lundi 22 décembre 2008

Charles Avery (Parasol Unit, London)

Untitled (Diagram of the Plane of the Gods), 2006

Untitled (The Eternity Chamber), 2007

Untitled (Globe), 2008 and Untitled (The Grass is Alive), 2007

Untitled (Eternal Forest), 2008

The Islanders: An Introduction

Natasha Degen:
For the past four years, Scottish artist Charles Avery has “inhabited” an imaginary island; his observations form “The Islanders: An Introduction.” Like an ethnographer or a colonial officer reporting from the field, Avery provides exhaustive documentation of this dreamed-up world in the form of text, drawings, installations, and sculptures. The project is well situated in the genre of fabulist accounts of the strange and exotic, indebted to literary works such as Gulliver’s Travels and Borges’s “Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius.” Avery’s tone, however, is obscure and philosophical rather than whimsical. And his island—for all its bizarre creatures and strange cults, its motley crew of gods and its elusive Noumenon—is uncannily familiar. A drawing of “Heidless Magregor’s Bar,” for instance, reveals a typical pub replete with beer on tap, soccer-team decor, a wall-mounted TV, and “cheesy chips” on the menu. The familiar made strange is often a trope of futuristic visions, but Avery’s island, if anything, reaches backward in time: His islanders recall Edward Burra’s Depression-era figures, and his complex, mural-size sketches evoke the fluid energy of Thomas Hart Benton’s work. The project itself harks back to a distant past, when art was primarily narrative and stories were best told through skillful, dramatic renderings. Avery’s talents are particularly suited for such an undertaking; he’s a polymath whose well-executed drawings, woodcuts, watercolors, and sculptures are consistently imaginative.

Chris Fite-Wassilak:
Visitors to the 1904 World’s Fair in St Louis would have had plenty to keep them occupied: eating a newly invented ice-cream cone, or walking among the ‘parade of human progress’ of the human zoo. Here you could find replica villages of the indigenous people of Congo or New Guinea, or the tribes of the new American territory of the Philippines, including the dog-eating Igorots, who created countless rumours of missing pets across the city. You would not have been surprised, then, to find a stall nearby detailing with text, sketches and sculptural curiosities the views and inhabitants of a distant land known simply as ‘The Island’. Witness a taxidermied Ridable, a beast with the stature of a llama, the face of a dog and chicken’s feet. Marvel in disgust at a jar of the highly addictive local snack of Henderson’s boiled eggs pickled in gin. Or hear of the Islander’s most popular tourist attraction, the Plane of the Gods, where living Island deities can be visited. Standing alongside, sporting a safari hat, awkwardly holding a rifle in one hand and a leather-bound travel guide in the other, you might find The Island’s creator, Charles Avery. At Parasol Unit, he presents ‘The Islanders: An Introduction’, an anthropological museum of his findings, bringing together several smaller exhibitions since 2004, when he began work on his imaginary territory. A mixture of Cairo, New York and Avery’s own childhood home on the Scottish isle of Mull, the Island is peopled by faint, tetchy-looking women and gruff, wizened men who occupy a world where there is no distinction between imaginary and physical reality. Taking a range of philosophical theories as guidelines, Avery has created a sort of metaphysical ant farm. On the map of the mirrored archipelago that forms his world, clever puns abound: the Analitic Ocean, Cape Conchious-Ness, the Causeway of Effect. The noumenon – Immanuel Kant’s concept, which describes an unknowable thing that cannot be observed with the senses but only conceived of or believed in – is here a debated beast whose existence is unconfirmed but for which the Island’s hunters relentlessly search. Wall texts describe this society’s paradigms, cults, creatures and places. Large drawings and physical artefacts accompany each text, fleshing out The Island as a vibrant place of constantly shifting existence, but the incessant dialectic of which inevitably seems to arrive at an existential stalemate. The drawings are unfinished, erratic in the precise minutiae they focus in on, as if excerpts from Avery’s ethnographic notebook. The black and white drawing Untitled (Place of the Route of the If’en) (2007) depicts a busy market scene, with peddlers of watches, second-hand junk and geometric sculptures selling their wares to an indifferent crowd. Like William Hogarth or George Cruikshank’s bustling street scenes, there is a distinct sense of alienation, highlighted further by his characters’ detailed, emotive faces, whose grim caricature recalls more contemporary illustrators such as Daniel Clowes. The installation Untitled (Diagram of the Plane of the Gods) (2006) produces in miniature the the Islanders’ bizarre pantheon, including two headless dogs joined at the neck in endless tug-of-war and a small creature called Mr Impossible, who resembles an aristocratic, duck-billed version of Guns ’n’ Roses guitarist Slash. The gods, however, like everything else on The Island, are a profane embodiment of abstract concepts. Take, for example, Mr Impossible, who was deemed a god by a trio of drunken philosophers, arguing that owing to his ridiculous physique he was ‘highly improbable’ and ‘therefore he is essential’. The role of philosophy as status-giver in Avery’s project is telling. The drawing Untitled (Avatars) (2006) shows the interior of a shop full of The Island’s small creatures, both mythical and mundane, apparently being sold as personal avatars. The endowing act of creating an avatar pervades his world, each aspect of The Island an emblematic transcription or one-to-one analogy of some philosophical tenet. This endowment extends to our guide’s own choice of presentation, using the museum set-up to provide us with a static portrait of this foreign place. The philosophy of this exhibition is meant to be an exhaustive epistemology, a summary of characteristics presented to us with an air of finality and predetermined readings. Despite humorous moments in Avery’s writing and the seething life of his drawings, it at times feels like a cross between the obsessive detail of the Klingon Dictionary (1985) and the fictionalized ‘Philosophy 101’ of Sophie’s World (1991). As a result, The Island does not feel like a living place we can imaginatively inhabit. Like the badger-esque King in Exile (2008), this is a stuffed and preserved presentation. Rather than taking part in his explorative creation, we are forced to rely on the artist’s numerous explanatory texts, which relegate the visual elements of the show to pure illustration.

jeudi 27 novembre 2008

Joe Bradley (Canada Gallery, New York)

Schmagoo Paintings

Drawn with grease pencil on white canvas, the boldness of the "one shot" method is undermined by the absurdity of the subject matter: scrawls and doodles that move in and out of figuration. The paintings are direct in there handling and their conceptual derivation. They are a waste of time to try to understand and a pleasure to pursue. For the past two and half years, Mr. Bradley has reconstituted monochromatic painting into a kind of composite building block. By combining stacks of brightly colored panels Mr. Bradley made paintings that were similantiously abstract and figurative, that both quote high Modernist painting and banana splits. In the Schmagoo Paintings, Mr. Bradley extends this project by using doodles as both Modernist talisman and pop cultural touchstone. These paintings draw on the paradox between the modernist impulse towards a raw source of art in the "primitive" and the seamless presentation of a resolved art object. The Schmagoo Paintings are comparable to both Jean Dubuffet's use of the art of the insane as a road map to authenticity and Robert Crumbs sketch books full of aggressively comic and self aware thought bombs. Mr. Bradley uses own version of "children's art" as source material, months of collected envelopes and receipts full of his Picasso quotes and automatic writing. The Schmagoo Paintings are a compression of Mr. Bradley's endless and playful self-examination and a celebration of his immersion in popular culture. These works are full of playful tweaks to our collective art piety, iconoclastic and dark like the late figuration of Philip Guston. The image could be a light bulb or a stick man but the result is a strange pshcological presence. Who would think a badly drawn tennis racket could hold a spiritual presence?

"I came across the word "Schmagoo" in a book about New York City drug culture in the 1960's, it was (is?) used as a slang for Heroin. This struck me as kind of funny, that a narcotic as deep and dark as Smack could end up with such a goofy nic name. Sounds like a Jewish super hero or something. The word stuck with me, and I began to think of "Schmagoo" as short hand for some sort of Cosmic Substance... Primordial Muck. The stuff that gave birth to everything. Base matter. The Bardo. In approaching this body of work, I have been thinking of Painting as a metaphor for the original creative act. The Word made Flesh. The transmutation of Schmagoo into Alchemical Gold." Joe Bradley

Holland Cotter:
Joe Bradley’s quite large paintings at Canada have modesty to recommend them. All you see when you enter Mr. Bradley’s show is a scuffed-up blank canvas. And the six paintings in the adjoining room offer just one rudimentary image each: a cross, for instance, a Superman logo, the number 23. But because the artist doesn’t call on painterly competence, the work stands out in a gallery scene that has, overall, the ready-for-prime-time surface sheen of an M.F.A. show.

Alex Gartenfeld:
In his second solo show at this gallery, Joe Bradley deploys the minimum formal parameters—faux-naive renderings in grease pencil on unprimed canvases—for a painting to merit study. Titled “Schmagoo Paintings,” the works collected dirt during their creation and installation, while creases in the slackened canvases evince where Bradley has folded them. The only work in the front room is a blank canvas with slight dirt markings: It succinctly combines themes of process and formal purity, yet it is hardly a work at all. In the second gallery, a sketch of an unfinished cross suggests a contemplative mode of viewership, permitting the other nearly empty canvases in the room to resemble devotional panels. Bradley doodles symbols that compare painting to a site of reverence by referencing popular idols: The Superman logo is invoked as guarantor of collective security and metaphor for transformation; the number 23 evokes Michael Jordan’s uniform and the 23 Enigma. In one work, Bradley depicts an ichthys in a rudimentary mouth. Titled Abelmuth, 2008, the work was inspired by an illustration in Philip K. Dick’s journal, but it is rendered solely from Bradley’s memory and his personal associations. In Neil, 2008, Bradley uses a single line to demarcate the bottom third of the canvas, recalling Rothko’s roughly radiant color panels but also a kitschy, knowing smile.

Chris Sharp:
This will be a very un-politically correct piece of art criticism. The faint of heart are encouraged to stop reading now. That said, I was recently impressed to hear a New York artist criticize, with distinctly un-PC disdain, a fellow artist for producing work that was ‘not retarded enough’. ‘Retardation’ being the acme of advanced art and any un-self-conscious betrayals of earnest intelligence an act of philistinism, it is as if, over the course of the past five years, a kind of compulsory Dada has integrated itself into the fabric of a good deal of New York art-making. The higher the ‘durr’-factor, the better, apparently, the art. And with this exhibition at CANADA, entitled ‘Schmagoo Paintings’, Joe Bradley has thrown down the ‘durr’ gauntlet. Because it doesn’t get much more retarded than this. Departing from the slightly less ‘durr’ primary-colour minimalist figures he showed at the Whitney Biennial this year, Bradley has produced an exhibition of seven mid-size ‘paintings’ on unprimed canvases (all works 2008). Six of the seven works bluntly feature stick figures, grease-pencil drawings which can be read as: a human figure, a fish in an open mouth, a cross, a Superman symbol, the number 23, and a line towards the bottom of a canvas (a deadpan mouth?) - while the seventh, titled Untitled (Schmutz Painting), bears nothing but the dirt from the floor upon which it was stretched. There is, incidentally, a lot of schmutz, for the same reason, on the other works as well. One thing that can said about Bradley’s work is that it responds to the art-fair attention-span of our time. It can (and should) be consumed in no less than the time it takes to walk in, chortle, and walk out of the gallery. When Martin Barré (a very generous reference) did just as little with white canvases and black spray paint in the early 1960s, it was radical and even beautiful. But here and now with Bradley it is just plain dumb, though that is the point. Whether I, or anyone, likes it or dislikes it is actually beside the point. Which is also very much the point. This kind of work wields the uncanny ability to render all who enter its orbit complicit. It’s a kind of 2008 Lower East Side counterpart to Jeff Koons - though rendered much more poorly. Squarely operating within a paradigm of post-sincerity - it is neither sincere or insincere, having transcended such issues - its mere existence acts as a cerebral black hole, engendering critical paralysis. Any possible reaction you may have to it has been foreseen and theoretically integrated into the work, such that reacting is vain. Whether you like it or not, you’re a fool. And if you profess indifference to it you’re likewise a fool, because such painterly antics require a stand that no one can make. It’s like a work of high modernist fiction - Borges, or Cortazar perhaps - in which you realize that you are part of the plot, but by the time you do - standing in front of the painting or reading this review - it’s too late.

mercredi 26 novembre 2008

Daria Martin (Maureen Paley Gallery, London)

Harpstrings & Lava (2007) focuses on the performances of the actor Nina Fog and the musician and composer Zeena Parkins, both Martin’s long-term collaborators. The two protagonists inhabit separate fictional worlds; Fog, as a feral, child-like character, is enclosed in a darkened space littered with rustling detritus, whilst Parkins, as alchemist, plays both the electric and the acoustic harp in an arcaded set bathed in golden light. As the camera closely follows the performers’ actions and moves between the two environments, oppositions between light and dark, and order and chaos are established and questioned. Martin was inspired to make the film after hearing a friend describe her fantasised vision of molten lava colliding with fine, tensile harp strings, which as a child she wilfully conjured up to arouse intense, but somehow pleasurable, anxiety. In Harpstrings and Lava, Martin attempts to “unpack and unfold the product of another person’s ‘mind’s eye’ “to open its obscurity to others’ similar experiences.

Sally O’Reilly:

Daria Martin’s latest film has an unexpectedly personal origin: the articulation of a dream by one of her friends that hinged on the incongruous tactility of taught harp strings and molten lava. The oppositional premise is represented by a woman playing the harp in a trompe l’oeil colonnaded interior and another more instinctual, even feral, woman, who explores a raggedly organic nest-like habitat, her tentative handling of objects in contrast to the harpist’s attitude of self-possession and virtuosity. As the camera, with its shallow depth of field, roams through a thicket of visual signifiers, themes of empirical knowledge and mystical intuition, connected rather than segregated by their relationship to technology and nature, find form in the dualisms of interior and exterior, light and dark, culture and nature. When the two performers eventually encounter one another, however, Martin does not tip into narrative resolution. The broad, classical themes are made more complex by a collaborative approach to the onscreen performance, the translation from the psychological to the visual seeming more improvisational and convoluted than storyboarded and authored. While ‘Harpstrings and Lava’ can be read in almost essayist terms, it can also be luxuriated in as a painterly experience.

Base: Object (Andrea Rosen Gallery, New York)

William J. O'Brien, Untitled, 2008

Patrick Hill, Unstable Composition #4, 2007. Concrete, glass, steel, canvas, dye

Sara Barker, abject posture, 2008. Clay, cement, cardboard, paint, mahogany

Base: Object
Sara Barker, Patrick Hill, Matthew Monahan, William J. O'Brien, Sterling Ruby
Curated by Cory Nomura
Base:Object brings together five new sculptures which explore the status of the pedestal in contemporary art. Strictly as a tool to present a sculpture, to clarify what is and what is not an art object, and to signify the importance of what is being displayed, the pedestal has been undermined in modern art history since Constantin Brancusi's sculptures in the earliest decades of the 20th century. All of the works in the exhibition subversively complicate the duality of the pedestal/art object relationship and unlike Minimalist sculpture from the 1960s, choose to work with and through the form of the pedestal without completely obliterating it. The pedestal can act as a kind of barrier between art and non-art, simultaneously anointing the displayed and effacing itself. When the pedestal becomes the art object, these hierarchies are crushed into a shimmering sea of infinite difference.

Do you know how diamonds get to us? Three hundred miles underground are heats and pressures that crush carbon into sparkling shapes, driven for months or days or hours along hotel corridors called diamond pipes until they erupt in a pile of taffeta and chocolate some moonlit afternoon, an event no human has ever witnessed.-Anne Carson

The sculptures in Base:Object figure fragility and precariousness, constriction, binding, and fracturing. Surfaces are rough and raw and scarred. These works are experiments to set meaning in motion. These sculptures deny the autonomy of the art object and yet celebrate the motivations and compulsions to make art. The works in this exhibition and by this generation of artists short circuit the embedded ideologies of presentation and recast traditional signs of importance and value. This subversion is made manifest by working a kind of alchemy on the detritus and cheap materials overlooked in a society of consumption.
All of the works in Base:Object display a marked interest in materiality and the painstaking effort of creating an object both seemingly casual and formally rigorous. Eschewing bronze, porcelain, and carved wood, the works in Base:Object are constructed from the everyday materials of the urban world: concrete, Formica, urethane, nylon yarn, canvas, carpet, sheets of glass, bits of wood, foam, drywall. They are the children of Minimalist boxes, no longer simply reflecting the viewers gaze back into the world at large, but displaying their origins in that world. It's the Minimalist cube or the Rauschenberg combine infected by the desires and conditions of the society that bore them. Barker, Hill, Monahan, O'Brien, and Ruby are all working contemporaneously in a time of uncertainty, war, gross economic inequity, financial collapse, and unprecedented environmental destruction. Heats and pressures erupting form-possibilities of renewal built from the ruins of the present.

Catherine Barker:
Spotting trends in contemporary art is a relatively easy task, yet there is greater difficulty in labeling a “movement” while it is still in the making. One attempt might look something like “Base:Object,” a small, articulate show of recent sculpture curated by Andrea Rosen Gallery’s Cory Nomura. Through the work of Sara Barker, Patrick Hill, Matthew Monahan, William J. O’Brien, and Sterling Ruby, Nomura complicates the conventional purpose and appearance of the pedestal (an idea that isn’t fresh but nevertheless comes across as original here). In these works, the pedestal—that once-reliable mediator between viewer and object—is consumed by the artwork in an act of erasure and supplementation. Ruby’s Absolute Contempt for Total Serenity/DB Deth, 2008, a rectangular urethane form that rests off-center on a scratched and dirtied Formica and wood cube, and Hill’s Unstable Composition #4, 2007, a dyed-canvas and glass assemblage supported by a rectangular concrete plinth, incorporate pedestal-like forms, yet the expressionistically worked surfaces of the bases muddy the distinction between practical support structure and aesthetic object. The slender, four-legged “base” of Barker’s abject posture, 2008, buttresses a clay, cement, and cardboard construction in what seems like a clever exploitation of post-Minimal tropes. Monahan and O’Brien, on the other hand, incorporate busy figurative elements into their raised sculptures in an activation of physical and pictorial space. Each of these objects is human-scale and approachable as furniture, but there is something unsettling about the installation as a whole. Invoking the abject, unstable, or contemptuous, these works embody a kind of material anxiety: a tension between modernist principles, display sensibilities, studio production, and determinants of value.

mercredi 12 novembre 2008

Anita Molinero

Râlissam, 2007, 3 plots de chantier infia (au mur). Dépouille, 2001, film adhésif (au sol)

Handy, 2007

Isapsurinfia, 2007, 36000 plaques d'emballages alvéolés


En 1971, Philip Leider, le directeur d’Artforum, la plus influente revue d’art américaine, démissionnait. Les débats internes avaient atteint un point infranchissable : Lawrence Alloway accusait la dérive « formaliste » de la ligne éditoriale, insistant sur la nécessité de devenir plus ouvertement politique et de soutenir des médiums « plus relevants socialement », comme la photo. Directement visées, Annette Michelson et Rosalind Krauss, qui, paradoxalement, peuvent être identifiées comme fossoyeuses du « formalisme » des années 50 prôné par Clement Greenberg, s’en vont créer leur propre revue en 1975 : October, du nom du film d’Eisenstein qui, déjà, avait souffert des attaques du système soviétique l’accusant de « formalisme ». Si cette querelle semble avoir dominé la plupart des revues participant aux débats esthétiques de l’époque, c’est étonnant de vérifier aujourd’hui la persistance de cette polarisation, malgré des variantes et des lignes de partition déplacées. Pour la modernité artistique, le « formalisme » serait ainsi dans une tension permanente de refoulement, et la décoration, sa hantise. Tomber amoureux des formes fait partie, sans doute, des passions coupables. Les plus savoureuses, rajouterait Anita Molinero, sculpteur, qui ne cherche pas la transparence des raisons artistiques, agies par de très bas désirs, des solitudes cachées, des frustrations petites et grandes, des refus imprécis, des haines cultivées avec soin, du manque, du rire, de l’ennui, des joies simulées, de la dépendance épanouie. La rencontre avec Anita Molinero a été impossible et foudroyante. Mes passions étaient du côté d’un art sans identité, les siennes portées sur un art surpuissant, auratique. Ma réflexion dévie de la philosophie analytique, l’argumentation, le refus du poétique, du goût, son élan allait vers l’attachement viscéral, la mythologie personnelle, le romantisme malhonnête. J’ai aimé l’art des années 90 qu’elle avait trouvé impuissant, agréable, invisible, réduit au commentaire. On aimait Bernadette Laffont, pour les mêmes raisons. A la suite de notre premier entretien, j’ai titré l’article La fiancée du pirate, dû à la cabane du film, une sculpture de sorcière, et j’ai critiqué son envie de tenir la sculpture dans les frontières d’une discipline. Anita Molinero signait l’exposition de son nom propre – un manifeste – et n’aimait pas le mot installation, sans passif lourd, sans dettes, sans conflit. Ses sculptures monstrueuses se sont transformées sous mes yeux à l’entendre parler. Leur brutalité humide, leur refus de communiquer, pouvaient correspondre aux préjugés que j’ai choisis d’avoir vis-à-vis de l’art matérialiste des années 80. Et soudain, elle pénétrait les trous de ses poubelles avec une hystérie revendiquée, mêlant le fantasme de soumission (à leur beauté sale) et le désir de dominer la sculpture masculine. Pour parler des trous, elle dira chattes, des excroissances et verticalités, bites. Une sculpture qui réunit les deux sexes, mais garde les archaïsmes stéréotypés de tout fantasme sexuel. Ses monstres frayent un terrain où dominent les hommes, de Rodin à Jeff Koons, pour le conquérir. Le féminisme inversé de Molinero est aux antipodes de celui d’Annette Messager ou Judy Chicago : il n’y a guère de revendication essentialiste d’une identité « féminine » ni, encore, de transgression transgenre. Ses sculptures semblent vouloir s’approprier, pour le défier, le même terrain d’affirmation dominatrice (sur les matériaux, sur l’espace) tenu par une histoire de l’art dominée par la sculpture masculine. Cette revendication du pouvoir de (ses) formes sexuées a souvent fait peur à ceux qui lui préféreraient, femmes comprises, la sensualité, la sensibilité discrète, l’attention délicate au détail. Les monstres d’Anita Molinero sont sales, grossiers, obscènes et manquent de modestie. Elle agit en pyromane pour intervenir sur des matériaux vulgaires et des objets déshonorants, tels des poubelles ou des emballages en polystyrène extrudé, devenues des créatures malformées. Parfois, elle-même se surprend effrayée de leur anamorphose, le temps d’apprendre à désirer leur violence. Les paysages baroques construits par ses expositions semblent par moments sortir d’un désastre projeté par la science-fiction, où des carcasses éventrées sont suspendues au plafond, extrayant ses « effets spéciaux » de la banalité des matériaux. La toxicité de ces environnements joue aussi sur des peurs collectives fantasmées, des mutations transgéniques, des peaux difformes, des furoncles, ou ce nuage radioactif post-Tchernobyl qui traverse ses dernières expositions. Le grotesque côtoie parfois le ridicule, comme souvent dans un film d’horreur. La chaise roulante recouverte d’une plaque d’aluminium déformée et jaunie par le feu, renvoie au siège d’une solitude indissoluble dans le politiquement correct mais aussi à l’embarras de l’incontinence. Les stratégies ironiques sont malgré tout absentes, Anita Molinero les déborde par la brutalité du premier degré et la littéralité suffisante d’un monde somptueusement impur. Dans le rayon des passions coupables du modernisme repenti, il faudrait ranger, à côté du formalisme, l’expressionnisme. C’est un travail qui vient après la déconstruction analytique des années 70, suite au « champ élargi » défendu par Rosalind Krauss, qui tenait la sculpture entre l’architecture et le paysage, allant du ready-made au land art. À l’inverse, Anita Molinero n’hésite pas à réinvestir des notions rejetées (socle, monumentalité) et préfèrera toujours, plutôt qu’interroger la notion d’auteur et d’originalité, le culte d’une personnalité. Une histoire de l’art personnelle et injuste avec stars, seconds rôles, acteurs injustement oubliés, personnages singuliers et oubliables. D’où son malentendu avec Duchamp, ennemi stratégique, à qui elle peut emprunter la vulgarité des objets de travail, mais dont elle refuse le désir passif. «Je fais de l’expressionnisme contrarié», en y cherchant la séduction et la violence, mais mettant à distance la profondeur mystificatrice du geste théâtralisé, les quêtes de soi et autres ascèses. Plus que d’autonomie de l’œuvre, il s’agit de confrontation au monde. Comment tenir debout une sculpture qui puisse concurrencer le réel, du moment où celle-là est partout, du design au mobilier? C’est un conflit que traverse son travail, entre la proximité aux déchets du monde et le désir d’un royaume de la sculpture qui puisse absorber le fantasme et la déraison, puisant dans un langage qui lui serait propre. Mais lequel ? Molinero parlera d’effets spéciaux pour contrarier la culture du design, l’Allemande Isa Genzken s’intéresse au design, à la publicité, aux médias, à l’architecture et à l’esthétique en tant que vecteur d’idéologie. Les deux s’intéressent à la réinterprétation du langage classique de la sculpture dans une tension entre espace public de l’exposition et domaine privé des passions, perméabilité à l’image et mutisme des formes, subjectivité capricieuse et confrontation à l’histoire contemporaine. Si Genzken a souvent été vue comme une réponse à la domination virile des sculptures massives et parachevées du minimalisme, leur préférant l’impureté, le transitionnel, l’instable, l’excès, Molinero semble réagir à la cohérence calviniste, à la moralisation marxiste de sa génération, par le luxe baroque dont la pauvreté est capable, le glamour un peu suintant d’un dancing d’autoroute. Plutôt punk que post-Mao, elle ne transforme pas la contradiction, la corruption de la chair, en lamentation pénitente. Isa Genzken n’est pas citée dans les principaux récits de l’histoire de l’art, tenue longtemps dans l’ombre de Gerhard Richter, époux encombrant. Anita Molinero est trop intempestive, barbare et sdf pour se tenir sous les sunlights de la gloire, vite détournée vers des backrooms licencieux. Pour ma génération, lassée de voir l’art transformé en timide outil pour commenter le monde, en désir pardonnable, Genzken et Molinero sont une dangereuse montée d’adrénaline, deux des plus fondamentales artistes actuelles, capables de faire bander la sculpture.
Pedro Morais (publié dans revue IF n°31, octobre 2007)

vendredi 17 octobre 2008

Alix Pearlstein (The Kitchen, New York)

After the fall, 2008, vidéo, 20'48

Goldrush, 2008, vidéo, 3'05

Roberta Smith:
An Attack on Foam Core and on the Status Quo
Alix Pearlstein’s videos and video installations have always tagged her as a rogue structuralist. She prefers to leaven the mechanics of performance art and the moving image with good-size doses of domestic life, down-to-earth humor and revealing emotion while implicating the viewer in it all through wildly active camera movement. In her show of three new works at the Kitchen, Ms. Pearlstein appears to have taken off the gloves. Perhaps she has paid too much attention to 1970s precedents like the innovations of Michael Snow, Yvonne Rainer and Richard Serra. Perhaps the social and political events of the day have made her mad as hell and unable to take it anymore. Her actors often conduct themselves with an animalistic force; the camera is either unflinchingly immobile or relentlessly on the move. The result is a stripped-down, bare-knuckled starkness — not to mention an occasional obviousness — that is both a declaration of ambition and an attack on the status quo. For whatever reason, Ms. Pearlstein seems to have pulled the emotions and ideas in her art apart and is knocking their heads together. In “After the Fall,” the four-channel video installation that is the centerpiece, the action unfolds on four large screens, one to a wall. It doesn’t take long to figure out that a single scene has been shot by four cameras that either face one another in opposing pairs or circle the room — the very room in which we stand. On the screens four men and four women are divided into two teams by their attire. One group tends toward black and gold and seems ready to go clubbing; the other favors identical tones of pink and red, like overgrown members of the Mickey Mouse Club. The actors move back and forth between the center and the edges, taking part in different vignettes or just milling about, looking conspiratorially into the cameras. Their contact involves a bit of sex, a little violence (usually two couples pushing from opposite sides of a large white sheet of foam core), recurring ridicule and all-cast confabs in which they argue, gossip, vent or flirt. We seldom understand a word they say, but the facts of existence are clear: competitiveness, betrayal, manipulation, occasional moments of intimacy. The general sense of moral shiftlessness is echoed in the literal disorientation caused by the revolving images and our attempts to watch events unfold from four different angles. Life is no more pleasant in two single-channel pieces. In “One Side of Two Women 2” two disgruntled actresses in white walk back and forth, toward or away from a static camera, each one carrying a rectangle of white foam core that she holds in front of her face every time she stops to turn around. Three decades ago pretentious ideas about space, mirroring and repetition might have surrounded this piece; today it seems like a sarcastic meditation on the countless women who have figured in generations of avant-garde film and performance by men. In “Goldrush” the camera moves in close as the group of eight returns, this time to tear apart a sheet of foam core and grab at the scraps. Something — cinema, art, a world — is being destroyed by senseless greed. Not too complicated, perhaps, but painfully familiar right now.

Jerry Saltz:
For the last couple of decades, the seriously wily Alix Pearlstein has been making stark videos that combine group therapy, Pavlovian science, theater, slapstick comedy, and angsty existential pathos. For this large-scale outing Pearlstein is in fine form in several works. In the large gallery is the four-channel After the Fall, a combination orgy, hell, and soap opera featuring a number of lost souls, horny chicks, randy guys, and angry young men walking around one another, coming together, fighting, talking, and staring. It’s anyone’s guess what it’s all about, but it does have a look. In the back room we see similar characters doing similar things with similar results. Pearlstein coaxes you into a handsome visual realm, flirts with you, and then leaves you on your own.

Merrily Kerr:
It’s hard to stomach the sneering characters in Alix Pearlstein’s new videos, not the least because they direct their hostility at us. In the title piece, a racially diverse cast acts out a drama in which actors grope each other one moment and fight the next, then turn to give the camera the evil eye. Two more videos, featuring various run-ins between characters, illustrate the truism that all of us are fatally flawed—a point that’s difficult to dispute when political brawling and financial irresponsibility dominate headlines. Like a theatrical version of Survivor, the self-interested characters in After the Fall act out alliances and betrayals, creatively using a sheet of fiberboard as both barrier and weapon. Red and gold costumes evoke blood and money, while the four-screen projection—shot from different angles—not only suggests competing versions of the story, but keeps our eyes hopping around. When the actors break character and fix us with stony or disgusted looks, the ugliness of the story line and our voyeuristic interest hits home. In the end, everyone’s unhappy, which only underscores the postlapsarian state alluded to in the title while denying any possibility of redemption. An even deeper pessimism suffuses Goldrush, as actors brawl over scraps of the broken fiberboard. Humor emerges in Two Women 2, which riffs on Michael Snow’s experimental film “Two Sides to Every Story,” in which two huffy actors compete for the same role. But while the shorter videos allow viewers to see the actors as other people, the title piece compels us to change from viewer to actor.

Andrea K. Scott:
Pearlstein strips drama down to the bare bones—conflict, intimacy, ritual—in deadpan videos that alchemize the theatrical and the cinematic into a seductive third genre. Call it glam minimalism. In the four-channel video “After the Fall,” eight actors—four costumed in black and gold, the others in red and pink—conspire, break rank, and regroup in an absurd power struggle over a flimsy white board. Dialogue, though audible, is largely incomprehensible. There are traces of Bertolt Brecht, Lars Von Trier, Michael Snow, and even the tents in Bryant Park in Pearlstein’s gorgeous, rigorous mind-and-body game.

jeudi 16 octobre 2008

David Noonan. Iain Forsyth & Jane Pollard.

David Noonan (Chisenhale Gallery, London)

David Noonan's work comprise monochrome silkscreen on linen collages and clusters of freestanding figurative sculptures which expand his graphic images into a more theatrical space of display. Noonan often works with found photographic imagery taken from performance manuals, textile patterns and archive photographs to make densely layered montages. These works at once suggest specific moments in time and invoke disorientating a-temporal spaces in which myriad possible narratives emerge. The large-scale canvases framing this exhibition depict scenes of role-playing, gesturing characters, and masked figures set within stage-like spaces. Noonan's new suite of figurative sculptures, comprise life size wooden silhouettes faced with printed images of characters performing choreographed movements. While the figurative image suggests a body in space, the works' two dimensional cut-out supports insist on an overriding flatness which lends them an architectural quality – as stand-ins for actual performers and as a means by which to physically navigate the exhibition space.

Helen Sumpter:
Mime and experimental dance still have naff associations – especially of black-clad, white-faced figures adopting strange postures – but this is exactly the sort of retro imagery in David Noonan’s new work. Rather than provoking humour or a sense of the bleedingly unhip, Noonan conjures up a mood far more poetic, filmic and, considering the subject matter, oddly still. The artist has collaged monochrome screenprints of these found images – a pasty Pierrot applying lipstick, a group of drama students sitting cross-legged on the floor – on to heavy linen. The black ink on brown creates a sepia-tint effect but the era could be anytime from the early twentieth century onwards, and the imagined context either benignly theatrical or cultish and sinister. Noonan has also carpeted the floor in a jute material and installed life-size cut-outs, allowing the viewers to interact with this giant, 3D film still. Invoking cult film director Alejandro Jodorowsky (‘El Topo’, ‘Santa Sangre’) in connection with Noonan’s work seems apt here. Jodorowsky studied mime with Marcel Marceau before picking up a camera, and while Noonan’s work is far less extreme (and with none of Jodorowsky’s gore-factor), there’s a similar approach to the body and a shared romantic sense of the surreal.

Iain Forsyth & Jane Pollard (Kate MacGarry Gallery, London)

Walking Over Acconci (Misdirected Reproches), 2008 video

Iain Forsyth and Jane Pollard present a new work that pushes their recent series of re-working video and performance work from the early 1970's one step further. Walking Over Acconci (Misdirected Reproaches) is both a re-working and a response to a re-working, again twisting the language of contemporary urban music culture. In 2005, Forsyth and Pollard worked with a young MC Plan B to re-interpret and transform Vito Acconci's Walk-Over (Indirect Approaches) (1973). The result, Walking After Acconci (Redirected Approaches), updated Acconci's harsh second-person narrative address, combining it with the slick aesthetic of contemporary music videos. Speaking directly to the camera, the viewer is cast as the spurned lover watching as Plan B paces the corridor outside detailing the perks of his new lover after leaving "a girl as average as you." Applying the musical tradition of the 'answer song', the new film, Walking Over Acconci (Misdirected Reproaches), gives voice to the other side of the story. Like Smokey Robinson's 'Got a Job' in response to the Silhouette's 1958 hit 'Get a Job', or the song feud between Neil Young's 'Southern Man' and Lynyrd Skynrd's 'Sweet Home Alabama' and more recently Eamon and Frankee's manufactured chart spat with F.U.R.B., there is a fluid space of myth and rumour that moves between each narrative. Casting young female electro MC Miss Odd Kidd, Walking Over Acconci similarly draws on Acconci's original to create a new, stand alone work, while also providing its own direct, razor sharp rebuttal to Plan B's previous claims. In its confrontation?complicit with and completed by you, the viewer?the film extends beyond the re-make to create its own performative genealogy.

JJ Charlesworth:
Getting slagged off to your face by your ex-girlfriend isn’t exactly a pleasant experience. Particularly when the ex in question is a lippy, articulate, loudmouth girl in a stripy top and skinny jeans, who is now going out wiv’ someone who doesn’t give her ANY SHIT, is a great cook and has a big dick too. Lucky you’re in a gallery, and this is just an art video by Iain Forsyth and Jane Pollard, the lippy bird being up-and-coming London MC MissOddKidd. For many years Forsyth and Pollard’s work has explored the border between art, pop music and popular culture. ‘Walking over Acconci (Misdirected Reproaches)’ is their second reworking of seminal video artist Vito Acconci’s 1973 ‘Walk-Over’, in which the artist, pacing to and from the camera in a long corridor, addresses the viewer about the qualities of a third, female subject, comparing her qualities to ‘you’. Acconci’s original tests the question of who ‘you’ is in the relationship between the viewer and an interlocutor who is only really a video image, at the advent of the novel medium of video. Forsyth and Pollard’s remake celebrates how we’ve become used to being addressed directly by a screen image: we’re a generation brought up on the image of the pop singer and now the rapper, addressing the camera and speaking directly to the viewer. MissOddKidd’s songs touch on the generic experiences of young urban life, of drugs and shit boyfriends, and her ‘misdirected reproaches’ are expertly generic and clichéd. Forsyth and Pollard’s insight is in the way they reveal how our culture of TV-mediated emotional authenticity is itself a masquerade, a performance.

mercredi 15 octobre 2008

RAW, Among the Ruins

Uwe Henneken, Herbstgedanken, 2006, Bronze

Marres, Centre for Contemporary Culture (Maastricht, Pays-Bas), mars 2007
Curated by Lisette Smits and Alexis Vaillant:

A ruin is defined as the disjunctive product of the intrusion of nature into an edifice without loss of the unity produced by the human builders. Time, proposed as the principal cause of ruin, serves also to unify the ruin. In a ruin the edifice, the man-made part, and nature are one and inseparable; an edifice separated from its natural setting is no longer part of a ruin since it has lost its time, space and place. A ruin has a signification different from something merely man-made. It is like no other work of art, and its time is unlike any other time. A ruin is always ‘over’, in spite of the fact that it necessarily holds fragments of history. Moreover, a ruin is not in front of us. Decay evolves next to us, not to say with us. That's the reason why we can say that at the beginning, there is the ruin. Modern times have transformed the way ruins and monuments are approached and considered to the point where ruins became "contemporary ruins", closer to present than to past. "Contemporary ruins" are produced both by the acceleration of time and the growing fascination with deterioration. They test the very idea of a ruin within a system of objects structured by the invention of permanency. Good ruins do not illustrate or morally demonstrate this, but are able to re-reverse logics of time from science fiction to archaeology, from peplum to I-pod. Ruin lets off the very idea of theme because the ruin uses up any theme.
As soon as you start looking around, you see ruins everywhere.
Did you ever feel like an old bag in front of a work of art?
This show offers you a group of hopeful ruins, displayed in a classical nineteenth century aristocratic Dutch house. Here you will come face to face with the Nelly faggot, the spunky Nordic suitcase, the marble hand tapping his way through a fantastic water colour bleached world, a booty of damaged artworks, a mountain of freshly white sprayed earphones, the Jason mask without a face, the black plexiglass mandala, the silver animated survival cover, the suspended up bird, the celebration-church-bordello, and many more. Once in The Corridor of Who Knows When, some are arriving, others are leaving. If you expect nostalgia, be assured that nostalgic images just reiterate an inherited set of cultural expectations. These hopeful ruins might not fulfil that promise. A ruin definitely alludes to the dissociation of ubiquitous artworks, lost in their photographic "entombed" time. Hopeful ruins resist their representation by being fragmented and, like raw material, ever again available. They point out the fragility of images, which are just thin illusions, doomed to fail our expectations, doomed eventually to crumble.

Farîd-Ud-Dîn'Attar, Robert Breer, Marc Camille Chaimowicz, Dee Ferris, Jason Fox, Vidya Gastaldon, Richard Hawkins, Uwe Henneken, Karl Holmqvist, Jonathan Horowitz, Dorota Jurczak, John Kleckner, Petra Mrzyk & Jean-François Moriceau, Alessandro Pessoli, Nathalie Rebholz, Nick Relph & Oliver Payne, Re-Magazine, Markus Schinwald, V/Vm, Camille Vivier, T.J. Wilcox, and several historical damaged art works to be discovered.

jeudi 2 octobre 2008

Sarah Braman. Wendy White.

Sarah Braman (Museum 52, New York)

Portland Honeymoon (found objects, paint)

Sleeping Out Summer Night, truck cap, radio, plexi, fabric, wood, linoleum, paint (millieu),
Love Song (soft rock)
, found furniture, linoleum, mirror, paint (arrière plan)

TV in bed, (found furniture, plexi, foam, paint)

Love Songs
Braman allows the incongruous to coalesce with an elegant, human clumsiness. She has an instinctive admiration for inept materials. The works in the show combine found furniture, linoleum, a camping tent and car panels with wood, plexiglas and paint. Braman appears to work without inhibition, second-guessing or self-consciousness. Each material, as with a fault or quality in a lover, is celebrated equally for its flaws and its successes. It is as if she approaches the works with the same mix of vehemence and disregard of someone penning a love song. The materials used have a sense of lost and found or something fallen and risen again. The instinctual manner of her process is akin to the inherent resourcefulness of a child building a den or the dislocated building a new home. Braman embraces the very human need and ability to reconstruct and piece together. Her work acts likes gestures towards shelter. Creating intimate volumes she reformulates materials and space for the better. In one of the sculptures an unattached, thick, foam rectangle sits beneath an off kilter square formed from a large sheet of plexi and a half broken, half cut desk. The form becomes both a refuge and an empty volume. By intuitively adding paint to the sculptures, Braman emphasizes this divide in the formal reading. The paint presents another human need to decorate and embellish, as well as highlighting structural elements such as joints and surfaces. It is as if, in the departure of the sculptures into abstraction, Braman gives a reminder of the hand that put them there. This is not sculpture based on either/or decisions. Beautifully composed interlocking planes, and subtle contrasts of light and color are built of roughly cut materials, balanced on awkward angles, loosely painted and combined with sagging cloth. The works are not concerned with all that is wrong and all that is right with sculpture, but instead oppose such finitudes, allowing a freedom to exist within the knowledge that the finite has been decided for us anyway.

Roberta Smith:
In its extensive use not only of found materials, but also of found furniture, Sarah Braman’s latest contests between painting and sculpture are larger and more ambitious, if also a little more generic. Her tilted structures now incorporate parts of desks, shelves and car panels, a device that makes them more difficult to understand from any single position. The greater complexity also creates more opportunities for applied color and brushwork, which, in turn, coax you to circumnavigate the pieces. The resulting unfolding and interplay of hand-made and mass-produced is unexpectedly rewarding, although it would be better if the level of slovenliness were lower.

Wendy White (Leo Koenig Inc., New York)

Autokennel, 2007, Acrylic and spray paint on canvas, metal and softball

Pile Driver, 2008, Acrylic on canvas

Wendy White’s compositions utilize a distinctive abstract language that alludes to the bombardment of the everyday. Urban sprawl, space junk, graffiti, buried hazardous material, and the accumulation of refuse are punctuated by heavy black areas that map a direct trail from the ubiquitous to the subconscious. Unafraid to conjure real feeling and emotion in these works, White gives new form to the bombast of rock concerts and the mass elation of sports arenas. Built organically and intuitively, these works balance accident and scrappy paint handling with compositional coherence. While White seems to work with reckless abandon, her off-kilter compositions prove well considered with time, though perhaps deliberately confounding. Just when one begins to get involved in a lush patch of painterly abstraction, a field of blank white canvas, almost large enough to topple the composition, is encountered. Flatness combats depth, black is balanced against white, and fluorescent colors fade and emerge on top of a surface that is consistently finessed.

Jerry Saltz:
There are so many artists inspired by Christopher Wool, Albert Oehlen, and Charlene Von Heyl right now that you’d think those people were Greek Gods. While many of their imitators’ work can look dandy-like and mannered in its nonchalance and quasi-expressionism, a number of younger folks are hitting pay dirt. One is Wendy White, who balances wildness and withholding, with a dose of something almost diabolically planned. She delivers three punches at once: Color, graffiti-like agility, and formal structure. This prevents her work from looking angsty, imitative, and fake. Her paintings have a presence the reminds one of billboards and websites, something at once physical and disembodied.

Jennifer Coates:
Wendy White’s debut show at Leo Koenig features paintings made of multiple canvases abutting each other, as though the frantic activity that splays across them can barely be contained. Airbrushed passages recalling graffiti tags create sooty densities that are offset by large expanses of white. Bits of fluorescent colors appear here and there, glowing like toxic embers. White’s technique ranges from sprays and smears to taped-out areas that have been painted over, leaving a glyphlike residue that evokes the relationship between the written mark and the painted one. White places sculptures assembled from found materials beside her paintings, creating a theater where real life is pulverized into abstraction. The objects, which look like they come from a 99¢ store, provide a reference point for the paintings, preventing them from seeming too utopian, while allowing the possibility for narrative readings. In Autokennel, a softball sits atop a metal rod in front of three frenzied canvases, as if to say that the paint has been pitched out or run around the bases of a game. A small white-and-black soccer ball juts out next to Mrs. Dash, invoking the speed and aggression of the World Cup. The brushstrokes seem to track the ball’s trajectory as players struggle to get it into the goal. Athletic and spastic, White’s work sparks with style and energy like Ab Ex on Gatorade.

mercredi 24 septembre 2008

Phoebe Washburn (Zach Feuer Gallery, New York)

Tickle the Shitstem
Phoebe Washburn's work explores generative systems based on absurd patterns of production. In Tickle the Shitstem, Washburn has developed a system/environment in which production and waste are equally important. The Shitstem generates its own products along with the inevitable byproducts or waste, and at times, there is little or no distinction between the two. The installation simply keeps churning, producing and hemorrhaging cyclically unless it is interrupted by a failure. Products of Tickle the Shitstem include beverages, pencils, colored urchins and t-shirts.

Karen Rosenberg:
Over the past few years Phoebe Washburn’s installations have evolved from wavelike aggregations of scrap wood to a more sophisticated form of recycling: working “ecosystems” of plants, water and sports drinks. Consumerism enters the picture in her latest site-specific project, which demonstrates a hyper-awareness of “green” technology and its ubiquity as a marketing strategy. In a Rube Goldberg-esque process, a series of pumps and hoses connect the gallery’s three rooms. T-shirts are laundered in a washing machine, and the “gray water” is then filtered and used to dye sea urchin shells. The candy-colored urchins are offered for sale (as are Gatorade, colored pencils and screen-printed T-shirts) in an elaborately constructed wooden storefront. Eventually, the water is pumped into a kiddie pool-turned-fountain. Some elements of Ms. Washburn’s system — bits of greenery, fish tanks filled with Day-Glo golf balls — seem more decorative than functional, but it’s hard to tell. The work’s scatological title connects bodily and industrial waste. Ms. Washburn suggests that the byproducts of art making must also be dealt with, and that resourceful artists can find ways to benefit from this new economy.

Nuit Banai:
With attractive international interns operating a store and reggae resounding through the gallery, it’s easy to dismiss Phoebe Washburn’s show as a hipster event. Yet this Poughkeepsie, NY, native, who was in the 2008 Whitney Biennial, has a lot more to offer than just good times for sale. Washburn’s multi-part installation, with its naughty, scatological title, is a quirky cross between a child prodigy’s science fair booth and a DIY project gone wrong. Its centerpiece is a washing machine in which used T-shirts are rinsed daily before being branded with the word ort and sold for $25 each. The water used in this process is then slowly purified through a series of vats and tanks. The end result eventually fills a massive barrel, which is emptied by the intern on duty. Washburn’s “rules of the game” stipulate that the excess water needs to be creatively reused. Plants are hydrated; sea urchins, T-shirts and pencils are dyed and sold; soda is peddled so that the bottles might be recycled to hold more water. It’s a never-ending battle to keep the system functioning as production and consumption, usable material and waste, become outlandishly interchangeable. With supply exceeding demand, defeat seems inevitable, and the remainder of each day’s water is transported to a plastic kiddie pool where it ungracefully stagnates. Washburn’s show is a powerful demonstration about the fragility of our natural resources, which, when intertwined with human needs and desires, are placed in grave jeopardy.

David Cohen:
Locating Propriety in the Inappropriate
There is something appropriate in finding Zach Feuer Gallery open for business in mid-August with a Phoebe Washburn’s installation, when the rest of Chelsea is a ghost town. Seeing this Dadaistic riff on productivity in a gallery district that feels like the artistic equivalent of the rust belt cannot but accent an initial response to it. Almost every door on West 24th Street has notices of apology as galleries prep themselves for the relaunch of the season, after Labor Day. Ms. Washburn’s sprawling, complex, decidedly nutty piece, “Tickling the Shitstem,” which is something of a “happening” in the old-fashioned sense, a work poised between sculpture and performance, is all about the foibles of an improvised production-line. Because it is a zany exploration of progress and decay, this is a work that, by its very nature, will unfold and only fully realize itself with the passage of time, when the built in failures inevitable in such as wacko system are bound to take effect. By the time the art world throngs to the gallery for the delayed private view on September 4, therefore, the piece will have had a couple of weeks head start on its audience. This probably explains the odd choice of opening time for such a highflying young artist who, at 35, has already been the subject of solo exhibitions at the Berlin Guggenheim and UCLA’s Hammer Museum. As you enter the gallery, you are confronted with what has become the trademark look of a Washburn piece: a shimmering surface of at first seemingly randomly knocked together 2-by-4s, appearing like a cross between panicked or lackluster carpentry and some outgrowth of nature. But this ramshackle first impression is deceptive, and this is a robust, if primitive seeming, workable structure. Turn the corner and you see that it houses a hive of industry — or to be more precise, commerce, as a pair of workers offer an odd mix of merchandise, in the form of unappetizing soft drinks, printed tee-shirts, and various inexplicable souvenirs whose enigma is their sole attraction.Penetrate further into the gallery and another workstation presents itself, linked to the sales barn by various tubes and wires. There is a washing machine feeding a stepped arrangement of glass tanks, the top three of which are filled with brightly colored golf balls, and the last a hardy water plant. Off to one side, though again linked with hosing, is a big orange Igloo drinks cooler, filled with sand, and feeding a garbage bin over the top of which a dirt tee-shirt is stretched, attached with bright orange pegs that match the cooler and one tank of golf balls. In a third space is a water feature, a fountain surrounded by garishly colored rolled up towels, once again linked to the goings on of the other elements of this playful factory. Such Heath Robinsonian ingenuity — everything works, but only just, and by the most circuitous and intentionally obtuse means — serves to underscore how, despite the efforts of Andy Warhol, “art” and “factory” are a contradiction in terms. A factory, after all, turns out something useful with streamlined efficiency, whereas art, as Oscar Wilde insisted, is by definition useless. The aesthetic experience, in fact, is what is exposed by inefficiency, in the cracks between expectation and actualization. By now, the viewer is itching for explication which is at hand from the press release, or the salespeople back at the souvenir shop. The industry here revolves around the machine washing of found tee-shirts, and the management of the liquid waste emerging from that process. The stuff for sale — soft drinks of the same colors as the golf balls, the bottles to be filled afterwards by undrinkable waste liquids of the same colors — is secondary to the process of its own manufacture. In fact, the “shitstem,” as its name implies, conflates waste and productivity. Faux-industriousness has a long pedigree in the Dada tradition, dating right back to Marcel Duchamp’s meditations on constellations of displaced mechanical objects (chocolate grinders being a favorite) in such works as “The Bride Stripped Bare by her Bachelors, Even” (1915–23). This proceeds via the twittery, jerky pointless-seeming machines of Jean Tinguely to Ms. Washburn’s neo-Dada contemporaries. These include the late Jason Rhoades, with his manically compulsive arrangements of appropriated detritus; Ms. Washburn’s stablemate at Zach Feuer, Danica Phelps, with whom she shares an obsession with color-coding; and the technophile absurdist Roxy Paine, with his elaborate machines for making art. Semantically close to the scatalogy of Ms. Washburn’s Shitstem is Wim Delvoye’s “Cloaca,” a super-elaborate machine that produces excrement. But while there might be some shared intentions and values with these waste generators, with a humor tinged by ecology, Ms. Washburn’s aesthetic stands in contrast to that of Messrs. Paine and Delvoye in that it eschews mechanical streamlining to insist on a homey, hippy aesthetic of the handmade and pieced-together, recalling instead — though without the heavy handed moralizing — the not much fun fair aesthetic of the Swiss Thomas Hirschhorn. Another distinction of Ms. Washburn’s strategy, bringing her closer to the American installation artist Sarah Sze, is a willingness to create elaborate mechanisms in which an allowance of some kind of erosion or failure is built into the life of the work. What Ms. Washburn does have in common with all these artists is a need for narrative. This, however, is a departure from her artistic origins. When she first came to public attention with her staggeringly sumptuous installation of stacked and tacked together shards, such as “Nothing’s Cutie,” her debut solo exhibition at LFL (the precursor of Zach Feuer), the emphasis was on the formal experience, not its underlying meaning, although the very use of detritus and the rushed sense of improvisation undeniably gave the piece an ecological edge. This was a moment in her development when the experience could only be described in abstract, phenomenological terms: Kim Levin, for instance, aptly observed how Ms. Washburn’s “improvisational logic is rhizomic, fractal and not nearly as precarious as it looks.” Now, the emphasis has heavily tipped from form to content, from stasis to process. With more “happening” there is correspondingly less that is sculptural. Recalling the impact of that early work, it is hard not to regret Ms. Washburn’s progress, and to yearn for a reconnection with her initial ecstatic creativity. In the meantime, though, and taken on its own terms, her funky aesthetic affords plenty that is fun and thoughtful, which is not a bad place to be.

vendredi 12 septembre 2008

Material Presence (Project Space 176, London)

Mark Titchner, When We Build Let Us Think That We Build Forever, 2006

Laura Buckley, Cubit 1 (Plywood, Perspex, Motor, Film Projection)

James Ireland, Youve Got To Hide Your Love Away, 2004 (steel frames, nuts, bolts, washers, twigs, glass with vinyl printing)

Work by artists who use found, industrial and pre-fabricated materials to produce immersive works that directly affect the viewer’s senses.
The works drawn solely from the Zabludowicz Collection and will include a massive new commission by Graham Hudson, which will occupy the main hall of the former Methodist Chapel at 176 Prince of Wales Road. Art works by Buckley, Holme and Hudson act as interchange stations between painting and sculpture, with multiple references to real and abstract space and ruminations on formal properties such as transparency, opacity, colour, shape and line. A combination of formal and emotional undercurrents runs through the works, which will literally inhabit the spaces of 176 in poetic, disturbing, ghostly or uncanny ways. The curatorial approach will highlight both the constructivist heritage that these works draw upon, and the phenomenological impact they can have on the viewer. The impressive scale of the installations will transform the building at 176 into a sequence of powerful experiences. Sound and movement, whether machinic, kinetic or related to moving image, will be important features of these installations, lending them a significant sensory impact.
Laura Buckley’s installations include a variety of components ranging from constructed plywood structures to coloured Perspex surfaces and film projections. Mechanical movement is an important part of her sculptures, and her films conjure up memories of early modernist experiments in form and motion by László Moholy-Nagy. An idiosyncratic use of light also marks out the work: sleek moving surfaces periodically reflect the beams of Buckley’s projections, creating hotspots and dazzling the viewer.
Myriam Holme’s work can be considered as painting in an expanded field. Working with bamboo, chalk, fabric, glass, thread, wood, and paint, her sculptural and painterly language enfolds the visitor in a web of associations both physical and emotional.
Graham Hudson will produce an ambitious new commission for the Zabludowicz Collection, responding to the unique physical environment at 176. Hudson’s practice involves sculptural assemblages made from various materials including traditional building stock and found objects, carefully composed in precarious, expressive or humorous ways. As with the other installations in the exhibition, the use of sound and light plays an important role in Hudson’s work.
James Ireland’s work is characterised by a novel take on the tradition of landscape art. Incorporating natural, artificial and industry-standard elements, his sculptures address our understanding of the sublime and the mundane. Ireland’s works highlight an uneasy sympathy between the fragility and beauty of nature and the constructed environment.
Alexej Meschtschanow’s sculptures inhabit an uncanny realm in which the everyday is transformed and institutional furniture is reconfigured to take on an anthropomorphic or zoomorphic air. Recognisable signs and objects are reconstructed by the artist and adopt sinister undertones, evoking paradoxical feelings of familiarity and anxiety.
Katja Strunz’s work combines formal geometric elements with experiments in texture, finish and nuanced colour. Her expressive constructions inhabit space in a dramatic way, heightening the visitor’s awareness of his or her environment.
Mark Titchner’s major installation When We Build Let Us Think That We Build Forever (2006) includes sound, moving image, light, sculpture and printed fabric in an installation with an imposing material presence. Alluding to Plato’s allegory of the Cave, Titchner’s total environment interweaves references ranging from the Bible to artistic movements such as modernism, surrealism and suprematism, and filmic references such as Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange (1971). The result is a heavily charged symbolic space in which sound and light are used to create a powerful effect on the viewer.

Jonathan Griffin:
I seem to have been visiting a lot of shows after dark recently. Surprisingly often, this is quite appropriate: the limited hours of daylight and wintry weather outdoors naturally lend themselves to the exhibition of spooky art, of things that go bump and clatter in the night. The latest exhibition at 176, the former Methodist chapel now employed as an exhibition space by collector Anita Zabludowicz, seems to deliberately exploit these seasonal atmospheric conditions. Even before the first art work comes into view, noises reminiscent of wind whistling through windows fill the gallery’s café space; not remembering any such exaggeratedly gusty weather on my way in, I imagine that the building itself had engendered its own microclimate. I follow my ears past Katja Strunz’s wall-mounted sculpture Fall into Space (2008), through a door into the building’s main gallery (once the church’s nave), where a towering wood and scaffold construction looms out of the darkness, creaking and whirring with intermittent lights and sounds from within its planked interior. The installation, a specially commissioned work by Graham Hudson, is titled On Off (2008) – a curt description of its modus operandi, which simply involves a number of record players and lights switching themselves on, then quickly off again, apparently at random. The windy sound effects are produced by the records coming up to speed and immediately slowing down again, an effect that also allows disturbingly distorted snatches of voices and music to emerge from the hubbub. As if that wasn’t unnerving enough (particularly in an unlit empty church at night), a winding and uneven staircase invites the viewer to ascend two storeys to a platform near the ceiling. Once entered, the construction becomes a berserk and disorienting environment, a skeletal and precarious house of horrors. With all its wires, bolts and electrical mechanisms exposed, it plays on the cinematic device so often used in scary movies: when the source of the eerie noise or ghostly apparition is revealed to be nothing more than a radio left on or a dust sheet in the breeze; rather than diffusing the initial sense of alarm, the hitherto innocuous object is imbued with a supernatural sense of foreboding. I hasten next door, where James Ireland’s delicate assemblages of found objects and images reveal, when seen from certain perspectives, sudden flashes of Romantic landscapes – mountain panoramas, sunsets and lonely trees – before dissolving immediately into their constituent parts: steel brackets, panes of glass and twigs. Like On Off, Ireland’s work relies on a physical engagement from the viewer, who crouches and peers to catch the fleeting alignment. Perhaps it’s my mood, but the uncanny qualities of the sculptures seem to evoke a chilly sense of unease – though more Alfred Hitchcock than Wes Craven – through which the objects emphasise their own deadness by their brittle allusion to natural landscape. Mechanical Poem (2007) is an installation by Laura Buckley, comprising four works that variously play with the reflection and refraction of light from DVD projections and lightbulbs through, over and across plywood and acrylic constructions that double as supports and housings for the lightsources. The result is simultaneously enchanting and banal; one element, titled At the Summerhouse (2007), includes a film of a figure arranging and rearranging small squares of Perspex, glass and mirror on a bench outdoors. Scenes reflected from off-camera – sunlit trees, sky, clouds – dissolve over the geometric formations with an unexpected melancholy. The tone is far sterner in the neighbouring room, occupied by Mark Titchner’s When We Build Let Us Think That We Build Forever (2006). The impressive installation, involving animated projections (of Tate Modern being consumed in flames), runic panels, sculptures, lighting devices and films on monitors, seems to aspire to the graphic cohesion and purposefulness of a cathedral, although the meanings of the objects and images were obscured (perhaps as religious imagery would be to the uninitiated) by aesthetic stylisation and linguistic arcana. 176 is a difficult space to show art in; the dilapidation of the building’s fabric and its evident former life as a church does not suit all types of work. Titchner’s and Hudson’s installations succeed particularly well for thematic reasons, and also owing to their theatrical bearings. Strunz’s elegant Fall into Space, whose rusty surfaces and dramatic arrangement I can imagine looking quite striking in a white cube, fares less well here. In two smaller rooms tucked away upstairs, a strange poltergeist seems to have been at work, pressing institutional furniture into perverse agglomerations or unhappy feats of levitation. These are in fact sculptures by Alexej Meschtschanow, which, like Myriam Holme’s spidery and materially eclectic installation next door (combining thread, glass lumps and sticks, amongst other things), seem perfectly at home in these abandoned spaces. Bringing life to inanimate objects – an ambition at the core of the traditional sculptural impulse – is recast by ‘Material Presence’ as a paranormal concern, an alchemical practice of almost sinister implications. Wrapping a scarf around my neck, I scurry out into the night. The wind has risen, and it’s started raining.

mercredi 10 septembre 2008

microwave (Josée Bienvenu gallery, New York)

Graham Dolphin, 25 Leadbelly Songs

Jacob Dyrenforth, Crowd #3, 2008, Pencil on paper

Kamrooz Aram, From the Series Irrational Exuberance, 2007, Ink on paper

An exhibition of drawings by seventeen artists who set up various processes of fragmentation and erosion of information. Close attention is given to execution, a concentration on the production process itself. A microwave is useful everyday to cook fast, or once a year to look at slow drawings. Since 1999, the (almost) annual edition of microwave has been an opportunity to confirm the emergence of a new attitude. As an alternative to an inhospitable era, microwave identifies an international host of artists who commit to the obscene activity of paying attention. With intense focus, patience and precision, the artists in microwave document the relentless propagation of delicacy as a subversive attitude. Ernesto Caivano, Dean Smith, Károly Keserü and Renato Orara bring drawing to an extreme, as a sort of “maximalism.” Through the endless weaving of minute components, they accumulate signals and vibrations impossible to detect without an extraordinary level of attention. Tones, hues, and shades combined with density, shapes, and intangible forms result in a grand yet subtle game, always remaining just a fragment of a whole. With obsessive attentiveness to detail, Jim Hodges, Stephen Eichhorn and Kamrooz Aram subvert the conventions of monumental practice, poetically linking evanescent moments in works of self-confident beauty. The works in the exhibition touch upon the very fragile nature of communication and exchange. Allyson Strafella’s typewritten drawings on transfer paper, Alexandra Grant’s multilayered wordscapes or Rivane Neuenschwander’s Ze Carioca altered comic books, explore ways of recording, fragmenting and obliterating information to create new non-verbal narratives. Data manipulation is also at the core of Brian Lund’s graphic translations of film sequences and of Jesse Pasca’s charted drawings: Moore’s Law, My Heart as a Stock Market and How To Be Human, map the correlation between human activity and systems of scientific data. Through minor operations on paper the artists in microwave disturb established systems of expectations. Jacob Dyrenforth’s pixilated pencil drawings of crowds at rock and roll concerts and Graham Dolphin’s scripted vinyl records disrupt and reprocess the clichéd aspirations of popular culture and the glamour industry. Growing up in Utah in the Mormon Church, Casey Jex Smith explores narratives in ancient scripture. Andrew Scott Ross’ Re-Collections inventory given museums. Randomly floating in space, artifacts are depicted in a constant curatorial drift, suspended from interpretation and hierarchy. Phoebe Washburn exposes generative systems based on absurd patterns of production. With their elaborate notations and coding, the un-monumental drawings are microcosms of her convoluted architectural environments.

Jesse Coburn:
In this age of big-budget artistic spectacles, an exhibition devoted to delicacy and detail is somewhat of a rarity. As such, “microwave, six” is a subtle but resonant success. Comprising works by 17 artists, it explores the limits of drawing as a medium, playing along the boundaries of precision and distortion. Jacob Dyrenforth’s pencil drawings—exceedingly exact depictions of indistinct, pixilated photos of crowds at ’70s rock concerts—are thoughtful and exhaustive, blending the shortcomings of one medium with the limitless possibilities of another. Ernesto Caivano’s Echo, which employs a similar bare-bones palette of ink and graphite on paper, is an engrossing abstract illustration that evokes movement and explosive force. The precision of Caivano’s rendering is countered by the work’s expression of unconstrained energy—a duality present in Dean Smith’s bi-polar #3 as well. Other artists in the show apply a similar diligence to experiments with methods of communication. In Rambo: First Blood Part Two (1900 + Edit Cuts), Brian Lund represents the famous action film’s plot as a series of dashes and colored dots. As the information encoded within is indecipherable to perhaps everybody but the artist himself, one is left to admire the graphic representation of a camp classic, and to assume that the ubiquitous patches of red signify Stallone, mowing down commies in the jungles of Vietnam. While the show lacks a prevailing conceptual framework, the individual efforts are uniformly impressive, making “microwave, six” dreamy and evocative throughout.

The New Yorker:
Minimal means and pop-culture references guide the seventeen artists in this show of works on paper. Allyson Strafella types colons in colored ink until the paper shreds to lace; Kamrooz Aram’s portraits coalesce from clouds of minute ink dots. Graham Dolphin draws directly onto the cover of the album “Double Fantasy,” tattooing John and Yoko’s faces with hair-thin scripts; Jacob Dyrenforth’s pencil drawings painstakingly transcribe pixellated black-and-white photographs of crowds at rock shows. Renato Orara draws a gorgeous octopus in ballpoint pen on the splayed pages of a book titled “Kant and the Platypus,” though what octopi and platypuses have in common with a-priori knowledge is anybody’s guess.