After visiting “Alexander the Great: The Iolas Gallery 1955–1987” at Paul Kasmin earlier this year, artist, critic, curator, and Brooklyn Rail publisher Phong Bui was so inspired that he proposed to the Chelsea dealer that they revisit one of famed dealer Alexander Iolas’s most legendary exhibitions. “Bloodflames” took place in March 1947 at Hugo Gallery, where Iolas was a director at the time—he launched his own gallery when Hugo Gallery closed in 1955—and featured an exceptionally unconventional exhibition design.
Curated by Nicolas Calas and installed in an environment designed by Fredrick Kiesler, “Bloodflames” featured works by Arshile Gorky, Wilfredo Lam, Jean-Claude Reynal, Helen Phillips, Roberto Matta, David Hare, Isamo Noguchi, and others in a total environment where floors, walls, and ceilings, rather than meeting at 90 degree angles, flowed into one another in colorful curves. The works in the show were either freestanding pieces, draped along the sloping partitions at odd and irregular heights, propped against the walls, or hung from the ceilings.
Calas interspersed the artworks with ambiguous, biomorphic forms hanging from the gallery ceiling. The walls were painted bold colors in vast, flowing shapes, creating connections between seemingly disparate works. Kiesler’s Hugo Gallery environment was an expansion of an experimental architectural environment he had created for Peggy Guggenheim in 1942, when she juxtaposed works by Modern European and American artists at her 57th Street loft.
Bui’s show, “Bloodflames Revisited,” will take cues from its radically unconventional predecessor, recreating a similarly enveloping and fluid environment in both of Paul Kasmin’s Chelsea spaces (293 10th Avenue and 515 West 27th Street). Works by more than 20 artists including Kasmin stable members Deborah Kass and Will Ryman, as well as Roxy Paine, G.T. Pellizzi, Michael Joo, and Candida Höfer will fill the gallery’s two locations. A full-color catalogue, with an essay by Bui, will accompany the show.
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