vendredi 22 février 2008

Rita Ackermann is Chinatown's Irma Vep

Rita Ackermann, 2007

Spencer Sweeney, 2007

Georg Gatsas expose ses photos de la scène downtown new-yorkaise chez James Fuentes

Klara Liden. Seth Price.

KLARA LIDEN (Reena Spaulings, New York):

ROBERTA SMITH (The New York Times):
In previous exhibitions at this gallery Klara Liden, a Swedish artist with a socioarchitectural bent, has built ingenious perches for people: things to climb into and look out from while ruminating on materials, meaning and space. In her third show — her first on the funky second floor to which Reena Spaulings moved in 2006 — Ms. Liden has once again rethought the gallery space. This time she has made two perches, with results that, while more ambitious, lack the clarity of her earlier shows. In a large, walled-off portion of the gallery Ms. Liden has built a small room accessible through a long, narrow hallway. The entry suggests a tenement apartment; the interior, carpeted and outfitted with a leather couch and tiny fluorescent wall light, is a dim, clubby hangout. The remainder of the walled-off space is for pigeons, lured from a park across the street with birdseed and a landing platform placed in a partly open window. If you’re inside the little room, you can sometimes, but not always, hear pigeons scratching around overhead, socializing, eating, possibly building nests as cozy as the little room. (In the dimness I found myself wondering how much light there is in a birdhouse.) But the piece clicks completely only if you request access to the larger space that the small room and its hallway penetrate, the roughly finished, light-filled terrain where the pigeons come and go. Splattered with droppings and strewn with seeds, it is both birdhouse and private park. This inside-out space can evoke Vito Acconci’s legendary, long-ago “Seedbed,” at the Sonnabend Gallery in SoHo, where the artist lay beneath a raised floor, attempting to masturbate while broadcasting his fantasies about the people walking overhead through a microphone. It is comforting to realize that this time no one has to be alone, whether inside the tiny room or out. The piece is titled “Elda for krakorna,” a well-known Swedish colloquialism that translates as “heating the crows” — as in having a house so wastefully overheated that it warms the birds outside. Ms. Liden adds another layer, offering comfort to pigeons while suggesting that humans use more space than they actually need. Also on view are two poster paintings, made by adding a sheet of clean white paper to rectangles of layered posters cut form the walls of Copenhagen. They sandwich fresh and recycled, pure and worldly into a wonderful solidity.

Andrea K. Scott (The New Yorker):
A narrow passageway leads to a dimly lit chamber with a leather sofa. It looks perfect for a meditative moment or a makeout session—but what is that noise coming from the ceiling? Liden’s white cube within a cube, constructed for this show, includes, unseen to the viewer, an entryway for pigeons and food to lure them in. Lurking in their own space behind and above the little room, they provide a subtle but uncanny soundtrack of scratching, pecking, and shuffling. Depending on your mood, you might find it soothing (a phenomenological reminder of a world outside our own) or infernal (like an audio outtake from Hitchcock’s “The Birds”).

SETH PRICE (Friedrich Petzel Gallery, New York):
1. A computer search for the most basic terms: 'eating', 'drinking', 'writing', 'touching', 'mother,' etc. The result might be a digital image, a "jpeg", for example. The image depicts human interaction: people kissing, someone being fed, a person laying a hand on another's shoulder. The situation is familiar, but not necessarily clear. At one point this was a photograph, now shrunken, squeezed through the eye of the needle, its information digitally compressed for easy circulation and distribution. It appears as a tiny, lapidary screen image, though we know that if enlarged it will slip away, its edges decaying as the effects of compression become evident.
2. This image is not used, in favor of the area around the image, the negative space, excess, that which lies between the figures.
3. Then, an industrial process: massive enlargement, computer-controlled cutting, woods, plastics, metal. A design process, the fabrication of a "look and feel" that had not previously existed.
A book will be published by The Leopard Press.

KEN JOHNSON (The New York Times):
Smart, lucid essays by the resourceful and influential young conceptualist Seth Price persuasively argue that the best arena for today’s avant-gardists is not the art gallery but the Internet. Mr. Price still produces gallery art as one dimension of his multifaceted conceptualist enterprise, but he is not as interesting an object producer as he is a writer. Intellectually mandarin yet flatfootedly literal, the works in this show are like illustrations for a thesis about the obsolescence of the human and the natural. They revolve around photographs of hands downloaded from the Internet — hands writing or holding cigarettes, people shaking hands and, most frequently, one hand dropping a key into another. The hands have been blown up and abstracted into empty silhouettes surrounded by areas of printed color or by laser-cut sheets of transparent plastic backed by exotic wood veneers. The pixelated contours of the silhouettes reveal their derivation from digital sources. The wood veneers mock consumerist nostalgia for things natural and exotic. The key might be for unlocking digital codes. Metal panels with the hand images printed on them resemble generic industrial signs. The larger, multipart, plastic works spread across the walls in vaguely maplike arrangements. Mr. Price’s message evidently is that in our computer-programmed world the human touch is history. In prose Mr. Price could expound on that and related insights to illuminating effect. The art objects that his ideas inspire, however, are at once bluntly obvious and irritatingly elliptical.

mercredi 20 février 2008

Ricardo Jacinto (Culturgest, Lisbonne)


L'un des artistes portugais les plus brillants de sa génération (33 ans) expose dans la seule institution véritablement excitante actuellement à Lisbonne (Culturgest, dirigée par Miguel Wandschneider).

jeudi 14 février 2008

Rewind 2007: Substance & Surface (Bartolami Gallery, New York)

Ghada Amer, Black Torment & Black Absence 2005 (Embroidery and gel medium on canvas), Piero Golia Untitled (12 x 30 in. Monochrome) 2007 (Painted wood and wood pedestal). Jim Lambie Y-Footo 2002 (Mattress and silver vinyl tape)

Eric Wesley, 26 Miles of Cynic Beauty

Bozidar Brazda, Idle Idol

Monochromatic works made on or with alternative materials. Using a Piero Manzoni achrome kaolin painting on gravel glued to board as a starting point, the various works in the show all explore unconventional or traditionally non “high art” materials such as coal dust, carpet, fabric, embroidery, tar, plastic and sand. These materials are often used together with more traditional art making materials such as paint, ink, canvas and wood. For some of the artists, the atypical materials have become part of their primary working methods, for others they represent one series or facet of their art-making.

Ghada Amer, John Armleder, Bozidar Brazda, Piero Golia, Thilo Heinzmann, Gregor Hildebrandt, Mike Kelley, Jim Lambie, Paul Lee, Glenn Ligon, Lovett/Codagnone, Daniel Joseph Martinez, Donald Sultan and Eric Wesley

The work in these shows is not always in complete agreement; usually a dissenter or two takes a stand for intricate craftsmanship, language or narrative. Bortolami’s “Substance & Surface,” though, is nearly unanimous: it takes the Modernist monochrome as its not-so-sub subtext. Given the long history of corrupting the monochrome, it shouldn’t be as interesting as it is. The show’s vitality may reflect a good theme-to-variation ratio. Nearly everything here has corners and a single color, and adheres to the wall, if only by a cable, like Bozidar Brazda’s “Idle Idol,” a dangling television set sprayed with orange car paint. But substances and surfaces vary. The combinations include paint, sand, cassette tape, tile or silver vinyl tape, on carpet, paper, canvas, plywood or mattress. Sly allusions to artistic elders occur. With three perpendicular slices in a black bath towel, Paul Lee ingeniously evokes black-and-white panels by Ellsworth Kelly. Historical precedents are here too: Piero Manzoni’s small rectangle of pebbles painted white, from 1959; John Armleder’s green pegboard, from 1984; and Donald Sultan’s new hulking black painting in the tar and spackle he has used since the 1970s. Piero Golia’s piece resembles a small white biomorphic sculpture on a wood pedestal that has been installed sideways on the wall. It looks like a substance seceding from its surface.
In These Shows, the Material Is the Message By ROBERTA SMITH, August 10, 2007

Bozidar Brazda's 2007 Idle Idol is as mischievous as its title: A big, boxy TV set hangs inside a net of steel cables suspended from a metal armature. Spray-painted bright orange, it hovers dumbly above the floor, shorn of its original purpose but still as metaphorically loud and blunt as much of the content it once conveyed. Quieter drama is slowly revealed in John Armleder's sheet of pegboard painted a wan shade of green. Beige dots appear in some areas, where the perforated masonite is affixed to a wooden frame; elsewhere, the holes reveal subtly shifting shadows in the space between the surface and the wall. Whether it's Jim Lambie's mattress swathed in duct tape or Paul Lee's black bath towel, roughly cut out of its edge seams to form a ghost of itself on the white wall, all of the works in this fascinating show prove that, indeed, beauty may be only skin deep, but sometimes that's more than enough.

Rewind 2007: Stubborn Materials (Peter Blum Gallery)

Stubborn Materials
Peter Blum Gallery
Curated by Simone Subal

Larry Bamburg, Jonah Freeman/ Michael Phelan, Nick Herman, Rosy Keyser, Jutta Koether, Ian Pedigo, Heather Rowe

Stubborn Materials features eight New York-based artists who use materials in a paradoxical manner in order to reinvigorate the interpretive possibilities of abstract art. These artists place attention on a particular detail or an overlooked element as a means to reorient the reading of the work. Their formal decisions investigate the metaphoric and narrative potential of materials. Larry Bamburg’s kinetic installation combines swirling fishing lines, scraps of paper, and an electric ceiling fan. This creates an unexpected experiential situation, where the evocative motion confuses the actual reading of the work, leaving the viewer to wonder if what he or she sees is a flock of birds, a swarm of insects, or just scraps of paper. Along similar lines, Ian Pedigo’s sculptures and two-dimensional works are made from found and reclaimed debris. In an attempt to recontextualize these materials after they have dropped out of commercial circulation, Pedigo builds seemingly unstable objects that play with systems of associative memory. Heather Rowe probes architectural modules and fragments. Diverging components such as industrially produced materials are set into a relational structure with decorative elements like mirrors, producing an extended narrative about how individuals negotiate space. Jutta Koether’s punk-poetic paintings play with the tension between pictorial surfaces and applied materials, and form a complex yet straightforward layering of expressive abstractions. This translation of exterior references and connotations into a gestural language can also be seen in Rosy Keyser’s large-scale paintings. Here, an often rough technique of pouring paint is combined with a deliberate attention to detail. This allows Keyser to equally blend emotional and rational concepts. Nick Herman’s sculptural and two-dimensional objects are studies in cultural archeology, addressing questions of geology, anthropology, and sociology through formal strategies. Jonah Freeman and Michael Phelan’s large prints are scans of crumpled aluminum foil. The precision of these images suggests an expansive landscape, however this allusion is contrasted by the matter-of-factness of the actual material.

The art in “Stubborn Materials” at Peter Blum Chelsea breaks rank with the wall, the rectangle, abstraction and even the object itself. Among the show’s several newcomers, Larry Bamburg contributes a nearly invisible spinning galaxy made of tiny bits of detritus (beads, paper clips, a dead cricket) strung on monofilament from the blades of a revolving ceiling fan. Ian Pedigo creates wall pieces and sculptures by combining found and made materials with startling grace: an old straw mat here, a red-stained cylinder of foam on a tripod of bamboo there. Rosy Keyser, another newcomer, has a promiscuous pictorial sensibility that veers from an enamel-and-sawdust abstraction, to a fittingly obstreperous collage tribute to Robert Smithson, back to an abstract splash of silver paint that looks like frozen mercury. Nick Herman is even more capricious. He makes a polyurethane cast of a rock face look like bronze, constructs a duck blind with silver twigs and feathers made of magazines, and then goes over to the dark side of realistic obviousness with “Halves,” in which sculptures of the front portions of a wolf and a sheep confront each other warily. Heather Rowe presents a mirrored wall piece that is more two-sided (and domestic) than you think, and uses more mirrors and perceptual tricks to evoke a domed pavilion from 1914 by the architect Bruno Julius Florian Taut. Jutta Koether contributes a small, shiny Minimalist triangle and a large, moody canvas that riffs on Neo-Expressionism; both black, they seem to honor the opposite poles of postwar German painting, Blinky Palermo and Anselm Kiefer. The ever-practical Jonah Freeman and Michael Phelan make large, lustrous archival prints from scans of rumpled aluminum that are triple plays on Gerhard Richter’s work. This smart and subtle show has been organized by Simone Subal, the gallery’s director. Full of ricochets among seemingly disparate works, it celebrates the endurance of art and beauty by emphasizing happenstance and fragility with materials that refuse to relinquish their identities.
In These Shows, the Material Is the Message By ROBERTA SMITH, August 10, 2007

Most of the artists in this show were born in America in the seventies, which positions it as an essay on the current Zeitgeist. Refreshingly, the statement it makes about young artists’ preoccupations is convincing without being portentous, ironic, or abject. Junky materials predominate—a dead cricket, a cast-urethane rock, aluminum foil, old surf photographs, insulation foam, flocked wallpaper, mirrored glass—as do highly formal configurations, such as Ian Pedigo’s fraying rattan beach mat collaged with newsprint and mounted on the wall, or Rosy Keyser’s splat of house paint and sawdust on canvas. The show, which was curated by Simone Subal, takes a stance that is witty, restrained, and ambitious.

Amid a show of elegantly resuscitated detritus (such as Ian Pedigo's conglomeration of yellowed newsprint and ratty straw mats), Larry Bamburg's abject constellation of fishing line strung with masking tape, paper scraps, and Band-Aids rates special notice. Suspended from two ceiling fans, one with shorter blades centered beneath a larger fixture, these skittering networks spin in opposite directions, forming nested, ephemeral cylinders. Dull lead weights and a red plastic bead dance with scintillating grace; a snarl of plastic line flashes in and out of skylight sunbeams like a stuttering angel. It's a celestial carousel for one of Italo Calvino's diffident galaxy trippers.

Rewind 2007: Good Morning, Midnight (Casey Kaplan Gallery, New York)

Lisa Lapinski, Christmas Tea = Meeting, presented by Dialogue and Humanism, formerly Dialectics and Humanism, 2007

Leica Dole-Recio, “Untitled,” 2006; Roger Hiorns, “Joy,” 2003

Curated by Bruce Hainley
Casey Kaplan Gallery

Jeff Burton, Brian Calvin, Lecia Dole-Recio, Trisha Donnelly, Vincent Fecteau, Richard Hawkins, Roger Hiorns, Jasper Johns, Larry Johnson, William E. Jones, George Kuchar, Lisa Lapinski, Sturtevant, Mitchell Syrop

Oh God how I hate penny in the slot thoughts and actions, and oh God what terrible harm they cause. If I live I will call my next and last book There is no penny and no slot and if you pinch that title or variations I’ll climb up to your window and give you nightmares. (This is a joke.)
Anyway there is no penny for the slots. Not for writing or the black versus white question—the lies that are told—or for anything at all that matters. Only for lies. Yet everybody believes in the non existent penny and the invisible slot. So what to do? -Jean Rhys, from a letter, 1963

Jean Rhys’ novel, Good Morning, Midnight, was first published in 1939.

While I wish to pay homage to her novel, its staunch mood and mode, its indifference and bleak humor in an uncertain moment, in the show, which is no illustration, I also wish to consider any given medium used against itself and the rapidity with which one thing, form or action, becomes another. That said, there is no penny and no slot.

Holland Cotter (New York Times):
This mostly Californian group show is the brainchild of the estimable Los Angeles-based art critic Bruce Hainley. And it feels a little like his writing: smart, buzzy, mordant, uncanonical, the kind of writing that makes most of the rest of us sound like uptight schoolteachers. In “Good Morning, Midnight” — the title is from a Jean Rhys novel — Mr. Hainley sends up a few thematic balloons, but he keeps them light and drifting. Sex is one theme, but it’s oblique. Jasper Johns’s “Tantric Detail” is basically an abstract drawing that happens to have genitals. Jeff Burton’s photograph of a pornographic movie shoot keeps the action mostly off camera. William E. Jones’s short videos made from cut-and-splice bits of vintage pre-AIDS pornography are primarily mental turn-ons, metaphysical meditations. He’s a majorly underknown artist. The show has a glamour thread, too, or maybe anti-glamour, but either way it’s unemphatic. In Larry Johnson’s “Untitled (The Thinking Man’s Judy Garland)” (1999-2000), neither Garland nor anyone else is in evidence. An installation by Lisa Lapinski carries a hefty theory- studies title: “Christmas Tea=Meeting, Presented by Dialogue and Humanism, Formerly Dialectics and Humanism.” But the piece itself just looks breezily enigmatic. Enigmatic — lighter than mysterious — is the word I’d also use for work by Vincent Fecteau, Richard Hawkins, Trisha Donnelly and Roger Hiorns, all artists I like. And I’m glad to see Mitchell Syrop here, with a text painting that reads “There’s No Device to Record It” but gives no hint of what “it” might be. The best for last, though: the filmmaker George Kuchar, author, with his twin brother, Mike, of “Reflections From a Cinematic Cesspool,” director of “Ascension of the Demonoids,” in which sex, anti-glamour and many other imponderables meet. When the day arrives — and it will — to appoint an official United States cultural ambassador to Outer Space, Mr. Kuchar is the obvious choice. I will say no more. See his films. He is beyond enigmatic. He is “it.” I salute him.

Katie Sonnenborn (Frieze):
For ‘Good Morning, Midnight’ Los Angeles-based critic Bruce Hainley united a group of mostly West Coast artists, many of whom have rarely shown in New York. His title comes from Jean Rhys’ eponymous novel, written in 1939, which she herself had appropriated from a line in an Emily Dickinson poem, and the works Hainley chose have similarly associative relationships. The show, however, was no illustration of Rhys’ chronicles of her alcohol-infused life in and around Paris in the years before World War II. Rather, Hainley attempted to capture the multifaceted complexity of the novel, a story painting a dark and witty picture of that uncertain era in restrained and limpid prose. He also created a visual articulation of the smart, effervescent and unorthodox writing style for which he himself is known. The show opened with a mesmerizing trio: a luscious Jeff Burton photograph of a So-Cal porn scene where gay sex vies with the scintillation of mid-century Modernist décor; a hanging sculpture by Roger Hiorns in which fibrous steroids are delicately contained within two reflective triangular crystals; and a comical video triptych by Sturtevant about porn for toy animals. Blown out by the bright summer sunlight flooding the gallery’s glazed entrance, the trio foreshadowed topics that would be spun out in the exhibition: sex, glamour, magic and abstraction. In the next gallery a fifth theme, religion, was introduced, and one began to sense the political subtext lying beneath the surface of summer fun. Reflecting Rhys’ oblique treatment of fascism and xenophobia, Hainley chose artists who address sober issues without belabouring the darkness or over-determining answers. Jasper Johns is one of the show’s elder statesmen, an artist whose radical approaches in the 1950s continue to play out with relevance and tact, and elegantly engage issues of homosexuality played out elsewhere, including William E. Jones’ Film Montages (for Peter Roehr) (2006). In his monochrome charcoal print Tantric Detail (1980) a skull, a scrotum and a chain evoking both semen and rosary beads, among other things, co-exist within his elegiac chevron pattern and manage to be both elegant and crude. Lisa Lapinski echoed the complexity of family values and religion in Christmas Tea = Meeting, Presented by Dialogue and Humanism, formerly Dialectics and Humanism (2007), a bleakly humorous sculptural assemblage where swastikas, crosses and Stars of David intermingle with less loaded patterns in a lattice fence. Hiorns’ work was a high point of the show, and the four distinct sculptures provided a mini-exhibition for the British artist’s New York début. In Before the Rain (2003) models of Notre-Dame and Ulm cathedrals were dipped in copper sulphate to create a crystalline blue surface. The replicas were then shelved in a cabinet of red glass, Perspex, wood, paper and tape, materials that recall Donald Judd and reflect Hiorns’ reconsideration of the principles of Minimalism. In turn, Joy (2003) came from a series of steel sculptures sprayed with perfume, the stained metal plank leaning insouciantly in the corner opposite an unlikely scatter piece made of contact lenses – two silly situations that unfold into seductive alchemical shifts. Hiorns’ unlikely material treatment also unveils unexpected characteristics such as beauty, fragility and a deep sense of melancholy. Lecia Dole-Recio’s elegant abstract collages share these concerns by exploring the metes and bounds of a restrained palette and a limited vocabulary of arcs, ellipses, slices and slivers. Her gestural geometries are echoed and articulated by Vincent Fecteau’s strange and unusual papier-mâché maquette. Curiously, much of his object’s presence is achieved through Fecteau’s surface treatment of the bulbous forms and the mottled pattern of pinky-orange and black paint that he applies by hand. These literal fingerprints resonated in Larry Johnson’s Untitled (Land without Bread) (1999–2000), where the artist’s imprint is used to obscure portions of the frame. In these instances one picks up on Hainley’s tenet that material is not the measure, as well as his admiration for artists who use a medium against itself. Richard Hawkins’ Polaroids in Study for Sculpture (1997) presented another example: table-top towers of household junk that function as sketches for sculptures. The show came together in the work of the maverick artist and filmmaker George Kuchar. Watercolour portraits of the cult sci-fi and horror novelist H.P. Lovecraft (1977) and the apocryphal (but sometimes glimpsed) Mothman (1982) injected a peculiar, alien spirit into the exhibition. They also demonstrated Kuchar’s brilliant use of colour and shed light on the way he manipulates his palette to articulate scenes in his films. But the stylistic similarities with strains of American Realism, particularly the over-the-top colours and distorted perspectives of artists such as the folksy Thomas Hart Benton, underscore the abstraction encoded within representation. Mostly, it is Kuchar’s eccentricity, his passion and belief that strange encounters make us more human, that illuminates the self-confident curiosity among the works here. Inspired by Rhys’ bold and uncompromising voice, Hainley presented a group of artists who powerfully challenge our expectations of material, form and subject.

mardi 12 février 2008

Rewind 2007: Jochem Hendricks (Haunch of Venison, London)


Oleg's Ear

German artist Jochem Hendricks’ practice explores the social codes and boundaries that we live by, as well as questioning received ideas surrounding beauty and value. His projects often involve investigative processes more normally associated with scientific enquiry, questioning the boundaries of legality and using materials that raise complex moral and ethical issues.
A series of works see organic matter - birds, a human leg and a human ear, which the artist acquired in the former Eastern Block - transmuted into diamonds, including Cold Birds (2002-5), Left Defender Right Leg (2002-5) and Oleg’s Ear (2004-6). The original processes were carried out in two former Soviet research establishments; the subjects were first converted into pure carbon which was then used to produce synthetic diamonds. For Hendricks an ‘official’ collaboration with the institutes was impossible, resulting in a series of complex and sometimes dangerous negotiations and transactions to realise the works. For the ongoing work Grains of Sand (1999-2007), the artist paid assistants, often illegal immigrants in Germany, to count precise numbers of grains of sand, up to several million. The quantities of sand are presented in beautiful hand-made glass vessels, making it impossible to verify whether or not the numbers given are accurate or not. Such works raise questions about the value and meaning of labour, as well as notions of truth and imagination. Are there really 5,279,063 grains of sand in a given vessel, as the artist suggests, the result of hundreds of hours of work, or is this in fact an elaborate fiction? Hendricks will also show a new installation, Pack (2003-6). On the top floor of the gallery the visitor is confronted by a threatening pack of fighting dogs. Having procured a number of the dogs and had them ‘prepared’ under his direction, Hendricks presents us with a tableaux which offers a very direct confrontation; we are made to feel the object of the dogs’ malevolent attention and therefore question our attitude towards them.

German artist Jochem Hendricks mixes processes with material things and ends up with new, much odder objects; a kind of conceptual alchemy that is both romantic and rational, and works for as long as you buy the story you’re being spun. This, his first solo show in Britain, presents a selection of work from the last 15 years, yet it seems oddly fresh, which perhaps says much about the current fashion for object-friendly concept art with a political twist. Ideas of work, art, human purpose and economic value abound here: so in the various ‘Grains of Sand’ sculptures – sand-filled glass bubbles – we’re told that assistants, often illegal immigrants, were paid to count the sand, grain by grain, sealed inside. Two large teardrop-shaped glass urns are apparently filled with the tears of the artist. More ambitiously, human and animal life are literally condensed to their purest forms in a display of yellowish diamonds set in velvet-lined display cases; a human ear, an amputated human leg and various birds were reduced to their weight in pure carbon, these were then further refined to produce synthetic diamonds – all done through dodgy dealings with ex-Soviet scientific research establishments. Tall tales? Hendricks’s skill is in how his unseen back-stories meld with the actual presence of the work – it’s hard not to imagine the essence of living matter concentrated in these tiny jewels, not to consider the troubling transition from suspiciously acquired body parts to luxurious art trinket. Hendricks has a sly, sarcastic humour filled with restrained empathy – often toying with art-world etiquette and the artist’s complicity with it, yet looking for the moment in which material objects reveal their identity as the products of human intentions, their social constraints and potentials. JJ Charlesworth , Fri Aug 31

Rewind 2007: Sarah Sze (Victoria Miro, London)

Tilting Planet

A Certain Slant

Sarah Sze’s constructions are a kind of cornucopian vision of ordinary things, transformed by their wayward proliferation and combination, given new life by Sze’s sorcerer’s-apprentice touch; coloured cords and yarns stretched like laser-beams, plastic bottles bisected to appear half-submerged in the concrete floor, armies of map pins marching through bivouacs of writing paper, desk lamps, carpet tiles, a sea of colour-swatch cards – things that in isolation are the useful stuff of office life, or the working world of DIY. Sze takes all these colourful manifestations of plentiful, democratic consumerism and releases them from their usual duties, choreographing them into theatrical displays full of little dramas and narratives. Admittedly there’s a certain cuteness to all this – it’s hard not to be amused as you watch a plumb-line wafted by a desk fan, its point dragging through a mound of white powder. But such charms are a small part of Sze’s bigger project of sculptural re-invention. Constantly playing with one’s sense of scale, Sze lets you examine a cluster of objects as if in a museum display, then throws objects into play that suggest massive architectural installations. Among the manufactured things are elements of the natural world – slender branches here, a flower there. Sze presents this as a hybrid of urbanism and ecology, in which even nature becomes part of the synthetic order. Yet whether there’s an environmentalist moral beneath is less clear – Sze’s celebration of the abundance of things is too infectious. JJ Charlesworth, Mon Sep 10

Rewind 2007: Thomas Zipp (South London Gallery)

Planet Caravan. Is There Life After Death?
A Futuristic World Fair

Garnering inspiration from art history, politics, philosophy and popular culture, Thomas Zipp uses a range of media, primarily painting, to create new narratives out of grey areas of human history. Zipp uses unlikely combinations of sources and genres to trace a sense of familiarity within the absurd. Planet Caravan. Is There Life After Death? a Futuristic World Fair takes its title from a record by British Heavy Metal pioneers, Black Sabbath, and explores mankind's tendency to represent universal truths and ideas through science, philosophy, religion and art. Zipp finds inspiration in the moral ambiguities and oddities this produces. Painting and objects collide in freestanding panels, each one referring to a model or system by which mankind has attempted to understand the nature of the reality in which we live. Subjects include concrete poetry, nuclear physics, numerology, cosmology and still life. References to individuals who led such thinking include the astronomer Tycho and his early relativist theories, Martin Luther and religious reform, and 20th century scientist Fritz Haber who received a Nobel Prize despite developing chemical weapons. A series of display stands featuring such peculiarities as models of atomic reactors, paintings of skeletons and voodoo telephones create a labyrinthine installation illuminated by fluorescent chandeliers. Carved wooden apples, recreations of ‘degenerate’ modernist sculptures and a globe of Pluto, which was downgraded to a ‘dwarf-planet’ in 2006, also appear. Built around this core body of paintings and sculptures, Planet Caravan. Is There Life After Death? a Futuristic World Fair is an evolving installation re-imagined and reconfigured for each new space. Previously shown in two German public galleries, Zipp combines existing works with a substantial new installation for its South London Gallery incarnation: a chapel built within the gallery. Inside the building, paintings and a carved stone baptistery are devoted to mushrooms and fungi. Zipp’s fantastical installation is suffused with a surrealist sensibility, verging on the eccentric and theatrical. It extends the artist's concerns with what he describes as ‘the weirdness of mankind’. Through these subjects Zipp creates a darkly humorous alternative world on the borders of the rational and irrational, debasing everyday beliefs and assumptions.

Rewind 2007: The Blue Flower (Søren Grammel)

Die Blaue Blume
On the Configuration of Modernistic Utopias
curated by Søren Grammel at Grazer Kunstverein
Avec Saim Demircan (D/UK), Heidrun Holzfeind (A), Katarzyna Kobro (PL), Hilary Lloyd (UK), Vaclav Pozarek (CH/CZ), Lasse Schmidt Hansen (D/DK), Juliane Solmsdorf (D), Florian Roithmayr (UK/D)

At the beginning of the twentieth century, artistic avant-gardes demonstrated that new awareness gives rise to new forms. Some assumed that this process is reversible: from distribution of a form to new general awareness. The construction of a new understanding of space as an allegory of work on a new reality. But when do forms become authoritarian ornaments? Formalisms that organise common mind-sets so as to choreograph society as a mass?
“The Blue Flower” constitutes a space made up of some old and some new artistic works that seek utopia in form and that recognise a yearning for a different reality in abstraction. The starting-point for this essayistic space-ensemble is the attempt to create a carpet, following in the vein of a graphic design by Bauhaus artist Anni Albers. What remains of the idea embodied by this design? Is there a representation of the self beyond its status as social capital? Albers’ carpet and the works surrounding it open up their own angles on the complex connection between formal questions and the desire for a good life, the search for the blue flower.

Then there is a steel strap created in 1920 by the Russian-Polish sculptor Katarzyna Kobor. Albers tapestry was made in the same year, whereby the concept underlying Russian Constructivism is combined with that of the German Bauhaus. More recent compositions are grouped around these two historically succinct pieces of art, which were created as a direct reaction to Albers, or consciously chosen in this context. Among them is Hillary Lloyd's diascopic projection of different variations of colored cardboards. The modernistic discourse which is being held in this objet d'art, refers to the gateway between manual and industrial production, which was considered to be the decisive factor of art- and object composition during the Bauhaus era.

Strates (Nicolas Bourriaud, 2008)

Le Penseur des trous (2002), Diego Perrone

Nicolas Bourriaud semble vouloir rattraper un train en marche, pour mieux rebondir. Quand une nouvelle génération d'artistes réagit aux pratiques "relationnelles" qui ont dominée les 90's (dont il a été le prophète), il lui aura suffit un déménagement à Londres pour faire un refresh the page. Le voilà concerné par l'intérêt de cette nouvelle génération envers l'héritage de la modernité. Un volte-face où il joue sans doute sa permanence, et où les candidats à la mainmise théorique sont déjà nombreux: de Jan Verwoert à JJ Charlesworth, de Vincent Pécoil à Yann Chateigné. Nicolas peut partir avec retard, mais il ne faudra pas sous-estimer son potentiel de reloading (attendez la prochaine Tate Triennial, où il devrait faire mieux que Beatrix Ruf).
Il vient d'être le commissaire de Strates, une exposition à Murcia en Espagne, qui a refusé de s'intituler biennale, formule épuisée (même si c'est sa périodicité), et reste un des projets les plus réussis de l'auteur depuis Playlist (au Palais de Tokyo). Dans les entretiens à la presse espagnole on lui a posé la question: "Quel est votre avis sur cette stratégie artistique des relectures de la Modernité, très répandue actuellement?" "Je crois que les artistes posent un regard sur le passé pour comprendre le présent, de la même façon que le futur a été l'objectif des artistes de la Modernité. Plus rien ne disparaît, et pourtant le passé peut être un continent intéressant à explorer. Dans notre monde trépidant, avec la puissance de l'industrie du divertissement et de l'amnésie, la mémoire devient quelque chose de très précieux dans l'art. Pas une nostalgie, ni un refuge dans le passé, mais un traitement créatif de l'histoire, l'histoire comme un outil de travail".
Et il se place, dans un tournant pour le moins curieux, à contre-courant de l'impasse posé par un art "documentaire" (celui de Manifesta 3, 2000; Biennale de Venise 2001, Documenta de Kassel, 2002), un "symptôme de la perte de confiance dans le pouvoir de l'art en tant que système signifiant capable de traduire notre rapport au monde avec ses moyens propres." Il défend maintenant la spécificité de la forme artistique, pas formaliste mais impliquée dans l'expérience, face à des modes de représentation inspirés des formats médiatiques.
Bon, je crois rêver.

Strates par Nicolas Bourriaud:

What if the past played an identical role for us that, in times gone by, the future played for modernists? This was the first question that came to mind when, during my first visit, I was taken aback by the layout of the Arab city, and by the numerous remains of Islamic civilisation surfacing beneath the European present. This historic sedimentation can be made out in the urban fabric, taking the form of an open-air archaeological site, in which the past and the present coexist, and echo one another. The urban reality of Murcia is the ideal place for carrying out an exhibition about this key problematic in contemporary art: many artists today borrow archaeological methods, excavating in the contemporary world or digging into History, giving their research the same attention to detail that specialists in lost civilisations do. In this case, archaeology is seen from the point of view of the method, not so much as an area of expertise, and even less as a form of nostalgia: far from extolling the past, these artists survey it, in order to better explain the present. They also apply archaeological techniques to the field of contemporaneity. The arche, the foundation, is unearthed in their work to illuminate us about ourselves. This archaeological research can then be applied to the most distant past, as well as to the most recent events in time, even up to the present moment. Time is succession; space is simultaneity. But, how can we not see that in our time, lacking in any “grand narrative,” nothing more will ever disappear into the realm of the forgotten? For the modern age, the past represented the tradition only recently replaced by what was new. For the postmodern, it served the purpose of a catalogue, or a repertoire. Today, the past is defined in territorial terms: when we travel, we do it to change temporality; in contrast, examining an art history book refers us to the options chosen by the geography of contemporary styles and techniques. Therefore, the urban reality is currently an open book in which artists can explore the stratum of the past, and the footprints of what is to come. What is certain is that the future no longer exists in the contemporary artist’s universe, except under the guise of science fiction, a literary and film genre whose origins go back to the 19th century, and which will, from now on, be located in the past. Now the notion of the future is expressed in art through “special effects”. Technology mechanically produces the narrative of our future days.
Many signs show that, within this hierarchy of times, the past has become the subject of a veritable interrogation. Our obsession with the traceability of products and destinations, the omnipresence of ecological catastrophe as a collective horizon, our mistrust of political utopias, all tend to annul any representation of the future. We live with our eyes glued to the rear-view mirror. In this new mental configuration, increased by the sensation of supersonic chaos brought on by the age we live in, the past represents the only stable and reassuring element at our disposition. ESTRATOS’’ is intended to be a reflection on the exploration of the past as terra incognita. The work of two writers, W.G. Sebald and Jorge Luis Borges, together with that of an artist, Robert Smithson, undergird the theoretical elaboration and the formulation of an inquiry, taken up and amplified by the work here presented. W.G. Sebald’s work mixes documentary and fiction, incorporating captionless black and white photographs into the body of the text. Sebald’s obsession could be summarised in the following way: the way people’s memories and past events besiege our lives and give form to the space around us. We live in an immense narrative, among ghosts: How can art decipher and reformulate this world of signs? As for Borges, we know that he liked to quote Bishop Berkeley, who asserted that time passes from the future to the past. In his story Tlön Ubar Orbis Tertius, the Argentinean writer invented a group of people who saw the world, not from a spatial point of view, but from a temporal perspective. In that way, discoveries can only exist in the past: all research is archaeology; the present is perpetual. Can we consider art today from a Borgesian point of view, that is, without historicalness? Current interest for Smithson’s work has brought the concept of the long term to the forefront of artists’ concerns. Could it be a subversive idea in our “liquid modernity” (Bauman), who puts the rotation of products and the recycling of refuse in the centre of his economy? ESTRATOS” poses these questions. Some artists respond to them through the exploration of the different layers that make up the present, while others do it by creating a space that redistributes the usual order of time. As when walking through the streets of Murcia, here we find the complexity of the questions raised by the persistence of memory in a modern time, tired of its flight forward.


lundi 11 février 2008

Rewind 2007: Michael Stevenson (Vilma Gold, London)

The Fountain of Prosperity

We know that economists talk about monetary flow, but a machine devised to illustrate the concept – employing dyed water to gush and eddy through sluices and chambers labelled things like ‘surplus balances’ and ‘federal reserve’ – sounds distinctly fishy. It turns out, however, that such a contraption was built by the New Zealand economist Bill Phillips in the late-1940s. Called ‘Moniac’, this early computer looks a bit like a vending machine. Fifteen were produced and shipped to cities around the world. New Zealand artist Michael Stevenson has constructed this show around the model purchased by the Central Bank of Guatemala. Unable to track down the actual machine, he has imagined what it might look like with age. Rather than some magical elixir coursing through its veins, the dejected-looking version in the gallery is furred with rust, the chamber marked ‘held balances’ is empty and a few coins have been lobbed into the tank at the bottom. This sense of abandonment is in stark contrast with ‘The Living Circle’, a 1950s US public information film that, with breakneck speed and a jaunty mix of real and animated footage, takes us from Mayan history to the banana industry of Central America, masking what we know to be an unfair trade with upbeat platitudes about opportunities for prosperity in developing countries. We’ve been here before, of course. Contemporary artists love to quote failed models – of politics, commerce, design – applying hindsight while cashing in on past miscalculations. Certainly, the stacked banana boxes as you enter the space seem an unnecessary parapet from which to lob blunt messages about fiscal imbalance. But Stevenson seems cannier than most, his slowly decomposing machine an acknowledgement that art about failure is itself an art of diminishing returns.
Martin Coomer, Mon Jul 23 2007

“Answers To Some Questions About Bananas“ is a re-telling of Michael Stevenson’s recent encounters with the first economic computer – a dedicated hydro-mechanical analog from the 1950’s, and the story of how this machine became embroiled in the politics of the tropical world. Stevenson’s recent practice has been to recover, rehabilitate or reconstruct objects (obsolete instruments of state or commerce) that allude to particular outmoded political economies. Often these objects can be so historically embedded and conceptually complete that, merely through reconstruction and relocation new constellations are brought to bear. Known as the Phillips Machine or Moniac, the hydraulic computer was developed at the London School of Economics by the New Zealand economist Bill Phillips who was at the time enrolled as a student. The Moniac, standing almost 2m high, is a representation of the monetary flow in a national economy. The machine was first used at the London School of Economics as a pedagogical aid and, in contrast to electronic computers of the day was extremely visual: a fixed volume of water - dyed red to represent money - is pumped like blood through a circulatory system of transparent pipes and sluices. The fluid accumulations in the various holding tanks become the measure for the economic data. One of the original machines from the LSE forms part of the static display at the Science Museum London. In total maybe 15 Moniacs were produced, marketed and shipped to cities world wide including Boston, Istanbul, Melbourne and Guatemala City. Charting a peculiar export of the time - Western economics and its quixotic quest in the tropical world - Stevenson's unfulfilled search for the lost Moniac purchased by the Central Bank of Guatemala led to his facsimile of that model. This replica will be the centrepiece of the installation at Vilma Gold. Together with film footage and other material, the installation alludes to an economy based on the banana and the thwarted search for national prosperity. This project began in San Francisco in 2006 as the Capp St. project at the CCA Wattis Institute where his working replica Moniac was left unattended for the duration of the exhibition reducing it to a ruinous economic state.

Rewind 2007: Richard Hawkins (Richard Telles Fine Art, Los Angeles)

Stairwell Down

Bordello on rue St. Lazare

L.A. artist Richard Hawkins shows two new sculptures and several new collages. In Bordello on rue St. Lazare, Hawkins examines his preoccupation with 19th-century French decadence and chinoiserie, creating a black miniature haunted house that is decorated in a similar fashion to Whistler’s Peacock Room (a favorite of Marcel Proust’s). Its interior is outfitted with elegant details, such as different-colored lights, a fireplace, Persian rugs and a china cabinet. Stairwell Down is a similar architectural structure, but turned upside down and mounted on the underside of a table, with a small staircase leading down from the smooth black tabletop above. This sculpture shows less of the interior than the former work, and in some ways it becomes more painterly as one examines the surface. Hawkins also continues to explore the eeriness of the Greek archaic smile in his collages and works on paper. (Amra Brooks, LA Weekly)

Accidental Modernism

Leslie Tonkonow Artworks + Projects (New York)
Curated by Christopher Eamon
Accidental Modernism is an exhibition of works in which chance is employed in direct contrast to the willed control of the artist.
Wayne Atkins, Ann Craven, Devon Costello, Vishal Jugdeo, André Masson, Adam McEwen, Bill Morrison, Richard Pettibone, Dieter Roth, Daniel Spoerri, Josh Smith, Rudolf Stingel, Agathe Snow, Jean Tinguely, Keith Tyson, Robert Watts, and the Otra de Vaqueros Edition, a collaborative work by Artemio, Allora & Calzadilla, Bernadette Corporation, Jay Chung & Q. Takeki Maeda, Minerva Cuevas, Jeremy Deller, Claire Fontaine, Mario Garcia-Torres, Karl Homqvist, Bruno Serralongue, Sean Snyder, Reena Spaulings.

The incorporation of accidental forces at the heart of the modernist project began in the early twentieth century with such works as Marcel Duchamp’s Three Standard Stoppages (1913–14), which was formally determined by the chance placement of strings, and with Dada-Surrealist practices such as frottage and automatic writing. By mid-century, a western aesthetic had arisen in which the artistic self was submitted to Zen notions of chance, participation and an existential sense of the absurd. In the 1960s, Daniel Spoerri, associated with the Nouveau réaliste and Fluxus movements, created his signature series of Tableaux-pièges by affixing the remains of various meals to the tables on which they were served and Jean Tinguely created his “Meta-matic” machines to produce drawings and paintings independently of the artist’s hand and eye. A resurgence in the embrace of the accident and the found object in much recent art suggests a relationship with history that is as ambiguous as it is fertile. As many of the pieces in the exhibition, were created during the Modernist period (e.g., drawings by Masson and Tinguely; sculpture by Spoerri and Dieter Roth), their inclusion details a blurring within that history. Among the works on view are Robert Watts’s For Alice (a.k.a. Snake Boxes) (1965), an homage to the Three Standard Stoppages, and Richard Pettibone’s appropriation of that seminal work in miniature; Bill Morrison’s Light Is Calling (2004), composed of decayed 35mm film footage that has been transferred to video; Agathe Snow’s Paper General (2007), an assemblage of objects and debris, found near James Fuentes’ Lower East Side gallery where it was first exhibited; and a series of prints created last year by the artists who participated in the Otra de Vaqueros residency and exhibition project in Mexico City, described as an “altered reiteration” of Francis Picabia’s Cacodylic Eye (1921), which challenged the authority of singular creation by featuring numerous signatures.
Christopher Eamon is Director of the New Art Trust, San Francisco and Curator of the distinguished Pamela and Richard Kramlich Collection, San Francisco. He was previously Assistant Curator at the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, and has curated shows of video and new media art at the Hamburger Bahnhof, Berlin; P.S.1/MoMA, New York; the Institute of Contemporary Art, London; the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; and other major institutions.

Roberta Smith (New York Times):
As its title suggests, “Accidental Modernism” meditates on the use of chance in art — a basic strategy employed at least since the first collage. The show was assembled by Christopher Eamon, a curator and director for the New Art Trust, a nonprofit foundation for media art in San Francisco, and the works here are of recent or not-quite-recent vintage. Most of their accidents are painterly, which gives the show a lush and surprising visual coherence. One of Rudolf Stingel’s sgraffitied aluminum-Celotex paintings, incised by the public, serves as a kind of pivot for several works, including Adam McEwen’s gum painting; Devon Costello’s bare canvas, lying on the floor and accumulating visitors’ footprints; Keith Tyson’s gritty tabletop (installed as a painting, legs and all) that the artist has lavishly marked up; and a silkscreen of a banged-up door, signed, burned and drawn on by a group of mostly hip young artists when they shared a residency in Mexico City. (It echoes the group effort of Francis Picabia’s “Cacodylic Eye” painting from 1921.) But randomness doesn’t necessarily take more than one person. The Ab-Exy brushwork of Josh Smith’s little canvas accrued while Mr. Smith used it as a palette. The brushwork finds an apparently accidental, nearly identical, echo in Ann Craven’s latest paintings of moonlit clouds and, more loosely, in Agathe Snow’s messy gold-flecked assemblage made from materials found on the street. A precedent for the Snow piece is Dieter Roth’s “Lauf der Welt (That’s Life),” from 1969, with its flattened, much-decayed foil-wrapped chocolate figures. And decomposition figures prominently in Bill Morrison’s “Light Is Calling,” an eight-minute video loop of a heavily oxidized piece of a silent movie; the celluloid itself appears to be writhing in flames, intensifying the stagecoach drama in the movie. More-controlled homages to chance are provided by Wayne Atkins, and by Robert Watts and Richard Pettibone. The last two offer works that reach back to the prime mover of chance, Marcel Duchamp.

Rewind 2007: Just kick it till it breaks (The Kitchen, New York)

Corey McCorkleble, Perfectionist (Free Love) Monument, 2007, steel, copper, nickel, and silver

Gardar Eide Einarsson, Untitled (LA Commissioner) (detail), 2006, ink jet prints

The Kitchen, New York
curated by Debra Singer and Matthew Lyons.
In response to a moment in America marked by tepid civic activism, widespread conservatism, and rampant consumerism, the artists in this exhibition create works in which the "political" is addressed indirectly through allegorical approaches and subtle contextual displacements. Borrowing visual idioms from the realms of advertising, the media, and interior design, these artists locate tangential points of protest that are slyly complicit with the terms of capitalism they often seek to undermine. At the same time, they investigate romanticized notions of outlaw culture and underground movements, questioning whether any position of political resistance remains out of reach of commercial co-optation.

Fia Backström, Carol Bove, Bozidar Brazda, Gardar Eide Einarsson, Adam Helms, Scott Hug, Corey McCorkle, Josephine Meckseper, Michael Phelan, Meredyth Sparks

Holland Cotter (New York Times):
This group show, organized by Debra Singer and Matthew Lyons of the Kitchen, is a textbook example of how political content operates in new art: in a slanting, unmonumental, coding-within-coding way that dodges ideology and trades earnestness for agile, deadpan wit. References to past alternative cultures are frequent, but rarely nostalgic. Josephine Meckseper’s video “Rest in Peace” intercuts images of recent antiwar protests with an orgy scene from a 1960s hippie-lifestyle film, with shots of what appears to be a college discussion group attended by bored and fidgety students. Everthing feels retro. Heroism is over. So is the vision thing. Corey McCorkle spreads 19th-century broadsides, produced by the utopian Oneida Colony, on the gallery floor. They look as if they should go under a kitty litter box. Meredyth Sparks cut-and-pastes pictures of the Bader-Meinhof gang. Carol Bove revisits a druggy moment when Beat and Hippie merged. From Scott Hug we get Warholian mug shots of low-grade celebrities (Paris Hilton, Mike Tyson), from Bozidar Brazda a souvenir of “The Unknown Ones,” a punchy East German punk band that will probably stay unknown. A tie-dye sunburst mandala by Michael Phelan is also a Color Field painting, a target and an American flag. Two neat but busy installations by Fia Backstrom are like consumerist processors, shmushing together corporate logos, out-of-date manifestos, designer tableware, art by other artists — namely Roe Ethridge and Kelley Walker — and Play-Doh imitations of their art. In this context of scrambled values Adam Helms’s drawings of heads in black ski masks are mere terrorist chic, Gardar Eide Einarsson’s “Liberty or Death” flag a snazzy bath towel. High up in a corner hangs a text piece by Dave McKenzie: “Tomorrow Will Be Better.” If artists can just keep savaging history, kicking forms and fracturing received ideas, it might least might not be worse.

Miguel Amado (Artforum):
Josephine Meckseper’s Rest in Peace, 2004, the first work one encounters in this exhibition, sets the tone for the entire show. The video mixes footage of recent political demonstrations in New York with flower power–style party scenes, all complemented by a sound track drawn from urban music genres. This and other pieces brought together by curators Debra Singer and Matthew Lyons offer an allegorical reading of the current ideological landscape and limn various methods of resistance to dominant values. A critique of the materialism that characterizes our global economy pervades the project. One continually pertinent topic addressed by the selected artists is the process of fetishization undergirding advanced capitalist societies, by which any countercultural thinking, action, or object is seamlessly absorbed by the market. Fia Backström's elegant installations examine this process intelligently: For example, RECYCLE—Hanging proposal for “Untitled” (2006), Sculpture by Kelley Walker (Ecco Art #2), 2007, consists of a delicate arrangement of pillows, dishes, plastic cutlery, and other picnic items placed alongside Walker’s piece atop a small green carpet and in front of a large wall banner decorated with the logo of the oil company BP. Corey McCorkle's sculptures The Circular, 2007, and Perfectionist (Free Love) Monument, 2007, on the other hand, allude to the Oneida Community, a nineteenth-century utopian group based in New York State that advocated pacifism yet manufactured animal traps for subsistence. Emphasizing a metaphoric approach to the theme, the exhibition deftly sidesteps the charge of proselytizing against the current state of affairs. Instead, the show offers poetic visions of politics that, in highlighting how individuals change things through quotidian acts, may describe the only form of activism that can make a difference now.