image: Cast, Daniel Habegger, 1996
Writing from memory about works of art- away from their location by Daniel Habegger
The following notes are from different points in time, part from my notes year to year (2000-2015 so far), which sort of appears like a diary. Writing has helped me to define things more clearly, it has helped my work, as it deals with very personal things and at the same time it is about art and society. I started it after reading Andy Warhol’s diary. Please forgive my not so perfect English; it might be a bit clumsy at times, but it is how I think . Daniel H.
Out of curiosity, I started testing the precision of my personal perception of works of art previously observed and perceived in one location, and then trying to recollect one’s own perceptions by memory, in another place.
In other words, this process consists of finding words to accurately describe works of art while they no longer are visually present, and without using other media like writing notes at the site or taking photos.
Striving to sharpen my own perception as an artist, this process sort of recollects things absent visually, out of sight, while testing how much actually can be remembered, like arrangement and placement, volume of objects and their inter relations, texture, material an so forth, and maybe some precision in details. Sometimes I had to go back to the site, because I could not remember some visual details, or it turned out my recollections proved wrong while I returning to the site, which in turn led to corrections.
Still, it has become interesting to me the artist, to realize what details I recollected wrongly, where even essential aspects of memorizing went awry, and so I started to think of my incorrect perceptions no longer as failure, wrong and right had no longer a moral quality to the process, but somehow existed in their own ways.
Of course I am sometimes embarrassed about what I had scribbled down previously, but like in our own work, we make corrections, improvements. So I left all I had said or thought at the time it was written, as is, and corrected reflections appear then below, later.
I realized that it is very energizing to look at other artists’ work, simply because they are so different from my own body of work. I admit that I have preferences, feel drawn to things I personally favor- but when something new, unseen to me before presents itself, it often comes as a shock, and when it does that, I know it has quality; a quality I am searching for but am not capable of creating myself, simply because it is created by somebody other than the own person, striking in its otherness.
Copyright DH, 2015, from: Daniel Habegger: Notes year to year (2000-2015)
May 25, 2014 (Danielle Kelly at VAST space, written from memory)
The installation was only accessible for one evening, and everything written here is recollected from memory, no photos or notes taken.
The installation consists of an assemblage of shapes reminiscent of human forms and domestic furniture parts, and tableaus of Doric column and inscriptive ornamental panels. Formally the body of the work features 2 long sides and 2 narrower end sides, the long sides are about 10 feet in length, 3.5 ft. height, and the end pieces are about 2.5 ft. wide and just under 4 ft. high.
The form is like a frieze of a Parthenon temple, but is viewable from either side, while the end pieces offer another view; still it must be said that the work is not circular shaped, or convex. The body of the work is made from wood and stuffed fabric, the fabric most likely cotton duck, all in an off-white tone.
The panels and ornamental elements are used sparingly, ornamental work is indicated by drawn pencil lines. The stuffed cotton duck shapes are forming humanoid bodies in a laying down or fallen, struggling position, an ongoing fight scene. An arm stretches out, its shape monstrous. A wooden furniture turned table leg is attached to a torso hip part of a human form: table leg becomes human leg. The scene is very dramatic.
The arrangement is placed on a thin rectangle rug, on which some ornamental lines are hand painted, dark grey to black on a grey material. The carpet piece is either a magic or a pulled rug- as if the assemblage of tumbling fallen struggling bodies is the result of an action pulling the carpet in a surprise move.
Formally the work additionally recalls a marquee made for an amusement location, and it could be imagined illuminated. The arrangement of the intertwined distorted bodies and domestic furniture parts is carefully executed, nothing seems forced, nor accidental. The scene is not grotesque, like a pillow fight or children’s doll figures in distress, it reminds more of a domestic disturbance scene, or even a crime scene to some degree.
I remember a Bruce Nauman video loop: two adults, female and male, sit on chairs at a smaller square table facing each other. For a while they both keep staring motionless at each other, until one partner gets up, walks around, and virtually pulls the chair from the other sitting partner in a surprise move of violent nature. Then the partners get up and sit down again facing each other, and after an episode of motionless stare, the scene is repeated, only this time it is the other person committing the violent action.
July 6, 2015 (written from memory: Danielle Kelly at the Barrick)
Danielle Kelly shows a new piece at the Barrick. It is A-rated. It is full of wit and fresh, courageous. The piece is about 6-7 ft. high and consists of three anthropomorphic shapes recalling lower body shapes or body parts, or oversized doll figure parts. One of the 3 shapes is clearer defined as a torso from about hip or waist level down towards the feet, the other is more like a single long form, whereas the last features a wider, non round, upper part. It is like a gigantic crazy doll theater, made of fabric printed and generic, sewn together and stuffed in a wacky way. The most clearly defined shape reminds of a walking figure, whereas other shapes only loosely connotate human bodies.
The mannequins are each kept in an upright standing position by an arched steel construction bolted to a wooden platform about 4×4 feet wide, which by all means is not a pedestal, but is needed to hold the puppetry in place. One anthropomorphic form is installed under an arched steel pipe, in free suspension, whereas the other 2 forms are hooked to a single pipe, which bends over under the weight.
Loosely associated are a lower torso, another form has a clearer frontal definition consisting of fringes and beads in rainbow colors, whereas the third form is elongated with an upper torso and 2 stalks featuring 2 protruding smaller forms in the midleg area. The supending device is a kind of meat hook, but not scary looking.
No effort has been taken to hide the mounting devices, as otherwise this would reverse the work to classic sculpture. The bodies are again made from fabric and stuffed to make their shapes. The bodily shapes are double or triple life size and are confrontational to eye level, which makes the work a stand out, in the face. Some fabric pieces sewn together display Disney relics and pop, Marvel, word bubbles.
July 18, 2015
I realize that I cannnot remember what the words were in the bubbles. Also I am not sure anymore, whether the 3 anthropromorphic shapes are arranged more side by side or in a circle formation. My assumption is it to be more fitted to a walk around visual experience, alas, a circle. And not sure about total height- 5, 6 or 7 feet? Went back to look at the sculpture installed again:
Word bubbles like in a Superwoman Comic “WACK”, “ZAP”, “BAM” energize the bodies ranging from a catwalk to a meaty wrestlemania scene. Huge bodies, some not, in motion: the scene it is grotesque and funny. Though it is not like a battle scene, more of a show: feeling, being. I just say this because the body shapes are real, the opposite of manicured sterile bodies. Definitely, the forms are non-conform viewed under the protocol of Western hemisphere society standards of beauty; oddly shaped, mis-shaped, still, with a sense of cheerfulness.
Realize how hard it is to describe a body without judgement: using words like “oddly shaped” or “mis-shaped” directly points opposite, to the idea of a body norm of ideal shape- which would mean any public display must be like what one would expect to see in a display like a catwalk, beautiful bodies as the norm, but not the reality. But the reality would be that just that, reality, should be the norm, since we want to be real, and not ideal.
The bodies seem somehow to walk or dance in circles, but it is possible to see them parallel, because the steel arches are configured that way- and thus the shapes are like clothing on hangers, too. It is great to walk around the sculpture and see all in different angles with intersecting lines, so clearly, the round 360 degree volume dominates.
Compared to a memory from the previous work, I discover here a different mood set- one of liberated and spirit, and not of violence. But I meant violence not as (domestic) violence, more as an act of physical body motion; like pulling a chair from a sitting person, which has the effect of a gravity pull, aside from its aspect of violence.
What is so strong about this work is that the viewer can see how the artist made the object; everything is visible, nothing is hidden. Instead of using steel to make sculpture, steel here is used because it is needed for structural support; also it is not welded steel, but threaded pipe joint together by couplings. The VeriSign of bad sculpture-and most sculpture, especially vertical one in front of bank buildings which are acquired not to demonstrate the artist’s power but the bank’s power, is bad- the VeriSign would be using e.g. the material steel in a way that also would be feasible in plywood or cardboard etc..
Danielle Kelly once said in an interview, (this also noted from memory), that when she came to making Art, especially here in Vegas, she discovered she was not able to work in a classical way, e.g. painting, that it made no sense to her and it felt ridiculous.
The work at the Barrick is overcoming these old worries in a convincing way, because method, process and formal solution are readable, are one. I am sure this was not intended to be a sculpture like a Botero bronze, but it so strong because its materials used are the only fit possible with regard to what the artist wants to show. If a bank would buy it, they would force the artist to make it in bronze, I am sure about that.
In context of the group show setting, the sculpture looks radically modern, and makes you think.
When I saw a piece by Danielle Kelly for the first time, [this was a the Round Up show at the now defunct LVAM], featuring a shield-like trapezoid form, place upright on the floor, leaning and curving sideways ever so slightly, about 2×2 feet and maybe 4 inches in width. The material used probably was polyester resin and ply or particle board, (and maybe mirror glass, not sure about that in memory)- and it was a very strong piece, a study in complicated vector geometrics, concave and convex volumes somehow still mended into one solid closed form. In comparing this older work with the 2 from 2014 and 2015, I see more playfulness and more radical new elements in the newer works; the pieces feel deeply personal, in a sense of experimenting, being not afraid of any constraints. Kelly’s new piece would hold up well in (or beat) any recent museum show context.
Daniel Habegger was born in 1958 in Basel Switzerland. He lived and worked in Berlin 1984-94 and in New York 1983, 1994-96, where he was awarded an artist residency fellowship from MOMA P.S.1 1994-95. He has lived and worked in Las Vegas, Nevada since 1996.
Danielle Kelly is former Las Vegas resident and an artist and writer now based in Las Vegas, New Mexico. Kelly’s project-based practice ranges from installation to performance and has been featured in solo and group exhibitions in Los Angeles, Seattle, Las Vegas, San Francisco, and Portland,OR. Kelly’s writing has appeared in a variety of publications regionally including Las Vegas Weekly and Desert Companion. A former Las Vegas (NV) resident, Kelly is the Interim Executive Director of the Neon Museum and currently serves as Executive Director for Surface Design Association.
Recent Acquisitions exhibition at Marjorie Barrick Museum, Las Vegas, 2015
Mas Attack Vegas with ARTRA Curatorial at Vast Space Projects, Henderson Nevada, 2014