Michael Buthe

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Michael Buthe – Ohne Titel, 1987-88. 8 collages on paper (Detail)

Michael Buthe was an unknown artist to me when I entered his retrospective exhibition earlier this year. What a playful bohemian art feast was I to discover!

Buthe is a German artist who died in 1994 at the age of 50. He studied art in Kassel and later in Dusseldorf as a student of Joseph Beuys. Although he exhibited widely in Germany throughout his life and participated in 4 ‘Documenta’ exhibitions, his work seemed to have moved to the back plane but has been re-examined for Buthe’s retrospective (still on view in Munich till 20 November 2016).

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Michael Buthe – Ohne Titel, 1969.

His works are strikingly diverse in medium, he produced textile works, drawings, collages, paintings and sculptures. His fascination for the cosmos, mythology, a shamanistic lifestyle and for a physical art practice that permeates life is what oozes out of his entire body of work. He traveled extensively and spent longer periods of time in Marocco. North African influences are visible in several works.

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Michael Buthe – Le roi est mort, 1974-77. Chair, wax, feathers, wood, buffalo horns, string and glass.

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Michael Buthe – Boulli Afrikaa, from 1972. Various materials (detail).

Buthe’s artistic process is very fluid; he constantly adds and subtracts materials. Some works developed over extended periods of time. Boulli Afrikaa is the title that Buthe gave to a sculpture which began conceptually in 1972 with the shoes and red necklace of a Senegalese musician and from then on was successively filled with other keepsakes and objets trouvés.

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Michael Buthe – Diary, 1977.

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Michael Buthe – Das Tote Meer, 1989. Mixed media on canvas, gold leaf.

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Michael Buthe – Ohne Titel, early 1970s. Collage, photo, gold wrapping ribbon, lid of a can in wax with rubber seal, part of a paint brush, glue, gold bronze on paper on canvas.

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Michael Buthe – Ohne Titel, 1992. Mixed media, assemblage with wood on canvas.

Michael Buthe’s retrospective is still on view in Munich till 20 November 2016.
All pictures in this post were taken by me in the retrospective at SMAK, Ghent.

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Sculptures by Jackson Pollock

Jackson Pollock is well known for his unique style of action painting. But did you know he made sculptures too?
I discovered some of his sculptural work in the exhibition Jackson Pollock – Blind Spots.

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Jackson Pollock – Untitled, 1949 (wire dipped in plaster and paint)

At the beginning of his career, Jackson Pollock was set more on sculpture than painting. In a letter to family, dated 1933, Pollock said:

I am devoting all my time to sculpture now – cutting in stone during the day and modelling at night – it holds my interest deeply – I like it better than painting – drawing is the essence of all.

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Jackson Pollock – Stone Head, c1930-33 (stone)

Stone Head was made by Pollock in the early 1930’s when he was about 18 or 19 years old. This carved basalt head is the first recorded three dimensional work by Pollock. It was made under influence of the sculptor Ahron Ben-Shmuel (1903-84) with whom Pollock studied and later apprenticed after his move to New York in September 1930.

Sculpting was something Pollock would turn to in hard times, when painting – or life – was proving difficult. A collaboration with his friend, the sculptor Tony Smith, would be the last creative endeavour he would undertake before his death in a car crash in 1956 aged 44.

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Jackson Pollock – Untitled, 1956 (plaster, sand, gauze and wire)

Tony Smith and Jackson Pollock met in the late 1940s at the time Pollock was making some of his greatest paintings. While their work shares little stylistically, their many shared interests included Native American sand painting, modern architecture, and the writing of James Joyce, and they quickly became close friends. Pollock was a painter who loved to make sculpture and Smith was an architect who loved to paint and finally found his calling in sculpture.

The sculptures Pollock made at Tony Smith’s home in 1956 are constructions of wire, gauze, and plaster. Shaped by sand-casting, they have a heavily textured surface similar to what Pollock often sought in his paintings.

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Jackson Pollock – Untitled, 1956 (plaster, sand, gauze and wire)

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Jackson Pollock – Untitled, 1956 (plaster, sand, gauze and wire). In the background Number 12, 1952

Pollock’s experiments in media such as papier-mâché and sand-casting show an interesting insight in his creative process or should we say “creative play”. We can even detect his sculptural impulse in his efforts to animate the surfaces of his paintings by attaching found objects such as bees or cigarette butts.

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Jackson Pollock – Number 3, 1949: Tiger (oil paint, enamel paint and cigarette butts on canvas on board)

Pictures shown are taken by me in the exhibition Blind Spots – my apologies for the poor quality.