Thursday, January 10, 2019

Artist Interview: Alexandre Arrechea

Alexandre Arrechea - Mask Series: Havana, 2016
Jacquard tapestry
99 x 99 in. Edition of 3

Trinidad-born, New York-based artist Alexandre Arrechea’s work explores the intersection of art and society, taking particular delight in confounding the questions of form and function posed by architecture. He was a founding member of the storied Cuban artist’s collective Los Carpinteros, responsible for some of the most important drawings and installations to emerge from Latin America in the last twenty years. Arrechea's work in media including sculpture, video, and installation continues to deconstruct and re-envision the visual syntax of architecture and the environment with humor and élan.

Arrechea has worked closely with Magnolia Editions since 2015. His first tapestry edition Mask Series: Havana (2016) weaves together a vibrant photomontage, one of a series of masks whose constituent elements are drawn from photographs of buildings in the Cuban capital. Specifically, Arrechea strategically photographs the corners of these buildings such that the light (sunny) and dark (shadow) sides are both visible, yielding two distinct tonalities. The resulting imagery possesses a curious and provocative mixture of flatness and depth, familiarity and exoticism, abstraction and mimesis.

Alexandre Arrechea - Black Eye in Vedado, 2018
Jacquard tapestry
72 x 70 in. Edition of 3

In addition to his ongoing series of tapestries, Arrechea has been working with Donald Farnsworth and Tallulah Terryll in Magnolia's handmade paper studio, exploring the possibilities of translating his mask compositions by deploying handmade paper in a variety of novel ways – e.g., printing, embossing, or composing an image via sections comprised of pulps of various tonalities.

The results of Arrechea's experiments with Magnolia, as well as a survey of the artist's mask works, will be exhibited at Galeria Nara Roesler in New York City (opening February 20, 2019) and at New York City's Armory Show at Piers 92 & 94 in March. (Check out the artist's colorful Instagram account for previews!)

Alexandre Arrechea - Confusion in Centro Havana, 2018
Jacquard tapestry
72 x 70 in. Edition of 3

Writer Nick Stone caught up with Arrechea at Magnolia Editions recently for a brief chat about his ongoing collaboration with the studio:

NS: How did you first get involved with Magnolia Editions?

AA: I remember being in New York in 2014. At the time I was already working on the idea of the masks; I had printed them on regular photo paper and framed them conventionally. I exhibited them at my studio in Havana. I was happy with the results, but I felt something was missing, something was lacking there. I still needed to find the right medium for those particular pieces.

In New York I’m walking in Chelsea and I enter Pace Gallery and see Chuck Close’s show of tapestries at Pace. I’m looking at them and thinking, wow, this is all I need! This is the medium I need in particular for developing these ideas. So I spoke a friend to see if he knew who did the fabrication for Chuck and he said, yes, I know someone who can introduce you to them.

In 2015 that friend of mine and I decided to come to the west coast because we wanted to plan a visit to Napa Valley. Because Magnolia is here in Oakland I said, this is perfect, we can visit them. So that’s the moment when we came to Magnolia and had a really nice chat about the possibility of working together.

Donald Farnsworth and Alexandre Arrechea at Magnolia Editions
with Arrechea's 2016 tapestry Mask Series: Havana; photo by Nick Stone

Departing from there, I did exhibit my first tapestry in the Havana Biennale in 2015. It was interesting because at the time I exhibited that particular piece alongside other installations I did in the national museum in Cuba and people didn’t connect immediately with the work; they didn’t know exactly what it was. Especially because of the nature of the work itself. When you have to explain that those [constituent elements] are corners, that it’s a tapestry... nobody was familiar with that language in Cuba at the time. I remember there was this collector from London, he came to the exhibition, saw the piece and fell in love with the piece immediately.

I continued my exchange with Don and Era about the possibilities of this collaboration and there was a moment where Don told me: “Alex, you don’t have to worry about producing [fabricating] this; we can help you to organize all that so you can focus on creating the ideas.” So that definitely put the work on a different level.

I had been absent from the workshop for a period, because we had done this first project in 2015 and I haven’t visited Magnolia again until now. But we have been collaborating from afar. It became so natural for me to discuss ideas with Don and Era and Nicholas [Price] that right now it feels like this collaboration is growing and growing. And I’ve been feeding my gallery with information about what we’re doing now and everyone is so excited.

So now we are doing for the first time the first show dedicated to the masks, in February, so this is very exciting. And we are planning another show in June in Brazil, in Rio de Janeiro, to which I’m also going to bring all of the ideas we have been ruminating about during my time here.

NS: You’ve worked with various collaborators and fabricators over the years. What stands out to you as being unique about working with Magnolia? How would you describe it to another artist?

AA: One of the things that I fell in love with about this place since the first visit is the curiosity that Don showed me about investigating materials, process, and recognizing history as part of the ground that makes this place possible. In that sense I think we have a familiarity; for me that was a perfect approach. Then on top of that you have this moment in which you are discussing an idea and then Don brings you something that he was thinking about the ideas that you’d brought that takes your ideas to a different level.

So this discussion has become so rich and so perfect to me that at this moment I consider this place, Magnolia Editions, one of my main places to bring experiments – future experiments that you still don’t know [how it will turn out]. For instance, when I arrived here this week, Don showed me some tests he had done using paper, and I said to Don: “Were you visiting my head the week before, or what?” Because I had been thinking precisely of that. It’s funny, this idea of creating the paper by pouring different colors of pulp in certain areas and creating one sheet of paper formed with different tonalities – that is something that I was trying to build up but I didn’t know how. And then arriving here, Don had that ready for me and it’s like: come on, you’ve got to be kidding me.

NS: So it looks like you and Don are working on masks at various different scales and in a few different media?

AA: Yes, we started with the tapestries — first eight feet tall, then six feet tall. Then we started with handmade paper, first printing just on the surface so that the texture of the paper blends with the texture of the image. Then came this new opportunity, which I realized was interesting, to separate the layers. Now we are in this third or fourth part of the process which is mixing those two ideas: using paper that is already multiple tonalities, and then placing the layers on top of it. So it’s getting richer and richer.

More art by Alex Arrechea from Magnolia Editions

Alexandre Arrechea - artist's website

Monday, November 12, 2018

Kiki Smith "Woodland" at Timothy Taylor Gallery

Kiki Smith tapestries installed at Timothy Taylor Gallery, London. Photo by Timothy Taylor Gallery

Timothy Taylor Gallery in London recently exhibited all of Kiki Smith's tapestry editions to date in a show titled "Woodland."

Kiki Smith tapestries installed at Timothy Taylor Gallery, London. Photo by Timothy Taylor Gallery

The tapestries are published by Magnolia Editions in limited editions of ten; each measures nearly ten feet in height. Two bands of textural imagery run along the top and bottom of each tapestry, suggesting the natural realms of sky and underground – a compositional device borrowed from the medieval Apocalypse Tapestry, a major influence on Smith's woven editions.

Kiki Smith tapestries installed at Timothy Taylor Gallery, London. Photo by Timothy Taylor Gallery

Kiki Smith tapestries installed at Timothy Taylor Gallery, London. Photo by Timothy Taylor Gallery

The gallery writes:

"Produced in collaboration with Magnolia Editions, the tapestries are rich with allegory, conflating Smith’s confrontation of subjects such as identity, mortality and women’s liberation with visual metaphors in the form of mystical creatures and nude human forms."

Kiki Smith tapestries installed at Timothy Taylor Gallery, London. Photo by Timothy Taylor Gallery

Please stay tuned for a forthcoming catalog, coming soon from Magnolia Editions, collecting Smith's tapestries and featuring an in-depth interview with the artist.

For now, check out this interview Vogue Magazine conducted with Smith about her tapestries on the occasion of their exhibition in "Woodland."

Kiki Smith tapestries installed at Timothy Taylor Gallery, London. Photo by Timothy Taylor Gallery

Kiki Smith tapestries installed at Timothy Taylor Gallery, London. Photo by Timothy Taylor Gallery

Kiki Smith tapestries installed at Timothy Taylor Gallery, London. Photo by Timothy Taylor Gallery

More art by Kiki Smith from Magnolia Editions

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

In Memory of Mel Ramos

Mel Ramos at Magnolia Editions

We are sad to report that longtime friend of the studio and Pop Art pioneer Mel Ramos passed away this weekend at the age of 83.

Born in Sacramento on July 24, 1935, Ramos studied art and art history at Sacramento State College. He taught at local high schools and held a teaching position at CSU Hayward from 1966-1997, continuing as an emeritus professor while teaching intermittently at CCAC (now California College of the Arts).

All the while Ramos maintained a highly prolific studio practice which, in addition to his signature oil paintings on canvas, encompassed a variety of printmaking techniques including silkscreen, etching, woodcut, and more.

Mel Ramos - Wonder Woman, 2014
woodcut with acrylic
image: 37 x 26.75 in. paper: 44 x 30 in.
Edition of 30

Ramos's work was exhibited and appreciated worldwide; in later years, he enjoyed great acclaim particularly in Germany, where it seemed there was a nearly continuous demand for his colorful, instantly recognizable Pop Art style.

In 2010, Villa Stuck in München, Germany mounted a major solo exhibition, "Mel Ramos: 50 Years of Pop Art," comprising five decades worth of work by Ramos including paintings, drawings, watercolors, and sculptures. Another major exhibition of his work was held at the Albertina in Vienna, Austria in 2011.

German galleries and collectors figured prominently in the enthusiastic response to the editions Ramos published with Magnolia over the last several decades.

These projects included woodcut images of classic superheroes; tapestry versions of some of his most iconic paintings; a limited edition, laser-cut jigsaw puzzle featuring Ramos's take on comic book hero Captain Midnight; and the Albrecht Durer tribute Leta on Durer's Rhino, an etching with UV-cured acrylic ink on paper, executed at Magnolia with the help of master printers Tallulah Terryll and Nicholas Price and additional assistance from artist Guy Diehl.

Mel Ramos - Superman, 2014
woodcut with acrylic
image: 37 x 26.75 in. paper: 44 x 30 in.
Edition of 30

"Mel Ramos: 50 Years of Superheroes, Nudes, and Other Pop Delights," a retrospective of over 50 years of Ramos's work was exhibited at the Crocker Art Museum in his hometown of Sacramento in 2012.

Mel often visited Magnolia with his wife Leta and daughter/studio manager Rochelle Leininger. Below please find a gallery of memories from some of his recent visits.

Ramos with artwork by Don & Era Farnsworth; note his Mel Ramos t-shirt!

Ramos with an early proof of the UV ink layer of his 2015 Hawkman woodcut edition

Ramos with proofs of his 2015 Hawkman woodcut edition

Ramos and Guy Diehl with proof of his 2016 etching Leta on Durer's Rhino

Diehl, Ramos, and Don Farnsworth with proof of his 2016 etching Leta on Durer's Rhino

Ramos celebrating with Magnolia staff at Bay Wolf restaurant in Oakland, CA

A film crew captures Magnolia master printer Nicholas Price printing a Ramos woodcut at Magnolia

Ramos with proofs of his 2014 woodcut Wonder Woman

Don Farnsworth, Guy Diehl, Ramos, and master printers Nicholas Price and Tallulah Terryll with proofs of Ramos's 2014 woodcut Wonder Woman

Ramos editioning Wonder Woman with Tallulah Terryll and Rochelle Leininger

Farnsworth and Ramos with the latter's label design for Christian Tschida winery

Ramos at home in his Oakland studio with proofs of his 2016 etching Leta on Durer's Rhino

Rochelle Leininger, Mel Ramos and Leta Ramos at Ramos's studio with proofs of his 2016 etching Leta on Durer's Rhino

Portrait of Mel Ramos by Don Farnsworth

Portrait of Mel Ramos by Don Farnsworth

Ramos at home in his Oakland studio

Ramos with work by George Miyasaki at a memorial for Miyasaki

Ramos with Price and Ernst Hilger at Magnolia Editions

Mel and Leta Ramos with Beverly Berrish at Magnolia Editions

Ramos at Magnolia Editions

Portrait of Mel Ramos by Don Farnsworth

More art by Mel Ramos from Magnolia Editions

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Donald & Era Farnsworth at Port Angeles Fine Art Center

Donald & Era Farnsworth - In the Moonlight (I Forget I'm Human), 2017
cotton Jacquard tapestry with acrylic paint, 96 1/2 x 64 1/2 inches

Please join us at Port Angeles Fine Art Center in Port Angeles, WA for the opening of "I Forget I'm Human," an exhibition of tapestries and works on paper by Donald and Era Farnsworth on view from September 22 through November 18, 2018. An opening reception with the artists will be held Saturday, September 22 from 5-7 pm.

Additionally, the Farnsworths will give a public presentation in the Raymond Carver Room at the Port Angeles Library on Sunday, September 23, 3-5 pm; this event is free and open to the public.

Donald & Era Farnsworth - Bulwark, 2017
mixed media on linen canvas, 70 x 46 inches

In "I Forget I’m Human," the Farnsworths address the relationship between humanity and the environment, investigating how myth and science have shaped human values from ancient times to the present day. Nearly all of the compositions in "I Forget I’m Human" include multiple layers of both hand-painted and digitally generated elements, creating a palimpsest-like effect that echoes the layers, patinas, and weathered wabi-sabi of works that have survived from ancient times while also incorporating contemporary digital processes.

The exhibition includes tapestries which use a medium older than oil on canvas – weaving, albeit updated by 19th-century Jacquard and 21st-century digital color matching technologies. Meanwhile, the Farnsworths' Art Notes series ‘recycles’ and re-imagines one dollar bill notes, re-envisioning the “Almighty Dollar” as a site wherein to celebrate heroes of creativity and conservation and to light-heartedly castigate polluters and oligarchs. A series of works depicting therianthropic (animal-human hybrid) deities harkens back to those appearing in the earliest surviving human artworks while also incorporating elements from Buddhist, Hindu, Judeo-Christian, Islamic and Jungian iconographies.

Donald & Era Farnsworth - Aulos Echo, 2017
mixed media, 42 x 31 inches

From ancient gods with the heads of animals to living, breathing endangered species; from the capitalistic fever for accumulated wealth to precious natural resources like clean air and water, what we value is evident in the symbolic and visual output of our species: our myths and sacred images. In "I Forget I’m Human," the Farnsworths trace this output, offering a glimpse of the hubris of humanity matched with an optimistic appeal for spiritual and ecological balance.