Home Architect Lloyd Wise on Nole Giulini

Lloyd Wise on Nole Giulini

by godlove4241
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In 2018, curator Alan Longino found himself browsing through the (excellent and useful) archive of exhibits on the New Museum website and came across an entry for an exhibit called “A Labor of Love.” Organized by Marcia Tucker in 1996, the exhibition identified some fifty artists whose emphasis on craftsmanship in their work, according to the curator, destabilizes the boundaries between fine arts and popular art, genius and amateur, art and daily life. Two pieces caught Longino’s eye: a scruffy, sewn-together Mickey Mouse sculpture and a pair of ballet slippers sewn from dried banana peels. To his surprise, the first one was neither leather nor resin, but something quite different and new: dried kombucha mother. The artist behind both works: Nöle Giulini.

A few years after his discovery, Longino put together a clever little survey of the Port Townsend, Washington-based artist’s output at the Brooklyn 15 Orient gallery, showcasing selections from major works. Much of her art stems from an eccentric methodology that Giulini developed in the early 1990s. First, she raised kombucha mothers in large custom fiberglass incubators. Then she carefully removes the slime, jelly-like mushroom from the reservoir, treats it with frankincense and myrrh to preserve it, and sews it up while it’s still moist, allowing it to shrink and distort as it dries in hard black leather. The Mickey was absent here; instead, we found kombucha bundled and tied to form a “wig,” sewn into wreaths or flowers, shaped into a bag or witch hat, and cut into desiccated fillets, among other talismanic arrangements and eerie abstractions. Images of Giulini’s process, displayed in the back room of the gallery, came across as very biomechanical: a Gigeresque tangle of organic and inorganic, spongy flesh tenderly pulled from her fiberglass belly.

To this end, Giulini’s art seems linked to the work of several younger artists today. If sculptors in 1960s America found themselves fascinated by Plexiglas and fluorescent tubes, artists in recent years are faced with a different set of circumstances. Faced with 3D printing, lab-grown meat, robotics, haute cuisine fermentation, and viral pandemics, artists began to imbue their works with biological materials and processes, combining bacteria, fungi, and fermentation. , for example, with more traditional sculptural approaches. Think Nour Mobarak, Jenna Sutela or Anicka Yi (who has consumed kombucha herself). It is art that could rot or scatter; it exists as an aroma and remains alive; this makes the gallery a biome. (Such work also seems to split the difference between additive sculpting, like shaping clay, and subtractive sculpting, like sculpting marble, for it is sculpting that grows.) In this regard, Giulini’s art stands out as a striking precedent.

But let’s not rush. One of Giulini’s very great works is called Artist Statement, 1991/2022, and it consists of dozens of rubber bands hanging from nails, arranged so that the loops suggest letters and words composing a few lines of text. What the message might say is a mystery to you and me. In other words, the first note of the exhibition, put forward by an artist who hadn’t shown in New York in decades, was a restraint of meaning and artistic intent. Instead of MFA chatter, we had zen silence. It seemed appropriate. As tempting as it may be to situate Giulini within a matrix of contemporary practices, to inscribe him in lineages and to attribute “relevance” to him, this risks flattening the oblique alterity that remains so essential to his work. . As Tucker said of “A Labor of Love”: “Problems of quality are problems of power . . . the most interesting and meaningful activities are usually found at the periphery rather than at the center of the artistic discourse.

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