Tuesday, December 22, 2009

the Romanian state artist today as yesterday

I listened tonight at a conference organized by the Romanian Cultural Institute to a Romanian artist, Alexandru Antik, famous especially for one action (performance) that was considered as one of the most important [artistic] acts against the communist regime (his 1986 performance in the underground space of the Pharmacy Museum of Sibiu) when members of the Securitate had intervene but not for the outrageousness of the work itself but for the effects it had had on the public, two had fainted. At no point, someone questioned the artistic state given space as the already marked context of all this art. Antik himself said tonight his work was done for the [defense of the] freedom of expression. They were all members of the UAP/the "younger branch" - Atelier 35 and had all finished the Artistic Universities' classes. Their fights were with the artistic system per se, and not with it as a representative of the totalitarian regime. The thorough analysis of what this system meant is still lacking as is a questioning of the state given system (art academies and artistic /state/ unions. To be further discussed: the state artist in the afterworld

Monday, November 9, 2009

American art and politics: 3 images and a feeling

I recently saw two great exhibitions at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. The first one was the presentation of the work by American photographer, Robert Frank, The Americans, an album in fact dating of 1959. Frank shows America the way he saw it by traveling across the country in 1955-1956. So many opposite images: political men, the desertness of the paysage, the new Hollywood stars, the diners, the poor, the left behind, the blues and the open horizon.

The second exhibition, American Stories looked at American painting of the everyday in the period 1765-1915 and spoke of the American society. The political was present everywhere: be it race discrimination, be it women disenfranchisement etc. What struck me is the way the two exhibitions could have been thought of together. Maybe because it was my first encounter with America, I saw these paintings also as historic snapshots, just as Frank's photos. They spoke of the construction of a nation, of its different components, faces and perspectives. I particularly loved this one, by Winslow Homer (American, 1836–1910), Dressing for the Carnival (1877).

The third element to my American equation was the Kandinsky superb exhibition at the Guggenheim. I was not a particular fan of K (I loved the painting that opens the exhibition) but the expo greatly recaptures his evolution in parallel to politics. He is the artist that invokes the right to create "art for art", not tainted or influenced by the politics of the time. In his search for the spiritual in art he leaves aside the political.

Still at the Guggenheim I saw the work of an English artist, Anish Kapoor entitled Memory that seems so right these days when all is talked about is the memory of 1989. His work has to be seen on site to feel its weight, to be confronted to the feeling of asphyxiation. I of course took the literal translation of the work and saw it as the unbearable weight of the past... (a link to a recent show by Kapoor in England)

Monday, September 7, 2009

film \fiction\ and politics

seeing Chavez walking proudly, smilingly on the tapis rouge in Venice cote a cote with Oliver Stone I got struck by the way fiction in a filmed form interferes with the 'real politics'. How much of the political imaginary is, nowadays at least, made of filmic images about our past, present and future? Oliver Stone with his JFK, W. and now South of the Border (which started as a bio of Chavez and was transformed in a look at the "new left in Latin America) or Michael Moore with his "documentaries" can attest to this fictionalization of our realities.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Ion Barladeanu or who is an artist [marginality]

Ion Barladeanu is an artist discovered a few years ago by a Bucharest based gallery owner, Dan Popescu from H'Arta gallery. His story seems amazing and I found out about him reading the newspaper; I was fascinated by the images published by the H'Arta gallery website. He is not a professional artist in the consecrated sense, still he creates art. At a time when the Romanian state still dedicates important resources to the education, promotion and exhibition of state-sponsored artists, one can be but dazzled by the output of such a policy inherited from the communist regime and that was not really questioned after 1989. My opinion is that it does not belong to the state, to the political to decide who is an artist and must be encouraged to create. Private interests should articulate the arts.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

missed exhibited art in/from Romanistan

the first thing I would like to mention is the publication of a book - catalog for an exhibition I couldn't get to and regret it enormously. It is called "Cel ce se pedepseste singur" (the one that punishes himself) and accompanies the travelling exhibition with the same name that recollects the works of 3 Romanian artists of the 1980s/19990s: Ion Grigorescu, Florin Mitroi and Stefan Bertalan. The first one is in my opinion the most interesting case as he developed an aesthetic of marginality and criticized without saying so the communist power. But most importantly he also engaged in a relationship with the communist power. Analysing his or other important Romanian artist work of those decades (especially the 80s) without taking this into account seems to me a failed attempt at understanding. Placing this artist as well as others in a logic of for or against/ pro or resistance is a false dichotomy for the Romanian case. Comprising the way their relationship with power articulated together with or despite their "private art" is a must. At the launching of the album the terms lacked this coordinate...

the second thing I would like to signal is the exhibition I would love to see and hopefully will! It is held in Stuttgart at the W├╝rttembergischer Kunstverein and it is called "Subversive practices" . It encompasses besides works from Romania (including art by Grigorescu), works from other dictatorships: Chile, Argentina and Brazil but also Russia, Spain, Hungary and GDR. It poses the question of artistic subversion by an appeal to artistic means in the sense that "it is only aesthetically that art is political" that is oh so true under dictatorial regimes. Hopefully I shall be going there and will write more after seeing the works.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

art and (its Bucharest) democratization

for some years in Bucharest there has been a night of museums when every citizen can visit the museums of his town for free. I went again this year (after having missed one year) to 3 museums. At the first one, the museum of national art (MNAR) the exposition we wanted to see (photos done by Magritte) was not open for the nocturne public. The second museum, the Museum of Bucharest was impossible to see as a crowd (literally) had entered the premises and suffocated there. Summer has come to stay in our beautiful city and the air was missing in the Sutu Palace. The third and last attempt to see some "free art" was at the oh so controversy ridden Museum of contemporary art hosted by the House of the People. There we stood for almost 1h and a half in a line waiting to get in. Staying in line for an art exhibition beats any line. right? well not in practice. The question that came to my mind after this triple attempt to enjoy a night at the museums and saw so very different people entering these spaces as they enter stadiums with no reverence what so ever was: is democratization of art such a good thing? Knowing how museums were exactly imagined as places meant to open up a closed space to the grand public, to the people, posing this question might appear strange. I wonder if confronting art can have the effects one expects when opening the doors of art to the grand public. My conclusion that hot Saturday night was negative.

Thursday, April 30, 2009


I already noticed and I was of course not the first or only how candidate Obama became so rapidly a passionate subject for all sorts of artists. Obama as president and as an art subject or pretext has come to the fore once again with the occasion of his 100 days in office. Michael D'Antuono's painting The Truth picturing Obama in a Christic position has risen discussions. The cult of the image of a democratic president, his transformation in a symbol or basically an image tout simplement is rare in democracies. This is an interesting future theme to discuss larger I think. I attach the image of D'Antuono's painting taken from here

"The Truth" by Michael D'Antuono

Friday, February 13, 2009


I bought today an album which could have served me well while writing my Phd but I guess I will now be able to use it for the volume I will publish. The album entitled Ceau consists of the collection of images inherited from the ex Museum of the Romanian Communist Party that are deposited inside the Museum of Contemporary art (MNAC) of Bucharest. It was realized by the Swiss artist Cristoph Buchel and the Italian curator Giovanni Carmine. The album is printed in excellent conditions and is organized around several of the grand themes of the iconography of the Ceausescus (as the Romanian leader appears together with his family): Ceausescu in his youth, him and his wife receiving flowers from pioneers, the two of them hunting., etc The album is an excellent resource, as it shows - by the way the reproductions are displayed - not only the rudimentary visual rhetoric of these representations but also the inter-exchangeable figures and poses. The same contours of the Ceausescu couple are applied in two different contexts as some kind of passe-partout figures.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

art and the street in art

street art or art in the street can denominate quite different things. I thought to write a bit about this topic after reading that one of the creators of the "Obama visual myth" was arrested recently for tagging...and this is not surprising. A rather recent form of art, street art (including graffiti and the youngest, the stencil) has been recognized as such (as a form of art) by the consecration of its anonymous artists as mainstream artists. Shepard Fairey is one of these artists that gained world fame by making the red and blue Obama poster. He is also a street artist dedicated to the futile passing signs along with some of his most famous colleagues such as Banksy (frescoes and stencils) and the Poster Boy (rather close to French New Realism). Yet street art even though appreciated as a form of art remains in the same time assimilated to vandalism and thus, a nowadays artist who communicates through everyday signs which he intervenes is still considered a vandal and risks prison... Controversy, the indispensable artistic ingredient, passes no more through the exhibition and declamation of long hidden taboos but through colored or simple lines drawn i/on the street there where everyone can “participate”. As participation is a verb that characterizes this new form of art: it nurtures itself on the passersby. Street Art is of course at a certain level continuing the anti-institutional artistic discourse that most link back to Duchamp’s gesture. Democracy also punishes art in this way. If the Chilean Muralists of the 1970s were punished by the Pinochet regime for their colored drawings politically driven so is Fairey; in his case not by the implications of his artistic gesture but for the gesture itself: one does not draw on the walls.

For what happened to Shephard Fairey check this out

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Terror and the Arts

a very interesting book to which I also collaborated by writing a piece discussing the art of the regime of Ceausescu and of the Pinochet regime. You can find it presented on the Palgrave website