Being somewhat of international superstars, it is great to have Christo and Jeanne-Claude in town. Its even better to know that they’ve been here before. I probably won’t see them talk, but thats okay, ’cause I saw their show.
I have done some reading on them many moons ago in order to get a grip on contemporary art makers. As I understand it, Christo was the one drawering and Jeanne-Claude was the one chatting up the authorities. It wasn’t that long ago that people thought Christo did all the work and Jeanne-Claude was a member of his support staff. Now we know that she was the driving force behind the engaging of government officials and other institutional representatives. Besides the film that was being screened, Jeannie is still not getting the recognition. Those drawings were just beautiful. Really, they were jewels. Being direct products of Christo’s hand though, it felt like Jeanne-Claude was being left out of the spotlight.
The space was jammed pack with all things Christo. Examples of his early works greet you. If you enter through the right door, that is. Oil barrels stacked up, magazines wrapped in plastic, furniture wrapped in canvas and rope. I always thought it was funny that Christo was wrapping his magazines in order to create art, in order to transform the interaction we have with those objects and here I am wrapping my comic books so that moths and other paper feeding insects won’t destroy them. I thought it was funny. No? Moving on.
The next two rooms is where it explodes. Was the Reischtag the first monumental wrapping? Judging by the amount of evidence in this exhibit, yes. There were like eight beautiful drawings and collages surrounding this grand scale model of the wrapped building. I was always amazed by the presentation of scale models. Whether it was in train sets, in a museum diorama, or the sewer den playset for the Ninja Turtles, I would imagine a grand time immersing myself in that world. The novelty of examining these microcosm is still prevalent today. I think the manufacturing of miniature landscapes has been relegated to D&D 40 year old virgin warlords, but the fascination of immersing oneself in a man-made universe can be seen in almost anything digital. *ahem*; Star Wars, Grand Theft Auto, Finding Nemo.
Leading to the film and the screening area, there are character designs. Like building up his army for his universe, Christo has direct portraits of objects he has wrapped or intended to wrap. Strollers, chairs, furniture, etc. all lined up against the wall. After the screening area, there were samples of the tree wrapping project. Being winter in Texas, it just reminded me of protecting tropical plants from an overnight freeze. Following were more drawings and collages of his larger works. Umbrellas, running fence, river covering, the Gates, and then at the end of the exhibit are large photographs documenting his completed public space installations.
I think it is interesting to note that all this work, all of this proposing, planning, rendering, research, fundraising, etc. were all done before the personal computing and its desktop publishing capabilities. That means that Christo had to pick up a pencil and ruler and measure and calculate magnifications and draw in the proposed works onto photographs and add on fabric to the collages. The artist’s hand is present in all of these works. The additions of maps and architectural drawings to compositions really planted the work as extractions of the landscape. And I think that is what makes the exhibit so beautiful. There is an understanding that the installation will become a part of the land, even if temporary, and that it is not just a superimposition of material.
But if you sit and watch the video, you learn that there are more than just the couples’ hands involved in creating the temporary monuments Christo has become known for. So I ask, “Where is the accolade for the people?” I can recall in a video for the Running Fence, Christo trying to persuade county officials to permit the construction to continue as planned by pointing out that the discussions that they were participating in was indeed part of his art. It wasn’t just the product, the thing that is beautiful that was his art, it was the people, the volunteers the officials and the landscape itself. Maybe the film offered that, but I didn’t sit and watch.
So instead of trying to convince me that the Death Star was the Emperor’s pet project and not of the unlucky contractors, just note that it was Christo who brought up the point. In the Running Fence documentary, during a town hall meeting or something, Christo speaks up against the authorities attempting to reveal his art not as a giant fence, but as the interaction of all the parties involved. In fact, Jeanne-Claude herself was not given credit as an equal partner until a good while after they received acclaim. The people that helped install his works are an essential part of the environment that they were transforming. In Running Fence, they were transformed from unemployed statistics, into proud owner/manufacturers of a community art project. When interviewed upon completion, one man who declared himself as ignorant about art, but appreciative of the pay stated that the fence was “beautiful.”
Christo’s work affected the people, for they were beautiful. But he also engaged everyone and created discussion. By doing so he revealed what could be accomplished if we work together and allow an exchange of ideas. As this world grows smaller, we need more of that. This show is GREAT.
I’ll tell you ’bout what I sees.