Home Show Revisited – Florian Morlat: A Monument For The Dovers
The wind is blowing as I write this; I was just walking my stations of the cross around the neighborhood and I witnessed palm fronds fluttering and whipping in the strong breeze like green plastic flames. Crystalline light from the late afternoon sun, low in the sky at this time of day and year, is shining underneath trees and near the ground beneath bushes – it seems like magic to see sunlight from millions of miles away at such an angle that it skates across the surface of the planet, finally landing on a patch of grass where the grass is brushed with a hanging branch eucalyptyus. Jasmine and white sage project an unlikely and beautiful perfume.
Los Angeles is in great beauty today. I imagine the surf is up and I picture older model cars with boards strapped on top, tanned surfers inside driving to the beach – silent and focused on their watery and rough destinations. This mention of the surf will act as a bridge to talk about Florian Morlat and his project for Home Show, Revisited which he titles “A Monument For The Dovers.”
For much of Florian’s sculptural work the medium also serves as the support. Wood is screwed to canvas and the canvas is suspended from a wall by leather straps. Gravity acts, the wood hangs down and the canvas folds – showing tension in places and becoming loose in others. He has soaked cardboard in water and curved it, much as Charles and Ray Eames did with plywood for the screens and splints they made in the last century; with this curved cardboard he made a free standing sculpture that resembled a playing card version of a knight cavalier. His color choices vary among earthy oranges and tans and also cartoony pinks, blacks, purples and yet another brighter orange. Often his shapes are anthropomorphic, and it is the anthropomorphism of early cartoons: bright colors, broad shapes directly engaging the viewer as might humans – characters telling adult jokes, inviting surprise and pleasure, acknowledging together the joke of one’s existence.
I’ll include some images from the Internet for those who may not have seen Florian’s work much. He last showed in Los Angeles when Dan Hug was in town, and then at various Art LA fairs with Galerie Ben Kaufmann. I do find that he will be having a show locally with Cherry and Martin in 2012.
If you stay around long enough on a studio visit things may come up that surprise both parties to the interaction – you and the artist. While I never advise being odiously present and pushy with questions; I do recommend that you maintain interest, that you pay attention to what you’ve seen of an artist’s work previously and that you take all that attention with you when you talk with the artist. Form your questions out of the particularities of their work – keep in mind how much you like it when a person asks you questions that show they’ve really looked at and thought about what you do.
Apropos the above I can tell you that while Florian Morlat was in school in Dusseldorf, there was a Joseph Beuys sculpture mounted on the outside wall of a building in the neighborhood of the Kunstsammlung NRW and the Dusseldorf Kunsthalle and also a theater, the Kom(m)odchen, above whose box office the sculpture lives still. Like many of Beuys works this sculpture is an enigmatic gesture – it has the instantly iconic and also the idiosyncratic look of much of the artist’s work, and it also has a humor that I (perhaps in my ignorance) do not often attribute to Joseph Beuys. Florian did not have a picture of the sculpture at hand, but his eyes lit up and I could feel his excitement in talking about it. When several weeks later he emailed me a photo, I became excited too. I’ve been looking at Florian Morlat’s work since 2001 and this picture adds tremendously to my knowledge of his work. Yay.
(Should I point out that Beuys’ sculpture is the chimney looking thing on the wall?)
Thinking about Santa Barbara and the several ways one may respond artistically to the paradisaical place, if music comes to mind it might be The Music Academy of the West, a classical music school set in a ten acre estate in nearby Montecito. [Quick breakage of the third wall of the fourth estate: on June 20 begins the annual Summer Festival, with visiting artists such as Marylin Horne, Jean-Yves Thibaudet, Nicholas McGegan, Leonard Slatkin, Christine Brewer and, um much more. If you cotton to classical music you ought to check this out.)
For Florian, mid 1960s rock music is the thing, and if the place is Santa Barbara then the band is The Dovers. I am not at all certain about the veracity of Wikipedia entries but I offer you one anyway: The Dovers from Wikipedia. As an audiophile Florian Morlat has sought Dovers 45s at auctions and watched them trade for hundreds of dollars on Ebay. Sad is the world of the collector!
When I visited Morlat’s studio he had a print of “The Third Eye,” a Dover’s single, placed prominently on a table. Take a listen if you like. It seems the band were local SB boys who printed records on “Miramar Records” purportedly from “Hollywood, California” but, as is indicated by the down home SB name was more likely a Santa Barbara press. Four or five singles made various spots on the local and national charts, records were printed in the hundreds or maybe thousands. Outside the rarefied world of collectors, The Dovers have been pretty much forgotten. Hence the need for a monument, at least in the artist’s mind.
Without even trying I can find connections to many of curator Miki Garcia’s concerns for this exhibition: for instance there’s the reference to Santa Barbara as a “second city” to Los Angeles and Hollywood, Florian the artist shining a light on hidden local histories, the social activity of listening to music, community as interpreted from the outside and from the inside – Florian Morlat looking at Santa Barbara through the lens of an early 1960s rock band and The Dovers themselves shouting out for and defining their own community in another time. Good stuff all around.
Back to the studio though, and back to what Florian told me.
As you can imagine – and as I find in my research happened too in the first and second Home Shows – houses are volunteered, proposals are accepted, work begins, and then circumstances change. Florian Morlat is one of the several artists over the years who have had to change cars mid course. A second friendly and generous person came forward, and in this instance some sort of angel must have been watching and pulling strings: three years ago Florian attended an auction chasing down yet another Dovers record, or so I am recalling the story, he came to Montecito and was cruelly outbid. But. While there he met a man who also was disappointed by the auction results and who also collected records of similar vintage and style as Florian. They chattered, they exchanged collection visits, they shared nice moments of mutual love for sensations that are ephemeral yet are expressed through objects, vinyl recordings. Aah, life is good. Then they each moved on, life continued and the conversations slowed then ceased.
In March of 2011 this person chose to volunteer their home and Florian Morlat happened to be without a house for his project. Hollywood magic in Santa Barbara.
I am pretty sure the circumstances of Florian’s site-specific sculpture are not as “Miracle on 34th Street” as I’ve described them, but the story makes good press and if you want to believe………..
There are a pair of Chelsea Boots sticking out of a chimney in Santa Barbara, they are a “Monument for the Dovers.” They might be a gesture to youth, to doing and making and to believing that it matters when we do these things. Music, art, rock n roll, friends, collecting, preserving, sharing.
Florian Morlat – “A Monument for the Dovers”
Home Show, Revisited organized by the Santa Barbara Contemporary Arts Forum
Opening this Saturday, May 21 at 6:30 pm
CAF Part 4: Florian Morlat – A Monument for the Dovers