my current show is a bit eccentric…
As long as I can remember, I’ve been intrigued by the stone objects that are an integral part of traditional Japanese gardens. I find the best of them compelling in a purely sculptural sense — antecedents to the work of modernist sculptors like Brancusi, Hepworth and Noguchi. Their histories are fascinating. And the tradition of their thoughtful placement within an environment is akin to the decisions I’m making in every exhibition I install in this gallery — about juxtaposition, sight lines, harmony, rhythm and balance.
The sculptures selected for this show come from temple gardens of Kyoto. Carved from stone cut out of the historic quarries at Shirakawa, Kurama, and Nara, the earliest pieces date from the Kamakura Period (1185-1300).
How do they fit in a contemporary context and why pair them with the paintings of Düsseldorf-based Jutta Haeckel?
Haeckel’s paintings are exceptionally complex. First, though they appear abstract and gestural, they are in fact representational and highly detailed. They incorporate depictions of satellite views, photos of bacterial colonies, or magnified details appropriated from paintings by the likes of Gerhard Richter or Jackson Pollock.
They may be read as geologic: alluvial, erosive, glacial, tectonic; or as organic: tree growth rings, a zebra’s hide, the whorl of a thumbprint; or as mineral efflorescence on an old concrete wall. They are inherently ambivalent not only in their imagery, but in their relationship to both the macro and micro.
Technically, the paintings are even more complicated. For several years Haeckel has been inverting traditions of depiction by painting negative space around a form rather than painting the form itself, confounding foreground and background as well as the meaning of “subject.” Recently, she’s also been applying paint to both the “front” and “back” sides of her canvases and extruding it through the mesh of the fabric. Labor-intensive actions such as painting trompe l’oeil highlights, shadows and surface texture add uncertainty and further subvert our understanding of space and preconceptions of painting as a two-dimensional practice.
Clearly, Haeckel’s process-rich surfaces echo the lichen-encrusted patina of the stone. But as aesthetically appealing as that relationship is, as the saying goes, it’s only skin deep.
Haeckel’s imagery is rooted in quotations from other sources. “Nothing in them comes from my head,” she asserts. “Everything is something I’ve seen”. Likewise, these stone sculptures are objects of appropriation. The basins were once elements of pagodas or architectural fragments that were broken apart and reimagined. The tradition of the Yose-Oki lantern is one akin to modern assemblage: curated from carefully chosen preexisting components. A large, round, wheel-like sculpture — originally a tenoned foundation stone — became a Duchampian readymade for a highly-aestheticized tea garden before the United States was a nation.
While Haeckel weaves computer chips and art history into her paintings, landscape is at their root. The stones, formed millions of years ago by the same natural geologic processes Haeckel looks to for inspiration, were quarried, manipulated and re-purposed by humans. Though the sculptures exude solidity and endurance, they weather and moss grows. Evidence of the hand softens and will be obliterated. “Flux” is the word Haeckel uses to describe her paintings: continuous change. At the heart of this curatorial endeavor is an exploration of the human relationship to our world and our relationship to time… and inquiries along those lines can only end at one place: change is inexorable.
the stone pieces in this exhibition were acquired in cooperation with mitsui fine arts https://www.mitsuifinearts.com/.