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Archive for October, 2022

Richard Long

In Spain I also rode my bike through the Isla de Esculturas, a little island with an outdoor sculpture collection that includes a Richard Long stone line. That’s of course not me in the drone video above, I found this video on the internet after my trip, but I did that exact thing, riding my bike past the line, and I’m a little obsessed with this video, it captures my memory of that day and even something of the feeling of riding a bike through Europe. Long says his work is about walking, but I’ve mostly seen it as 2D-ish images, shapes he’s created in the landscape or in a museum. This was the first time I really experienced it as movement. I took photos of the line, and I like them, I like how it resembles the remains of an old stone wall you might see alongside a road or path, but there is a subtle but distinctly experiential effect of the line when you see it in person and I think you can see it in the video too. And also I love when the dog appears in the video.

Richard Long has been hit or miss for me, but over time I’ve realized that I’ve liked everything that he sited and built himself, while every time I’ve seen one of his works that was sited and built by other people — I’ve seen a couple of his stone circles that had been installed by teams of volunteers — I’ve thought it was lame. I kind of respect that after he’s finished a piece, he’s fine with a crew packing it up and shipping it somewhere else and then a bunch of strangers putting it back together in a new home, but I think it shows how much his work really is site specific and tied to his participation in an experience and place. Like the bad cover songs that make you realize how good the original is.

I thought the rest of the sculpture collection was pretty weak, but the island’s a nice spot, with several nice bridges and there’s a swimming beach on the other side of the river. I ate peaches and watched ducks and enjoyed the sunshine.

The Jorge Oteiza Museum

The day before Chillida Leku, I went to the Jorge Oteiza Museum in Pamplona. Oteiza was a mid-century Basque sculptor. He was friends with Chillida and other modernists, and his work overlaps with them and was influential, though I don’t really know if he’s well-known these days or not. He was an ideas guy, a lot of his stuff is interesting, and some of it is almost good, but almost all of his ideas seem to have been developed into better sculptures by other artists. The museum paired well with a visit to Chillida Leku the next day, though I don’t think Oteiza does well by the comparison. Chillida’s sculptures are much much better.

Oteiza started with figurative work and did pretty well with it. The works are pretty good but noticeably derivative, almost every one can be identified as a Giacometti or a Henry Moore or a Brancusi, etc… He seems to have realized that, because he gave up on figurative work and only did abstract work for a while, and then eventually he gave up on that too. I’m not sure when he got the idea of turning his house into a museum, but after he died they built a modern concrete structure around the farmhouse where he had lived. The building is — like the sculptures — interesting and almost good, with some odd details such as windows that only go up to your waist. (more…)

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