June Leaf, Richard Stankiewicz, Robert Lax
Three artists - two men, one woman - all of them from the USA, take the same path – independently of each other. In the 1950s and 1960s, they achieve their first breakthroughs in New York and Chicago, causing a sensation with singular works that refused to be swept along by contemporary mainstream US art whose main focus was American Abstract Expressionism and Pop Art. Then, in the Sixties, all three retreat from the hectic art scene of the metropolis to their own, remote islands to concentrate on pursuing their own artistic paths in peace.
Richard Stankiewicz (1922-1983) withdraws in 1962 to Worthington – a tiny hamlet somewhere in the middle of the vast forests of Massachusetts. This American iron sculptor made a name for himself in the history of art as one of the first artists to create sculptures by assembling pieces of rusty scrap iron: in the early stages of his artistic development, he used the scrap iron to create playfully poetic and humorous sculptures which, despite their initial abstract impression, reveal a surprisingly palpable figurativeness: faces, people, animals or whole groups of figures.
In 1960, Stankiewicz meets Jean Tinguely who, at the time, was working on his Homage to New York at the Museum of Modern Art. The two iron sculptors influenced each other mutually to a great degree – Tinguely almost performs a U-turn: after this encounter, he creates the first works made of rusty scrap, using the debris of civilization, whereas Stankiewicz’s work becomes increasingly abstract.
Almost 60 steel sculptures by Richard Stankiewicz are on show, the majority of which had already been included at the three U.S. venues of the exhibition “Miracle in the Scrap Heap”.
The exhibition is the first major retrospective exhibition of work by the “junk” sculptor.
June Leaf (born 1929) retires in 1969 to Mabou in Nova Scotia, Canada (together with her husband, the Swiss-American photographer Robert Frank). With the aid of metal cutters, brushes and pencils, this painter and sculptress stages her singular, carnivalesque comédie humaine, whose plot revolves around the all-decisive dance of life, love and death: humans and mythical beings, centaurs or bird-people in the most various stages/conditions of their existence.
June Leaf’s works, be it iron sculptures, works on canvas or on paper, cannot be viewed as being detached from one another. The sculptures, paintings and drawings are heavily conditioned by one another: her drawings and paintings are also always sketches for her sculptures; the sculptures, in turn, serve as models for her works with brush and pencil. The result is cross-discipline human studies, which never fail to fascinate, not least because of their extraordinary and extremely original details.
June Leaf is represented with over 100 sculptures, paintings and drawings. This is the first showing in a European museum of the work by this artist, who grew up in Chicago and now lives in New York and Mabou, Nova Scotia.
Robert Lax (1915-2000) retreats in 1964 to the Greek island of Kalymnos and later to Patmos. This American poet was repeatedly described as the greatest unknown of American literature; yet his Minimalist poetry, verging on the radical, was widely acknowledged beyond the literary scene. This meditative island hermit made the final leap from insider tip to cult figure status through the film triptych Three Windows – Hommage à Robert Lax by Nicolas Humbert and Werner Penzel.
Robert Lax’ years as a student at Columbia University in New York had a formative influence on his artistic development. At Columbia, Robert Lax, along with the writer and later Trappist monk Thomas Merton and painter Ad Reinhardt, belonged to a group of young avant-garde artists whose anti-bourgeois attitude led to their description as the forerunners of the “beat generation”. Lax began steadily reducing his poetry to an absolute bare minimum. He applied the same approach to his way of life. For 35 years on Patmos and until his death, Robert Lax demonstrated that the bare landscape and the slow pace of the island form a necessary counter-world to the frenetic pace and noise of our civilization, as realized particularly effectively by Tinguely. In conjunction with Acrobat off, Tinguely Museum is delighted to be able to present in the catalogue on Robert Lax the first publication of his Last notes (last poems) written on Patmos.
At the centre of the artistic island on Robert Lax is the film-triptych Three Windows – Hommage à Robert Lax by film-makers Werner Penzel and Nicolas Humbert. Drawings, letters, documents and publications by the poet are also on show.
Three volumes, published by Benteli-Verlag to accom- pany the exhibition Three Islands, are available either singly, or all three in a slip case.
Richard Stankiewicz, 196 pages, over 100 illustrations,
June Leaf, 160 pages, over 120 illustrations,
Robert Lax, 216 pages, 18 illustrations,
The three volumes in a slip case: