Sunday, February 13, 2011

Christo creating a buzz for public works

Photo Credit: Wolfgang Volz, 1983,
February 13, 2011
By Alexandra Figueredo

An excited chatter fills the crowded room as attendees anxiously wait to hear him speak. Internationally renowned, "Christo" has been attracting attention from his colossal public works for decades.

And there he is. Christo Vladimirov Javacheff, a gentle 75-year-old with disheveled white hair and large-brimmed glasses working feverishly to get his old-fashioned slide projector to “make focus” in Florida International University’s packed lecture hall.

Christo, along with his late wife and creative partner Jeanne-Claude, has spent half a century realizing over 20 monumental installations. Famed projects include erecting “The Gates” in New York City’s Central Park, surrounding several islands in Biscayne Bay with floating pink fabric, and wrapping cloth around Berlin’s Reichstag and Paris’ Pont Neuf.

So what is Christo’s agenda behind his massive projects? “My work is free, useless and irrational,” he said. In other words, he creates for the sake of creation, not to make a statement.

He stressed that he does not invent the politics nor the ecology of each project, rather it exists as an inherent part of the subject. For example, he intended to flaunt the underlying flatness of South Florida when wrapping the islands in Biscayne Bay. The “art” was the natural form of the islands, not the fabric.

Christo’s newest work in progress “Over the River” will suspend translucent fabric over a stretch of the Arkansas River in Colorado. The ideal view is from below while rafting along the changing course of the river. If all goes as planned, it will be completed and available for two weeks during 2012.

“Over the River” has been one of their most costly projects to date, with over $2 million spent thus far on pre-building costs. A substantial sum considering Christo and his team do not accept commissions, self-funding their projects based on sales of the drawings, collages and models of their works.

According to Christo, no one project has had the most significance to him and Jeanne-Claude. Rather he said each project has been “a slice of our life.” For instance, returning decades later to the Australian coastline they wrapped in the 1960s, they realized how crazy they were to embark in that installation which defined them and that era.

Christo has spent practically his whole life as an artist. Painting since he was six-years-old, it’s safe to say Christo followed his passion for art. The biggest problem is knowing what you like to do, he says, referring to aspiring artists.

When asked how he and Jeanne-Claude classified themselves and their art, Christo grinned and quoted his late wife, “Jeanne-Claude always used to say ‘Labels are good for wine, not for artists’.”  

*Article published on Link 

© 2011, Alexandra Figueredo
To contact the writer, please email her at alexandra@artistamundocom. 

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