every calendar, including ours, comes to an end. For a Christmas calendar this is normally after 24 doors, so with Door number 24 we finish this year's edition.
Our goal is to always inspire you or bring forgotten gems to your attention. Either way, we wanted to give you something nice during this unfortunately often hectic season. Hope we succeeded and maybe you circle back to one of the doors.
Now we are only left to wish you a Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!
Stay safe and healthy!
Your GRUNDTNER & SöHNE Team
Avid followers of our blog will know that we have a softspot for folky outsider-music, like we featured in this old playlist from our Youtube channel, especially female artists. Last year we featured the contemporary artist Joanne Robertson, but this year we have someone from the other side of the world.
Our entry number 23 is about the singer and songwriter Maxine Funke from New Zealand. Similarly to the aforementioned Robertson, she is often compared to singers like Sibylle Baier, Bridget St. John, Karen Dalton or Judee Sill.
What draws the comparisons are her hushed voice and the stripped down instrumentation, which mainly consists of her guitar and maybe some background noises. These parameters give her sound a timelessness and a beautiful melancholy.
Since 2008 she released four solo albums, Lace in 2008, Felt in 2012, Silk in 2018 and in 2021 Seance on the label A Colorful Storm. Next to a few EPs she also was also briefly part of bands like The Snare or the $100 Band with her ex-husband, the experimental musician Alastair Galbraith.
"A picture is worth more than 1000 words" is a well known saying and it is quite relatable. But it is subverted by the American artist Jenny Holzer, who puts words and their power at the center of her practice.
from Inflammatory Essays, 1979–82, installed in New York, 1983 © Jenny Holzer, Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.
Born in 1950, she said that she initially wanted to become a painter, but gave up that thought and wanted to become an attorney. Through various stints studying art, printmaking and finally graduating at Ohio University. In 1976 she moved to Manhattan and joined the Whitney Museum's independent study program, where she started to work with words and installations.
In 1977 she started to create her Inflammatory Essays, which were a result of the reading list at the program. These were multi-colored posters that hold the essence of speeches or essays of dictators or political persons like Mao Zedong, Vladimir Lenin, Emma Goldman, Adolf Hitler or Leon Trotsky. Each poster featured 100 words arranged into 20 lines, which were hung up illegally during the night.
Lady Pink photographed in Times Square (1983), wearing a t-shirt from Jenny Holzer’s "Truisms" (1978–87). Photography by © Lisa Kahane
A reduced idea of that led to her contemporaneous Truisms, which condensed ideas to one lined maxims like for example “Protect me from what I want” or “Abuse of power comes as no surprise”. Her anonymous street works were discovered by the artist Dan Graham, who was an early advocate for her work, which she said led to her breakthrough as an artist.
Truism, Times Square, 1986
But not only on paper, she also present her work on walls, mugs or T-Shirts, but was also always at the forefront of technology using LEDs, projections, virtual reality or drones. Important for her was and is always the context, as she put it herself: “I like placing content wherever people look, and that can be at the bottom of a cup or on a shirt or hat or on the surface of a river or all over a building”.
In 1990 she became the 2nd woman, after Diane Arbus, to represent the USA at the Venice Biennale for which she received the Golden Lion for best national representation. For all her projects, she mainly used her own texts, but since 1993 she started to use more texts by others like Wislawa Szymborska, Elfriede Jelinek or Mohja Kahf.
United States Pavilion, Giardini della Biennale, Venice Photography by © Salvatore Licitra
In fashion circles, she is well known for collaborating with the Austrian designer Helmut Lang. This collaboration started in the middle of the 1990s and led to artworks for the brand's New York flagship store, but is most known for their anti-advertising campaign for the launch of Lang's perfume line.
As design and architecture are something that mainly serves a purpose, they are seen generally as part of the applied Arts. A person, who challenges that view, is the Italian architect and designer Gaetano Pesce.
Organic Building, 1993, Osaka
For him, every project, whether it is a house, a chair, a vase or a cabinet, it has to have a double function: one practical and one cultural. This then for him makes design and architecture as a form of Art.
Gaetano Pesce was born in 1939 in Italy. He studied architecture in Venice under the architects Carlo Scarpa and Ernesto Rogers, the cousin of the recently deceased Richard Rogers. Early on he was rejecting architectural norms of his time and inspired by the Bauhaus movement he was part of the collective Grupo N, who like their role model tried to combine art and design.
Interior of the Hubin apartment, 1986
This challenge lead to architectural results like the Maison des enfants in Parc de la Villette, the Hubin apartment, both in Paris or the organic house in Osaka. As all of them show his playfulness and the later also shows his interest in new materials and techniques. This also something attributed to his designs, which characterized by an immense curiosity.
Up-5 chair and Up-6 ottoman
He is well known for designs like the Up 5 chair, called Donna, and its accompanying ottoman up-6 from the early 70s, who pointed out the mistreatment of women at that time. Additionally he likes to use resin, out of which he creates among other things tables, chairs, vases in vibrant colors. He is still active today and lives since the early 1980s in New York.
Pratt Chair (No. 7), 1984
As our last special for his year, we have in our opinion something very special. Next to our Wool Sweater, we also produced a Cashmere version. This one is done in a classic style and fit with a beautifully ribbed collar, hem and cuffs.
The sweater is made from a 95% recycled cashmere and 5% extrafine Merino wool and knitted in Europe. It comes in three different colors for all occasions: a timeless navy, a funky babyblue and a subtle offwhite.
That history is written one-sided is nothing new, so it is always refreshing, if it gets a broader view, especially if it is done an a popcultural level. Concerning Britain and Black communities this is mastered by the series Small Axe, who puts a neglected past into the spotlight.
The director, Steve McQueen, who is known for his Oscar winning film 12 Years a Slave, pitched the series initially to the BBC as a episodical series in 2010. But soon realized that he had enough material for multiple films, so turned it into an anthology series of 5 independent movies, four true stories and one imagined.
Each of the individual films, Mangrove, Lovers Rock, Red, White and Blue, Alex Wheatle and Education, deals with problems that Afro-Caribbean neighborhoods faced in Britain from the 1960s to the 1980s. Subject-wise it ranges from real struggles like police brutality to court trials to an observation of a party.
The title of the series comes from an West-Indian proverb "If you are the big tree, we are the small axe" that was popularized by Bob Marley in the song of the same name. Encapsulating the common theme throughout the series, the fight against something that seems bigger than the individual.
Director McQueen co-wrote each of the films with either Courttia Newland or Alastair Siddons. The scenes were skillfully captured by the Antiguan cinematographer Shabier Kirchner.
The series is beautifully supported by a suiting soundtrack consisting of music of the era like Janet Kay's Silly Games or Al Green's How Can You Mend a Broken Heart?, but also features contributions by yesterday's entry Mica Levi.
If artists are successful within their practice, there is a tendency to stick to this formula. It involves less risk and the audience knows what they will get. So it is always interesting, if an artist does completely the opposite. Sonically one tends to think about David Bowie but also in recent years the British singer, songwriter, producer and composer Mica Levi.
Levi was born in 1987 into a musical household and started from the age of nine to study at the Purcell School for Young Musicians. In their teens they moved to London, where they explored the musical scene and djed. Levi started to produce mixtapes like Filthy Friends. At the same time they formed the band Micachu and the Shapes, where in 2009 Matthew Herbert produced the debut album to critical acclaim.
During their studies at Guildhall School of Music and Drama, they were commissioned a piece for the London Philharmonic Orchestra premiering at Royal Festival Hall in April 2008 , which marked their official step into composing. Famously they composed the soundtrack for Jonathan Glazer's film Under the Skin, which was widely praised. This score led the director Pablo Larraín to hire Levi for his biopic Jackie. For this score they received an Oscar nomination in 2017.
Next to composing, Mica Levi also made a name for themselves producing music for initially their own band, but step by step also for others. They gained some attention for producing Tirzah's initial EP I'm Not Dancing, and also her debut and sophomore album.
Next to composing and producing they like to collaborate with artists like Dean Blunt, for whom they wrote the music for his opera. Last, but not least, they also release solo music, like the two self-released albums Ruff Dog and Blue Alibi in 2021.
The discussion, if photography is art or not, is as old as photography itself. So it is even more interesting that especially female artists in the later 20th century gravitated towards this medium. A big contributor to establish it as a form of art is the American artist Cindy Sherman.
Untitled Film Still #3, 1977 © Cindy Sherman and Metro Pictures, New York
She was born in 1954 in New Jersey as the youngest of five children, but soon after the family moved to Huntington, Long Island, where she grew up. Already as a little girl, together with her mother she would go to second hand shops to buy outfits and collect prom dresses. This slightly foreshadows her later work.
She started to study visual arts at Buffalo State college, where interestingly she her first photography exam and focused more on painting. But frustrated with its limitations and the male domination, she started to take staged photographs. These photographs were self-portraits where she put herself in different roles challenging various stereotypes of women.
Untitled #96, 1981 © Cindy Sherman and Metro Pictures, New York
This led to her first big and well received series entitled Untitled Film Stills, where she between 1977 and 1980 staged various female personalities typical in American film noir or Italian neo-realism. Through these pictures, which led the basis for her work, she was looking for truths about identity, vulnerability and power.
Later she switched from black and white to color and larger formats in her photographs. Famous is also her series Centerfolds from 1981. It consists of 12 images that were initially commissioned by the magazine Artforum, which in the end did not print them. In these, she challenged the classic photo-spread in the middle of magazines like Playboy or other erotic magazines. She likes to work in various series, which mainly have her as the primary object, but also prosthetic limbs and mannequins like her Sex Pictures series starting in 1992.
Untitled #305), 1994 © Cindy Sherman and Metro Pictures, New York
Throughout all her series, the works are all without a title. This leaves the narrative of the picture and also the interpretation to the viewer, which also supports her argument, that these pictures are not about her personally. Commercially, she is one of the more successful contemporary artists. She was initially represented by Metro Pictures for 40 years and Sprüth & Magers, but moved to Hauser & Wirth in 2021.
Architecture can be approached in multiple ways. There are architects who push their very own design language, others take the environment into account and then there are architects, who put the people at the basis of their designs. A prime example for the later is the architect Georges Candilis. He said that architecture should "allow people to meet each other, to know each other. And the knowledge leading to friendship strengthens the peace between the people".
Nid d’abeille Housing in Casablanca by Woods and Candilis, 1952-1953
He was born in Azerbaijan in 1913 into a family with roots from Eastern Europe. After the family returned, he grew up in Athens where he studied architecture from 1931 until 1936 at the Polytechnic School. During that time he met Le Corbusier, who visited the city for the fourth Congrès internationaux d'architecture moderne in 1933. This friendship led to Candilis moving to France in 1945 and working for Le Corbusier, where was involved in the construction of the famous Unité d'Habitation de Marseille. In 1951 together with Shadrach Woods became in charge of ATBAT's projects in Tangier, but had to leave soon after because of political tensions.
Interior of Freie Universität Berlin
In 1954 he returned to Paris and formed together with the architects Alexis Josic and Shadrach Woods a partnership, which lasted from 1955 until 1969. Their goal was to reduce the costs of housing, especially three-bedroom apartments. They famously did so in Bagnols-sur-Cèze and Le Mirail, but also designed other projects like the Freie Universität in Berlin.
Les Carats, 1969
Together with Georges Wursteisen, Pierre Raoux and Zygmund Knyszewsky, he designed the holiday resort Les Carrats in 1969. Next to the housing complex itself, he also designed together with Anja Blomstedt a series of furniture that accompanies the aforementioned project and its needs. Another collaboration with Blomstedt led in 1972 to a completely different outcome but also had efficiency at its core. Called the Hexacube, they made use of prefabricated plastic units that could be assembled easily and individually.
Chairs designed by Candilis and Blomsted for Les Carats
He himself summarized his approach to architecture the following way: "The respect has no formula, no recipe. It is the feeling that architects have to possess with their customers; if the construction can give material satisfactions, the architecture has to bring something furthermore: the dignity and the freedom". Georges Candilis died in 1995 aged 82.
Candilis in front of a Hexacube unit
Next up as a special in this year's Christmas calendar is a classic: a printed T-Shirt. T-Shirts are at the basis of every wardrobe and still so versatile. That is what makes in our opinion a T-Shirt so interesting.
It is a regular cut T-shirt with a crew neck made from 100% cotton fabric. The T-Shirt features our seasonal poppy print that we already introduced at the paper bag lantern. Next to the print, it also has the GRUNDTNER & SöHNE logo embroidered on the chest.