Annka Kultys Gallery
472 Hackney Road, Unit 3, 1st Floor, London E2 9EQ, United Kingdom
November 25, 2015 - January 16, 2016
Bedrooms, Karaoke, and Glitter: Molly Soda Makes Her Solo Show Debut
by Char Jansen
Posted by Char Jansen
| tags: digital video-art Molly Soda youtube art
It's not hard to understand why so many people write off art of the kind 26-year-old Molly Soda makes: to date, she's best known for works such as dating a giant teddy bear, and "leaking" her own nude selfies (Should I Send This?). In the artist's new London solo, the tropes of hypergirly net art are all here, unabashedly IRL: glitter, miniature unicorns, stickers, glitches, and iPhones with cracked screens. The walls are painted, of course, pink. But there's much more to Molly Soda's work than I had thought having viewed it only online. This show is a confident leap in a new direction, both for the artist, and for the art of this genre.
Molly Soda, Our Song, 2015, NewHive Page and YouTube video, 15:11min, Dimensions variable, 2AP + Edition of 3
This is Soda's first proper solo show. She is, of course, a known quantity thanks to her online presence—but until now, she had no gallery representative, something that Annka Kultys—an established art collector recently turned gallerist—expressed surprise at. Kultys came across Soda online in June, and connected with her work instantly: she flew to Detroit to visit the artist soon after and offered her a show at her new space in Hackney on the spot. It's exciting to see the results of the union: Kultys is a high-caliber collector with sterling knowledge of the industry—not the typical person to represent art that is so otherwise removed from the conventional art world. Alongside the show's polished production (including a beautiful catalogue including three essays on Soda's work) Kultys' expertise is also pushing to give pragmatic ways to collect digital art. Following the example set by artists like Petra Cortright, Kultys has priced the digital video works on show according to the number of views they have on YouTube. The pieces are then being sold as files on USBs that Soda has customized by hand (yes, they're pink, too). For this kind of art to go on, more galleries need to take iniative in this way.
Molly Soda, Installation view of From my Bedroom to Yours, Annka Kultys Gallery, London, 2015
The presentation itself is pretty and pristine: 20 video works selected by Soda (her favorites, she tells me, but also taking into account those YouTube ratings), all from 2015, are presented on iPads and a laptop on low tables, iPhones, and mounted on walls—each is decorated with pastel colors and glitter, or potted plants. This presentation makes sense for framing the personal, intimate feeling of the homemade videos. Seen as a whole, with the sounds of pop music and Soda's singing in gentle cacophony, it's as if you're standing in the artist's bedroom with laptop that has been left open with multiple tabs playing.
This is exactly the effect Soda is seeking. And she is very good at identifying the things that we all do and say in private—things we are ashamed of—and communicating them. The theme of shame, or undoing shame, is the constant theme in these works: the artist isn't afraid of making her private space public (almost all of the videos are shot in her bedroom, or bathroom). There might not be depth to all the works—but why do we demand there be? This again points more to the demands of the viewer from the art, and our inability to accept things (art, people) as they are. It is better instead to consider the artist's output in terms of breadth rather than depth: her volume of production is prolific, but she also illustrates the gamut of emotions a young person feels in her films—and it feels genuine, a symbiotic or collaborative documentary rather than performed.
It's fundamental too to realize that these works aren't made for the art world: Soda's online audience is much wider than that. As I stood with her (she is pretty, petite, and seems grounded) she told me that the audience she was expecting was mostly her fans and following from her community online, rather than a high-brow art crowd. This is the most conventional art setting she has put her work in so far though, and for me, it's an invitation for the art world to take this work more seriously: like it or not, there is something to be learned from Soda's study of the etiquette and interactions of the next generation.
Molly Soda, From my Bedroom to Yours, Installation view at Annka Kultys Gallery, with He, 2015, NewHive page and YouTube Video
In one video work, He, the centerpiece of the show, Soda plucks roses from a pile in front of her. Her face is cropped out showing only bra-less boobs and hands. She recites statements we've all heard, and read, a thousand times: "He Likes It When I Talk Really Slow," "He Thinks I Have No Direction," "He Checks My Facebook 6 Times A Day." From loving to painful, cheesy to cruel, the statements are read with tenderness—they don't come off as singular personal experiences but form an empathetic, collective voice that Soda channels and shares. Her whole visual language is built around this voice: in the various videos on display, she performs songs (she later told me how karaoke is a huge influence on her, and a way of coping with anxiety), she cries, she dances—sometimes sexily, and others dorkily—she lolls on her bed, smokes a cigarette, sometimes clothed, sometimes nude. As individual works they are a little repetitive, but as a collection, they've got momentum and force.
Molly Soda, Installation view of From my Bedroom to Yours, Annka Kultys Gallery, London, 2015
Soda has clearly found many aspects of her web use uplifting. The fact she has spent so much time there interacting with so many peers also gives her work the feeling of a more genuine insight and synchronicity with the common concerns, fears, fun, and forms of self-expression of her generation. This is what makes Soda stand out. It might come off as pretentious, and I'm sure many will question it as such, but there's no affectation here. Soda is a young woman who knows who she is and what she is doing. If you view her work with an open mind you can get something from the experience: glitter and unicorns are just things she thinks look nice.
This is a solid solo debut that proves Soda is more than an "internet persona." There's certainly room for the fledgling artist to grow her ideas and she'll be back in London next year during Frieze. But it's refreshing to see that this often marginalized art form truly has something to offer, and to gain, from the gallery context—and even to learn that it might best be viewed in that way.
(Image at top: Molly Soda, Installation view of From my Bedroom to Yours, Annka Kultys Gallery, London, 2015. All images courtesy of the artist and Annka Kultys)
Frieze Week London 2015: The Instagrammies
by The ArtSlant Team
Posted by The ArtSlant Team
| tags: photography humor art fairs Social Media instagrammies Frieze Week 2015 Frieze London 2015
We love a big city art week because it's like taking your mind to a theme park. If ever there's a time for critical thinkers to kick back and allow themselves to not take things too seriously, it's Frieze Week. From your relegated position at the bottom of the art hierarchy, you laugh as the art PR attempt to placate the elite with the deftness of a headless chicken. Meanwhile, artists pretend to be sociable creatures and woo museum people and curators do their best impression of being unpretentious. And the critics really get to have fun: no writer is really at Frieze to apply their critical faculties but to wear their most outlandish outfit, make fun of the art, and all the people who have annoyed them, and, of course, drink up the free booze.
And there's got to be a reason there is so much genitalia flying around this year.
This is Frieze London—as seen on Instagram.
Most Helpful Signage
Most Engaging Party
Best Commentary on the Meaning of Life
Most Consciously Selfie-Baiting Artwork
Best Trophy Accessory
Most Influential Collector 2015
Best Face Off
Smuggest Rich White Mom
Best Attempt to Own It
Best Impression of a Pervert Disguised as an Artist
Best Visualization of a Pussy Fart
1:54 Trend Report: Found Objects and Photography
by James Loks
Posted by James Loks
| tags: satellite fairs Frieze Week 2015 african art 1:54 art fair trends Frieze London
I had a sense of unease as I approached the 1:54 fair.
Maïmouna Guerresi, Genitilla Al wilada, 2007. © Mariane Ibrahim
As I parked my bicycle all sorts of uncomfortable ideas were floating through my head about what I could and couldn’t say about African art, not least of which being the perception, dealt with by the fair’s title, that Africa is this big single thing, and not the 54 independent nations of which it’s comprised.
Wallen Mapondera, Echoes
So, putting cultural and intellectual imperialism to one side, 1:54 this year is great, and it is housed wonderfully by Somerset House in a series of rooms that give it a very nice feel in comparison to the booth format of all the other fairs.
Jebila Okongwu, Image courtesy the author
Omar Victor Diop, Malik Ambar
Hassan Hajjaj, Karima Stylin
Fabrice Monteiro, The Prophecy, Untitled #7. ©Mariane Ibrahim
The two identifiable trends at this fair were a predominance of work made from found objects, and a proliferation of photographic work.
Leon Krige, Dark City End Street
El Anatsui, Fresh and fading memories pt IV
Mohamed Camara. Certains matins, ma cousine me fait des trucs que je ne comprends pas digital c-print, 48 x 59 cm (framed) 2007
Unsurprisingly, though, 1:54 was incredibly diverse, from Leon Krige’s vast and luscious prints of South Africa to Mohamed Camara’s lo-fi autodidactic captured images, to Maïmouna Guerresi’s surrealist take on things or the difference between Jebila Okongwu banana boxes and El Anatsui’s incredible handmade wall coverings. It was probably the most rewarding of all the fringe fairs taking place this week.
You can follow these links to find James' mini trend reports from Frieze Week 2015's other art fairs:Frieze London, Sunday Art Fair, Moniker, and The Other Art Fair.
(Image at the top: Jean-Claude Moschetti, Zangbèto)
Looking for the Future at Frieze London
by James Loks
Posted by James Loks
| tags: Frieze London 2015 Frieze Week 2015 frieze contemporary art neon painting mixed-media modern
Looking around an art fair with a fixed criteria is an amazing thing. I’d recommend it to any visitor as a tool to cut through the vast amount of work that will pass in front of their eyes. It doesn’t have to be fancy or intelligent. It can be as simple as “I’m only looking for blue,” or “ceramics,” or “a piece of work that I would hang above the fireplace.” In all instances it forms connections between works that wouldn’t otherwise be connected, and makes viewing the fair active rather than passive, less monotonous and less tiring.
My personal criteria this year was to look for work that was ultra modern: by this I mean absolutely now, not five years ago, not post-millennial, but right this second. Of course a kind of absurd thing to do, but also if you can’t do it at an art fair where can you? The genesis of the idea came from a show by Jonathan Zawada that was at Beers gallery in East London a few weeks ago.
Zawada is an LA-based Australian-born artist who creates wall pieces and sculptures based on mathematical and cryptogramic functions. Sounds wild. And it is actually wild. The painting/sculpture/thing on the wall pieces he does, where he stretches a mesh over a lazer-cut background, look like OpArt on steroids, the surface of the work shifting and spiralling and making it difficult to look directly at it. Which is of course a wonderful thing.
In a weird way they look like the future; but I’ll come back to this.
I wanted to find pieces that wouldn’t have been able to be created fifteen or maybe even ten years ago because you wouldn’t have access to either the laser cutting technology nor the computer power required to make it. But there’s also something about the color here. The two colors you see above, one the color of the mesh, the other the color of the background (it’s the interplay between the two that produces the powerful OpArt effect), have something particularly modern about them. To quote the German artist Elisabeth Reupold, “Neons are the only truly modern colors.” When I first heard this statement a puritanical part of me was offended, as I basically thought these colors were naff. Now I’m not so sure.
I am sure, however, that there are probably important distinctions between these three: neon, day-glo, and fluorescent—but that’s not so important to me for the purposes of this piece. Here, we might just call them Lurid Modern Hues (LMH’s).
The second contributing factor to this article was that the first thing I did on getting into Frieze—and perhaps the highlight—which was to attend a talk with Douglas Coupland and Emily Segal (of trend-predicting artist’s group K-Hole, associated with coining the term "normcore"). I highly recommend you listen to it if you have the time. Not least because (as I mentioned on Twitter) Emily Segal came across as impressively smart and switched on and funny and personable, so much so I started to feel sorry for poor old Coupland.
The talk was about predicting the future, but as Segal says, “[The] future is a way to talk about the present with more credibility.” So when I say Zawada’s work looks like the future, perhaps what I mean is that they look like now. So finally, the three factors that I used to look for work around the Frieze were modern techniques, modern colors, and me perceiving them as modern. What this meant in practice was that if I could immediately reference it to something, say, “it’s a bit like…” or “it references…” then it was out. Here are the examples.
This picture, Money Never Sleeps, by Kyungah Ham, was the first to absolutely launch itself right off the wall and in my direction. The descriptions read “North Korean hand embroidery, silk threads on cotton, middle man, anxiety, censorship, wooden frame, approx. 1200hrs/2 persons.” Between the popping colors, the incredible convolutions, the overlaid message, and circumstances under which it was produced this seems a picture for our times.
This is a detail of a piece by artist Sandeep Mukherjee called Untitled [pinwheel], that met the criteria, not least because of the green (that was somewhat brighter than in these digital images) but also because of the intense detail of the printing and the acrylic, a strong contrast between the luscious print and low-quality materials.
Ten Sizes of Breath by Gimhongsuk, made it onto the list on the use of color alone, but also because of the perfection of the balloons.
Then, we have the more established Do Ho Suh, who must have been particularly hot this year as he was being shown by three galleries. Do Ho Suh is kind of the older statesperson of this group, and his colors (here suffering somewhat from my photography) aren’t quite a lurid as some, but he gains inclusion as a kind of Rachel Whiteread hypermodern alter-ego.
Finally, there's Ryan Trecartin. What can we say about Ryan Trecartin? Well, the American artist is the only Westerner on this list. His images are grotesque, and kind of faible, in a very appealing way, capturing this drone-flying, reality-altering, persona-creating, image-mediated-digital world in which we live.
Conclusions drawn from this exercise? Firstly, that it was interesting for me that the vast majority of work fitting my criteria didn’t come from Western artists or galleries. This perhaps shouldn’t be a surprise. I did question if simply a different visual context was the reason why I perceived these pieces as being "modern."
This might be true, or it might just be the case that Asia is a place where interesting work is being made at the moment. How exclusive my criteria were! In a sense you’d imagine that at one of the world’s biggest contemporary art fairs you wouldn’t be able to move without coming across the new, but this obviously wasn't the case, as so much of the work on display wouldn’t look out of place if shifted back thirty, fifty, eighty years into the past.
(Image at the top: detail, Sandeep Mukherjee, Untitled [pinwheel], All images courtesy the author)
Trends at Sunday Art Fair: Everyday Objects
by James Loks
Posted by James Loks
| tags: conceptual sculpture Sunday Art Fair satellite fairs art fair trend report Frieze Week 2015 Frieze London
I feel a little sorry for the Sunday Art Fair. As the fair for emerging art it should really be the offshoot of Frieze that shows the cutting-edge work, the small galleries, the artist run spaces, and so on.
Instead it can unfortunately feel like forgotten backwater of the whole event, stuck as it is just a little bit too far location-wise, just a bit too hidden in the basement of Westminster University, and not as big and buzzing as it could be. Which isn’t to say that you can’t see good work on display. And, you have the chance to talk to both gallerists and artists.
If I said The Other Art Fair and Moniker (trend reports here) aren’t really the place to find the next big thing, then this just might be.
The noticeable trend at this fair was for everyday objects being perverted in someway into art objects. Sure, this is pretty standard business these days, and part of me was left wondering whether this was self-consciousness or lack of self-confidence? Or just that this generation of artists have turned their back on making the grand gesture and find their authenticity in reimagining the quotidian.
Daiga Grantina, Negligencia
Giulia Cenci, almost invisible#5 , 2014
James Lewis, All bodies of whatever
Dora Budor, The Architect, Mind Falls Apart, 2014
You can follow these links to find James' mini trend reports from Frieze Week 2015's other art fairs: Frieze London, 1:54, Moniker, and The Other Art Fair.
(Image at the top: Lea Cetera)
Trends at Moniker and The Other Art Fair: Ink and Etching
by James Loks
Posted by James Loks
| tags: drawing The Other Art Fair satellite fairs Frieze London Frieze Week 2015 Moniker ink etching printmaking art fair trends
Producing a trend report for The Other Art Fair and Moniker is an almost impossible task given the diversity of the work on display, which is another way to say that there is a really mixed bag in terms of both quality and aspiration.
It might indeed be the best place to pick up some really good quality pictures for relatively little money, but I’ll spill the naked truth and admit that if you’re hoping to find the next big thing and make a million bucks, that isn’t going to happen here. If you want something that makes you happy then that you just might.
Benjamin Parker, Divide and Conquer
Delores de Sade, Between Other There
The strongest trend was found in term of media, namely ink drawing and etching. It's the type of thing that is heavy on detail and displays a weight of craft. It’s funny that something so formal, and perhaps you could even say anachronistic, should be at the forefront of the "cool" East London art fairs, but then again, given that it’s an artist rather than gallery-lead fair space, and that their market are real people who are going to buy art, rather than "art buyers" or collectors, it’s perhaps not a massive surprise that this consistently appealing form should take trend.
Dan Hillier, Meta
Olivier Marc Thomas Leger, Whale Song
Delores de Sade, the second labour of hercules
You can follow these links to find James' mini trend reports from Frieze Week 2015's other art fairs: Frieze London, 1:54, and Sunday Art Fair.
(Image at the top: Delores de Sade, ARE the seventh labour of hercules, etching)
Inside the Private Collection: Sydney L. Moss' Japanese Netsuke
by The ArtSlant Team
Posted by The ArtSlant Team
| tags: sculpture Sydney L. Moss Japanese art collections netsuke inro Frieze Masters collector's catalogue
Private collections are often born of a profound personal interest—a genuine passion devoted to a very specific subject or object that extends beyond financial return. In their devotional breadth and depth, private collections sometimes inadvertently become talismanic, unearthing artwork that might have otherwise remained distant. Perhaps it's that magical fascination that inspires public explorations and attracts new audiences. One such unusual and influential collection is that of Sydney L. Moss. The family's collection of Asian art has been passed on through three generations, and includes one of the most extensive collections in the world of Japanese netsuke.
We spoke to Oliver Moss of Sydney L. Moss, London, to find out more about their collection of Japanese netsuke, recently presented as part of the new Collections sector at Frieze Masters.
A wood netsuke of a Setsubun oni hiding under a hat with coral and ivory inlaid beans, Signed Soju, Tokyo, circa 1900
All images: Courtesy Sydney L. Moss
ArtSlant: What are netsuke?
Oliver Moss: Japanese netsuke are the finest form of miniature sculpture anywhere, ever. Their practical purpose was as a toggle from which to suspend inro, or a pouch or a pipecase, which hung from the belt/sash (the obi) wrapped around the kimono wearer's waist. You look at and admire a netsuke the same ways you do larger sculpture, appreciating bulk, surface, form, detail, patina—but it sits intimately in the palm of your hand and you get a real feeling of personal ownership. Netsuke are talismanic. Old netsuke date from about the 17th century to as late as the 1930s; their function no longer applies but the form and focus are so appealing that there are quite a number of contemporary netsuke carvers, and not only in Japan. We are interested primarily in old netsuke, because in addition to sheer quality of carving they also resonate with the echoes of Old Japan, one of the strangest and most richly layered of world cultures.
AS: When and why did you begin to collect?
OM: We began to deal in netsuke in the 1940s, as a branch of Asian art that my grandfather admired, fell in love with and decided to collect and deal in. Up until then we had predominantly dealt in Chinese ceramics. The why? They are amazingly beautiful, perfect, gem-like objects that display, each in their different ways, naturalism, cartooning, humor, and poetic and subversive themes. They are endlessly diverse, and wonderful.
A large three-case lacquer inrō of a sambaso dancer shaking his suzurattle; to the reverse an old pine tree.
Together with an 18th century ivory sambaso dancer netsuke. Signed (Tatsuke) Takamitsu, circa 1780–1840
AS: What were the public reactions to the presentation at Frieze Masters?
OM: The overwhelming response was that people had heard of netsuke but hadn't really looked at them closely or understood precisely what they are; many people actually had a relative who has or had a collection. They were concerned whether or not their relative's collection was "good." Importantly, they got to get up close and see netsuke. I was also very pleased by our display of inro, including an ensemble with netsuke and ojime that demonstrated how they were worn. I think most of the people who spent more than a couple of minutes looking were enchanted; that is what they told us, anyway.
A bamboo root netsuke of a priest with severe expression, Signed (Hasegawa) Ikko, circa 1820
AS: How do you go about researching pieces?
OM: There are a lot of books on netsuke and we have, probably, one of the most complete libraries on the subject. For basic reference tools we use Lazarnick's Netsuke and Inro artists and how to read their signatures, and the Meinertzhagen Card Index books. They give you examples of the signature to compare against a new or prospective acquisition. Then it's a question of having a decent number of books with good images to go through to find other works by the artist, or school, or of comparable age and type to decide if and where the work of art under consideration fits in the grand scheme of things. But mostly, we look at an awful lot of netsuke: in individuals' collections, in museums, at auction—all the time. And we have our own extensive cross-indexed records for comparison purposes.
A small three-case lacquer inrō inlaid with green-stained stag antler, ivory, pewter, aogai, and translucent horn to create a warabi (young fern shoots) and grass motif; to the reverse, a smoker's abandoned tabakoire and bamboo kiseruzutsu. Signed (Shibata) Zeshin, circa 1870 - 1890
AS: Can you offer any advice for people who want to start building their own collection of netsuke?
OM: Start by looking and handling pieces, getting a feel for what genuine works look and feel like. Look at the range available and work out where your tastes lie, but don't tie yourself to a single subject or material or school. You may find yourself particularly drawn to early ivory Kyoto school animals (and I don't blame you), or later wood figural subjects, but a collection of a single material or subject feels very limiting to me. The best place to look and handle are dealers and auction houses, but many museums have a netsuke collection so try to see as much as possible.
In terms of World Art they are a major cultural high point but still very affordable. Anyone with a modest discretionary income can get involved in building a collection. Once you hone your responses and can only stand to be surrounded by the great stuff, it gets a lot more expensive. But these things are still considerably cheaper than, for example, contemporary art or old master paintings, by a long way.
An ivory netsuke of a rat, Signed Masanao (of Kyoto) Circa 1750
AS: Your collection has a emphasis on quality and rarity rather than trends and market desirability—how do you keep the collection growing?
OM: As dealers we have to be concerned with market desirability, and indeed if the market started wildly ploughing into one specific area we would have to take note. But you're right; we do aim ourselves at the very top of the market and try to acquire the finest and most rarefied things. We have to trust our own taste(s), and what we consider the most desirable—which isn't always what other dealers and collectors agree is "best." If we were limited to what we think is commercial we would get bored, quickly. But that is all to the good.
It takes differing tastes to make a market. We hope that collectors like our taste and share elements of taste so they know they can always find something that appeals to them at Sydney L. Moss, Ltd. We do get consigned entire collections from time to time, in addition to actively looking for and buying great things ahead of the curve. So what we have is always changing, and theoretically we should regularly have new works to see, both star performers and across the board.
An ivory netsuke of Hotei parodying Daruma, Signed Mitsuhiro (1810 - 1875), Osaka, circa 1780–1840
—The ArtSlant Team
(Image at the top: A three-case togidashi lacquer inrō of pheasants among chrysanthemum. The inrō is one of The Hundred Bird series for the Daimyō of Gifu. Signed Koma Yasutada saku (made), circa 1750)
David Stewart Wins the UK's Biggest Photographic Portrait Prize
by Char Jansen
Posted by Char Jansen
| tags: photography photography prize art prizes portraiture David Stewart Taylor Wessing Portrait Prize 2015
David Stewart was awarded the £12,000 Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize 2015 last night at an awards ceremony at the National Portrait Gallery, where his portrait will be on display alongside a selection chosen from almost 5,000 entries, at an exhibition running until February 21, 2016.
Stewart's winning entry is a restaged photograph of his 2008 entry of his daughter and friends after completing their university degrees. It's the 16th time Stewart's work has been selected for the annual exhibition. Stewart says of the work: "I have always had a fascination with the way people interact—or, in this case, fail to interact, which inspired the photograph of this group of girls. While the girls are physically very close and their style and clothing highlight their membership of the same peer group, there is an element of distance between them."
In a pre-announcement speech, Tim Eyles, juror and Managing Partner of the law firm Taylor Wessing, who have sponsored the prize for eight years, noted how democractic the competition is. On viewing this year's exhibition, one can, in fact, truly grasp how open and far-reaching photography is: this year's entries came from 70 countries, with a large number of the portraits on show by self-taught and amateur photographers from very different backgrounds. As in previous years, there was a heavy emphasis on documentary work, and with many subjects shot in socially and politically problematic environments.
(Image at top: David Stewart, Five Girls, 2014, winner of the Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize 2015)