This beautiful portrait is of Sophie Brzeska, a Polish writer and the muse of Henri Gaudier-Brzeska. They met in Paris when she was almost twice his age, and Henri soon took her name although they never married. They had an intense but chaste relationship which ended abruptly with Henri’s death -he was killed in the trenches in WWI at the young age of 23.
Once again we share some of the highlights from the Swab International Contemporary Art Fair, Barcelona. There were many fantastic artists to discover, here are our top five finds, in no particular order:
Galería Alegría represented Juan Escudero within the programme of Drawing Applications. Born in Bilbao and currently based in Barcelona, Juan Escudero’s drawings are simple, yet incredibly detailed, and form part of his series Piel (Skin). In them he explores the act of drawing a line and the natural wave and forms which can emerge naturally from that action. Using india ink, the artist draws line after thin line upon the paper, creating the effect of waves and textures from their varying closeness. They are abstract and process-lead drawings in which you can get lost and imagine different possibilities, one of which could be that they detail the relief of a landscape, like a topographic map.
Estefania Peñafiel Loaiza in Galerie Alain Gutharc, Paris:
Presented under Solo Swab, a programme curated by Direlia Lazo and Carolina Ariza which presents individual Latin American artists whose work is of a procedural and documentary nature. Estefania Peñafiel Loaiza, an Ecuadorian artist based in Paris, exhibited a fascinating project. In her piece Untitled (Extras), 2009-2014, the artist used an eraser to remove the bodies and faces of anonymous people found in newspapers. She collected the eraser residue of each individual and stored them separately in tiny glass vials. Presented are a few of the newspapers, in which we can see large blurred areas where she has erased, a display case filled with hundreds of glass vials, arranged and labeled like scientific specimens, and a list which documents each person erased (the newspaper and date they were taken from) and links it to the corresponding vial. A tribute to the “extras” in our everyday life and a reminder of the many things that go unsaid, unnoticed, or unrecognized. Galerie Alain Gutharc was awarded the prize for Best Art Gallery at Swab 2015, sponsored by the Fundació Banc Sabadell.
Shown within the Swab Seed programme, curated by David Armengol and representing independent spaces dedicated to contemporary art, Salón presented a compelling exhibition of ceramics. Based on a text from Gulliver’s travels, the project explores the physicality of language, playing with ways of representing words as objects, giving shape to a gesture or a vocal cord. Teresa Solar Abboud, for example, materialised sign language by moulding her clay based on the gestures, spelling out words like “chicken” by putting together the shapes imprinted by her hands when forming each letter. The objects were arranged on a shelving unit, and moved around each day and combined in different ways, creating new dialogues and connections every time.
Galería Silvestre had a fantastic booth inside the Swab General Programme with many wonderful artists and an inspired presentation. While I enjoyed all their proposals, the highlight was discovering these three painters. Luisa Jacinto has a way with colour and brushstrokes, her paintings transmit a kind of serenity while retaining a sense of mystery which keeps the viewer wondering what is happening on the canvas. Germán Portal‘s paintings have a surreal edge. His large and striking painting, Figura al Sol,is clearly inspired by Picasso’s Nude Standing by the Sea, but in Portal’s version the figure is a structure made from cardboard templates. In this humorous series, Vanguardismo DIY, he questions the aura and glorification around certain works of art and artists. Gloria Martín‘s paintings are simple but contemplative and clearly thought-out. She takes everyday objects and visions and by virtue of the attention she shows them, she gives them an importance, turning them into mysterious and meaningful objects.
3k Art is an online art platform which participated in the fair within the MYFAF programme of young galleries. What stood out the most in their stand was the work of Spanish photographer, Javier Ayuso. His series Walking Around (Sucede que me canso de ser perro) draws its inspiration from Pablo Neruda’s eponymous poem in which he reflects on the uncertainties and absurdities of existence and says “it so happens that I’m sick of being a man”. In his photographs Ayuso explores these concerns from the point of view of his dog, captured in moments where he appears almost human. Ayuso draws parallels between human and animals behaviors –encouraging the viewer to reflect upon the animal qualities which can perceived in human behavior as much as the human qualities seen in animals.
See more of their work in Swab:
Swab is an art fair dedicated exclusively to young emerging artists – most of the programmes within the fair are restricted to artists aged 45 and under. This year the fair presented 65 galleries from 22 countries, including Spain, Mexico, Cuba, Japan, Greece, and many more.
Extract from a short story by Julio Cortázar, Letter to a Young Lady in Paris:
When I think I’m about to vomit a rabbit I put two fingers down my throat like an open set of tongs, and I wait until I can feel the warm hair rising like the fizz of an alka-seltzer. It’s quick and clean, it all happens in an instant. I remove my fingers from my mouth and with them a little white rabbit comes dangling by the ears. The rabbit looks happy, it’s a perfectly normal little rabbit, only exceedingly tiny, as small as a chocolate rabbit except for the fact that it’s white and most definitely a rabbit. I place it in the palm of my hand, stroke its fur with my fingers; the rabbit seems happy to be alive and hoovers about burying its nose in my skin with that quiet, ticklish gnoshing of a rabbit’s nose on one’s hand. It looks for something to eat so I (I’m referring to when this used to happen in my house on the outskirts of the city) I take it out to the balcony and place it in the big pot with the clover I’ve planted especially. The little rabbit pricks up his ears as high as they go, grabs at a clover with a quick swirl of his snout, and I know then that I can leave him there and go off, continue with a life that’s no different to that of so many other people who purchase their rabbits from farms.
Original text in Spanish:
Cuando siento que voy a vomitar un conejito me pongo dos dedos en la boca como una pinza abierta, y espero a sentir en la garganta la pelusa tibia que sube como una efervescencia de sal de frutas. Todo es veloz e higiénico, transcurre en un brevísimo instante. Saco los dedos de la boca, y en ellos traigo sujeto por las orejas a un conejito blanco. El conejito parece contento, es un conejito normal y perfecto, sólo que muy pequeño, pequeño como un conejilo de chocolate pero blanco y enteramente un conejito. Me lo pongo en la palma de la mano, le alzo la pelusa con una caricia de los dedos, el conejito parece satisfecho de haber nacido y bulle y pega el hocico contra mi piel, moviéndolo con esa trituración silenciosa y cosquilleante del hocico de un conejo contra la piel de una mano. Busca de comer y entonces yo (hablo de cuando esto ocurría en mi casa de las afueras) lo saco conmigo al balcón y lo pongo en la gran maceta donde crece el trébol que a propósito he sembrado. El conejito alza del todo sus orejas, envuelve un trébol tierno con un veloz molinete del hocico, y yo sé que puedo dejarlo e irme, continuar por un tiempo una vida no distinta a la de tantos que compran sus conejos en las granjas.
My old Sandy, this burly man with the
soul of a nightingale who blows on mobiles
this nightingale who makes his nest
in his mobiles
these mobiles scraping the bark
of the orange-coloured
where my great friend Sandy lives
Poem written by Miró for their 1961 exhibition “Miró-Calder” at Perls Gallery in New York
Alexander Calder and Joan Miró first met in 1928 when the American artist visited Miró’s studio in Paris. Since then they maintained a deep and mutually inspiring friendship lasting almost 50 years during which they exchanged ideas, letters, paintings and gifts and collaborated on numerous exhibitions. There is a remarkable similarity in their creative sensibility. They were both heavily influenced by the surrealist movement, taking their inspiration from the unconscious, and applied heavy symbolism in their abstractions. They also shared a thematic interest in the circus and astrology.
When Auguste Rodin met the troupe of dancers for the first time it was like a revelation to him. He was struck by the timeless and universal nature of the movements of this dance, which transformed this relatively unknown form of art into a manifestation of the universal principle of the “unity of nature” through time and space.
This encounter came as such a shock to Rodin that he immediately started a first series of drawings. However, the dancers were expected elsewhere, and Rodin therefore dropped everything to follow them to Marseilles, not even taking with him the necessary paper and drawing material. On arrival, he executed a series of studies of movements and female draperies that are considered to be among the leading lights of his art.
Text from Musee Rodin
With Olympia, Manet reworked the traditional theme of the female nude, using a strong, uncompromising technique. Both the subject matter and its depiction explain the scandal caused by this painting at the 1865 Salon. Even though Manet quoted numerous formal and iconographic references, such as Titian’s Venus of Urbino, Goya’s Maja desnuda, and the theme of the odalisque with her black slave, already handled by Ingres among others, the picture portrays the cold and prosaic reality of a truly contemporary subject. Venus has become a prostitute, challenging the viewer with her calculating look. This profanation of the idealized nude, the very foundation of academic tradition, provoked a violent reaction. Critics attacked the “yellow-bellied odalisque” whose modernity was nevertheless defended by a small group of Manet’s contemporaries with Zola at their head.
Text from Musée d’Orsay