Stephanie is an art historian and curator. For the past seven years, she has been working at Lenbachhaus in Munich, a museum of modern and contemporary art where she organizes exhibitions and events, and publishes books. Marika and Stephanie met in New York where, at the time, Stephanie was working at The Museum of Modern Art. In her work over the past 10 or so years, Stephanie has tried to understand more about how art and life, and what is called "politics", relate, or how they could relate. There are a couple of loose red threads running through her work which are interconnected: an interest in artistic process, a research into a history of internationalism, in particular in the 1920s and 1970s, a feminist perspective on the history of art and art making.
Marika: I got inspired to do this print Maniera during our joint trip to Rome. We were looking at all the renaissance art, all the fabrics draped over the body, all the folds and curves.. Also at that time you were working on an exhibition of Rosemary Mayer for Lenbachhaus.
Stephanie: It was a funny coincidence, because I don't remember you starting on the print after Rome. I remember that you were already thinking about it then, how the forms and colors were coinciding with what we were seeing and talking about. The exhibition I was working on of Rosemary Mayer, an American artist that passed away in 2014 and who worked primarily through the 70s 80s and 90s.. in the 70s she was obsessed with Mannerist painting and in particular the colors because the typical colors in Mannerist art are these 'off' colors.. pastel tones, pink, peach, mauve… this kind of stuff. And also Mannerism meant that it is kind of subjective contrary to classic renaissance style, so it is kind of affected almost. And what I thought was cool that she was a sculptor mostly, she was interested in painting and she wanted to figure out in sculpture how to show the fabrics that are on top of each other in different colors.
Marika: Then when we were in Rome, of course it is kind of like one of the towns of mannerism besides Florence, and I feel like it was not only in the art we looked at but also in buildings, the colors of the landscape.. we had this mannerist vacation haha. So yes, while we were there it all came together somehow and then when I came back to my studio I looked at and started to deconstruct this specific painting by Jacopo Pontormo, The Entombment. So I took apart the pieces of the drapes depicted in Jacopo’s painting, re-painted them in gouache, and I thought it was cool to make a print of fabric drapes to be printed on fabric. I always found this type of trompe l'oeil effect very amusing.
Stephanie: What's cool about that is Rosemary did something similar. She actually looked at that exact painting, took the colors and some of the shapes of the fabric, drapes, and started to translate it into sculpture. Also both in your print and some of the drawings Rosemary did to prepare or to brainstorm you also see some resemblance of organic forms; the leaves, petals. This also comes through in your print.
Rosemary Mayer. Galla Placidia, 1973. Satin, rayon, nylon, cheesecloth, nylon netting, ribbon, dyes, wood, and acrylic paint. 108 x 120 x 60 in.
And mannerism is that; artificial colors, artificial body postures, artificial anatomy and all of that together in an extreme state of motion.
Marika: Yes it is kind of dreamy.. Like you said, subjective and open to interpretation: is it drapes or petals, or the drapes of the dress it was printed on, or the shape of the wearer's body underneath? I wanted that to be a bit ambiguous.
Stephanie: Yes Rosemary also played with this ambiguity; flower, vegetal, drapes, but also a body. Also she dyed the fabrics herself in colors that were not so usual at that time art. This was in the period of minimalism where everything was kind of hard edged and she made this extremely lush exuberant work in the shapes of pink and magenta.
Rosemary Mayer. De Medici, 1972. Colored pencil and graphite on paper. 14 x 17 in.
Marika: Then she tried to layer the transparent fabrics in real time and I like how she clashed pinks and greens to overlay and create these colors that you cant really paint, or are quite hard to capture.
Stephanie: For example like this sculpture Galla Placidia, its like this majestic huge fabric sculpture that is suspended but you don't see how its is suspended and there she has this transparent gauze like fabrics layered creating all these colors.
Marika: What is the role of the body or the figure in mannerist art? It seems like there is a break there with classical renaissance figure representation.
Stephanie: So what I think is also interesting - in terms of representation of the body - is how it is far away from naturalism. It does not try to show an idealized body.. It is an over the top body, exaggerated in many ways. Like that painting by Parmigianino, The Madonna With the Long Neck.. She’s like a swan or something.
Stephanie: Exactly. Not anatomical nor trying to be naturalistic. It becomes like a playfield for anatomy. Like it is not supposed to be real.
Marika: So it's like a body in motion..
Stephanie: Yes an artificial body. Same as what we like in terms of feminism.. artifice, the anti-natural. And mannerism is that; artificial colors, artificial body postures, artificial anatomy and all of that together in an extreme state of motion. I like that about it. It is not trying to be modest or realistic. It is being extreme. Like your print Maniera, which is theatrical and trying to depict the light and shadow of drapery, but also since it is a print is has to be flat.
Marika: Yes, so then it is flattened and printed, cut into a pattern and a garment, which is then draped on a body...
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