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 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.
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.