lundi 16 février 2009

The Space of the Work and the Place of the Object (SculptureCenter, New York)

Blake Rayne, Gareth James, Bicycle Grinder, 2009.
Bicycle grinder, balloons, wood, acrylic lacquer, napkins from SculptureCenter gala, 2 cans of spraypaint, plastic drop cloth, inkjet print

Karin Schneider, Tubular, 2009

Melanie Gilligan, Prison for Objects, 2008/2009. Performance/Installation

Melanie Gilligan, Prison for Objects, 2008/2009. Performance/Installation, featuring actor Francis J Exell

A group exhibition that considers the status of the art object within the context of its production. The featured artists build on the ideas and critical positions of Process Art and employ methods that range from documentary to literary, but the emphasis is on a direct engagement with the materiality of the object. The artists in this exhibition all make objects that reflect the facts and fissures of their production. Each artwork is concerned with the conditions in which art and meaning are made and circulated, turning them to their own advantage, or sometimes ignoring or disrupting them. Accident presides alongside necessity as determining factors for this work, which further highlights the central concepts of systems of production, display, and distribution.
Walead Beshty's Federal Express works are made by shipping a glass box made to fit precisely inside the cardboard Federal Express boxes. The boxes are shipped via Federal Express and displayed together with the shipping box in any configuration. The work is "made" and "re-made" through its circulation and display. Beshty will also exhibit new works created with film exposed to X-rays in airport scanners and then drum-scanned and printed. These abstract and visually sumptuous images act as echoes of the artist's movements from city to city. Silver Particle/Bronze (after Henry Moore) (2008) by Simon Starling brings up questions of documentation and materiality. The work comprises a vintage gelatin silver print of a Moore sculpture and a bronze sculpture made by enlarging a particle from the print's emulsion. Michael Rakowitz has created RETURN (offshoots for SculptureCenter) (2009), an installation that documents his attempt to import one ton of dates from Iraq in 2006.
Gabriel Kuri's That Runs Through (2009) is a visual poem that links everyday objects to historical events and simultaneously isolates and creates a context for them. With her Disclaimer Series, Carey Young destabilizes the relationship between artwork, viewer and presenter. Three text panels deny claims to their own status as works of art. Blake Rayne's Knife Sharpener (2009) exists as manifestations of a series of choices that are made subtly transparent. His crates are exhibited as objects that reference transport but also function as partitions, support, and perhaps sculpture.
Prison for Objects (2009), a performance and installation by Melanie Gilligan, dramatizes our experience of commodities in the past and present. The installation includes images of objects from the Renaissance to the 18th century, which depict their contents as both intensely abstract and material all at once. An actress and actor perform the roles of an art writer and artist respectively, their characters playing out various clichés and contradictions of art production and reception.
Karin Schneider's Tubular (2009) is an architectural intervention with a painting and a video projection. The reception desk is expanded and relocated into the gallery space with transparent Plexiglas partitions. SculptureCenter's Visitor Services Manager, Nickolas Roudané, who normally sits at the reception desk and is an artist himself, has been invited to produce an ongoing piece during the show while still performing his usual duties greeting and providing information to museum visitors. Schneider allows the administrative function of the museum to intrude into the gallery while subsuming aspects of the institution into the work.

Kenneth Johnson:
Aesthetic Withdrawal in the Quest for Ideas
Art objects are in crisis. Conceptualists and theorists say that there are too many of them and that we don’t need them any more. Also, people buy and sell them like commodities, which devalues them as vehicles of thought and feeling. If you are one of those who still believe in the object, you may be annoyed by SculptureCenter’s confusing and misleadingly titled current exhibition. Organized by Mary Ceruti, the center’s executive director, the eight-artist show “The Space of the Work and the Place of the Object” is meant, according to a news release, to address “the status of the art object within the context of its production.” But there is almost nothing in the exhibition that you would call an art object in the traditional sense of the term — something made by an artist, more or less skillfully, that is uncommonly interesting to look at because of its formal or representational properties. The exhibition is a disconnected assortment of primarily conceptual works, none of which say anything very illuminating about the status of the object or its context of production. Consider an arrangement of partly broken glass boxes and the cardboard FedEx cartons in which the glass boxes evidently were sent through the mail. This piece by Walead Beshty is briefly amusing, but unless you read philosophical and political ideas into it, how different is it, really, from David Letterman throwing a watermelon off the roof? At least with Mr. Letterman you get to see the object bursting. The most interesting piece is an installation by Michael Rakowitz documenting a project in which he opened a storefront in Brooklyn to sell food products from Iraq. It is almost impossible to find anything for sale in the United States labeled “Made in Iraq,” Mr. Rakowitz said, because customs agencies here and abroad make it so difficult. So Iraqi merchants ship their goods to countries like Syria and Lebanon and have them labeled as made in those other places. Mr. Rakowitz decided to try to import a ton of Iraqi dates in boxes labeled “Product of Iraq” to sell in his store. After many complications, he succeeded, much to the delight of his Iraqi customers. It is an excellent and affecting lesson in geopolitics. Less edifying is Gabriel Kuri’s “That Runs Through,” a presentation of objects on a sheet of white backdrop paper, including a bag of charcoal, a stone on a stack of Financial Times, a bag of kitty litter and a wastebasket with a mop head in it. A poor man’s Robert Gober? Also remarkably derivative are signs by Carey Young announcing various self-reflexive disclaimers, like “The artist does not guarantee that this piece can be sold as a work of art” and “The artist does not represent this to be a work of art.” Ms. Young should know about Robert Morris’s 1963 “Statement of Aesthetic Withdrawal.” Another sort of aesthetic withdrawal is an installation by Blake Rayne and Gareth James consisting of big black wooden crates, a set of empty painting frames and a sheet of plastic and some balloons spray-painted green and gold — the color of money. Perhaps the most entertaining work — at least during the exhibition’s first two weeks, when it was performed by live actors — is a short play by Melanie Gilligan. An art critic tells of a dream she had about wildly multiplying objects, and an artist in his studio gets all riled up about the obsolescence of the traditional art object. The piece is now being presented as a video. A less exciting performance has been orchestrated by Karin Schneider. She built a second reception and ticket-selling booth of wood-framed transparent plastic and has the gallery’s receptionist shuttle between it and the permanent booth, which serves as a studio where he makes paintings when not attending to visitors. Institutional critique feebly lives on. One work that does resemble a fine-art object is a squiggly, multi-lobed bronze sculpture by Simon Starling (winner of the 2005 Turner Prize). A wall label mystifyingly explains that it represents “a single silver particle from a vintage gelatin silver photographic print of ‘Reclining Figure No. 4, 1955’ by Henry Moore” enlarged 300,000 times. So it seems that here, too, the idea is the real object.

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