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Where Each is Both 1994
blown glass, steel, wood, 168” x 84” x 84”
Collection; Guggenheim Museum , NY.

14 ft. blown glass sculpture of a dancing God figure combining the legends of Shiva Nataraja, Carmen Miranda and Josephine baker.

Table of Contents:
1. Image gallery
2. Holly Solomon Gallery Press Release 1994
3. Glass Menagerie by Jean Nathan
4. Siva's in the House: Izhar Patkins dance-floor deity by Carlo McCormic

Holly Solomon Gallery Press Release 1994:
Three years in the making and comprised of over three hundred parts, hundreds of beads and almost two hundred colors, its subject is a fusion of three great dancers: the Shiva Nataraja, Carmen Miranda, and Josephine Baker. Shiva is presented here not in his traditional position centered in a ring of fire, but rather stepping out of a ring of roses (the garden). Carmen Miranda and Josephine Baker are both notorious not only for their provocative dance but for having lived as exiles. Patkin states, “If you must be exiled from the garden, step into the ballroom” and that the dance floor is the arena where real social change-- multicultural and racial integration, sexual revolution, women’s rights, gay rights-- manifests itself in a tangible and effective way, a place “Where Each is Both.”

Glass Menagerie
by Jean Nathan
The New Yorker, March 1993

An eighteenth-century greenhouse that provides flora for Venice’s public gardens will be the home this spring, during the Biennale, to a thousand-pound glass sculpture of a dancer in a hundred and sixteen colors. But, however fine the spectacle, it is unlikely to bear comparison to the spectacle of its creation, this month and last, at the New York Experimental Glass Workshop, at 647 Fulton Street, in Brooklyn. The Building—a former auxiliary theatre to the Brooklyn Academy of Music and, later, a bowling alley—came to resemble a volcano, in which a team of ten men and one woman from around the world gathered to work sand and soda ash, rendered molten by twenty-four-hundred-degree fires, into a phantasmagoria of glass. Their labors left every surface strewn with bananas, cherries, and pineapples, grapes and vines; with ribbons and roses; and with forms resembling breasts and buttocks, thighs and feathers, hands and feet, a tutu and bustier, all made of glass. The parts on the worktables began to look like the remains of some deconstructed tropical seductress. And that is what they ought to look like, for when the parts are fused together they will form a glass woman combining the attributes of Carmen Miranda, Josephine Baker, and the Hindu god Shiva in his dancing incarnation.
Behind a scrim of heat and flame, before a backdrop of heavy metal pipes, chimneys, furnaces, and kilns, and to the accompaniment of the cooling fan’s roar, syncopated by a shot of the propane torch and the drowning strains of rock music, the workers themselves seemed to dance the dancer’s creation. Wearing sunglasses to protect their eyes from the heat and light, and suited up in aprons and facial heat shields, they spun and bowed, dipping long metal blowpipes into red-hot glass, pirouetting to present it to their Vulcan—Lino Tagliapietra, one of the world’s master glassblowers—for him to blow, snip, twist, and mold.
Each day, visitors, television crews, and documentary filmmakers crowded into the workshop, taking front-row seats on the concrete floor, mesmerized by the spectacle. One observer said the team reminded him of a rock band “in a groove.” Greg Morell, a metalworker, who made the steel armature to support the glass elements, remarked, “It’s about as close as you get to making a movie. Everyone stands around until something is needed, and then flies into action.”
The glass dancer, eleven feet high and seven feet wide, was born of discussions between Pedro Cuperman, an Argentine-born professor of Latin-American literature and semiotics, and Izhar Patkin, an Israeli-born New York artist. Cuperman, who studied philosophy in India, proposed the subject of Shiva. The god’s arms reminded Patkin of a Venetian glass chandelier, and from then on he knew that his dancer would be made of glass.
Patkin, whose sculpture has long employed unorthodox materials, including anodized aluminum, rubber, and wax, toured the world to understand this new one. In Murano, he met with Taglipietra, one of a handful of glass maestros there, and in 1991 he spent a month at Pilchuck, a glass-blowing school north of Seattle, which was founded in 1971 by, among others, Dale Chihuly, this country’s best-known glass artist.
Karen LaMonte, of the Brooklyn workshop, visited Patkin’s Ludlow Street studio many times before she agreed to help him with his project. “He melted my skepticism, but it was gradual,” she recalls. Tagliapietra, in Italy, also proved difficult to lure to work on the project. “I think this is a bit crazy,” he confessed. “But life can be pretty boring unless you try these things.”
In mid-January, the Shiva was ready to blow. The team, including glass specialists trained in places as diverse as Australia and Sweden, assembled in Brooklyn. Tagliapietra had never worked in representational forms. He was a “vessel man,” who made drinking glasses, bowls, and vases. So when he snipped lines in a glass ball, the basis of any form, and drew out five fingers as if he were pulling taffy, the audience gasped. Even the Maestro seemed impressed by his creation. “I don’t know. I just try,” he said when he was asked how he did it.
On the last night of the project, Patkin and the others gathered in the apartment, on Sutton Place, of his dealer, Holly Solomon, for a pasta feast, and there Tagliapietra proved himself as much a master craftsman with flour and water as with soda ash and sand, as much a magician at the range as at the furnace.
Jean Nathan is author of The Secret Life of the Lonely Doll: The Search for Dare Wright


Siva's in the house: Izhar Patkin's dance-floor deity
By Carlo McCormick
Artforum, March 1994

Izhar Patkin's 'Where Each is Both' is a sculptural rendition of the Indian god Siva in steel and glass, implying both strength and fragility. The figure is cartoonish in its simplicity, after the popular colonial Indian art form of Kalighat painting. The figure is brilliantly colored and combines male and female genders. Patkin gives tribute to the Jewish proverb about the world resting on chicken wings by positioning his Siva on a rooster's back.
“The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom.”
William Blake, The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, 1970-93
Where Each Is Both is Izhar Patkin's Josephine Baker, and also his Carmen Miranda--and most of all his Siva, the Hindu divinity whose disconcerting and sublime contradictions and convergences suggest a reality beyond the norms and incompatible oppositions of experience. A god of magical multiplicity and ambiguity, Siva's is Patkin's muse, his dance partner on the elusive edge of transcendence and transgression. Patkin has always traveled freely through the nominal differentiations of race and place in the multicultural esthetic diaspora, distilling history and geography into radical hybrids in which opposites not only attract, they bond in ecstatic embraces that blur their differences while accentuating their individualities. In Siva he has located the ultimate manifestation of that mortal yet eternal illusion in which the one appears as the many, yet remains intrinsically one--solitary in the mysterious symmetry of its self.
In a critical climate in which art is deciphered as a virtual media object, subject to all the cynical scrutiny of contemporary skepticism, Patkin's Siva shows him creating the creator--reaffirming the creative process, and asserting the reality of illusion and the illusion of reality. This is a Siva of brilliantly colored, baroquely curlicued glass with a steel armature, both robust and excruciatingly fragile. Combining genders, he were Josephine Baker' banana skirt and Carmen Miranda's pineapple hat. And he stands on the back of a rooster, an Indian deity honoring a Jewish proverb: "The word rests on chicken wings." The world's immensity is all help up by feathers; the order of things i strong as steel, brittle as glass. Seeming almost rendered in light, this sculptural image is as airy, playfully erotic, and atmospheric as a Fragonard o a Boucher. At the same time, the cartoonish simplification and exaggeration that enliven it recall Kalighat painting, the popular art of colonial India.
For Patkin, Where Each Is Both has a second subtextual rallying cry: "If you must be exiled from the Garden, step into the ballroom." Humanity's expulsion from Paradise, our separation from the ideal, may have engendered a puritancial pathology of denial, a schizophrenic separation of body and soul, but the twain still meet on the dance floor. This is the site not only of literal cultural revolution--music, after all, has been a crucial 20th-century agent of social change and exchange, even being credited with the collapse of the Iron Curtain--but of spiritual transmigration, of the simultaneous loss and reinvention of self that takes place in the dance of life. Patkin's ballroom is the Garden regained, the utopian Paradise on Earth, an alternative dimension. Dissolving physical bounds, dance is the metashamanic path of excess by which w may attain the ephemeral grace of being literally beside ourselves.
Where Each Is Both, then, is a Nataraja, or dancing Siva, and has dancing alter egos. Like Patkin, Carmen Miranda and Josephine Baker are Brahmanic expatriates lone troubadours divested of the physical parameters of their respective cultural identities, fluidly traversing the difficult topography of societal time and place. Like Siva, they are both destroyer and creator, end and beginning, inhabitants of the distant limits of "acceptable" behavior, outsider who are somehow central. Like Siva, they combine opposites; like Siva, they are dancers.
Conjunctions like these are the hooks on which Patkin hangs his hybrids, his prophetic absurdities, his plays among the poetics of paradox and of the lowbro pun. His apt title for his strategy of multiple iconographies, Where Each Is Both, is itself an aphorism on collaboration, for the piece developed out of hi work with the Argentinian writer Pedro Cuperman, whose understanding of both Patkin's art and Siva are integral in the work. Cuperman's own voice emerges clearly in the short novel he wrote to be exhibited alongside the sculpture, in a group of booklets. The juxtaposition of Patkin and Cuperman, each with his ow kindred yet divergent reading, is, of course, one more site upon which Patkin builds his baroque architecture of intuitive symmetry.
Siva is unpredictable, illusory, androgynous, various, constantly inventing new faces for experiential reality. He makes us believe through the sheer seductive power of the dance. As such, he is the supreme model for creativity, a holistic alternative to the Judeo-Christian God (whom Patkin evokes in a suite of paintings accompanying his glass Siva, one of them showing two hands almost touching, as in Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel God and Adam--and also as in two of the glass arms of Where Each Is Both). In Hinduism, Siva isn't the creator o the world--he's the creator of an image of the world, an image that we believe. He has woven a potent fiction. To accept this principle is a testament of faith as is art itself. And Patkin's inspired act of acceptance makes his work not a statue of Siva, not a representation, but Siva itself.
Siva is so accessible to Patkin's free-associative reading, so capable of mutant allusions, because he himself was born of convoluted beginnings in a number of different cults. Behind Where Each Is Both lies not just Nataraja but a whole lexicon of Sivas--Mahadeva, Sundaramurti, Mahakala, and also the lingam, the Hindu phallic pillar, a fertility symbol evoking not so much biological reproduction as the redirection of sexual energy toward transcendence. It is the connection between such states and the invisible powers of music that drives today's rave dance culture. Transcendence there is usually of the chemically induced variety, but before dismissing it, remember that Siva is intimately associated with the psychedelic datura plant, and that his favorite drink is bhang, a hallucinogenic brew made from cannabis.
Nataraja is simultaneously the wise teacher and the itinerant mendicant, the archetypal social outcast, per forming the tango of anarchy that those outside the confines of acceptable behavior inevitably shadow-dance. For all his benevolence, this is a moody and volatile god, at times ferociously angry. With one hand he is capable of vast destruction with the deadly element of fire. Yet he creates with another hand, raises a third hand to tell us not to fear, and points us to safety with a fourth. Patkin has orchestrated this symphony of gestures somewhat differently (his figure actually has six hands), throwing in Carmen, Josephine, and even Michelangelo, but this is still eminently Siva: the enigmatic smile, the frozen, gravity-defying step, the still pose of perpetual animation, the yogic gaze into the beyond where day-to-day existence melts into a meditation on the irreality of everything real, the burlesque swoon of pure passion and pleasure that seduces us into the magical illusion of the creation itself.
Carlo McCormick is associate editor for Paper magazine, New York, and writes about art, music, and other cultural matters for a number of publications.

 


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