Home Arts Spatial art couple creates large scale beauty

Spatial art couple creates large scale beauty

by Archives February 5, 2008

In contrast to the elusive nature most assign to their art, Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s artistic goals are quite simple-to manipulate public space in order to create works of beauty.
In association with the Fine Arts Student Alliance, the Concordia Student Union will present Christo and Jeanne-Claude, Tuesday, Feb. 5. The environmental artists will give a lecture to both students and the public, titled Christo and Jeanne-Claude: Works in Progress – Over the River, Project for the Arkansas river, state of Colorado and the Masab of Abu Dhabi, Project for the United Arab Emirates.
“The youth are very important to Christo and I. When we’re gone, God knows what historians will write about us so thankfully we’ll have young people saying ‘No, that’s not true, I saw them speak,'” said Jeanne-Claude. She added that she and her husband often lecture at universities at the request of students in order to answer any questions they may have concerning the couple’s work.
The couple’s massive installation pieces have solidified their reputation as two of the most important artists of the past several decades and have transformed the way people view public space. To Christo and Jeanne-Claude, seeing is building.
For this reason, they do not see themselves as conceptual artists. They want to SEE their project realized because they believe it will be a work of joy and beauty. “Our work doesn’t have a point, its only point is to be a work of art,” said Jeanne-Claude. The couple build in both urban and rural environments, but never on deserted sites. The sites chosen are places already being used and managed by people.
It was the 1972-76 work entitled Running Fence that first sparked my interest in the art of Christo and Jeanne-Claude. Running Fence traversed Sonoma and Marin Counties in California in September 1976. The fence was 5.5 metres high and followed a 40-kilometre-long-serpentine path through hilly pasturelands into Bodega Bay. The artists, working with nearly 400 people installed the stark white nylon fabric panels that played off of the sunlight and wind in the area to dazzling effect. The work made me think of a never-ending clothes line with huge white bed sheets hanging out to dry in the middle of summer.
“With our works, every interpretation is valid,” said Jeanne-Claude. She said the projects are stared first and foremost for themselves and not the viewer. If it is something that they, as artists, would like to see realized, they get to work. If others delight in it as well, it is a bonus.
“We’re not saying that all art has to be beautiful,” said Jeanne-Claude. She referred to artist Hieronymus Bosch and the way he would vividly depict demons. “These images are quite horrible but at the same time, one has to say, ‘Wow! What a great painter.'”
Although the size of their works leave quite an impression on viewers, Jeanne-Claude thinks it’s all a matter of perspective. “You think they’re big because they’re works of art but humans have long since built ven bigger things such as airports.” She said that when they wrapped the Pont Neuf (in Paris), which actually isn’t that big of a bridge, with woven polyamide fabric and entitled it The Pont Neuf Wrapped 1975-85, it acquired the label “large-scale” simply because it is a work of art, and people did not consider the actual size of the bridge.
The couple hope to share their excitement with Concordia concerning their two works in progress, one titled Over the River, and the other titled, Project for the Arkansas river, state of Colorado and the Masab of Abu Shabi, Project for the United Arab Emirates. The first will feature Fabric panels suspended horizontally, high above the water level while the the Mastaba will be a work of art made of approximately 390,500 horizontally stacked oil barrels.
Christo and Jeanne-Claude will be speaking at Concordia this Tuesday evening at 7 p.m. in room H-110 of the Hall Building.

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