Louise Bourgeois ( ink on silk )
at The Herbert F. Johnson Museum
“HAIR – Untangling Roots of Identity”
thru July 14, 2013
If the government is conducting surveillance and reads my blog, at least they will be learning something about what to see in our part of New York State!
On a sunny day, I ducked inside the Herbert F. Johnson Museum on the Cornell University campus in Ithaca, to see their exhibitions. The new entrance to the museum leads you downstairs past a partially enclosed Japanese garden and towards a temporary exhibition extolling the artistic potential and virtues of human hair.
The show accompanied by a handy little catalog was developed by The History of Art Majors’ Society, and on the walls of the museum were myriad images where hair and hair styles play their part ( no pun intended).
Marina Abramovic in a video projected on a wall is seen brushing her hair furiously and intoning that:”Art Must Be Beautiful” and the “Artist must be beautiful” meanwhile her image conveys frustration as the performance piece continues and the quandary deepens…. The subtitle of the show is “Untangling Roots of Identity” and this concerns both sexes – made memorable by the image of Ernesto Pujol all dressed up in a white habit of a Catholic nun that totally obscures the hair and calls into question the sex of the wearer.
Red dyes on silk is the medium in which Louise Bourgeois completes her thoughts on hair – and her funny image equates a faceless woman with a fountain continually spouting. My friend, Kumi Korf has a little print in this show that portrays a free floating hairstyle ( no face once again ) and short straight bangs. How we look, and how we present ourselves is all part of our design, and it becomes identified with who we are and what we would like others to think of us.
A space is set aside for an extensive collection of weavings that the Johnson Museum has received as a donation. Here I found a radical departure from the pictorialism of hair concepts in the rich geometry of a Naga Culture textile from 1930-1950. The Naga Culture is from Burma, now called Myanmar and the strong grid is reinforced cotton with cowrie shells.
Naga Culture textile:
cotton, goat hair, and cowrie shells
In the next room Kumi Korf is given more space to lay out a mini-retrospective of her prints and artist’s books. Kumi is also an architect and the three dimensional aspect of her artwork is very engaging. There seems to be some influence from Joseph Cornell’s shadow boxes in Kumi’s artwork, as well as an aesthetic of biomorphism combined with calligraphy. I am attracted to her recent prints like “Starr’s Garden” – an intaglio print on Akatosashi paper, and I was struck by the unusual geometric forms of her book: “The Alphabet of My Phobias”.