Friday, 21 August 2009

Lothar Böttcher | A Man Of His Time

Through Lothar Böttcher’s work one is taken on one of the most exciting artistic adventures of all time in the search for the ultimate nature of physical reality, a hunt that in the past century has yielded such breakthroughs as Einstein’s theory of relativity and quantum mechanics, two theories that radically altered our perception of the universe and our place in it. The latest progression in this heroic pursuit is string theory, known as superstring or M-theory. This same thirst, exploration and fascination with time and space has been going on within artistic circles since 1915 and Kasimir Malevich, Suprematism and the Abstract Expressionist and Art Informel in the 1950-60’s. Today the artists looking are these puzzling issues are artists such as the late Sol LeWitt, Abderrazak Sahli and Julie Mehretu, Sarah Sze, Marie Thibeault and deconstructive architects such as David Adjaye and Zaha Hadid. Working on parallel lines Lothar’s glass artworks boldly navigates between the lines of science and art; looking through the artist’s transparent work one is drawn to the illusion of the alternate space created; once again in search of this elusive notion of the light between.

The artist works primarily with glass, which lends itself to a reaction of immense intrigue and glee when scrutinized. There is a special mystical quality to his work as the audience is left with renewed vision, questioning not only the art but the world around them. Just as Galileo caused delight 400 years ago so the viewer is again in for an artistic extravaganza, to look not at the glass but at the space that lies beyond. In his earlier works with prisms the fundamental theories of science are incorporated throughout. The viewer perceives the contiguous space from a distorted angle which is ever changing due to his or her movement.

The most recent sculptural glassworks Lothar has created are lenses that act as a portal, which challenges the observer’s perception of space and time. Appropriately, Lothar’s lenses are based around the Galileo telescope, which was coincidently invented in 1609; in a time when the world believed that the earth was at the centre of the universe, known as the geocentric view devised by Claudius Ptolemys in the 2nd Century AD, rather than the sun, which is known as the heliocentric. It was Galileo who controversially supported the Nicolaus Copernicus notion of heliocentrism with his most famous work, ‘Dialogue Concerning The Two Chief World Systems’. Today Galileo is regarded as the father of modern science.

The artist toys with his audience playing on the insecurities of all individuals and the paranoia of being watched and centre stage. Lothar’s work would certainly be at home in the CCTV City of London. When the viewer lurches closer and piers through the multifaceted lens they become the viewed, and the viewed becomes the subject matter and that becomes the art. The viewer becomes the viewed and spectators see the distorted person, their facial features in constant motion, incessantly changing behind the lens. The audience delights in the experience and the charm of seeing something that was not there a moment ago and the artist has successfully changed the canvas for a fraction of a second. A constant conversation is taking place with the glass as the transmitting device.

Every movement changes the way the spectator perceives the sculpture – whether it is the viewer or the viewed again. The artist has intentionally attributed the work to Galileo’s kinematics and the world in perpetual motion and in a constant state of change. The work echoes the world itself and cosmos beyond working towards a world where everything is seen differently by different people and in doing so celebrating the importance of individuality and personal perspective and perception. The artist works with these weighty philosophical notes and as he does so the concept of the world looks different and work begins to question the way we see the world around us. The work is inclusive and participatory, which links skilfully with the thinkers of our time; connecting with scientists, writers and philosophers like Michael Albert and fellow anarchists Noam Chomsky who are sharing similar thoughts of Participatory Economics or Parecon, life after Capitalism and also ideas spoken about from Chris Ofili and his interview about the Last Supper in the 'Upper Room', created alongside David Adjaye. We could easily refer to this kind of art as Participatory art. Through Lothar’s work we see an artist pushing the envelop ever closer to the notion of artistic enlightenment.

© Joe Pollitt, 2009

Friday, 7 August 2009



Naomi Sims | First Black Supermodel | Dead at 61

Source: |

Mon. 08/03/09

>> The title of "first black supermodel" has been handed out to Beverly Johnson, the first African American woman to score the cover of Vogue, or Donyale Luna, who Vogue named model of the year in 1966, but Naomi Sims, who died of cancer Saturday, at 61, held her own right to the title.

Halston referred to her as "the first [black supermodel]" in 1974: "She was the great ambassador for all black people. She broke down all the social barriers.” When modeling agencies turned her down in the late '60s, she went straight to photographers, finally convincing Gosta Peterson to capture her for the cover of The New York Times Magazine's Fashions of the Times supplement in 1967; the image is now appearing in the Metropolitan Museum of Art's "Model as Muse" exhibit. Sims sent out the image to ad agencies, and within a year, she was earning $1,000 and had a national AT&T TV commercial campaign wearing Bill Blass.

She paved the way for the likes of Pat Cleveland, Beverly Johnson, gave up modeling after five years in favor of pursuing what became a multimillion dollar beauty empire, and thought of her race as an advantage: "It’s ‘in’ to use me, and maybe some people do it when they don’t really like me. But even if they are prejudiced, they have to be tactful if they want a good picture.”

Still I Rise

You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I'll rise.

Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
'Cause I walk like I've got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.

Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I'll rise.

Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops.
Weakened by my soulful cries.

Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don't you take it awful hard
'Cause I laugh like I've got gold mines
Diggin' in my own back yard.

You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I'll rise.

Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I've got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?

Out of the huts of history's shame
I rise
Up from a past that's rooted in pain
I rise
I'm a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.
Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
I rise
Into a daybreak that's wondrously clear
I rise
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
I rise
I rise
I rise.

Author: Maya Angelou

Monday, 3 August 2009

Abderrazak Sahli 1940-2009

My first meeting with Abderrazak Sahli was in 2007, and I was initially fascinated with his ideas and playful work with shapes and colour. Throughout his artistic life Sahli was inspired by abstraction and he deconstructed his artwork in a similar vein to an American Pop artist. Stripped to the bare essentials the work of any artist boils down to three specific fundamental elements; shape, colour and light. His work is the link between some of the most important art movements of the last century, American Pop Art and Abstract Expressionism and Russian Suprematism. Sahli is originally from Arabic North Africa but spent his life living between France and Tunisia.

Sahli’s artistic life started in the 1960’s and the consistency, continuity and thoroughness of his works are astounding. Inspired by his mentor and friend Nejib Belkhodja, Sahli adopted many ideas from the recognised Tunis School of Art of 60's, founded by Belkhodja, which looked at architecture, constructivism and the development of aesthetics through art. The image below is from his later works, “The Artist Door”, and effectively capitalises on the bright North African sunlight. 'Skyhooks' are needed when looking at his work as the light pours in from different directions and through the multi-layers he has created new and exciting shapes from standard shapes, mixed with layers of other standard shapes to create brand new shapes. Sahli has manage to tackle the age old question of the elusive light between - his work is wonderfully simple yet sophisticated and certainly philosophical. The standardization of all things – the accepted shape and the rejected unacceptable shapes colliding to create new unacceptably acceptable shapes, the work is a paradox and a guide to a wave of thoughts that are rarely uttered; the artist’s pursuit and perpetual quest to push the boundaries of art puts Abderrazak Sahli in the company of Modern Masters of Turner, Paul Klee, Mondrain, Kasimir Malevich and Nejib Belkhodja.

Sadly Abderrazak died earlier this year but was and still is considered one of the best artists from North Africa and his work is interwoven with numerous glorious ideas. His final works are amongst his best and they come alive wholly when filled with light, like the soul of mankind, light is the essential ingredient needed for life itself; like all things, without light the work becomes a two-dimensional object, lifeless and flat. Given space between the layers creates conversations that have enough time to be forgiveable. Space and time seen through the use of light makes everything believable and alive. Abderrazak created an innovation within art through his unique use of light, the source of which all artists strives to achieve. Observations and opinions change as the shape and colours change, what was unacceptable will inevitably become acceptable and even to the point of becoming the recognisable standard. All that is needed to create this phenomenon is light, space and time. Abderrazak strived for the unacceptable and waited for the world to wake up to the ideas of the unacceptable transformation into the general acceptance. This quintessentially is how the world works. The best art pushes the boundaries asking the viewer to consider what is seen and sheds light on the truth that abnormality will eventually become an acceptable normality given enough time and space. This colourful transparent “Artist Door” plays with the traditional screens in the Arabic world. The suggestion of sex is one of the major features within the work; as the screens are normally used for women to undress behind to entice men to see them at a glance, glimpses of naked flesh and the lustful joy of anticipation. His work can be read in copious ways and he leaves behind a body of work that is not only beautiful and intriguing but more importantly it is thorough and thought provoking.

© Joe Pollitt, 2009