Palm Springs, CA

There’s something about the desert that unbridles the creative spirit in us. It’s where Michel Foucault had an LSD vision quest in 1975. It’s The Desert Religions’ origins. And it has informed the work of artists and thinkers for millennia. Spring is creeping into the 70s in the Coachella Valley, and it’s got us revisiting our own desert experiences, absorbing others’ inspirational reactions to the desert and ready to explore a new or even a well-worn stretch of our favorite otherworldly landscapes. 

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Andrea Zittel’s High Desert Test Sites

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Garth’s Boulder Gardens

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Alma Allen: Sculptures

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Noah Purifoy’s Visions

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The Revolution of Charles Stephen Russell


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Pestisani, Romania

Constantin Brancusi’s clean geometry, unveiling the essence of things in marble, wood and stone. The modernist sculptor born on this day in 1876 preferred simple clothes, a studio with a rock slab table and a primitive fireplace, and furniture, utensils and a phonograph he made himself.


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Downtown Los Angeles

Kevin Willis is a journeyman. He’s an admirer of the ‘camp’ in antiquity and seems always to extract the eerie, underlying purpose from a thing where others see only pulp. Kevin is also a closely-kept member of our family and a contributor to Ace culture in ways that outmeasure just his physical work for us.

In the lobby at the Theater at Ace Hotel Downtown Los Angeles resides his Cathedral of Our Ladyfingers. She’s something of a sentry at the mouth of the Gothic grandeur that lies just beyond, taking IDs, looking like Mother Superior clipped from the celluloid of a Buñuel film. Her making was entirely in the clay-caked hands and mind of Kevin, but the inspiration was divine.


Giuseppe Penone began his creative process in 1968 in the Garessio forest of Italy, near where he was born. He is the younger member of the Italian movement “Arte Povera.” With work that seeks to establish contact between humans and nature, his new sculptures in Madison Square Park, “Ideas of Stone (Idee di Pietra)” are balm for the surreality of living and working in one of the globes most magical but challenging cities. Penone speaks this afternoon at Ace Hotel New York — if you can’t catch it, you can see the installation through February, 2014. Learn more about him at Madison Square Art Conservancy.

Giuseppe Penone began his creative process in 1968 in the Garessio forest of Italy, near where he was born. He is the younger member of the Italian movement “Arte Povera.” With work that seeks to establish contact between humans and nature, his new sculptures in Madison Square Park, “Ideas of Stone (Idee di Pietra)” are balm for the surreality of living and working in one of the globes most magical but challenging cities. Penone speaks this afternoon at Ace Hotel New York — if you can’t catch it, you can see the installation through February, 2014. Learn more about him at Madison Square Art Conservancy.


One of Giuseppe Penone's sculptures rolling in to Madison Square Park this morning in advance of his installation through early 2014. Watch here for more from Mr. Penone and the Mad. Sq. Pk. Conservancy.

One of Giuseppe Penone's sculptures rolling in to Madison Square Park this morning in advance of his installation through early 2014. Watch here for more from Mr. Penone and the Mad. Sq. Pk. Conservancy.



In an airship…one travels in a most beautiful way that gives meaning to the word journey.– Hugo Eckener

In 1971 in Belan, Belgium, Antwerp-born Panamarenko née Henri Van Herwegen filled a sculptural airship with hydrogen for an outdoor exhibition. Lacking a level, the balloon (which looked rather like an inflated condom) turned vertically and threatened to go off on its own (rather like that for which a condom is intended), at which point Panamarenko could do nothing but to tear a huge hole in it with scissors to save his life. An exercise in fearless failure, Mr. Herwegen has been, for seventy-three years, imagining impossible vehicles by which we might but won’t travel into the unknown.
Spy on other human-made flying creatures at Libarynth.



Sketch photo by Lorraine at Grijs

In an airship…one travels in a most beautiful way that gives meaning to the word journey.
– Hugo Eckener

In 1971 in Belan, Belgium, Antwerp-born Panamarenko née Henri Van Herwegen filled a sculptural airship with hydrogen for an outdoor exhibition. Lacking a level, the balloon (which looked rather like an inflated condom) turned vertically and threatened to go off on its own (rather like that for which a condom is intended), at which point Panamarenko could do nothing but to tear a huge hole in it with scissors to save his life. An exercise in fearless failure, Mr. Herwegen has been, for seventy-three years, imagining impossible vehicles by which we might but won’t travel into the unknown.

Spy on other human-made flying creatures at Libarynth.

Lighter than air Ace Hotel

Lighter than air Ace Hotel

Sketch photo by Lorraine at Grijs


Isamu Noguchi was a dreamer, a renegade and a sort of self-ordained formalist, following the idiosyncratic logic of the physical poetry to which he devoted his life and mind. Born in Los Angeles to a poet and an editor, his inspiration came from the spaces between meaning — using his formidable talent and his willingness to risk, he created a new bone structure for the physical and emotional atmospheres in which we live. Pictured here, the artist as a young man (and a crush-worthy one at that), and his sketches, Worksheets for Sculpture, 1945. Noguchi’s We are the Landscape of All We Know has migrated west temporarily from the Noguchi Museum in Long Island to the Japanese Garden in Portland, Oregon, on view through July 21.

Isamu Noguchi was a dreamer, a renegade and a sort of self-ordained formalist, following the idiosyncratic logic of the physical poetry to which he devoted his life and mind. Born in Los Angeles to a poet and an editor, his inspiration came from the spaces between meaning — using his formidable talent and his willingness to risk, he created a new bone structure for the physical and emotional atmospheres in which we live. Pictured here, the artist as a young man (and a crush-worthy one at that), and his sketches, Worksheets for Sculpture, 1945. Noguchi’s We are the Landscape of All We Know has migrated west temporarily from the Noguchi Museum in Long Island to the Japanese Garden in Portland, Oregon, on view through July 21.

Isamu Noguchi Ace Hotel Japanese Garden Portland


A gifted sculptor, Florida-born Augusta Savage fought poverty, racism and sexism to become a prominent figure in the Harlem Renaissance, the period of African-American cultural outpouring in New York City during the 1920s and ’30s. Her extraordinary talent opened many doors that led to her becoming one of the most influential teachers of her time and a strong voice for civil rights for African-Americans.
Born in Florida in 1892, she was the seventh of fourteen children born to Edward and Cornelia Fells. As a child, Fells exhibited a talent and a passion for sculpting small objects using red clay she found in her neighborhood. The habit often got her into trouble with her father, a part-time minister, who regarded his child’s handiwork as “graven images” outlawed by the Bible’s 10 Commandments.
Pictured here, The Harp, Ms. Savage’s legendary sculpture based on Lift Every Voice and Sing by James Weldon Johnson.
Read more about Augusta on this incredible blog about the history of slavery in the US, and watch a stock footage clip of Ms. Savage working in her studio.

A gifted sculptor, Florida-born Augusta Savage fought poverty, racism and sexism to become a prominent figure in the Harlem Renaissance, the period of African-American cultural outpouring in New York City during the 1920s and ’30s. Her extraordinary talent opened many doors that led to her becoming one of the most influential teachers of her time and a strong voice for civil rights for African-Americans.

Born in Florida in 1892, she was the seventh of fourteen children born to Edward and Cornelia Fells. As a child, Fells exhibited a talent and a passion for sculpting small objects using red clay she found in her neighborhood. The habit often got her into trouble with her father, a part-time minister, who regarded his child’s handiwork as “graven images” outlawed by the Bible’s 10 Commandments.

Pictured here, The Harp, Ms. Savage’s legendary sculpture based on Lift Every Voice and Sing by James Weldon Johnson.

Read more about Augusta on this incredible blog about the history of slavery in the US, and watch a stock footage clip of Ms. Savage working in her studio.


INTERVIEW : ALEKSANDRA MIR ON THE FREDDIE ON THE PLINTH PROPOSAL

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Photo BBC

Aleksandra Mir is an artist based in London. Without slowing down her own prodigious output, she has taken it upon herself to spearhead an initiative to bring the iconic bronze statue of Freddie Mercury in full rock god regalia — stationed in Montreux, Switzerland — back to London. The monument was commissioned by the remaining members of Queen after Mercury’s passing and brought to life by a master of figurative sculpture and artist behind some of the great lost monuments of the Cold War era, Irena Sedlecka. In 1991, the Westminster Council rejected the statue and it found a home in Montreux, where it’s become a shrine for Mercury fans from around the world.

The Freddie on the Plinth proposal would bring Freddie, on loan for a year, to the empty fourth plinth in Trafalgar Square, “to honor both Freddie Mercury’s and Irena Sedlecka’s artistic legacies, as an exploration of the connections between socialist realism and glam rock, to contemplate the void created by all silences, and to channel love through the celebration and sheer expression of life.” 

We caught up with Aleksandra to ask her about the petition and her take on the predestined meeting of the sculptor and the rock star. 

Have you received any response from the Westminster Council since the Freddie on the Plinth proposal and petition were launched?

No, but the petition is not yet finalized and has formally not been filed anywhere. It is an open ended, unsolicited project, so anything can happen and that is ok.

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How do you think Ms. Sedlecka’s earlier work, creating heroic statues in the socialist realist style, informed her vision of Freddie Mercury? It seems to have some of the hallmarks of that era, minus the compulsory stodginess.

Irena was trained as a classicist. She had a remarkable education in Prague after WWII which involved rigorous study of the human form, but she was also expected as an artist to move beyond mere naturalist depiction — to edit, to exaggerate, to abstract and to bring both her subjects and her own character into the work. There is both anatomical perfection and soul in her bronze of Freddie. This kind of training is completely lost today. So when Queen’s management discovered her as, what they thought, the most skillful sculptor working in Britain, her work had been obscured in the art world for almost thirty years. She still had it all in her though and she took it on with great enthusiasm. What you have as a result, in my mind, is a masterpiece.

Freddie Mercury himself seemed to cultivate an image that in some ways mimicked the “cult of personality” employed by Europe’s 20th century (male) leaders — or at the very least his mustache did. He might have been the perfect subject for her art form.

Yes, they proved to be perfect for each other. As a very young artist, Irena had been making work on a monumental scale, which only the regime of her day could have supported. As she says, it seemed a good idea at the time — to celebrate communist heroes, considering they had beaten the Nazis and that her generation had just emerged from war so had enormous enthusiasm for the new socialist model. Fast forward and most of her work was later destroyed in the Velvet Revolution. At the same time, in the West, secular mass worship had taken on the form of stadium rock. And Freddie, one of its greatest heroes, became the perfect subject for a memorial depicting him at the height of his powers at Wembley stadium.

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Are any of Sedlecka’s sculptures from the pre-Velvet Revolution era still on display in their original location? We’ve heard that her monument to the victims of fascism in Melke Mezirici in Moravia is.

The Moravia monument still stands. A large portion of Socialist Realist work was actually dedicated to ‘common people’, anonymous characters that suffered the war or that were mythological representations of the human plight — mothers and children, workers, elderly people. It seems these artworks had more of a chance of surviving the post-communist era than named ‘heroes’ that ended up being rejected by history.

Oscar Wilde was famously persecuted in London but he’s now memorialized by a statue at Charing Cross. His took 98 years though, do you think Freddie’s will take that long?

Who knows? This is a work about two people, both Freddie Mercury whose life story and fame is omnipresent, and Irena Sedlecka, who works in quiet. It is an amazing tale of an artist’s productive life that covers nearly a century of European upheaval and shifting ideologies. What I learned is that the political winds can change very drastically and unexpectedly from one day to another. It is impossible to say today what would eventually prompt a return of this rejected statue and masterpiece to London. 


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