NYC Street Art Fans know that Freeman Alley on the LES is probably the prime location in the city for discovering exciting new pieces from artists who travel from all over to paint and paste-up their latest works in the narrow passageway that leads from Rivington Street to one of the best farm-to-table restaurants in the city.
In 1947, while a student at Back Mountain College, Ruth Asawa (1926 – 2013) made a visit to Toluca, Mexico. There, she was introduced to a local method of crocheting wire to create baskets for carrying eggs. The discovery led Asawa to experiment with weaving wire into continuous, organic forms like the above Untitled sculpture (1955), which is described as a hanging six-lobed, complex interlocking continuous form-within-a-form, with two interior spheres. These works challenged conventional ideas of sculpture by embracing utilitarian craft methods and relying on the ceiling instead of the floor for support.
In the early 1950s, Asawa later explained, the art establishment passed over her work because “it wasn’t traditional sculpture. They thought it was craft, or something else, but not art.” For Asawa, woven wire offered many possibilities of form and resulted in a work that was both transparent and airy, qualities that make the surrounding space part of the experience of the work and emphasize the connection between the interior and the exterior of the object.
Photographed in the Whitney Musuem in NYC.
“At the start of the fifties, Uruguayan artist Maria Freire (1917 – 2015) recalled, “I abandoned figuration for the perspective of the imagination, anxious to create a new space.” To develop her own style of abstraction, she initially experimented with sculpture, creating virtual volumes through a single, dynamic line. Complex spatial effects also characterize her abstract paintings, such as this Untitled piece from 1954. Though free of perspective, Freire’s painted interwoven forms seem to recede, even dance, in an ambiguous space in tension with the painting’s flat surface.
Photographed in the Museum of Modern Art in NYC.
Alejandro Puente (1933 – 2013) was at the fore of a group of artists from La Plata, Argentina, who shared with American Minimalist and Conceptual artists of the 1960s a devotion to the rigorous exploration of systems of color and form. This composition reflects Puente’s preference for the primary colors as they appear unmixed on a color wheel. Arranged together, four equilateral triangles make up a single, larger triangle, with the three primary colors radiating out from an anchor in black. An even white strip runs along two sides of each triangle, suggesting a state of incompleteness while also creating the perimeter of overall composition. As this composite work suggests, the abstract vocabularies practiced by La Plata artists effectively abandoned traditional painting by embracing the shaped canvas, the support assuming its own identity in space as an object
Photographed in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC.
This photograph of artist David Wojnarowicz (1954 – 1992) was taken in late May of 1991 at Chaco Canyon in New Mexico while Wojnarowicz and his friend Marion Scemama took a road trip around the American Southwest. Cynthia Carr, the artist’s biographer, describes how the photograph came to be:
David had been there before and he knew exactly where he wanted stage this. “We’re going to dig a hole,” he told her, “and I’m going to lie down.” They began digging without saying word, a hole for his upper body and a bit for his legs. They used their hands. The dirt was loose and dry. He lay down and closed his eyes. Marion put dirt around his face until it was halfway up his cheeks and then stood over him, photographing his half-buried face first with his camera and then with hers.
This image was also licensed for use as the cover art for the soundtrack recording of the 1995 film, Postcards From America.
Photographed as Part of the Exhibit History Keeps Me Awake at Night, on View Through September 30th, 2018 at the Whitney Museum in NYC.
This Untitled Abstract Painting (circa 1963 or 64) is one of the last paintings made by Eva Hesse before she switched to sculpture. Its deconstructed symbols, figures, and shapes evoke natural forms and bodies without ever being directly identifiable. Delicate brushwork, soft colors and a light, witty touch lend this work a feminine quality that she intended as a rebuke to the masculinity of Minimalist Art. Hess was reading Simone de Beauvoir’s The Second Sex at this time, and the text led her to question her own fragmented status as artist, woman and wife. Her work, though not overtly political, explores these issues in poetic, expressive abstractions.
Photographed in the Jewish Museum in NYC.
Donald Judd (1928 – 1994) created his first vertical Stack Sculpture in 1965. Coincidentally, this was just one year before furniture designer Ettore Sottsass designed his Superebox cabinet series. At the time, Sottsass claimed to have been inspired from the radical materials and construction of Parisian fashion, but he late wrote about Judd and even named a table in homage to him.
Sottsass and Judd each explored Minimalism and the effect of objects on their environment, but from strikingly different vantage points
Judd’s sculptures use the language and materials of serial production and functionalist design, while Sottsass created functional objects with the aspiration of minimalist sculpture.
Photographed in The Met Breuer Museum in NYC.