glockner, who outside the demands of the State and the government control of art, was able to make tiny sculptures out of everyday objects. These were called his table top sculptures. Mostly abstract, they show a side of art production in East Germany that was resistant to the oppression of the state. The show is on until April 19th. I will definitely will be going back and write more about this wonderful and compelling exhibition of German art, where two Germanys separated by ideology were able to connect with each other artistically, culturally and eventually politically.

Last Saturday, I went to the twice annual Open Studio for the UCLA MFA program. Located in Culver City, the open studios are a maze of studios and galleries where emerging artist produce art and start their careers in the art world. The artist that stood out the most were Ann McCaddon, Katie Aliprando, Sarah Awad, Jennifer Gradecki, Michael Dopp, and Jacob Tillman. What amazed me the most was the almost dominence of painting in the program. I did like the painting that I saw. I was also amazed at the photography in the studios that I went into. Good works overall. To get more information, go the UCLA Department of Art website.

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