CFile has followed Theaster Gates and Adrián Villar Rojas for some time; both are known for their groundbreaking work with clay and contemporary ceramic art. Both artists are participants in this year’s extraordinarily powerful Istanbul Biennial (Sept. 5 — Nov. 1). Rojas is working in fiberglass this time, but we think his granular ark would make the perfect foil to Gates’ cloistered ceramic performance.
Above image: Adrián Villar Rojas, The Most Beautiful of All Mothers, 2015, organic and inorganic materials, site-specific installation at Istanbul Biennial. Photograph by Kubra Karacizmeli
The Biennale, now in its 14th year, was drafted by Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev. It’s title, Saltwater: A Theory of Thought Forms is described by the organizers:
“The 14th Istanbul Biennial looks for where to draw the line, to withdraw, to draw upon, and to draw out. It does so offshore, on the flat surfaces with our fingertips but also in the depths, underwater, before the enfolded encoding unfolds. This international exhibition of art will present new works by over fifty visual artists and other practitioners, including oceanographers and neuroscientists, in a city-wide project on the Bosphoros that considers different frequencies and patterns of waves, the currents and densities of water, both visible and invisible, that poetically and politically shape and transform the world. With and through art, we mourn, commemorate, denounce, try to heal, and we commit ourselves to the possibility of joy and vitality, leaping from form to flourishing life.”
Gates, according to ArtNet, constructed a performative piece with elements that link back to Istanbul. In particular, Gates learned that Atlantic Records was started by a Turk named Ahmet Ertegun. The artist drew from over 200 jazz and soul records from the label to listen to while he made and re-made his own versions of a 17th-century Iznik bowl. He told ArtNet:
“The bowl is really the heartbeat of the space,” Gates explains.” Over the next few weeks I will ponder this bowl as a way of pondering Turkey, and that maybe through the recreation of this bowl I might learn something.”
Rojas’s site-specific installation The Most Beautiful of All Mothers floats in the sea. It inspires both wonder and fear, according to the Guardian’s Adrian Searle:
“Suddenly, one clambers out on to the foreshore, to be faced with a pair of gleaming white giraffes, perched on plinths in the swell. A whole bestiary stands in the water: a gorilla with a stone lion perched on its back; a bear; a rhino carrying an elk on its shoulders; a sheep is laden with a huge bundle of firewood; an ostrich wears what looks like a fur coat.
“Adrián Villar-Rojas’s lifesize fibreglass creatures are all burdened with other bodies, other animals made from cloth, pottery, iron, wood and terracotta. The wonder doesn’t last. It is impossible not to think of other beaches, of bodies floating in on the waves.”
These two installations are must-see additions to a dynamic and thought-provoking showcase in Istanbul.
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