Archive: Issue No. 101, January 2006

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Richard Serra's Torqued Ellipses
at the Dia Beacon


Saturday, December 3

Flew in to New York yesterday, on my way home from my residency at Montalvo Arts Center in California. Very hard to leave that peaceful place behind, but it's great to be in New York, staying with my old friends Joe and Annie Bacal.

Today we take the train from Grand Central up to the Dia Beacon, winding up along the Hudson River to the little town of Beacon, where in 2003 New York's Dia Center opened this expansive museum to house its permanent collection.

The building was adapted from an old factory, and the vast spaces are flooded with soft white light from the clerestory windows, a perfect setting for the Dan Flavins, Andy Warhols and Richard Serra's magnificent Torqued Ellipses, massive curved steel structures.

I have seen photos of these pieces often before, but standing inside one of them, surrounded by the high curving walls of rusted steel, formed by Serra in a shipyard, is akin to reaching the end of an art pilgrimage.

Wednesday, December 7

Lunch with Laurie Farrell, from the Museum for African Art. Back in Cape Town, the art conference eKapa SESSIONS is in progress, and Laurie brings news (via a 'phone conversation with Michael Stevenson) of some 'heated' exchanges on the floor. Put a group of South African artists together in a discussion group, and these eruptions always seem to occur. Laurie comments that at least we all say what is on our minds, rather than skirting politely around the issues as American artists might. This is true, I suppose. But one does hope that there is some movement forward in these discussions.

Thursday, December 8

Have been doing more Christmas shopping than gallery hopping, but can't pass up the opportunity to visit the new Museum of Modern Art. It really is totally changed inside, and there is only time for a quick sampling. Take the escalator to the fourth floor - and discover to my great pleasure that the design show 'SAFE: Design Takes on Risk' is still up.

This is the show in which ArtThrob's design editor, Ralph Borland, is participating, and there, right near the door is the bright orange inflatable protective gear he has designed to wear in a potentially dangerous crowd situation, providing protection to the front of the body and giving the wearer various other useful interactive devices. There is a photo of Ralph wearing the suit, bare legs sticking out from beneath the puffy orange carapace, looking a bit like an exotic insect.

On the floor below, Robin Rhode has been given major space on the 'New Photography '05' show, an annual review by MoMA of the work of contemporary photographers. His work has been very well hung, and includes two video screens and a number of his multi photo images documenting performance interactions with his wall drawings. Rhode has built very solidly on his early work, and it seems that he is able to introduce new conceptual elements which keep the work fresh and utterly engaging while holding to his core themes.

A third South African artist, William Kentridge is showing on 'Drawings from the Modern: 1975 - 2000' in one of the other spaces, but unfortunately I have a plane to catch, and cannot see this show.

Monday, December 12

Back in Cape Town, and have hardly had time to catch my breath after my long stay abroad, when American artist Pat Ward Williams arrives for a final 12 day push on our new collaborative piece for the show at North Carolina's The Light Factory in January.

And at this point, I am signing off for the year. Thanks to all the patient readers of this often stream-of-consciousness rambling about the art world, usually written at the last moment in some airport or hotel room. May 2006 be a great year for all.