Cfile is based in Santa Fe, NM, a culturally active town of 80,000 people, 14 museums and a international Opera season. In the past month is had show, three major exhibitions that could have graced a New York Gallery: Denmark’s Bodil Manz’s largest US show with her daughter, a leading designer, Cecilie; Ken Price with Georgia O’Keeffe, and a large exhibition by Jun Kaneko. Add to that an exhibition touring the US (now at the Gardiner Museum, Toronto after New York) by Santa Fe artist, Cannupa Hanska Luger, and stunning new work by Kukuli Velarde.
SANTE FE–-It’s one of the reasons I love Santa Fe. This cultural powerhouse has a population of 80K and 120K during summer when B+B and second home itinerants come into town. Among a rich program of exhibitions, art film, internationally renowned outdoor opera season, it’s also the home to an Indian Market, a traditional Spanish Market ,and the jam-packed International Folk Art Market. Then there are the think tanks could go on, but the point has been made.
This mother and daughter exhibition from Denmark is a winner. Bodil Manz / Cecilie Manz: Contemporary Danish Art and Design, organized by Mark Del Vecchio at Gerald Peters Projects, Santa Fe, NM, showcases two of the most significant figures in Denmark art and design. Mark and I first encountered Bodil’s work in Zagreb, Croatia, where we juried the 3rd Triennale of Small Ceramics. The Bosnian War was happening. A crashed Yugoslavian jet fighter was in the forecourt of the building we worked in and the walls were peppered with bullet holes. Even so, among the works there was a curious piece, it looked like wax paper but was Manz’s paper-thin porcelain. That began a three-decade relationship that continues today.
The show from 76-year-old Bodil is the same high standard she is known for––crisp, ghost images from decals placed inside the vessel, showing through. What makes the show exceptional (aside from the presence of her daughter) is the number of works, 35, the largest show for the artist in America. While quality is no asset by itself, in her case it is instructive.
Bodil works with a small number of tools, a cylinder form, paper-thin porcelain casting and carling and decals. When one confronts her work one becomes aware of how expansive her vision is. She thrives in an art of limitations.
In the firing the work, vessels are encouraged to warp, not dramatically but enough so that each cylinder is slightly different: a rim that gently undulates, a slight belly coming out of the wall. Then the placement of decals which she cut and shapes from larger sheets, works with the character of each pot.
Influences range from Agnes Martin, which I was happy to introduce her two decades ago. While the show was being set up, I took Bodil and Cecelia the Harwood Museum in Taos where there is a chapel of seven large paintings made by Martin between 1993 and 1994. In addition, her work relates to the Russian revolution porcelains from 1917 by constructivists like Kazimir Malevich.
But the umbrella influence is Denmark itself, with is role as a design innovator, austere, materially rich, and yet seductive.
Minimalism also takes us to the designs of daughter Cecilie, though economy might be a better term because the work is not emotionally dry.
They show as equals. Cecilie is as famous in design as her mother is in ceramics. She was named Designer of the Year 2018 by Maison et Objet in Paris and recipient of the E. Kold Christensen’s Award of Honor, Finn Juhls Architectural Prize 2007 and Bruno Mathsson Prize 2009.
Awarding her the Crown Prince Couple’s Culture Prize in 2014, Crown Prince Frederik of Denmark commented: “The fascinating thing about Cecilie’s design is that despite the diversity of her work, there is a clearly discernible tone. The basic idea is always strong, evoking associations with historical realizations in design while clearly reflecting the present.”
If there is a single term to use for the design, a leitmotif even, it is subtlety. You see this in the chairs, a well-known format yet at the same time, with a few changes such as the curved back of the seat, surprisingly different from others, without novelty. Her outdoor furniture on the other hand is decidedly innovative.
The speakers for Bing & Grøndahl are svelte, satin aluminum and to take away from the impersonal industrial quality of some electronic devices, a tactile leather strap is added to some and a arched wooden handle of a picnic basket to others. The bonding craft and feeling of humanity and warm the sleek technology.
––Garth Clark, Cfile.org Founder and Editor-in-Chief
Photos: Brahl Fotografi