Posts tagged Visual Art

Still from: Unicorn (1970/72)

The reason I like The Cure is partly because no matter what song is playing, you can tell that it's them just by their sound. This is the kind of continuity I value in my own aesthetics as well. Underlying concepts create themes, which I build upon each time I make a new collection. But no matter what I make, it is similar to every other Bagtazo piece.

Artist Rebecca Horn has worked similarly throughout her life. Creating various works with the same logic, Horn develops her current work from the preceding. Elements may be readdressed, yet appear in totally different contexts. And somehow though none is quite like the other, you can see the common thread throughout her work.

White Body Fan, 1972

Rebecca Horn, born in Germany, lived much of her life in (the former West) Berlin. Starting her career in the 1970s with performances such as Body Extensions, Horn worked within the confines of femininity in order to push the boundaries of visual art. 

Her Body Extensions work included many performances for film, that were re-performed at times. Building costumes that allowed for objects to protrude from her body, she moved about wearing these objects in attempt to "explore the equilibrium between body and space."

Still from: Touching the Walls with Both Hands Simultaneously (1974/75)

Often interested in simultaneity, Horn's common thread in the 1970s can be seen above in, Touching the Walls with Both Hands Simultaneously and below in one of my favorite performances for film, Cutting one's Hair with Two Scissors Simultaneously (1974). While the two performances are visually dissimilar, Horn is exploring the simultaneous use of both hands in unconventional ways.

Playing with scissors, Horn uses an ordinary object to explore her notions of 'body extension' and simultaneity. I really love this piece because of the subversive rebellion against femininity that is expressed by a woman cutting off her long hair. At times I don't believe Horn's scissors are sharp enough to even cut hair. And at the end of this piece, I get nervous she's going to miss and cut her eyelash. But when it's through we're left with her ambiguous expression covered with the two scissors. (The youtube comments on this video are hilarious also, fyi).

As the 70s pressed forward, Horn continued to explore costume and began incorporating her interest in wings and feathers, which is a theme she carried on from White Body Fan in the early 1970s through today. 

"Feather Prison" costume still from Der Eintänzer (The Gigolo), 1978

Also playing with the ballet motif, Horn worked with ballerinas to create simultaneous movements while confined in the costumes she made to further explore simultaneity.

Der Eintänzer (1978)

From her work with simultaneity, Horn began exploring what she called 'kinetic sculptures' in the 1980s and 90s. This work applied the same concepts she used in Body Extensions, only where in Body Extensions the human body was the source of energy moving the objects she created, now the energy source was electronic kinetic movement. Much of this work was site-specific, and the artist chose culturally significant venues for their exhibitions whenever possible.

Also in 1991, Horn created High Moon (bottom left), which applied similar concepts as one of her Body Extensions sculptures, Overflowing Blood Machine, 1970 (bottom right). Since the 70s, Horn began making mechanical sculptures to bring motion to inanimate objects. The idea was to put human desire or movements that belong to the living into ordinary objects. At the time Overflowing Blood Machine was exhibited, Horn had a naked male wearing the suit, and the base of the 'machine' was filled with actual blood that flowed through the tubes. With High Moon, blood flows through tubes, into a reservoir before slowly dripping out of two rifles. In both pieces, the viewer is left to interoperate the significance of the blood.

Working in an era where the female artist laid claim to blood, the above two images are my two favorite comparisons of Horn's work. 20 years of building on the same concepts can lead to similar but different results. The common thread throughout Horn's work are her ideas. Motifs and the use of the same materials are what visually tie everything together, but without her core concepts, the common thread would not be the same.

Courtney Cady © Bagtazo, 2016


Every designer likes to think of themselves as original in some way, but I also like to consider my influences, who my predecessors are, and which of my contemporaries work in a similar vein. I like to do this with other trends and design themes, in order to get a better understanding of where they're coming from.

This month I participated in COEUR Tradeshow for LA Market Week, and was struck by the repetition of postminimalism in accessory design. Though postminimalism came about in the 1960s, and remained a dominant style in art and music through the 70s, there seems to be a new wave of postminimalism in artisanal wares as of late.

At the show, I saw a lot of pieces that resembled the late artist Eva Hesse's work, made in the 1960s. Using misshapen, almost playful lines, the application of rope and other everyday objects; materials containing many characteristics of postminimalist visual art: necklaces, pottery, bags, and apothecary goods by designers from New York, California, and even Australia are being made in this style. This new movement makes sense to me, as designers are likely reacting to the very minimal trends of plain sack dresses and monochromatic outfits that permeated the last five years of fashion.

But now that we're here collectively, I think it's important to study a forerunner. Both to pay homage, and to better educate ourselves on what has already occurred so that we might build upon, rather than repeat.

Eva Hesse was born in Germany in 1936 to a Jewish family. During WWII Hesse and her sister were sent to England to flee the Nazis, and were met by her parents a few years later. Once reunited, she and her family went to New York in 1939 where they lived together in Washington Heights until 1944 when Hesse's parents divorced. A year later, her mother committed suicide. Hesse was only ten years old.

Hesse had an impressive art education, having graduated from the School of Industrial Art in New York as a teen, followed by brief studies at Pratt Institute of Design and Cooper Union, before receiving a BA from Yale in 1959. At Yale she studied under Josef Albers, an abstract expressionist who greatly influenced Hesse.

Following her education, Hesse met her husband, sculptor Tom Doyle. The two went to Germany together in 1965 where they lived in an abandoned textile factory during Doyle's artist residency. Living in a dilapidated industrial space, Hesse began to use left over parts from factory machines and other industrial materials in her work. 

Though the year in Germany with Doyle ended in divorce, Hesse's work was forever changed. Returning to New York, she focused solely on sculpture – moving away from painting to working exclusively with three dimensional objects. 

Hesse's 'anti-form' style, along with her use of latex, resin and other industrial materials gained recognition, allowing her to exhibit her work of large-scale sculptures in a solo show at the Fischback Gallery in New York in 1968. But four years after Hesse returned to New York, the same year of her first solo show of sculptures in the US, she was diagnosed with a brain tumor. Hesse underwent three surgeries before dying a year later at the age of 34, ending her career at a mere 10 years of work.

Though Hesse was not an outright feminist, she did call her work "feminine" because she was a woman. Nevertheless, in addition to influencing designers today, she also impacted feminist artists from the late 60s through the 80s with her ability to find recognition and to live as a working artist during a time when the art world was dominated by men. Hesse had six exhibitions in the short ten years she worked, two of which were solo shows, something that was virtually unheard of for a woman at the time.

Though Hesse's life and work were cut short, her legacy lives on, and great efforts have been made to preserve her early paintings, as well as her later drawings, drafts, and sculptures. To this day, Hesse's work is debated among critics because of the difficulty in discerning what of her work is complete, and whether to call a drawing a draft for future sculptures, or finished work. Hesse has had numerous posthumous retrospective shows, as much of her work is in the collections of the Guggenheim, MoMA, and other art centers around the world.

Courtney Cady © Bagtazo, 2015