Abstract Sculpture by Women 1947-2016
Talk about landing on your feet. When Paul Schimmel (1954-) was fired two years ago by our friend Jeffrey Deitch and the Board of the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles after 22 years as Chief Curator he joined the British gallery Hauser & Wirth, and, last month the new Los Angeles gallery, now Hauser Wirth and Schimmel, opened with a bang in a former Pillsbury Flour factory of about 100,000 square feet. However, while large, I do not think the finished exhibition spaces and the related spaces are as large as Doug Chrismas’ Ace Gallery a few miles away on Wilshire. Nonetheless, it becomes one of the largest galleries in Los Angeles and its inaugural show, curated by Paul Schimmel, is a knockout. “Revolution In The Making, Abstract Sculpture By Women 1947-2016”
Graham Steele, the director of the new gallery, has given the library the hardcover 250-page catalogue.
This show is an eye opener. There are some of the names one might expect, like Lynda Benglis, Louise Nevelson, Louise Bourgeois and Lee Bontecou, with their well-known forms, but then there is literally stunning and much less known work by Melissa Merz, Lygia Pape and Ruth Asawa, all dealing with wire or nylon line, There are 34 artists in the show. It is not comprehensive, but how could it be, for example, not included are artists like Ann Hamilton, Janine Antoni, Elyn Zimmerman, Sarah Lucas, and others.
Melissa Merz (1926-) has long been a legend in the art world, an artists’ artist. She has been over-shadowed by her world famous husband Mario Merz who died in 2003 at 78. But here she is represented with a wonderful intricate wire weaving in the shape of an inverted female triangle. She was the only woman in the Arte Povera movement in Italy.
Ruth Asawa died in her hometown of San Francisco three years ago at 87. Even though born in America, she was interred as a Japanese American for 18 months during the war. Joseph Albers, Buckminster Fuller and others were her mentors and teachers at Black Mountain. Black Mountain College changed the face of American art in its very brief 24-year existence. Just to name a few, students and teachers included Cage, Cunningham, Rauschenberg, Johns, Chamberlain, Rockboure, both de Koonings, Motherwell, Gropius, Annie Albers, Jacob Lawrence, and many others. It left a lasting legacy to American culture.
Ruth Asara’s works are hypnotic, biomorphic wire sculptures hanging in space Often completed with one continuous wire. As one curator put it “(her). wire sculptures …. so beautifully interweave nature and culture”. She overcame the limitations of being a woman, being Japanese, and working with a craft material. What a triumph.
The art scene in Rio de Janeiro was a place of new ideas in the 40s and 50s. Today some of those artists have made a lasting addition to the international art world. We now all know about Lygia Clark, Hélio Oiticica and Lygia Pape. Lygia Pape the the Brazilian artist (1927-2004) has a beautiful work here made of a golden nylon line strung back and forth in a widening triangle in the corner of the gallery. It is almost invisible. Lygia Pape said “… I want to discover new things. Because, to me, art is a way of knowing the world… to see how the world is… of getting to know the world.”