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Christo Vladimirov Javacheff

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Christo Vladimirov Javacheff

Bulgarian/American, b. 1935
Christo Javacheff and his wife and artistic collaborator Jeanne-Claude de Guillebon were both born in 1935, he in Gabrova, Bulgaria, and she in Casablanca, Morocco. Indebted to Vladimir Tatlin's Constructivist edict "real materials in real space," Christo's first artworks, dating from 1958, consist of appropriated everyday objects such as bottles, cans, furniture, and oil drums wrapped in canvas, bundled in twine, and occasionally overlaid with automobile paint. Throughout the 1960s, Christo and Jeanne-Claude outlined proposals for wrapping iconic buildings. They saw their dreams come to fruition in the summer of 1968, when they received permission to carry out three of their undertakings: Wrapped Fountain, Piazza Mercato, Spoleto, Italy, 1968; Wrapped Medieval Tower, Spoleto, Italy, 1968; and Wrapped Kunsthalle, Bern, Switzerland, 1968. The following year, they cloaked both the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago and a mile-long section of the Australian coastline at Little Bay, north of Sydney. Covered with vast quantities of light-colored fabric, battened down using elaborate systems of cables, ropes, and knots, these architectural and natural forms were defamiliarized, transformed into ghostly presences that momentarily disrupted their surroundings.

Beginning in 1970, the artists executed numerous other projects, all of which became icons of environmental art: Valley Curtain, Grand Hogback, Rifle, Colorado, 1970–72, a curtain of orange nylon suspended across a valley; Running Fence, Sonoma and Marin Counties, California, 1972–76, more than twenty-four miles of white nylon fabric snaking across the countryside; Surrounded Islands, Biscayne Bay, Greater Miami, Florida, 1980–83, around six and a half million square feet of bright pink fabric floating around eleven islands; The Pont Neuf Wrapped, Paris, 1975–85, honey-hued fabric shrouding the city’s oldest bridge; The Umbrellas, Japan–USA, 1984–91, a scattering of 3,100 blue and yellow umbrellas in the valleys around Ibaraki prefecture, Japan, and Tejon Pass, California; Wrapped Reichstag, Berlin, 1971–95, the celebrated German government building swathed in silver fabric; and The Gates, Central Park, New York City, 1979–2005, more than 7,500 metal frames fitted with saffron fabric panels and arranged along some twenty-three miles of walkway in Central Park. Due to the staggering cost and increasing complexity of these ventures, in terms of technical know-how as well as the administrative and environmental hurdles the artists were obligated to surmount, realization often took years, even decades.

In his solo work, Christo continues to conceive projects, some existing on paper only, in which found objects—from magazines, newspapers, and street signs, to nude female models, telephones, computers, and automobiles—are wrapped in fabric or plastic and then twined. These assemblages embody many of the themes Christo and Jeanne-Claude explored in their artistic partnership, among them the opposition between the familiar and the uncanny, the veiled and the exposed, the built and the natural environments, utility and futility, permanence and ephemerality.

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