GEOslant with Richard Huntington: Model Citizen
Posted by ArtSlant Team
Edward Eggelston painting model, Edith Backus, 1936. Courtesy of Cleveland State University.
Ever since I gave up abstraction back in the 90s in favor of the figure, I have, on and off, been using a nude female model. In my recent work the figures hang somewhere between an abstracted rendition of a living being and a flat-out cartoon ─ a hybrid concoction in no obvious need of posed naked bodies. And yet I persist. I tell myself that hiring a model is a legitimate way to keep in touch with the “reality” of human flesh (whatever that may be). But then the entire artist-and-model thing is so rife with clichés and social anxieties that I barely believe my own rationale. Who in 2012 can take seriously the patriarchal myth that has male artist and female model ─ despite their unequal status, clothing-wise ─ cocooned within the sacred studio solely for the purpose of pursuing high-minded creative goals? Not me. I must confront ─ and continually re-confront ─ the fact that, for me at least, there is in this highly contrived arrangement between painter and poser a fair degree of sexual tension ─ a sexual tension that allows me to studiously draw from the model in the confident knowledge that this accumulated erotic charge may very well transfer to the completed painting and make it much more than it would otherwise be.
The models that I hire are sometimes strangers, sometimes people I know. In all cases I pay them a fair wage, somewhere in the range of $20 an hour, depending on the nature and duration of the pose. In my book, modeling is work and deserves pay. To my surprise I recently found out that my studio partner, the Buffalo painter Bruce Adams, pays his many models nothing. For him, pay somehow falsifies the relationship, makes it less “pure.” Adams says he wants the model to have a vested interest in the art. “I often treat the model as a collaborator. . . They work with me, not for me.” No matter, the notion of having a woman pose nude for free struck me as exploitative, and in many long arguments I expressed that view to no avail.
“Hiring a model is like renting a power tool,” Adams claims. “The power tool has no interest in what you are doing . . . I want a model who has some personal motivation for modeling that transcends a cash reward.”
Though I shell out the bucks, I don’t ever remember thinking of the model as a disinterested machine. They chatter away, laugh at my jokes (some, anyway), go pensive, stare into space, offer posing ideas of their own invention, and generally join in the spirit of the work at hand. And at the end of the session they walk away with, say, $60, which to my mind is hardly worthy compensation for taking off your clothes and assuming what are sometimes ungainly and unflattering attitudes. But still, better than nothing.
I told Adams he was romanticizing the artist/model relationship, creating a false studio idyll that played on (and off of) the model’s ego and self-image. He didn’t buy it. Running out of arguments against this entrenched model gratis, I once resorted to the atavistic position that the camera ─ we both use the camera in the painting process ─ “steals the soul.” His retort shut me down: “So you think that a model’s soul is only worth a measly $20 an hour?”
And amazingly the models continue to, figuratively, line up outside Adams’ studio door, hastened there by word of mouth that the experience is singular, if not life-changing. Many of these women are professionals of some sort. One heads a media arts organization, another runs a city-wide mural project. Among them are a poet, an educator working on her doctorate, and a gay and lesbian activist who has addressed the U.S. Supreme Court. In short, they are often model citizens ─ citizens who also find it fascinating to strip down and offer themselves as an artist’s model.
Bruce Adams, “Diana and the Stag,” oil on canvas, 2011; Courtesy of the artist
One model, a petite woman with hooded eyes worthy of a Leonardo, who appears as Diana in Adams’ Diana and the Stag, said she saw modeling for Adams “as an experiment for the artist to utilize my body as a pass-through and catalyst for new ideas.” She talked about the artist/model relationship as a unique chance for thought-provoking conversation.
Modeling for this person was an opportunity for intellectual expansion, a chance to be in on a fresh creative moment.
Another model, whose imposing figure would fill the most generously sized canvas, said that “modeling forced me to get out of my comfort zone and see myself as many others see me. Losing the shield, becoming vulnerable, surprisingly I became powerful, which made me feel beautiful. And of course it was an ego boost finding out that there are lots of men out there who don’t like skinny twigs.”
OK, I can see that: modeling as a kind of psychotherapy.
A third woman, of statuesque proportions, someone who has modeled for both Adams and myself (for example, in my Beauty Rules: Silly Girls), said that when she sees her image in a fairly realistic painting she felt “immortalized,” a word that other models used as well.
Now, it was beginning to look as though it is the models that are doing the romanticizing of the artist/model parable, seeing in it a near-miraculous transformative power on a very personal level. Adams confirms that all these individuals found something extraordinary through modeling. “Inevitably, without fail,” he said, “the models leave saying it was one of the greatest experiences of their lives.”
Richard Huntington, “Beauty Rules: Silly Girls,” acrylic on canvas, 1997; Courtesy of the artist.
Meanwhile, back in my more workaday studio, at the end of a session I pass along the few dollars owed, perhaps make arrangements for another visit, and give a cordial goodbye. As far as I can see the model is more or less the same person she was when she walked in, only a few bucks richer and maybe armed with a few more good amusing stories.
But maybe the fair-wage for fair-work argument isn’t totally defeated by this entrancing romance of the studio. Turns out the model last mentioned above, the one who felt herself “immortalized” when she saw her face and body rendered so convincingly on canvas, also had a pragmatic side. It would be fine with her, she allowed, if while being immortalized she was also paid a few dollars for her time.
GEOslant with Max Nesterak: Berlin Bibliophiles:
A guide to the city’s top art bookstores
Posted by ArtSlant Team
| tags: books
In an age of e-readers and tablets, eBooks and eZines, there are still a few places left that trade in pages not screens, choose human knowledge over computerized customer service, and cherish the unexpected discovery over the narrowed Google search. While we embrace the connectivity of the web, we know there are some things the Internet just can’t replace. A good art book is one. Not surprisingly, Berlin is home to some of the most incredible independent art bookstores that continue to thrive as bustling hubs of artistic expression and community engagement. We found five of the best independent and specialized art bookstores, which take curatorial-like care in selecting the right titles for their shelves. All are worth checking out.
Pro qm (The Cityrat’s Bookstore) - Offering a wide selection of architecture books as well as books on city planning, street art, pop art, design, and landscape design, Pro qm is best place to find books on urban aesthetics. In addition, you can brush up on some crucial modern theorists like Foucault, Benjamin, and Nietzsche, or catch up on contemporary political thought on urbanism and city life. They also have a modest selection of Berlin books for art tourists looking to make the most of their time in one of the largest concrete canvases in the world. While they offer a large selection of books in English, be prepared to pay a little bit more for them than their German counterparts.
Almstadtstraße 48-50 | 10119 Berlin | Tel. 030.2472852-0 | email@example.com | Mon-Sat 11 a.m. - 8 p.m.
Wien Lukatsch Gallery and Bookstore (The Avant-Garde Paradise) – As one of the most hard-to-find bookstores in Berlin, visiting this gallery/bookstore offers a feeling of exclusivity and inside knowledge. They offer an authoritative selection on avant-garde art from the 1960s onward and even sent four artists to dOCUMENTA this year. To find it, look for a small placard next to a doorbell on Schöneberger Ufer, then take the elevator up three floors and knock at the door. When the door is opened, ask to be led to the bookstore at the back of the gallery. You’ll be taken to a large, airy space complete with a balcony overlooking a lush courtyard. Away from the bustling activity of the street it’s only really visited by local artists and curators, which means you can take advantage of having the place to yourself to browse.
Schöneberger Ufer 65 | 10785 Berlin-Tiergarten | Tel. 030.28.38.53.52 | firstname.lastname@example.org | Tues – Fri 1 p.m. – 6 p.m., Sat. 12 p.m. – 6 p.m.
Motto Distribution (The Most Independent) – Don’t go to Motto with a specific title in mind; they won’t have it. This small bookstore in East Berlin by Schlesisches Tor focuses on providing a space for titles from little known or self-published authors. Now located in several countries, this Berlin location was their first permanent residence. You won’t find the textbook on Renaissance art you had to buy in college, and that may be exactly the reason for visiting Motto. You’ll discover something you never knew you needed – the fun of going to Motto is finding what you’ll uncover. This one-room shop located below street-level packs an incredible number of titles. Each book is a work of art in itself and is probably only one of a handful of copies. It is a truly cherished secret of the Berlin art community.
Skalitzerstr. 68 | 10997 Berlin-Friedrichschain | Tel 030.75.44.21.19 | email@example.com | Mon-Sat 12 p.m. – 8 p.m.
Do you read me? (Feeding the Zine Addiction) Focusing mainly on magazines, this bookstore is the best place to find any periodical on fashion, design, art, photography, and architecture. Dangerous to both German and English-speaking magazine-addicts, you’ll find every title on contemporary art and design you want and then some. Located next to two banana-approved galleries in Mitte, it’s worth allocating some extra time in your schedule to explore the neighborhood and the architecture surrounding it. Across town in Schöneberg, they also have a reading room with huge windows and large tables, furnished and designed in partnership with Greige. and Artek. Be sure to check out their events calendar as they host tons of readings, lectures, and presentations here.
Auguststrasse 28 | 10117 Berlin-Mitte | Tel. 030.69.54.96.95 | firstname.lastname@example.org | Mon-Sat. 10 a.m. – 7:30 p.m.
Reading Room & Shop | Potsdamer Strasse 98 | 10785 Berlin-Tiergarten | Thurs. to Sat. 12 p.m. – 6 p.m.
Bücherbogen am Savignyplatz (The Bücher Behemoth): With the largest selection of any bookstore listed here, Bücherbogen is the place to browse monographs on any artist from Kandinsky to Picasso to Xooox. Spanning four large rooms connected by narrow, low-ceilinged tunnels under S-Bahn Savignyplatz in the posh Charlottenburg neighborhood, Bücherbogen is the place to spend hours browsing to the muffled soundtrack of trains passing overhead. In addition to sections devoted entirely to film studies, art theory, and typography, they have an entire room dedicated to Berlin art and design. While it’s usually bustling with customers, the store is well-staffed with experts ready to help. It’s the shop that couldn’t possibly be left off any list of art bookstores in Berlin.
Stadtbahnbogen 593 | 10623 Berlin-Charlottenburg | Tel 030.31.86.95.11 | email@example.com | Mon-Fri 10 a.m. – 8 p.m. Sat 10 a.m. – 6 p.m.
(Image top right: Pro qm interior. All photos by Max Nesterak.)
GEOslant with Natalie Hegert: Street Art Basel
Posted by ArtSlant Team
| tags: graffiti/street-art
There's only so much art fair one can handle. Those big halls get more crowded as the weekend wanes, your feet start to ache and your eyes ache even more. If you've managed to visit Art Basel, Volta, Liste, the Solo Project and Scope in these few days, art objects start to all blend together and your attitude becomes more jaded with each booth.
So I entreat you to take a step outside. It's nearly summer, and with any luck Basel weekend (Friday looks good) should be sunny and warm, with maybe just a few of those dramatic clouds that fill the Swiss sky. Take a little walk toward the river—better yet hop on a bike, giving your walking feet a bit of a rest without sacrificing your ability to stop and enjoy the view at a moment’s notice.
But just because you’re out of the grand art fair halls doesn’t mean that there isn’t more art to see. And no, I’m not talking about the Parcours performances or any other Art Basel-officiated public art; I mean the kind of art that you happen upon, discover by chance in some neglected corner, and enjoy in passing. You might notice a funny little sticker adhered to a lightpost, a stencil of a vandal Hello Kitty with a spraycan, a droopy little robot Marvin wheatpasted on a wall, or an inexplicably perturbed spraypainted hedgehog dreaming of bees and flowers. A little gem of street art happened upon in your regular meanderings through a city becomes that much more refreshing after seeing booth after booth of just-so art fair offerings. All that is required for this kind of experience is that you keep your eyes open.
While last year's Art Basel Miami Beach wowed us with an incredible array of street art murals in the district of Wynwood and a whole host of street art and graffiti-inspired events and exhibitions, Basel, Switzerland, also boasts its own street art and graffiti scene. In a city so punctual, precise and spotless, those little irruptions of messy creativity on the street are delightfully surprising.
Seifrei, Marvin times 17, 2011; Photo collage by Andrea Stadelmann
That little dejected robot you spotted by the Rhein? That’s the work of Seifrei, whose output is not limited to the Marvin character but also encompasses many forms of wheatpastes, stencils, and freehand work. Lately Seifrei has been affixing stenciled vinyl LPs around town. Here’s hoping you catch sight of one.
The Swiss street art duo and Xstreets collective members Bustart and Zaïra are some of the most famous Basel street artists. One of the first Basel-based street artists, Bustart’s signature icon is a gruff-looking stylized bear, while his girlfriend Zaïra often paints owls. Yet neither artist’s practice can be reduced to one icon and they both experiment with many different subjects and mediums. Bustart and Zaïra recently relocated to Amsterdam, where anti-graffiti enforcement is more lax, yet you might run across some of their stickers still running around Basel.
Crone, Jers, and Smash 137, Fight Club Basel, 2011; Photo by Andrea Stadelmann
For the more intrepid seeker, the best spot to find graffiti is the legendary Basel Line, just east of the central train station. You can view the line either from above, while traveling in a train (Regio S-Bahn 3 direction Olten), or, if you’re feeling especially adventurous, access it through stairs leading from street-level or walk up it from the Zeughaus tram stop. Here you’ll find some world-class graffiti from Basel heroes Smash 137, Dare (RIP), Jers and Aley, and international graffiti heavyweights like Seen and Reyes. The Basel Line, an open-air graffiti museum and inspiration to many European graffiti writers, plays host to everything from traditional masterpieces to some experimental work. Jers and Aley are always pushing the boundaries of graffiti, moving it into the realm of installation, like this mosaic tile piece, or this innovative 3-D optical illusion, with their names painted on either side of a home-made wooden lenticular surface which was then drilled into place. Pretty astonishing! Unfortunately only half of the installation remains, but now it reveals a sliver of what was previously covered—one of the fascinations of viewing graffiti and art on the street is this palimpsest of elements, the interplay of layers and layers of paint, exposed and torn asunder by weather, or sometimes by jealous rivals.
Jers Aley, August 2011. Photo collage by Andrea Stadelmann.
On the street or down on the line, this kind of art exists outside of the commercial realm (in fact it is penalized by harsh fines and/or jail time); it can neither be bought nor sold but exists on its own terms, a gift of art to all passersby. But if you’re in the mood for buying (you are in Basel for the fairs after all), prints and originals are available for sale at Art Basel from such street art luminaries as Shepard Fairey at Pace Prints, JR and Kaws at Galerie Perrotin, and REVOK, Faile, Pose, How & Nosm at Jonathan Levine at Scope.
A special thanks to Andrea Stadelmann who kindly contributed her photographs for this article.
(Image on top right: Street, Art | Basel, 2009; Photo by Achim Hepp)
GEOslant with Marcus Civin: Perception: Laini Nemett and Meg Rorison, MFA’s from MICA
Posted by ArtSlant Team
| tags: film painting MFA
This year, I’ve been teaching as an Adjunct in Art History and Curatorial Practice at Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA). Because of my work at MICA, the editors at Artslant asked if I’d be interested in contributing to an MFA focus edition. I chose to profile two young artists who received their MFA’s from MICA this month, Laini Nemett and Meg Rorison, a painter and a filmmaker respectively. Nemett studied with painter and critic Joan Waltermath, Rorison with critic and curator Timothy Druckery. Both Nemett and Rorison are working with the concept of space, both linking various spaces. I interviewed these two artists in their studios, and since then I’ve been mulling over their reflections.
I want to think about perception. I think I perceive from multiple perspectives. I think my gaze is multiple. Looking is roving, disorganized, not fixed.
As much as the vast majority of us are involved with technological culture, we interact with massive immaterial currents, looking at the evidence of that interface as often as we choose to walk on physical streets or look out, off bridges.
Our technology is an enveloping technology. It records perception and it instructs. It instructs in how to see. Maybe more than ever we could now be equipped for the possibility of immediate, searing sight. We can stream multiplicities, try to harness the power of that roving gaze, the search engine that seemingly can picture precisely everything, precisely everywhere. Objects are where they don’t appear to belong. Mixed-up content is swelling--a loaded show.
Back in 1948, Maurice Merleau-Ponty wrote: “We can no longer draw an absolute distinction between space and the things which occupy it, nor indeed between the pure idea of space and the concrete spectacle it presents our senses.” (See Merleau-Ponty, The World of Perception, Routledge: 2004.)
An art student might take up an older technology--Bolex camera or scissors or paint brush and palette knife--but because of their knowledge and experience of digital technology, this art student’s gaze is nimble, un-restricted by the determinations of time. They can rapidly calculate to compress, jack or jack up the distance between points, adjust the frame in the moment of creation.
Back in 1986, Paul Virilio wrote: “The revolving door is succeeded by data banks, by new rites of passage of a technical culture masked by the immateriality of its components: its networks, highway systems, and diverse reticulations whose threads are no longer woven into the space of a constructed fabric, but into the sequences of an imperceptible planning of time in which the interface man/machine replaces the facades of buildings and the surfaces of ground on which they stand.” (See Virilio, The Overexposed City, Zone Books: 1986.)
• We live in the digital age. We see more than ever before, and perhaps differently. But, even if we see, or if we sense, our seeing and our sensing surely doesn’t necessarily mean--does it?--that we digest, that we always process or understand all that we sense and see.
• And, what about a little healthy nostalgia? I’m OK with imagining a better time in times past. It IS possible that a past time could have been better than now in some ways.
• What about slowing down? What about meditative work? What about dignified work? I would like to think, today, we could do some methodical, thoughtful, dignified work.
(Studio Photograph of Meg Rorison by Marcus Civin)
Study 1: A 16 Millimeter film, Scansion, 2012
In one short segment, less than a minute from Scansion, I see a plastic bag and a hunk of tree stump stuck almost at the top of a barbed wire fence, both bag and stump caught in an old race, both cold, stabbed and stuck forever on some pokey urban boundary. Intercut, I see a truck moving a pile to another pile. Perhaps the dispatch can only afford to send one truck to this mound because this mound is not a mountain; it is residual, not majestic.
Then, at knee level, I see a series of frames, then I see one frame. Where I want to see frames, there are actually railings in front of a dam.
The camera’s gaze moves easily over space--from neighborhood to outskirts--mattering a series of visual impressions. The gaze deliberates by zooms, edges the mountain, snakes...
Meg Rorison: There is something about working with my hands and editing with my hands, it triggers a way of thinking and working that I really find necessary... When I would initially show my 16 millimeter films, my program director, Timothy Druckery, wanted to know why I was working with 16 millimeter. I wasn't quite articulate about the draw towards this medium, but from the start it felt right. The process of shooting, editing and capturing movement with such a heavy machine really intrigued me. I also loved the process of setting up and projecting the film--it felt ritualistic. I started learning that there are, in fact, a lot of younger artists also working with 16 and 8 millimeter right now. There is a nice dialogue going on between the newcomers and the filmmakers who started in the 1970s. I hold the sentiment that perhaps we want something to be more material--to see the grain again and that the antiseptic, sterile, digital image is just not enough and we need something deeper. For me, I like the language and materiality I attribute to film more than video. Over time, film gains and collects more scratches and dust which all works to develop its own personality...
... With Scansion, I told myself to edit the film like a song, searching and selecting through my footage to find its own inherent rhythm. I had maybe eight hundred feet of film and I broke it down to maybe three hundred. I also started to realize, that I like gathering landscapes... I make a lot of shot lists of familiar places that I must capture. I would get to location and respond differently, but I would still write it down first. It helps me focus and get my thoughts organized.
Marcus Civin: You like the fences.
MR: I think for their geometric shapes and how they diagram space.
MC: Where are the people in this film?
MR: I fixated on the more desolate places, I thought if I added people there needed to be a reason for these specific people and I didn’t think this was necessary... I thought more: I wonder if we all stayed inside, I wonder what the land would look like...
MC: What the land outside would look like with all of us inside, on our computers...
MR: I’m thinking about why this medium and why landscapes together and I think this is a response to feeling very detached from people when often, our first mode of communication is e-mail. You can create and define an identity solely through virtual space... Baltimore specifically, I am very aware of the desolation here and it feels like a war zone. For the soundtrack, I took a lot of excerpts of field recordings of helicopters and sirens and abstracted them through post-production. It just feels haunting here and I wanted to gather these places in Baltimore. All the places I gather are places I go to a lot and I guess this is an ode to Baltimore, both how I remember and how I feel... There’s a great experimental music scene in Baltimore. There is more analog than digital. For example, many musicians distribute their work on cassette tapes--they don’t typically use CDs or MP3s. People are always making their own analogue synthesizers, people are building their own instruments. It’s very active and material-based and so I think that’s also influenced me.
MC: This other piece, Gowanus Haze, shot in Gowanus, in Brooklyn, is partly about your grandfather, Harry Bennett, who you were telling me about before. He worked as an artist and illustrator. He speaks in the film.
MR: His memories of New York, what he would do there... He made paintings that would be turned into book covers for gothic novels and mystery novels. He would deliver his paintings to a publishing company in New York, and he loved going there, but he has dementia now. It was his 93rd birthday the other day and I played this film for him. He was confused. He liked it. He liked hearing his voice. He’s there and then he’s not... I have a lot of friends who are obsessed with the idea of the post-human and feeding back with the machine and that there is no idea of the individual self anymore and I don’t want to adhere to that. A lot of things about how we live today feel very unnatural to me. I still taste things and need a lot of time with my own thoughts to process the external world.
Study 2: Paintings of Stairwells, Machines, and Entries
Baltimore has an old Street Car Museum, a reliquary, open weekends, run mostly by volunteers. A few days a week, a crew works on restoring street cars. The crew works down the road from the museum in a long, long shed filled with engine hulks and even hulkier machines for manipulating metal.
So what are we doing here? Laini Nemett and I decided to go. Nemett frequents this space for inspiration. One of the restoration crew was around when we went, so we got a tour, Nemett taking iPhone snaps. “This might be my next series of paintings,” she said.
The space reverberates, piles everywhere, to the ceiling. I see an old crane. I see a driveway overhang rotted out, timbers disjointed but hanging on. It wouldn’t matter if they fell, the timbers, they’d only take down with them paint flakes from the salmon-pink-and-blue-green flaky steel beams. But--wait--is that a shipping pallet stuffed up in there? It occurred to me suddenly: someone might be living up there, nesting up there above the driveway.
Outside, out back, I stepped over an oil puddle, I stepped over a pair of underwear. Our tour guide said: “We find all kinds of things around here...”
Laini Nemett: I’m interested in how packed quiet spaces can be. For me, painting is about offering a personal experience with a space.
(Laini Nemett, Umbrian Stairwell 3, 2011, Oil on muslin mounted on board, 8 x 8 in. Courtesy of the artist.)
MC: This is Umbrian Stairwell 3. Did you photograph this scene and then paint it?
LN: No, I painted it there... My more straightforward paintings are about meditation and experience. It slows me down to paint. I’ve been really lucky to be brought up in an artistic family. My dad has taught at an International program in Umbria every summer for five years, so for three of them I was living in Spain and it was eight dollars to fly over to Italy. It’s this little medieval town that hasn’t been touched since. There are so many places to paint there, but I tend to return to the same places, like this stairwell.
MC: What set up do you need to paint there?
LN: Nothing. A tiny little wooden board for oil. If I’m lucky, a small piece of glass for a palette, a palette knife. The small paintings are mostly palette knife. I keep it all in a backpack. I take off my shoes and I prop the painting on one shoe to make an easel.
LN: I sit on the ground, take off my shoes, turn over one shoe and make it an easel. I put the other shoe under the palette. When I’m finished, I wipe down my palette, put on my shoes, hold the palette
under the painting, and walk back. When I travel I have a bunch of small boards like this. Muslin--a dollar a yard--pasted on masonite... I’ll go somewhere with a lot of squares and a few rectangles in
different sizes. I’ll see something and I think: this size canvas is perfect for that, and then I’ll start painting and sometimes realize the canvas needs four more inches, so in that case, I just add on another canvas.
(Laini Nemett in her studio, working on Collages, photo by Marcus Civin.)
MC: What about your collages?
LN: That’s the wall of The Studio Center at MICA. This is Hampden, in Baltimore, on The Avenue--part of it. This is São Tomé, in Africa. A bunch of this is made up. This is Baltimore... So, all the collages, they’re pieced together from all different places. These are photographs that I took and put together, so they’re not actually spaces that exist. And in most cases, they can’t exist, because they’re not spatially or structurally sound... I think if I leave some things out or make up a transition or fudge a situation where it might be structurally impossible, I think that’s where I can understand lived or remembered space in a different way. When I went to São Tomé, everything was collaged, most of the structures that exist there are pieced together--
MC: All of the building materials are salvaged and re-used.
LN: So that kind of led me to this way of working.
MC: What are these breaks, these crevices in the painting, where two painting panels meet and the image links them?
LN: In one instance, I mentally planned out the painting in a small sketch and then I painted it large and I didn’t like it large; it felt like somebody was pushing down on the top of the painting, so I realized it needed sky on the top. I opened it up, just added on another panel... because I deal with windows and gridded beams a lot, it made sense to me to add on another panel, to make another plane...
MC: You never cut the plane down?
MC: You’re not a cropper, you’re an expander. What’s the opposite of a cropper? There’s gotta be a better word for that.
LN: An augmenter?
(Laini Nemett, Entry, 2011, Oil on linen, 48 x 39 in. Courtesy of the artist.)
MC: My eye is telling me this painting, Entry, is an actual physical space. Is it? Or is it a collaged space?
LN: Most of it exists. This evolved from a watercolor sketch I made on the spot in a village in São Tomé. I re-composed it on a larger scale when I returned to Baltimore. I opened it up a lot. It had this really claustrophobic space, I needed some kind of sky, some kind of way out. I kept painting it until I could breathe.
(Image top right: Studio Photograph of Meg Rorison by Marcus Civin)
GEOslant with Noah Dillon: A Testament
Posted by ArtSlant Team
| tags: figurative photography mixed-media sculpture
When I first met Jackie McAllister he seemed completely perplexing. Jackie was a Scotsman, about two decades older than me and the other students at SVA’s Art Criticism and Writing MFA program. He attended the Whitney ISP in 1989, studying under Hal Foster, befriending Colin de Land and Mark Dion, Andrea Fraser, and others. Jackie was sure to remind you of those wide and deep social connections at every opportunity. Anyway, I couldn’t figure out why an established older critic, curator, and artist would be attending the same novel institution I was.
I ran into him outside the opening reception of a show at SOLOWAY Gallery. It was the first time we talked (though I recognized him), and I asked why he had ended up at SVA. He thought, looked at the sidewalk, adjusted his glasses, and cleared his throat. He appeared cherubic and a bit tipsy. He muttered something about trying to incubate Kantian disinterestedness and wanting to spend some time reading October. I had been at the school for one year already and told him that although we had some Kant and other books on aesthetics, they were not a big part of assigned readings. Likewise, Rosalind Krauss and Hal Foster could be found in our library, but didn’t form the base of our education there. And hadn’t he studied all that already? He responded with a look that shamed our lack, defied it, and was sparklingly nonchalant, chagrined.
Jackie turned and pointed out someone wearing a t-shirt printed with an image of Duchamp’s Fountain (1917). He asked, “Do you know who ‘R. Mutt’ was?” I answered, confused by his incredulity. Then he made a cryptic pun about the artist John Dogg being a mutt and a mutt being a dog.
Finally, he declared that America had worn itself out on painting and that the only people with any innovative thing to say about the medium from now on would be German. I was trying to keep pace with the left turns our conversation had taken. I challenged him on the principle that nationalism is abhorrent and has nothing to do with painting. But when he pressed me about who my favorite painters were my mind went embarrassingly blank and I replied with Martin Kippenberger and Sigmar Polke. “But that’s only coincidence,” I pleaded. He was unconvinced.
In class a few days later I asked a teacher about Jackie’s argument, raising it with skepticism bordering on derision. I was surprised when the instructor pondered it seriously. He admitted that it sounded odd, but then said that he was continuously amazed that the late twentieth century painters he admired most were Germans: Kippenberger, Richter, Polke, and so on. Jackie emailed me that day, the subject line bearing his smirking question, “Deutscher Maleren über den Amerikanischer?” This was followed by a short list, his trump card:
Cosima von Bonin
Merlin Carpenter (UK)
Per Kirkeby (DK)
Mark Flood (TX)
I never sent Jackie the response I drafted. I did give him a photocopied essay by Harold Rosenberg on the anti-climactic careers of Jules Olitski and Ellsworth Kelly. I had underlined a lamentation about “the futility aroused by the use of art history as art criticism,” which I felt Jackie was trying to do also. But as his impishness became more and more apparent I lost all of my bluster. (I still think he’s wrong on the question of painting’s future.)
After this frustrating introduction we talked often. His enigmatic comments revealed themselves as jokes underpinned by wisdom and detailed knowledge of the art world. His name-dropping lost its bravura as I realized that he was engaging me as my peer, not as a peacock. By the time I discovered how much Jackie and I had in common we had known each other for only six months.
He died on April 30th, a few days after suffering a stroke. His papers and books, the art-historical memorabilia he shared with classmates, and his essays all remain stacked up around the classroom and departmental library at school. They’re specters of an ephemeral time—sweet, but short. In the delicate bubble of that graduate program, friendships and acquaintances took on great significance quickly. My first encounter with Jackie was, perhaps, representative of the argumentative, joyful, of boisterous experiences that can happen without one recognizing how fleeting they are. Things obviously pass: I’ve just graduated and Jackie is also gone. But I’ve tried to remember a man and give a concise sketch of his broad character and mind. (And I likely knew Jackie less than my other classmates did.) Despite how briefly we regarded him, I suspect that his presence has had an enormous impact on our lives. I hope that it is so. He will be missed.
Jackie McAllister with Michael Krebber, 2006; photographer unknown
(Image on top right: Jackie McAllister, Exchange, 2010, Legos (approximately 27 x 27 x 23.2 cm); Courtesy of the artist)
GEOslant: What to See, Where to Be Seen Around Hong Kong, by Robin Peckham
Posted by ArtSlant Team
For ART HK 12, Robin Peckham gives us the local run-down, neighborhood by neighborhood: where the art-loving visitor should eat, drink, and shop during off-time from the fair.
Wanchai, the neighborhood immediately surrounding the convention center in which the art fair is housed, is not normally a major gathering point for the art crowd. For a week in May, however, we learn to love it and make the trek several times daily from the fair through the parallel streets marked by aging stripped clubs (that’s a state of being, not becoming) and former naval watering holes to the few decent spots on the south side of the area abutting the mountain.
For lunch or dinner, the best choices are all delivered by restaurateur and arts patron Alan Lo, whose outlets the Classified Mozzarella Bar, The Pawn, and The Principal offer a selection of reasonable choices, arrayed here in ascending order according to the number of days ahead of time one might consider making a reservation. On the after-dinner walk of shame from one to the next, don’t miss the popular design stores and boutiques around the corner, particularly Kapok and Chen Mi Ji. There’s also the new bar Tai Lung Fung back in a much older neighborhood closer to the center of Causeway Bay; done up to look like a diner from the 1960s, it’s a bit rough around the edges and overly thematic, but the people-watching experience on the front porch is a pleasant one.
Of course, Wanchai is ground zero for Hong Kong karaoke, from the Cantonese chain Neway popular with local teenagers just across the street from the Foo Tak Building (365-367 Hennessy Rd.), the largest agglomeration of artist studios downtown, to MusicBox, a somewhat more refined experience. And if the evening doesn’t end until the sun comes up, stop in at Fu Sing around the corner for the absolute best char siu in town, as well as some of the most jaw-dropping dim sum.
(iPhone Hong Kong, Sheung Wan. Photo by opalpeterliu. Creative Commons License.)
It used to be that all of the galleries anywhere west of the escalator insisted on presenting their addresses as strictly “Central, Hong Kong.” Today, however, it seems that everything in Central with any claim to the cool factor is trying to brand itself as Sheung Wan. The neighborhood has been overrun of late with a plethora of fashion shops, design collectives, coffee classrooms, cocktail bars, and multiples galleries; most should be resolutely ignored and left to the creatives and their consumers, but a number of key spots are significant for the art audience.
Coming out of Central station and looking for a quick afternoon snack, for instance, one finds Wing Lok Yuen, the best purveyor of the classic Hong Kong hot dog. Heading westward and up the hill, one would be remiss not to make an appointment at Moustache for what is almost certainly the most gallery-friendly suiting in the city, classy but with a touch of wink and flourish--and of course, pick up a bathing suit straight off the rack. It will come in handy.
Then there is a significant cluster of dignified if somewhat faded old restaurants in which the majority of opening dinners are held: Lin Heung, the white tablecloth standard; Ngau Kee, a slightly quieter option; Kau Kee, the best beef brisket on the island; and Sing Heung Yuen, famous for its liver-and-macaroni-in-tomato-soup. Continuing past the Asia Art Archive and Para/Site, the twin pillars of scholarly rigor in the otherwise freewheeling Hong Kong art scene, one would arrive at Cafe Loisl, the preferred Viennese cafe of choice for many a quiet afternoon meeting in the neighborhood.
(Hong Kong, Wong Chuk Hang. Photo by ericwonghk83. Creative Commons License.)
Escaping the haze with a move into the theoretically sunny suburbs--and thus following the weekend path of many, whereby brunch with the dog in Sheung Wan often results in a quick cab ride over the mountains of Pokfulam to a lazy afternoon at the beach--one might end up on the South Side. Several neighborhoods here are quickly becoming major art focal points, most notably Wong Chuk Hang, where serious patrons like William Lim and Mimi Brown have chosen to locate their collections and project spaces. This group of industrial buildings (which in Hong Kong more often than not take the form of skyscrapers up to twenty-five stories tall) has also been given a boost by the relocation of many of the offices of Lane Crawford, the city’s largest department store, into a newly refurbished tower in the area, bringing along with it a second branch of the infamous west side deli Percy’s. For the moment, however, there isn’t much else to eat or drink beyond the revelatory Green Curry House (Nam Long Shan Rd. Cooked Food Market) in the local wet market and a stunning array of private clubs--the Hong Kong Country Club, the Hong Kong Golf Club, and the Aberdeen Marina Club--closed to the casual visitor.
The main draw of this side of the island is, of course, the beaches at South Bay and Middle Bay, where it seems--according to historical statistics--most Sunday mornings on the tail end of the art fair end up. Be sure to take the long way back to downtown, however, and pass through Chai Wan on the far east end of the island, where savvy artists, curators, and architects have been buying up industrial units and transforming them into the lofts and studios no one in Hong Kong can afford. While there, enjoy a final coffee at art adviser Jehan Chu’s lunch spot Chaiwanese, and watch the fog roll right back in, as if on cue.
(Image top right: Nightlife in Hong Kong, Wan Chai. Photo by cav... Creative Commons License.)
GEOslant with Frances Guerin - Shibuya: At the Center of the World
Posted by ArtSlant Team
| tags: travel
Many times I have seen the pedestrian crossing, and felt its energy in movies and music videos. But it's like the rest of this city -- being in the middle of Hachiko is like nothing else I have ever experienced. The hordes of people are inconceivable, the density of the people traffic so inspiring that it felt like I had been on a lifelong pilgrimage to be there, only I didn't know it till I got there.
After one week, I think I am getting used to being in Tokyo, but still, the same things never cease to amaze me. And in Hachiko I am still astounded by the ease and comfort of being in the midst of these teeming crowds as they pour onto the pedestrian crossing in front of Shibuya train station.
No one pushes, no one is in such a hurry that they need to be frustrated by my pace. I am slowed down by awe at the magnificence of the neon-clad buildings, deafened by the noise of nightclubs, some kind of political speeches over loudspeakers, and wanting to absorb the thrill of being at what feels like the center of the world. And the Japanese remain as courteous and pleasant as ever, minding their own business, but when asked, ever ready to assist with my most inane enquiries. It is really the greatest privilege to be immersed in this civilized world.
Today, for the first time I got lost, though it is a wonder it hasn't happened earlier. I went to visit a friend of a friend who lives in a building by the tracks of Shinjuku station. Always eager to be above ground, I made the fatal mistake of leaving the train station a few exits too early. Naoko had given me a map and very clear directions on how to find her building, but I learnt today that this system of locating an address is still liable to baffle me. Nevertheless, I was only five minutes late because I asked at a store and with the courtesy and respect I have now come to expect, the lady telephoned Naoko, got the directions, and escorted me to the end of the street and pointed in the right direction -- and we wonder why the Japanese think the French are rude!
Fumbling with the street map, negotiating exits from a train station, looking for a building that sits next to a big hotel, making sure to keep the train tracks on the right (even though it is not always above ground), I realized that, once again, this is a culture in which images make more sense than words. Space, movement through space, conceptions of space, direction, physical orientation and location are all conceived visually -- just like the language. See My Day in Asakusa. The experience of looking for a building that has a number, but a number not displayed, on a street with no name, in a neighborhood divided into fifteen sections means that I am always looking at and for where I am going. In anticipation of my arrival, I envisage or imagine myself in that space; I don't see it as the goal at the end of a journey. And when I get there, I see it and am in the space, rather than thinking or knowing I have arrived.
This said, if I am honest, I am way too Western to believe that I have adapted to the Japanese experience of space and their city. Later this afternoon, as I sat, immersed in the enthrall of being in the futuristic bubble of Shibuya's dazzling facades, I felt as though I was at the center of the world. I had arrived. I was at a place that is an end of a journey, a place from where every other pedestrian crossing must now forever pale in comparison.
(All photos by Frances Guerin)
GEOslant with Gabriella Picone: Under the Tent, Behind the Scenes at Frieze
Posted by ArtSlant Team
| tags: frieze art-fair
Working to prepare for the first New York Frieze Art Fair has been a blend of anticipation and curiosity. To be honest I’ve never been to a Frieze Art Fair in London and to be even more honest I’m not a huge art fair advocate, but working for Frieze has provided me with an admiration for the collective effort needed to create a large-scale event. My art fair role, which has shifted from the art-admiring spectator/critical journalist to a true team player, has still left me with an impartial understanding.
Don’t get me wrong, I am eager and passionate about this fair. How could I not be after devoting five months of my time for an outcome that last for only five days? Anyone involved in this caliber of event planning needs that type of devotion, although it’s nearly impossible to visualize the product. My contribution is only a small portion in comparison to all of the logistical planning that transpires in Frieze’s main office in London. Ironically, working from New York in this new space with a smaller group has in many ways created distance, even if we are geographically closer to the main event.
It was really only until after my visit to Randall’s Island, where the fair is taking place in a snake-shaped tent designed by New York-based SO – IL Architects, that I was actually able to appreciate those five months of planning. Even though I previewed the structure when it was only three-quarters finished, physically existing in this location rather than virtually staring at the architectural renderings on a computer screen, does create a difference.
Frieze New York, exterior, April 19, 2012. Photo by Gabriella Picone.
To most New York-centric locals, Randall’s Island might as well be upstate. Luckily for me though, an avid soccer player from age 5-13, this island was part of my childhood. In fact, the drive up to the site brought back dreaded memories of car tantrums when my parents would force me in to a Sunday game. Fortunately upon pulling up to the structure, which is notably the largest tent ever built in history, this childhood sentiment quickly faded.
No, this is not camp, but it does have a similar “get away” sensation. To my surprise the Frieze Art Fair really does look like those posters you see in the subways; perhaps this was a result of the perfectly clear April afternoon I went out there, but immediately I felt a sense of relaxation. Tranquility is not often the adjective associated with high profile art fairs but something about leaving the island of Manhattan while still catching a glimpse of its panorama provided me with a sense of relief. Although transportation to this site is fairly accessible, with a Frieze ferry that departs every 15 minutes, a shuttle bus service that takes only 20 minutes from the Upper East Side and hundreds of parking spots for drivers, in many ways once you’re out there–you are stuck on an island. Perhaps though, that sense of detachment from the outside world is the ideal way to experience an art fair.
On the FDR Drive, April 19th, 2012. Photo by Gabriella Picone.
Still my visit did exclude the most crucial aspect of the fair--the art from the 180 participating galleries. It also excluded The Frieze New York 2012: Talks Program, panel discussions amongst some of the leading art historians and curators; The Frieze New York Sculpture Park, an outside installation of contemporary works that can even be seen from Manhattan, and the food venues (that after taste-testing I can confidently say exceeds any food I’ve ever eaten at a fair). There are other factors that contribute to the past successes of the London Frieze Art Fair such as the polished curation, sophisticated design, and dedicated set of employees. Although I am still curious as to how it will all unravel in this new location, so far it has gone beyond my expectations...
(image top right: Frieze New York, tent interior, April 19, 2012. Photo by Gabriella Picone.)
GEOslant: Joel Kuennen on the Return of Anthony McCall
Posted by ArtSlant Team
| tags: installation light film
At the age of 20, I studied abroad for a year in Germany at Justus Liebig Universität. There, on a whim, I took a film studies seminar. The professor opened the course with a field trip to the Museum für Moderne Kunst in Frankfurt am Main. The class of seven made the trip down, a short ride on the Deutsche Bahn, and met the professor at the door to the museum. MMK is a rather odd building. Designed by architect Hans Hollein, it is shaped like a piece of cake wedged next to the Römerberg.
At the center of the Kuchen, in a small, darkened room, was Line Describing a Cone, McCall’s seminal work from 1973 in which a white line, starting with a dot at the bottom of the screen is slowly drawn with light from a 16mm projector. The first in his solid-light series, a line describes a circle and as one observes, a cone forms in the dust of the room. Over the course of thirty minutes, the physical presence of film becomes manifest. I saw film for the first time and the feeling remains with me. The cone, a shape synonymous with vision, first acts as a barrier, keeps you outside the scope of light but eventually draws one into the center, bisecting your body and entreating you to consider vision, projection, cinema and light all with the seemingly simple action of a line animation.
Prior to his solid-light series, McCall completed a series of performances including Landscape for Fire, 1972. He wanted to document these performances but soon found the act of documentation maligned the performative and simply was unable to capture the entirety of the performative act. This is, he believes, what lead him to create Line, where he allowed the act of projection to perform film. He first showed the film at a small gallery in Sweden, the first time he had seen the final print, while there for a performance from his fire-scape series.
The effect of the short film was palpable in the air, prompting McCall to comment during a symposium at the University of Chicago in 2012, “I couldn’t see the connection between what I’d done and what I’d seen.” Line became a success of interdisciplinary practices by allowing for the existence of independent disciplines, in this case film, sculpture and performance, to mutually inform and deconstruct one another due to the strict disciplinary constructions that existed between the divergent practices in the ‘70s. However, McCall recognized a correlation, something film theorist André Bazin noted of film in his seminal What is Cinema?: "The cinema is objectivity in time... Now, for the first time, the image of things is likewise the image of their duration, change mummified…" McCall refuted by exploring the contingency of time through light.
Long Film for Ambient Light, 1975, abstracted the practice of time-based arts even further. In a warehouse in New York, he installed a large globe lamp and hung white paper over the windows. During the day, muted light would flood the gallery and at night, the papered windows would become screens, whereupon the light from the central lamp was projected. McCall describes the filmic quality of the work in an essay written for the journal October in 2003; “the film existed in the space between the room, the statement, and the time schema, and could be grasped as such… The installation sat precisely on a threshold, on one side of which was ‘time-based’ art, and on the other, ‘non-time-based’ art.”
Twenty-two years passed from Long Film for Ambient Light until he would show work in a major way.
McCall worked as a designer for arts publications. He saw no possibility for making a career out of experimental art in 1975, citing the impossibility of displaying Line in environments that were not thick with dust and smoke, the medium in the air that allowed the work to perform sculpturally. Not until the ‘90s did fog machines facilitate his ability to exhibit. This shift coincided with a desire by museums to bulk up their film and video collections.
In 2004, McCall exhibited Doubling Back at the Whitney Biennial as a continuation of his solid-light series, but now executed digitally. The continuation of the solid-light series have all been designed algorithmically and projected via a digital projector. Doubling Back consisted of wipes between two forms implied through movement: always there but never fully apparent, creating a gestural sculpture that relies on the expected perception of geometric entities. McCall, throughout his oeuvre, always returns to essential elements: light and dark, fire and, as we will see, water. To manipulate these, he approaches the problem of artistic construction mathematically and in so doing entreats a universal artistic language of expression: geometric expression through elemental forms.
You and I, Horizontal followed in 2005. I was able to see this piece at the Phenomenologies of Projection, Aesthetics of Transition Symposium organized by Michelle Menzies at the University of Chicago this last February. Screened at the Experimental Station, a gallery close to the university campus, You and I, Horizontal was familiar. The experience of walking into a darkened room, senses heightened to avoid unwanted collisions, eyes reaching to seek out shadows. The screening was held immediately following the symposium and so the large room was crowded with people, milling about. Most stationed themselves somewhere between the projector and the screen, again, bounding the white forms that materialized in the fog-filled room. Eventually, this reverence broke and people crossed through the beams of light. McCall describes You and I as a mobile of light. It is, as is Doubling Back, a transitional sculpture “never not fully there.” It’s hard not to mark these newer works, especially the horizontal pieces, as small variations on a theme. In some respects, that is exactly what they are, an expansion of the solid-light series, however, one cannot help but notice the effect that is still present in the viewing audience. There is a mythic quality, a primitive scintillation.
Line Describing a Cone 2.0, 2011, was shown following the viewing of You and I. The digital nature of this second version turned the sound of a clicking 16mm projector into the soft hum of a cooling fan. Striations in the light beamed from the projector could be seen as well as slight pixelization in the solid-light images, but the magic was still there. People crowded into the space defined by the beams of light, inching forward to the source of projection, mesmerized by the play of form and formlessness like a swarm of Icaruses. Film theorist, Tom Gunning, was present and the smile on his face was of a child as he walked down the tunnel towards the light, experiencing for the first time what he had devoted his life to studying. This experience of Line 2.0 was much less about the solitary contemplation as was my first encounter with the work—the sounds of my murmuring mind becoming the soundtrack; this screening was celebratory.
McCall was in attendance and wandered about, observing the crowd with arms crossed and a satisfied grin rightly adorning his face. McCall is in the ascendant. In April, a large exhibition of his new works, both horizontal and vertical projections, entitled Five Minutes of Pure Sculpture will open in Berlin at the Hamburger Bahnhof – Museum für Gegenwart. This will mark the beginning of a series of exhibitions throughout Europe, culminating in his most ambitious project yet: Column. A spiraling, vertical cloud of steam that will project upward from a river near Liverpool to coincide with the opening of the 2012 Olympics, McCall is still working with environmentalists in the realization of the Column project that would be visible from sixty miles away.
(All images: Installation view of Anthony McCall's Line Describing a Cone 2.0, 2011.)
GEOslant with Andrea Alessi: Eating Mussels in Brussels
Posted by ArtSlant Team
| tags: conceptual performance sculpture
Francis Alÿs once did a walk from the Museum of Science and Industry to the Nordic Museum in Stockholm, mapping the journey with the unraveling thread of his blue sweater.
The Belgian native is known for his “walks”, performative perambulations numbering too many to list here. They link sites separated by space and time; they chart national and political histories onto landscape; they open onto questions of surveillance and urban existence; and perhaps most importantly, they playfully highlight the subjective journey of the individual in time and geography.
Miriam Böhm, Interlude IV, 2012, Chromogenic color print, 31 x 35 inches, courtesy Ratio 3.
If I’d been feeling cleverer and less exhausted from standing for an entire train journey from Rotterdam to Brussels, I might have planned an Alÿs-style walk on a recent trip to the EU capital. As in the artist’s Stockholm walk – and in the paths of so many visitors – one could map Brussels within and between its museums. Wander through the palatial Royal Museums of Art, stroll in a southwesterly direction to the modernist industrial building of Wiels, Brussels’s best-known contemporary art center, all the while charting the route with a trail of powdered sugar blown from a street vendor’s waffle. Or perhaps you could let loose one French and one Flemish speaker into the city. One carries a cone of chips, the other a bottle of mayo. When they meet, they must speak to each other in English.
Eddie Martinez, Dream Scape, 2012, oil and spray paint on canvas, © Eddie Martinez, courtesy Sorry We're Closed.
I pose these truly terrible (or at the very least corny) ideas only to bring up the notion of adding further poetic – if bad poetry – meaning to what is essentially the under-informed wandering of a tourist. You could make yourself feel more singular of purpose – as you follow the throngs of people from the Grote Markt (Grand Place), past numerous chocolate and waffle shops (roll your eyes at me, but I’ve been there and I’m not making this up), to the Mannekin Pis (the oddly famous peeing boy fountain) – if you envisioned your movements as art. Stopping to indulge in overpriced mussels and chips along the way might not be the best financial decision, but it is a tasty one. And one in which another famous Belgian artist, Marcel Broodthaers, would have approved. In addition to le/la moule’s wordplay, in which mussels sculpt themselves, the artist exploited the Belgian gastronomic stereotype, equating culture with cuisine. Food can be poetic, touristy, and delicious. Triumph of the Mussels indeed.
Mike Kelley, Buttered Colored Vision of the Land O’ Lakes Girl, Peche Island, piezo pigment paint on rag paper, framed, edition of 5, © Mike Kelley, courtesy Patrick Painter, Los Angeles.
Whether the journey is your destination or you’re just there for Art Brussels, prepare to do some legwork in Brussels. Despite the tight spiral of tourist attractions in the center, the city is pretty spread out, and if you’re there to check out the art scene there’s no go-to neighborhood or destination. Small clusters of galleries do pop up, but a map of their locations reveals no conclusive patterns.
My own recent trip looped me up and around from BOZAR and the Royal Museums, where I found David’s The Death of Marat, plus key works by Rubens, Bruegel, and James Ensor, plus the aforementioned mussels. Lest you think they missed something hiding under a bowler hat, Magritte’s work has its own museum in the compound. Leaving the museum area, I attended Johan Gelper’s show at Ricou Gallery before my trajectory sent me north through a residential neighborhood to the Vanhaerents Art Collection, a truly impressive private collection of contemporary art which admits scheduled visitors on Saturdays. Further north still, I stopped into recommended galleries Jan Mot and VidalCuglietta, showing newly installed exhibitions by word artist Ian Wilson and Lisa Tan, respectively. Nearby, I passed Hopstreet and Crown Gallery off the Graanmarkt. While I chose the downtown offerings, I could have headed uptown instead where about a dozen galleries straddle either side of Avenue Louise, what begins as an upscale shopping boulevard and turns into the city’s southbound thoroughfare. There I would have found prominent galleries like Meessen De Clercq, Baronian Francey, and Almine Rech, all of which have openings corresponding with Art Brussels, plus a solid collection of emerging and established galleries alike.
Alex Verhaest, Character Study - Helene, 4 minute animation loop on framed screen, © courtesy of the artist and GRIMM.
There is, quite simply, a great deal going on in this city of dichotomies, where global meets local; art nouveau meets concrete monstrosity; and English meets French and Flemish somewhere in the middle. It is a cultural, linguistic, culinary, and architectural melting pot. And while Alÿs could no doubt envision some great walks in Brussels – highlighting art or not – you should go ahead and make your own.
For it is on our own journeys that we discover the strange lack of sculpture and prevalence of graffiti in Royal Museum’s “sculpture garden”. That we come across larger than life Tintin tableaux snaking up the sides of buildings. That we find the peeing boy fountain transformed into a peeing vampire. That we drink a great local beer and are denied waffles by a cart purportedly selling the modulated confections. That we avoid an old man in a fedora shooting the air with an unloaded rifle. That we come across a townhouse cum art center we didn’t know existed. Map your own travels as art lover, tourist, or better yet as someone who doesn’t see these things as being mutually exclusive.
(Image top right: Kati Heck, Entführung der Mutter mit Hase, oil, charcoal and toilet paper on canvas, courtesy Tim Van Laere Gallery.)
GEOslant with Edward Sanderson: Alessandro Rolandi’s Social Sensibility R&D Program in Beijing
Posted by ArtSlant Team
| tags: relational sculpture performance painting
When asked about her working environment, one worker said she would like to feel the sun on her skin for a while – a simple but poetic request, fulfilled by moving her workstation outside the factory for a short period. Another worker took the opportunity to make a fluid sculpture out of the big barrel of grease he was using, giving it the title: “A piece of shit.” These little gestures came about as part of Italian artist Alessandro Rolandi’s Social Sensibility R&D Program, instituted in the factory of Bernard Controls S.A. on the outskirts of Beijing.
Bernard Controls is a French family-owned company producing specialist servo engines for operating valves in water pipes found in nuclear power stations, but also used in places like the Beijing Opera House and the Olympic Swimming Pool (AKA the “Water Cube”) in Beijing.
For a factory to embrace such a distraction from the serious business of production is down to the initiative of the boss, Guillaume Bernard, an engineer with a particular interest in corporate social responsibility. But while Bernard Controls already had a steering committee working to improve management personnel relationships using activities such as exhibition visits and music concerts, M. Bernard was looking beyond this. “He’s one step ahead,” Rolandi says. “He’s an engineer, not a psychologist, sociologist, or a philosopher. We talked a lot about this, and he seems genuinely open to more socially aware activities, which I related to relational practice within the art world.”
Rolandi’s background is in the theatre, which he explains is “very social, but you wonder how you can really go into something real?” In the case of Bernard Controls, he saw the chemistry as being “so random, it provided me with a little door.” The invitation to set up his R&D program became an opportunity to insert a little mischief into the regimented life of the factory.
Panoramic 1; Courtesy Alessandro Rolandi.
This particular factory is unlike the cliché of a Chinese factory: you won’t find thousands of workers performing mundane and repetitive tasks over long conveyor belts in an airless hanger. This factory is relatively small, with about a hundred staff, of whom only twenty to thirty actually work on assembling the product. The work areas are also relatively discrete in terms of their interior design. Rolandi says it’s not an environment where you feel you have no way out, where everything is under surveillance. But at the same time, “No matter how you look at it, it’s still a factory.”
To begin with he underwent the regular worker’s training, so he could understand the product from a technical as well as an economic point of view. Rolandi found that the practical work that the workers have to do, the physical labour of assembling these objects, led him to fully appreciate that this was a sort of sensibility that has its own value: “It’s not particularly creative work, but I’ve tried myself putting the pieces together for a couple of hours, and without the experience these workers have got, you get quite nervous!”
Also included in his standard training were the "5Ss," an overbearing work management system from Japan, which is all about efficiency, cleanliness and organisation; and the "4Rs" of security. Within these strictures Rolandi initially despaired: “I was sitting alone in this little space they gave me (which doubled as a kitchen) and just thought to myself: ‘What am I doing here?’ Creativity often deals with messiness, but the rules here were completely set against this. I felt like I was proposing something where I was dead before I’d even started!”
To address this difficulty, and to find his point of entry, he began by approaching the workers with small requests connected to his own knowledge of relational artwork. After talking with them, he showed them photos and videos to get them used to the idea of creating themselves. However, in the process of breaking the ice Rolandi committed his first cultural faux pas. He had taken photos of the workers around the factory and printed them out as little gifts. These black and white photos proved to be not so inspired, as he was politely informed that black-and-white photos were for dead people. On the plus side, he felt it was significant that the workers felt comfortable enough to give him this information, representing a bridge across the gap between them.
Indeed throughout the project Rolandi has been impressed by the time and courtesy he has been afforded. He trusts this was due to politeness or respect, but he was also very much aware of his privileged position in relation to the workers. At the beginning M. Bernard effectively gave him too much authority, so he took baby steps to gain the trust of the people he was working with. He started by provided the workers with notebooks to records their ideas, then gave them cameras to take photos around the workplace, and then asked them to make drawings and give him an idea of how they would like to develop those drawings in real life.
Gru & Gru project; Courtesy Alessandro Rolandi.
He found that although their idea of art usually began with painting and sculpture, when they were offered what Rolandi characterised as “the new territory” of these small tasks, they were very creative in their proposals: “One drew a beautiful bird, for instance, but then they said they wanted this beautiful bird to be on a restaurant façade with neon writing.” This additional information intrigued Rolandi, as he saw ways that it connected with contemporary art practice.
A later project involved asking the workers to create small performances. Rolandi was allowed to give a number of workers a thirty-minute break to think up something to do in their environment: “as a gesture, as a thought; I just called it (in Mandarin) suibian ‘whatever you want’ (without mentioning too much the word ‘art.’)”
The actions mentioned at the beginning of this article were amongst the results, from which Rolandi felt there was a kind of daring involved, more than just politeness: “I had the feeling they were really taking the chance to use this little bubble that was opening up.”
For eight months now Rolandi has been visiting the factory once or twice a week. This initial period has represented for him the negotiation between himself and his ideas, and the bosses, workers and environment of the factory – for Rolandi the immaterial but most interesting part of the whole process.
To get approval to make the project more sustainable and efficient, Rolandi was asked to make a business presentation to the committee, something which — as an artist — he was somewhat unused to. He brought along images of pieces by various artists, including Francis Alÿs pushing the ice cube through Mexico City (Paradox of Praxis 1 (Sometimes Making Something Leads to Nothing), 1997), Rirkrit Tiravanija’s meals, Joseph Beuys' Oak Tree project (7000 Oaks – City Forestation instead of City Administration, 1982) and the Chinese artist Song Dong’s installation of his mother’s possessions (Waste Not, 2005). The Alÿs piece worked very well; M. Bernard was able to point to it, and suggest: “Look what happens: you’re pushing something for nothing, but eventually this big ice cube becomes a little ball and you can play with it!” This touch of humour proved to be the opening point for Rolandi, after which the committee were on board.
Delivery 1; Courtesy Alessandro Rolandi.
In the future Rolandi understands that the project may well be extended to the company’s other locations in France, Korea, Japan or South America. But for the moment he is planning on becoming a little more discreet in his own involvement, bringing other people in with different approaches. In the last few weeks another Italian artist, Andrea Nacciarriti, has been working in the factory getting the workers to collect objects related to their work and life that are then sealed in the same small boxes used for their product. These are then distributed randomly around another Beijing suburb. Next up is Ma Yongfeng of the forget art collective (whose practice I wrote about last year on GeoSlant), who will investigate the use of graffiti as a subversive information carrier within the factory, and then Japanese performance artist Megumi Shimizu will be invited to create her own work there.
From the outset Rolandi has discussed with M. Bernard all they are doing, and for both of them important questions are on the one hand how radicality enters the art world? And on the other, what is the value of radicality in the workspace? This, for Rolandi, is the value of social practices, but he hopes to address these questions without the idealism of the ‘60s or as simply an uncritical celebration of those activities. For all that, he is hopeful that they can still open things up without tearing the situations apart, which would mean a swift end to the project. In the positive sense, this opening up would be a situation into which other people can step. But as he says: “This shouldn’t be safe! Otherwise where is the communication?”
[Based on an interview with Alessandro Rolandi, 23 February 2012]
(Image on top right: Grease sculpture; Courtesy Alessandro Rolandi.)
GEOslant: Devon Caranicas on Buenos Aires Visual Arts
Posted by ArtSlant Team
| tags: fashion graffiti/street-art
As traditional South American modes of expression have fused with a strong lineage of European immigration, Buenos Aires has become the apex of chic. A unique street aesthetic, that predominates from cafes and clubs to boutiques and everyday dress, stands out among other capital cities for its eclectic edge and vibrancy. Strangely, the city's visual arts scene pales in comparison to its contemporaries of São Paulo, Berlin or Paris and only a handful of reputable galleries and small-scale art museums dot the city's otherwise varied cultural landscape. Arguably the top three cultural centers -- Fundación Proa, the Museo de Arte Latinoamericano de Buenos Aires, and the Faena Arts Center -- were opened in 1996, 2001, and 2011, respectively. These institutions, known for their progressive programming, polished spaces, and promotion of an international dialogue are -- relatively speaking -- still in their infancy.
The visual arts traditionally serve as a cultural mirror reflecting back into the world the current political, social and artistic climate. Art spaces act as facilitators for these conversations. While Buenos Aires still has a strong visual character, the conversation surrounding a national visual identity has instead largely moved to the streets. Graffiti and fashion have taken on the role of circulating visual culture intended for the masses. Murals are pervasive in even the poshest of neighborhoods with content that ranges from politically subversive to purely aesthetic. This culture of street color has further influenced the commercial architecture, making it commonplace for city blocks to pop with cerulean blue or magenta building facades.
Likewise, personal style is represented in an equal mix of striking statements of fabric and color and cosmopolitan sensibilities. Fusing traditional textiles, palettes and craft aesthetics with modern silhouettes, influences as far reaching as Peruvian knits and as far back as Aztec geometry are seamlessly incorporated into mainstream production.
The traditional artistic practices of South America are rich, varied and, most importantly, exist outside the Western Art paradigm. In negotiating these two opposing historic modes of representation it seems as though contemporary visual arts in Buenos Aires have predominantly manifested through different channels of self expression. Regina Root, author of Couture and Consensus: Fashion and Politics in Postcolonial Argentina, theorizes that in the political upheaval following the Argentine Revolution of 1810 "dress served as a critical expression of political agency and citizenship during the struggle to forge the Argentine nation." This same theory can be applied to Argentine architecture and fashion today.
The question then becomes, what stalled the development of arts spaces in Buenos Aires? The reasoning is complex and most likely the result of several factors. However one could theorize that during the late 20th century in Argentina, decades which served as a key time in other world cities such as New York and London as an era of exponential growth for arts related non-profits, publicly funded arts programs and rising arts university enrollment, efforts were instead positioned towards the immense social, financial and political disorder the country was faced with.
Beginning in the mid-70s, and ending with a financial collapse in 2001, this crucial period not only halted the growth of institutional infrastructure but actively discouraged it. The Dirty War, which ran from 1976-1983, left thousands of the creative class dead or ominously unaccounted for. Some estimate as high as 30,000 "los desaparecidos" (the disappeared) were kidnapped or killed during this time by the military junta who, in an effort to surprise an impending uprising, targeted those with left-leaning political views.
Twenty five years later Argentina suffered a financial meltdown that resulted in a government collapse and nearly a quarter of the citizens unemployed. In the years following, the country's rejuvenation process (started by President Nestor Kirchner and currently led by the now deceased former president's wife, Cristina Kirchner) reoriented national priorities towards housing, education and worker's needs. It is no wonder that the city's museums, cultural centers and galleries have only now begun to flourish.
Buenos Aires remains a beautiful place with a beautiful culture. In light of the city's post-colonial influences and political upheaval, the re-imagination and re-contextualization of Northern and Southern hemispheric influences takes on a new significance. The ubiquity of these essentially "low art" subcultures become loaded with questions of cultural authenticity, censorship and global capitalism. In a time when the world can feel frighteningly small and cities homogeneous, this unique visual voice will hopefully further express itself as the arts scene in Argentina continues to expand.
(All photos by Devon Caranicas)
GEOslant: Natalie Hegert at the Whitney Biennial
Posted by ArtSlant Team
“Be advised that the fourth floor galleries will be closing in about fifteen minutes for Sarah Michelson’s performance,” I was told when I arrived at the Whitney ticket counter, “So you should probably begin your visit there.” Yeesh. Fifteen minutes for an entire floor? I’d better hurry, I thought, as I dashed to the elevator.
On the fourth floor, one of Michelson’s dancers was warming up, stretching her limbs out with a couple quick pas-de-bourrées over the dance floor—a site-specific work in itself: the architectural plans for the museum were painted on the floor, dance floor as map, as blue-print. Watching the dancers warm up before their performances was a part of the piece, I gathered, but wondered why the gallery had to be emptied of visitors two hours before the actual performance. Warm ups we could watch, but not rehearsals? No chance of getting a ticket to the actual performance—all tickets had been reserved for weeks now. (I ran into some friends in the café a couple hours later who were waiting for stand-by tickets. I’m not sure if they got in.) I felt sort of bad for the other artists whose artworks were installed on that floor as I was ushered out by a rather stern looking, non-plussed museum guard.
I spent the rest of my visit to the 2012 Biennial alternately looking at art and being scolded by the museum guards for various boundaries I was apparently breaching. This iteration of the Whitney Biennial promises the “breakdown of boundaries between art forms” in its radical agglomeration of artists working in disparate fields, not only in visual art, but in music, performance, dance, and film. This breakdown of boundaries makes this Biennial an ever-changing, fluctuating three-month-long event that will look and feel different for each visitor on any given day, but also breaks down the boundaries between viewer and art object, installation, performance, what-have-you. This presents the visitor with unique challenges, equivocations, hesitations and confusions regarding the works of art and their thresholds and borders, not to mention the aggravation added to the duties of the museum guards.
On the third floor I opened a door into Nick Mauss’ curious, charming installation, then reached out to feel the sumptuous mustard-yellow velvet tapestry lining the door. “Please, ma’am, don’t touch,” I was warned. Ok, so I can touch the door handle but not the wall? I sheepishly retreated.
Nick Mauss, Concern, Crush, Desire, 2011, Cotton appliqué on velvet, brass doorknobs and doorstoppers, 131 x 94 x 115 in. Collection of Nicoletta Fiorucci; courtesy 303 Gallery, New York, and Galerie Neu, Berlin.
Sam Lewitt’s installation of ferromagnetic liquid was similarly policed. The black liquid spread over sheets of plastic, congealed over magnets, forming extraordinarily mercurial spiked balls, like little minesweeper mines, their liquidity revealed by small oscillating fans. The bizarre properties of this fantastic stuff required a really close look. Someone was inadvertently stepping on one of the fans’ electric cords, and the guard called his attention to his misstep. “Please step away sir!”
A few feet away Dawn Kasper was conversing with visitors in her installation, her studio transposed into the museum, replete with a bed, stacks of vinyl, papers, artworks, books, her laptop, and sundry other things. I walked through a pathway in her cluttered Nomadic Studio. I rifled through some of her VHS tapes; I’m not sure if I was supposed to do that.
Whitney Biennial installation view, floor 3. Courtesy of the Whitney Museum of Contemporary Art.
Most people know how to act (at least nominally) in museums. You don’t touch the paintings or sculptures. (In the crowd at MoMA’s Tim Burton show, however, I realized how many attendees weren’t frequent museum-goers as I watched them confidently handle the objects, dragging their fingers along the costumes and sculptures. The guards looked exhausted from calling them off. What a nightmare.) But in a show where the artworks overlap and spill into the museum space, where museum becomes studio space, or science experiment, or rehearsal room, things can get a little complicated. It feels very free-wheeling, but I soon realized those borders between viewer and object are still there, policed by the ever-vigilant guards, or by subtle sandpaper boundaries stuck to the floor scuffing the bottoms of your soles as you approach the invisible line between acceptable looking and craning too far.
In the lobby, at the end of my visit, I walked around and through Oscar Tuazon’s architectural sculpture, For Hire, a “formless tangle” comprising a staircase, a few doors, pathways, and room-like spaces. It seemed like the first construction stages of what would become a cheap apartment complex. Another visitor headed up the stairs—the museum guard protested. “Sir, please come down,” she stated exasperatedly, “you can’t go up there!” I had already been warned enough—I knew not to step on the stairs. I wandered a little bit more through the acceptable spaces of the installation, opened some doors, walked through some pathways. I approached the stairs, with no intention of walking up them, but the museum guard immediately called me back. “Please, ma’am, you can’t go there.” I smiled and looked over at her. I could tell she had been saying these same words over and over again, warning the same warning over and over.
“This is your whole day, huh?” I asked her, “telling people not to go up the stairs?”
“Eight hour day, telling people, don’t go up there. You get to the top, but there’s nowhere to go!” She laughed.
(top image: Oscar Tuazon, For Hire, 2012 Mixed media, Dimensions variable, Collection of the artist; courtesy Maccarone, New York.)
GEOslant: It Ain't Easy
Posted by ArtSlant Team
| tags: performance
“He says, ‘It’s crazy that you can’t get people to do it.”
“Ok, but tell him: ‘To me, it is crazy to think that you could get people to do it.’”
We are standing outside on the street late at night in February trying to figure out how we’re going to realize our project, which is to be on view to the public in three days. To complicate things further, I speak no Spanish and my counterpart, Carlos Martiel Delgado Saínz, speaks no English. This is a typical exchange that has made participating in Arte No Es Fácil such a challenge and excitement. In Cuba you can get plenty of people to come help with something in a few hours notice. In America, you need at least a week, especially if it’s a Friday.
Arte No Es Fácil is the work of Danielle Paz and Marilyn Volkman. As graduate students in the University of Chicago’s Departments of Visual Arts and Art History some of my colleagues, including Paz and Volkman, traveled to Havana, Cuba, in 2009 to document the Havana Biennial. The trip evolved far beyond the initial documentary into a project that now includes, among other things, a series of exhibitions in Chicago at Links Hall. While a creation of Paz and Volkman, it involves dozens of artists working in many disciplines.
Arte No Es Fácil, translates to “Art Isn’t Easy.” This title was adopted after the original group experienced the struggle just to accomplish even the simplest tasks in Cuba. But out of this has grown a unique spirit of collaboration and a collective effort, specifically in relation to art making. Arte no es fácil. A meaning everyone involved in the project has come to understand on many levels. Like most arduous journeys, it’s been incredibly rewarding and worthwhile.
I cannot begin to fathom what this must be like for some, though. When Hamlet Lavastida Cordovi first traveled to the United States, he was asked the question all Cubans entering the U.S, are asked, “Are you here for a visit or do you seek asylum?” The question had not even occurred to him until that very moment. Without hesitation he responded, “Asylum.”
When preparing for this essay I asked him if it was alright to tell his story and if I should not use his name. His reply: “Don't worry you can use my name as you want. When I come here I decide to refuse to participate in a tyranny, that’s real!!!!!”
The program at Links Hall has taken place over three weekends in three months: January, February and March. This weekend marks the culmination of this phase of the project. Arte No Es Fácil continues, though. There are plans to produce a catalogue of the Links Hall exhibitions and the process of organizing a sister event in Havana in 2013 is underway.
Collaboration is the key to the project. After the initial documentary was completed Paz and Volkman were dissatisfied. They had failed in their eyes because what they created was an image, a representation, rather than an open form of communication.
“We started to see similarities between the practices of emerging Cuban artists we met in Havana and the work of artists we knew in Chicago. We thought, ‘If we know artists making work separated by location and context, yet sharing a resemblance in form, what would these modes of working look like when collaboratively translated from one context into the other?’” Volkman and Paz explain in a statement on the project’s website.
Carlos Martiel Delgado Síaz & Erik Wenzel, To make oneself oblivion. Installation performance at Links Hall, February 2012. Courtesy of the artists and Arte No Es Fácil / photo credit: Kimmy Noonen
I was paired with Carlos. How do you begin to have a conversation about making a work of art with someone you’ve never met? We began communicating through email when I was living in Berlin, Germany, and Carlos was in Havana, Cuba. We faced not only an eight-hour time difference, but also a delay in sending our messages through an intermediary to translate. Additionally, access to email and the internet is sporadic in Cuba. We went back and forth, using Google Translate as a workaround. You tweak the sentences, sometimes word by word, and eventually end up with a message that makes just enough sense to be confusing to the recipient.
Being in Germany and Cuba respectively, neither of us could visit the site in Chicago where we were planning to realize our piece. Carlos suggested a performance that was incredibly simple but which we spent the next few months trying to explain to each other. It wasn’t until December that I suddenly realized what he had actually been proposing. And it wasn’t until I returned from Berlin and could visit the site in person that I knew it wasn’t feasible based on Links Hall’s architecture. And it wasn’t until he arrived in February and saw Links Hall in person that he could understand what I had been trying to explain. It’s kind of brilliant in its Beckettesque futility. It was a few days before the night we were to present our piece and it was back to the drawing board.
In the meantime, for the weekend in January, we presented separate but related works. Carlos’ piece Invasions is a sound installation of audio recorded of the street noise from his window in Havana. We presented it for him in his absence. The interior space of Links Hall was dimly lit in blue and as the audio came up from a speaker in the dark alongside the windows, I drew the curtains to reveal the Chicago alley, theatrically light in yellows and oranges by the streetlights. The El tracks just a few hundred feet away thundered with the occasional train. Every time someone walked into the alley they were like an extra in a film. Presented later in the evening was my piece, Drei Jahre in einer Linie / Three years in a line, a composition made of audio recorded, often by chance, during the three years I have spent time in Berlin. While Carlos’ piece focused on exteriority, drawing the viewer’s attention outside and replacing the local sound environment with that of another city, my work used sound as a way to tell a narrative and sought to draw the audience inward toward their own conceptions of a city heard but unseen. With the curtains down and a dim spotlight, the atmosphere was more along the lines of a classical music concert.
Back to February. We are hanging around Links Hall amidst all the other activity of artists preparing their works and Carlos pulls up his Word document of ideas for artworks on his jump drive. I have my list of “Art Ideas” on my iPhone. He starts reading them off. Scott Waitukaitis, a scientist and Marilyn’s husband, translates. We agree on a piece that involves covering the furniture in the office with white sheets the way you might when someone vacates a house or you’re storing a deceased relative's possessions in your attic. The room will be open as people file into the theater space of Links Hall. The catch is that an unseen performer will be among the furniture, an object himself under a sheet.
Carlos Martiel Delgado Síaz with Erik Wenzel, Sangre Azul (Blue Blood). Performance at Links Hall, February 2012. Courtesy of the artists and Arte No Es Fácil / photo credit: Kimmy Noonen
It’s Friday, the audience is directed down the hall to the room transformed into a ghostly sculpture. Some enter, others, unaware it is art, shuffle past and enter the theater. Three women sit around a nude man, sketching him. He goes through a series of poses. Later viewers would describe to me the uncomfortable sensation of watching people draw. “When you’re gazing at a naked man to draw him it’s a different kind of looking; you are studying. When you are in the audience, watching it feels wrong; it is like voyeurism,” explains one. Carlos, of Afro-Cuban decent, is the nude model. The young women are all white, a detail I was pleased to make happen.
What a great action, reversing the male gaze by placing clothed females in a circle around the sleek form of a bare-naked male. It is also problematic in an interesting way that it is the non-white, the other, who is being held up as an example of beauty, but also something to be consumed by white European Americans. At least this is what I think is happening; I am under a sheet in the other room. For once the white man is marginalized and obscured. I sit there for ages, a prop in our performance installation until someone comes up and says, “Carlos says, ‘you’re done. You shouldn’t have to sit here suffering while everyone is in the theater.’”
In the end we found people. Arte no es fácil, but it’s worth it.
(Image on top right: Carlos Martiel Delgado Síaz, Invasions. Installation view at Links Hall, January 2012. Courtesy of the artist and Arte No Es Fácil)
GEOslant: The Nordic Focus during Armory Week
Posted by ArtSlant Team
| tags: art-fair
This year at the Armory (and Volta), take a trip to the icy North. The Nordic focus features Scandinavia's promising art scene, curated by Malmö Konsthall's director Jacob Fabricius, with a selection of galleries from Denmark, Iceland, Sweden, Norway and Finland. With all these galleries clustered together in a cul-de-sac at the north end of Pier 94, it’s a veritable village. In an act of pure generosity and goodwill, a lounge running through the middle of the action offers up not only places to sit and, well lounge, but also books of poetry, posters and other artworks for visitors to take.
Spend at least an hour here. The ambience is relaxed, the work is excellent and ranges from translucent and poetic to dark and complex, and right next door is the champagne bar lit by the pink neon of Ragnar Kjartansson's show-stopping work, Scandinavian Pain. Your first stop should be Iceland's gallery, i8, where you can find out more about Kjartansson's work as well as swoon over a selection of Olafur Eliasson's driftwood pieces.
The scene in Stockholm is well represented. Ranging from the established to newly emerging, these spaces represent international artists such as Miriam Bäckström, Leif Elggren, Goldin+Senneby, Johanna Billing, Ann-Sofi Sidén, Viktor Rosdahl and Christian Pontus-Andersson.
Swedish artists Miriam Bäckström and Leif Elggren are represented at Gallery Niklas Belenius' booth. Two of Bäckström's pieces from the Mirrors series are exhibited, focusing on the boundary between the staged and real via photo-mirror dichotomies. Elggren's displayed pieces are eerie photographs such as Swedenborg, King Carolus XII and Queen Christina as a Baby and an uncanny sound installation. Elggren regularly collaborates with others, such as Thomas Liljenberg and American artist John Duncan whose installation and performance work is based upon cajoling the audience to actively participate with his electroacoustic sound, video and radio pieces.
CRYSTAL is an emerging space located in Stockholm's central district Vasastan, co-organized by Jun-Hi Wennergren Nordling and Katarina Sjögren. They are highlighting artists such as the collaborative duo Goldin+Senneby (Simon Goldin and Jakob Senneby) with the work Abstract Possible, which touts itself to be, “A detailed evaluation of the collecting opportunities presented by each of the works on offer in the exhibition Abstract Possible at Bukowskis,” purveyed by “Thea Westreich Art Advisory.” It was up for auction at a fixed price (contrary to auction house conventions but the rule for this primary market auction) at Bukowski's, as part of the Swedish curator Maria Lind's controversial exhibition at Tensta Konsthall “Abstract Possible.” Previous works by Goldin+Senneby subvert and examine financial structures as well as analyze theoretic versus actual value. The provocative photogaphs of Julia Peirone are also presented.
Christian Larsen Gallery represents a melange of creatives including the intriguing Swedish artist Ann-Sofi Sidén who is known for The Queen of Mud works from the ‘80s (she recently won the Swedish Culture Prize from the daily paper Dagens Nyheter), and more recently, In Passing (2007) as well as the collaborations with The Royal Dramatic Theater and Mobile Art Production. The gothic works of Viktor Rosdahl (also on view at Norway's Dortmund Bodega), filled with layers of repressed violence, turbulence and psychological trauma are not to be missed, as well as the photographic collages from Cooper & Gorfer.
From Copenhagen, there is V1 Gallery at the far end of the lounge, and Beaver Projects has a surprising trio of works on paper by Christian Finne (they are not what they appear to be - look closely). Finnish (sic) the visit with a few moments of sound bliss at Helsinki's Galerie Anhava, where you can relax with the sounds of Tommi Grönlund & Petteri Nisunen's Wave of Matter.
With approximately twenty Scandinavian spaces present at Armory this year, there is no shortage of culturally specific stimulants for enthusiasts gathering from near and far.
Ragnar Kjartansson, Scandinavian Pain (twilight) (installation view), 2006, neon sculpture. Courtesy of i8 Gallery. On view at the Armory Show, Pier 94, Nordic Lounge.
(Image at top right: Cooper & Gorfer, Shola and the Cat, 2011, photographic collage. Courtesy of Christian Larsen. On view at the Armory SHow, Pier 94, Nordin Lounge)
GEOslant: New York - on the brink of nostalgia?
Posted by ArtSlant Team
Introduction: While New York gets ready for the most contemporary of contemporary art during Armory Arts Week, we thought it worth considering the reality of the city itself, seen in the light of an ordinary day.
As I stood watching the N train chugging out of the station at 30th Av in Astoria, pulling with all its might, seemingly uncertain if it would make it to the other side of the Queensboro Bridge, I mused at how antiquated things in New York can be. When I lived in New York on the N & the R lines, they were better known as the “Never” and the “Rarely”. It’s not only the unpredictability of their timetable that makes the N & the R trains like relics of a bygone era. The stations themselves are filthy, the trains are so noisy that they put all conversation on pause when they arrive in the station, and they have given warm and dirty homes to the city’s rodent population. My favorite gesture that puts the MTA in the category of historical curiosity is when the conductor leans out of the window to check all are aboard. I can’t think of another subway system where there are no mirrors at the end of platforms. Even London's 19th century underground railway has updated to the twentieth century with approaching train information displayed on the platforms. When I think of the slick efficiency and relatively pleasant surroundings of the transit systems in Northern Europe, and of course, the twenty-first-century Asian cities, New York’s MTA seems quaint.
Late Night on the N train
New York is an early modern city that today knocks at the door of nostalgia. If the subway is the microcosm of the city we live in, then New York is a city firmly entrenched in a bygone century. The walls and passageways are filthy, gigantic rats feast on the delights that fall between tracks, and when the din of the service trains screech through the stations late at night I am reminded of the death train, passing as if to collect all the corpses that would otherwise be left to rot on the tracks at the end of each day. Today, the ticket booths look as though they mark the entrance to ghost towns: empty with a handwritten note in the window, alerting passengers that bags are liable to searching. This is of course a hangover from 9/11 that, over ten years later, serves as no more than an empty threat. The one gesture of twentieth-century modernization are the LED letters that denote the line at the head, and the corresponding destinations on the side of the “newer”-model trains. It is an archaic, alienating subterranean world that forgot to replace the outmoded with high technology.
As the trains clank and chug below, above ground the streets are in an appalling state of disrepair. This is a common site at this end of the winter – dangerous with potholes and ruptures in the asphalt. Someone once told me the state of the streets was the accumulated result of a snowy winter. I now know they are the sign of tightening city budgets, thus forced neglect. This is a world that is growing old, and in places, falling apart.
Unlike the great 21st century cities, New York doesn’t always change so much. It’s true that there’s a whole lot of high rises especially in midtown and along the west side of the island. And it’s true that on most street corners there is now either a massive bank, a Duane Reade, or a Starbucks where New York used to be narrow-aisled, individual stores that knew nothing about chains or expansive spaces. And it’s true that my old neighborhood in Alphabet city (which used to be edgy and, in parts, dangerous) is now brimming with designer-clothed NYU students. But today, there are many corners of New York that are just as they were when I lived there almost twenty years ago. When I went for a run around the streets of Astoria, for example, I noted one new bus shelter on Vernon Boulevard, and the odd new building between Queensboro Bridge and Ditmars Boulevard. For the most part, Astoria is just as it always was: individually owned stores, the familiar New York brownstones and about sixteen different nationalities in any ten-square-meter radius. And Astoria is not the only neighborhood in New York that has not subscribed to the imperative to renovate, to stay up-to-date.
I imagine all the New Yorkers who will disagree with me and plead for the everchanging face of their city. And I already hear their rebuttals, their declarations of the twenty-first century, avant-gardeness of places, spaces and customs that I cannot have access to because I am no longer a New Yorker. Of course, they will know better than me who can only see the city from the outside. To some extent, I agree, New York is, like every great city, colored by the contradictions that give it its identity. Nevertheless, I hold onto the vision of an old, other-century New York filled with whiffs of melancholy that I met as I walked through the lower east side, Chinatown, along the Bowery, and through the East Village last week.
(All images: Frances Guerin)