Jeanne-Claude: 1935-2009

Jeanne-Claude — artist and creative partner to Christo — passed away on November 19, 2009.

I wish I could have seen The Gates while it was on display — not to mention the other large-scale installations on which Jeanne-Claude and Christo collaborated. There are too few artists who possess the drive to work at such immense scales, who literally change the appearance of whole landscapes to communicate the sublime.

She will be missed.

(Special thanks to Youtube user videofeedback for providing (seemingly) the only decent video of The Gates installation.)


3 Comments so far. Comments are closed.
  1. While Christo does work on an immense scale, his projects tend towards the industrial, though the very plain style may be an evocation or comment on the trend of the American public. I guess the work of the artist is to unsettle, not make the merely beautiful, and to explore the previously unexplored.

    At the same time, would Pollock’s work be as powerful if it were a printout?

    The use of common materials also frustrates me, though I realize the price of this art is already quite extravagant for mere art. Maybe in the future he or whoever continues this style of art will experiment with printed and assembled forms – what sort of impact might this have if all the poles were intricately sculpted, each mathematically unique, printed in pieces and assembled in place, a static complexity counterpoint to the permutating forms of the silken sheets?

    I have to admit, this exhibit looks a lot more viewer friendly than the California umbrella project, which you had to drive around to view.

  2. ratchetcat,

    Granted, I’m not familiar with all of Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s work, but my perception is that the landscape and the way the piece interacts with the landscape provide the excitement and convey the message — the piece itself is nothing more than a catalyst.

    I never saw their Running Fence in person (it was before my time), but that installation always seemed to be about engaging the viewer’s perception of distance and space through the artifice of an unbroken line of white cloth approaching and receding on its journey across a vast landscape.

    Did it need to be anything more than what it was in order to convey what they were attempting to convey?

    Jeanne-Claude and Christo would probably argue that vast amounts of small-scale detail would detract from what they tried to communicate with this kind of work. (Or, that they’re already communicating on a small scale and you just need to back up a bit to see it! 🙂 )

    Great point about accessibility. By definition, obtaining a decent view of these large scale projects ‘in the round’ is difficult. I’m really not sure how they could improve that while still communicating the effect of small multiples and engaging the viewer’s sense of scale. If only there were a way to fold space…

  3. Whether I like it or not, it does provoke.

    My only real life experience, as I said, was with the umbrellas. Up close, it was basically like giant patio furniture, albeit much more sturdy.

    However, there may have been hidden messages or symbols in the layout across the land, or in the shadows they cast, but unless you were getting a plane or helicopter ride you weren’t seeing anything like that for yourself. And the only aerial photos of it I’ve seen are basically snapshots, so if there was a larger configuration no one noticed.

    However, metaphorically speaking, it (and by extension all of their large scale work) is a metaphor for life and time – your life is a whole, but viewed in pieces, snapshots, small, more easily understandable bits than the whole.

    Part of being an artist is knowing what to keep your mouth shut about, which parts to explain and which to let wonder take over. And Christo’s exhibits, hate them or love them, always leaving you wondering.