14 January 2014

At Tate Modern

The new part of the building is really coming along, joining the apartment buildings that have sprung up in the past few years.

In the Structure and Clarity gallery, a couple of women artists new to me - Gego and Charlotte Posenenske.

Gego (Gertrud Goldschmidt, 1912-1994) was born in Dusseldorf and trained as an architect, but left Germany in 1939 for Venezuela. Sculpture isn't what she does - she calls it "drawing without paper", and started it seriously when she was in her 40s. In 1960 she had a New York moment ... but no-one knew how to package this art, and it's been almost unknown until recently.

"Of the mold-breaking gambits in Gego’s art, her aesthetic equivalence of solid form and shadow may be the most radical. Shadows are, after all, not objects; they depend entirely upon objects and a controlled environment to become visible. At the same time they are always, potentially, present. They are the negative to the positive, the virtual to the real, the ephemeral to the solid. Philosophically speaking, neither exists without the other." (from a review of a 2007 New York exhibition)

Horizontal Square Reticularia 7/10 (1971)
[apologies for spotty photo]
Untitled (1977) - see a better photo here.
They are placed together in "brenales" - a spanish word alluding to weedy terrain
[lights in background are spillage from the Dan Flavin exhibit in the next room]
Charlotte Posenenske's democratic concept of art was realised in works that she compared to 'building elements'. Born in 1930 in Germany, she studied painting after the war. During the 1960s she increasingly minimised the use of colour and shapes in her work.

From an article in Frieze, 2000: "Posenenske applied primary coloured sticky strips to paper, creasing them and then applying them in layers until shapes were built up. She progressed to using sheet metal sprayed with monochrome paint which she then folded into sculptural shapes, and combined this with corrugated cardboard to produce the series ‘Vierkantrohre’ (Square Tubes, 1967) which look like ventilation shafts. She conceived these early sculptures as modules that could be adapted according to available space, each one assembled into a shape ultimately appropriate to the context it found itself in.

"Anonymity was important to Posenenske. Shifting between Minimal and Conceptual art, she viewed her function as that of a supplier who made material available, but who did not have to be present at the moment of artistic realisation - i.e. at the installation of the pieces in the exhibition space. Gradually Posenenske became increasingly indifferent as to whether or not her creations could be identified as art."

In 1968 she gave up her art practice to study sociology; she died in 1985.
Square Tube Series D (1967) and prototype for Revolving Vane (1967-8);
the Tate holds several variations of the Square Tubes
In a room nearby was Zarina Hashmi's Letters from Home. The caption reads: "This series of prints is based on letters written by the artist’s sister who lived in Pakistan. Lines of handwritten prose in Urdu are overlaid and obscured with maps and blueprints of distant homes and places. The letters mark significant moments – the death of a parent, for instance – and some of the prints bear impressions of places relevant to their estranged lives. Hashmi maps and conveys the experience of loss and dispossession due to political conflict. The break with the Urdu literary culture of undivided India is poignant for the artist who was born in Aligarh, a university town and centre of learning." Here are two of the eight prints -
Hashmi was born in 1937, and left India in 1958. Around the same time, her family were subject to relocation from Delhi to Karachi following the partition of India and Pakistan. Consequently exile and the loss of the family home are embedded in her work, whose spare visual vocabulary often evokes physical and psychological spaces relating to memories of childhood and later life.

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