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Basalt Woodcuts

Possibly the last post from my Euro bike trip last summer, Kolumba Chapel and Museum in Cologne. I’d heard about Kolumba because Peter Zumthor designed the museum around a chapel that had itself been built around the ruins of a church that had been bombed during World War II, and that church had in turn been built over Roman ruins. So the layering is very cool, and Zumthor’s design is austere and graceful; it’s one of the more interesting structures I’ve ever seen, worth clicking through to see the photos in the link. The actual museum was underwhelming, though, especially after seeing Scarpa’s Castelvecchio a year earlier. The collection on display was way too subtle for my taste and I didn’t spent much time looking at it.

I spent a much longer time in the chapel studying the wall of sunken reliefs depicting the Stations of the Cross. I’ve never seen anything quite like it, or at least not at this scale or in basalt. I guess there are precedents: some of the sunken reliefs at Karnak; there’s a Henry Moore relief head from his school days; Eric Gill did a limestone relief version of Stations of the Cross. The closest things are probably the woodcuts by Emil Nolde and Karl Schmidt-Rottluff and other Die Brucke artists. Schmidt-Rottluff’s Little Prophetess could be a figure in one of these scenes.

The artist is named Rudolf Peer but I don’t know anything about him and didn’t find any sign of him on the google. My taste is sometimes a bit niche, but to me this seems way too good to be a one-off by an unknown artist. If anyone knows about Rudolf Peer or has seen any of his other work, please tell me in the comments or by email. German primitivist woodcuts carved in basalt… awesome, please show me more.

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The Hepworth Pavilion at the Kroller-Muller Museum

It feels a little strange to post about Europe when travel there has shut down, but, well, it looks like I will only be visiting Europe by virtual means in the foreseeable future. I was going to be doing another bicycle trip to Emilia-Romagna this summer, but…

This is another sculpture park I visited last summer, at the Kroller-Muller Museum. Very different from Kloster Schoenthal, but equally fantastic, another one on the list of the best sculpture parks I’ve ever visited. There’s a lot of good sculpture, but the highlight is the Barbara Hepworth pavilion. Hepworth is my favorite female artist and one of my favorite sculptors of all time. I like her drawings, love a lot of her stone sculpture, and I think she made the transition from stone to bronze more gracefully than any other sculptor in history. Everything she did was interesting and high-quality, and I give her a lot of credit for avoiding the late, phoning-it-in phase that Henry Moore went through. I’d seen individual works in a few different museums, but this was my first time seeing a proper collection. Fantastic.

A bonus is that the Hepworth sculptures are displayed in a pavilion designed by Gerrit Rietveld, hero of De Stijl and the Bauhaus. My photos focus on the sculptures, but I love the pavilion and think it’s reason enough to visit Kroller-Muller.


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David Nash’s Ash Dome

This is an aside from my posts about my Europe cycling trip. I’ve read a few books on Nash and I liked his totems at Kloster Schoenthal, but I haven’t visited Ash Dome and am unlikely to ever do so (it’s location is secret and apparently it’s dying of ash dieback). I only know about it from videos and photos on the internet, but I think it’s great and an interesting contrast to the Tree Museum. The Tree Museum is about the ability to transplant and display mature trees; Ash Dome is about the patience to train trees as they grow in situ. In any case, Ash Dome is a terrific project, and when I recently mentioned it to an arborist and a landscape architect, neither one had heard of it even though they seem like the exact target audiences for it. So… Ash Dome.

David Nash – Ash Dome from Culture Colony on Vimeo.

All three videos are worth watching for anyone interested in trees or sculpture from trees. The first two focus on Ash Dome, the third is more generally about how Nash describes his working process, compiling clips from a longer videoabout an artist residency he did at college in North Carolina. He’s an oddly compelling talker. His conception of art as stiff and constipated or loose like diarrhea is not one I’ll forget any time soon.

Kloster Schoenthal Sculpture Park

A few days before the Tree Museum, I went to Kloster Schoenthal in Langenbruck, Switzerland, another fantastic sculpture park. It’s a couple hours from Basel by bicycle in the foothills of the Jura Alps at a monastery that dates back to 1145. The land is part of a private farm, and the home of a collection of sculpture and land art. I didn’t love any particular sculpture, but I liked most of them, and I loved the setting. It’s a lot of fun to wander around and see the different sculptures and the church building and the landscape. Switzerland has an amazing combination of rustic charm and sophistication, and Langenbruck is one of the best places to see that. (more…)

The Tree Museum

Happy new year. I’m still posting things from my bike trip from Amsterdam to Bologna last summer. This is another garden, but quite different from the others. It’s branded as a Tree Museum, which is a great concept, but I’d describe it as a sculpture garden, with the trees as the sculpture. Maybe those are not mutually exclusive terms; it certainly has the rarefied air of a museum. The creator is a Swiss landscape architect/nurseryman who specializes in moving large trees. Over the years he built up a collection of trees and at some point he decided to create a garden to display them. I love the way the walls are used to frame the trees.


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Nubuo Sekine

Nobuo Sekine Interview: Sensibility of a Rock from Louisiana Channel on Vimeo.

‘One day, as one large rock that was on the ground was being lifted into the air — at that exact moment — I had an epiphany that this action had changed the meaning of its existence’ Nabuo Sekine

Japanese Sculptor Nobuo Sekine passed away a few days ago. He was one of the originators of Mono-Ha, a conceptual art movement from the late sixties that I find interesting but elusive, I’m hesitant to even try to describe it, other than to say that a lot of it has roots in the Japanese rock garden tradition. There are other influences at play as well, but I recognize elements of both the rock garden philosophy and craft, and kindred ideas about materials and context and spatial relationships. A lot of Sekine’s works use found objects, frequently those found objects are stones, and, as can be seen in this video, a lot of his work seem to have its origin in the artist standing and staring at a stone and meditating on how to transform it into a work of art.

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