Friday, 13 February 2015

Alexander Archipenko-Master of Modernism?

Alexander Archipenko's work at first glance and to fresh eyes of the 21st century seems cliched and old hat.
This is because, like many artists such as Mondrian and numerous others that we thought of as modern, it has been copied over and over again by plagiarists.
So why does his name stand the test of time and be linked with some of the greats?
And where from where did his inspiration occur, was it original?
But in asking this question, we must remember that in the age it was made, there was a seed change that reflected a modernity, before the word had been invented.
Nobody was aware what would last at the time.
And this environment was fighting with the old.
Put in context of the Glasgow school with its entrallic and linear forms of new art or Art Nouveau, it is as if from another planet.
The Vienna Secessionists were moving the art nouveau of old and making the link to the Bauhaus.
Early in the century there were several experimentalists such as Picasso and Braque who were adopting new styles and these along with other modernists fed into each other and inspired all those who came around them.
Paris was the hub of the impressionists, but almost nothing could have seen this coming if you look at art from a decade earlier.
Much has been written about how they all may have tried to capture the primitive art of tribal masks and oceanic totem, with or without knowing what they were doing.
Picasso collage of 1912 “Still Life With Chair Caning” is tipped in, as the first time collage on paper was used.
The multi layered use of collage may have inspired Archipenko. Will we ever know?
Alexander Archipenko was born in Kiev in 1887. He died in 1964.
He studied in Kiev Art School from 1902 to 1905 but in 1906 he went to Moscow.
Archipenko left for Paris in 1908 where he visited the great museums.
He studied for a year in the Ecole Des Beaux Arts in Paris where he started exhibiting, but his first one man Exhibition which was held in Hagen in 1910.
He also exhibited in Berlin and several other German cities.
Archipenko's work, it is said was a form of constructivism based on cubist forms and the parring down and streamlining of shape and form. His sculpto painting shows us a understanding of the inner phsyce. So it has been said.
Archipenko's grandfather was a Icon painter.
By inspiration he used a brilliance of colour, in his work. Deep reds, orange and gold which are dominant colours of the Novgorod School from where his inner inspiration probably came. His interpretation of these ancient forms into the secular makes his work seem even more provocative.
But also this shows us that it is those who believe, in image and who absorb the image of an icon, whether it be religious or secular are possibly accepting something similar in reflection.

Like his contemporaries such as Brancusi, who preceded him to Paris and Jacques Lipchitz who left Lithuania to study in Paris, but returned to Russia for Military service in 1912, he entered adventurous paths that had opened up for budding artists with the desire and dedication to succeed.
He replaced form with hollows and concave materials in these sculpto paintings that it was said he invented in the early twenties worked by incorporating and using metal and glass.
His use of cut conical shapes made the concavity that he desired.
This also worked in convex and his use of perspective was sometimes made simply with painted lines.
In 1914 he travelled to Nice where he saw out the war.
During this time his work was entrusted in storage to his friend Ferdinand Leger who was conscipted.
Though with his absence and lack of care for them, moisture entered the shed in Paris and his paper mache constructions were ruined.
In a separate storage some of his work that had been exhibited in America at the Royal Armoury show in New York were destroyed by long range German bombardment.
He was often ridiculed in France, as were quite a lot of the adventurists who we now see as pioneers of modern art.
Though when hostilities ceased he sent a lot of this accumulation of work to Germany and Switzerland.
He opened a school in Paris and taught others how to interpret his use of the experimental.
In the 1920's his work in Germany was thought akin to that of Picasso's, and his work entered numerous museum and gallery collections such as Essen, Mannheim, Frankfurt and Berlin.
His execution of a series of brilliantly coloured lithographs were produced by the Ernst Wasmuth publishing house.
In 1921 he closed down the Paris Atelier and moved to Berlin marryng a German sculptor Angelica Bruno-Schmitz.
In the same year Kandinsky arrived to the new 'hub' from Moscow and Chagall from Paris.
His work was amassed by collectors such as G. Falk from Geneva inculding polychromed plasters and terracotta sculptures along with work in Bronze.
Another misfortune destroyed a lot more of his work the “Entartete Kunst” exhibition of 1936 opened by Hitler and Goebbels that triggered a vast confiscation of works deemed degenerate. Thousands of works of art during this period were destroyed and lucrative works made auctions. Not many of Archopenko's work found its way onto the market and was lost.
He had moved to America in 1923 with his wife and on the voyage on the S.S Mongolia, with them were trunks laden with his work.
A lot of this work would be acquired by the Gugginheim Museum in 1956.
A second fortunate act was kind to his work when his patrons Mr and Mrs Goeritz who had bought a huge amount of his work, when new, sent it to Tel Aviv then in Palestine and thus it escaped the ravages of World war II. So did Archipenko, as there is no doubt what fate he would have met if he was still living in Germany when the Nazis came to power.
In 1955 and upto the death of Goeritz it was held in almost obscurity in vaults awaiting the family to gift most of the collection to Tel Aviv museum and in 1971 it finally opened with these works going on display.
In 1970 a retrospective of Archipenko's work was organised by Alfred Barr Jr and was held in the Museum of Modern Art. This cemented his role in modern sculpture.

I feel you have to look at the works in a different place inside your mind and take out all those works which have subliminally copied his, to see if it has any worth.
Yes I know art, like music is a culmination of what has gone before it and Archipenko himself absorbed much around him either by stealth or by default, but we still need to ask questions.
It is obvious that he believed in himself and needed to make a name for himself, either during his lifetime or at a later date.
So is he one of the most important artists of the first half of the twentieth century?
Or only one of the pieces in giant jigsaw?

That we are only still piecing together and will not understand the full picture for some time but in the meantime the Tel Aviv museum continues to display his work from the period 1910 to 1921 having over 30 pieces. So he is assured the continued attention, and maybe its fitting. 

This month February 2015 sees a pair of his paintings go on sale in New York.
 Portrait of a Woman with an estimate of $75,000 to $90,000, and Nude Torso,with a $75,000 to $225,000.
I myself look at these in image form in the catalogue and think, well its all in the name. And that name is Archipenko, and someone or some institution will probably pay the money.
Maybe the Tel Aviv institution may add them to their collection.

One think is certain, that his name will continue to be around for a long time.

But Modern Master......well I am not sure too about that.

Monday, 9 February 2015

Liverpool Antiques Roadshow 2015 Lutyens Crypt Transmission Dates

Filming in Liverpool at Lutyens Crypt for the Antiques Roadshow went well and there will be two programmes that should go on air 22nd March and 29th March respectively.
Among items discovered will be a World War One Death Plaque.
Oh and some glass panels.

Further Reading;