Summer heat is in full effect, and with it our second Rail Curatorial Project has opened: Bloodflames Revisited, at Paul Kasmin’s 10th Ave. and 27th St. spaces. Paul invited me for lunch last April when the exhibit Alexander the Great: The Iolas Gallery 1955 – 1987, curated by Vicente Fremont and Adrian Dannatt, was on view and asked whether I would consider curating a summer exhibit for the gallery. What I proposed on-the-spot was a spontaneous homage to Iolas, of whom I’ve been a longtime admirer, in the form of a group exhibit entitled Bloodflames Revisited, which is a re-contextual interplay with works of contemporary artists installed in a fashion that would evoke the spirit and invention of the landmark exhibit, Bloodflames, organized by Nicolas Calas and designed by Frederick Kiesler in March 1947 at Hugo Gallery. The original participants were Matta, Arshile Gorky, David Hare, Isamu Noguchi, Wilfredo Lam, Helen Phillips, Gerome Kamrowski, and Jean-Claude Reynal.
Bloodflames Revisited’s primary purpose is to construct a collective response to Iolas, Calas, and Kiesler’s unorthodox vision in which the visual of the objects and their surrounding environment are dissolved into a free-flowing space, rather than to create a replica. Kiesler’s concept of the “polydimensional” was somewhat akin to Surrealist automatic drawings. In his different response to each specific space, mediated in relationship to time frame and the provided economics, Kiesler created a varying yet consistent body of design. In Bloodflames he changed the galleries’ rectilinear (cubist) forms into “endless” spaces through the use of color that removed the difference between floor, ceiling, and walls through its painted, curvilinear overlaps. Hugo Gallery’s colorful total space, with its free-standing artwork was also indicative of Iolas’s own vision of his career as a dealer, revealed in this excerpt from an interview with Maurice Rheims in Vogue Magazine, 1965:
Rheims: Do dance and your profession [as an art dealer] have something in common?
Iolas: For me, each exhibition is like the premiere performance of a ballet. I kill myself, I annoy myself, I await the audience, I perform. I don’t consider the gallery as a commercial occupation. It’s a purely artistic occupation. An exhibition has to be a ballet, decorated by Yves Klein, by Max Ernst. It’s a show in which the audience members are the dancers, and the scenery is made by the painters.
In his introduction of the original exhibition, Calas wrote of the artist’s “ex-centric” position and the consequent need to create an “ex-static, out of place commodity.” The aim of the exhibit was to amplify “open forms, polycentric constructions, unexpected attractions, and disengagements.” Calas wrote of the artist “who will risk everything, who will be heroic, who will aim toward freedom and achieve magic, producing that alchemy of form and colors which transform an artificial object into an eye emanating light.”
Again, the aim of this summer’s exhibit is to include a selection of works from various fields of discipline and medium, and show how each is related to one another along with the gallery space and the participatory audience in one unified field of vision and spatial experience, while not repressing each element’s differences.
I would like to thank the participant artists: Lynda Benglis, John Bock, Lee Bul, Cameron Gainer, Candida Höfer, Bill Jensen, Michael Joo, Deborah Kass, Alex Katz, Ben Keating, Glenn Ligon, Chris Martin, Daniel Joseph Martinez, Donald Moffett, Roxy Paine, G.T. Pellizzi, Joanna Pousette-Dart, Dorothea Rockburne, Will Ryman, Cindy Sherman, Do Ho Suh, Superflex, Tunga, Not Vital, and Joe Zucker, as well as the poets—(who will be reading their commissioned works on July 17, 2014 at 6:30pm)—Paolo Javier, Rachel Levitsky, Barry Schwabsky, Mina Pam Dick, and the dancers Sarah Maxfield, Aretha Aoki, and Emily Wexler—who will be performing the same evening as the poets—for their unflinching enthusiasm and support of such an atypical presentation. Secondly, I would like to thank Paul for his congenial spirit and strong buttress from day one—giving me the complete freedom to conceive the exhibit in the way it required, namely in addition to the specific works of art and the alteration of the gallery’s spaces in both locations, the poetry and dance commissions (each poet’s and dancer’s response to the exhibit), as well as a free catalog.
Lastly, I also should say that my hope is that the Rail offers my colleagues and myself a chance to apply our worldviews, social commitments, and democratic perceptions of our relations with each other, ourselves, and the world at large. I hope to propose a world that is “imminently democratic,” that we can occupy, not just take up space.
P.S. Bloodflames Revisited is on view until August 15, 2014. Meanwhile, please join us for an evening of words and movement, inspired bythe exhibit. Details are below:
Bloodflames Revisited: Ode to Summer
A Poetry Reading & Dance Performance
Paul Kasmin Gallery
Thursday, July 17th, 2014
6:30 pm: 293 10th Avenue
7:15 pm: 515 West 27th Street
P.P.S. Lest my thank-yous fall short, I am also in debt to: Jacqueline Beckwith, Naomi Chasse, and Stephen Faught for their public outreach effort; Mark Markin and his assistant Jessica Fairchild who were heavily involved in securing all of the artwork details, image credit lines, archival images, etc.; Eric Gleason, Nic Olney and their cohesive division of labor, including Tom Borchert, Emma Bowen, Maria Paula Armelin, Justin Irvin, who took care of all the consignments with the artists and their respective gallerists, works on loan, transportation; Stephen Bozler, the operation manager extraordinaire, along with his remarkable crew, James Walton, Hristo Atanasov, Matthew Abbott, Anthony Miler, Joe Marxin, Zach Brewer, Matthew Umphrey, Aaron Hauser, Eric Vong, Dana Jerabek. Finally, I’d like to welcome two new members, Meghan Carleton and Dan Desmond, to our board. May our future collaborations be exciting and fulfilling!