Friday, July 13, 2018

Art report / Hamburg 2

The Hamburger Kunsthalle had several pieces of fiber art from well back in the previous century, giving an interesting spin on the days when it was considered avant-garde simply to get some nontraditional materials and display them (gasp!) in a mainstream museum.  Seeing them five decades later makes me realize that fiber art has come a long way.

Robert Morris, Untitled (Felt Tangle), 1967

Robert Morris is an American artist who has worked in sculpture, land art, performance and conceptual art.  One of his favorite materials has been industrial felt, which in this piece is both hung from the wall and arranged on the floor.  I'm not sure this particular installation does much for me; I can't tell whether he's exploring felt's drapability, its firm structure or just its ability to sit there in the gallery looking transgressive.

Reiner Ruthenbeck, Hammock, 1969

Yes, it's a big piece of red cotton, suspended across a corner of the gallery from four skinny straps.  What is it saying to us about cotton-ness, about redness, about hammock-ness?  Beats me.

As I contemplated these two works in the gallery and now at home reviewing my photos, I confess that my major questions had to do not with the materials, not with the formal aspects of the compositions, but with their maintenance.  Do the janitors come in every morning and carefully pick up the edges of the felt so they can dust under the first six inches of the sculpture?  Do they vacuum the whole thing every now and then?  Does the hammock require periodic washing and ironing to keep the drapey folds from getting permanently creased?

I don't suppose the artists wanted viewers to be thinking about such issues, but they didn't give me much else to chew on.  Sorry.


  1. You make me laugh...I often feel this way about art pieces

  2. More fool the institutions that purchase this type of work. Was there actually any work went into these pieces? So much art is bull-manure. Cheers Jan

  3. I wondered exactly the same thing when I saw Rauschenbergs Stuffed Goat with a tire around it's chest. that is not it's formal name but as my husband at the time was in charge of vacuuming the trophy heads in the biology department and windexing the glass eyes, I wondered.

    1. Several years ago I saw a big exhibit by Karla Black, a Scottish sculptor whose thing was to build huge refrigerator-size piles of powdery stuff directly on the floor of the gallery. I saw a janitor with a broom very carefully sweeping around the edges, but trying to keep the edges as nonchalantly just-poured as they had been all along. I did not envy him his job.

  4. Wasn't there some piece in a museum that was "garbage on the floor" and the night cleaning people cleared it out? Now I'll have to google.

    1. Oh my. It's happened more than once.

      Also in Italy:

      And here's a funny one.

      Hilarity abounds out there in the art world!