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)