One entire room of Samuel Levi Jones’s solo show at Galerie Lelong in New York City this past December was dominated by his multi-panel work Talk to Me. In it, 33 squares arranged three high by 11 across are each made up of 24 smaller rectangles in shades of mustard, wheat-yellow, burlap, drab, and gray, which, upon reaching the eye of the beholder, combine into a pixelated strip of gold commanding almost 40 feet of wall space. Though larger than many of his other pieces, it’s archetypal of the work for which he’s become known, constructed from books that have been stripped of their pages, titles, authors, and text—their covers displayed bare. In the case of this work, and the others on view at Lelong in primary or multicolored combinations of green, blue, and red, it’s deconstructed law textbooks. The artist found his medium while studying as a graduate student at Mills College in Oakland, California, where he was introduced to Gerhard Richter’s 1971–72 series “48 Portraits,” which depicts writers, scientists, composers, and philosophers of the 19th and 20th centuries who are credited with influencing modernity. A seminal work for the German artist, it was exhibited at the 1972 Venice Biennale. All of Richter’s figures are white males. Discovering that the images he worked from were taken directly from an encyclopedia, Jones focused his own attention not on Richter’s work, which admittedly rankled, but on the source. “The first encyclopedia I picked up was from the same year Richter made his work. I started just going through the volumes, methodically, page by page, taking note of the representation of people within it,” he remembers. As a black man, recalling his own trusted use of these resources as a factual record over his lifetime, he was unsettled. Like in Richter’s work, the faces that peered back from those pages were almost entirely men of European or North American origin. So Jones set about making his own portrait series—not just in response to the encyclopedias, but from them. He literally pulped their pages and made the paper anew. Upon it, he drew his 2012 series of extremely low-contrast portraits of 24 black men and 24 black women. He called it “48 Portraits, Underexposed.” It was at the end of that summer that a conversation with artist Mark BradFord, who he met when both artists participated in the group show “75 Black Artists in Los Angeles (BAILA),” pushed him to go further with the medium. “We were talking about where I was going in my work, and I honestly didn’t really have an answer. I wasn’t sure. I had been working on the encyclopedia material but he really encouraged me to keep investigating it.” So Jones took his books and began to tear them apart. In deconstruction, he found a method of calling into question the purported truth of the items, asking what exactly gets recorded, what is omitted, and who is doing the documenting. The outcome—his stripped and ruined covers—is a perfect example of what happens when you display an object that was originally intended as a tool for informing in a way that renders that function impossible. The books have been muted, but it’s a loud silence—a noticeable vacancy. Though ridding his medium of its wording, Jones chooses to make selective revelations through the supplemental text that commonly accompanies works of art: The medium provides details about what information the books once held, and his titles often deliver a pithy punch. “Talk To Me” was also a central piece in the artist’s 2015 solo exhibition at the Indianapolis Museum of Contemporary Art, “After Fred Wilson.” While it’s easy to make a connection between Jones and the titular artist’s practice of coopting museological tools to comment on institutional representations of marginalized social groups, the story goes deeper. Jones was drawing attention back to a debate that was waged throughout 2010 and 2011 over Wilson’s controversial proposal to recreate the only African American depicted in Indianapolis’s Soldiers and Sailors monument in a new public sculpture for the city’s “Cultural Trail” downtown. The figure, a recently freed slave, would be seated, as he is in the original version, but in a more upright position, with a flag of the African diaspora instead of the broken shackles it once had. Criticism came from all sides, but it was the voices who held that any depiction of a freed slave would ultimately not be uplifting for the African American community that led to the project’s cancellation. Abandoning the project was one thing, but like Wilson, who embraced the ensuing debate, Jones realized the dialogue was important. “I wanted the discussion to keep going, I didn’t want to just let it die or let it be ignored.” Mostly, what Jones is hoping to do with his work is simply to start—or continue—a conversation. And he himself was in support of the work. “I was highly disappointed when the plans didn’t go through,” he says. “I was thinking about people who don’t have access to museums or wouldn’t be inclined to go into a museum, and how someone walking down the street might see Wilson’s sculpture, and, being curious, read a plaque or whatever information was there and learn about the work, and understand something.” The artist grew up about 70 miles away, in the small working class town of Marion, Indiana, where, as he describes it, exposure to the arts was almost non-existent outside of his high school art classes. It wasn’t until his last semester in college at Taylor University, where he was majoring in communications studies, that he took a photography class. “Something just made sense about it,” he remembers. “I really enjoyed working with a camera, being in a darkroom, and learning how to frame images.” So after his wife—whom he met while studying at Taylor—finished her nursing training, Jones decided to try out art school, enrolling in Herron School of Art and Design in 2006. “I didn’t have any clue what I was getting myself into,” he says, laughing. “I just thought, I’ll go into it with an open mind and see what happens, thinking that I would be taking a bunch of photography classes. When I was told I had to take three semesters of drawing, I freaked out.” But the initial shock soon wore off. Jones credits the mentoring of instructor Linda Adele Goodine, who spurred him to think about the conceptual side of his work. “That was actually a very pivotal moment for me. I felt like I was finally having a real experience with art. Up to that point it was more about the past and history of it.” And by about halfway through his studies Goodine had already started encouraging him to think about graduate school, at least as a way to qualify him for teaching. But his move to California opened things up: L.A., he posits, is a place where collectors and galleries are a little more willing to take risks on younger artists. “It feels like there’s more attention there for emerging artists of color.” A chance meeting with Franklin Sirmans led to Jones’s first visit to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, which included a personal tour from the chief curator. After that and the baila show, everything seemed to snowball. Papillion represented Jones in L.A. for a number of years, and now he will open his first show with Susanne Vielmetter gallery on May 20. Galerie Lelong announced its representation of Jones late last year, and he has also joined the roster of Patron Gallery in Chicago, after relocating there with his wife and two children two years ago. For the Vielmetter show, Jones is filling much of the space with sculptural works made from individual books whose covers he has pulped, pouring the mush back over the intact pages and allowing the whole thing to dry into a solid mass. “There’s just so much I feel like I can do with this material,” Jones says. “I think early on—and even still—people asked, ‘What are you going to do next?’” But the artist isn’t planning on moving on from his medium any time soon. In the Lelong show, many of the newer works were made from a group of African American reference books donated to him by the University of California Berkeley’s African American Studies department, and he’s left some text visible, which is a first for him. On a wall piece of different hues of green, the words “Dictionary of Black” glint in small gold lettering, the only text not eliminated from its covers and spines. And in answer to that common refrain, Jones says, “people don’t generally ask painters, ‘What are you going to do next with the paint?’ Books are like paint to me. The possibilities feel endless.”
Controversy has surrounded the Whitney Biennial since its opening last month. Celebrated in early reviews for its topical purview and representation of artists of colour, the exhibition has come under fire concerning its inclusion of the painting Open Casket (2016) by Brooklyn-based painter Dana Schutz, depicting the dead body of African-American teenager Emmett Till. This past Sunday, 9 April, the Whitney Museum hosted a panel titled ‘Perspectives on Race and Representation: An Evening with the Racial Imaginary Institute’. The event was organized by the biennial curators in collaboration with the Institute, founded by writer, artist and MacArthur ‘Genius’ Grant winner Claudia Rankine as ‘an interdisciplinary cultural laboratory in which the racial imaginaries of our time and place are engaged, read, countered, contextualized and demystified.’ Schutz’s painting became a touchstone to openly interrogate the Whitney’s response, as well as what might be an art institution’s stakes in upholding white supremacy. It did not reach a pat conclusion. The panel was held in the Whitney’s lobby, five floors below Open Casket’s display in the biennial. Rendered in Schutz’s signature expressionist style, the painting depicts an abstract version of Emmett Till in his coffin. The 14-year-old boy was brutally slain in 1955 in Mississippi after a white woman, Carolyn Bryant, falsely accused him of flirting with her. Although Till’s body was mutilated nearly beyond recognition, his mother Mamie Till Bradley insisted on holding an open-casket funeral in his native Chicago. “I wanted the world to see what they did to my baby,” she famously said. The horrific images of Till’s body, published in Jet and The Chicago Defender and widely circulated thereafter, helped catalyse the 1960s Civil Rights Movement. Schutz’s canvas obscures the details of Till’s face under swathes of multicoloured paint. Open Casket has been denounced by some critics as diluting the power of the original image; others have accused Schutz of political opportunism, as a white female painter whose work engages the grotesque but rarely broaches hot-button content. In the words of art historian George Baker, ‘Schutz painted Till because his mutilated face aligns with the disfigured figures of her art.’ Artists of colour immediately responded to the painting’s content, denouncing its appropriation of a racially charged image. On the day the biennial opened to the public, Parker Bright staged a protest in front of the work, wearing a t-shirt with the handwritten words ‘Black Death Spectacle’. Hannah Black, a Berlin-based British artist and former Whitney Independent Study Program participant, penned an open letter demanding its removal and destruction, co-signed by fellow black artists and cultural workers. ‘The painting should not be acceptable to anyone who cares or pretends to care about Black people because it is not acceptable for a white person to transmute Black suffering into profit and fun,’ she wrote, with the rallying cry, ‘The painting must go’. The exhibition’s curators, Christopher Y. Lew and Mia Locks, published a brief statement about the ‘empathetic connections’ sought by the featured artists in response to racist violence. They describe Open Casket as an ‘unsettling image that speaks to the long-standing violence that has been inflicted upon African Americans.’ Schutz, in a quote to the Guardian, said: ‘I don’t know what it is like to be black in America. But I do know what it is like to be a mother.’ Meanwhile, much of the condemnation on social media has revolved around the demonization of Hannah Black for her call to ‘censor’ the image. At the panel, thirteen respondents delivered brief remarks over the course of two hours, including Lew and Locks. Hannah Black (who had performed a new work, OR LIFE OR, at MoMAPS1 in Queens earlier that day), Parker Bright and Dana Schutz all declined to speak. As the event’s primary organiser, Claudia Rankine moderated questions between two rounds of six speakers each. Because Open Casket has not been removed from the biennial, the question of censorship was more or less moot. The relationship between the censoring body and the censored is one of power, which an artist outside the biennial (Black) does not hold over an artist in the biennial (Schutz). Aside from the curators, the few panelists who spoke out against the artwork’s theoretical destruction – such as poet Elizabeth Alexander, who wrote a catalogue essay for the Whitney’s provocative 1994 ‘Black Male’ exhibition, curated by Thelma Golden – kept those remarks brief. Instead, they pivoted to the role of the institution, and the way whiteness remains uninterrogated therein. As author Sarah Schulman and artists Malik Gaines and Ajay Kurian explained, Black’s call to remove the painting was far from fascistic. The moral outrage in response to Black’s letter instead seemed to express something more fearful and insidious. I read it as a call to artistic order, dramatically pitted against Black’s rhetorical gesture. Kurian, an artist in the biennial whose effigy-like sculptures cling to the museum’s stairwells, expressed his unequivocal admiration for Black. In a statement read by Margaret Lee (an artist and Kurian’s gallerist at 47 Canal), Kurian wrote: ‘[Black’s] anger needs no policing. She knows what she demanded and how she did so. Let us not confuse David with Goliath.’ Like Kurian, I see in Black’s letter a channelling of dispossession and rage into a provocative score. Her letter asks the museum to acknowledge that in the fight to decolonise and dismantle white supremacy, choosing sides is sometimes necessary. Protecting whiteness might well mean disenfranchising non-whites. The museum, for its part, stands by its defence of the painting as a type of ‘free speech’ – a right that has historically been restricted to white men, and most recently has been extended as a defence of fake news. Lew began his remarks by stating, ‘I believe that institutions like museums hold a promise to foster debate, a real civic responsibility that allows us to come together like this to hear one another.’ Yet the museum, like the rest of society (especially in the U.S.), is marked by deep inequality. This inequity is reflected in its policies, from the courting of sponsorship from the world’s wealthiest individuals to its $25 entrance fee. Schulman, whose recently published book Conflict Is Not Abuse argues against a victimhood mentality, disabused Lew of his utopian view of museums in her written remarks. The writer described museums and elite universities as corporate institutions that inhibit free speech. To that end she positioned Black and Bright’s protests as insider critiques, ‘an insistence on being treated like the powerful insider that people have been falsely promised to be’ through their institutional validation as artists. The majority of speakers, from academics Christina Sharpe and LeRonn P. Brooks to Elizabeth Alexander and biennial artist Lyle Ashton Harris, argued for the ‘failure of empathy’ in Schutz’s painting. According to Sharpe, it was Bright’s living protest against Open Casket that performed intimacy with Till — like a wake — not Schutz’s canvas. Schutz’s choice to depict empathy by an expressionist rendition of black death registered as hollow; so too did her ‘abstraction’ of her own white identity as she professed identification with Mamie Till. It is not a question of whether white artists can approach painful episodes of history. It is a much deeper proposition to acknowledge one’s complicity in that history. Instead of asking whether the painting should be removed, another set of questions might be proposed: after the 2014 Biennial scandal surrounding Joe Scanlan’s “Donelle Woolford” project – in which the artist made artwork ‘authored’ by a fictional black female artist – how did Schutz’s painting make it into the show? In a cultural climate that strives to understand intersectional oppression, how did Schutz’s painting make it into the show? Under the leadership of two accomplished Asian-American curators, how did Schutz’s painting make it into the show? With a biennial roster comprised of fifty percent artists of colour, how did Schutz’s painting make it into the show? One reason is that the institution has banked on the ‘controversial’ legacy of the exhibition. Although Schutz has stated that Open Casket is not for sale, the frothy debate around it has certainly increased museum attendance. As Kurian wrote, ‘The museum is profiting from this painting even if Schutz is not, though it is difficult to say since she has surely increased her cultural capital.’ More damaging yet is the museum’s defence of the work, as a symbol of political openness. ‘This form of cultural openness often becomes nothing more than a democracy of formalism,’ Kurian continued. ‘The slogan ALL LIVES MATTER insists on a similar kind of openness, one that easily reveals itself as a form of violence. It is a slogan that elides history and hides white supremacy behind the guise of an ahistorical world slogan, abstraction without content.’ Nearly a quarter century after the identity politics debates surrounding the 1993 Whitney Biennial, formalism remains a mode of analysis pitted against context. Both Lew and Locks began their remarks by describing Schutz’s painting in relationship to neighbouring pieces on view in the biennial by Harold Mendez, Julien Nguyen and Maya Stovall – non-white artists addressing political themes. Locks described the relationship between Open Casket and Harold Mendez’s American Pictures (2016) as that between a coffin and a grave. It’s true that Schutz’s painting evokes mourning, as does Harold Mendez’s mixed-media sculpture – composed partly of crushed cochineal insects and carnation petals that need constant replenishing. Yet the colonialist histories Mendez draws upon, as well as his abstraction, differ substantially in tone and origin from Schutz’s pictorial representation. A similar cultural relativism was deployed by panelist Herb Tam, a curator at the Museum of Chinese in America, who likened Till’s murder to that of Vincent Chin. In 1982, Chin was mistaken for Japanese and murdered by disgruntled auto plant workers outside Detroit who worried about their job security. In a speech about identity, Tam ended his remarks musing about American assimilation: “rejecting stuff is as important to feeling a sense of belonging as accepting stuff.” The question of rejection and acceptance inevitably turned to institutional diversity. During a question-and-answer session, Lorraine O’Grady, an octogenarian African-American artist best known for her 1980 performance as the faux beauty queen Mlle Bourgeoise Noire, asked why the Whitney’s curatorial staff did not include more people of colour. Lew responded by repeating his own commitment to diversity, though he neglected to mention two new assistant curators hires who are women of colour (Rujeko Hockley and Marcela Guerrero). The evening ended anxiously, as Claudia Rankine tried to put a positive spin on the voicing of pain. Biennial artist Lyle Ashton Harris grabbed a microphone, firing off a passionate speech about historical amnesia over the identity politics debates of the 1990s. Like many black artists of his generation, he said, he had done the work of creating the white imaginary. Now, however, the task is to dismantle it. “We don’t want cultural sensitivity. We want cultural authority,” he exclaimed, to a burst of applause. Wendy Vogel is a writer and independent curator in New York
"If you walk up through Harlem and along the Bronx River, you come to a space beyond the boundaries of GPS software," writes the DJ and artist Juliana Huxtable in her work Untitled, (Causal Power). Causal Power presents a prose poem that alludes to the cultural history of black life in America. Huxtable uses poetry referencing 90s hip-hop and literary figures like Octavia Butler to record small, hidden, and forgotten histories, which she researches and connects to as touchstones of her cultural identity. Causal Power is on view as part of Excerpt, an exhibition of printed matter by 15 artists including Kara Walker, Glenn Ligon, Sadie Barnette, Krista Franklin, and Samuel Levi Jones. Hosted by The Studio Museum in Harlem, Excerpt challenges the power of dominant written knowledge in the construction of black identity, culture, and history. "There was a lot of artists across our collection who were working with texts, printed matter, and physical books," explains Adeze Wilford, the exhibition curator and Curatorial Fellow at both The Studio Museum in Harlem and MoMA. "One of the major themes of the exhibition is defining oneself by using one's own words to create an exploration of identity as a way to understand where one comes from, who actually gets to decide what is historicized, and what kind of information is deemed worthy to be put into something like an encyclopedia or into a research document." Bethany Collins' Colorless Dictionary and Samuel Levi Jones' Inordinately and Too-Too, are found object works that physically alter dictionaries and encyclopedias to question knowledge production and remembrance. Collins' annotates a Webster dictionary by removing all references to the word "white." "She's interested in what language can do to either constrict or open up levels of conversation," explains Wilford. "Her work is based on words and their meaning and unpacking what they can do, unpacking how people use language to either impose or to expand [power and racial histories]." The gesture also acts as commentary on the erasure of people of color narratives from American popular culture and history. Jones' two encyclopedias covered in black and red pulp also focus on eschewing traditional textuality. In burying encyclopedic knowledge, Jones alludes to the ways organized information has historically constructed misrepresentations of non-dominant cultures. Krista Franklin's ...to take root among the stars, a deconstructed artist book of handmade paper and archival materials informed by surrealism and Afrofuturism, also explores "what gets to be considered worthy of being memorialized" and how often black people have to create narrative frameworks for understanding themselves, according to the curator. "I think in this current moment, the way we historicize information, the way that we process information, and the way that we dictate what gets said about ourselves is going to be increasingly important especially when there's so much misinformation around," says Wilford. "I think that physically having your own voice being represented and being able to articulate what it is that you're trying to explore in terms of your identity and explore in terms of pushing back against stereotypes is just so crucial." She says, "These notions are the cornerstone of what I was trying to explore in this exhibition."
The roving art space We Buy Gold, which Joeonna Bellorado-Samuels opened in Bed Stuy in March, is successfully managing a tricky balancing act: it is seriously and coherently embedded in its space and moment, even as it resists barricading itself into a particular corner. We Buy Gold also manages to engage directly with some of the stickier aspects of transactionality and value in contemporary art without wading into polemic or reduction. It’s a graceful, thoughtful way of considering the gallery’s role—how it defines commodity, how it changes its environment—while remaining open to being transformed by it. Bellorado-Samuels lives in the neighborhood, as do many of the artists connected with the project; the doors are open, front and back; the small bookstore is welcoming; and, if it feels like a bit of Chelsea polish on Nostrand Avenue, the effect is less a jarring incursion and more a pleasantly surprising confluence of worlds. If conceptually We Buy Gold is, as a commercial art space, about a tight network of relationships and interactions, and about the insights this model provides into the mechanics, semantics, and modes of exchange of contemporary art markets, the works on display in the inaugural show, ONE., cogently carry through these concerns in formal and thematic terms. On view are works by three artists working in varied mediums: three drawings by Renee Gladman; two sculptures and a painting by Torkwase Dyson; and a photo-based work and sculpture by Harold Mendez. Each artist’s works are bound among themselves, to the other works in the show, and to the space, by a loosely shared network of thematic and formal concerns: monochromatics; legacies of colonialism, slavery, and trauma; the physical presence of the artist’s hand; the eruptive, unpredictable modalities and vocabularies that the work can intrinsically, unpredictably, demand or reveal. Gladman, who has had a long and distinguished career as a poet and is on the poetry faculty at Brown, has made three intricate, delicate works on paper, in varying combinations of ink, pencil, and gouache. At 24 by 36 inches, the works are intimate but substantial in scale; they quietly command focused, inward-peering attention, without being so large as to dominate the wall or overwhelm the physical space. Against a warm ivory background, Untitled, Cities: Axes (2016) is a nimbus of gouache in washes of gray. Asemic symbols and vaguely architectural structures seem to erupt, almost against someone’s will, from the gouache; they are anchored by a pale pencil axis, nearly centered on the paper. Considered in purely visual terms, it is a loose but complete composition, executed with the confidence to let disparate elements and qualities—inked structure, shadow, open space—breathe and harmonize. In conceptual terms, it’s strikingly, literally poetic: the ineluctable unit of measure, for the poet, remains the line, transmuted here into a startlingly clear visual tangle. The pale washes and delicate lines of Gladman’s work, and the writing at its heart, find eloquent interlocutors in Torkwase Dyson’s two sculptures, displayed on a table in the center of the space. The sculptures, Before Black Mountain and the Anthropocene (Tuareg Women: Namadcity) (2017), and Black Compositional Thought (Tuareg Women: Namadcity) (2017) both began as drawings. Dyson has the rare ability to listen deeply to the formal demands of the work and make changes and progressions in increments that are subtle and responsive. Before Black Mountain and the Anthropocene strains patiently, smoothly, to grow from the flat into the three-dimensional space. A single arcing wire is the taut manifestation of the sculptural imperative; the slight shadow it casts on the wood suggests a sundial, the tectonic passings of time through which Dyson guides the forms. In Black Compositional Thought the sharp delineations of space create uncanny hard-edged perspectives that recall Carmen Herrera’s Blanco y Verde (1959). The intellectual firepower behind the optical and structural sophistication of Dyson’s work is inflected by a serious engagement with writing (in Dyson’s case, unlike Gladman’s, it’s more a complementary than a primary practice, though no less complex for that). In “Black Interiority: Notes on Architecture, Infrastructure, Environmental Justice and Abstract Drawing,” (Pelican Bomb, January 2017), Dyson wrote “The design of our physical world informs the methods in which motion emerges and spatial strategy is organized. For black people, moving through a given environment comes with questions of belonging and a self-determination of visibility and semi-autonomy.” Dyson’s parsing of latent intersections between phenomenology, neurology, and raced experience as they relate to art making and art viewing manifest irresistibly in the body of the viewer: bending over the tables to look closely at the sculpture, to grasp the interplay of shadows between sharp blond wood triangles punctured by geometries of deep black gloss, you are moved through the relations and intersections, able to grasp “both immediate and distant physical forms in relationship to the spatial structures defined by the conditions of the power.” If Dyson’s sculptures deal with the conditions of power, and the attendant violence, through a sequence of tension-filled spatial and chromatic abstract interactions, Harold Mendez’s takes a more explicit approach. let X stand, if it can for the one’s unfound (After Proceso Pentágono) II (2016) shows an anonymous man’s head being grabbed and damaged by anonymous hands; the infamous electric shock torture of dicatorships across Latin America is clearly visible, the calipers connecting to his ear. The paper itself looks crumpled and traumatized, like a discarded, abandoned history. It is hung next to Dyson’s Value and Resources (Water Table #10) (2017), an intelligent pairing that effectively juxtaposes more immediate political history with the simultaneously more personal and universal changes of water moving over matter over time. Where Mendez’s paper looks like it’s been balled up in a fist, the elegant, minimal lines that edge Value and Resources suggest the careful, but inescapably human restraint of a single, deliberate finger. Because the space is not large, and because the presence of nature, in the form of a sun-filled garden (and attendant impromptu soundtrack of birdsong), permeate the experience of the work, the tightness of these themes and connections is highlighted in their restraint and careful relative placements. Gladman’s drawings move the eye intuitively to Dyson’s sculptures; Mendez’s black sculptural box holding a pre-Columbian death mask (Untitled, Death Mask) (2015) exerts a gut-deep pull as one faces his photo and Dyson’s water table painting, like the rising-hackles feeling of realizing someone is looking at you from behind. Ultimately, ONE. succeeds because it renders nearly tangible the nuances of connection between works and each other, between works and viewers, between art place and world space. It’s an effective, enervating reminder of the potency of a coherent vision, paired with open doors and open to interpretation.
A new gallery has opened in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Bedford-Stuyvesant: We Buy Gold, a venture launched by Jack Shainman director Joeonna Bellorado-Samuels in collaboration with Aryn DrakeLee-Williams. The space is bold foray into an area that, on my recent examination has very few spaces dedicated to contemporary art — among them Richard Beavers Gallery, Motel, and American Medium. We Buy Gold staked out a space further west than all these other galleries, closer to Clinton Hill and quite accessible by the A or C trains. From all indications Bellorado-Samuels knows what she is doing. In addition to her directorial role at Shainman, she also acts as a director at For Freedoms, the artist-run Super PAC. I asked Bellorado-Samuels why she decided to open a gallery in this district at this particular moment. She says that it’s: … an opportunity for me to work with artists that I have never worked with before. I felt it incredibly important to begin where I live. The goal is to present shows that are challenging and … creating a space for us feels right, right now. I saw the opening show, One., which the site gives as concerned about the social implications of geography and thought the work intellectually formidable. The work by the artists, Harold Mendez, Renee Gladman, and Torkwase Dyson is not particularly visually alluring, except for Gladman who mixes ink, pencil and gouache to create humble images that combine abstraction and written script to give you small clouds carrying jumbled linguistic cargo. The work here is subtle and requires a sensitive and supple sensibility to embrace it. Choosing it as an opening volley indicates that Bellorado-Samuels means to build an audience right she where she lives and breathes. One. continues at We Buy Gold (387A Nostrand Avenue, Bedford Stuyvesant, Brooklyn) through April 24.
We Buy Gold is a newly opened black-owned gallery in Bed-Stuy. Despite renewed efforts, museums and galleries have long had issues attracting diverse crowds to see their exhibitions. Lately, we've seen the emergence of dedicated curators bringing bringing museum quality art to local neighborhoods of color in Chicago, Los Angeles, and Houston, from Theaster Gates' Stoney Island Arts Bank to the Underground Museum and Project Row Houses. Gallerist Joeonna Bellorado-Samuels adds Brooklyn to the map with We Buy Gold, a new art space in Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn that will operate as an open project space and exhibition hall for artists of color in the community. "I am always thinking about different artists and shows I would want to see outside of my main space," says Bellorado-Samuels, a director at the prestigious Jack Shainman Gallery. "I really wanted to do something where I lived," she tells Creators. The name We Buy Gold alludes to the historic undervaluing of artists of color in august museums and galleries. "This space is for the people, who live here who I hope would be interested in this type of work, to see it in a place where they don't have to leave the area in which they live," says Bellorado-Samuels. "This is a space that's nearby, accessible, perhaps provides an introduction and an alternative way of looking at art outside of the museums that are here in Brooklyn or Manhattan. Ideally those who come in will see themselves represented in the art and artists on display." For Bellorado-Samuels, We Buy Gold attempts to bridge the gap between artists, gallerists, and curators of color participating in institutional spaces and creating their own. "As a person of color who has spent the last nine years working in the predominantly white art world, We Buy Gold is also about pushing outside of those boundaries to create a POC space that aides in the ownership of space that push the existing walls around us to be more inclusionary, to be more modeled by us as opposed to our participating in them." The sentiment mirrors the energy that galvanized artists and administrators of color to create culturally specific institutions such as The Studio Museum in Harlem and El Museo Del Barrio to address specific communal concerns and display the community's art. Bellorado-Samuels says, "It's important that we all figure out ways to move outside of what already exists to establish ownership and autonomy in what we show and how we show." We Buy Gold's first exhibition, One., is a conceptual group show of mostly monochrome sculptures, works on paper, and paintings by artists Torkwase Dyson, Renee Gladman, and Harold Mendez, a participant in this year's Whitney Biennial. The works in One, such as Dyson's acrylic painting, Value and Resources (Water Table #10), Mendez's found photo, let X stand, if it can for the one's unfound (After Proceso Pentágono) II and Gladman's drawing, Untitled, Scope, explore geography, location, violence and the limitations of text images in examining race, environment, and history. The show mirrors the artist's thinking "in terms of what it means to have an art space here in Bed-Stuy and negotiating those terms," says Bellorado-Samuels. We Buy Gold's next two exhibitions will also explore geography and value from a showing of Mohau Modisakeng and Dineo Sheshee Bopape's art to a takeover by Black Women Artists for Black Lives Matter. One. continues through April 24 at We Buy Gold.
Part of the problem with any art fair is that you get stuck, and that’s an issue if you’re working. By “working” I mean running around like a manic pixie dream hobo, with pens and unwanted business cards and rolled-up notebooks sticking out of the pockets of your old-man cardigan, trying to glean some sense of a narrative out of what is essentially a group of nice people trying to sell nice things to other people, mostly nice. By “stuck” I mean having an enjoyable conversation about, say, the time the Butthole Surfers covered the Donovan song “Hurdy Gurdy Man,” while nearby dangles a cast-silicon sculpture molded from computer keyboards and human faces, and over all of it looms the sodden cloud of deadline. There are worse dilemmas in this world, surely. And far worse places to be than Skylight Clarkson North, the new home of the New Art Dealers Alliance’s New York art fair. Journalists, myself included, have always knee-jerkingly referred to NADA using the adjective “scrappy.” But this year it actually does seem legitimately scrappy, in a good way, which is maybe because I spent the afternoon prior at a slightly fancier art fair, where the Europeans in line ahead of me were lamenting how hard it is to find a good building to buy in New York City these days, and noting, approvingly, that Oslo finally has some great restaurants. NADA is noisier than most art fairs, for starters, and it’s not the usual crowd-and-small-talk noise, either. For instance it is around 6:30 p.m. and a man wearing a Hummer cap and large hoop earrings is singing, a capella, through syrup-heavy Autotune, in a lecture-and-performance pavilion sponsored by Kickstarter. His name is Richard Kennedy. “Don’t be afraid to talk to me!” he croons, over and over again, pitch shifting, and shifting. (I don’t talk to him, mainly because he’s singing and seems busy.) Everyone is drinking cans of Modelo, which also seems sort of scrappy, until you realize they’re selling for $7.60 courtesy of Lee’s, whose menu is calling them “Gavin’s Modelos,” evidently because gallerist Gavin Brown had some event at Lee’s and left a bunch of Modelos there, which doesn’t answer the question of why they cost $7.60, rather than free. I buy one anyway, because I’ve been doing this long enough to know that it’s a really good look to try to ponder art and take notes with a contorted crab-hand while cradling a can of beer against your torso. I run into Kristen Dodge, who is a wonderful and smart person with a very cool haircut who used to live in New York, but has since escaped to Hudson, where she raises pet goats and runs a gallery called SEPTEMBER. She’s showing a young painter named Odessa Straub. We get distracted trying to remember what the hell Odessa is, and spend a minute confirming via Wikipedia that it is the third-most populous city in Ukraine. Straub’s paintings are accented with grungy bits of felt and other textiles. They have names like Persistent Poof From Sis Skin Care. A freestanding, abstract sculpture in the center of the booth, Dodge confirms, is composed of pieces of tire, one of those beaded massage-y car seat covers popular in the ’80s, and two distinct types of turtle shells (red-eared slider and map turtle, if you’re keeping score). The compositions are derived from dream imagery, Dodge says, and it’s mostly good dreams: bendy highways drifting into the ether, a four-legged almost-dog with fur for a face. But, it’s not just turtle shells and rabbit pelts at NADA. There’s lots of other weird material. 247365 gallery has a few superthick, bizarro-kindergarten-arts-and-crafts painting-sculptures by Brian Belott, which have lengths of hamster Habitrail tunnels embedded in them. 321 Gallery has a piece by Paul McMahon that’s just a found drawing of a mallard with a pair of jeans draped around it. (The mallard drawing retains its original $14.99 price tag. It might also not technically be a mallard, I’m no biologist.) The lesson here is that, if you’re not making art, the only excuse is that you’re a lazy asshole, and don’t blame the so-called price of supplies, because supplies are all around you, and maybe even at the pet store. At Safe Gallery, Greek artist Alex Eagleton has covered the walls of the booth in cheap carpeting, into which he has perma-carved graffiti he saw in Athens using an industrial air gun. If you think the art world is overly academic and self-serious, you’re wrong. Just look at Shane Campbell Gallery, which is showing a series of paintings by David Leggett. One of them features Chief Wiggum’s head floating on a monochrome, Simpsons-yellow ground. Another has a smiling hot dog levitating above the words “no homo.” At Hometown’s booth, Antone Konst gives us a loose-limbed man who plays a saxophone emitting a little sun. Upbeat, freewheeling figuration is amply represented overall. Parisian Laundry has paintings by Luc Paradis that depict what appear to be lithe strippers formed from mud-colored ectoplasm. Patron, of Chicago, has sweet paintings of cats by Ryosuke Kumakura that were like a magic balm to this fair-battered soul. Everyone seems to have forgotten about the kind of overpriced shitty abstraction that everyone used to buy. At Roberta Pelan, a Toronto gallery, I spy a man wearing a foam-rubber cowboy hat meant to resemble cheddar cheese. This isn’t merely sartorial flair; his name is Manden Murphy, and he runs the gallery, which is a little confusing, but in keeping with dealers’ tendency to name their spaces after people that might not exist. The cheese nods to a work by Syndey Shen in which the artist has borrowed the visual format of the MTA’s totally cheesy Poetry in Motion subway campaign, using the aesthetic to highlight a poem about cheese attributed to Virgil, supposedly. He tries to explain a bit about how the artist is motivated by the inherent contradictions of the steampunk aesthetic, but I’m too distracted by the headgear. Everything is distracting, in fact. I keep running into people who say they recognize me from my Instagram, which doesn’t even feel like a Black Mirror episode anymore. Over at Yours Mine & Ours, an animatronic, emaciated martian (by Jeremy Couillard) sits at a desk, slapping his thin fingers on a laptop keyboard. “Those two paintings behind the alien are mine,” the artist Siebren Versteeg says to a friend. “I made them with computers!” The alien’s computer has a bumper sticker on it that reads GLOWINGLY EXTRACTED. His fingers aren’t really hitting specific keys, but a pre-programmed script has him “typing” lines like “I had a dream last night that I was France.” What gives? Gallerist RJ Supa explains: the NADA extraterrestrial is in communication with a second alien, who is hanging out at their downtown New York brick-and-mortar location. These two anorexic spacemen just relax all day, e-chatting each other stoner koans. At the main space on Eldridge Street, Couillard is showing a first-person shooter video game that he programmed. There’s a couch, and a bong, and all of that is sounding really good. “It’s BYOWeed,” Supa clarifies. Take that, Jeff Sessions! Over by the Kickstarter stage, a bevy of suitably fierce drag queens are queueing up for a song-and-dance revue. I can’t justify a redux of Gavin Brown’s overpriced sloppy-seconds Modelo. “Less catching up, and a little more looking,” advised an only-half-serious Ellie Rines, who runs 56 Henry, a bit earlier in the evening. Amen! But my eyes and social graces are both exhausted. Who will buy the sexually confused hot dog, the verbose Martian, the lactose poesy? Let’s not worry about that. If the art world sometimes seems like a cabal of the undeserving rich lustily slurping the blood of the creative class, from NADA’s vantage point in 2017 it looks more like an energetic mob of friends trying their plucky best to amuse and astound each other. In these dark American days, that’s achievement enough.
The Whitney Biennial, hands down the biggest event in the American art world, is now open for business. For its 2017 edition, the show’s host museum has for the first time attracted an unprecedented partner: Tiffany & Co. Not only is the 180-year-old jewelry and design house the main sponsor of the ambitious show, but the luxury brand has commissioned five biennial artists to create limited edition artworks for its Fifth Avenue flagship, as well as eye-catching displays for its world famous storefront windows. “They were incredibly great with the artists,” Biennial co-curator Mia Locks said of the museum’s partnership with Tiffany at the exhibition’s opening reception. “The artists all came back to us and said ‘Thank you for letting me be a part of this. They’ve really supported any kind of ideas I wanted to have, anything we wanted to do for the windows.'” Among Tiffany’s chosen collaborators is Ajay Kurian, whose Biennial installation Childermass is suspended between floors in the museum’s main stairwell with an assortment dangling half-child, half-human figures. With Tiffany, Kurian created an edition of ten sterling silver business cards delicately etched with a design that hides the word “pyscho” within its pattern, which he’s arranged in the store’s window display to appear as if they’re falling through the Whitney’s spiraling staircase—both a nod to his installation and to the 2001 film American Pyscho which features a similar staircase in one of its climatic scenes. Harold Mendez also worked with Tiffany’s silver artisans to create five sculptural vessels inspired by pre-Colombian death masks. When filled with water, the rainbow hues of the macabre objects’ metallic surfaces and the crude facial features etched that into the base of each bowl glitter and come to life. For his window display, Mendez entombed one of the vessels in a case lined with worn, velvety polishing cloths. Themes of death and ritual are also present in the artist’s Biennial presentation American Pictures, which features crushed and dead insects and an arrangement of scattered flower petals. Painter Carrie Moyer, whose glittering geometric canvases can been seen on the museum’s fifth floor, incorporated similar shapes and patterns into the wearable silver pendants she created with Tiffany. The pendant hangs front and center in the store’s window, against an otherworldly, neon-colored backdrop which mirrors layers of cut-paper collage—a process Moyer uses to create her paintings. Arguably one of the most striking visuals in the Biennial are the site-specific “stained-glass” window coverings Raúl de Nieves has created for the museum’s floor-to-ceiling windows on the fifth floor. But while the work bounces rays of colored-light across the museum’s galleries in the same manner as colored glass, the work was created from nothing more cut and taped pieces of acetate. Iconographic imagery also features in the silver boxes he’s created for Tiffany, which are etched with a haloed figure holding an infant child, also cut into layers of icy glass for his window display. The only artist who chose not to work with Tiffany’s signature silver is artist Shara Hughes, who is known for her dreamlike landscape paintings. Hughes has transferred the flowing quality of her brushstrokes onto hand-painted china pitchers, which are displayed amid a whimsical and surreal seascape on Fifth Avenue. The Biennial commissions and windows displays are far from Tiffany’s first partnership with fine artists. In the late 1950s, Tiffany window designer Gene Moore recruited painters Robert Rauschenberg and Jasper Johns to create dramatic displays for the house’s fine jewelry. Objects and editions created for Tiffany by each of the 2017 Whitney Biennial’s collaborating artists will be sold at the house’s Fifth Avenue store.
Offering a curatorial selection as unexpected as the outcome of the recent presidential election, the mixed-media and socially engaged works by thirty-two contemporary artists in this exhibition straddle binaries that stem from democracy, citizenship, and freedom: obedience/rebellion, citizen/alien, and fixed/fluid. The most nuanced pieces are those that offer an opportunity to make a choice: Margaret Noble’s Index of Fear, 2015, is an interactive media archive where one can sift through an old filing drawer and pick out sounds to play that, according to a corresponding list of tangible fears, convey feelings of “futility,” “fiscal,” and “forgotten,” among other categories. Bethany Collins’s Study for a Pattern or Practice, 2015, offers a poignant blind-embossed rendition of the table of contents from the Department of Justice report on the Ferguson Police Department after the shooting of Michael Brown in August 2014. Olga Lah’s Blessings All Around, 2011, repurposes a swath of bright-orange warning-barrier mesh as a draped garment on the wall, capturing and reinforcing, like these other works, both the general and the complicated, specific feelings of helplessness and loss in our current political climate. Visitor comment cards are filled with pencil scrawls and hung on small rows of hooks near some of the works. Their presence gestures toward the exhibition’s lofty themes regarding voting, with one stating: “use your voice to gerrymander your own reality,” hinting at past failures but also modes of future perseverance. Viewers also have the opportunity to write what citizenship and democracy mean to them using patriotic red and blue stickers that populate a cardboard cutout of silhouetted bodies in a crowd. One reads: “democracy means fascism.” Indeed, the strength of this show is the quiet affective space of consolation and reflection it has generated, both pre- and post-election
In the aftermath of a long, brutal presidential campaign – a words-and-images battle over the soul of our country – an exhibition at the Van Every/Smith Galleries at Davidson College suddenly takes on new relevance. At first blush, “Seeing | Saying: Images and Words” appears to be a comprehensive look at how artists bring together image and text. And while it explores such relationships – with combinations ranging from seamless to arbitrary – there is something deeper going on. Amidst all the meditations, warnings, punchlines and profundities, at least half the works in the show are in some way about power: exerting it, being denied it, reclaiming it or otherwise. Many other works, in their sheer capriciousness or resistance to interpretation, remind us that the truth is not always immediately apparent. Gallery visitors are welcomed by Santiago Sierra’s “Door Plate (Placa Para Puerto).” An imposing cast aluminum plaque, its text begins, “THIS ENTRANCE IS STRICTLY PROHIBITED” ... It then continues with a list of banned people so long and contradictory — including employees, the unemployed, cynics, jokers and women with children — that almost no one can be granted admission. David Wojnarowicz’s “Untitled (Sometimes I come to hate people)” is a tragic lament at the end of life, as his body is ravaged by AIDS and his community stigmatized. He grasps for words and images, but however powerful they seem to us, they fail him. In Hank Willis Thomas’ lenticular work, “Le Blanc Imite Le Noir,” what you see depends, literally and figuratively, on where you stand. The text (in translation) oscillates between “white imitates black” and “black imitates white.” For “FINDERS, KEEPERS,” Shimon Attie photographed two lightboxes, one emblazoned with the word “FINDERS” and the other “KEEPERS,” at the Temple Mount/Noble Sanctuary. Combining conflict and cliché, this work deftly summarizes the endless battle for control of a contested area, as well as our inability to fully comprehend complex situations. Presented as a separate exhibition, Bethany Collins’ “In Evidence” renders text invisible, to examine how language can reinforce domination. The centerpiece of this austere, intense show-within-a-show is “A Pattern of Practice,” 91 pages of the U.S. Department of Justice’s report on the killing of Michael Brown, in Ferguson, Missouri. The text is not printed, but embossed, so that all the information is there, but it is unreadable. In other works, Collins uses various approaches to obscure books and paper works. For “Find,” she made use of art-supply brand names, taking a Black Magic eraser to a sheet of American Masters printmaking paper and reducing both to a small mountain of crumbs. Using a related strategy, in her wall installation “Regola,” Susan Harbage Page begins with texts created by men, including a 19th-century list of rules for Capistrano Friars. She then covers them over, using stereotypically feminine means (including stitchery, bursts of color and to-do lists), thus taking the rigid and rule-bound and rendering it life-affirming and celebratory. In the video “Penelope’s Odyssey,” Andrea Eis tells the story of Odysseus’ 20-year absence fighting the Trojan War entirely from the viewpoint of his wife, Penelope, who remains behind and fends off suitors. But upon his return, it is Odysseus who must wait for Penelope. The show includes thought-provoking works that are open to interpretation or have meanings that might be out of reach if not for the accompanying wall text. Whether playful, maddening, or soothing, all have emotional resonance. Among these are John Baldessari’s “Double Play: Just the Right Bullets,” pairing an early 20th-century painting with a Tom Waits lyric; Raymond Pettibon’s comic-book-like “Plots on Loan I”; and Teresita Fernández’s “Night Writing (Hero and Leander),” a swirl of constellations and Braille that references our desire to seek meaning whether in the stars or on paper. As you head for the gallery exit, turn around and spend a quiet moment with a modest piece by Christian Marclay. For this simple, unvarnished music box, Marclay composed a melody called “Tinsel” (also the name of the piece) and burnt its anagrams into the surface, so that you see “listen” when the box is opened and “silent” when it is closed. Although the work was commissioned by art collector Peter Norton as a holiday gift, its text now seems ominous as winter nears and uncertainty awaits.
Below, critical writer, educator, and multidisciplinary artist Buzz Spector poses eight questions to Bethany Collins, the 2015 recipient of Georgia's Hudgens Prize—for which Spector was a Juror—and a contributor to ART PAPERS' magazine and live lecture series. Collins' multidisciplinary work takes place at an intersection of race and language—a point she explores in text and image variously through erasure, texture, doubling, or a visible dialogue between simple black and white hues. (Holland Cotter, writing in The New York Times, has suggested, Collins' primary medium is "language itself ... intrinsically racialized.") Collins' works have been exhibited in solo and group exhibitions nationwide, including the High Museum of Art, the Museum of Contemporary Art of Georgia, and the Studio Museum in Harlem, where she was an Artist-in-Residence. She is also a finalist for the Prix Canson, which recognizes an artist who has contributed to the field of works on paper. The Prix Canson finalists' exhibition will be on view at the Drawing Center from June 22—July 1, 2016. Bethany Collins, Between Green & Violet, 2014-15, toner and graphite on American Masters paper [photo: Mike Jensen, courtesy of the Hudgens Center for the Arts] 1. In interviews and previous public statements you've talked about the problematic binaries attached to racial identity. Since your art is often executed in a palette of black and/or white, what other aspects of the work destabilize this overt chromatic opposition? The visible presence of the binary exists in almost every series I'm working on, from the White Noise chalk on chalkboard works to the erased definitions on American Masters bright white paper in the Contronym series. What consistently complicates and refutes that binary is the residue—the residue of language altered, blurred or partially erased presents a more complicated "third way". Not to mention, the Contronym series itself destabilizes that either/or proposition. Contronyms are words which contain their own opposite definitions. Quiddity, for example, is the very essence of a thing and a trifling nothing. Highlighting those contradictions through erasure tackles the absurdity of our expectations of a kind of singular clarity. 2. I came away from the Hudgens Prize juror visit to your studio with a vivid memory of the detritus left behind as you made your work, in particular the eraser shavings on the floor or, in one case, neatly piled on a table. Tell me about how these piles relate to your investigations of language? Of landscape? I remember how quickly you saw the work and underneath it. The traces of language, as subject and process, are evident in the flecks of paper and Pink Pearl eraser clinging to the surface or falling to the floor below. From the charcoal fingerprints in the Southern Review, which show the history of my touch and my reading, to chalk dust trapped in felt erasers. In all these ways, I'm interested in the ability of the residue to retain the text's essence in changed form. To be the same yet wholly different. 3. The large blackboard works you included in your Hudgens Art Center show last year included two orders of lettering: handwritten sentences that were smeared to become partially illegible, and clusters of smaller individual letterforms, easily recognized but impossible to read. Are you making a distinction between the illegible and the unreadable? In those White Noise chalk on chalkboard works, I think of that ordering of language as my give-and-take with the viewer. The partially illegible, erased text is the same language as the impossible to read clusters of tiny letters. The first is difficult but possible to read. The second necessitates that you trust what I've told you that I've written. Both are ways for me to control not only the problematic language that necessitated the chalkboard piece, but also the viewer's new relationship to it. 4. Your work has a special quality of found language subjected to acts of erasure that never really obscure our sense of where these texts were taken from. This kind of "failed" erasure is reminiscent of the device in philosophy called sous rature, where contradictions in a text are preserved in print but struck through by a line that still allows them to be read. Do you mean for these erasures to expose contradictions? Yes. Absolutely. The paradoxical choice to erase, but to leave standing, to expose the contradiction, to frustrate the viewer's gaze and to control a new reading of the text...all of these outcomes feel like an exertion of mastery over this language that initially feels so unwieldy to me. 5. I keep bringing up forms of erasure in asking about your methods, but there's another aspect to the gesture of erasure: that of its similarity to a caress. Perhaps there's a love of the texts you select, for which their unmaking by eraser is also a kind of undressing. I cannot help but see my obsession with language through the lens of my body. I've written a thousand tiny illegible letters, but only until my hand hurts. In the first Southern Review, I initially threw away those imperfect, messy, and ripped pages until realizing that my sooty fingerprints all over the surface was the work. And not water, but my spit makes the Contronym erasure works possible, eating into the surface of the paper. So, there is pain and desire intertwined, I think, in every one of those actions. And caress is inseparable, or maybe indistinguishable here, from destruction. 6. Your current blind embossing works ask us to see the whiteness—or blackness—of the paper on which their words are stamped as a kind of camouflage. Can you speak to the critical context of this disguise? The first work I embossed was the [Department of Justice report on the Ferguson Police Department] of 2015, which was also the first text I've used without any historical distance. It's a current document of all the reasons leading up to Ferguson, Missouri, as most of us know it. When the report was published, I remember one response: that reading the report was like "being told that water is wet." From a distance, the work appears simply as a wall of white. Up close, though, the braille-like text protruding from the surface is legible, but difficult to read. So even that which has been made clear, that which is impossible to deny, can still be hard to see...which is both the mechanics and the context for the work. 7. When did you first want to be an artist? How has your upbringing in the South informed the direction of your art? At the University of Alabama, I majored in photojournalism as a creative profession that might also offer financial stability. What I enjoyed about that work was the immediacy of the questions asked and answered in real time, daily. What I lacked—and I realized this after the last assignment I covered, involving multiple fatalities—was the desire to assert/insert myself into the story. I find in my studio practice then the same love of well-crafted questions, and even just the potential of answers. In every work, I'm longing for that resolution. 8. The Hudgens Prize is intended to be a "transformational opportunity" for a Georgia artist. The substantial cash award can obviously change one's personal circumstances, but there are other aspects of the competition and jurying that must also matter. Can you share your own experience of the process? The inseparable impact and value of the Hudgens Prize is in the cash award being paired with a lengthy conversation between finalists and jurors. Together, those two charge us with the work to come. Last year, I had a visit with you, Shannon Fitzgerald, and Hamza Walker, who all came to my studio so prepared and familiar with my work, yet so open. And a year after our studio visit, Buzz, I'm still mulling over these ideas of erasure as failed act, of erasure as amorous act, of the act of erasure as putting one's body in the crosshairs... It's our conversation unfurling over the long-haul that I hold as so particularly valuable.
In Bethany Collins’s subtle, elegant works on paper, the act of erasing leaves indexical marks like scars. Take Skin, 1968, 2015, a triptych in which a dictionary definition of the word is inscribed thrice and then rubbed out, leaving a different synonym on each sheet. The erased areas are visible as violent rips in the paper’s surface, leading the remaining words—pelt, hide, and peel—to read as aggressive actions more than nouns. The refuse of a similar work, including shreds of paper in addition to a Pink Pearl eraser, is collected in Bound, 1982, 2015, a sculptural pile that resembles rose-colored ashes, suggesting a corporeal end. A more pointed note is struck in Black and Blue Dictionary, 2014, where any presence of the words “black” and “blue” has been removed from an outdated Webster’s dictionary, leaving abrasions on the thin leaves and questions as to the implications of altering an archival text, particularly one that no one is reading. The allusion to race here is potent without being didactic. A Pattern or Practice, 2015, a ninety-one-piece wall installation featuring words embossed rather than printed on paper, crucially expands on the aforementioned themes. The text—crisply enunciated, yet ghostly due to the lack of ink—reprints portions of the U.S. Department of Justice report on the Ferguson police department. The artist’s reproduction makes plain the varied difficulties of reading or comprehending this text. The visual and symbolic tensions in this shadow of content bring two phrases to mind: “America Is Hard to See,” the title of the Whitney Museum’s inaugural exhibition downtown, and “Black Lives Matter,” the battle cry of so many Americans this year. Collins’s work is a rejoinder that confronts the slippage of lexicon and legacy, which can always be obscured or erased.
“I have to do a thing until it becomes painful,” says Bethany Collins, sitting in her enormous temporary studio at the MacDowell Colony in Peterborough, New Hampshire. Intended for a sculptor, the studio has vaulted ceilings that reach 12 feet. The walls are neatly covered with a mix of finished and in-progress pieces. Based in Atlanta, Georgia, Collins, 31, is one of two dozen residents and just beginning her six-week sojourn. The evidence of pain is merely suggested within her work. Occasionally, it’s exposed through visual codes of repetition and mark-making, but otherwise it remains largely unseen. Her “noise” paintings are made by laboriously writing, erasing, and then rewriting lettering in pastel or chalk, a process reminiscent of a classroom punishment; the artist will re-create specific phrases until her fingers throb. The beginnings of a new set of works rest on cardboard on the concrete studio floor: blank paper drying from a bath in denim-colored dye, soon to be blue noise. Works from the “Dictionaries” series, diptychs of contronym definitions on thick American Masters paper, hang behind the “noise” paintings. Collins uses saliva and a Pink Pearl, Black Magic, or tan Chunky eraser to rub away aggressively at the printed definition, so only the opposing idioms remain. Her erasure sculptures, perhaps the most conceptual in her oeuvre, are made from the eraser residue, which she gathers into modest piles. They signal the complete removal of language, but, she says, “the essence of the thing remains. You just have to trust me—it’s there.” The sculptures line a table next to a stack of books: Valeria Luiselli’s The Story of My Teeth, a copy of the New South journal from the 1970s, and a 1984 edition of The Southern Review. the last has already been dismantled. Its pages are filled with blocks of black text mixed with her frequent charcoaled fingerprints. Collins consistently confronts invasive controlling language, particularly in historical and authoritative forms. The deliberate decision to push her body until it hurts speaks to how necessary she finds it to settle these encounters. Collins described this impulse in a talk with Nico Muhly during her residency at the Studio Museum in Harlem in 2014: “I’ve got to get this [language] back outside of my body. I have to figure out a way to let it go. It’s incredibly obsessive. I do it until my hand hurts, and then I’ve got to let that language go.” The pain that suffuses her art is relevant, given that Collins recognizes her practice is distinctly, if not directly, informed by her being an artist from the South. But, taking into account the image of old, white male that the term implies, the Montgomery, Alabama–bred Collins is decidedly not stereotypically Southern (though, she admits, “I do love a good bourbon”). “When I moved to New York for my residency at the Studio Museum, I kept getting this question: What does it mean to be a Southern artist?” Collins recalls. “But when I explain the origin of the ‘Southern Review’ series, it turns out that some people don’t understand Southern as describing just the white male body.” That series began two years ago on a trip home, when Collins discovered a vintage selection of the literary journals established at Louisiana State University at a bookshop in Atlanta, and brought several editions from the 1980s back to Harlem. She began rendering parts of the text barely legible by blacking it out with charcoal, leaving headlines, captions, and bylines visible. “I was imagining the Southern body,” she explains. “What does the Southern body look like outside myself? Some people tend to read the work as redacted, but to me, the pages feel richer, deeper.” Collins’s natural impulse to reject established social orders or systems of meaning and instead present an unnerving alternative quietly finds its foothold in several actions. The work acknowledges noise, and identifies that weighted language does not necessarily hold truth. There is also the deliberate act of silencing that noise, and the critical role of the body in this deconstruction. Applying the same system she used in the “Southern Review” series, A Pattern or Practice, 2015, which debuted in a solo exhibition at Chicago’s Richard gray Gallery this fall, is the first in her series of blind-embossed works. Collins initially set strict parameters for herself regarding historicity, working only with text and documents produced between 1950 and 1989. “My parents were born in the ’50s; I was born in the ’80s,” she notes. “I have a kind of ownership of that language.” But she found herself tackling the Ferguson Report: a 105-page document released earlier this year by the department of Justice after a six-month investigation into the city’s police department. “This was the first time I used a text that I didn’t have distance from,” she says. “That was really uncomfortable, but I didn’t want it to be necessary to have distance to be able to talk about an idea.” Made up of 91 sheets, it’s hard on the eye. Stand too far back, and it looks like a marked wall of white, almost impenetrable, and gives the illusion of braille. “It creates this desire in the viewer to touch it,” she explains. “You want to feel your way through it. As factual as that report is, you still have to feel your way through it.” Government bodies have completed similar documents for the police departments in Baltimore and New Orleans, and Collins identified their precedents, such as the Kerner Commission Report from 1967, a look at the national race riots by the Lyndon Johnson–organized National advisory Commission on Civil disorders. But, she emphasizes, she was drawn to working with the Ferguson Report for specific reasons: “It was grappling with all these tentacles of language that I found fascinating and beautiful and difficult. That you can read a thing and understand what it’s talking about completely, that excites me.” She’s begun thinking about how the series will continue. For a solo project at the Birmingham Museum of art, opening in April 2016, she’ll embark on a series of blind-embossed works that incorporate the front pages of the Birmingham News from the 1960s, when the editorial board established an in-house rule to bury civil rights stories inside the paper. “The Ferguson Report that I did, it was the text that was painful,” Collins says. But with a nod to the deposits of violence in her own performative gestures of erasure, she adds, “here, it’s the absence of the text.”
David Hammons’s “African American Flag” — with its Pan-African red and black stripes and green field of black stars — floats high over the sidewalk outside the Studio Museum in Harlem. Originally created nearly a quarter-century ago, it has become an identifying emblem for a museum dedicated to nurturing the careers of artists of African descent. In 1980, Mr. Hammons himself was the beneficiary of that nurturing. A Los Angeles transplant still little known in New York, he was chosen that year to participate in the museum’s annual artists-in-residence program, which provides on-the-premises studio space, a stipend and a culminating exhibition. Today, he’s a star, the program continues, and work by its latest graduates is on view in a show called “Material Histories: Artists in Residence 2013-14.” All three of its artists are, in more ways than one, Mr. Hammons’s heirs. Like him, they take race as a subject, one as critical as ever, as the news keeps reminding us. And they address that complex theme in a variety of subtly polemical visual languages with sources in popular culture. Language itself, viewed as intrinsically racialized, is Bethany Collins’s primary material. It’s the very substance of the inconspicuous centerpiece of her work done over the past year. Called “Colorblind Dictionary,” it’s simply a found and well-thumbed 1965 edition of a Webster’s New World Dictionary of the American Language in which the artist, who identifies herself as biracial, has carefully erased, or scratched out, all mentions of the words “black,” “white” and “brown.” As you flip through the book, paper shavings fall from the pages like dust. She applies a comparable editing process to dozens of framed tear sheets from a 1987 issue of The Southern Review, a venerable literary magazine published by Louisiana State University. The contents of the journal itself are neither programmatically about the American South nor about race, but Ms. Collins, born in Montgomery, Ala., in 1984, turns its pages into a metaphorical play of black and white by inking out sections of printed text and isolating references to the writers Elizabeth Alexander, Derek Walcott and Carl van Vechten. Finally, she cuts language loose from obvious meaning in two abstract paintings. Both, despite strongly worded references to race in their titles, are ethereal looking, with clusters of alphabetical characters written in light-blue pencil on a dark ground, like smudges left on a blackboard, or barely legible nebulae seen in a night sky. The basic language in Kevin Beasley’s sculpture is body language, or the compressed traces of it. Several pieces in the show are made in part from clothing worn by the artist or someone he knows. An urn-shape sculpture from 2013 incorporates a floral-patterned nightgown of a kind favored by his grandmother. A 2014 wall hanging consists of a shag rug encrusted with studio debris, sealed in clear resin and festooned with soft-sculpture globes made from bunched-up underwear. The work looks at once abject and extraterrestrial, like mysterious, vacuum-packed matter from some other universe. It also has connections, direct or otherwise, to art history, specifically to a style of dense, street-derived assemblage made by John Outterbridge, Noah Purifoy, Dale Brockman Davis and other members of a group of black artists in Los Angeles in the 1960s and ’70s, of which Mr. Hammons was an integral member. As was the case with some of those artists, Mr. Beasley’s output often has an aural dimension in the form of live or taped music. In 2012, he filled the Museum of Modern Art’s atrium with an earsplitting, bone-rattling multitrack soundscape composed from the layered voices of dead rappers like Eazy-E, Guru and Biggie Smalls. Sound doesn’t figure in the Studio Museum work, at least that I could detect, but layering does. So does a sense of vitality generated by objects that look both ruined and precious, pulled raw from the gutter but tenderly detailed, as if they’d been touched a lot, which they have. Abigail DeVille’s big, busy, conglomerate sculptures speak street talk. Almost everything that went into their making — shopping carts, cinder blocks, plastic bags, clothes mannequins — was harvested from the neighborhood surrounding the museum. She combines the material in very intricate ways, but still leaves the components warm with their individual histories. (An installation she made for the group show “Fore” at the museum in 2012 included cigarette butts from her grandmother’s home in the Bronx.) Now in her early 30s, Ms. DeVille has been exhibiting in the city for nearly a decade and developing increasingly refined and cogent forms of sculpture and installation. Her work at the Studio Museum, some of her best so far, leans in a distinctly sculptural direction, with “ADDC Obelisk” being the show’s tour de force. It is a 15-foot-long skeletal version of the Washington Monument, tilted on its side, propped up by box springs, its innards exposed, revealing tangles of rope and wiring, chicken-wire walls and mannequin limbs in illogical combinations. As with everything Ms. DeVille does, the piece is expansively theatrical. (She has done stage design, most recently for the Peter Sellars production of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” at the Stratford Festival in Ontario.) But it’s deliberately shaped and self-contained enough to make a statement, which I take to be a political one: about the attention deficit of an American government that allows monumental degrees of racism to fester under its very eyes. The exhibition, organized by Lauren Haynes, an assistant curator at the Studio Museum, also has the closest thing to painting I’ve yet seen from Ms. DeVille, an abstract collage assembled on pieces of Sheetrock attached to a gallery wall. The main material is paper, plain but imprinted with rubbings she made of the surface of local streets. With areas of drilled perforations and the addition of a brightly colored but paint-flaking found door, the result looks like a giant, distressed Anne Ryan collage, an aria to art history and to the story of everyday urban life. Its title is “Harlem Flag.” A salute to Mr. Hammons? My guess is yes.
Inaugurating a Bedford-Stuyvesant art space named after the neighborhood’s cash-for-gold shops, the exhibition “ONE.” traffics in sobering monochromes rather than glittery baubles. The three exhibiting artists are united in their desire to explore how political abstractions become tools of oppression. Yet that doesn’t mean their works rely on representational tactics that are easily digestible. Torkwase Dyson reveals how environmental degradation, architecture, and racial injustice are intertwined. The artist gives us two new reliefs, subjective interpretations of black architecture, such as nomadic structures, that relate to her concept of black compositional thought. She affixes wire forms to simplified, architectural-seeming abstract panels. Before Black Mountain and the Anthropocene (Tuareg Women: Namadcity), 2017, references the Tuareg Saharan tribe, a matrilineal society that favors radical female sexual liberation. Renee Gladman’s drawings are composed of letter-like forms that arc into sketches of densely populated city skylines. Some are overlaid with expressionistic washes of gouache. The effect recalls Conceptual forebears such as Robert Smithson’s A Heap of Language, 1966, or Jackson Mac Low’s densely scrawled, illegible poems from the 1990s. It also suggests the ultimate incommensurability of text and lived experience. Los Angeles–based Harold Mendez’s work, also currently on view at the Whitney Biennial, finds more breathing room here. Untitled (Death Mask), 2015, consists of an oxidized copper replica of a pre-Columbian death mask in a singed cardboard container. For let X stand, if it can for the one’s unfound (After Proceso Pentágono) II, 2016, he distressed and reprinted a photo by the Mexican antiauthoritarian art collective Grupo Proceso Pentágono. The image shows decontextualized violence—a man being punched in the face and electrocuted by attackers whose identities lie outside the frame. It’s a staggering image, especially in a moment when the question of representation (in the sense of who speaks for whom) is igniting the art world
Gift shops and the merchandise inside them are a core part of most museums — try naming an art institution that doesn’t take part. Sales not only shore up the bottom line but also help visitors bond with an institution, making them more likely to come back. Such operations are evolving. The Whitney Museum of American Art is now introducing a tie-in with its signature show, the Whitney Biennial, which tries to take the pulse of contemporary art. Five biennial artists are collaborating with Tiffany & Company — which is sponsoring this and the next two biennials with a gift of $5 million — on a series of limited-edition works. Priced from $2,500 to $10,000, they will be for sale in the Whitney store and at Tiffany’s flagship store in Midtown Manhattan in tandem with the biennial, which runs from March 17 through June 11. The venture — blending philanthropy, art and commerce — is new territory for the Whitney, which has never had such an extensive collaboration with an outside partner. The painter Carrie Moyer, who has several colorful works in the biennial, designed a sterling silver pendant called “Daisy” that is based on her collage work. Shara Hughes created a bone-china pitcher hand-painted in a loose manner to resemble her canvases in the show. Each is in an edition of 10. Harold Mendez, known for his mixed-media installations, created a piece that’s a far cry from the classic engagement ring in a blue box: a colorfully iridescent silver vessel in the shape of a death mask. The piece, in an edition of five, looks like a slightly melted face. If it’s hard to imagine Audrey Hepburn sidling up to the Tiffany window to check out a death mask, that’s the point. For Tiffany, which has built itself into a powerful luxury brand with broad appeal, the collaboration has been part of an attempt to re-emphasize its artistic roots: Charles Lewis Tiffany, the business’s founder, was a founding trustee of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the company later enlisted such artists as Andy Warhol and Robert Rauschenberg in collaborations. Beyond its significant donation, Tiffany felt like a good partner for the Whitney in trying something different that would highlight the content of the museum’s signature show. “The ethos of this comes from how the Whitney always engages with artists,” said Christopher Y. Lew, a co-curator of the biennial with Mia Locks. “We follow what artists are doing. The objects they have created are ones they wanted to produce.” Perhaps appropriately, given that it’s one of Tiffany’s signature materials, silver was the choice for four of the five projects, including Raúl de Nieves’s “In the Beginning,” a sterling silver box. “They are sensitive and simpatico to the spirit of the institution,” Adam D. Weinberg, the Whitney’s director, said of Tiffany. “We’ve had a lot of contact with them. If we say, this doesn’t feel so good, ‘They say, ‘O.K., we’ll find something else.’” Noting that the biennial has sometimes proved controversial, Mr. Weinberg also applauded Tiffany for taking a chance. “You never know what the biennial will look like until it opens, so it’s very brave of them,” he said. For 180 years, “Tiffany has been at the forefront of collaboration with artists,” said Frédéric Cumenal, who recently stepped down as the company’s chief executive. Mr. Cumenal, who helped initiate the project, was on the Whitney’s board from 2015 until this year. He added that Tiffany had always pioneered “new technology, new materials, new skills.” Charles Lewis Tiffany founded the company as a stationer in 1837; later his son, the celebrated artist Louis Comfort Tiffany, was its artistic director, although he is better known for his own prodigious glassmaking, examples of which are on view around the country. Today Tiffany is a publicly traded company. Mr. Weinberg stressed that the art objects made in partnership with Tiffany were at a remove from what was being exhibited. Whereas some museums have merchandising spaces just off their galleries, where they sell posters and other items based on the art visitors have just seen, the Whitney maintains only one store, in its lobby. “We’re not setting up a Tiffany shop in the galleries,” he said. According to the biennial curators, who suggested the artists for the Tiffany collaboration, twists and turns were part of the process. “The surprise is what the objects have turned into,” Mr. Lew said. The artist Ajay Kurian has a complicated installation in the biennial, “Childermass,” which includes a fog machine and fur, among other elements. For the Tiffany project, he did “Modern Secrets,” a sterling silver card case in an edition of 10. Its title seems to inject a layer of artistic ambiguity. But no one has tested the boundaries of the project as much as Mr. Mendez, whose silver vessel riffs on a Colombian death mask he knew from a museum in Medellín. “I was skeptical in the beginning,” Mr. Mendez, who is based in Los Angeles, said of the process. “I thought, ‘Tiffany, maybe they’re trying to rebrand. But the more I found out about it, the more encouraged I was. I got excited after a conference call, and they described what the possibilities were.” In particular, Mr. Mendez relished his trips to the Tiffany holloware workshop in Cumberland, R.I., where a series of silver-polishing wheels that were colorfully caked with bits of silver and chemicals set his mind racing. When he discovered a picture of an iridescent tea caddy from an old Tiffany catalog, it fired his imagination further. Mr. Mendez engaged in several months of back-and-forth with the Tiffany artisans on how to get the exact effects he wanted. “Initially, there were bumps, in that I had to translate my idea,” he said. “But it opened a new avenue to experiment with material. They let me follow through on my idea, even when I got to a dead end.” The resulting vessel — with a built-in mystery typical of his work — is not a vase, he said. It’s meant to hold water, but Mr. Mendez doesn’t intend it to hold flowers. “You have to put water inside to finish the work,” he said. “In the gesture of pouring, it can take shape.” Mr. Mendez added that he felt he was able to preserve his artistic independence throughout the project. “They allowed me to have my creative voice,” he said. “The object is really aligned with all my other work. I don’t think of it as something in a store.”
Late in 2015, the curators Chris Lew and Mia Locks embarked on what seemed like an almost endless road trip, combing the country (and a few cities abroad) in search of the artists who best represent America right now for the 2017 Whitney Biennial. They finally narrowed that list down to just 63 after meeting with hundreds last year; and now down to just five for a preview of sorts in the windows of Tiffany & Co., the biennial’s sponsor, unveiled today at its flagship on Fifth Avenue. As it turns out, of course, that also happens to be just steps away from Trump Tower, a fact that’s taken on a whole new significance since the biennial’s planning stages—and one that Ajay Kurian, an Indian-American artist who was among those selected for the displays, was not going to let go uncommented upon. “I was ambivalent about the enterprise and the clientele—who shops at Tiffany’s, and what’s going on in the world right now,” Kurian said of his initial response when Lew and Locks approached him. “I just couldn’t get it out of my head.” So, when it came time for he and the other artists chosen—Carrie Moyer, Shara Hughes, Harold Mendez, and Raúl de Nieves—to start with selecting sterling silver Tiffany’s pieces to incorporate into their displays, Kurian took things into his own hands: he asked the company to help him engrave the word “psycho” into the business card cases he’d selected, a reference to the cold-blooded corporate showmanship in American Psycho, the 2000 film with its infamous scene of one-upmanship—using business cards, of course—in a Wall Street conference room. “I told my family and my partner my pitch, and they all just told me I should have a plan B, because [Tiffany & Co.] weren’t going to go for it,” Kurian recalled. To his surprise, though, the company actually did, if partly because the word isn’t readily visible—it takes a few seconds to spot, thanks to an intricately engraved pattern Kurian designed with the help of a website where you can make your own Magic Eye. After all, at this point, the company, who promised free creative reign to Lew and Locks for the project, and is sponsoring not only this year’s, but the next few biennials through 2021, should know what it signed up for—or at least the intentions of the biennial's youngest-ever curators, who were looking not to create extra work for the artists for the sake of a watered-down corporate sponsorship, but to instead give them a chance to expand their biennial contributions and typical artistic practice, “as if their studio has expanded exponentially to the collaboration.” Kurian’s contribution, for example, is an extension of sorts of his installation in the Renzo Piano-designed stairwell of the Whitney Museum, which he recreated in his display and topped off with business cards drifting around on clear glass wheels as if floating to the bottom, where a silver chainsaw is another reference to one of the film’s notorious scenes. Mendez, on the other hand, sculpted a pre-Colombian death mask in collaboration with Tiffany’s hollowware Rhode Island outpost; Moyer embellished her usual collage work with a sterling silver pendant; Hughes worked with bone china to create a series of painted pitchers; and de Nieves worked with the company’s engravers to adapt the three figures that make up one of his recurring motifs. All will be for sale in limited editions, not that Kurian need exactly worry—the money's all going directly to the museum, rather than in business-card-case-carrying pockets.
If the times are a’ changing—and they are, to the strains of “The Battle Hymn of the Republic”—one rightly expects art to change with them. But should the same also be true of art fairs? Last December, the Miami fairs seemed stuck in limbo or, more charitably, confused about how or even whether to respond to news of Donald Trump’s election win. But after a few topsy-turvy months and several dozen Presidential executive orders, not a few art galleries have thrown political caution to the wind. Where the NADA New York art fair is concerned, yesterday’s fence sitters are today’s firebrands. Change is in the air at the Skylight Clarkson North building on Washington Street, the NADA art fair’s new West Soho home. Also new is the fact that NADA—which has operated a well-known Miami Beach fair since 2002—moved its New York fair from May to March, opposite the Armory and Independent shows and closer to the Whitney Biennial (it opens March 17). But the biggest change of all may be the fact that the non-profit organization that runs the fair—the New Art Dealers Alliance (NADA)—has fully embraced a platform of embattled liberal causes. When asked to define the overwhelming trend that defines this year’s fairs, NADA spokesperson Adam Abdalla responded succinctly: “Activism.” Wherever collectors decide to drop their coin this year, NADA has decided it is putting its money where its mouth is. A month ago fair organizers announced that 50 percent of the gate receipts will go to benefit the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU)—“no organization works harder to protect the rights of all than the ACLU,” NADA Executive Director Heather Hubbs explained in February. The remainder of the proceeds from ticket sales, NADA announced, will be used to support the fair’s International Exhibitor Prize Program, a scheme the organization employs to help first-time exhibitors traveling from outside the U.S. to NADA New York for 2018. Notably, the fair’s activist theme extends beyond its organizers’ personal ideals to NADA’s programming and also to an important number of the artworks on display. Among the more than 100 galleries and projects representing 37 cities in some 14 countries, nearly a fourth—according to my unscientific reckoning—have chosen to ring in this year’s art fair season with artworks that can be described as activist in spirit. Placed cheek by jowl with other worthy objects that have zero political aspirations, the best of these pieces—done in various styles and in multiple media—make a convincing visual argument for why art fairs should respond to world events. At a morally raw time like this, art is stronger when it can be linked to life. One of the most openly activist gallery presentations at NADA belongs to Alden Projects, the Lower East Side gallery that followed up last year’s presidential election with a show of veteran Jenny Holzer’s Reagan-era street posters titled “Rejoice! Our Times Are Intolerable.” On view at their booth are a number of Holzer’s Inflammatory Essays—printed on sheets of colored paper, they were once wheat-pasted on hoardings all over New York—hung alongside black and white photographs by both conceptualist Eleanor Antin and Suzanne Lacy, the doyenne of social practice. Taken together, the works of these art “sisters” assumes the cumulative power of resisters. Two Los Angeles galleries, Commonwealth & Council and Skibum MacArthur, have teamed up to stage a group presentation of four artists—Carmen Winant, Dannielle Dean, David Alekhougie, and Kang Seung Lee—who draw on images in the mainstream media to explore issues of race, gender, and class. Of the four, Seung Lee’s graphite drawings and large-scale photographs are the standouts. Featuring images of the 1992 L.A. Riots (this year marks the event’s 25th anniversary), these works often obliterate the riot’s human figures and leave burning cars and empty shopping carts as eerie evidence of one of America’s worst outbreaks of mass violence. Nearby, Manhattan’s Fort Gansevoort Gallery features the work of Josh and Benny Safdie, established filmmakers with individual sidelines in the visual arts (their latest movie, Good Time, stars Twilight’s Robert Pattinson). While the former presents an enigmatic photo of the presidential seal on the jet-black door of a limousine (it’s titled, simply, “Presidential”), the latter presents a set of large wall-mounted “cutouts” the artist-filmmaker made of not-so-ambiguous media images: one is a picture of ex-Portland Trail Blazers basketball coach Jack Ramsey being showered in champagne by his black players, the other a hapless portrait of the crack-addled late rapper Ol’ Dirty Bastard. Additionally, two solo booths provide different versions of what could, under present circumstances, be called “protest art.” The first, Chris Dorland’s presentation at Brussels’s Super Dakota Gallery, is an immersive installation made up of abstracted advertisements printed onto aluminum panels; the artist describes them as a “dystopian vision of our 21st century consumerist society.” The second, at the stand of Chicago’s Patron Gallery, features the powerful “scrubbed” photo-transfer on metal works of Colombian-Mexican artist Harold Mendez. Mendez’s distressed images of a riot in 1960s Colombia and of a man being punched in the face recall the work of the late Gustav Metzger, and will be featured at the upcoming Whitney Biennial. Elsewhere, the presentations of art outfits like Klemm’s Berlin, Paris’s Eric Hussenot and Brooklyn’s Signal Gallery remind one that, in our current global context, most symbolic products inadvertently take on unexpected political meanings. Klemm’s Berlin, for one, features Viktoria Binschtok’s collaged and framed photos of a glass fish and a hieratic view of the Statue of Liberty; Signal displays a lightbox featuring women in headscarves that pips Meriem Bennani’s recent film Your Year (it is currently on view at the Barclay Center’s Oculus Display in Brooklyn); while Eric Hussenot’s booth features L.A. artist Josh Mannis’s painting Going Through the Rough Way. An image of four (rather than three) graces flanked by a window view of the White House and an M-16 rifle, the painting combines both ambiguity and a firm nod to the imponderables of American politics in this bewildering new era.
Click the link above to read the full list. Though it may seem that Armory Week and Frieze Week get all the action, the reality is that there is never a dull moment in the New York art world. From the East Side to the West Side, there’s always something happening at the city’s museums, galleries, and various event spaces. Plus, the wider international art scene also keeps us plenty busy, with international events like the opening of Russia’s inaugural Garage Triennial in Moscow. Here’s a rundown of this week’s highlights. Tiffany x Whitney Artist Collaboration Cocktails at the Tiffany Store Tiffany & Co. unveiled the fruits of its collaboration with the Whitney Biennial—it’s the exhibition’s lead sponsor for 2017—at a party on March 9. From the biennial’s participating artists, exhibition curators Christopher Y. Lew and Mia Locks invited Harold Mendez, Ajay Kurian, Raúl de Nieves, Carrie Moyer, and Shara Hughes to create new limited-edition art objects in collaboration with Tiffany artisans and master craftsmen. The spectacular results are now on display in the storefront windows. Tiffany chief artistic officer Reed Krakoff and Whitney director Adam D. Weinberg welcomed the participating artists as well as guests including Indré Rockefeller, Sarah Arison, Isolde Brielmaier, Casey Fremont, and Marlies Verhoeven to a cocktail and canapé reception at the company’s 5th Avenue flagship store. “As soon as they asked me, I said absolutely,” Mendez told artnet News. For his contribution, he adapted one of his copper pieces to silver, a material he had never used before. “What ended up inspiring me was what the silversmiths were able to do,” he added. “They know the properties of silver, and I don’t, so it was a really great way of working collaboratively.”
Click the link above to read the full list. Creative Time’s artistic director Nato Thompson has organized a slew of powerful, socially-engaged public artworks—like Pedro Reyes’s sold-out haunted house, Doomocracy, which conflated Halloween and the U.S. presidential election; Duke Riley’s Fly By Night, a nightly performance of choreographed flocks of pigeons flying above the Brooklyn Navy Yard; and Kara Walker’s A Subtlety, a massive sugar-coated sphinx-like figure made inside Brooklyn’s legendary Domino Sugar Factory. When Thompson isn’t busy bringing ambitious public art projects to fruition, he somehow finds the time to write. In January, Thompson released a book called Culture As Weapon: The Art of Influence in Everyday Life, following the publication of yet another book about art and politics: Seeing Power: Art and Activism in the Twenty-first Century. Here the celebrated curator and critic writes about his favorite artworks from Artspace’s exclusive preview of NADA’s upcoming art fair in New York, opening March 2nd. HAROLD MENDEZ Untitled (Juala), 2016 Patron, Chicago A Juala is a cage, a prison, a space of capture. Here Mendez again utilizes found material objects (bone, an animal cage, a found statue) to infuse them in his growing mythology of juxtapositions and infused social meanings. Mendez works with found objects loaded with meaning, like a Joseph Beuys-gleaner to produce hypnotic sculptures.
A Whitney Biennial on Fifth Avenue? Tiffany & Co. to Host Provocative Artist Collaborations in Its Fabled Windows
Biennial curators Christopher Lew and Mia Locks picked the five artists, who will show mere feet from Trump Tower. Forget about “Breakfast at Tiffany’s”—this spring, the throngs of tourists visiting Fifth Avenue’s most fabled jeweler will be treated to a Biennial at Tiffany’s. As part of its far-reaching new sponsorship of the Whitney Biennial, Tiffany & Co. has revealed that, beginning on March 9, it will be giving over its highly visible window displays to site-specific installations by five rising stars from the exhibition: Ajay Kurian, Carrie Moyer, Shara Hughes, Harold Mendez, and Raúl de Nieves. The installations will be constructed around exclusive editions that the artists have produced with the jeweler. The truly unusual thing about the collaboration? Tiffany gave full control of the partnership to biennial curators Christopher Lew and Mia Locks, giving the organizers free reign to select whichever artist they wanted—and then providing those artists with generous funding, access to a treasure trove of Tiffany materials, the help of its artisans, and no limitations on their projects. Set in motion by former Tiffany CEO and Whitney Museum trustee Frederic Cumenal, the enterprise will unleash some distinctly unorthodox artworks at the jewelry-seller’s flagship store—a mere half block away from Trump Tower, the de facto Manhattan White House of President Donald Trump. Perhaps the most head-turning installation will be courtesy of Kurian, a young Indian-American artist represented by 47 Canal. Recreating one of the most surrealistically horrifying scenes from the film American Psycho, when the title character drops a spinning chainsaw down a stairwell to murderous effect, Kurian worked with Tiffany specialists to build a trompe-l’oeil diorama of the stairwell that recedes into the window and embellished it with spinning sterling-silver business-card cases, his artwork for the project. Produced in a limited edition of 10, these cases are etched with a Magic Eye-esque stereogram that transforms a seemingly abstract acid-etched design into the word “psycho” when the viewers stares long enough—a reference to the film’s fetishization of business cards as a “secret handshake” among New York’s ‘80s-era Masters of the Universe. As for the other artists, Harold Mendez worked alongside Tiffany silversmiths in the company’s Rhode Island hollowware shop to sculpt a sterling-silver pre-Colombian death mask (a reference to his cultural ancestry); Carrie Moyer designed a sterling-silver pendant inspired by her abstract collages; Raul de Nieves worked with master engravers to adorn a silver box with an image of two figures presenting a child to the world, a recurring motif in his work; and Shara Hughes hand-painted a series of bone china pitchers with brightly hued fantastical landscapes. The editions will retail at both Tiffany and the Whitney, and range up to $8,500 apiece. “For each of the artists, it is as if their studio has expanded exponentially through the collaboration,” Lew and Locks said in a joint statement. “The range of bold and daring objects that they have created together is a testament to Tiffany’s longstanding commitment to art.” Mendez, for his part, hailed his work alongside Tiffany’s hollowware craftsmen as among his most successful artistic achievements to date. Although Tiffany has a storied art pedigree—evidenced by previous collaborations with Warhol and Rauschenberg, and its hugely popular Paloma Picasso line—the partnership is also certainly among the company’s most avant-garde undertakings in its nearly two-century history. However, the collaboration is of a piece with other edgy, high-profile moves Tiffany has made lately. The jeweler sponsored Lady Gaga’s conversation-starting performance at the Super Bowl last month, and has begun including same-sex couples in its engagement-themed advertising campaigns. (Tiffany’s recent “Legendary Style” advertising campaigns were overseen by Grace Coddington, former creative director of Vogue.) One can expect Tiffany to proceed further in this contemporary-art-friendly direction: the company has hired former Coach impresario Reed Krakoff as its new chief artistic officer, installing a dedicated art patron and collector in the influential post.
Continuing through March 21, 2017 The gestures that Alabama-born, Chicago-based artist Bethany Collins uses in her pieces are straightforward and emphatic. In each work in “Material Fact” the artist either cuts, embosses or erases in a repeated and precise manner, imbuing the works with a palpable sense of personal labor and time spent. But, this earnest making process is only one component of Collins’ message. Coupled with the directness of labor is the artist’s demonstrative connection to the subject matter of language and the troubled history of its usage. Occupying a majority of the gallery is Collins’ series, “The Birmingham News.” Charcoal-grey in color, rumpled and torn, these works on paper are embossed using actual plates from the front pages of issues of The Birmingham News from 1963 — a pivotal city and year for the Civil Rights movement. As we scan the headlines, it’s not the violence against Black Americans or the organized marches that are covered by the paper that registers, but a range of other items chosen to push these events out of written history. But Collins’ work is not just memorializing; it is a potent reminder that this institutionalized, passive-aggressive way of silencing marginalized people is a well-worn pattern of behavior that is enjoying a scary revival today.
Last Saturday, for Zona Maco, Mexico City’s premier contemporary art fair, artist Andrew Birk led a walk from the historical center of the city to Anonymous gallery’s booth, which presented a group show featuring FlucT, Peter Sutherland, and Brendan Lynch. Participants in the ten-kilometer walk received free admission to the fair and, after three hours beneath the punishing sun, a glass of water. “Now go find a work in this fair that was better than that glass of water,” Birk told participants before they left to go explore. The walk was part of a series inspired by the poems of Matsuo Basho, whose writings, Birk said, “reduce all the world’s systems to the simplest language possible.” A much larger walk in protest of Donald Trump took place the following day, drawing in demonstrators who would have otherwise been at the fair. Exhibitor Lucinda Bellm of Lamb Arts from London and São Paulo found a volunteer to take care of her booth while she attended the march with an artist she represents, Fernando Otero of Peru. Otero’s work in the fair, the gallerist said, addressed the positive effects that immigration had on Peru after World War II. “Initially the Japanese were sectioned into ghettos outside of the city,” Bellm told ARTnews, “but over the years they have been integrated [while exerting] a huge influence on society, cuisine, and politics.” In the lead-up to the five-day fair, the Mexican peso’s stark decline and strained relations with the new United States presidential administration left many wondering how Zona Maco would, well, fare. “Everyone was a little bit worried, especially because most galleries operate in U.S. dollars,” said Polina Stroganova, director of the Mexican gallery ProyectosMonclova, in the opening hours of the fair. “But I have a feeling that it’s actually generated a kind of opposite effect, people were even more enthusiastic to come.” ProyectosMonclova sold the majority of its booth by the end of the fair, including works by Gabriel de la Mora, Chantal Peñalosa, Martin Soto Climent, and Adrien Missika. Other exhibitors remained optimistic, with faith in the market as they had known it before. Gary Nader, whose Miami-based gallery specializes in Latin American masters, told ARTnews, “Prime art is always a good investment, and Mexicans understand that very well.” Timothy Taylor, in town from London to share a booth with Lorcan O’Neill from Rome, concurred. “It’s about relationships you have with collectors and working with them to get what they want,” Taylor said, adding a note about Zona Maco’s particular allure: “It’s a very much more meaningful experience”—owing to the “discernment” of collectors in attendance and the intimacy with which business is conducted—“than a lot of shopping that’s done at other fairs.” Emanuel Aguilar, founder and director of the Chicago-based Patron gallery, attributed this to broader trends that apply just as much to Zona Maco. “I think there is a more contemplative and informed pace for some time now in regards to how collectors buy art,” he said. “They are still buying, but it’s certainly a much longer process, in regards to conversations and actual transactions. Ultimately this is a good thing—it means individuals are thinking about what they buy.” Patron left Mexico having sold two works by Alex Chitty. Francisco Borrego Vergara of the Guadalajara-based Curro gallery said he believed that relationships built over successive visits to the fair are essential. Foreign galleries and even Mexican galleries from outside of Mexico City have more difficulty at Zona Maco than those with hometown ties, he said. Notable attendees of the fair included the architect Fernando Romero, son-in-law of Carlos Slim, and José Bastén, president of the Mexican media giant Televisa (as well as Eva Longoria’s husband). Kim Gordon and Lawrence Weiner made the rounds too, with Weiner’s work peppered across five locations in the city’s Federal District as part of an exhibition with the Museum of Mexico City. On the opening night of Zona Maco, a long red carpet lead to a room lit by the slender neon lights of the fair’s liquor sponsor. Barricades and security separated the exhibitors and VIPs from the uninvited. Meanwhile, members of the local scene and other visitors packed into the art magazine Terremoto’s YES Party a few blocks away, held in a dilapidated house called Centro de Salud. A bathtub doubled as a urinal and the party raged into the early morning. The fourth edition of Material Art Fair opened the day after Zona Maco at Expo Reforma in the Juárez neighborhood of Mexico City. Through more affordable booths and lower price points, the founders of Material have expressed hope to encourage artistic risks by reducing financial ones. Differently from the regimented grid of Zona Maco, booths at Material circled the exterior of the convention space while the interior was lined with benches, so that visitors might take their time to appreciate the works on hand. Exhibitors included domestic spaces, such as Labor gallery and Joségarcía, as well as foreign enterprises like Ghebaly Gallery from Los Angeles, Maisterravalbuena from Madrid, and Crevecoeur from Paris. Adam Gildar, of the Denver, Colorado-based Gildar Gallery, echoed the sentiment of several of his colleagues at Zona Maco who emphasized the importance of developing relationships over repeated years. “You have to invest in the community,” he said, “if you want them to invest in you.” Chris Sharp, cofounder and curator of Lulu project space in Mexico City, left the fair happy after parting with Tom Allen’s otherworldly portraits of flowers, whose foregrounds and background wrestle for the attention. “Despite their utter strangeness, most of these paintings found homes,” Sharp said. Elsewhere in town, the exhibition “Modern Love (Vol. 1)” also popped up Thursday as artists attempted to capitalize on the increased visibility of Mexico City’s art scene. Located on the fifth floor of one of Centro Histórico’s elder buildings, the show featured an organic system of painstakingly arranged objects by eleven artists from six different countries. Additional volumes were promised for other countries at unspecified times. Although removed from view of the politically charged march in town, Zona Maco did not quite come to a quiet end, with the fair still packed Sunday into the early evening. Manuel Forte, artist and collaborator with Galleria Continua, bolted past me at the entrance: “A little girl just pushed over a Buren!” he panted. (Later he reported that “there will be a discussion between those responsible for the girl, the gallery, and the artist’s studio.”) Others were haggard from long days and long nights, too on edge or too tired to stress about final sales. In keeping with that mood, the local galleries La Esperanza and Lodos, along with the artist Diego Salvador Rios, closed the weekend with the Exhaustion House Party at Cafe Zena on Sunday night. “It was just friends hanging out and dancing,” said Nico Colón, a painter. “It was great.”
The New Art Dealers Alliance has added seven galleries to its roster, appointed new members to its board of directors, and elected a new executive committee. The news, announced today, comes about a month ahead of the 2017 edition of its annual fair in New York. The seven new galleries are as follows: – Carbon 12 of Dubai, UAE – Entrée of Bergen, Norway – Safe Gallery, Brooklyn – The Landing, Los Angeles – Patron, Chicago – Regards, Chicago — Proyectos Ultravioleta, Guatemala City The new members show NADA’s commitment to expanding its reach outside of New York, its executive director, Heather Hubbs, told ARTnews. “We can do a lot in a New York, but it’s always been our goal to find ways to be relevant to people outside of New York City,” she said. “That’s reflected in the growing numbers of galleries in Los Angeles and Chicago, and outside of that.” The new president of its board of directors will be Elyse Derosia of New York’s Bodega gallery. Joining her on the board’s executive committee are Augusto Arbizo of 11R as vice president, Jose Martos of Martos Gallery as treasurer, and Julie Campbell of Chicago’s Shane Campbell Gallery as secretary. Hubbs added, “We can expect to see some changes in the types of programming that we’ll have, but that might have to do more with the political climate that we’re in. Any time you change up a board there will be changes in the organization. We’ll see some changes, but not massive change like we’re seeing in the White House right now.” The full board follows below: Elyse Derosia, Bodega, president Augusto Arbizo, 11R, vice president Jose Martos, Martos Gallery, treasurer Julie Campbell, Shane Campbell Gallery, secretary Adam Abdalla, Cultural Counsel Nicelle Beauchene, Nicelle Beauchene Gallery Phil Grauer, Canada Jack Hanley, Jack Hanley Gallery Al Moran, Moran Bondaroff Renaud Proch, Independent Curators International Chris Robinson, legal counsel to NADA and ex-officio member of the board Rachel Uffner, Rachel Uffner Gallery
Harold Mendez's American Pictures, 2016, consists of one gridded industrial mat, sprayed with a fine layer of enamel paint and laid flat on the floor, against which another painted mat is propped at a perpendicular angle, creating a sort of stage for the work's focal point: a tree trunk impaled on a wrought-iron rod. The gnarled trunk has been covered, almost beyond recognition, with wine-red powder made from the crushed bodies of cochineal insects, while white carnation petals have been sprinkled on the base of the construction. White Carnations are used by indigenous Mexicans to commemorate the dead - but whose funeral were these intended for? One's immediate impression of the ambiguously figurative shape, too small to be an adult body, was nonetheless of a torso, perhaps the charred reminder of an unspeakably gruesome act. Yet on closer inspection one was struck by the tension between this form and its delicately crafted surface, rather than by overt horror. "At night we walk in circle," which was the artist's first commercial solo exhibition in his native Chicago, has established Mendez as a thoughtful and meticulous assemblagist and photographer who arranges diffuse multimedia objects to suggest networks and associations between them. The Gallery's first room featured three sculptures, a photograph, and a mixed-media photographic work - and at every turn, the level of detail rewarded sustained looking. In the gallery's front window was Margarita, 2016, a faux-indigenous feathered headdress made from a batting helmet's foam stuffing strewn with feathers and leaves collected from the El Astillero mountains of Zacatecas, Mexico. This crown of sorts was propped high on an elegant steel base that contrasted sharply with the rusted iron of American Pictures. Its quasi-anthropological display was echoed by the suggestion of a shrunken head in I did not become someone different/That I did not want to be, 2016, a coconut shell covered with moss and Kool-Aid, which sat atop another reclaimed iron pole curved slightly at the top as if listing under it's own weight. The verticality of both works conjured absent bodies, evidencing Mendez's signature manipulation of materials to achieve an effect somewhere between violence and preciousness. Let us gather in a flourishing way, 2016, anchored the center of the room with a large slab of travertine rock, more petals, and an oxidized copper reproduction of a per-Columbian death mask, the original of which resides in the Museo del Oro in Bogotá, Columbia. The reproduction rested upside down on the travertine sheet, its cuplike recess filled with water so that the distorted features in relief shimmered. The visual potency of this work-which may be intended as a memorial to the horrors of conquest-lies in its very brutality, which is revealed gradually by means of these telling details as one parses the contextual underpinnings of its components. It is in Mendez's photography that such references become more indexical and specific. If they are not fears, they're contritions If they are not doubts, inabilities (After Melitón Rodríguez), 2015, appropriates a preserved negative of the Colombian photographer. Rodríguez was known for his street views of Medellín and Antioquia taken during the late-nineteenth-century, during which the cities underwent dramatic modernizations. Mendez laboriously transferred Rodríguez's image, which depicts a mirror inside the artist's studio, from a Xerox print onto an aluminum lithographic plate, to whose surface some pulp remained adhered. The tears in the transferred image (the result of the physical stress of Mendez's manipulations of the archival document) are visible. Elmina Castle, 2016, a photograph mounted low on a nearby wall, features the artist's shadow obscuring the floor of the titular colonial-era Ghanian gold- and slave-trading post. a ltino artist of both Colombian and Mexican heritage, Mendez is less interested in overt autobiographical references than in creating an atmosphere. His work conveys, in equal measure, funereal calm and the dread of remote yet atavistic atrocities.
A science fiction novel by Jane Yolen illustrates that we write things down to make our peace with forgetting them. Describing a culture founded on memorizing and reciting oral histories, Yolen writes “to hold in the mouth is to remember; to set down is to forget.” Books, by this light, are illusions we’ve concocted to entertain the fiction that we are knowledgeable. Samuel Levi Jones in his exhibition Burning all illusion conveys this realization, makes it visually palpable, but then turns away from the nihilism such a view might suggest. Walking into the show you enter a gleaming, high-ceilinged, white cube with concrete floors where the temperature drops. It’s suddenly colder in here, more formal. You see canvases of regimented, modernist schemes consisting of book covers and book spines placed on the wall in color stories: crimson, gold, navy accented by lighter blues, sea green with traces of a darker moss. These pieces measure about four feet by five feet, or the larger ones about six by five, with the most visually provocative compositions being the ones in which the colors are jumbled together, and the spines and covers combined. Placed in a grid, the 38-year-old artist has stripped encyclopedias, law books, and other hardback, reference tomes down to their covers, and in so doing stripped them of their promise of our in-depth comprehension of the world. Books fail. Encyclopedias don’t educate (perhaps because they are left in dusty corners). Law books don’t regulate public behavior, because we ignore the law when it’s convenient. Indeed, that’s why we need police. We fill books with knowledge that’s been painstakingly acquired over time and then put them aside, saying to ourselves one day we will get back to them. The Chicago-based artist’s books do represent abstract arguments concerning history and the acquisition of collective knowledge: he has essentially destroyed historical accounts and remade them, to say it is possible to construct new histories, new edifices of knowledge. He’s done so by tearing the covers off books, but also by obscuring all but a few select words on the faces and spines. If I spend a little while looking I find titles: Race Relations; Ethnicity in the United States; The Book of Knowledge Annual. These words become clandestine operators poking out from Jones’s simple color schemes. Before his intervention, these words were swallowed up in a cascade of language. Like the artist Fred Wilson, Jones makes the histories that are mostly unspoken and ignored visible and important. More, this work is a crucial signal distinguishing itself from the white noise around issues of race and ethnicity these books often end up being a part of — even when they are read. In “Joshua” (2016) the words are blotted out except for the ones that damningly indicate the institutionalization of violence that underlies our claims of civilized behavior: “Criminal; Homicide; Assault; Officers and Public employees.” We are reminded here that criminal action including assault and murder are regularly carried out by employees of the state on bodies in their care. Jones both destroys books and keeps them in memory, carefully and attentively sewing book covers onto canvases to make the case that some sort of collective history can be lovingly remade, be rethought, reimagined — with different emphases. Perhaps we don’t have to give in to the hopeless, nihilistic impulse to burn books, burn down all that will catch afire, and begin again from the ashes. We might instead look to destroy the idea that we are educated and civilized. But I want to ask Jones, “with what kind of flame do you set fire to these ideas?” Samuel Levi Jones, Burning all illusion continues at Galerie Lelong (528 West 26 Street) in Chelsea, Manhattan, through January 28, 2017
The bibliographic survey, Black Slavery In The Americas, is a two-volume collection of writings that detail slavery and its effects from 1860 through 1980. The artist Samuel Levi Jones, took the collection along with nearly a thousand other law books and encyclopedias detailing black life, and cut off the books’ casings to create a series of abstract books on canvas. The works, on view in a solo exhibition titled Burning all illusion at Galerie Lelong, is the artist’s way of questioning the collective understanding of black identity, American history, injustice, and the systems of power and knowledge the institutional texts represent. “In the beginning, I was using only encyclopedias and the scale of a work was dependent upon the number of volumes within a set,” the artist tells The Creators Project. “Some of the titles come from music that resonates with me in the same way that the source material relates to the content.” The titles are also a response to past events like lynching and state sanctioned brutality. “There is one title in particular that comes from a song and an event near to me,” says Jones. “The title is Poplar Trees, which was pulled from the song “Strange Fruit.” The song came from a poem written by Abel Meeropol in response to the lynching of two men on August 7, 1930 in my hometown of Marion, Indiana. The men were accused of a crime, detained, and held in the local jailhouse. Before any chance of due process, a mob pulled the men from the jailhouse and hung them from a tree on the lawn of the courthouse just a block away. One of the men was my great uncle.” Selective Proof of Facts, a grid-like green and brown painting of deconstructed law books and African American reference books, speaks to the history of violence experienced by the African American community and Jones’ family. It’s a weathered work. The titles of the tomes have been removed as a gesture that captures the artist’s “response to a system that remains extremely unjust.” The artist strips the titles off of Blue Skies Matter and Burning all illusion too. The painting, Burning all illusion featured titles such as Bibliography of Black Music, Science Year from 1981, Yearbook of Higher Education, and The Book of Knowledge. There are small gold words on the red painting, Joshua, that read, “Homicide,” “Assault,” “Criminal,” and “Officers and Public Employees.” The painting’s text alludes to the kinds of thinking that created institutions of justice that encode racially biased laws into the system and disproportionately punish the African American community. “This source material has been and is studied by individuals who partake in a system that claims it is just for all,” explains Jones. “If there is an impartial system of justice why are there increasing amounts of people demonstrating as a reaction to the decisions of figures in power?” To create the book paintings Jones, who draws on abstract expression and modernism in constructing his grid-like paintings, takes an exacto knife and cuts off the front and back covers of the books. He then soaks the covers in water to soften them and removes the top layer of the covers— what the artist refers to as “skin”—and arranges the skins on canvas before applying paint. The gesture itself is a challenge to the relationship between knowledge and the truth, what the French philosopher Michel Foucault called knowledge-power. The philosopher argued that organized, institutionalized knowledge is power because it is taken as undisputed truth. “We are subjugated to the production of truth through power and we cannot exercise power except through the production of truth,” wrote the philosopher. Jones’ paintings allude to the idea that the truth read in the books subjugates other kinds of vital, unbound knowledge. “Before I was a maker,” says the artist, “I was not as consumed with injustices. I think, like many, I allowed myself to be detached.” Jones explains, “All too often, we buy into the illusion that everything is alright. I do my best to remain hopeful that there is progress, and I try to find beauty within the chaos. It is my hope that we encourage one another to start with conversations, which then enable resistance to complacency.” Burning all illusion continues through January 28 at Galerie Lelong.
Creo que a todos nos tomará un buen tiempo procesar y entender el impacto de los eventos que se desarrollaron a lo largo de este año. Durante 2016 hemos perdido a visionarios culturales cuyas vidas y trabajos nos moldearon a muchos de nosotros. Vimos un escenario político internacional que reacciona visceralmente a los residuos de la globalización —dando lugar a movimientos de xenofobia nacionalista, demagogos buscando ser electos en política, una crisis de refugiados sin precedentes, economías fallidas, el crecimientos de la desigualdad y, desde una perspectiva personal, una ansiedad compartida por muchos. Ha sido desafiante y, sobre todo, desgastante. Al reflexionar sobre los momentos culturales que marcaron el año, me quedó claro que dediqué el año a observar a artistas y creativos que han imaginado un mundo por venir. Me he inspirado más, en medio de una realidad que no perdona, por el trabajo de aquellos que tienen esperanza. Este último año también me hizo notar que, como curadores y críticos, pasamos demasiado tiempo trabajando en el espacio que existe entre lo crítico y lo cínico, todo con el ánimo de alcanzar alguna noción defectuosa de objetividad distanciada. Pero este año me dejé guiar por la pasión. Elegí actuar desde un espacio de intimidad crítica, para enamorarme de nuevo con la posibilidad ilimitada que el arte nos ofrece como seres humanos, con el poderoso efecto que puede tener sobre las personas que quieren hacer un mundo mejor. En un año marcado por tanta violencia y destrucción, opto por los que construyen de nuevo: 1) El colectivo sirio de cineastas, anónimos y autodidactas, Abounaddara, presenta películas en línea cada viernes. Recientemente pueden ser encontrados en la página en línea de la próxima Documenta 14. Sus diversos retratos de la vida en Siria son poderosas contranarrativas que desafían la representación del conflicto sirio en los medios de comunicación mainstream. Sus películas son humanas y hablan de las apuestas reales de aquellos cuyas vidas se abstraen a través de estadísticas e imágenes violentas que saturan las pantallas occidentales. 2) Glenn Kaino, artista y amigo, produjo un nuevo cuerpo de obra que explora las historias de colonización humana en el contexto del futuro asentamiento humano en el espacio. Presentada en el Museo de Arte Moderno en Forth Worth, Texas, la pieza clave de la exposición era una escultura animatronic de una pequeña figura humana con la cara de Frantz Fanon, sentada en una luna creciente, que despertaba para cantar un fragmento del famoso himno de los trabajadores socialistas, «The Internationale», cuando los visitantes entraban a la sala. Sin embargo, la luna cantaba con un acento francés lunar, un lenguaje creado por Kaino en colaboración con lingüistas que exploraban la evolución lingüística mientras imaginaban cómo será un día la vida humana con la conquista del cosmos. Una pieza seria y graciosa a la vez, impregnada de historia y de un futuro imaginado que estamos por ver. Era el mejor Glenn Kaino, haciendo nuevos mundos. 3) Liat Yossifor, una pintora nacida en Israel y con sede en Los Ángeles, que hizo su debut en América Latina en la galería Páramo de Guadalajara, con una nueva serie de pinturas elegantes que son algunas de sus obras más contundentes a la fecha. Liat es una de las artistas más comprometidas que conozco. Sus pinturas, a primera vista, parecen ser experimentos en abstracto, pero son mucho más que eso. Son actos de transferencia de memoria, índices de traumas heredados, y testigos de historias desafiantes y difíciles que mucha gente de su generación vive a diario. Las pinturas presentadas en Guadalajara marcaron una declaración. Eran más intencionales, enfocadas y poderosas. Ella ha luchado con la voz que toma forma a través de la superficie texturizada de sus lienzos, pero ahora esa voz es resonante. Espero con ansias escuchar lo que tiene que decir en los próximos años. 4) La retrospectiva de Kerry James Marshall en el MCA Chicago fue una de las exposiciones más importantes e inspiradoras que vi este año. El trabajo de Marshall, comprometido por décadas con redefinir la figura negra dentro del canon de la historia del arte, adquirió una nueva intensidad en un momento en el que las cuestiones de raza y brutalidad policiaca dominan la conciencia pública de Estados Unidos. Las personas en las pinturas de Marshall son hermosas, fuertes, firmes y resistentes. No hay mejor manera de recordarnos las «Black Lives Matter» que montando lo que seguramente se convertirá en una muestra seminal. 5) Kader Attia es un artista cuyo trabajo he seguido desde que me lo topé por primera vez en la Documenta 13 en Kassel, en 2012. Recientemente premiado con el Premio Marcel Duchamp, Kader también inauguró un espacio en París, llamado Le Colonie, para la presentación de proyectos y conversaciones. Los proyectos gestionados por artistas siempre han rondado mi corazón. Son audaces, sin miedo, y generalmente lideran los mejores proyectos que vemos a través del paisaje institucional. Aunque el espacio abrió hace apenas unas semanas, estoy muy emocionado por ver a alguien tan brillante y reflexivo como Kader asumir esta iniciativa. Se siente como el inicio de una gran cosa, y si algo que necesitamos el próximo año son mejores inicios. — César García es curador y crítico de arte. Actualmente se desempeña como director y curador en jefe de The Mistake Room en Los Ángeles, California, y en Guadalajara.
The holiday season does not have a stellar reputation for being an optimal time to see some art. But, as winter descends upon New York, this year is different. Venture out in the chilly city to catch up on these major museum shows, or take in an array of fresh gallery exhibitions featuring masters from the art-historical canon, contemporary artists diving into the post-election milieu, and a few artists who happily provide an escape. Samuel Levi Jones at Galerie Lelong DEC 8–JAN 28; 528 WEST 26TH STREET Driven by injustice in the U.S., particularly surrounding recent violence against black men and women, Jones’s new show, “Burning all illusion,” features bold works made from books, primarily encyclopedias and law tomes, which the artist has methodically dissected. Their parts—spines, fabric covers, cardboard insides—he sews together in gridded monochromes or multicolored patchworks he affixes to canvas. Titles and authors are strategically scratched out, leaving behind words and phrases that speak to the artist’s timely concerns. Click the link above for the full article.
The multi-panel Talk to Me, by Samuel Levi Jones, is a patchwork of rectangles in varying hues of beige, olive, taupe and terra-cotta. It covers an entire wall, floor-to-ceiling, at the New York space of Galerie Lelong, where “Burning all illusion,” an exhibition of the artist’s abstract constructions, is on view through January 28. The monumental minimalist grid could be read as a painting from a distance. But up close, the units are clearly pieces of weathered cloth, some with amorphous gray cardboard shapes clinging to their surfaces and all sewn together along their edges and mounted on panels. The fabric, in fact, comes from dismantled law books, skinned from the inside of their hard covers and bindings and assembled into a composition that suggests a towering abstracted library void of text. In November, Jones spoke to Introspective at his studio in Chicago, where he was completing works for this, his first solo show at the Chelsea gallery. Through these pieces, he explained, he is investigating the monolithic authority of the law “in terms of who benefits from it and who doesn’t.” Referring to its punitive application to African-Americans, he noted, “All these men are put in prison for years and decades, then even exonerated with DNA tests, while that young guy from Stanford caught in the act of raping a girl gets a slap on the wrist.” Two new works in the show made from a set of Ohio law books are titled Malissa and Tarika, after two women who died at the hands of police in that state. For him, the process of eviscerating the books and restructuring their components into another kind of system is both cathartic and meditative. When he began deconstructing sets of books all covered in the same-color material, he was fascinated to find that the material on the inside of the covers varied in tone, and he likes how Talk to Me could evoke a constellation of complexions. “Like the old saying ‘Don’t judge a book by its cover,’” explains Jones. “When you break it down and get past the surface, you expose the inside to see what’s within.” Since receiving his MFA from Mills College, in Oakland, California, in 2012, the 38-year-old artist has been using encyclopedias and reference volumes, in addition to law books, as the physical and conceptual departure point for elegant geometric assemblages that he hopes raise questions about systems of power. “It’s not so much about the books themselves,” he says, “but about who compiles this stuff and who’s controlling the information and the histories.” Jones is from the small town of Marion, Indiana, birthplace of James Dean and site of one of the last public lynchings in the United States, in 1930. After his high school history class discussed the incident, Jones was shocked to learn from his father that one of the two black men beaten by a mob and hung in the courthouse square was his great-uncle. “It’s just something we don’t talk about,” his father told him. Jones came to art late, in his last semester at Taylor University, in Indiana. His girlfriend (now wife) bought him a camera, and he took a photography class. “I just enjoyed framing things and the process of making prints,” he says. He graduated Taylor with a BA in communication studies in 2002, but in 2006, he enrolled in the BFA program at Indianapolis’s Herron School of Art and Design, where the pioneering African-American abstract painter Hale Woodruff had studied in the early 1920s. In grad school at Mills, Jones began to tie overlooked and repressed cultural and personal histories, like those of Woodruff or his great-uncle, more directly to his work. He used books as a springboard for the first time in 2011. He was responding to Gerhard Richter‘s 1972 painting series “48 Portraits,” for which the artist lifted head shots of his subjects, all white men who had made significant contributions to the arts and sciences, from encyclopedias. Thumbing through a 1972 edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica, Jones discovered only 13 African-American faces among the 736 reproduced. “Martin Luther King Jr. and Frederick Douglass were even in a section titled African-Americans rather than being under K or D,” says Jones. He printed enlarged visages of 24 black men and 24 black women who could have been included but weren’t — such as Nina Simone, James Baldwin, Gwendolyn Brooks and Langston Hughes — on paper pulped from the encyclopedia pages that excluded them. His grid of 48 portraits — which read as solid black squares until the underexposed faces come slowly into focus — was first exhibited in his MFA show at Mills and shown again this fall at EXPO Projects in Chicago. “They’re fighting for exposure,” he says of the spectral faces.
Take your friends (but maybe not your children or grandparents) to the Brooklyn Museum to see Marilyn Minter: Pretty/Dirty (until 2 April 2017), a feminist examination of beauty and desire with works back to 1969. Minter’s large, aggressive and gorgeously executed photorealist enamels on metal—like Pop Rocks (2009), a suggestive close-up of a woman’s mouth and tongue filled over with fizzy candy—command attention, but save room to savour her intimate black-and-white photographs of her mother from 1969, smoking cigarettes and putting on make-up. V.S.B. The exhibition Max Beckmann in New York at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (until 20 February 2017) is framed as a look at the artist’s connection with the city. He lived there from 1949 until his death, aged 66, in 1950 as he was on his way to the Met to see his own work. The show is above all a chance to see a stunning group of around 40 of the Expressionist’s powerful paintings. Look out for works held in private collections, including sympathetic portraits of Beckmann’s wife, nicknamed Quappi, and a wooded waterside scene, Mill in Eucalyptus Forest (1950). V.S.B. Samuel Levi Jones's first solo show at Galerie Lelong (Burning all Illusion, until 28 January 2017) includes 15 or so collages made of books that have been torn apart and reconfigured into handsome, largely monochrome abstractions. Often, snippets of the underlying text remain, so it is clear that some of the books deal with criminal law. This is a first for Jones; in his earlier works, he entirely obscured his sources. The decision to do things differently this time ostensibly adds political content to these pictures, or suggests that something is buried beneath. But at bottom, the success of the works is due to Jones's nimble handling of what's on the surface. P.P.
Thursday, December Opening: Samuel Levi Jones at Galerie Lelong Rather than allude to history, like so many artists, Samuel Levi Jones erases it. In his paintings, Jones often exhibits damaged books, showing how, over time, their ideas get lost. For this show, his first with Galerie Lelong, Jones will focus on law books, as a way of talking about how, for many black Americans, their words have become virtually meaningless—courts and police officers have turned against them. On view here will be Burning all illusion (2016), a painting in which coverless encyclopedias are arranged in a grid. Galerie Lelong, 528 West 26th Street, 6–8 p.m.
Though the 2017 list is nothing close to the record number of Midwestern artists in Michelle Grabner’s 2014 Whitney Biennial, nonetheless America’s longest-running survey of contemporary art is still stretching its neck outside of the five boroughs. Co-curators Christopher Y. Lew and Mia Locks have selected seven Midwest-based artists to join their roster of sixty-three in next year’s exhibition. The country’s recent inward turn has focused increasingly on Chicago, St. Louis, Detroit and Milwaukee as bellwethers of the “silent masses” as well as the objects of much-needed reflection, as these cities continue to vie for the top spots in national segregation rankings. And while this year’s Midwestern representation still fails to measure up to the roughly twenty percent share that we make of the country’s total population, it seems that it is becoming harder for coastal curators to ignore our relevance. Harold Mendez While other artists are content to label their work “mixed media installation” and call it a day, Harold Mendez wants us to know that crushed cochineal insects and staples each play an integral role in his latest sculpture. In fact, the wall text for most of his works read like minimalist poems, like that of his 2011 installation “Burial Party & Panic dwindled” which includes “Mixed-media, found objects, children’s mattress, foam, hand-printed Ghanaian funeral cloth, marking chalk, popcorn.” In this politically driven Whitney show, we are eager to see how his work’s Arte Povera roots connect to the show’s focus on social politics. Click the link above for the full article.
Top Five Commercial Gallery Shows "Sanford Biggers: the pasts they brought with them" at Monique Meloche Diane Simpson at Corbett vs. Dempsey "Gabriela Salazar: Eye of Palm" at Efrain Lopez Gallery "Harold Mendez: At night we walk in circles" at PATRON John Preus: The Relative Appetite of Hungry Ghosts at Rhona Hoffman Gallery —(Elliot Reichert) Click the link above for the full article.
Click the link above to read the full list. Compared to the contemplative, existential seriousness of Art Basel Miami Beach, NADA this year is a splash of cooling pool water, full of frisky—sometimes quite naughty—escapism and easy pleasures. In the booths, plenty of paintings are to be found, and collectors seem to be snapping them up with some alacrity. Here are the standout painted artworks at the fair. LIAT YOSSIFOR Raised in Tel Aviv by a mother who made pottery from Israel’s particularly muted clay, the artist Liat Yossifor makes paintings that pay homage to her mom’s material of choice, mixing her own paint to echo the clay’s bluish-whitish tint and then slathering great quantities of it—25 pounds’ worth—onto canvas. Working the paint performatively with knives, brush ends, and her own body, Yossifor is rarely satisfied with the results, scraping down approximately 80 percent of her compositions and then reslathering the paint on canvas until she gets her imposing creations right.
“Burning All Illusion,” opening at Galerie Lelong on December 8, is Samuel Levi Jones’s first solo exhibition with the gallery, showcasing a number of the artist’s works made from deconstructed institutional and academic books. The day before Thanksgiving, Jones took the time to talk to Artinfo about his upcoming exhibition, only mentioning at the end of the conversation that he was actually in the car with his family, en route to spend the following days with the protestors of the Dakota Access Pipeline at Standing Rock Indian Reservation. Below, he talks about his work, this journey, and being aware of one’s surroundings. I’m interested in hearing about the books you use to make your work. When did you first begin working with them and what do they contribute as objects or materials? The first time I used books in my works was 2011. I was working on a piece in grad school that was a reacting to Gerhard Richter’s “48 Portraits.” I discovered that his source images were from the encyclopedia and it lead me to start looking into encyclopedias. The very first set of books I got was from 1972, which was the year that he first showed that work. I was really just going through the volumes page by page, and taking note of the representation of people within it — it was predominantly white males. There were very few women, and very few people of other ethnicities. So after that I made my own portrait series. First by making my own paper that I’d recycled from these books, and then creating images on this paper that I sourced from other places. 24 black men and 24 back women that could have been represented that year, but weren’t. That was really when I started thinking about sources of information and the control of information in terms of how we construct narratives and histories, and particularly those who are left out of this. The piece was was called “48 Portraits, Underexposed.” What was the progression from using books as material in that work, to the work you’ll be showing at Galerie Lelong? Some of the work in the Lelong show is actually from a little over two years ago, from when I first started using law books. So there’s a good deal of the work that’s from that source material, and then this past summer I was offered a group of African American reference books from UC Berkeley's African American Studies Department. The new work is made out of these. This was a way of a way of bringing in those histories and narratives that are often left out of, for lack of a better word, “mainstream” reference material. In these pieces, I’ve left some text visible, which I’ve never done before. Right, in previous works you’ve eliminated the cover information on the books. Why did you decide to include text now? I think that originally I was more focussed on the material — just in creating something visually interesting to spark conversation about the concept. But I don’t want the viewer to come to the work and just simply see them as artworks made from books and then leave it at that. So here, I was messing around with making words and phrases and even redacting the text of the books and then putting them back together. I want it to have some mystery about it, so that the work will maybe challenge viewers, hopefully causing them to question what is going on so that they would stick with it and spend time with it. This exhibition has, of course, been in the planning stages for a while and this is work that you made prior to the 2016 election. I’m interested in hearing your thoughts about exhibiting it so soon after this event, in this political climate. This time… it’s tough and it’s interesting. It seems like, generally speaking, people who have been comfortable and settled, are now a lot less comfortable, if that makes sense. Something happened to us, where it’s like suddenly more people feel affected by what’s going on, and are giving more attention to the social and political things happening around them. I find that interesting. This is a time where people are being challenged, and hopefully they are feeling challenged, rather than just going about their day and time as usual, because yes, a lot of things are going on but a lot of these things have always been going on, and maybe we haven’t had as much consciousness of them. Maybe what’s going on now is creating consciousness. It’s something that’s important in my work, so it’s interesting to see that right now — people paying attention to what’s happening around them, rather than ignoring it. Along the same line, can you tell me about your exhibition that was on view last year at the Indianapolis Museum of Contemporary Art called "After Fred Wilson," and the significance of that title? Well back in 2009 or 2010 Fred Wilson proposed this public project. In this circle in downtown Indianapolis there’s a Civil War monument with this figure, a slave, sitting on the ground subservient to the soldiers, holding up the shackles he’s been freed from. And Wilson was going to recreate this figure as a public work where the figure, instead of shackles, would be holding the flag of African diaspora. A lot of people were in opposition to the project. People from the black community, too. One of the things they were saying was that he could make the piece but that it shouldn’t be in a public setting or it shouldn’t perpetuate this figure. People were against it, rather than realizing and understanding Wilson’s way of working with these things and recontextualizing them. So I was highly disappointed when the plans didn’t go through because for me, growing up, I didn’t have access to the art world or to the arts. I grew up in Marion, Indiana, which is a small working class town. And I was thinking about people who don’t have access to museums or wouldn’t be inclined to go into a museum, and how someone might be walking down the street, would see this thing, and, being curious, might read a plaque or whatever information was there and learn about the work, and understand something. This had a huge potential to bring people to the arts. So I was disappointed and I decided to title the show “After Fred Wilson” because I wanted the conversation to continue, I didn’t want to just let it die or let it be ignored. The work included in that show had actually been exhibited before. One piece is titled “Talk to Me” and it’s made from California law case text books. It’s a large grid piece and it will be in the Lelong exhibition as well. What else do you have coming up at the end of this year and into 2017? I’m doing a project at a press in Berkeley, Paulson Fontaine Press. We’ll be working on that at the beginning of 2017. And then in the spring I have a show opening in LA. At the moment, I’m actually with my family on my way to Standing Rock. We’re going to be there at least until Saturday. We’re going to pick up some items on our way — they need warm clothing and things like that. I mention it, because of how my own practice, how making things, has created a greater consciousness within myself, if that makes sense. I’m always living with the work and material around me, I can’t escape it. Lately I’ve been feeling the strangeness, with Thanksgiving coming up, that we celebrate this holiday, while at the same time this thing is happening in Standing Rock that just shows us perpetuating the evils that we’ve been carrying out for centuries. So I felt inclined to go and be a part of it. I have two daughters that are eight and ten years old. It’s important to expose them to this, to create consciousness within them, so that they have a different path forward.
RECOMMENDED “A Body of Water” is a relatively stark exhibition consisting of six nearly monochromatic oil paintings and a contemplative single-channel video projection of infinite waves. Overall, the highly formal presentation is a glimpse into an artist’s use of abstraction through a well-established medium, juxtaposed by a poetic representation through moving image. The contrasted aspects of the show do merge, as the artist uses the apt metaphor of memory to deconstruct the conceptual framework of time that runs throughout the exhibition. Yossifor began with a set of limitations for the duration of her process. Each painting was allotted three days of focused work time, running the risk of feeling either incomplete or overworked. This is a formula that works to her advantage, however, and the consistent treatment within the paintings is commendable. Each appears to be suspended in a liminal space. The changing hand of the artist’s tools create a topographic language; there are smooth planes, scraped build up and a blunt, carved line that meanders throughout the surface. While the overwhelming white oil paint—thick in application and densely layered—threatens to become solely about frenetic texture, a softer color palette emerges from beneath in increments, beckoning a closer look. In the adjacent room, the video work “A Body of Water” plays on a continuous loop in silence. Projected with an expansive and cinematic aspect ratio, the work is reminiscent of the many precedents of visual waves before it, the drawings of Vija Celmins immediately coming to mind. As the video is spurred by a childhood memory of being submerged in the Mediterranean Sea, the Israeli artist seems to have used the ubiquitous imagery to ignite a subjectivity we all have; the memory of floating, of feeling weightless, of resisting the wave or accepting its sudden shifts. (Brit Barton)
Harold Mendez Margarita, 2016 PATRON In the space left by all that has been evacuated from art objects by the return to formalist strategies, a shadow troop of young artists has decided to again take up charged objects, personal narrative, historical reference, and scrappy production methods. Harold Mendez engages in covert ops that remind us of the expressive capacity of junky materials and jerry-rigged assembly once these are fused with specific historical and cultural narratives, updating the lesson offered by folks like David Hammons and Jimmy Durham. Click the link above for the full article.
Continuing through October 29, 2016 In “At night we walk in circles,” Harold Mendez judiciously peppers the space with multimedia assemblages and images. However, the word “multimedia” hardly begins to describe the way that Mendez sources materials that are loaded with associations, symbolism and histories. Referencing his Mexican and Colombian heritage, the artist creates complex and mysterious narratives from his materials — ones that read like those of ancient, long-lost relics that provide only hints about the world they come from. The wide-ranging media list includes crushed cochineal insects (a bug that’s farmed in Central America for dyes used around the world), baseball batting helmet foam, a coconut and Kool-Aid. In “Let us gather in a flourishing way,” a copper copy of a death mask from Bogotá’s Museo del Oro (The Gold Museum) rests among white carnation petals atop an enormous slab of travertine — the stone that has been used to build some of the most lasting buildings in human history, like the Colosseum. Here, Mendez assembles such significant items under a title borrowed from a poem by U.S. Poet Laureate Juan Felipe Herrera, constructing an enigmatic yet perceptible representation of loss, resilience, struggle and hope.
When we meet for coffee, Harold Mendez has just returned to Houston from the Rauschenberg Residency at Captiva Island (FL) via Chicago, where he opened a solo exhibition at Patron Gallery. His installation at Project Row Houses for Round 45: Local Impact runs Oct. 22 – Feb. 12, 2017. Somehow, he appears rested and revitalized by his travels. We talk about a sense of optimism that he is finding in the studio, and about the deep influence Houston has had on his newest sculptural work, both conceptually and materially. Since moving to Houston in 2013 for the Core Residency Program at The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, the Chicago native has called the Third Ward home, finding a surrogate family in the artist community that is centered there. “Having such deep roots in Chicago and being gone from there, I needed to create a community for myself,” he says. “I decided I wanted to live in proximity to PRH because I already had a relationship with them, but also … I wasn’t just living there, I wanted to be part of that community.” Mendez cites artists Jamal Cyrus, Robert Pruitt, Rick Lowe, and curator Ryan Dennis as important influences in his thinking and his artistic process. And, he adds, many of the materials of his recent sculptural work come from the Third Ward neighborhood. “All the materials I’m finding, they have a history embedded in [them] that seems relevant to me.” In a 2016 sculpture, American Pictures, Mendez includes a found piece of fencing; a tree has grown around the fence, eventually becoming inextricably bound to the metal. “I’ve seen that thing for three years now, and then one day I decided to take it from this abandoned site, a block from my house,” he says. “In that thing, you can see time. It’s a marker of time that’s wrapped around a structure that’s been blighted. There’s something poetic about time attaching itself to a thing that implies a place. The Third Ward, in particular, has that. It’s an important neighborhood for the African American community, but also for artists like myself who aren’t from Houston. There is a necessary community that’s been built by artists to support other artists there, and that’s so meaningful… A lot of people in other cities want to visit PRH and see what’s going on there, because it’s an alternative model. It’s a model that’s not reliant on the commercial art market or the museums to support the artists. The artists are the ones who are offering how they want to be engaged, and they’re authoring what’s important to them.” Harold Mendez, Elmina Castle, 2016. Archival pigment print transferred from color slide film taken in 1999, mounted on dibond with artists’ bronze frame, 13 x 19 x 2 in. Photograph by Aron Gent, courtesy of the artist and Patron Gallery, Chicago. That sculpture, which is currently on view in Mendez’s Chicago exhibition, also serves as a memorial, a marker of the current political climate and recent instances of violence against people of color. In American Pictures, the fence piece stands in a metal grate. There, and surrounding the piece, the artist scatters white carnation petals. “Those sculptures have to be tended to,” he says. “The carnation petals have to be replaced; it has to be looked after… The thing about a memorial, the thing about recalling memories, that’s how you keep a thing alive. Offering these petals is a way to remember.” That kind of remembering, Mendez argues, is also an optimistic gesture. For his installation, Dayward, at Project Row Houses, Mendez returns to two photographs he took in 1999, while traveling in Ghana. “I’ve never used these images, never shown them, but before I left Chicago and moved to Houston, I grabbed this sleeve of slides,” he says. “I’ve been carrying these things around.” One of the photographs was taken at Elmina Castle, a major stop in the Atlantic slave trade between the 17th and 19th centuries. Almost abstract, Mendez’s Elmina Castle is a photograph of the floor of the building. “You’re looking at my shadow, looking down on the floor, which has all these scratches and marks,” Mendez says. The marks are the subtle evidence of centuries of violence. Harold Mendez, American Pictures, 2016. Reclaimed wrought iron, wood, crushed cochineal insects, staples, industrial work mats, carnations, dimensions variable. Photograph courtesy of the artist. Mendez’s work often deals with materiality and history in complex and meditative ways. He has worked extensively with archival images found in Colombia, transferring them to sheets of metal through a laborious process that creates an object with new textures to its surface. He describes to me how he found a photograph album waiting to be cataloged in an archive in Medellín. Between the pages of photographs, the album had sheets of a protective plastic, embossed with spider webs. Noting his interest in the material, an archivist gave Mendez a few sheets to work with. “It looks topographical, like a map,” Mendez says. “One of the things I’m trying to do is I take an object or a source image and try to translate that into another object. My interest in those archives in Medellin was about conflict, or the ways the life runs parallel to conflict in Colombia. And, that sometimes becomes really abstracted. When I found this torn piece of material, it seemed to mirror some of that abstraction.” As he reflects on the past few years in Houston, Mendez describes how the city has given him space and focused time to work, how it has been a site for excavating materials and rethinking his process. Somehow, between Colombia and Mexico, Chicago and Captiva Island, Houston has become a hinge point, grounding Mendez’s new work, and simultaneously offering a springboard to other places. He adds, “Houston’s been a place that’s allowed me to slow down and zero in, to be really focused on making and thinking about my practice, and I’ve done that very intentionally.”
Up and Coming: Dungeons & Dragons Guides the Abstract Paintings of One of New York’s Hottest Artists, Kadar Brock
Delivery trucks rumble down a thruway in Brooklyn’s East Williamsburg, a largely industrial neighborhood where small factories have, over the past two decades, made way for artist studios. Kadar Brock’s workspace is on the top floor of a two-story building in the area. Enter an unmarked door and climb a steep stairwell to a long narrow hallway; the 5,000-square-foot full-floor space is subdivided into numerous smaller studios that Brock shares with 15 other artists, many of whom he met while he was a student at Cooper Union. His studio is an imperfect rectangular shape—the result of recently merging two studios together. Each part of Brock’s studio serves its function: one area is where he paints his soon-to-be-destroyed canvases—usually boldly colored geometric compositions. The middle section of the studio is a table where he alters or destroys these paintings by sanding, priming, and scraping them—techniques that Brock has become known for through three distinct series of abstracted, process-based works: his sanded paintings, with their beautifully distressed patinas, shreds of the canvas sanded away to show the stretchers behind, and swirls of faded pastel colors; his “ritual” works, where he scrapes paintings to produce chips or confetti-looking pieces that are carefully applied to a canvas to create a dense and delightfully gestural work sans brushstrokes; and his dust works, where Brock decimates up to 10 painted canvases into a fine debris, which he uses to construct his puckered and moonscape-like compositions. At the far end of the space, behind a thick vinyl curtain, Brock spray-paints his sanded works. His studio is an ecosystem—and an efficient one—in which the artist’s methodical and ritualistic process makes for a consistent upcycling of materials across the space: when he spray-paints, he uses a canvas as the drop cloth; that canvas becomes the start of a painting; and that painting has two fates: one sliding door is going under the razor and the industrial sander, before being coated with layers of pigments and primed, sanded, and primed, a process repeated until the desired effect is reached; the other fate is to be martyred into chips or dust. His methodical approach also comes across in the organization of his tools and materials in the studio: spray paint cans, acrylics, and brushes inhabit a stainless steel rolling cart; on a shelf, a palette scraper, an X-Acto knife, levels, and hammers are neatly arranged; reference books are loosely piled; and in black containers stacked along the walls is where Brock stores the remnants of destroyed paintings, the resting place between their destruction and their afterlife. The whole studio is touched by this dust. It’s hard not to leave without some remnant of it on your clothes, though that adds to the charm of the visit. Hung in the center of the studio is a stringy hammock, where the artist naps during breaks. Brock—whose first name, he explains, is one of the 99 attributes of Allah, the ability of Allah to manifest his will—grew up in Westchester, New York, in horse country a couple hours north of New York City. He describes his parents, who split when he was young, as “New Age-y, like crystal healing, meditating, light and love, and rainbows, and shit like that. And so all that kind of resonated together and funneled where I wanted to go with what I was making.” Brock’s early notion of an artist was a romantic one, believing that the role of the artist was to express his soul. “I think the thing that made me really want to become an artist is because my dad showed me, of all things, a book of Picasso paintings. And he was like, ‘You could do this.’ And I was like, ‘Really? I could just paint whatever I want? And that’s like a thing?’” He went on to graduate from the prestigious painting program at Cooper Union in New York. After he graduated, he moved to Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, with some friends, where they turned the front room of the apartment into a shared studio. During these days, he worked with an art handling and shipping company to make some cash, moving artwork between artist studios and Chelsea galleries or art fairs; he was responsible for packing up precious artworks, building temporary walls, installing shows. Around that time, on a visit to his mother’s home, Brock unearthed “relics” from his childhood—including Dungeons & Dragons fantasy books. “I had always pulled titles for my paintings from either songs or other pop culture points of significance for me. And so I found this book that I had when I was 12 called Dragon Kings, which was basically an expansion pack for this D&D [Dungeons & Dragons] sub-game called Forbidden Realms,” he explains. “So I started going through them and was taking notes of some of the names of different spells in the book. And I was just like, ‘These would make insanely good titles.’ It’s also really interesting to start talking about abstraction in relation to magic and spell-casting, to talk about the artist’s relation to being a wizard. It gives a little sense of objectivity and play towards the foundation of beliefs that go into [the history of painting]. And then that started expanding into taking the sets of rules from the game that were related to these titles as a way to set up systems to make a painting. So it turned into this larger trajectory of using the rules from D&D to set up systems to determine the amount of marks that would go into a painting.” This newfound system would free Brock from the weight of painting’s history—and from his romantic vision of the artist standing before the canvas making autonomous actions. “I started loathing it because it just seems impossible, and weighted, and fucked,” he remembers. “And all you want as an artist is a way to dodge some of that historical subconsciousness. And so to me it was like simultaneously setting up this entire other character system that’s making these paintings, [which was] also a way to critique and talk about what those dynamics and belief structures and myths are, and then also create a free space for me to do stuff.” This would result in the aforementioned series of works that, over the past two years, have turned the heads of many dealers and collectors. New York-based collector Karine Haimo remembers first discovering Brock’s work at a group show at The Hole in 2012. She and her husband—whose collection includes works by Sam Moyer, Aaron Curry, Adam Pendleton, Alex Prager, Adam McEwen, Eddie Martinez, Chris Succo, and many others—tried to buy one of his works but they were all sold out. However, The Hole director Kathy Grayson had two works not on display in the show, which Haimo says they bought right on the spot. Aside from being drawn to the narrative behind the piece—the notion of artmaking as magic—she was drawn to the shifting nature of the work. “The piece changes throughout the day. Because of its multi-layered surface, in the morning it’s a beautiful pink, the afternoon it gets to be a dark blue and in the evening it’s rather purple,” she explains. In 2013, Brock had his breakout solo show in New York, at The Hole, entitled “dredge.” The entire main gallery space was filled with new paintings. The show very quickly sold out. And since, with representation at London-based Vigo gallery and now Almine Rech, his work has wait lists of collectors interested in buying. This week, Miami will be abuzz with Brock. At Art Basel in Miami Beach, Almine Rech will feature three new works—one minimally hued, sanded work, a large-scale dust piece, and a sculpture cast from old stretcher bars and plastic drop cloths from the studio, thus appropriating surrounding dust and debris. Sculpture is a brand new direction for the artist and this will mark its premiere to the public. At Untitled, Vigo will feature six new works by Brock, including sanded pieces (some that have taken almost a decade to complete) and dust works, and another premiere of Brock’s three-dimensional pieces, a totem-like plaster piece perched on a wood plinth. Shortly after Miami, in January 2015, Brock opens a solo show at Vigo. Before leaving the studio, I ask Brock what most concerns him about the presentations in Miami. His answer is remarkably thoughtful, and refreshing, for an artist who is coming into his own as a successful artist and shedding his past of art handling jobs and shared studios. “My first thought with sending these to an art fair was like, ‘Man, I want to make it really easy for the dudes who are going to have to install them,’” he says. “I have way too much empathy for that.”
The Tarble Arts Center director and chief curator, Rehema Barber, introduced artists Samuel Levi Jones, JC Lenochan and Cheryl Pope as part of Tarble’s “Artists-in-Dialogue” panel Wednesday evening in the Atrium. Jones, Lenochan and Pope are artists whose work is featured in the exhibit “A Dark Matter” that is on display in Tarble. “A Dark Matter” focuses on each artists’ interpretation of the racial tension in American society. Rehema lead the discussion with a series of questions that asked the artists what their inspiration for their work is, what kind of influences can be seen in their individual pieces, the various mediums they used and their interactions with the youth in the nation. Lenochan said he tries to use everything but paint in his work. “I want to use images and objects that already exist,” Lenochan said during the discussion. Some of Lenochan’s art consists of sculptures made of old paperback books plastered together with concrete and a school chair made of old boxing gloves. Jones’s art that is on display includes old, deconstructed encyclopedias laid out on canvas and wood. Jones said that the concept of his art comes from the influence of reactions to cases and instances of oppression and brutality. His pieces are part of a series titled “Unbound,” which includes recycled pages of encyclopedias and law books, are his way to convey his idea of the encyclopedia being a way to control information and intentionally leave out things like the accomplishments of African-Americans. Pope is a Chicago based artist who focuses on a lot of performance-based art, and the use of quotations from people she had conversations with that are printed or constructed. “I think listening is the most important political act we can make,” Pope said during the panel. “Language is failing (us).” Pope’s work concentrates on the human struggle through pain, oppression and tolerance. One of her performances includes her using only her head to knock down suspended balloons filled with water. During the discussion, Pope had said the first time she performed the piece; it brought her a great deal of pain. After the first time, she then took up boxing and built up a tolerance to the similar pain she felt during her performance. “Every time I got hit (during boxing) I’d whisper thank you,” Pope said. Barber then opened the panel to the audience to ask questions after asking her prepared set of questions. The gallery will be featuring the exhibit until Oct. 30, and will continue to host lectures and performances by the other artists featured until the exhibit leaves.
The exhibitions of Mika Horibuchi and Brittany Nelson, on view this summer at PATRON Gallery, highlighted a noir quality of both artists’ work. Horibuchi, in particular, is exploring ambiguity as a genre. Her work occupies the gallery’s front space was an installation pseudo-trompe l’oeil paintings, including a meticulous array of pixel pieces on the floor, at least as solemn as they were playful. Nelson takes mystification equally seriously. Her silvery tintypes have an air of resurrection - as if a technique from the past could revive objects from the future. In “Controller,” Nelson’s tintype photographs were mysterious, yet instructional. Nelson, a graduate of Cranbook Academy of Art, is currently a professor at the Virginia Commonwealth University of Virginia in Richmond. Julia Fischbach, who co-founded PATRON with Emanuel Aguilar, commented on Nelson’s witty presentation style and the well-equipped studio where she trains her students. Gazing at her works, I felt I gained an understanding of the art’s preoccupation with ways of knowing, from the scientific to the absurd. Primary shaped levitated on dark emulsions; rendering geometry with an almost spiritual quality. There was a signpost aspect to the orientation of Nelson’s works, each with their own oblique cant against the wall. One work, titled Map #1, includes an amorphous orb of boxes and arrows, hovering in a low corner of the tintype like ants arounds picnic food, each miniature arrow carrying more than its own weight of information. Due to their slanted structure, the photographs asserted an outward presence in the space, yet their placement was simultaneously particular and arbitrary. As these works migrate from the gallery, one might expect to find them as sculptural objects placed on a self or table, perhaps even along the space of a wall, as two of the tintypes were placed here. Megalith #2, the largest of Nelson’s eight works in the show, also has the most skewed orientation, tilted toward the viewer by degrees and adjusted in multiple directions. At PATRON, it hung at a confrontational angle, as if rising to meet the viewer who turned the corner into the second gallery. The works occupy dimensions under utilized in gallery architecture. You might think of them as tilting in orbit, each with a nuanced gravitational plane. An artist equally absorbed by dimensionality or the lack of it, Horibuchi’s work, at first glance, is all surface finish and precision installation. Her paintings of curtains have a convincing photographic appearance that doe not hint at a deeper meaning. But she merges technical ability with sleight of hand. The work promotes a basic question: Is a thing what it looks it is? The tightly executed works were sparsely arranged and made to construct a larger stage. Horibuchi, a BFA graduate of the School of the Art institute, lives and works in Chicago, which surely had an influence, as her work was coded for PATRON’s space. The result is a quiet reminder of the power of presentation. If you choose to play Horibuchi’s game, the gallery itself must be implicated in the construction. Horibuchi’s exhibition title, Draw the Curtain, reinforced a theme of concealment and exposure rooted in the physical layering of objects. Six oil paintings of curtains were framed behind dark Plexiglas and spaced at irregular intervals, white frames vanishing into the wall (especially in bright sunlight). In order to decipher the unusual narrowness of the paintings, it was necessary to observe the corresponding dimensions of the room’s walls and doors. Small details were relevant: the paintings were the same width as a thin column on the wall. Screen Door (oil on linen) hung opposite the entrance. Even studying Horibuchi’s floor work, Puzzle, and mentally rearranging the carefully disconnected piece, it was not until gazing upward toward the ceiling that a pattern came into focus. The gallery director explained that the decorative ceiling tiles, original to the building, were echoed in the design painted on the fiberwood board pieces. Through the display puzzle pieces could not form a whole, the discovery of an embedded visual code hunted at a solution. Both Horibuchi and Nelson’s art poses riddles. Image Photoshop after death. Through mastery of their mediums, they question the limits of representation and bring humor to a morbid fascination with unknown forces.
Myra Greene's work raises questions about race, identity, truth, history, and the gaze in photography. Images from Character Recognition are experienced as black glass ambrotypes. This work draws us in through its seductive use of materials, yet the fragmented and close-up views of Greene’s facial features confront us with questions about how African-Americans are pictured throughout history. In My White Friends Greene photographs her closest friends by highlighting their whiteness. In Sketches for Something Greene uses African-inspired fabrics to connect to her roots as she bridges time through the marks that she makes. Myra Greene was born in New York City and received her B.F.A. from Washington University in St. Louis and her M.F.A. in photography from the University of New Mexico. She currently resides in Chicago Il, where she is an Associate Professor of Photography at Columbia College Chicago. She received an Illinois Arts Council Fellowship in Photography (2009) and has completed residencies at Light Work in Syracuse New York (2004) and the Center for Photography at Woodstock (2004). Greene’s work has been featured in national exhibitions in galleries and museums including The New York Public Library (2012), Art Museum of the Americas in Washington. D.C. (2012), FotoFest 2010 in Houston, Texas, at the Winter Street Studios (2010), Spelman College Museum of Fine Art in Atlanta (2009), Museum of the African Diaspora in San Francisco (2008), Yuma Art Center Museum in Yuma Arizona (2008), Wadsworth Museum in Hartford CT (2006) and Sculpture Center in New York City (2003). Her work is in the permanent collection of Museum of Contemporary Photography in Chicago, Museum of Fine Arts in Houston, The National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C., and the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, and The New York Public Library. Greene is currently a Distinguished Visiting Professor at Spelman College, in Atlanta. Her work is currently represented by Patron Gallery, Chicago. lenscratch-states-logo-651x423 Growing up in Harlem, I often walked past stores selling African textiles. I was confronted with this patterns and colors; and subconsciously informed that as a black woman I should have an inherent relationship to these materials. I am attracted to the fabric as material and color, but felt there was a false cultural connection. Over the years I began to collect this fabric in small quantities via eBay and African fabric stores. These Dutch wax patterns are often designed in the Netherlands produced in Indonesia and marketed and sold in Western African countries. This global transaction produces questions of the material’s authenticity. While seductive, this fabric triggers a problematic relationship for me, for I have no direct link to its symbolism. I am told I should relate to the descriptions, symbols, colors and patterns, but it is a culture that I am distinctly removed from. This conceptual project is my attempt to explore the material and its history. Can I become closer to ‘Mother Africa’ if I am engaged with its textiles? Does working with this material make me ‘blacker,’ or does my artist hand reflect a more complicated relationship. Can I describe my uprooted identity through fabric? I have started the process of deconstructing fabric into patterns and shapes from large swatches of material down to basic shapes and color. From here I improvisationally sew, recombine them into new patterns, new shapes and new pieces of cloth to use for my art, embedding the fabric with embroidery and silkscreen. I then scan and print these new forms as photographs. Seeing the images as a photographic print allows for the translucency of the fabrics and the layering of materials to be rendered. Photography becomes a crucial part of this process as it transforms the form, describing this flat object with a subtle sense of depth and presence. The stitch helps to become my mark, containing story and time. Hopefully, by abstracting and transforming the fabric, my relationship to these iconic cultural materials will shift from visceral to profound.
Please follow the link for the full list of this year's exhibitors: The New Art Dealers’ Alliance focuses on fresh, young artists and galleries at its NADA Miami Beach fair, and this year’s promises an especially fresh 14th edition (December 1–4), with some 43 first-time exhibitors in the mix, or nearly half of the 110 exhibitors who have signed on. There was less turnover in the previous two years, with just 21 first-timers out of 105 in 2015 and 15 out of 74 in 2014. This year the exhibitors hail from 36 cities in 17 countries; there are 29 project spaces, given over to various non-profits and artists’ projects. Among the many new exhibitors are several who made artnet News’ picks for top booths in the fair’s 2016 edition in New York, including Five Car Garage (Los Angeles), Good Weather (North Little Rock), Parrasch Heijnen (Los Angeles), and Patron (Chicago). Another first-timer is Prague’s SVIT, which won the inaugural NADA x Exhibitionary International Gallery Prize, which includes a booth valued at $9,000 and is co-sponsored with Exhibitionary, an app that provides gallery listings.
Expo Chicago, that city’s annual contemporary art fair, announced the list of participants for its 2016 editions of In/Situ, In/Situ Outside, and Expo Projects. These sectors of the fair feature large-scale installations, and will be placed both at the fair and around Chicago. Expo Chicago opens September 22. This year’s slate of In/Situ programming—which is curated by Diana Nawi, an associate curator at the Pérez Art Museum Miami—is called “A Break in the Code,” and draws its works from the 145 galleries selected to participate in Expo Chicago. The bulk of the work will be installed at the fair’s main space at the Navy Pier’s Festival Hall, often hanging from the ceiling. “ ‘A Break in the Code’ uncovers the underlying structures that order and shape the world around us,” Nawi said in a press release. “This program examines and intervenes into the codes and forms used to demarcate our everyday life, by appropriating or interrupting common gestures and modes of communication, capitalizing on and redeploying systems of power and exchange, and imbuing quotidian experiences with the poetic.” In addition to In/Situ, there is also In/Situ Outside, which breaks out from the Navy Yard to scatter work all over the city. Nawi has selected works to display, and the fair has also teamed up with the City of Chicago to unleash “Override | A Billboard Project,” which will place 28 digital billboards through the city. The press release called it an “unprecedented citywide public art initiative” for the Second City. Who’s doing billboards? Alex Bag, Sanford Biggers, Rashid Johnson, Joyce Pensato, and Maurizio Cattelan’s wacky Toiletpaper design firm, they’re all doing billboards! And then Expo Projects features large-scale works around the pier, selected by Expo Chicago. Plus: works that the Chicago Parks District have already placed around the city. Just a lot of projects going down in Chicago. Click the link for the full list. Expo Projects: Magdalena Abakanowicz | The Son of Gigant (2003), Marlborough Kimathi Donkor | Gallery MOMO Cody Hudson | Hold It Up to the Light (2016), ANDREW RAFACZ Alfredo Jaar | Teach Us to Outgrow Madness (1995), Human Rights Watch in partnership with Rhona Hoffman Gallery Samuel Levi Jones | 48 Portraits (Underexposed) (2012), PATRON Anna Kunz | Warp (2016), McCormick Gallery Atelier van Lieshout | Henri, Carl, and Mother Earth Constructivist (2015); and The Beginning of Everything (2016), GRIMM Dana Lixenberg | Imperial Courts (2015), GRIMM Matt Magee | Wall Grapheme 3 (2016), THE MISSION Sandro Miller | American Bikers (1990–95), Catherine Edelman Gallery Nnenna Okore | Onwa N’etilu Ora (2013–2015), Jenkins Johnson Gallery Sabina Ott | because the mountains were so high (2016), Hyde Park Art Center and Aspect/Ratio Gallery Ren Ri | Yuansu Series II, #6-58, #6-71, #6-74, #6-81, #6-83 (2014-2015), Courtesy the artist and Pearl Lam Galleries Adam Parker Smith | Mr. Risky (2016), Courtesy of the artist and The Hole Saya Woolfalk | Colour Mixing Machine 1-6 (2016), Daata Editions
LAWNDALE ART CENTER August 21 2015–September 26 2015 A small copper reproduction of a preColumbian death mask rests inside a burned cardboard box. This tableau is the opening salvo of Harold Mendez and Ronny Quevedo’s collaborative installation, Spector†Field†(all works 2015). That the copper mask sits dumbly at the bottom of its fragile container, unlike the handsome case that holds the gold original at the Museo del Oro in Bogotá, Columbia— is a wry comment on the impulse to preserve precious objects even as the cultures who produced them are systemically smudged out. Mendez and Quevedo’s installation continues in this vein, turning the cavernous central space of Lawndale into a bleak, sparsely populated landscape of diminutive and highly charged sculptural arrangements. Both artists are experts at drawing out connections between materials and their histories. Blue architectural chalk covers a deflated soccer ball, and stadia, both ancient and modern, are covertly invoked. Crushedup cochineal insects coat a trio of cement bags, and elsewhere, shrublike forms sprout out from Lawndale’s black concrete floor. These are small gestures, to be sure, but each asserts itself like an island of a larger archipelago. Quevedo’s Wiphala†on†Broadway, two milk crates whose lattice like structures hold dozens of brightly colored light bulbs, shines out from a high corner. Like everything else here, the sculpture’s associations are specific—the Wiphala is the second flag of Bolivia, its prismatic colors representative of a variety of indigenous peoples—and more generally evocative: a bright sun for a blighted land.
On the weekend of 11 September 2011, you could have watched 9/11: Day That Changed the World on the Smithsonian Channel or 9/11: Timeline of Terror on Fox News. You might have tuned in to America Remembers on NBC, America Remembers on CBS or America Remembers Ten Years Later on ABC. National Geographic Channel presented both Inside 9/11: War on America and Inside 9/11: Zero Hour. HBO re-broadcast the 2004 baseball documentary Nine Innings from Ground Zero, about the October 2001 World Series, while SportsNet NY had Reflections on 9/11: New York Mets Remember. On CNBC, finance expert Suze Orman presented Money Lessons of 9/11. Expressing cynicism at this point is redundant. Harder to express are feelings that aren’t cynical at all. Somewhere outside the hegemonic directive to ‘never forget’, and the 9/11 industry that command begat, there is the idiosyncratic experience of remembering. As a New Yorker, there are quite a few things I can remember without the aid of TV: the panic and confusion, the smell in the air, the cloud of dust moving across the city. I remember friends finding office memos from the towers in their Brooklyn backyards. I remember when the distress came from too little explanation rather than too much. Of course, it didn’t take long for the events of September 11 to become the thing called ‘9/11’. The language calcified, the horrible details were examined endlessly, and President Bush told us we would all be OK if we went shopping. And then – and still – the wars. But there were moments that preceded all of that, which lurk somewhere, raw and unresolved. ‘September 11’, at MoMA PS1, attempts to speak to those moments. Opening on that tenth anniversary weekend, the exhibition obviously participates in the national imperative to memorialize. But it is, at its best, something else entirely: an attempt to pry September 11 loose from 9/11. There are no images of the burning towers and nor is it a show of artists’ ‘responses’ to the attacks. Much of the work on display was created before 2001, almost all of it for other reasons. Only a single piece in the show directly addresses 9/11: a 2003 proposal by Ellsworth Kelly to cover Ground Zero with a simple mound of grass. It is represented in the exhibition by a dashed-off collage Kelly made to visualize his idea: a photo of the site ripped out of The New York Times, with a green paper trapezoid pasted on. According to the show’s curator, Peter Eleey, in this image Kelly saw a ‘palliative notion of abstraction’, and this became the model for ‘September 11’: a preference for the oblique and suggestive. In practice, this meant forcing works to bear meanings never intended. William Eggleston’s photograph Untitled (Glass in Airplane) (1965–74), for example, depicts an aeroplane tray table, sun streaming in through an iced drink stirred by a disembodied hand, taken when air travel was still romantic. Obviously, it had nothing to do with 2001. But here, there was something odd in that shaft of light, something alarmingly monumental about the glass and its glowing shadow. The photo, and many other works in the show, opened themselves up to a kind of willful misreading that bordered on the paranoid. As Eleey notes in his catalogue essay, a lot of us were seeingthe towers everywhere back then. And here, we can find them again, in a delicate Alex Katz painting of two trees reflected in water (10 AM, 1994) or in a Jane Freilicher still life. Ten years ago, any object, any image, could be a reminder. And here again: a Christo wrap piece, bundled in a red tarp (Red Package, 1968); Lara Favaretto’s sealed suitcase (Lost and Found, 2006), contents unknown. Jem Cohen’s short film Little Flags (2000) – depicting the victory parade held in downtown New York after the 1991 Gulf War – seemed, in its vision of frantic crowds and paper-strewn streets, to be a kind of premonition. Janet Cardiff’s sound installation Forty Part Motet (2001) – a 16th-century choral work, each part recorded individually and played through 40 separate speakers – was at PS1 in the autumn of 2001. At the time the installation became, accidentally, a site of catharsis. For whatever reason, the piece seemed to both open the unhealed wound and to salve it. And here it was again, in the same room, collapsing time, complicating the idea of ‘remembering’. Another piece of music in the exhibition did something else entirely. John Williams’ theme to The Patriot (2000) – all soaring strings, martial snares and sub-Aaron Copland uplift – provided the soundtrack to a gallery containing Roger Hiorns’ vaporized jet engine (Untitled, 2008), George Segal’s ghostly sculpture Woman on a Park Bench (1998) and two ostensible monochromes from 2007–09 by Harold Mendez: found blank bulletin boards, staples intact. The effect of this tableau, already over-determined, was complicated, in jarring ways, by the inclusion of the music and its all-too-pat emotional manipulation. Was this the point? If so, it pointed away from the idiosyncrasies of private response and towards consideration of the public aftermath of the attacks. And it brought the show, perhaps unavoidably, into the realm of critique. Images of the attacks, Eleey argues, ‘were political images from the moment of their making’ and that is why they were not included. Yet politics is not absent from the show. America’s imperial adventures in the Middle East, and other follies of the ‘post-9/11 world’ were acknowledged, directly and indirectly. They were there in Roman Ondák’s Snapshots from Baghdad (2007), a disposable camera displayed in a vitrine, the photos inside undeveloped and unknown; in Jens Haaning’s Arabic Joke, a street poster plastered around New York in 2006, playing on the irrational fears in the air. And they were certainly there in Jeremy Deller’s droll full-size replica (2004–11) of the infamous ‘Mission Accomplished’ banner that hung behind President Bush as he made his Iraq ‘victory’ speech. As worthy as these works are, I couldn’t help but feel that they belonged in another show, one less dependent on the murky waters of affect. Such a show would, hopefully, include work by Middle Eastern artists – something that was pointedly lacking here. But perhaps the lesson from this show is that it is impossible to separate September 11 from 9/11: the trauma is hopelessly enmeshed with the spectacle. Bruce Conner’s Report (1967), perhaps the most harrowing work in the exhibition, seems to express just that. A portrait of the JFK assassination, another generation’s tragedy, the film is assembled from found footage and radio broadcasts, collaged into a jumpy, free associative assault. The crucial moment itself, the unknowable wound, eludes representation: in its place is a minute of flickering, strobing film and an electronic whine. It is felt, bodily, rather than witnessed. Staring at the screen makes one dizzy, nauseated. And that feels exactly right.
What first reads like an astral constellation is in fact a photograph whose blackness is broken only by the erratic swarm of dead insect bodies. Greg Stimac’s Santa Fe to Billings (2009) documents the choreography of the countless lives his windshield intersected on a drive between locales. The momentum of each smash is evident— guts smear and spray across the surface, recording innumerable tiny accidents. To create this piece, Stimac placed an 8 x 10 inch sheet of Plexiglass on the hood of his car. Upon arriving to his final destination—Billings, in this case— he used the car’s cigarette lighter to scan the resulting plate, thereby producing the final 20 x 30 inch photograph. This piece—its documentary mode, its gritty surface, its use of technology—is the perfect beginning for the Museum of Contemporary Photography’s Phantoms in the Dirt, a group exhibition curated by Karsten Lund, which currently showcases sixteen artists. In each work lies a theoretical straw: something the viewer grasps with sudden exuberance and recognition—Yes! Bugs spatter on my car too!—only to bump into larger questions, mysteries, and catastrophes thereafter. Stimac’s insects might provoke anxiety in the viewer about her own mortality, or encapsulate an expression of violence both sickening and banal, or even illustrate humanity’s omniscient relationship to its environment. Like the early efforts to prove the existence of an afterlife by capturing spirits on photographic paper, Phantoms in the Dirt presents the enigmatic trick of landscape photography, stirring up powerful questions about authenticity, mechanical illusion, and existential meaning in the process. Everything about the exhibition is balanced, precise, and clean. Even the various rusty sculptures—as with Shane Ward’s Barrel, Jay Heikes’ Morality’s Reef, or Harold Mendez's Catastrophe Lacks Coherence—carry the aesthetic of artifacts carefully positioned and classified in distilled space. The museum provides a structured framework that indexes its constituent parts. Certain motifs repeat. Ironically, given the pristine museum setting, visual static persists. One has the experience of constantly trying to tune into the pure frequency of a radio station, only to find pixilation, dust, or piles of dirt interfering with the bandwidth. Santa Fe to Billings is one such example, but in wandering through the extensive three-story show, the motif gathers increasing force. In a dark room in the far corner of the museum, Stimic’s second piece, Old Faithful Inversion (2012), projects a looped film reel of pluming smoke on the wall. To that percussive, mechanical music, five of Alison Rossiter’s small 3 1⁄2 x 5 3⁄8 inch photographs hang in elegant frames. The darkness of the room, combined with the warm spotlights, provides a dramatic aura to her archival works. The images read like black horizon lines, with crystalline cloud patterns blooming in gray overhead. Like those old spiritualist pictures, however, there is a bit of a trick at work. Each of the prints—A, B and C from her Eastman Kodak Azo F3, expired August 1922, processed in 2011 series, and #1 and #2 from her Kodak Azo No. 4, expired February 1, 1992, processed in 2011 (# Mold) series—was fabricated entirely in the darkroom using old, partially deteriorated photographic paper; the fractal patterns one takes to be the sky are in fact mold growth that leached into this particular batch of photo paper before it was used. Still, a searching desire in the viewer projects a landscape onto the devised shadow work of a darkroom, and like Ward’s rusty barrel with its shocking puddle of frozen mercury, one has to engage with a deteriorated surface. Both the metal drum and the paper respond to the potentially devastating effects of air and moisture, demonstrating the unnerving activity of seemingly inert materials. Positioned on the landing between the first and second floor, Arthur Ou’s black and white photograph Untitled (Mountain) acts as a hybrid homage to Robert Smithson and Chinese landscape painting; a series of three dirt piles cascade down the three elegant nesting tables they lie upon, each pile appearing like its own mountain. Perhaps in answer to Smithson, the works are stunning for their purposefully domestic (rather than epic) proportion. The texture of the dirt, so rich and elaborate, compared to the smooth pedestals stands out bright and sharp against a pure white backdrop. Scattered beneath this almost floral arrangement of soil lies a negative cast of those three mountains, marking where dirt once fell loose to the floor, reminiscent of some past energy. Here again, the simple, inconvenient materiality of dirt disrupts an otherwise pristine effort. On the second floor of the space, Jeremy Bolen shows an extensive suite of photographs that further exacerbate that impression. Like Stimac, Bolen presents a different kind of documentary photography. In Plot M#1 (Print from film exposed and buried at plot m above waste from the first nuclear reactor. The film was unearthed by an anonymous force), the artist provides a mash up of site specific information: traces of radioactive frequencies invisible to the naked eye, the grounds on which those frequencies were captured by burying film, and debris Bolen collected from the site appear simultaneously in one print. In this work, Bolen photographed a smooth stone marker located at Plot M in Red Gate Woods—a plot of land that entombs nuclear waste. Without exposing the entire roll, the artist then buried the film in Plot M ground. As a result the photograph exhibits traces of lightless, radioactive energy as a blue, horizontal streak that crosses over the print through exposed and unexposed frames. After scanning the resulting film into the computer, and printing the final photograph, Bolen scatters material debris collected from the original site over the photograph; the material peppers the surface like static electricity, teasing one’s expectation for a smooth, clean, photographic surface. One wants to open up the frame and remove the obstructive grit, to wipe the insects away and get a clear picture of that otherwise dark and existential space. The instinct is joined with the urge to enter Ou’s photograph with a broom and a dustpan, to polish and shine Mendez’s catastrophe, or to wipe away the mold spores of Rossiter’s film paper. Doing so would spoil everything. Assaf Evron’s Untitled, (French Colonies, Moroc) is the last image viewers happen upon in the exhibition. Positioned at the farthest end of the space on the third floor, just beside the museum’s flat files, it functions like the end of a narrative, or the summit of a hike. In Untitled (French Colonies, Moroc), we encounter a field of locusts that occupy an otherwise expansive mountain landscape. Mounted and framed in a wooden box, the print is monochromatic, aged in sepia tones with locusts so extensive they read like snow in a blizzard. The image was reproduced in an old history book about colonialization; if you come too close, in fact, you’ll see it break down into pixels, as if admitting to their original, much smaller size. Here the insects interfere with an otherwise Romantic landscape, while the image itself admits a sub-layered deterioration of facsimile. The idea of entropy comes to mind—that somehow one’s desire for cleanliness is a desire for order, and perhaps even immortality. But to focus entirely on entropy within the context of this exhibition would be a disservice; the concept itself appears anthropocentric, and conservative. Yet for that reason, in particular, three black and white photographs by Shannon Ebner are especially compelling, presenting a possible vision of human effort within the landscape. In each instance, a figure appears traversing rather barren hummocks of ground. The figure is hardly noticeable at first, except for a pair of small hands holding a large, white, rectangular square, and a pair of barely visible calves extending just beneath the rectangle’s length. The blank, perfectly white board becomes the focal point (by virtue of exception); all other elements within the photograph host an abundance of texture and variant light. The figure carries this lightness: the desire to be clean, smooth, and eternally fixed—straining to maintain the bulk of an abstract concept. Within the otherwise pervasive paradigm of transitioning material, entropy becomes a compelling fixation, a proposition as doomed as the notion of eternal youth. Yet, if one considers the inverse— embracing the strange potential in transformation, fluidity, and surprise—indeed, the possibility of new materials in various stages of flux possesses nonhuman energies that are stunning to behold.
Click the link above to see the full list. Opening: “Chicago Invites Chicago” at Galerie Lelong Gaining momentum in the art world are group shows where the gallery asks someone to pick someone else. It’s actually a great idea, because not only do you get to tap into the knowledge of artists (who are out there doing a lot of leg work for free), but you also get to blame someone else if the show doesn’t quite come together. It’s brilliant! But Galerie Lelong has nothing to worry about with this cast of “pickers” which includes elder statesman and reinvented abstract painter McArthur Binion, who has selected painter John Phillips; hot found object artist/provocateur Samuel Levi Jones, who has chosen language artist Bethany Collins; and master of delicate graphite surfaces Tony Lewis, who brings along another drawer, Nate Young. And if you haven’t guessed by now, all the artists are from the Windy City (no, not the Vale of Arryn—Chicago, you nerds). Galerie Lelong, 528 West 26th Street, New York, 6-8 p.m. Picture right: Choose Well, 2016, deconstructed law books, canvas and wood, 68 1/2 × 92 in, 174 × 233.7 cm.
Click the link above to read the entire list. THURSDAY, JUNE 30 Opening: “Chicago Invites Chicago” at Galerie Lelong This show is exactly what it sounds like—three Chicagoans asking three other Chicagoans to show at Galerie Lelong. Noting that the city has been home to a rich, if not underrated, contemporary-art scene, a release praises Chicago for hosting such artist groups as Monster Roster and the Chicago Imagists. For the show, McArthur Binion has invited John Phillips, Samuel Levi Jones has invited Bethany Collins, and Tony Lewis has invited Nate Young. Galerie Lelong, 528 West 26th Street, 6-8 p.m. Pictured right: Choose Well, 2016, deconstructed law books, canvas and wood, 68 1/2 × 92 in, 174 × 233.7 cm.
Click the link above to read the full list. While the summer months may signal a slowdown for much of the New York art world, it’s the prime time to find thoughtfully curated group exhibitions in galleries across the city. This summer is no exception, with a strong, varied sampling—from exhibitions for finding fresh, lesser-known names, to an ambitious all-female show, to one blue-chip gallery’s ode to its artist-employees. Find our 15 picks below. “Chicago Invites Chicago” at Galerie Lelong JUN. 30–JUL. 29, 528 WEST 26TH STREET McArthur Binion, Samuel Levi Jones, Tony Lewis, John Phillips, Bethany Collins, Nate Young Paying tribute to the midwestern city as a hotbed for boundary-pushing art, the gallery hosts six Chicago-based artists. McArthur Binion, Samuel Levi Jones, and Tony Lewis, all active members of their creative communities, were invited by Lelong to show their work and also invite a fellow Chicago artist they admire. Pictured right: Choose Well, 2016, deconstructed law books, canvas and wood, 68 1/2 × 92 in, 174 × 233.7 cm.
Please click the link above to read the entire article. Being an artist in America isn't easy, and being a female artist is even more difficult. But from photographers to painters to musicians, women across the country are changing the face of feminism in the art world—and it's amazing. Here are seven totally badass female artists that we'd love to get a coffee (or a drink) with. Mika Horibuchi: I’ve wanted to purchase every piece Horibuchi has produced in the last three or so years for my own collection. Her body of work is enviably curated, and though each piece in a way intends to erase the artist’s hand, you can see Horibuchi’s in every work. Her style appears effortless while also being painstakingly constructed. If her art isn’t enough (and if it isn’t, you can’t be doing it right), she’s also a co-founder of the rad 4th Ward Project Space in Chicago. Other artists listed include: Molly Matalon, Moira Quinn O’Neil, Leah Ball and Chelsea Ross (of FAF), Sara Cwynar, and Meka Jean.
For the entire article: please click the link above. Frieze and the city's other major art meetups in May generated buzz for a new generation of creators and their innovative works. As with the Armory Week that overtakes New York's art world around the first of March, Frieze Week (May 5-8) means far more than just the one blue-chip art fair for which it is named. Rival fairs pop-up in Manhattan and other boroughs (NADA New York, Art New York, Context New York) commercial galleries bring out their best and DIY art spaces do what they can to get some of the attention (and maybe the money) coursing through town. Here are some highlights from the many venues outside Frieze's giant white tent. Alex Chitty Showing her work for the first time in New York at NADA, Chicago sculptor Chitty filled Patron Gallery's booth with assemblages that might initially look like high-end interior design but, on closer inspection, reveal a tantalizing strangeness. Reportedly making many of the "found"-looking objects perched on these shelves herself, Chitty prompts poetic associations by juxtaposing these disparate items, sometimes suggesting a specimen-like presentation informed by her past as a marine biologist. Other artists featured: Lucas Simoes, Mark Delong, Kim Keever, Adam Mysock, Cindy Sherman, David Hendren, Scott Kip, Video Art and Sound Positions
For the entire article: please click the link above. During the micro-cyclone of art shows, apocalyptic ferry rides, and island-induced mental breakdowns of Frieze Week in New York, there is a small voice in our heads helping us along the way, whispering: Just hold on, you’re coming home. Yes, that voice is Drake, and yes, he’s speaking to you over the PA system at Basketball City, the actually-accessible East River pier that’s home to the New Art Dealers Association art fair this weekend, where all your friends are waiting. NADA’s mission has always been to bring the young and independent art galleries, those who may not be able to afford Frieze or Armory booth prices, together under one roof, highlighting emerging artists before their big break. The booths are small but social, where gallerists and artists are in it together—taking shifts, spilling over into each other's spaces, connecting with neighbors. It’s not uncommon to get in a conversation while looking at piece, and soon realize you’re talking to the artist behind it. And then, minutes later, see them out on the patio, covered in tin foil and playing a steel drum, as was the case for artist Tyson Reeder who made a series of limited edition art basketballs in tribute to the venue.
There's no doubt that art fairs can be intimidating. We scoured the booths of NADA and came back with these 10 artists to watch. Artist: Alex Chitty (b. 1979) Based In: Chicago, IL Represented By: Patron Gallery, Chicago What to Know: Alex Chitty began her career as an artist in a college biology lab. She still collects and documents information, except it's no longer of the living variety. Her still-life sculptures often find visual relationships between objects (for example, she pairs a speckled espresso cup and a rock with a similar pattern), suggesting themes of domesticity and design, of objects made important because they're put on display. To read about the other nine artists selected, click the link to the full article above.
To see the other artists chosen for this list, click the link above. From May 5th until the 8th, The New Art Dealers Alliance (NADA), holds the fifth edition of NADA New York at Basketball City, located at 299 South Street on the East River on the Lower East Side. These are the top ten picks amongst other exhibitors, which can be found on NADA’s website. NADA, NY, 2016: Booth #3.15 Alex Chitty Left: “Ptng #12 (Swipe),” (2016). Right: “Ptng #6 (Gordian),” (2015) Photographs by Jongho Lee, 2016.
To see the other artists chosen for this list, click the link above. It's time for NADA New York, the annual fair organized by the New Art Dealers Alliance. Just over a hundred dealers from all over the globe have brought their most stylish artists, young and old and everywhere in between, to Basketball City, on New York's East River. Alex Chitty at PATRON, Chicago Chitty's sculptures might look like assemblages of found items, but the artist, who was previously a marine biologist, crafts every bit of them, from the glass to the ceramics to the metal. They recall a number of other artists out there, but have a spirit all their own, and a strong one. Other artists featured in this article include: Joel Mesler at Cultural Counsel, New York; Kyla Hansen and Max Maslansky at Five Car Garage, Los Angeles; Talon Gustafson at Good Weather Gallery, North Little Rock; Emma Sulkowicz at Kunstraum, Brooklyn; Joe Fyfe at Galerie Christian Lethert, Cologne; Yoshio Shirakawa at Maki Fine Arts, Tokyo; Water McBeer, Brooklyn; Elise Ferguson at Halsey McKay, East Hampton; William Webb and Tony DeLap at Parrasch Heijnen Gallery, Los Angeles and Lesley Jackson, Angie Jennings, and Walter Sutin at SPF15, San Diego
Frieze New York isn’t the only game in town this weekend: New York is buzzing with a flurry of fairs hoping to attract the collectors that swarm to the city to shop on Randalls Island and auction week previews. Scattered across the city and into Brooklyn, these satellite events offer unique experiences to see something unexpected. Here, an overview of the top venues to check out. Collective Design Collective Design seems to get better with age. In its fourth year, the 20th- and 21st-century design fair corrals galleries from 11 international cities under the roof of the Skylight Clarkson Sq, a refurbished industrial space along the West Side Highway. New York shops like Johnson Trading Gallery and Patrick Parrish Gallery mingle with international influencers like Copenhagen’s Etage Projects and Madrid’s Garrido Gallery. Exhibitors take meticulous care with the look of their booths, and it’s a pleasure to circulate around inspecting the fine details. Unlike an art fair, things are touchable: We recommend starting with one of the sibling design duo Fernando and Humberto Campana’s chairs at Friedman Benda or Print All Over Me’s fully committed sky lounge with Various Projects Inc. If you’re looking for a souvenir, head to Sienna Patti’s booth, where Mallory Weston’s graphic pins are available for $20 to $30 each. Through May 8, collectivedesignfair.com. Spring Masters New York Walking through Spring Masters New York feels a bit like an Art History 101 crash course. From polished, Neolithic figurines to crisp Christopher Williams prints, this event, geared toward the secondary market, embraces all types — making for the week’s most varied fair experience. Spring Masters has a more genteel sensibility than its contemporary competition, in part due to its generous layout and low lighting. Erected within the Park Avenue Armory, the fair is organized like a hive, with hexagonal booths stacking on one another. This irregular shape encourages a sense of journey that is absent from fairs arranged on the favored grid system. There are many treasures to find if you’re patient enough to look, including Alexander Calder drawings, rare Tiffany lamps and sizable Marc Chagalls. Through May 9, springmasters.nyc. NADA If Frieze represents the art-world establishment, then the New Art Dealers Alliance (NADA) fair is the rebellious prodigy. Held in Basketball City along the East River, the independent art fair is saturated with contemporary up-and-comers. Outfitted with a noticeable amount of solo booths, the attitude there is go big or go home. Strapping on the artist Rachel Rossin’s virtual reality piece at Signal’s booth is worth the wait, as is a closer look at the handcrafted displays by Alex Chitty that occupy Patron Gallery’s booth. Following Mira Dancy’s eye-catching neon odalisque and site-specific painting at MoMA PS1’s “Greater New York” show, the artist is a welcome sight at Galerie Hussenot with a large, punchy portrait and mirror piece. The video art distributor Daata Editions is also on the scene, with virtual works by artists like Jacolby Satterwhite, Rashaad Newsome and Katie Torn. Through May 8, newartdealers.org. 1:54 Contemporary African Art Fair The furthest afield, 1:54 Contemporary African Art Fair is worth the schlep out to Pioneer Works in Red Hook. In its second New York edition, the fledgling fair offers a place for international collectors to discover new artists and galleries that don’t have a large footprint at other the contemporary fairs. With only 17 exhibitors in total, 1:54 encourages a more intimate viewing experience, and dealers tend to engage with their visitors. African exhibitors like David Krut Projects from Johannesburg and ARTLabAfrica from Nairobi help give context to the continent’s art scene from a native perspective, while European and American outposts like Milan’s Officine dell’Immagine and Richard Taittinger show how these artists are fitting into the global landscape. Don’t be shy about asking questions; the fair’s primary mission is to expand the conversation. Through May 8, 1-54.com.
RECOMMENDED The title of Samuel Levi Jones’ show “Reciprocity” is ideal for a gallery whose namesake is a person chosen as a special guardian, protector and supporter. In this case, Patron Gallery does just that by presenting work sparking conversation around the need to restructure current power dynamics. To do so, Jones uses encyclopedias and law books stripped down to their “skin” to form his raw, gridded canvases. Books commonly associated with authority and knowledge, the artist questions these assumptions by physically dismantling them and rendering them into material support. By surveying the remains of this process, the viewer is implicated in Jones’ cynicism. Encyclopedias and law books are the material manifestation of judicial and academic power, but unlike these abstract notions, these objects can be altered and their physical changes can be seen. These unbound compositions are an all too timely reminder of the long history of systematic disenfranchisement through policies like New York’s racially selective Stop-and-Frisk practices and Chicago’s public school closures. The encyclopedias in the show call attention to the chapters of history omitted from these books, with their pages now literally missing. However, unlike his recent exhibition at the Studio Museum in Harlem, none of the works on display at Patron have visible text, perhaps allowing more flexibility for the viewer to insert their own understanding for the book’s specific content. The only books represented in their bound entirety are an encyclopedia volume in a work titled “Crux” and a law book in a work titled “Cornerstone.” In comparison to the canvases, which bear titles like “Wasting Tears” and “Undulation,” these sculptures seem to be more substantive in title and form; pulped beyond recognition of their subjects yet maintaining more of their original bookish content and form than the hanging pieces. Titling the show “Reciprocity” acts as a call to action for the viewer to take as much action in the restructuring of power as Jones has by revising history, law and knowledge with an urgent, teardown edit-a-thon. (Laura Volkening) Samuel Levi Jones’ “Reciprocity” shows through April 30 at Patron Gallery, 673 North Milwaukee.
Chicago-based Samuel Levi Jones subverts world views perpetuated by old law books and encyclopedias into aesthetically intriguing touchstones for debate. He talks to Rhiannon Lowe as he prepares for his solo exhibition at The Arts Club. Rhiannon Lowe:What led you to start working on issues surrounding the injustices meted out to African Americans in the US? Samuel Levi Jones:I had a great-uncle who was lynched in his (which is also now my) home town in 1930. My father had to learn how to swim in the river as a child during the ’50s, because he was not allowed in the local pool. Then, there’s my own experience of being profiled [by the police], pulled over and harassed, together with the wider and continual marginalisation of any persons due to race, gender or class; it’s all led to my addressing such issues. RL:What is the nature of the books you deconstruct? SLJ:The books are symbols, signifiers of systems of power. The encyclop3⁄4dias represent a form of control of knowledge. I’ve been living with the material of the books after I have deconstructed them; they have been here, lying around on the floor, for a year or more. The material is very specific, especially the law books that I have been working with. The very nature of the material is such that it has a direct link to the things that consume me and I feel need to be addressed. I like coming into my space and it’s all there; I’m living with the material of my practice. RL:Your work addresses societal issues. How can making material canvases in the age of Twitter contribute to the conversation around the struggle for equality? SLJ:Social media may have a louder voice and a broader reach, but it can be confusing. Social media is not always an agent for change. The canvas is not a solution on its own; it’s a gesture that helps with sharing thoughts and ideas. I was aware of the issues that I address well before the existence of social media. Social media informs me of events that are a result of the issues. They are simply symptoms of a larger problem. Most times, the issues that I see in social media anger me. Art calms me down. RL:Have you changed vehicles of expression since you started practising? SLJ:In my early 20s I was connected to the art world by my camera. It was a tool that I used, allowing me to navigate my life events and thoughts. The sewing machine is now the tool of my practice. The work manifests on canvas, which references painting, and the work also reminds me of quilting. There are parallel relationships between art hierarchies, recorded histories and social structures. RL:Books are tactile, odoriferous things, are you happy for people to touch your work? SLJ:I don’t discourage them from touching, no. When people come to my studio, they say it smells like a library. I’m used to it, so I don’t notice it anymore. RL:Your compositions are very satisfying aesthetically. SLJ:Yes, I am looking for that – the political nature of the work to be transformed into a tactile, visually pleasing object. The aesthetic appeal is a way to entice people in and spur conversation. RL:There’s a similarity between the art gallery or museum and the encyclop3⁄4dia – in their separation, categorisation and creation of context. Do you look for a particular political and social context in which to install your work? SLJ:I want my work to be experienced in whatever space it’s shown. I had a show in a non-profit space in Oakland, and someone asked me if I felt that my work had reached a level that surpassed showing there. I said: “Not at all.” Oakland is a politically charged place; there was an interest in having my work there and people were willing to experience it —CCQ Samuel Levi Jones is showing at The Arts Club in Mayfair, London from 13 April – 10 September 2016 samuellevijones.com theartsclub.co.ukwedelart.com
It's been a big year for Samuel Levi Jones. The Bay Area artist was awarded the 2014 Joyce Alexander Wein Artist Prize, and will have his New York debut this spring in Samuel Levi Jones: Unbound at the Studio Museum. We invited his friend and mentor Mark Bradford to interview him at this exciting moment. Jones first met Bradford just over two years ago, when Jones was a newly minted MFA from Mills College in Oakland, California. Jones had been working with encyclopedias as a graduate student he found himself questioning the direction of his work, particularly his choice of material. Bradford encouraged him to continue his investigation of ency- clopedias—advice that the younger artist credits as instrumental to his practice today. Mark Bradford: You were originally trained as a photographer, but now your work has evolved to disassembling objects such as encyclopedias and medical reference books. What precipitated your decision to change course? Do you view this transition as a change or continuation of your interests? Samuel Levi Jones: The camera was an entryway into my art practice. In college, I was introduced to the 35 mm film camera and became fascinated by the whole process of image- making—from composing through the viewfinder through creating the silver print in the darkroom. Even though my recent work has evolved from photographed images to images created from other materials, the process is definitely a continuation of how I previously executed my work. Throughout this journey I have always created as a reaction to personal ideas and experiences within and around me. As my ideas have progressed, it has become necessary to find new materials, and techniques to work with them in an authentic way. The camera no longer serves my current process. It is my intention to work with the best possible medium to express what is going on in my head. MB: What is your relationship to these objects? For example, did you grow up with encyclopedias? SLJ: I grew up using encyclopedias for research. I specifically remember using them in junior high school. I remember these reference books being considered a true source for information, and that some other forms of source material were considered illegitimate. In my use of encyclopedias, I am considering the vast amount of information that never makes it into these objects. Yes, there is a great deal of informa- tion in them, but there is also an entire world of knowledge that is excluded. Through my making I am thinking about the existence of this construct and the cultural ramifications of how we respond and react to it. MB: How has your relationship to the materials you work with changed upon further investigation and work? If so, what was most significant for you? SLJ: In my initial investigation of the encyclopedia during graduate school, I was thinking about the power of the encyclopedia and its reputation as a complete source of information about the world we live in. In the process of flipping through each and every page of this first set of books, I became un- settled. I began removing the formal portraits from each page to create visual juxtapositions between high and low representation. This led to 736 Portraits and 48 Portraits (underexposed) (both 2012). As I was working with only one, black-and- white encyclopedia set, 736 Portraits and 48 Portraits (underexposed) are without color. It was not too long after school that you and I met, and you questioned where I was going with my work. I mentioned that I was considering a complete departure from the encyclopedia material. You challenged me to stick with it and dig deeper. I quickly realized the rich versatility of the material once I began further deconstructing the books. The deeper investigation that came from pushing myself to stay with it has been the most significant part thus far—not allowing myself to settle for one layer of discovery, but rather continuing to ask questions and looking for answers within. MB: How do you source your materials and what is your process? SLJ: A good deal of my material is found via the web. I recently completed a residency at a waste- management facility in San Francisco called Recology. All the material that I used for the work I created there was reclaimed from someone’s trash. I still acquire a lot of my material through purchase, but there is a great deal of it out there that is being discarded. My process consists of breaking down the source material then reconstructing it into some- thing visually interesting in order to generate dialogue about the original material itself. MB: Your work starts with found materials (encyclopedias, reference books, etc.), which are then trans- formed and abstracted. What would you say about the push-and-pull that exists between the abstract and figu- rative elements in your work? SLJ: Visually the work is abstract, but the materials are very concrete. I feel the abstraction is a way of challenging the viewer to spend time with the work and the ideas. I attempt to create the work in such way that the viewer can’t approach it with an immediate reaction of, “Oh, books,” but rather have a many-layered experience. In 48 Portraits (underexposed), I have observed viewers looking at the grid and thinking they are seeing only black squares. Only after they are encouraged to spend more time with the work do they find the figures. The push-and-pull for me is about challenging people to slow down the process of experience, and to look and question. MB: How does your use of the modernist grid format relate to your materials’ content? If the modernist grid declares the autonomy of art, do you see your work in any way removing its source material from the social realm? SLJ: For the most part, the shape of the material lends itself to a grid format. In some of the most recent work I have broken the material down further to get away from the grid a little. These works that do not fall into a grid format are simply about pushing the work visually. The conceptual process of breaking down the material is cathartic, and the reconstruction is more playful. MB: You are an emerging artist who has just been awarded the Wein Prize. How has this newfound recognition affected your work? Has your notion of your personal success changed or evolved over your career, and does it continue to do so? SLJ: The recognition has definitely pushed me to challenge myself more and with greater enthusiasm. I feel that it has created a deeper ambition to continue challenging myself to push my work. My notion of personal success has been changing for a long time. I feel as though I have navigated my journey without particular long- term expectations. That is not to say that I have not challenged myself to achieve some sort of success. I just didn’t know the area in which that success would manifest. I would say that my expectations have evolved. My passion for art did not begin until I was twenty-three. When I moved from Indiana to California for graduate school, my expectation was to have a career teaching photography at a university. I had little understand- ing of what it meant to be a successful practicing artist, or that I would even exist within that context . 2014 Joyce Alexander Wein Artist Prize: Samuel Levi Jones On October 27, 2014, Studio Museum Director and Chief Curator Thelma Golden awarded the ninth annual Joyce Alexander Wein Artist Prize to Samuel Levi Jones. The Wein Prize, one of the most significant awards given to individual artists in the United States today, was estab- lished in 2006 by jazz impresario, musician and philan- thropist George Wein to honor his late wife, a longtime Trustee of the Studio Museum and a woman whose life embodied a commitment to the power and possibilities of art and culture. Inspired by his wife’s lifelong support of living artists, George Wein envisioned the Wein Prize as an extension of the Studio Museum’s mission to sup- port experimentation and excellence in contemporary art. The $50,000 award recognizes and honors the artis- tic achievements of an African-American artist who demonstrates great innovation, promise and creativity. Samuel Levi Jones was born and raised in Marion, Indiana. Trained as a photographer and multidisciplinary artist, he earned a BA in Communications Studies from Taylor University and a BFA from the Herron School of Art and Design in 2009. In 2012 he completed his MFA in Studio Arts from Mills College, Oakland, California. He currently works and resides in the San Francisco Bay Area. Jones’s work is informed by historical source material and early modes of representation in documentary practice. He explores the framing of power by desecrating historical material and then reimagining new works. Jones investigates issues of manipulation and the rejection of control. Building upon the themes found in his earlier work, Jones’s work currently consists of deconstructing found encyclopedias as a means of creating a medium that communicates a feeling of being on the outside, as well as to provide a possible resolution to the search, of an outsider, for a place of inclusion and identity. By literally tearing apart these books—widely published arbiters of authenticity—and reconstructing them into abstract two-dimensional works for the wall, Jones is able to forge a more personal alliance with the materials. It is through this intimate exploration of the materials that Jones is able to delve deeper into his behavior and practice of omission as he removes and fractures information. Jones recently completed the Recology Artist in Residence Program in San Francisco, which concluded with a group exhibition. He has been featured in several group shows in California, including The Histories of Technologies (Jessica Silverman, 2014), Open (PAPILLION, 2014) and TRANSPORT...Where we go from here (Pro Arts, 2013). His work has been exhibited in the Latent Image Gallery, Indianapolis; the Cal State University Gallery; the Branch Gallery, Oakland; the Herron School of Art and Design, Indianapolis; Mills College, Oakland; the Watts Towers Art Center, Los Angeles; and PAPILLION, Los Angeles. His solo exhibition, Black White Thread, was on view at PAPILLION from November 8, 2014, to January 4, 2015. A solo exhibition showcasing his very first site- specific work will be on view at the Studio Museum from March 26 to June 28, 2015.
Usually underrepresented at international fairs, African galleries, artists and curators feature heavily at the current Armory Show thanks to the efforts of this year’s Focus section curators, Julia Grosse and Yvette Mutumba. While not everyone took the theme to heart, some dealers decided to get in the spirit by diversifying their roster. Meanwhile, just down the river at Pier 90, the exhibitors at Volta New York seem to be already on it. A trifecta of booths exploring black identity, in particular, stands out in the fair’s sea of up-and-coming talents. The Museum of Contemporary African Diasporan Arts (MoCADA) booth is covered top to bottom with the work of 25-year-old artist Tschabalala Self. The recent Yale graduate has quickly earned institutional attention for her fibrous take on figurative painting; her piece “Bodega Run” is now on view the Studio Museum, as a part of a group show titled “A Constellation” featuring the other young artists including Andrew Ross and Sondra Perry. Abstracted by her unusual collage method, Self’s images of black women feel simultaneously powerful and fragile. Paradoxes conceived on canvas, the works demand a more engaged look at the female body. Back-to-back with MoCADA’s presentation, the Zimbabwe-based First Floor Gallery Harare shows the wildly colorful figurative paintings of Wycliffe Mundopa, a 29-year-old artist living in Harare, which draw on Mundopa’s love-hate relationship with his hometown. Alternatingly obscured and detailed, his figures are animated by an organic fluidity. The exuberance of Mundopa’s paintings calls to mind Renoir’s energetic cafe scenes where public and private life intertwine. Further afield, one finds the haunting images of Myrna Greene at the Chicago-based gallery Patron. Terrifyingly beautiful, her fractured self- portraits printed on black glass examine ideas of depth and perception on multiple levels. These petite images, hung neatly in a row, encourage close inspection, a rare experience of intimacy amid the bustle of an art fair. With each image a new body part is discovered but the artist’s puzzle is never made whole. On an adjacent wall, Greene’s other photographic experiments look at the body through an equally blurred lens. Using the chemical negative rather than the print, her portraits reduce their subjects to inky shadows, keeping the viewer constantly at a distance. These booth, tied together not by theme but by sentiment, stand out for their dedication to new voices over purely commercial concerns. Lending critical real estate to individual artists with strong, singular visions, they forgo the comfortably familiar recognizable in favor of the bold — an encouraging sign to find at a fair. Volta New York runs through March 6 at Pier 90, West 50th Street at 12th Avenue.
There’s something to be said (and held closely) about quietude in a time when shock and volume are firmly aligned with power and value. It’s something more to explore that power and value, in all its systems and intricacies, through a lens of stillness. But Samuel Levi Jones does it and does it well, in a most thoughtful manner, through his brilliant works on canvas that incorporate the covers of encyclopedias and law case text books. It is this engagement to material, raw and aggressive, that put him in the running for the Studio Museum’s lusted-after Joyce Prize of which he took home along with a cool $50,000 and that brought on solo shows at the Studio Museum in Harlem (opening today) and Indiana’s Museum of Contemporary Art (opening this fall). He’s also in this year’s Mistake Room biennial exhibition. So we caught up with the artist, represented by Papillion, Los Angeles, to discuss his first exhibition in New York, his interest in material, and what that quietude is all for. This is your first exhibition in New York. Can you tell me about Unbound, how it came to fruition, the work that will be on view, and how it speaks to your practice as a whole? I’m extremely excited about my first show in New York being at the Studio Museum Harlem. In late 2014, Naima Keith (Associate Curator, Studio Museum Harlem) and I started having a conversation about exhibiting at the Studio Museum. Unbound is a continuation of the work that I have been constructing from encyclopedias, which is about the exploration of systems of knowledge and power. For this exhibit I chose to use law books, as I felt that it was pertinent to current events. This work is site specific, and the three works are much larger than any of my previous works. Your critical exploration of systems of power and knowledge is the main focus of the exhibition. Can you explain its relationship to materiality and form? Is there a direct relationship to the body? The relationship of the material to systems of power is very direct. I viewed the source material as the system of power. Encyclopedias in particular, contain a vast amount of information, but it is selective, and much equally important content is omitted. When working with the material I think about how the information was compiled and the methodology. I am ultimately thinking about information that is selectively left out. Much of the material I work with are the covers of the books. I refer to them as skins, and they define, and contain, the body of my work. I find the evisceration of text in your work interesting given that you employ books as a symbol of knowledge. Can you talk a bit about this deconstruction and quieting of content? The removal of the text pertains to numerous ideas that are competing for my attention. One thing that I think about are narratives which are not consistent with their contexts and do not fit. Deconstructing the material is a cathartic act as I physically handle these inconsistencies. You stay within a limited color palette. Is this intentional? What is the significance of color within your practice? The color is based upon what the material naturally gives me to work with. It is not intentional unless I choose to do some mixing of the source materials. Most of the time, the color palette is based upon the particular set of books with which I am working. Early in my work, I would typically construct a single piece from one set of books. More recently, I have been experimenting more with mixed materials to keep the aesthetic fresh. The color is not as important as the texture and other qualities of the material. I enjoy the challenge of working with a constantly changing source of materials. Unbound is on view at the Studio Museum Harlem, New York through June 28, 2015. The TMR Benefit Exhibition is on view in Los Angeles through May 9, 2015.
There is no doubt that reality as we perceive it has become a lot more fickle and malleable. Truth has given way to a worrying “truthiness”, subatomic particles float between existing or not with admirable ambivalence, and technology has allowed us, for better or worse, to construct our sense of selves via social platforms. With all of these modern, overly-wrought convolutions of what “it” can be, it is no small wonder contemporary artists have been questioning and prodding how one’s identity can even be properly crafted with such diverse and complex means at their fingertips. This brings us to two exhibitions placed across Brooklyn: first, Real Things About Real Things, which just closed at American Medium, and second, A Subject Self-Defined, which conversely opened recently at TRANSFER Gallery and runs until March 12. So how might these two contemporary exhibitions made by a collection of forward-thinking artists reflect such a transient reality? More importantly, though: would we be able to understand any of it? “I am a character enmeshed within swirling vortices of space-time” the press release begins—the speaker appearing to be the show, Real Things About Real Things, itself, becoming increasingly defined and constrained by the audience’s recognition of the inter-object relationship. Cozily tucked away in Bed-Stuy, the intimate exhibition had its parts and pieces placed about as it encompassed the entirety of the space, the hum of videos and soundscapes filling the air between objects. Just as Rachel Rossin’s piece in the show, Cherry Blossom Shadow, seems to seek complete definition of the flowers by describing both its positive and negative space, the show itself seems to seek the complete and utter definition of this one, distinct identity. The fun part of all of it is the Voltron-like method of combining distinct pieces and guessing which one is what limb. In the moment of arrival, I relied on the standard: study each piece, move along, study, and try not to trip on any of the art. I did, to my relief, find a healthy amount of depth to each piece. In retrospect, however, viewing the whole show as an amalgamated identity proved itself increasingly interesting as each part was enhanced by its role—the simulacra of houseplants; the assemblage of parts that vaguely seem biological; the personality and the empathetic need to leave its mark on the world. (Quite literally for Daniel G. Baird’s pieces of marble dust looking quite like someone playing in the sand.) These all played into various anthropomorphic notions, and whether or not it was intentional, it certainly made the journey home much more enjoyable as I played with each piece of this newfound puzzle. On the other end of the identity-building spectrum, Carla Gannis’ A Subject Self-Defined seemed to directly illustrate a larger identity—in this case, a singular form of herself—via a composite of imagery arranged in a manner familiar to both avid internet users and Italian Renaissance junkies (who just so happen to have a thing for deep abstractions of framing techniques). Whereas the former relied on disparate works by separate creators to network into the final idea of the exhibition as a thing itself, Mrs. Gannis’ exhibition relied on her animated vignettes to illustrate various modes of herself within a mix of contexts. Weaving in between the boards containing these eclectic, projected animations, the illustrated identity assaults you from all sides in a manner similar to any Instagram account or similar image blog seeking to systematically elucidate itself and its place in the world through the content of its imagery. Thankfully, the depth of each image and that they’re curated collections within each board elevates the show above being a nicely-presented Tumblr. (Albeit how high it’s ultimately elevated depends on how much you get out of technology referencing itself.) It’s an interesting dichotomy between the two exhibitions—while both are powerfully aware of their context, Real Things seeks manifestation within the audience’s imagination, whereas Self-Defined seeks to, well, define itself, thank you very much, and will gladly pass on your personal definition and preconceptions of her. While comparing the two, it very much becomes a subjective battle between philosophies of identity construction with no real point of declaring one method better than the other. Admittedly, I rather enjoyed the hyperobject approach of Real Things where the exhibition changes at every angle, but that’s not to say the collection of fantastic and vignettes Mrs. Gannis has collected don’t also allow a deep and interobjective narrative. That being said, as they both approach explaining what “it” is from multiple angles, it becomes easier to tell what works. I found Real Things to be more successful as it approaches the notion with balanced formality and intellect, allowing enjoyment at multiple levels of understanding, whereas the collection at Self-Defined, however, seemed content with throwing a bunch of “weird” imagery at you all at the same time and calling it deep because of the production values. But I’m getting ahead of myself—was the show understandable? Even if I didn’t particularly enjoy the iPads coalescing into a face or other overly self-aware imagery, there still was a strong sense of conceptual cohesion. So, the answer is yes, it was understandable. As much or little as I might enjoy the execution, the simultaneous, animated self-portraits certainly do speak to the notion that we are becoming more enthralled by the complexity and undulating perception of reality. Yes, reality is fairly subjective. Science and social media has shown that perception shifts at every angle like a kaleidoscope, and the formation of perceived identities has been argued about by both professional and armchair philosophers alike. Thankfully, though, these exhibitions are taking that knowledge and doing something with it rather than simply prodding at the edges. The real challenge will be seeing how far they can go, before losing the audience.
Every four months Recology San Francisco’s artist-in-residence program introduces us to talented emerging and established Bay Area artists. Recology’s most recent artists-in-residence, Samuel Levi Jones, Jeremy Rourke, and Shushan Tesfuzigta will be exhibiting the pieces they created from trash out of Recology’s dump and recycling facilities. The artists at Recology are only allowed to use materials they find at the dump site. The exhibit will feature the works that these three artists have created over the last four months. Samuel Levi Jones collected and disassembled medical books and encyclopedias and reassembled the cover materials into grids that appear abstract and two-dimensional. Jeremy Rourke found thousands of photographs, magazines and vintage imagery at Recology’s dump, which he stitched together to create stop-motion videos, and not with photoshop, but with techniques that were available at the residency. As an artist committed to responsible and sustainable industrial design and textile manufacture, Shushan Tesfuzigta found rebar and weaving materials to create chairs, stools and other furniture pieces that were inspired by her mother and grandmother, and global crafting. Although you can tour the Recology San Francisco studios and facilities on a regular basis, it is only at the end of each residency that you have the opportunity to meet the artists who have created the works. Don’t miss this great opportunity to meet the artists! Events: Opening Receptions: September 26: 5pm-9pm September 27: 1pm-3pm Additional Hours: September 30: 5pm-7pm, artist led tour at 7pm Where: Recology San Francisco, Art Studio 503, Tunnel Avenue and Environmental Learning Center at 401 Tunnel Avenue, San Francisco, CA
Habitat is a weekly series that visits with artists in their workspaces. This week’s studio: Mika Horibuchi; Ukrainian Village, Chicago. “Do you see a rabbit or a duck?”Mika Horibuchi asked as we looked a simple drawing that once appeared in a German humor magazine and later found fame after being included by Ludwig Wittgenstein in his Philosophical Investigations as an example of different ways of seeing. It looked like both a rabbit and a duck. “At first, you’re able to see without any sort of pre-judgement,” Horibuchi said. “Then you make a switch cognitively based on the influence of outside information. I’m interested in the cognitive switch that happens in relation to the exterior physical world.” Her labor-intensive paintings playfully explore these inconsistencies, offering up images that are immaculately rendered but slippery. Even as you recognize something, other readings seem to lurk, just out of sight. A work painted atop table resembles a chess set and then a bit of weaving, a painting on linen shows fruit in a tree or maybe a playing card or even a die. Horibuchi originally moved to Chicago from the Bay Area to attend the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and has stayed for the artistic community and number of opportunities that might not be afforded to a young artist in other cities. Economically, she described Chicago as “friendly.” In addition to working as an artist, she also helped found 4th Ward Project Space, an artist-run space in Hyde Park. “It’s a small space that’s based on a foundation of mutual trust with the artists,” she said. “We don’t want to have too much of a curatorial hand in the exhibitions.” Horibuchi is currently at work on pieces for several shows and projects, including a group exhibition atLoudhailer Gallery in Los Angeles this month, a show with Jordan Nassar at LVL3 Gallery in Chicago in the spring, a group show at Anat Ebgi Gallery in Los Angeles in June, and a solo show at Patron Gallery in Chicago, also in June.
Alex Chitty PATRON 673 N Milwaukee Ave January 23–March 5 As the term “intelligent design” already has a use, we should appropriate it for art. It could describe the way artists assign consciousness to designed objects and the way consumers implant personae into mass-produced items. Alex Chitty’s still-life sculptures are sprinkled with this kind of metaphysical power, animating ceramic jugs, mugs, tools, trinkets, and other artifacts. Common and rare, old and new, and natural and faux objects are mounted on shelving in Chitty’s museum of material history—domestically scaled but conceptually aiming to tickle the fourth dimension. Six modular sculptures were born out of one, the mother object, titled The Sun-Drenched Neutral That Goes with Everything (Unit 1), 2015–16, which gives shape, proportion, and suggested function to a set of furniture—their compositions accumulate into clever riddles. It is initially unclear what is handmade and what was found in the desert, but the question—and the visual quest—is part of the installation’s charm. It turns out the metal shelves were welded by the artist, who carved their walnut and oak drawers in a mimicry of high-end furniture and cast in concrete, brass, and bronze the flower stamens and coral. The material reversals have a kind of delightful irony sans cynicism. Some broken things, like a mug’s handle, are repaired while others, such as a splintered wood skateboard in The Sun-Drenched Neutral That Goes with Everything (Unit 6), 2016, are displayed like souvenirs. These curated displays weave a modern folklore about why certain objects come into our lives and how we preserve them with stories. The furniture and knickknacks here reference lifestyle catalogues, where things insist they have a role in your life, re-coded by Chitty in an algorithm of intention and taste we might call intelligent design.
Liat Yossifor is presenting a solo exhibition from February 11 to March 12 at Ameringer McEnery Yohe Gallery. Liat Yossifor's calm yet dynamic grey works convey the very language of painting through every decision, hesitation and fearless swipe, scrape or whisper-soft marking. How did you start painting? I started painting very young, and went to an arts school in Israel prior to coming to the States as a teenager. My grandmother was a painter later in life (after retiring from teaching) and I used to go to her studio in the heart of Tel Aviv and paint with her. I remember an enormous Max Ernst book on her coffee table that gave me nightmares, and thinking that painting is powerful to do so. This will be your third exhibition at the gallery. Your last exhibition titled, Eight Movement, was compared to musical works, for example Bach’s Six Suites for Unaccompanied Cello. What are some of the concepts in your upcoming exhibition? The musical specificity was a writer's interpretation, not my intention. But, the comparison to both music and dance was relevant for the previous show. Eight Movements was composed of time-based performative large scale paintings, where bodily exertion was primary to the process. This upcoming show is of small works that are object-like, figurative, almost clay-like. In this format, the raised surface (of thick paint) speaks directly to the physicality of paint, and the pictorial line in it (made of lines and incisions) has to work itself in relationship to the physical. This part-picture, part-sculpture state is a kind of a double life for these paintings, which is a state that always exists in painting but on which I am placing a magnifying glass. I like to take one or two concepts from the language of painting and use a minimal language to dig deep into it. What was the process for creating these works? For these small works, I did a painting a day, and I scraped most of what I made in order to arrive at a painting that works. Each painting is also many different compositions that were erased during the process. The hardest part of the process is searching for a moment of interest between the pictorial and the sculptural as I discussed above. It's like looking for the painting's own visual logic, one work at a time.
The last several years have seen a surge in young photographers experimenting with process-based work, though few artists immerse themselves as deeply in the nuances — not to mention the volatile chemical reactions — of these labor-intensive processes as Brittany Nelson. She dismantles them, reinvigorates them, and cooks up new recipes to create beautiful gestural abstractions. Several of the large-scale works on view at Morgan Lehman Gallery through February 20 involve mordançage, a negative-reversal process in which a piece of gelatin-silver paper is submerged in a bath of copper chloride, glacial acetic acid, and hydrogen peroxide. The chemicals dissolve the emulsion on the paper and loosen the silver so the surface becomes soft and pliable, a material Nelson can manipulate. Nelson, who teaches at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, scans the resulting images into her computer to preserve them, since the images can continue to change as the chemicals react. It’s a fairly complicated process, so I’ll use Nelson’s own description, which she gave in a Creative Capital presentation in 2015. She calls her project, “an ongoing photographic materials study that is a critique on photographic materials studies.” Nelson thinks of what she does as a critique, in part because she intentionally “misuses” the materials and processes, destroying or changing the metallic compounds in order to create the print. Her approach is not unlike that of Japanese photographer Daisuke Yokota, who creates trippy, colorful abstractions by developing film in intentionally incorrect ways. This allows light to leak in during development and uses acetic acid and boiling water to manipulate the emulsion. In Nelson’s case, the resulting images resemble the surface of a planet, or ice on a windowpane. The largest piece in the show (72 by 72 inches) is imposingly dark, patterned with crystalline threads. In several groupings of smaller works in the gallery, Nelson has experimented with the tintype process, exposing Photoshop screen captures to the surface of the tintype, which becomes a reflective, metallic surface. Versed in digital tools as well as 19th-century processes, Nelson uses the 3D tool in Photoshop to create the floating, slablike images in these works. They are exhibited at a slight angle away from the wall, highlighting their mirrorlike properties. Nelson may be reacting against the apparent ease and immediacy of contemporary digital technology, but her works aren’t old-fashioned or precious. They are informed as much by her playfully experimental approach as they are by photo history. Jean Dykstra is the managing editor of Photograph magazine in New York.
“These photographs offer descriptions instead of resolutions. Readers charged with dissecting coded information, are confronted with their own notions of race.” —Myra Greene Chicago-based artist Myra Greene creates works that engage photography as both an art form and a social-scientific instrument used to objectify and classify people into social types. In her most widely known series, Character Recognition (2006-2007), she produced close-ups of her eyes, lips, nose, and ears in black glass ambrotypes – a nineteenth-century photographic form. The self-portraits closely resembled taxonomic photographs of early anthropologists, criminologists, and psychologists who believed that detailed measurements of the body could reveal signs of individual character. Seeking to connect the imaging practices of racial science to media representations of displaced African Americans from New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, Greene posed the question: “How do we look at black people and recognize their character?” In My White Friends, she considers whether a photograph can capture and depict the nuances of whiteness. Greene’s portraits examine her white companions as archetypal figures, a collectivity, and a racial group. The subjects’ physical bodies and the spaces they inhabit signify whiteness as a complex cultural construct that raises questions about status, cultural and racial norms, and privilege. However, Greene’s sitters are not just anonymous stand-ins for a political and cultural point. Her portraits are also intimate portrayals of people the artist knows well in the places they feel most comfortable. The artist and her subjects such as – D.N. of Chicago standing cross-legged with her shades, polo, and golf club – are at times playfully complicit in a performance of whiteness. More often, they simply exist in the worlds that they have constructed.
Chicago-based artist Alex Chitty sees the world differently than most. Although she’s certainly possessed a creative intellect her whole life, Chitty spent her early professional years in scientific fields. She’s research coral reef ecology, native plants in New York City, and seahorses in the Philippines. It was during her studies of invertebrates that the Miami-born artist rediscovered the unique communicative capacity of the arts. “I realized how much more I could get out of drawing than a direct photograph. I could get inside of it, I could blow it up, I could see multiple views at once,” the artist recalls. “At the bottom of these illustrations, it would say ‘etching.’ I thought, ‘What’s an etching?’” Later, while living in New York and taking etching courses at the Art Students League, Chitty applied her inherently thorough and rigorous curiosity to fine art. “In New York, I was working five different jobs; I was never home. I went to every single art opening, but I never knew who I was looking at or who anyone was. That was a huge influence,” she says. “It wasn’t about any individual artist; it was more about the looking.” Even though Chitty had already begun her immersion into New York’s art world, she still found herself constantly navigating between the fields of art and science. After her stint with the seahorses in the Philippines, Chitty began a residency at the Sitka Center for Art and Ecology in Oregon, and decided it was time to pursue an MFA. The artist relocated yet again to attend the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. While etching was Chitty’s gateway into the fine arts, she spent her time in school making prints and drawings, she discovered that she needed a wider visual language in her practice. “I spent a lot of time outside. It seemed as though to understand what I was looking at, I needed to see it from a lot of different places,” she says. These days, Chitty’s work encompasses a range of carefully combined objects and materials, both found and crafted by herself. “I’m constantly collecting or ‘eyeball shopping.’ Not necessarily shopping from a store, but from eBay, from the street, from thrift stores, other people’s houses. I don’t steal their stuff!” Chitty laughs, “But it gives me ideas. I walk around to see how materials are put together, and the point at which two things meet.” In pieces like of Wood and Other Bodies Petrified (Unit 1) from 2013, the artist placed objects like shoelaces, a wooden baseball bat, black glass mugs, and little rectangles of shining metal like specimens upon a steel and glass shelf. In her work, some objects are unrecognizable outside of their original contexts, becoming only vaguely familiar, abstracted articles. Other objects’ identities are more obvious, although their arrangement encourages a read beyond that of their intended function. On a recent trip to England, where the artist’s parents were born, Chitty counts a conversation with a family member’s new husband as particularly illuminating. When explaining her practice over tea, the man, a puppeteer offered up the term ‘object manipulation.’ “He took the empty teapot, turned it upside down, and started ‘looking’ around the kitchen with it. Suddenly, it became an old man,” she recalls. “Thought, ‘That’s what I do! We do the same thing!’ It doesn’t take much for something to shed itself.” In her January solo show at one of Chicago’s newest galleries, Patron, Chitty plans to manipulate not only objects, but the viewing environment as well. “I’m thinking about the feeling you would have when you come into a space, more so than the experience of an individual piece or set of individual piece,” she says. “It’s more intuitive in terms of how I want to have a person move through a space.” Chitty explains that she hopes her work shifts the way that viewers see the world outside of the gallery. “I want to find a way that a piece can become itself for the viewer. I may have specific reasons for putting these objects in or holding them just so, but that’s all going to sink away when someone else looks at it. I encourage that. That’s my favorite part: thinking about other people thinking about it.”
Today, Artadia announced the 2015 finalists for its Chicago Artadia Awards, which are given annually to artists working in the Windy City. This year’s first-round jurors were Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago curator Naomi Beckwith, Kitchen curator Lumi Tan, and Brooklyn-based artist Sara Greenberger Rafferty. In a statement, Beckwith said of the selection process, “The encouragement, attention, and, of course funds they bring to artists are key in making sure important contemporary artists are given a platform. I’m especially thrilled to serve in a capacity that brings further support to artists in my vibrant Chicago community.” The ten finalists for this year are: Laura Davis Irena Haiduk LaMont Hamilton Paul Heyer Mika Horibuchi Sabina Ott John Preus Terrence Reese Laurie Jo Reynolds Cauleen Smith Later this month, Beckwith will do studio visits with the ten finalists. For those studio visits, she will be joined by RISD Museum curator Dominic Molon and REDCAT director and curator Ruth Estévez. The chosen awardees will be announced during this year’s Expo Chicago fair, which runs from September 17 through September 21.
In front of Oakland City Hall, thirty-three large square collages are hung on two adjacent walls visible from the street through large windows. Neatly arranged in a giant grid, the canvases provide a feeling of order and calm. Upon closer inspection, each canvas consists of sewed unbound book covers in similar tones of pale green, yellow, and olive green. Not a single letter appears on the exposed covers, obscuring any possibility of identification. For the site-specific installation Talk to Me, currently on view at Pro Arts and curated by Patricia Cariño, the Chicago-based artist Samuel Levi Jones skinned and sewed together covers of law books usually found in law firms or libraries. Mounted on canvas, some sections show signs of having been aggressively peeled away from their respective covers, a disruptive act that contradicts the neat order of the canvases. In Talk to Me, Levi Jones continues his long-term exploration of framing power as he deconstructs and reassembles these historical objects in non-expected and nonfunctional ways. In an earlier project, Black White Thread (2014) at Papillion Art in Los Angeles, Levi Jones ripped the covers from encyclopedias and reference books, stitched them together in grids, and mounted them on canvas. Even though the prominence of that installation’s site seemed less intentional, the artwork suggested the texts’ role in producing biased bodies of knowledge. In Talk to Me, the law books are a synecdoche of the U.S. legal system and the federal and state laws as interpreted by the courts. The different shades of leather easily allude to human skin colors, in line with other artists’ works such as Byron Kim’s Synecdoche series (1991-present). As a result, located in front of the seat of the Oakland city government, the injured covers address their labeling powers on humans’ rights and privileges. The tension between the calm order of the grid and the violence of the artist’s process creates a sense of protest. By exposing these worn-out documents to the outside world, the artist symbolically deconstructs the sites of power and history. Talk to Me: Samuel Levi Jones is on view through September 18, 2015, at ProArts Gallery, Oakland. Marie Martraire is a curator and writer based in San Francisco. She is the Director of Asia Programs at Kadist Art Foundation, San Francisco.
Upon entering the Bed Stuy-based gallery American Medium — which sits just off Nostrand Avenue as a peculiar, fluorescent-lit dot in a sea of brownstones and Jamaican digs — one finds oneself confronted with the reverberating sounds of Adam Basanta’s sculpture “A Line Listening.” Arranged as a series of speaker cones, laid out on the floor in the shape of a spire with a microphone hanging above, the work creates a feedback loop that incorporates both the varying timbre of each speaker and the acoustics of the room. The result is a dizzying confusion of cause and effect as the self-perpetuating system finds sonic equilibrium, each noise in the room funneling back into the loop to be played back ad infinitum. The exhibit, Real Things About Real Things, curated by co-director Daniel Wallace, was born out of a conversation he had with artist Colin Self about the immersive worlds created through opera and their parallels with our current digital age. For the show, Wallace sought out artists whose works engage with digitally generated objects and augmented worlds, exploring the potential for the virtual to extend beyond what’s normally seen as physically possible. While the show continues American Medium’s legacy of championing artists deemed as “internet-aware” (their first show was a presentation of Jon Rafman’s translation of his series Brand New Paint Job into sculpture), Real Things About Real Things takes a turn in tackling the ecological writings of philosopher Timothy Morton. Coining the term “hyperobject” to describe massive entities, systems, and phenomena that are so widely distributed, or have existed for such a long time, that we cannot perceive them in their entirety (think global warming or capitalism), Morton claims that we have entered an age in which we are increasingly aware of our inextricability from the so-called “natural world.” In contrast to postmodernism’s obsessive meta-speak, which positions humans (with our unique capacity for abstract thought and analysis) as existing somehow beyond or distinct from our surrounding environment and world, Morton believes that in the age of hyperobjects we are forced to confront the reality that we are deeply entangled with, and even compose, systems that extend thousands of years beyond a single human life and that span trans-continental spaces. In recognizing our complicity in such systems, we are no longer able to extract ourselves from the increasingly obvious presence of phenomena such as global warming. Morton asserts that the age of hyperobjects warrants a new understanding of humanity that recognizes the ways in which we affect and are affected by all that surround us. Basanta’s sound sculpture directly implicates us in such a system, as upon contemplation we come to recognize that our very presence in the room alters the work’s composition, not only in the noises we introduce to the gallery, but in the ways in which the work’s sound waves resonate throughout our bodies to alter the timbre of the space itself. The experience is not unlike that which is depicted in Jordan Kasey’s painting hanging at the other end of the gallery. A towering eight feet tall, the portrait threatens to dissolve into an abstract landscape. Its alien sitter’s face swirls with tendrils of mist, only held together by a crooked knob of a nose, which casts a shadow across an otherwise blank visage. The painting has an uncanniness that appears in many of the works in the show. To the left of Kasey’s painting is another by Rachel Rossin. What appears at first to be a beautiful abstraction, painted first with an airbrush and then overlaid with thick gestural oils, is in fact an observational painting made in virtual reality. Often employing three-dimensional infrared scans of still lifes in her studio, Rossin uploads the data to create corresponding virtual spaces on her computer. She then incorporates algorithms that apply impossible properties to the space, such as colors being assigned varying levels of gravity, to create distortions that make the room difficult to comprehend. From within this otherworldly space Rossin makes observational paintings en plein air, resulting in works that appear atemporal and disjointed, as if seen from another dimension. By toying with traditional distinctions made between background and foreground, subject and object, both Rossin and Kasey’s paintings portray a world in which forms are porous and fluid. Further along the same wall is a series of sculptures by Daniel G. Baird made from cast marble dust. The tactile works appear to be the simple result of a finger dragged through clay, and while this gesture was the starting point of the work, upon closer inspection it becomes clear that the amount of displaced clay gathered around the edges doesn’t match the voids left behind. The immediacy of the marks obfuscates the works’ complex process of 3D scanning, digital manipulation, printing, and casting. The ostensibly impossible nature of the resulting objects point to Timothy Morton’s statement that in our current age “objects seem to contain more than themselves.” Perhaps this notion is found most readily in the sculpture splayed across the gallery’s floor. Managing to make work that is simultaneously conceptual and profoundly material, Alisa Baremboym creates forms that respond to their materials’ haptic qualities. Here, she entangles limp folds of ceramic with vinyl tubing and constrains crumpled steel between straps. Despite the aesthetic nature of her compositions, Baremboym chooses her materials for their conceptual connotations. Understanding ceramics as at the origins of art making, petroleum as quite literally millions of years in the making, and steel as the most recycled material on earth, her works engage with the vast time scales held latently within raw material. A post-apocalyptic, dysfunctional machine, her sculpture conjures both associations of her materials’ use values and something more primordial. In the end, the piece has a Beuysian kind of mysticism, only the materials gain their resonance through their circulation in our capitalistic age Real Things About Real Things is a show about contemporaneity. While postmodernism posited that everything is a metaphor, the works in the show instead challenge us to consider the reality of seemingly impossible objects or situations. My favorite moment is the two-channel video “Reifying Desire 4” by Jacolby Satterwhite. Filming himself voguing outside a Gucci store wearing outfits designed by his schizophrenic mother, Satterwhite occupies the gap his queerness creates between himself and conventional society. Animating the videos to create 3D-modeled versions of his mother’s drawings, computer-generated figures, and augmented limbs, the videos reveal the artist’s subconscious thoughts and desires that he’s otherwise required to contain. The video, like many of the works in the show, suggests that there is more at play than the eye can see. Through processes of digital augmentation and manipulation, American Medium’s show allows us to grasp the shimmering outline of objects that are otherwise out of reach. Real Things About Real Things continues at American Medium (424 Gates Ave, Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn) through January 24.
Mika Horibuchi creates ethereal paintings and sculpture that straddle that tract between perceived reality and illusionism. Last month, The COMP Magazine visited Horibuchi’s west Ukranian Village studio to discuss her thoughts on Patron Gallery’s inaugural exhibition “Theory of Forms”, her fascination with the process of painting, her collaborative efforts with artist Dan Rizzo-Orr, and what she is mapping out for 2016. You are originally from the Bay Area, and came to Chicago to study painting at SAIC. Perhaps we can start with a little background? Are there any specific early events that you see as having an impact on your current contemporary art practice? I was born in San Francisco and moved to Chicago in 2009. Perhaps more than any specific event, my appreciation for the act of crafting from an early age informs my practice today. I had always loved crafting since I was little. That came from my mother who was very good with her hands, an excellent maker of things. I wouldn’t say that I was necessarily a very creative or imaginative kid, I was better at making than playing – making accessories to a game or backdrops to a narrative, or copying images. I made a game out of translating languages and images. I liked the set of instructions that copying something entailed and the labor that was required to fulfill the act. You are currently exhibiting work in Patron Gallery’s inaugural exhibition, “Theory of Forms” along with Daniel G. Baird, Alex Chitty, Kadar Block, among others. Can you offer an overview of the works you presented and summary of how you see yourself connected to the intent of this exhibition? Theory of Forms, as the title suggests, is inspired by Plato’s philosophy that was developed to help us distinguish between the ideal and the non-ideal. What we see in the physical world is a truth that is constantly subject to change, eventually becoming less ideal. In contrast, we see in ideals in our mind with an inherent drive to maintain a permanence of that ideal. Many of the works in Theory of Forms tests our perception of reality through material and image. I am presenting several paintings that can be read compositionally as playing cards. Each painting is formatted with a white border and white peaches stand in the place of their value and suit. Together, they represent a set or the idea of a deck of cards. These works are painted from a mental idea of what a peach or a leaf looks like, relying on a common sense of familiarity with the viewer. They are painted from that perfect archetype that we envision when we hear or read the word, the ideal form. But that process is faulty and a slight betrayal of expectations is at play with reality. The making of these paintings is conceptual but their execution is representative. What do you value in the process of painting? My own process of painting is slow and there is always a slight sense of jeopardy to the fragility of the outcome. But in the actual procedure of painting, I value the steps and labor involved in executing an image. I value the act of translating an image or idea from one platform to another through the process of painting. There is always a gap in that act of translation, that space between looking and perceiving and applying that I try to control. There is an inherent failure in representational painting, in trying to paint something that exists in the real world with conviction, the thing will never be the thing that it says it is. I value the opportunity to reveal the different levels of deception involved in pictorial illusionism. Lets talk about the show, “View with a Room” at Heaven Gallery with Dan Rizzo-Orr. What prompted this effort? Where do you see your works intersecting and diverging? View with a Room was a project that Dan Rizzo-Orr and I had been thinking about doing for some time. It stemmed from our conversations about image making and what it means to read an image within the framework of a specific space. We shared mutual interest in the relationship of painting to architecture and how paintings were initially much more of a central part of the buildings they were designed for and belonged in. Certain aspects of the work for this show were informed and determined by the framework of the gallery. We wanted to make work that was meant to fit into a commonly understood domestic setting, to create fictional narratives and a fake sense of activity between the works. We were interested in how this framework could shift, confirm, deny, or confuse the way we see and understand an image. Dan and my work clearly diverged in our process. We have very separate modes of making and functions of thinking when it comes to the different ways and possibilities of paint to depict and fabricate an image. Can we discuss process? You are working both sculpturally and in two-dimensions (e.g., painting, cut paper, etc.). Are there specific aesthetic areas that you’re investigating? Or perhaps do you see your process embedded in contrasting formal elements while experimenting with materials? Basically, what do you see as the catalyst in your art practice? I essentially paint like a printer, pretty slow but the surface gets one sweep. Layering, overlaying, and building up on the surface are unusual for me. I try not to have a stylistic hand that binds everything together, unless the specificity of an aesthetic style serves a particular function in the project. Much of the experimenting happens prior to the execution of a piece. The catalyst in my practice is always the idea that is the framework for the piece. Both the outcome and systems used for formally illustrating that idea can differ from work to work. Oftentimes, my paintings are a translation of something based in a commonly familiar reality. In the process of making and executing an idea, I try to reveal certain levels of trickery involved in pictorial illusionism. My paintings became more object-like and sculptural as a means to take closer form of the thing that it is depicting. Even with the more sculptural works, I am still thinking of them very much as paintings, just framed or formatted in a different way whether literally or framed by the space and context. Can you share with us what you have planned for 2016? I am currently working towards several shows and projects in 2016. In the Spring, a group show at Loudhailer Gallery in LA and Brand New Gallery in Milan, and a two-person show at LVL3 Gallery in Chicago with Jordan Nassar. In the summer, I will have a solo project opening up at Patron Gallery. For additional information on the work of Mika Horibuchi, please visit: Mika Horibuchi – Mikahoribuchi.com Patron Gallery – Patrongallery.com Interview by Chester Alamo-Costello
Inspirées d’un jeu de carte fantastique dont l’artiste originaire de New York est assez friand, les œuvres de Kadar Brock évoquent le fantasme de la seconde chance. Dans ce jeu appelé Magic : the Gathering, le titre de l’exposition Cast with flashback apparaît lorsqu’un joueur peut réutiliser un sort qu’il a déjà utilisé. L’idée fondatrice est de ressusciter une idée qui a eu lieu dans le passé, de remettre au goût du jour certaines notions de l’Histoire de l’art à travers des références au modernisme, comme le champ de couleur. L’approche de Brock est fondée sur des procédés réflexifs : la façon dont la pièce a été réalisée et les caractéristiques matérielles de la peinture elle-même. Kadar Brock confronte un procédé artistique classique aux outils numériques qui autorisent la répétition à l’infini, une démarche qui en fait un artiste d’importance au sein de la jeune génération, pour qui la peinture est un média parmi d’autres. Au geste du peintre se sont ajoutés ceux des techniciens du numérique comme celui de toucher un écran, en comparaison avec l’action tactile et surtout sensuelle de poncer ou de mouler. La galerie Almine Rech présente des tableaux récents issus de trois séries Cast with flashback cast with flashback, un titre répétitif choisi par l’artiste afin de suggérer que dans l’espace numérique, les choses peuvent muter et se multiplier pendant qu’elles circulent dans les réseaux, ce qui permet dans certains cas de faire renaître d’une façon nouvelle des choses anciennes. Chacune des séries prend naissance avec un tableau plutôt conventionnel et elles ont un liant matériel entre elles : les matériaux obtenus en grattant un tableau sont utilisés pour créer les morceaux de peinture d’un autre tableau, qui est ensuite poncé pour produire une poussière utilisée pour un troisième tableau. Brock rehausse ensuite ce champ en ajoutant soigneusement de nombreuses couches de peinture de base industrielle et de peinture en aérosol. Ces séries sont d’une certaine manière, selon notre point de vue, un hommage aux différentes techniques de l’art, sorte d’univers où tout se rassemble et s’utilise dans une grande communion de la matière et du virtuel. Le tout dans une volonté de créer un espace de contemplation, un colorfield painting à la Rothko. A découvrir dans un air de New York.
Brittany Nelson: The Year I Make Contact at Morgan Lehman JTF (just the facts): A total of 25 black and white photographs, both framed in white and unmatted and mounted unframed, and hung against white walls in the main gallery space. 4 of the works are chromogenic prints face mounted to plexi, and made in 2015 and 2016. These prints are sized 40×40 (in editions of 5) or 72 x72 (in editions of 3). The remaining 21 works are unique tintype photographs on powder coated formed aluminum, and made in 2016. 17 of these prints are sized 5×4 and then variously deep from 1 to 2 1/2 inches; the other 4 prints are sized 24×20, and are either 4 1/2 or 5 1/2 inches deep. (Installation shots below.) Comments/Context: Experimentation with antique and alternative photographic processes has always been a rich part of the history of photography, but in the past decade or so, with the rise of the machined perfection of the digital age, a contrarian interest in reviving these hand-crafted approaches has blossomed. Rather than simply emulating the images originally made with these processes, the best of contemporary works in this genre have extended these arcane and forgotten chemistries in unexpected new directions, creating anachronistic combinations of subject matter, styling, and technical details. Most of the works on display in Brittany Nelson’s new show are tintypes, but not the low cost, easily shared portrait vehicle of the 19th century we might be expecting. Nelson’s works are filled with hovering two and three dimensional white rectangles, sleek computer generated forms drawn from Photoshop screen captures. The clean lines of these geometries float and twist in the dissolving shadowy darkness, further interrupted by the chance washes and the tonal degradations (toward sepia and dark brown) of the process. Many of the works are intimate single blocks that drift in and out of the glowing light, while other larger works capture multiple rendered shapes in various sizes that tumble and fly through the void. And if the conceptual contrast of old process/new content wasn’t enough, Nelson has mounted these tintypes on triangular bases that sculpturally jut outward from the wall, skewing the primary viewing angle. Seen as a series of works hung together, the muted, ghostly images shift and turn in sequence, like they are emerging from fog, their object quality and physical presence becoming important parts of how we address them. Other works in the show unpack the mordançage process, turning enlargements of loosened emulsions distorted by various steps of chemical rising, bleaching, washing, and redevelopment into enveloping, wall-dominating abstractions. The all-over blackness in each of these nuanced images becomes a study in force and texture. In one work, melting lines look like fissures and crackles, the bubbled spots a distant visual echo of the cratered surface of the moon. In another, the chemicals finger out like frost on a window pane, and pool in swirling masses like frozen lakes with foamed edges. And in the largest work (imposing in its monumental massiveness), we are drawn into degradations look like black ice, with waves and swirls undulating across the surface, and tiny cracks, lines, and spots like pinpricks of light decorating the darkness. These are chemical abstractions that are both crisply scientific and infused with a Minor White-style mysticism, where chemistry creates engaging beauty that extrapolates toward the universal. Reanimating obsolete photographic processes runs the very real risk of self-important preciousness, where conscious celebration of the antique takes on a Ye Olde Photography Shoppe kind of backward looking dullness. But Nelson’s works feel freshly contemporary – her dissections of these processes extend them to riskier locales, where their strengths can be applied to new visual problems. Her deliberate mixing of old and new technologies gives these works their dissonance, and that frame-breaking tension prevents the pictures from falling into overly easy process-for-process’s-sake resolution. Collector’s POV: The works in this show are priced as follows. The chromogenic prints are either $7500 or $15000, based on size. The tintypes are either $1800 or $10000, again based on size. Nelson’s work has little secondary market history, so gallery retail remains the best option for those collectors interested in following up.
The Gold Coast pop-up exhibition engages both a viewer's eyes and his sense of humor. "Yes, You're in Heaven" as a name for a gallery show seems to demand to be taken ironically, as a cynical art-world sneer at the declasse smiling herd. No doubt there is a touch of the tongue-in-cheek here, but overall the title is fairly accurate for a show that has exuberance to spare. The work in this Gold Coast pop-up gallery exhibition of emerging Chicago artists, some of them recent School of the Art Institute grads, has an air of bursting forth, an eagerness to engage both a viewer's eyes and his sense of humor. In a delightful Koonsian trick, Jason Guo's An Elementary Meal appears to be a loaf of bread next to a glass of milk until you realize they're made out of aluminum. The untitled sculpture from Lesley Jackson has a similar, though more elliptical, sense of whimsy—the metal pole with a couple of curvy, indeterminate objects stuck to it is cheerfully parodic, an ostentatious tchotchke that appears content with its own uselessness. Margaret Bobo-Dancy's sculpture Transverberate presents a bronze hand emerging from a conch shell, the suggestively posed middle and index fingers dripping a golden goo. Mika Horibuchi's untitled painting, a cutout of a plant sitting on a marble shelf, is itself perched on a marble shelf—a conceit that makes you wonder for a second if you're in a painting, or perhaps you're the missing plant. This bubbly, approachable show may not quite be heaven, but it's joyful nonetheless.
Rather than look back at the close of each year we like to look ahead—to those new talents who are defining art as we will know it. To that end, here we present our annual list of the most compelling emerging artists from around the world. Because we believe that artists are the best assessors of their peers, we’ve asked a select group of established figures who among their younger colleagues they are following. We are pleased to share their recommendations with you. And we are grateful to the following for their nominations. With thanks to: Joe Ahearn, Ramon Maria Beltran, Sue De Beer, Alex Da Corte, Moyra Davey, Nir Evron, Teresita Fernandez, Latoya Ruby Frazier, Ethan Greenbaum, Glenn Kaino, Bouchra Khalili, Tony Matelli, Wangechi Mutu, Jj Peet, Nancy Shaver, Martine Syms, Diana Thater, Roger White Describe your approach. I work with a time-based process that allows me to go after ideas that are both pictographic and automatic.Each painting is worked on within a set time of three days (a single session in a single layer of oil paint), during which I continuously move opposite colors so they eventually result in a gray. I think of a painting as an event; therefore, I do not return to, reconfigure, or layer a painting. During a painting session, I bury marks in fields of mute gray through actions, and navigate the pictorial among those actions. The gesturing often feels contradictory to the minimalism of the gray field, as do the pictorial intentions against the idea of movement. What inspires you? No objects; maybe routines are most inspirational to me. My studio is on Hollywood Boulevard, and I like walking on the Walk of Fame side by side with disappointed tourists. I love my dog; she is my assistant. She breaks down cardboards and paper paint boxes for recycling. I love the California light that showers my studio. What’s on your must-see/do/watch/read list for the coming year? Kelley Walker’s first American survey at the Contemporary Art Museum of St. Louis;“Histories of a Vanishing Present” at the Mistake Room in Los Angeles (a show that looks at the millennial generation’s relationship to identity politics). And apropos of politics and art, I am looking forward to reading Dr. Nizan Shaked’s Synthetic Proposition: Conceptualism and the Political Referent in Contemporary Art. What do you have coming up? I am preparing for three solo shows: at Ameringer McEnery Yohe, New York, in February; Galerie Anita Beckers, in Frankfurt in April; and Patron Gallery, Chicago, in October. I have my first book coming out, titled Movements: The Work of Liat Yossifor, from DoppelHouse Press.
Art and science are like oil and water to a lot of people, but in reality they are more like chocolate and peanut butter — “two great tastes that taste great together.” In the right conditions, they act in tandem to plumb the physical and metaphysical mysteries of existence and advance our collective understanding of life and the universe. “Condensed Matter Community,” a curatorial project featuring work by 34 artists in a variety of media, seeks to spark dialogue about the art/science nexus. Instead of a nondescript white gallery, the project has been installed at the Synchrotron Radiation Center, a recently decommissioned particle accelerator in Stoughton. It’s a visually rich environment, with evidence of past experiments, in-progress preparations for new experiments, and even the random personal effects left behind by scientists who worked there. Once home to the Aladdin electron storage ring, the center was the site of cutting-edge research for 45 years before the loss of $5 million in federal funding forced UW to pull the plug. The synchrotron beamed its final beam of electrons on March 7, 2014. The idea of repurposing the space for a site-specific exhibit came from curators Evan Gruzis and Kristof Wickman, who both hold undergraduate and master’s degrees in fine art from, respectively, UW-Madison and Hunter College in New York. Gruzis currently teaches at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and the Brooklyn-based Wickman is a guest lecturer in the UW’s sculpture department. The two heard about the space when center staff notified the sculpture department they would have scrap materials available. Gruzis and Wickman thought it would provide an interesting context for an exhibition as it transitioned to other kinds of scientific work. “We discovered that there was this amazing history with the site and that there was a lot of space there, and we thought this would be a great time and place to do an art exhibition,” Gruzis says. Working independently of any sponsoring institution, Gruzis and Wickman reached out to their network of artists, particularly those based in the Midwest, to solicit works. They received double what they expected. A wide range of media are represented, including video, sculpture and abstract painting. The themes underpinning the collection touch on the connections between pieces of art and scientific tools; the ephemera of scientific experiments; and the relationship between objects and workplaces. One piece, a 3D-printed prototype sculpture by Tauba Auerbach, is based on the iconic Greek key (meander) pattern, melding technology, history and design. Hand 2 (2014), by Tony Matelli, looks like a finger-streaked dusty mirror, but is actually a permanently fixed composition. There’s also appropriation art, in the form of work by David Robbins, who for several years has been appropriating books by an author also named David Robbins and placing them in various settings. The effect is a fusing of identities, creating ambiguity about authorship. Which David Robbins is responsible for the art if it took the efforts of both guys for the book to land in that particular place at that particular time? “What’s interesting is the pieces being in this context,” says Gruzis. “Some of the work could even get lost in there or blend in or get camouflaged, in a way.” UW senior instrumentation technologist Mary Severson is a beamline scientist who worked at SRC for 24 years. She is in charge of finalizing the decommissioning of the facility and disposing of the equipment, some of which has been sold, some repurposed through UW Surplus With a Purpose, or SWAP, and some recycled. The facility will next be used to manufacture equipment for detecting neutrinos (subatomic particles produced by radioactive decay) as part of the Deep Underground Neutrino Experiment, an international project based out of Fermilab (the particle physics accelerator located outside Batavia, Ill.). Visitors to the art exhibit can also view the massive ice drills and neutrino sensor. The Synchrotron Radiation Center is located at 3731 Schneider Drive in Stoughton. A public reception is slated for Saturday, Dec. 12, 5-8 p.m. The exhibition can be seen by appointment for about four weeks afterward. All of the artwork will be documented and made available at condensedmattercommunity.org.
The palette of Liat Yossifor’s new paintings is calm, cool and collected. Soothing grays predominate, ranging from whisper-soft tints as delicate as a mourning dove’s feathers to steely shades that would be at home on a battleship. The lines, swipes and scrapes that rip across the fleshy surfaces of her deliciously intimate oils are fierce, furious and fearless. Made in the moment, with no thought of nicety, much less refinement, they take desperation beyond the point of no return. The combination of tasteful gray and mad fury is quietly riveting. At Angles Gallery, it draws viewers into a world where the rules do not apply yet everything makes more sense than usual — and is often astonishing. Imagine someone trying to make a figure drawing by running her fingertips through the glassy surface of a small pond or a large puddle. The tiny wakes made by her fingertips’ swift movements create lines that immediately disappear, leaving agitated traces but nothing that lasts: no substantial forms, definitive marks, clear boundaries. Now imagine someone capable of moving so fast that she can nearly complete a figure study in the split seconds it takes for the water’s surface to return to its original smoothness. That is exactly how Yossifor’s exhibition, “Performers From a Future Past,” feels and functions. Each of its six large and 12 small paintings seems to have been made in a matter of minutes, if not faster. The swift swipes of her palette knife — both its spatula and handle’s end — create ghostly traces that nearly disappear into the vagueness of the gray that she favors. Like echoes or clouds that seem to depict images, Yossifor’s evocative abstractions suggest barely perceptible faces, figures and vehicles. Some appear to be bandleaders or agitators screaming through megaphones. Others recall acrobats, musicians and dancers, alone and in close-up or crowded together in distant groups. No matter where Yossifor’s apparitions seem to swirl out of nothingness, they quickly disappear, fading into memories that just might be unforgettable.
Congratulations to Brittany Nelson (Photography ’11), who recently received a $50,000 Creative Capital Grant for her project, Alternative Process. Creative Capital funds innovative moving images and visual art projects and artists from across the country. This year, they funded a total of 46 projects – selected from a pool of more than 3,700 applicants. According to Nelson, “Alternative Process involves removing the silver from darkroom paper, using photographic chemicals to create form without a subject or a camera, finding the integrity in an unrecognizable material, and transforming the metallic properties of historical photographic processes. For this body of work, Nelson selects excerpts from her experiments with photographic materials, then creates hi-res scans to capture the highly toxic and constantly changing state of the material. The results are large-scale images presented in a tableau style. Processes such as Tintype, Daguerrotype, Mordancage and Halochrome will be explored thoroughly and in a way only allowable through the merging of chemical and digital technologies.”
Kadar Brock’s debut solo exhibition, on view at the Hole, features abstract paintings that are the result of buffing surfaces, scraping, collecting, and repurposing stray materials. They’re beautifully damaged objects, full of vibrant detail. In addition to his signature large-scale pieces—created by sanding down surfaces marked with flashe, oil, acrylic, house paint, and spray paint—this suite of new works includes ones constructed from studio leftovers and debris, arranged on canvas like so much colorful confetti. “They’re pretty randomized,” Brock told me. “The material is from all the paint chips I’ve culled while deconstructing the sanded works—those gestures and brushstrokes are entirely de- and re-contexualized.” This sort of artful recycling is also apparent in a medium-sized work, equal parts sculpture and painting, entitled residuumii. “As I work on the larger pieces I collect the dust that’s sanded off of them, and then cast it into a slab of Hydrocal,” he explains. “It’s another reconstituted painting: Same basic materials, different configuration. I like these ritual processes that turn around my relationship to mark-making—and how info is inherently, like an aura, maintained in paintings after that turnaround.” Brock’s exhibition is on view in conjunction with one by Kaspar Sonne, featuring paintings that look like they’ve been burned and dynamited off their stretcher bars. Does he, I wondered, feel like he’s part of some new generation of painters, pushing the medium forward by destroying it? “I see it as we’re setting up rituals and actions that make painting the result of something almost performative,” he surmises, “but not in some genius-arena-autonomous way; more in a ‘labor labor every day’ kind of way.”
In 2007, photographer Myra Greene had just finished “Character Recognition,” a collection of images of her face printed through a historical photographic process called ambrotype on black glass. The project sparked a conversation with one of her friends about race. “My friend really honestly said to me ‘they’re really beautiful, but I just don’t feel comfortable thinking about blackness,’” Greene told Art Beat during a recent phone conversation. That remark propelled Greene to ask “Well, don’t you think about whiteness?” The resounding “no” flabbergasted the artist. “Race is such an important measure of visuality and photography to me and how I see photographs.” So Greene embarked on a project to see if she could “portray whiteness.” “The title ‘My White Friends’ took a while to concretize, but I started out saying I’m going to photograph my friends, my mentors, my peers in a demonstration of whiteness, not necessarily portraits, but them demonstrating some aspect of whiteness in a visual way.” Greene would spend time with her subjects and together they would work to find the right style for the portrait, choosing a location and clothing. Eventually, the pictures became almost a performance. “People are playing specific shades of their character, but it’s not necessarily their whole entirety in any way, shape or form … It’s the scene, the environment, the gesture, the color, the light that all come together to describe, not necessarily that individual person, but whiteness.” While the images depict different aspects of Greene’s descriptions of whiteness, the title is imperative to understand how the images relate to each other. “It has a tinge of shock factor for a group of people to be described that way. I think without the title you wouldn’t look at these pictures as just flat out portraits and discuss their successfulness only based on that idea,” said Greene. “For me, the photographs are a combination of both the people and the gestures and the environments that these people sit in. If you just view them as portraits, you might not see what kind of environments support the people in the pictures or house the people in the pictures. I think it’s crucial; it’s the context in which to read the photographs.” Greene has come across people who argue that one cannot describe whiteness in a photograph, but she doesn’t believe that’s the case. “Why not? Many people who come from otherness would describe whiteness in a photograph. Race is a part of every photograph, but when is it invisible and when is it visible? it seems like a really basic question, and for me to have everyone recognize race all the time is a way to even out the responsibility of the conversation.”
Dispatches from an alien microscope, experiments from a secret laboratory, images of Jove’s gaseous belly. Chemistry is the main character in Brittany Nelson’s photographic works, which experiment with elaborate techniques like silver gelatin emulsion and mordançage. The latter of which is a complex process, cited by Louis-Philippe Clerc in the book La Technique Photographique, and that became applied art only in the 60s with Jean-Pierre Sudre. Similar to Polaroid emulsion lifts, mordançage produces a "degraded" and seasoned effect on Brittany’s photographs, where the whites stand out surrounded by yellow or bronzed "veils". You can admire them in person at David Klein Gallery in Birmingham, Michigan.
EMBOSSED CIRCLES OF matte black silicone form a constellation through which barbed projectiles burst, extending beyond the limits of the round form filling the 10-foot-square relief. The unwieldy circles come together through a false impression of repetition. In the oxymoronically titled BlackSun (2013-14), artist Adam Pendleton (b. 1984) reimagines a drawing by the late musician/poet Sun Ra, creating a work that is enveloped and consumed in a metaphor of darkness. Blackness in abstraction, as we find in Black Sun, shifts analysis away from the black artist as subject and instead emphasizes blackness as material, method and mode, insisting on blackness as a multiplicity. In this sense, we can think of what it does in the world without conflating it—and those who understand blackness from within a system that deems them black, that is black people—with a singular historical narrative or monolithic subjectivity. Glenn Ligon was in the vanguard of this shift, and other artists of African descent, including Steve McQueen, Jennie C. Jones, Ellen Gallagher, Rashid Johnson and Samuel Levi Jones, have realized black abstract works. Before them, Barbara Chase-Riboud, Melvin Edwards and Jack Whitten did as well. Blackness, in the fullest sense of the word, has a seemingly unlimited usefulness in the history of modern art. One need only think of Jackson Pollock and the influence of black culture on his painting through his engagement with jazz music. Within abstract painting made in the U.S., Frank Stella, Robert Rauschenberg, Mark Rothko and Ad Reinhardt have created canvases in shades of black. Perhaps these artists were marking their exhaustion with painting or indicating a turn toward a new phase in their art-making, or perhaps these works were solicitations to the viewer to pursue the illegible and the unknowable. For more visit http://www.artinamericamagazine.com/news-features/magazine/blackness-in-abstraction/#slideshow-4
She started dismantling photographs around 2006, as a student of Christina Z. Anderson at Montana State. She had lots of acid and copper chloride and hydrogen peroxide laying around, and stacks of photo paper, and a secret drive to be a mad scientist. She continued at Cranbrook outside Detroit, in the MFA program. Hmm - what if we just remove the silver gelatin emulsion from the paper? What happens then? And maybe re-stick it over here, on another piece of paper? And then expose it to UV light, in increments? Or maybe quench it in different redevelopers, for different times, and take notes on everything? Welcome to the art of Brittany Nelson, featuring mordançage, or gelatin relief as some prefer to call it. One of the few alt-photographic methods to have developed in the last century (along with chemigrams) rather than the previous one, it was mentioned at least as early as 1927 in Louis-Philippe Clerc's La Technique Photographique, but didn't receive much attention among fine-art photographers until Jean-Pierre Sudre rediscovered it in the 1970s. While most applications have been possibly a bit too mundanely representational for Brittany's taste, she was pulled in by the endless possibilities for permutation of the variables, and for the pure physicality of the process. You have to get very close to the materials for this kind of thing to work, and the bad part is they are largely poisonous. As a refresher, let us recall the basics. A silver gelatin print is placed in a bath of copper chloride, glacial acetic acid, and hydrogen peroxide, which does several things at once: the print is bleached, the emulsion (mainly in the black areas) is gently loosened, and everything becomes soft, mushy and mobile, depending on the length of the soak, the H2O2 concentration, and so forth - some of Brittany's variables. The CuCl2 acts as an etch and mordant, which has a further consequence of promoting color shifts upon re-immersion in developer. At this point the image can be reorganized, the bleached areas can be left white or not, the options are many. For an excellent overview see Anderson's page on unblinking eye, extracted from her essential Experimental Photography Workbook. Jalo Porkkala has an outstanding bleach-etch page too on his Vedos site, where he runs you through actual examples of the possibilities, but one has the feeling that even he leaves off early, refusing any deep confrontation with materials at the exact moment where Brittany's odyssey begins. What can we say of the images she has given us thus far in her young career? It's as if they were lab reports from another planet, the result of tweaks of a strange parameter: wisps and banners of emulsion streaming and foaming, pointing to processes beyond our knowledge. She goes to lengths not to be gestural, but in vain. She is curious and obsessed and it shows. The payoff is beautiful. For more on Brittany, visit her website. Notice too that, like others who work in mordançage (it's a niche activity, definitely) she scans her fragile, diaphanous work, to create the relative permanency of a digital file from which she makes chromogenic prints, truly monster ones. New York would be fortunate to see these some day, and richer for it.
Liat Yossifor’s recent monochromatic portraits shift politics into process, clashing the tradition of modernist color-field painting with a conceptual concern about identity and invisibility, the body, its place in history and conflict, and the true depth of surface. The work features images of women performing aggressive, confrontational stances. Most of the models are Israeli with an actual history of service in the armed forces. Like sisters or soul mates, sources of desire and conflict, these women are mirrors for Yossifor herself, who did not serve in the Israeli military due to the fact that she moved to the States as a young teenager. Together, painter and subject trace a diaspora of women through hypothetical subjects, which straddle the two extremes of engagement. Together, they imagine a community of women who confront the legacies of their bodily conscription to inherited causes while at the same time refusing the violence of their own representation. For the viewer, the subject of Yossifor’s work is mysterious; at first, the canvas appears, at an angle, as brushstrokes on a monochromatic surface. But, under a particular light, at just the right angle, the subject appears—slowly, magically or suddenly, depending on the trajectory of one’s approach. The palette of this series is serious, earthy and rich: Venetian reds and Mars brown, flesh tones, warm whites and lamp black. These are colors that refer primarily to the body—hair, skin, pupils, the inside of the mouth, as well as the abject and dissolving places beyond the surface of the skin. With the assistance of her models, Yossifor makes a new kind of self-portrait, engaging a process that is at once painterly and social. She uses the monochrome to tweak the viewer’s idea and perception of difference, to see what isn’t at first visibly there through contiguous and homophonic gestures. The stroke of the brush is the fall of the hair, the wrinkle in clothing composed by the very brush-fibers and the hard-edged lines are the shape of the defiant mouth, closed against opening, to create a surface on the brink of speech. The red attracts, but like a training manual, it holds information: it is coded, meant to be read. As critic Ann Eden Gibson has suggested, traditional monochromatic painting can be a rich site for thinking about "difference," if the work is read against the grain of standard art historical interpretation. Rather than considering monochromes as some kind of pure materiality or metaphysics, she posits these works as telling "a history of attempts to escape the phallocentrism of language, the violence of representation and the control of bodies marked as different." Yossifor’s program is similar: a subtle insistence on the plurality of her "grounds," affecting a metaphysical crisis by paralleling the specifically female bodies pictured there with the conditions of their materiality in paint. Demanding, proud, engaged—the image reveals itself. Where at one moment very little can be seen, now the gaze is direct. But then the figure itself starts playing tricks on the eye. Between her body and her pose, where exactly is the figure of the woman? Between her body and the background, what is the differentiation between her image and the ground she came from, between "her" and her "motherland?” The works suggest the embedded nature of this particularly gendered "feminine" conflict, and at the same time, or perhaps as a result of such circumstance, the invisibility of this struggle. In Yossifor’s case, "painting" remains a verb intimately tied to this process of revelation. To see is the goal of her laborious work. Imagining and sketching each figure repeatedly in a series of meditative acts, Yossifor accumulates brush strokes on her monochromatic panels until the female figure is literally drawn out from an undifferentiated background. The working time for this process is only a few intensive days, a solitary act by the artist concentrating her will and her vision while her paint is still wet. The apotheosis of this activity—what Reinhardt, for example, considered to be the end of painting itself—are Yossifor’s black paintings. This is a focus of the body only reserved for such serious acts of training as the practice of the Zen master, the martyr, the spy on a reconnaissance mission. Here Yossifor works the material paint into a figure through known and repeated gestures. In the black pigment her hand must see what her eyes cannot. Every stroke disappears into the abyss. It is here, in the condition of a not knowing, that Yossifor finds her subject. Reversing and confronting the historically-loaded anti-Semitic idea of the "blind" Jew, who cannot "see" the "light of Christ", Yossifor rescues and redeems a body marked abject, not just by material conditions but a belief system whose faith centers on eternal questioning, investigation and re-reading. Nothing is a given in the ancient Talmudic system, and from Nothing emanates everything. Because her subject matter appears only to the person who is willing to approach the painting, Yossifor’s phenomenological strategy makes the act of seeing it part of the rigor also required of her viewer. No longer a self-sufficient object, the meaning of the work is shifted outside the frame. The paintings exist only upon engagement: they train the viewer to contemplate their materiality as products of history, presenting a surface moment that only composes itself because it has been suspended in the varnish between presence and disappearance. The instant when the figure becomes visible, stepping out of the void in confrontation and recognition, marks the coincident moment where viewer and painter converge across time to overcome a unique and momentary blindness. "Abandoned in the middle of the road, feeling the ground shifting under his feet, he tried to suppress the sense of panic…as if he were swimming in what he had described as a milky sea, his mouth was already opening to let out a cry for help when he felt the other’s hand. Calm down, I’ve got you."
PATRON Gallery is a new space, taking over Shane Campbell Gallery’s previous space on Milwaukee Avenue. For its inaugural exhibition, Julia Fishbach and Emanuel Aguilar brought together eleven artists. The artists in the exhibition include: Daniel G. Baird, Kadar Brock, Alex Chitty, Mika Horibuchi, Samuel Levi Jones, Matthew Metzger, Bryan Savitz, Kristen Van Deventer, Nick van Woert, John Patrick Walsh III, and Liat Yossifor. These artists were brought together through the relation they all share to Plato’s Theory of Forms. Briefly, these artists all explore manifestations of concepts into physical reality and explorations into interpretations of reality. The gallery itself is divided into two distinctive spaces that reflect two equally distinct types of work shown. Upon entering the space, it is made apparent that this first space is devoted primarily to work that simulates reality through material manipulation. The second focuses on a more traditional view of trompe l’oeil. Through these eleven artists, we see how trompe l’eoil can continue to challenge reality. When I first came into this exhibition, the idea of “trompe l’oeil” was a dated ploy used by artists. Theory of Forms transforms this notion into one that moves seamlessly from manipulation of material to simulate non-art materials to perfected pictorial representation. Our reality is not as clear cut as it may seem. What seems to be tree bark may or may not be real. These artists brought together in this new space allow us to question our interactions outside this space. Is anything as it appears? How to we determine this?
The Memory of Time: Contemporary Photographs at the National Gallery of Art, Acquired with the Alfred H. Moses and Fern M. Schad Fund, through September 13, 2015, explores the complexity of the medium’s relationship to time, memory, and history. Seventy-six works by 26 international artists will be presented at the Gallery for the first time. “The advent of digital photography has shattered enduring notions of the medium as a faithful witness and recorder of unbiased truths,” said Sarah Greenough, senior curator and head, department of photographs, National Gallery of Art, Washington. “For now everything in a photograph can be fabricated; nothing need be real. Photography, once understood as verifying specific facts, capturing singular moments of time, and preserving explicit memories, is now recognized to have a multifaceted and slippery relationship to the truth and to the past. By embracing this complexity, contemporary artists have placed photography at the center of a renewed discussion around the construction of history and memory and the perception of time.” Divided into five sections, The Memory of Time examines work made from the early 1990s to the present by artists who explore these complex issues. The first section—”Traces of History”—presents works by photographers who share a fascination with history, including early photographic techniques. As demonstrated by the 2012 daguerreotype For Allegra, from the series “My Ghost” by Adam Fuss (b. 1961) and the ambrotype self-portraits created by Sally Mann (b. 1951) between 2006 and 2012, these artists draw on our collective knowledge of visual and cultural history, and even our knowledge of antique printing processes, as a way of employing the past to shape their present work. The second section, “Time Exposed,” examines photographers whose work gives form to the literal passage of time as well as moments of historic and cultural change. As exemplified by Vera Lutter’s (b. 1960) Ca’ del Duca Sforza, Venice II: January 13-14, 2008 (2008), a breathtaking photograph of Venice made over a period of two days, these artists work against the modernist attraction to speed and instantaneity and deliberately plan their exposures, which often extend over long periods of time. Two long exposures of drive-in movie theaters by Hiroshi Sugimoto (b. 1948) further investigate this theme while simultaneously evoking a bygone era. Many contemporary photographers are deeply intrigued with the idea of the archive, the subject of the third section of the exhibition. In “Memory and Archive,” artists such as Sophie Calle (b. 1953), Deborah Luster (b. 1951), Susan Meiselas (b. 1948), and Carrie Mae Weems (b. 1953) exploit archives as repositories of information and material that can be reexamined to challenge personal and collective memories, calling into question what is remembered or forgotten by history. The fourth section, “Framing Time and Place,” examines how photographs—by artists as diverse as Idris Khan (b. 1978), Andrew Moore (b. 1957), Mark Ruwedel (b. 1954), and Mikhael Subotzky (b. 1981) and Patrick Waterhouse (b. 1981), can make the past vividly present through the depiction of urban vistas and landscapes. For example, Ruwedel’s project, Westward the Course of Empire (1994–2007), records abandoned railroad lines in the American West in order to create an “inventory,” as he has written, “of the landforms and ruins created…by the European occupation of the continent.” The final section, “Contemporary Ruins,” features work by Moyra Davey (b. 1958), Witho Worms (b. 1959), Christian Marclay (b. 1955), Alison Rossiter (b. 1953), and Ruwedel that critically examines both literal ruins as well as obsolete, ephemeral objects to reflect on photography’s connection to impermanence and deterioration. From abandoned houses to abraded pennies, these photographs speak to the power of ruins to warn of the inevitability of change and death.
Mika Horibuchi was born in 1991 in San Francisco, California, and received her BFA from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 2013. She currently lives and works in Chicago. She is the co-founder and co-director of an artist-run gallery space, 4th Ward Project Space, located in Chicago’s Hyde Park neighborhood. Tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do. I have lived in Chicago for over five years and can happily call this city my home. I am a painter. I have an ideal studio space, which I share with Dan Rizzo-Orr that I love and work in every day. My paintings center themselves around an obtuse sense of realities and fictions. They exercise human perception and notions of the fake, the real, and preconceived ideas that orchestrate how we see and look. Familiar objects and surfaces are all divided by this sense of reality and fiction. Existing between these two mechanisms, my work aims to hide and reveal itself simultaneously, often acting a screen. What are some recent, upcoming or current projects you are working on? I recently closed a two-person painting show, View with a Room, with Dan Rizzo-Orr at Heaven Gallery, which I was very involved with for the first several months of the year. I am currently working on a few different projects and exhibitions, the most immediate one being Complementary Width, a group exhibition at The Franklin. And as always, I am working alongside co-directors James Kao and Valentina Zamfirescu to develop 4th Ward Project Space. How did your interest in art begin? My initial interest in art can be attributed to my mother who is not an artist, but is very much a maker. Seeing her fix and create things with her hands made me want to imitate. My interest in art definitely began from this intuition to want to craft using my hands. One invention you wish existed? This definitely would not be a radical invention, but I just really wish a better train system existed in Chicago. Favorite place to shop? My favorite place to shop is either eBay or Amazon. What other artists are you interested in right now? I am currently looking at (or have been interested in for a while) artists Naama Arad, Hreinn Friðfinnsson, Laurent Grasso, and John Wesley. What do you collect? I recently started collecting lapel pins as accessories, and also things. What’s your favorite thing about the city? The strong alternative gallery scene in Chicago is one of my favorite things about this city. I think it is quite unique to Chicago and it is thriving. Other favorite things about Chicago include the Art Institute, Garfield Park Conservatory, and the Niles King Spa (just outside of Chicago). What is your beverage of choice when working in your studio? Water What do you do when you’re not working on art? When I’m not working or working on art in my studio, I am usually crafting at home, doing some kind of handwork or fixing furniture.
Liat Yossifor’s new paintings pulsate to the beat of examined life. Below the Eye, the title of the recent series, alludes to the physical eye, the mind’s eye, and the way these paintings pull the viewer below the perceptual, the rational, or the given, into a creaturely realm where seeing and knowing uncouple. If this territory is alive, it is also melancholic. Pulling us below the eye, tearing open the wounds of possibility, these paintings lay bare “the expression of the expressionless, a crying from which the tears are missing.”1 It would be rather convenient to hang the feeling world of Below the Eye on the artist’s experiences of life under siege on ancient land. Yossifor was born in Israel and emigrated to the United States just shy of her sixteenth birthday. In Israel, memorials to the unknown, the fallen, and the heroes stand while human victims and “heroes” fall. In Below the Eye swimmers are as frozen as statues and statues are as animated as human beings ready to die for a cause. Official culture perpetuates collective enchantments. These paintings pierce the political, social, and cultural skin of war, death, and commemoration. They depict creaturely life—life before political, social, and cultural expression, life beside these forms of expression. Crying without tears. In the tradition of Giorgio Morandi and Philip Guston, Yossifor is a painter’s painter. To look at the work of a painter’s painter is “to recreate it, feeling in your wrist and fingers the sequence of strokes, each a stab of decision which discovers a new problem.”2 Yossifor begins by combining her source material—photographs of monuments, painted battle scenes, imagery that strikes a chord—into new compositions. With paintbrush she sketches outlines of these compositions onto prepared panel. Hand then leads the eye as she works in a wet on wet technique, transforming oil paint into figure, ground, form, and texture. This technique requires her to work swiftly, close to the panel. The predominately dark palette raises the challenge of creating form and content intuitively. Whether small or large in size, these paintings are monumental in scale. They are mutable in two senses: in them we see both the process of making and an appearance that shifts according to lighting conditions. Like the art of Morandi and Guston, Below the Eye repays extended looking. Painting is the experience of the painting—for the artist, and for the viewer. It’s difficult at first to perceive the subject of these paintings. This difficulty arises from the close interplay between medium, technique, palette, and subject. Extended looking disentangles figure from ground, but as in optical illusion, figure and ground, shape and stroke, vie for primacy in perception. Effectively, I perceive subject but I do not see it apart from surface. As subject renders surface and surface renders subject, I am inside the painting’s world of illusion, trapped in its snare. As my capacity to recognize through difference wavers, the paintings extend recognition. This complication and extension of recognition ushers in imagination and perception. I believe I see a body in that inky field in The Swimmers (2008). Why is it there? Is it in motion or are those strokes building up its form? Is there something else, something I can’t make out? What does it mean? These paintings make me look. They afford ample imagination. They solicit and defy perception. Expressiveness arises in the very nature of depiction. The wet on wet technique lends primacy to the hand and full weight to expression in the process of making. What is depicted is no less expressive. Yet depiction encompasses more than style and subject. It also refers to the way painting engages the imagination and recognition unfolds in the viewing experience.3 The very look of Below the Eye complicates and extends recognition. The vital energy of the brushwork, the nihilistic palette, the viscerally uncertain subject matter, all these address me, engaging my imagination and eliciting a sense of reflection on my part. In the aesthetic response feelings awaken but nothing adds up. The paintings reverberate. For more visit: http://x-traonline.org/article/liat-yossifor-below-the-eye/
Theory of Forms at Patron Gallery We start, fittingly, with Theory of Forms, currently on view at Patron Gallery—a new space headed by Emanuel Aguilar and Julia Fischbach, former Directors at Kavi Gupta Gallery. The Platonic nod in the title, while it certainly applies to the work on view—a collection of painting and objects that employ trompe l’oeil, material malapropisms, and other challenges to the paradigm between the shapes works take versus the concepts they propose—is also done on a very basic level of the exhibition itself. Theory of Forms is aware of its status as a group show. Curatorially, it strikes every chord, featuring 11 artists under the broad guise of including work that challenges reality. This of course is a wide field, yet the view of the exhibition remains focused and steady, reaching a balance between quotational references to art history and the optical function of the work. The installation is economical and straightforward, relating small to medium-scale pieces to one another in an airy and buoyant manner that could leave the seasoned viewer wanting for something more extravagant. But this exhibition is a slow burn, and what it lacks in the awe-inspiring multiplicity and grand gesture of an installation such as Rosenkranz’s, it rewards with closer looking. It is well worth the effort. One of the first pieces the viewer encounters is a painting of the sea by Daniel G. Baird, a two-sided picture encased in a glass vitrine. The treatment of the surface is photographic, its other face material—covered in a texture of sand. The mechanism of the installation combines the image and the potential experience of the sea to make a whole that is never viewable at once. Here, it stays suspended in separation. As in other works in the exhibition, there are a series of clues within the image or the form that indicate a mediated experience. This is not a space for the singular; the singular no longer exists in an image-based world. In the age of integrated networks, one has to challenge Plato: while we can accept that yes, reality is the shifting entity, constantly changing through perception and context, how different are our ‘ideals’? In the second gallery, a collection of paintings by Mika Horibuchi lines the wall, mirroring the composition of playing cards. Instead of diamonds and hearts there are soft and voluminous snow-white peaches, peaking out from a wall of crisp green leaves, gently rendered to achieve a level of sameness on the surface of the painting. Textually, these paintings are “read,” ushering with them a string of aphorisms whose echoes lightly hum in the viewer’s ears: luck of the draw; painting the roses red; wild card; follow suit; she has it in spades. These words, of course, are fantasies, but serve to underscore the paintings’ otherwise anxious relationship to the concept of tranquility—while the images seem serene and entirely convincing, their form places them in jeopardy. Horibuchi sets us up; our chips are all in, but what are we playing for?
RECOMMENDED Alex Chitty once said in an interview that she arranges found objects in her work so “they seem to have always belonged together.” On display in Shane Campbell Gallery’s domestic project space, her sculptures look very much at home. Chitty’s work dominates the show but her minimal assemblages fit right into the cool aesthetic of the apartment “gallery,” which has no open hours or attendants. Viewing the show by appointment only makes seeing the exhibit more of an experience. One of the first pieces you see upon entering the main room is Chitty’s “Ptng 11 (Slip),” an oak frame hanging above the couch with cotton rope and a brass ring strung horizontally across it. On the opposite wall hangs Bradley’s “Night Swimming,” a three-dimensional miniature replica of the building’s swimming pool. Two black lines run along the bottom of the pool, beautifully mirroring the black powder-coated steel frame of Chitty’s nearby sculpture, “30 Second Sparrow (Unit 2).” Resting on the dining room table, the black frame of the piece encloses coral and a piece of oak. Both artists, who hold MFAs from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, made incredibly site-specific pieces. In the bedroom, Chitty has placed a small gold stand on the night table, standing in reflection to the complementary gold-wrapped Ferrero Rochers that the Campbell Gallery usually leave for guests. Near the entertainment center, she has placed a stack of glass tumblers near a bottle of Bulleit Bourbon. The tumblers are fused together, making it a little more difficult to help yourself to a drink. Bradley’s pieces are a departure from his more masculine installations, which often feature pizza, beer cans and home improvement supplies. Here tiny details inform his miniatures, from a cat statue to golden leaves littering the empty pool. Anyone who has wondered what the purpose of art is, or has lamented beauty for its lack of utility, would do well to see this show. The pieces make this domestic space a delight to be in; it is entirely agreeable to imagine living amongst such objects. Through November 28 at Shane Campbell Gallery, Lincoln Park, by appointment only.
BY JO LORD Special correspondent On Friday, the Iridian Gallery at Diversity Richmond opens “Old School, New Rule” with a free public reception. The show features the work of six LGBTQ+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and questioning) artists. Capital One, which originated the show in June (Pride Month) lent the show to Diversity Richmond. Well-known Richmond artist Aime Oliver curated the show. It includes work by Lora Beldon, Terry Brown, Brittany Nelson, Chris Norris, Matthew Phillips and Linda Voreland. Michael Pierce, a John Tyler Community College faculty member, is chairman of Diversity Richmond’s gallery committee. He said that the artists “bring a unique perspective to art by pushing past personal comfort zones and the limits and expectations of their chosen media.” According to Bill Harrison, executive director of Diversity Richmond, the gallery’s new mission is to open a new show every quarter. Shows will either feature LGBTQ artists or be based on themes related to their community’s experience. The opening reception will be held from 7 to 9 p.m. Friday. The exhibition runs through Nov. 21 at 1407 Sherwood Ave. Hours are 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Saturday.
Myra Greene grew up in New York, where she was used to being around people of different races. But as she embarked on her photographic career, her work and travels took her to places where she was the only African-American. And she knew it. “I’m always thinking about race,” she said. “I recognize it when I’m the only black person in a room. My white friends will notice I’m the only black person, too. But they don’t notice a room full of white people.” They might now. “My White Friends” is a series of some 50 portraits of — you guessed it — Ms. Greene’s white friends. Shot in color, and posed to the point of performance in some cases, the images delve into questions of race and self-perception. She did them hoping to spur a conversation on these issues, which have been part of her work for a while now. In fact, the project had its roots in “Character Recognition,” a series Ms. Greene had done shortly after Hurricane Katrina. She had been aghast at how some of New Orleans’s black residents were left to fend for themselves or worse and made a series of black-glass ambrotypes, taking glistening close-ups of her facial features. “How do we look at black people and recognize their character?” said Ms. Greene, 36, who teaches photography at Columbia College in Chicago. “Do we recognize character just by looking at the shape of a nose or the color of skin?” When she exhibited the work, she was struck by a comment a good friend made to her. He loved the images, but felt a little uneasy. “He told me ‘It’s a weird thing as a white guy not knowing how to think about this stuff,’ ” she recalled him saying. “‘Am I fetishizing it?’” “I asked him if he thought about whiteness, and he said no,” she said. “That’s when I decided to do a project on photography and whiteness.” For more visit: http://lens.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/05/22/some-of-her-best-friends-are-white/?_r=1
Daniel G. Baird was born in 1984 in New Jersey. He is currently living and working in Chicago, IL. He received his BFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and his MFA from the University of Illinois at Chicago in 2011. He recommends everyone skydive at least once in their life. How did your interest in art begin? DB: My interest in art began sometime in middle school after my family got our first computer. I became fascinated by 3D modeling programs and taught myself how to use them to make things. I would model objects and render them in the modeling program’s default renderer. To take these things out of the contour lines that showed its shape, the program would place the object as if it was in a totally black room with a single spotlight above it. When I was in high school I made paintings. I began to paint images that were of subjects in a room with a spotlight above them that faded into a black background. I only recently realized this connection between the 3D modeling program and the paintings I had made after a visit home for the holidays. I think I could say that it was in these that I began to make works that I could call my own and that were not reproductions of other masterworks. I suspect it was also this experience of making virtual objects that has led me to working in sculpture as I do now. What materials do you use in your work and what is your process like? DB: My process is rooted in research. I am interested in the history of objects and the tethered meanings that come by way of their use. Experimentation also plays an important role in my work. I try to work against my initial impulses for how things should look and twist it in an unexpected way. I like to reference the idea of an object through reproducing how it is constructed. This generally consists of using direct references of scale and proportion of already existing structures and things. Physically, I like to use specific materials for the direct historical ideas and meanings that come attached to them. The use of the Vehicle Assembly Building’s structure, its scaled down nature, the clad faux-marble facade and its title after the Greek mythological character Endymion are all different materials to me. I consider the description of a “material” to be a slippery one. 3D scanners, marble dust, colored plastic, a rock from Frank Lloyd Wright’s Unity Temple, bird wings, 3D renderings, clay, broken computers, airplane parts, silica desiccant, or iridescent diffracting foil used to deter birds are some of the materials that interest me currently. What kinds of things are influencing your work right now? The Lascaux Cave replicas, taxidermied birds, Pareidolia, touchscreens, contrails, mythology, bird feeders, future artifacts, the form of capsules, Felicity, CA, the feeling of spring approaching, disembodied airplane wings, anything broken that is produced by Apple, scaffolding, skateboarding deterrents, 3D printing, 3D scanning, Oriented Strand Board, light stands, the pantheon, sun tunnels, thrift stores, kid drawings, Acanthus plants, Yucca Mountain, hardware, the future. What are some recent, upcoming or current projects you are working on? I am currently working on a large series of pieces that I have been referring to as “pulls.” They are plaster works that I mold then cast in a white Carrara marble dust and resin or have 3D scanned into a computer. They are created by making very simple hand gestures into a malleable material and vary in proportions from the size of a hand to the length of a body (roughly 71”). They are very surreal and almost primordial. I have been collaborating with my good friend Haseeb Ahmed for the past couple of years on a project we initiated in Maastricht, the Netherlands at the Jan van Eyck Academie. It is called Has the World Already Been Made? and is a diverse project that culls together 1:1 molds of architecture and objects from around the world, physical fragments of historically significant works of art and simultaneous performances to produce site-specific installations. I feel that this project as a whole embodies the description, “dimensions variable.” What do you do when you’re not working on art? I try to skateboard as much as I can. Go on adventures to seek out obscure places, camp, hang out. I internet a lot. And I try to read often. If you hadn’t become an artist what do you think you’d be doing? I was a pretty dedicated baseball player when I was younger. If not art, I think I may have tried to pursue baseball for as far as it would have taken me. What’s your absolute favorite place in the city/the world to be? The otherworldlyness of the gypsum deposits in the White Sands National Monument outside of Alamagordo, NM has a special place in my heart. Other places of note would be anywhere around Joshua Tree, a particular backyard in Miami, FL, and in my studio on a rainy day. If you could go anywhere in the world where would you go and why? Astronauts speak of this feeling of understanding the wholeness of the world and the interconnectedness of everything after the experience of seeing the world as an object that could fit between your fingertips. This “overview effect” is something I would like to feel physically by way of seeing the earth as a small marble.
Propped against the wall of her second-story Hollywood Boulevard studio, three of Liat Yossifor’s gray paintings—each about seven feet by five feet—in various stages of completion sit perched on low wood supports. Yossifor’s high-ceilinged studio feels spacious, if rather austere; other than her paintings, supplies, a table with tools, and an old paint-stained leather sofa, there is little else. Yossifor’s 2010 show at Galerie Anita Beckers in Frankfurt, Germany, featuring figurative work made during her residency at Frankfurter Kunstverein and in large part as an exploration of her deeply felt connection to German Expressionist painting, was her last body of identifiably figurative work. On her return to Los Angeles, Yossifor expected to resume where she left off in Germany, but in 2011, with three months to go until her solo show at Angles, she scraped the paint off every canvas and started over. Liat Yosifer, Detail of The Rider, 16 by 12-inches, oil on linen, 2014 Liat Yosifer, Detail of The Rider, 16 by 12-inches, oil on linen, 2014 It was during this period of compressed production that Yossifor intuitively arrived at the process she now uses, painting in three-day sessions while the paint is still “open.” Yossifor’s gray paintings are most easily identifiable in connection with AbEx and the New York School. She advances the idea that as she makes large gestural sweeps with a palette knife, or even small, incisive gashes in the surface of the paint, she imbues the painting with some kind of emotive meaning. She shies away from associations with Lucio Fontana, who slashed his canvases, but there is more than a hint of trauma in her works. They encrust both a battle with the medium and within herself. A more recent affinity is the similarity to Gerhardt Richter’s squeegee paintings, in which he obliterates his initial lively color fields using custom tools. Robert Storr considers Richter as having decoupled the hand from the gesture. Unlike Richter’s systematic and rectilinear movements, Yossifor’s motions are anchored in her body, even through her use of palette knives. As she works the surface of her paintings, she obliterates multiple layers of possible visual outcomes. She rejects stopping short of working the canvas for three days, even if it means, as it often does, entombing successful abstract pictorial solutions or compositions in favor of a cycle of writing and rewriting a painting’s surface. Yossifor often refers to her painting in terms of a personal struggle combined with an aesthetic one. Liat Yosifor, Figure-II, 20 by 16 inches, oil on linen, 2015 Liat Yosifor, Figure-II, 20 by 16 inches, oil on linen, 2015 While Yossifor’s current work is abstract, there remains a figurative element. “I know that I can’t ever completely empty the shape. That’s about pure abstraction.” Instead, she says she is putting her shape in the painting. This is borne out in the thickness of her surfaces, the multiple folds of paint tucking under or lapping over, like flesh. She likens her work to Gutai artists grappling with mud or to the photos of Ana Mendieta covered with plant matter and the works where she left impressions of her body in the ground. Often Yossifor develops three or four paintings at once, oscillating her movements between them. “There are bodies in there, in a sense,” she says; multiple viable works exist in each canvas as reflections of her body, even her psyche, within a reverse archaeology of pigment. Sometimes present in the discussion of Yossifor’s work, and perhaps a way to account for the heaviness and struggle inherent in her painting, is the fact that she emigrated from Israel as a teenager. But she rejects a reading of her work as being a direct response to any one thing. She brings all of herself, including the fluidity of her sense of identity, to the studio every day. Rather than her paintings containing references, she prefers to think of references passing through her work. She encodes the paintings’ content, concealing it under layers, thus rendering it esoteric and deeply personal. All images are Courtesy of Ameringer | McEnery | Yohe Gallery New York, Photography by Gene Ogami
Brittany Nelson Showing Beautiful Pieces--Created With A Little Help From Chemistry--At Art Miami Via David Klein Gallery
Brittany Nelson, an artist originally from Great Falls, Montana, often uses non-traditional methods and materials in her work. Of course, there is a long tradition of using non-traditional materials in art so perhaps she IS being traditional. She will be showing her work via David Klein Gallery at Art Miami 2013 December 3-8 in Booth A-5. Nelson’s work begins in the dark room and has, at its roots, experimentation with the chemistry of photography. “The work is initially created with analog materials in the darkroom. I've been experimented for several years with a chemistry combination that oxidizes the silver in black and white darkroom papers” says Nelson. “It was initially used in the late 19th century as a reversal process for film negatives. I've been cataloguing all the variables capable in this technique over several hundred experiments/prints.” She is interested in the notion that in order to create these images she has to destroy the function and most costly component of the material—the silver. “Particularly since silver is at its highest cost and the photographic material is becoming more costly and precious. The original prints are toxic, and constantly shift in color and appearance. I scan them at very high resolutions and the finished piece is a large-scale chromogenic print,” she says. “This functions to leave behind the nostalgia of the darkroom by putting the pieces into a tableau photographic dialogue, and also the shift in scale to allow the viewer to examine and experience the material as not previously seen before. “ Nelson is interested in creating a “formal” experience for the viewer. She wants them to stand in front of her pieces and have a visceral reaction to the relationship between body, form, color and texture. “And by doing this with purely photographic processes and material. I'm also a fan of the idea of mystery in a piece, that the viewer is not sure what it is they are looking or how it was made,” she says. “The only clue is that the tag lists it as a c-print, placing into photography but they are no longer looking into an image space captured by the camera but instead examining the surface of the material.” Over time Nelson has removed representational images from her work (“representational images” are things; a person, a chair anything you might see in the real world). She also stopped taking photographs. “ (I) instead focused on finding any integrity the material in experimental or alternative photography possess on their own. Paired with imagery, they've fallen into a point of crisis where they've become no more than an analog Photoshop filter,” she says. “I find the history and possibility of alternative process amazing, but find it odd that the capabilities have never been fully explored outside of their traditional use. I'm very interested in the idea of misusing materials but also removing the romanticism and nostalgia surrounding them and replacing it with very calculated chemistry experiments.” When asked about her “artistic future” Nelson makes you want to share a studio with her (well, except for the “toxic chemical” part). “My immediate artistic future involves a Dickie's jump suit, a full face respirator, some toxic chemistry and a one- person dance party in my lab. Slightly more long term plans include several large pieces exhibited at Art Miami with David Klein Gallery (Detroit),” says Nelson. ”And also the showing of a large 6x6 ft image during Frieze New York this May. I'm currently still working on the long term experiments re-purposing and destroying analog based materials as well as many side projects that are still in development stages. Extended long term plans are always the same: don't die and make as much work as possible.” Nelson was in Miami with David Klein Gallery last year as well and found it to be a rewarding experience. “Art Week is crazy. As an artist I think it is invaluable to be able to see so much work, from so many well established galleries around the world all in one spot. It's overwhelming, but I love overwhelming,” says Nelson. “It's an exhausting assault on the senses. From a non artist perspective Miami goes all out on this event. There are amazing free concerts, events and parties everywhere. It's thrilling how much the city embraces the art community.”
Riveting new work by Samuel Levi Jones, at Papillion, is hot and cool at once, the result of aggressive action as well as a deliberate, formal intelligence.This isn't the only polarity at play. Jones generates several different varieties of friction, all of them fueling the work's quietly rumbling charge. Based in the Bay Area, Jones practices a kind of muscular abstraction bolstered by conceptual heft. He tears the covers off encyclopedias and reference books and stitches the surfaces (face-in) together in grids, which he then mounts on canvas. The skins of the books are scarred by the violation: Shreds of the cardboard used in binding cling to the fabric, and edges run raw. Many of the works resemble the unfinished backs of quilts, all exposed seams and loosely hanging marginal material. "Hematoma" (71 by 59 inches) is divided vertically, the left half an amalgam of black book covers and the right side slate blue. The grid structure emanates an air of order and regularity, while each individual component, each damaged relic, testifies to a dynamic act of force and disruption. Every cover is its own distinct landscape of ruin, scabbed and scraped. The titles of the books are barely visible: "The Annals of America" and "World Book." In rending and flaying these particular volumes, Jones symbolically dismantles their ostensible authority. His protest is a general one against, it seems, such totalizing histories, with their partial perspectives and gross exclusions. By not taking more specific aim, Jones lets formal qualities -- visceral immediacy, textural complexity and damage-driven process -- carry the bulk of the work's metaphorical weight. One stunning monochrome piece, a neat grid of Encyclopedia Britannica covers, all dilute rust, brings to mind the post-minimal, sallow resin grids of Eva Hesse, as well as the evacuated library conjured in Rachel Whiteread's Holocaust Memorial in Vienna. These pieces also tap into a history of scrap-built textiles, and notably, the tradition of found-object assemblage. Such sculptural repurposing has an affecting temporal dimension, a vague aroma of the past inflecting the sensory mix. Jones received this year's Joyce Alexander Wein Artist Prize, a major recognition from the Studio Museum in Harlem, where he will have a solo show in 2015. His work has integrity, not just in the sense of authenticity but also internal consistency. The physical gestures of its making, the notion of empowerment at its core, and its tremendous tactile vigor are all mutually reinforcing. Evocations of the body, too, are manifold: bodies of knowledge, bodily injury, disembodied skins. Jones harnesses the twin forces of destruction and creation to generate these works of defiant beauty. Papillion, 4336 Degnan Blvd., (323) 642-8402, through Jan. 4. Closed Monday and Tuesday. www.papillionart.com
Friday, September 25, 2015 - 6:00pm to Thursday, October 15, 2015 - 5:00pm Opening Reception: Friday September 25, 6:00 - 9:00pm The Chicago Artists Coalition is pleased to present, sketches for something bigger/brighter/wider/higher, a solo exhibition with new works by BOLT Resident, Myra Greene. Over the course of the past three years, Myra Greene has explored her complex cultural connection to African fabrics with sketches for something bigger/brighter/wider/higher. Investigating ideas of materiality, craft, modernism, abstraction, decoration, and identity, Greene manipulates these fabrics into multiple forms. Photographs and quilts express her experimentations with scale, perspective, depth, and symbolism. Myra Greene was born in New York City and received her B.F.A. from Washington University in St. Louis and her M.F.A. in photography from the University of New Mexico. She currently resides in Chicago IL, where she is an Associate Professor of Photography at Columbia College Chicago. She received an Illinois Arts Council Fellowship in Photography and has completed residencies at Light Work in Syracuse New York and the Center for Photography at Woodstock. Greene's work has been featured in national exhibitions in galleries and museums including The National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C, DePaul Museum of Art, Williams College of Art, The New York Public Library, Spelman College Museum of Fine Art, Museum of the African Diaspora in San Francisco, and Sculpture Center in New York City (2003). Her work is in the permanent collection of Museum of Contemporary Photography in Chicago, Museum of Fine Arts in Houston, The National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C, and the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City and The New York Public Library.
Art fairs often take their personality from the city in which they are being held. The previous years have defined EXPO CHICAGO as a generous fair, proud of its artistic scene but also adventurous, therefore in perfect harmony with the “Sweet Home Chicago” spirit. The night of the opening, for the forth edition, EXPO CHICAGO had however lost its panache and, except for a few details, was similar to any international art fair. From the rumors heard in the halls, the main reason of this uniformity was due to the disappearing of the Chicago style hot-dogs, served as “petit-fours” the previous years. For a complete stranger to the Chicagoan spirit, this element would seem trivial when in fact it is crucial. This “Chicago Style” gives a little more soul to the fair, personifies it in a way that Expo could not exist anywhere else than in Chicago. Past the sadness, it is now obvious that EXPO CHICAGO had become an important contemporary art fair, living up to the ambitions laid up the past three years. Among the 140 galleries on site, the photographic galleries followed this orientation in showing less vintage works. Robert Koch gallery was starring Trent Davis Bailey, recent winner of the 2015 Snider Price. Martin Weinstein Gallery, with the exception of an magnificent and intense vintage portrait of the boxer Mohamed Ali by Gordon Parks, focused on the new Alec Soth Series, Songbook, and the work of the fashion photographer Cass Bird. Edwynn Houk gallery was featuring contemporary work of Abelardo Morell, and great classics of American color photography from the 1970s, among them Stephen Shore and Joel Meyerowitz. Some of the most brilliant pieces were featured by contemporary galleries, which were not showing exclusively photography. To echo the title of Charlotte Cotton’s book, Photography is Magic, —that she launched during the fair—many exhibited photographers this year were revealing the “magic” qualities of photography, its capacity to create optical games, to transform the representation of the outside world, often in taking back old techniques, from the cyanotype to the photogram. The Chicago photographic community aligns with this contemporary scene. At Andrew Rafacz gallery, the fascinating piece Sun/Sky by John Opera, a cyanotype on linen, was on view. Higher Pictures, gallery seen at Expo for the first time this year, will exhibit his work soon in New York. Recently created in Chicago by the two previous directors at Kavi Gupta, Patron Gallery was exhibiting a photographic piece by Alex Chitty in correspondence with her sculptures. Not to mention Clarissa M. Bonet, a local artist, who was showing at Catherine Edelman Gallery a 60 by 60 inch large format photograph from her Series Stay Light, a digitally constructed collage made of several buildings’ images shot at night. For More Visit http://www.loeildelaphotographie.com/2015/09/29/festival/29802/expo-chicago-2015-emergence-of-a-major-contemporary-art-fair
In its fourth edition, EXPO Chicago has shown considerable institutional growth, adding new programs and publications, and expanding from 125 galleries in 2012 to 140 from 16 countries in 2015. A few months ago, signs promoting the fair popped up all around the city, boosting expectations for art lovers. Although EXPO is open to the public for just three days, the week of September 14-20—now referred as the EXPO Art Week—is one of the Chicago art scene’s busiest times of the year. Collectors, artists, and curators from around the world meet in the Second City for scores of events built up around the EXPO centerpiece, among them: gallery openings, gala benefits, lectures, curator-led private tours, and performances. Hunter Reynolds, Survival AIDS – ACT UP Chicago – A Revolution, photo weaving, 2015 A real highlight of this year’s fair is the site-specific installations, with large and performative works located in and around the Navy Pier. These curated projects are part of the IN/SITU and EXPO PROJECTS initiatives including works by emerging and established artists represented by 2015 exhibitors: Daniel Buren, Amalia Pica, Hunter Reynolds, Jason Salavon, Dan Sullivan and Edra Soto, Hank Willis Thomas, Jim Rick and Ryan Alexiev, Iñigo Manglano-Ovalle, Jessica Stockholder, among many others. In the overwhelming environment of this and any art fair, with a majority of abstract and geometric art, Hunter Reynolds’ project Survival AIDS – ACT UP Chicago – A Revolution caught my attention. Located on one the side hallways, next to the restrooms, this project is hypnotizing and harsh. Reynolds, a visual artists and AIDS activist, created three wall-sized panels made of photo collages of scanned newsprint of articles on AIDS and material from Positively Aware, a not-for-profit HIV/AIDS treatment journal published by Test Positive Aware Network (TPAN) in Chicago. Here, Reynolds uses archival material from the ACT UP collection at the University of Chicago and the private collection of Chicago HIV specialist D. Daniel S. Berger. One panel features a photo of the artist dressed up as his alter ego, wearing his AIDS Memorial Dress with 25,000 names of people who have died from HIV/AIDS. There will be a performance by the artist on Sunday, September 20. Dan Sullivan and Edra Soto, DominoDomino, 2014. Inlaid Corian on Jatoba Wood, 30 x 30 x 30 in. Installation View. Courtesy of Morgan Lehman Gallery Another EXPO PROJECT of note is Dan Sullivan and Edra Soto’s DominoDomino where the couple, also founders of The Franklin, meticulously crafted a jatoba wood table with corian inlay, inspired by the cement domino table common to Puerto Rico. Interested in building relationships and friendly environments, Sullivan and Soto’s installation evokes a game room where friends and strangers are both invited to interact. Garth Greenan Gallery’s sparsely installed booth at EXPO Chicago 2015 Victoria Gitman, Untitled, 2015. Oil on board. 8 1/4 x 12 inches. Signed and dated, verso. Courtesy Garth Greenan Gallery A surprise was the almost empty booth of New York Gallery Garth Greenan. What seemed to be a space to critique the art market was in fact the calm space needed for three wonderful and delicate works by Argentine artist Victoria Gitman who recently had a show at the Pérez Art Museum Miami (PAMM). These three works, one on each wall, are incredibly naturalistic oil paintings representing beaded and fur vintage purses that the artist finds in thrift stores, flea markets, and online. The paintings force the viewer to get near the work; the proximity might create not just a visual experience but a tactile one where one imagines touching the canvas or the actual purse. I was greeted by the artist herself who generously took the time to describe her work: “They are small abstractions.” The geometric patterns in the purses remind her of canonical artists such as Sol LeWitt, Joseph Albers, Kazimir Malevich, and Mark Rothko. Charlie James Gallery, EXPO Chicago booth 2015 Alex Chitty, Ptng # 8 (U), 2015, painted steel, brass, chromed steel, cotton and screws, 33 x 26 x 2”. Courtesy Patron Gallery The fair's EXPOSURE initiative comprises 29 younger galleries that present one or two artists each to showcase emerging contemporary art. Patron, a gallery that opened this week in Chicago, has a small booth but presented compelling works by artists Alex Chitty and Kadar Brock. Aspect/Ratio went for a solo booth presentation of Desirée Holman, featuring her captivating three-channel video Sophont. Charlie James Gallery calls attention with an installation of light signs by artists Jennifer Dalton and Steve Lambert. San Juan’s Gallery Roberto Paradise presents colorful wall artworks by Texas artist Caroline Well Chandler. Carrie Schneider, Reading Women: Abigail reading Angela Davis (An Autobiography, 1974), 2013, 36 x 30 in. Courtesy Monique Meloche Kavi Gupta’s EXPO Chicago booth 2015. Mickalene Thomas signing her book. Three other booths were particularly welcoming: Tokyo’s MA2 Gallery and Chicago’s Monique Meloche and Kavi Gupta. Uniquely memorable was a work by Japanese artist Ken Matsubara who projects a white paper flying with the wind into a white book. Monique Meloche's booth included works by Ebony G. Patterson, Karen Reimer, Cheryl Pope, Carrie Schneider, and Abigail DeVille. The artist Mickalene Thomas was sitting next to her work, signing her recent catalogue at Kavi Gupta. Seeing so much art at once is, of course, exciting and overwhelming. But it’s the interactions at events like EXPO that make them truly remarkable: when the gallery owner, the artist, and the collector come together and relate to each other. EXPO Chicago continues through the weekend. For the best of what’s to come, check out the EXPO Weekender guide here. —Ionit Behar
The Creative Capital Retreat took place two weeks ago now, and I’m still thinking about it. Nearly every year the organization invites grantees from their latest grant cycles to give seven minute presentations on what they have or will do to a room full of professionals. This year, though, was more emotional than usual. Ruby Lerner, Creative Capital’s Founding President and Executive Director announced she would be retiring earlier in the year, and it’s her vision and guidance that has helped make Creative Capital so unique. With the help of the Warhol Foundation, a strong board and staff, and a robust philanthropic community, the granting agency has done more to help artists than almost any other I know. It’s not just that artists receive a $50,000 grant—though that’s certainly helpful—but that they get access to an incredible array of professional development programs. This retreat is their flagship event. In my experience, Creative Capital grantees often make work that is socially and politically engaged and/or an uneasy fit within the commercial gallery or film world. The exceptions are often superstars, funded well before they rose to the top of a more traditional art world circuit. (Theaster Gates and Cory Arcangel are just two examples of many.) Typically, I spend the next few days frantically posting about every amazing presentation I saw. This year, that wasn’t possible, so I’m trying something a bit different: I’m drawing my posting out for as long as possible. Every Friday I’m in New York during the month of August I’ll be discussing some of my favorite works. Let’s get started. Mlle Bourgeoise Noire Mlle Bourgeoise Noire Lorraine O’Grady Every time Lorraine O’Grady‘s ongoing performance as the glamorous debutant wearing a gown made of white gloves comes up I get shivers. Mlle Bourgeoise Noire bombed New York gallery openings and museum events in the early 80’s as a means of forcing a conversation about the segregated art world.“That whole segregated art worlds business was such an unnatural thing and we had to take such unnatural attitudes in order to oppose it,” O’Grady told Art F City in 2012. Now, in a presentation she calls 30 Years Later, O’Grady plans to bring Mlle Bourgeoise Noire back to life, transforming her into a figure who rails against the money-driven art world as a means of restoring the cultural purpose it once had. During the presentation O’Grady took a moment to reflect on all the success she’s had as an artist. Indeed, after more than three decades in the field, her name and work are ubiquitous. And yet, she says she still needs grants to survive. So the struggle for many artists to make ends meet, regardless of their fame, never stops. GelatinSilver_o Brittany Nelson Brittany Nelson feels like an unusual fit within the Creative Capital ecosystem because her photography is so engaged in materiality. (If this year’s conference is any indication, a stereotypical grantee has a socio-political motivation and is hoping, in some small way to make the world a better place.) This particular project probably won’t change the world—she uses chemicals to destroy the silver in photo paper—though I did question even that assumption while listening to her talk. She spoke persuasively about how few people there were exploring the photographic process itself as a medium, and explained just how transformative the process actually was; at one point she described a caterpillar walking across one of her photographs and dying in the chemicals. “Oooh, I’m dangerous!” she proclaimed sarcastically. The audience roared with laughter, but actually, those photographs scare the shit out of me. They’re black droppy forms preserved digitally with her scanner that have been put through hell to get that way. It’s like looking at death. I hope Nelson’s wearing some heavy duty protection when she works with this stuff. Narcissister It’s hard to explain just how exciting Narcissister‘s reverse strip tease was for everyone at the retreat, but there was a literal buzz in the auditorium after she finished. Backed by Chaka Khan’s “I’m Every Woman,” Narcissister began wearing only a creepy plastic mask and an enormous afro, from which she pulled out a variety of clothing items. This included a skirt and even a pair of shoes. When she failed to find items in her hair, she grabbed them from her mouth and vagina, much to the thrill of the audience. I don’t think I remember ever being so happy watching a performance. Eventually, her outfit was assembled and the music stopped. “I’d like to thank Creative Capital for this opportunity,” she told us, soliciting a roar of laughter from the crowd. The project, we learned, was to create an experimental art film on this character. I can’t wait.
Brittany Nelson (AKA The Brittany Nelson) is one of greatest humans on the planet. She’s so tiny, I could almost fit her in my pocket, but she makes a huge statement. Just a minute ago I saw she posted a GIFed tintype, I mean, come on. We both started our teaching careers together at the University of South Carolina in 2011 as sabbatical replacements, putting the entire photography program in our hands. We can proudly say we didn’t burn the place down, but we sure did have a lot of fun. Brittany is a fantastic teacher; students are magnetized to her, and continue to talk about her for years after she left to head back to Minnesota. As fate would have it, we both ended up relocating to the same part of Virginia. She is currently the Visiting Artist in Photography at Virginia Commonwealth University and is a 2015 Creative Capital Foundation Awardee in Visual Arts. Brittany Nelson is a 2015 Creative Capital Foundation Awardee in Visual Arts. She received a BA from Montana State University in photography and philosophy, and an MFA in photography from the Cranbrook Academy of Art, where she received the Cranbrook Director’s Award. Recent exhibitions include the Downtown Fair (New York, NY), Art Miami, Art Platform Los Angeles, David Klein Gallery (Detroit, MI), the Cranbrook Art Museum (Bloomfield Hills, MI), VisWeek (Seattle, WA), and 1708 Gallery (Richmond, VA). She has been commissioned by the Cranbrook Science Museum, was awarded the Fish/Pearce Award for excellence in process-based work from The Print Center, Philadelphia, and was recently given the Juror’s Choice Award for the Sidney Zuber Photography Award at the Phoenix Art Museum. Brittany is currently the Visiting Artist in Photography at Virginia Commonwealth University and is represented by David Klein Gallery in Detroit, MI. Physical photography has been reduced to filters, frames, textures and tintypes. The problem with this is not those formats, but the argument of why those processes matter anymore when photography’s biggest achievements are more accurate representation through technological advancement. By isolating the material from representational image making, the process itself can be questioned without the content from a referent. Through rigorous tests likened to a chemistry lab, the elements of photography –sans camera– become not an additive but the primary level of hierarchy in a piece. Akin to the minimalist view of paint on canvas, when separated from the representational image the analog material is placed in a position where we are no longer looking through the material into the image space, but instead examining the surface. The following set of experiments surrounded the obscure and toxic process of Mordancage. The caustic chemical combination involved reacts by detaching and dissolving the silver layer contained within gelatin silver darkroom papers. Acting as both a critic and participant, the chemistry becomes a means to address the current influx of abstract and material based photographic explorations by the intentional depletion and destruction of the materials required for the process. After a round of experiments reaches completion, select works are scanned at high resolutions for the creation of large-scale prints. The toxic and unstable nature of the images allows the scanner to capture the print in multiple/optimal states of existence, and provide a previously unseen and heightened examination of the materials. The enlargements, in addition, provide an archival alternative to the original materials, while showcasing their formal presence. Through this mediation, the image separates from the nostalgia of the analog process to speak directly to ideas of value and resources in a contemporary photographic dialogue. Given that your work is not representational, how/where do you draw inspiration? In my research I draw a lot parallels between contemporary photography and minimalist painting, so I’m spending a good amount of time with that particular era of the medium. I’m also really interested in the state that contemporary landscape photography is in, and what possible futures look like for pushing the dialogue forward with photo’s classic genres. Honestly most of my time on the internet is probably looking at images from the Mars rover, NASA satellites and deep sea exploration. I’m very interested in things that are naturally occurring but look synthetic, or are somehow completely unfamiliar to us. I grew up in Montana, and lived next to Yellowstone park in my twenties. That place is what I think being on another planet would be like. I said in a talk, jokingly, that the separation of photographic chemical process from representation is the new landscape photography. I’m always completely serious and joking at the same time. Considering your process is so intimate, solitary, and on a much smaller scale, can you talk a little about your choice in presentation? With the Mordancage chemistry work in particular, the original pieces are created quite small intentionally. Then they are scanned at a very high resolution, with the final output being large scale c-prints. The scale change becomes critical to this work in several ways. Firstly, it is a material investigation, so let’s take a good hard look at it. The enlargement provides a unique viewpoint where you can really examine these pieces. It moves the material into the unfamiliar, and it literally separates the viewer from the physicality of the work to create a representation of texture. This creates a space where you are asking the viewer to contemplate instead of dramatically experiencing something in real space. It also serves as a removal from the traditional 8×10 photographic document size to help separate it from any nostalgia for the darkroom or any overt references to the specimen. This of course, is the choice that needed to be made for this particular body of work to function. Other pieces need to be shown as actual objects and at varying scales to preserve the conversation around the research. What are you listening to in the darkroom right now? Last I heard it was Ariana Grande. Oh I really like it that you knew that. And yes, absolutely. So I wake up listening to JJ Cale, and then something happens when I get my respirator on and get into the darkroom. Maybe it’s me breathing in my own CO2, but I’m standing there in the dark and I’m thinking… holy crap, this Carly Rae Jepsen album is brilliant (and it is). There is a lot of dancing. Tongs flying into the air. Unsafe chemistry handling being practiced. It’s wild. There is no problem that can’t be worked through with some loud Ariana Grande. Have you seen that video? She is floating around in space with laser guns and a high ponytail. Come on. That’s amazing. Then Mordancage prints are flying out the door because I can’t make them fast enough.
"Make It Now: New Sculpture in New York," the title of an exhibition of work by nearly 30 artists at the Sculpture Center in Long Island City, Queens, comes enticingly close to echoing Ezra Pound's famous exhortation to "make it new." But the name, like the show itself, swerves at the last second, as if fearful of overreaching. The exhibition plays it safe with a lot more now than new. But you have to start somewhere, and it has a reasonable quota of intriguing beginnings and of promising parts not yet made whole. Advocating the new may sound like an old modernist saw, but I suspect that the urge for newness, difference -- or whatever its current designation might be ("institutional critique," for example) -- is one of the things that continue to get most artists out of bed in the morning. First make your work new for yourself. Then, size up the extent to which your effort already exists in the culture. Finally, get back to work. "A poem that communicates something that's already known to a reader is not really communicating anything," is how John Ashbery once put it. These words are germane to the Sculpture Center show, where there is too much exploring of known terrain. Vincent Mazeau and Matthew Ronay revisit Surrealism. Sol Sax's six life-size figures, which hang upside down like bats in the stairwell, reiterate the angular, rough-hewn figurative sculpture style of artists as disparate as Stephan Balkenhol and Alison Saar. The show is a condensed, more focused version of "Greater New York," P.S. 1's sprawling survey of local art. It was culled from some 200 studio visits by Mary Ceruti, the center's executive director; Anthony Huberman, its curator; and Franklin Sirmans, an independent critic and curator. Their selections give a partial account of the art form that, since the late 60's, has been the shape-shifting medium par excellence. Call it the sculptural diaspora. In attendance are examples of installation art, video, design, ceramics and a touch of performance. Site-specificity is superficially reflected in Phoebe Washburn's wood-scrap tiered structure "Poor Man's Lobster," which uses gravel from the center's courtyard for a rainbow-colored rock quarry, and Klara Hobza's "Morse Code Communication (An Improved Attempt)," which fills the skylight with clip-on lamps that suggest sun-thirsty aluminum blossoms. (They were used for a session of nighttime message-sending that, on video at least, has not improved nearly enough.) For interactive art, there's Nancy Hwang's "Impromptu," in which the visitor can flop down on a bed, pick up a red phone and chat with the artist, who is casting her next video. (I said no thanks.) As told here, the main tale of recent sculpture is the back and forth between the old-time modernist art of assemblage and the more rigorous, concept-driven postmodern practice of appropriation. Since the mid-1980's, when Neo-Geo pushed appropriation into three dimensions, these two forces have invigorated, competed with and thwarted each other. There's little here that doesn't fall somewhere between their increasingly blurred extremes, little that doesn't result from the hunting, gathering, purchasing, arranging and titling of familiar objects and materials. The Scylla and Charybdis along this line are mindless materiality and overly mindful scrawniness -- meticulous craft at the service of weak ideas and big thoughts that gloss over a lack of attention to physical materials. File under "mindless materiality" Jean Shin's tower-like spires of discarded amber-plastic pill bottles, coyly titled "Chemical Balance"; Andrea Cohen's bricolage of wood, Styrofoam and plastic, which resembles something by Sarah Sze only much larger; and Bryan Savitz's expertly made cut-cardboard sculptures, which drown ideas about history and architecture in cuteness, technique and eye-numbing consistency. Fritz Welch's gnarly room-size assemblage made from neighborhood junk might be the remnant of an early Happening, except for the way it seems to erupt from a ganglia-like wall drawing. For More http://www.nytimes.com/2005/05/27/arts/design/the-many-shades-of-now-explored-in-3-dimensions.html
Review: "Cosmosis" Hyde Park Art Center by Erin Toale Posted by Art Editor http://www.cosmosisexhibition.com/artists/#/baird/ RECOMMENDED The works presented in “Cosmosis” celebrate outer space’s contemporary moment while exploring the increasing overlap between popular culture, scientific inquiry and artistic production. The dense but balanced group show features muted 2D works which offset the scale and ambition of sculpture and media counterparts; great emphasis is placed in the ability of these images and objects to act as agents of communication and interpretation. Curator Steven Bridges posits it is the responsibility of artists to “absorb and metabolize scientific developments and breakthroughs which have tremendous cultural relevance.” Sarah and Joseph Belknap’s collective practice hinges on this role; their joyful inquiries into cosmology and astronomy spawn playful installations such as “Mars Field.” A nod to recent discoveries pertaining to the actual color of Mars, the shade of the floor-based piece shifts from red to blue as you perambulate around it. Their “rocks” are in dialogue with space detritus present in other works, such as Joseph G. Cruz’s subtle drawing made from ground-up rocket. Jefferson Pinder has contributed a painting and a sculpture; the former a formal exercise that invites contemplation and the latter a mix-taped assemblage which demands attention. His disorienting glitter-covered canvas “Stellar Plane” hangs stoically next to the feisty and unpredictable “Funknik.” The orb, a reimagining of the Sputnik satellite, emanates a non-linear but aggressive soundtrack of audio samples. Daniel Baird also includes a pair of works that are exercises in polarity. “Quest” is a large rendering of the airlock module for the International Space Station; next to it two tiny plates feature a child’s rendition of the Pioneer Plaque. These works evoke the wonder that compels our collective fascination with outer space and acts as the impetus for this exhibition. Artists are charged with making the intangible tangible by integrating, imitating and reiterating scientific information. The works here range from grand outward existential observations to myopic internal musings on humanism, because, says Bridges, “to look outward and beyond is also to look inward.” As the dialogue between art and science continues, “Cosmosis” invites us to consider a more holistic view of the subjective (art) vs. objective (science). Through August 23 at the Hyde Park Art Center, 5020 South Cornell. http://art.newcity.com/2015/07/08/review-cosmosishyde-park-art-center/#more-19821
Pre-Verbal Painting is the first Midwestern solo museum exhibition of Israeli-born, Los Angeles-based artist Liat Yossifor—featuring all new work made specifically for CAM. Visually recalling the aesthetics of cave painting and the child-like act of finger painting, Yossifor’s work is abstract, yet viewers may discern recognizable symbols within it. Her gestural approach produces an impasto surface that records her physical act of art-making. The artist first applies thick layers of oil paint in various colors, including burnt sienna, green, blue, and yellow, onto a white painted background, then uses her body to vigorously mix and sculpt the material until the once-vibrant pigments meld into a rich gray tone. Manipulating the surface as if a sculptural medium, she scores, incises, and smudges the paint with her hands and the handles of paintbrushes. Yossifor has three days to complete the painting before the material hardens beyond a workable state. The resulting compositions are based solely on the artist’s physical, ritualistic, and trance-like interaction with the paint, furthering an approach pioneered by the action painters of the 1950s. Yossifor’s work is at once temporal, pictographic, and pre-verbal, reflecting the artist’s desire to access an innate and automatic creative state. While her paintings border on the monochromatic, subtle traces of primary color reveal the laborious and experimental process behind each one. Through this practice, Yossifor attempts to create a visual record of the cathartic act of expression. Liat Yossifor (b. 1974, Israel) lives and works in Los Angeles. She has exhibited widely, both nationally and internationally. Solo exhibitions include Liat Yossifor: Thought Patterns at Amerigner McEnery Yohe, New York (2012); Liat Yossifor: Falling into Ends at Galerie Anita Beckers, Frankfurt, Germany (2010) and Liat Yossifor: The Tender Among Us at the Pomona College Museum of Art, Los Angeles (2007). Group exhibitions include Stolen Gestures at Kunsthaus Nuremberg, Nuremberg, Germany (2013) and A Reflected Gaze, Torrance Art Museums, Torrance, California (2010). Liat Yossifor: Pre-Verbal Painting is organized for the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis by Jeffrey Uslip, Chief Curator.
PHOTOS BY BRIAN W. FERRY Visit Nick van Woert’s massive studio in Greenpoint, and in all likelihood you’ll find a cluster of white people standing in a corner, naked and clutching each others’ butts — these artificial neo-classical statues have been a recurring theme in the Nevada-born artist’s work since shortly after he began his career in earnest in 2006. Many of them get tipped over and enveloped in a cascade of colored resin that hardens in mid-drip; in one series, he hollowed out their midsections and let the wind give them garbage guts. “It was like a little trap, and the wind would blow weird shit in there that accumulated outside my studio,” van Woert says. “Anything from Doritos bags to Monster Energy drink cans. The DNA of the world outside.” It was his most literal manifestation of the mantra that drives most of his practice: You are what you eat. Figuratively speaking, the idea is that the world we’ve built for ourselves is only as good as the materials we’ve used to build it — these days, that means all manner of plastics, strange chemicals, and the hollow plaster that replaces stone in the replica statues van Woert repurposes. He’s preoccupied with materials, and the way modern society has by and large found a way to substitute bad ones for pretty much all the good ones, a condition he mirrors in his own work. One of his more recent projects is a series of strange topologies made from coal slag, kitty litter, or urethane mixed with orange cola. Other pieces employ Plexiglas boxes full of Pine-Sol and Mr. Clean. “The colors are reminiscent of the early Hudson River School painters and Albert Bierstadt, who painted landscapes hours away from where I grew up in Reno, Nevada,” van Woert says. “Things aren’t the same anymore. It’s like trying to understand what this material shift is, and why it’s happening.” Van Woert sees that shift most acutely in the world of architecture, which he actually studied in grad school in Reno before moving to New York (picking up an obsession with the work of Thom Mayne along the way). “We’re no longer interested in building with monolithic materials like stone or wood,” he says. “Architecture’s moved from stone to Styrofoam.” The classical sculptures he stockpiles are, again, the embodiment of that downgrade: “It’s like this desire to keep the past alive visually but not materially, and that’s the opposite of the way I look at artwork or the way I look at the world in general — how things are made and what they’re made from, not what they look like.” And yet van Woert can’t deny that he has an architect’s eye for scale and composition, even when he’s working with garbage or aquarium rocks, which is what drew us to his work in the first place. We dragged SU contributor Brian W. Ferry to his studio with us to take a closer look.
As part of HUNTED PROJECTS | In Dialogue New York, it is a pleasure to present this interview and studio visit with Brooklyn based artist Kadar Brock. Kadar Brock’s paintings are full of holes; they are sanded and worn out. To a point, Brock’s surfaces even seem to have been acid washed, gradually eroded or perhaps fiercely sand blasted, though simultaneously shredded as if struck by an explosion of shrapnel. The surfaces also are incredibly smooth, as if coated with talcum powder, though I am amongst the lucky few who have touched the surfaces of Brock’s paintings. What’s fascinating is that Brock’s works are the product of an artist who aims to demystify the gesture in painting through creating rituals that in effect eradicate the didactic artist-viewer scenario. Brock doesn’t aim to create works that are easily read as being a by-product of an artist’s expression; Brock has created a set of rituals, a rolling of dice, where he, in effect has his actions directed for him. This could be through the number of brush strokes to apply or the number of cuts to make, in all, his intuitive approach to painting is not present or discernible to the viewer. Kadar Brock (b. 1980) lives and works in Brooklyn, New York. His current exhibition Dredge opens at The Hole Gallery, New York, 4 September – 10 October. A video of HUNTED PROJECTS studio visit with Kadar Brock can be viewed here. Steven Cox: I first encountered your work online long before we met earlier this year at Volta. I had been familiar with your work purely on a digital level, though upon experiencing the scale, surface qualities and vibrancy of colours, I felt that your works owned a mystical aspect that doesn’t translate via digital images. I am interested; to what extent are you conscious of this? Do you feel that something is lost when your work is presented through images online? Kadar Brock: yeah of course. I think they're really tactile, physical paintings, and a lot of that information is lost if you're just looking at a reproduction. SC: Your ritual-as-process approach to mark making is conducted through the gauze of being either dis-enchant, or re-enchantment based. Both processes refer to the removal or application of paint. I am interested in how you decide where and when the ritual takes over from the intuitive aspect of painting? KB: So the rituals really started as an extension of, and as a way to manifest, my desire to divest intuition from painting, as a way to push out the more subjective and expressionistic aspects of painting. My long-term desire in painting has always been to talk about the sublime, the spiritual, and belief structures as they pertain to both painting historically, and how we perceive our day-to-day existence. At a certain point it became very apparent to me that the reliance on subjective expressionism, and believing in the autonomy of, and translation through, gesture was super flawed. So I started setting up rituals to dredge those beliefs, and those rituals simultaneously embody and leave a residue that, I think, touches on my larger goals. That said, there are of course judgment calls, and those are intuitive. When to sand, when to stop sanding, to do more layers or not, are all subjective and intuitive decisions. Intuition doesn't enter into what I do, just if I continue to do it. SC: Can you expand on this notion of a conceptually flawed expressionism? KB: It's more that at the root of a certain relationship to painting, there's a belief that comes out of romanticism, out of Herder, that an artists actions automatically/subconsciously/inevitably express his or her goals and ideals or emotional state or character. I think while interesting, that belief is flawed in terms of my goals in painting, and was in fact a personal stumbling block, so I dug at it. SC: Do you consider creative decision making in general, a ritualistic task? KB: Creative decision-making is the creating of metaphors. Rituals are repetitive metaphoric actions. There's some overlap there. SC: To what extent have you controlled the gesture within your rituals, and the metaphorical significance of each action? How are these weighed? KB: By gesture, in this context, I'm mostly referring to a painting action. The significance of the rituals, well, they really came out of pretty mundane studio activities - cleaning my palette with a razor, painting my walls with industrial strength primer, sanding said walls. I just started treating my old paintings like they were physically a part of the studio I guess. And then it's really more where I and other viewers can go from there with what those actions mean and how they relate to a painting as this seat of ideologies. SC: Your paintings, prior to being cut and sanded are colourful, geometric and very painterly. I am aware that it is now very rare for anyone to see your paintings at this stage before they become erased, cut and presented in the manner that most are familiar with. Do you ever feel a sense of loss when you embark upon the stages where the original becomes lost? KB: Yes and no. I really enjoy them as they were, but they're not really alive anymore anyways. They've become these symbols for a belief system and a relationship to painting. So taking those symbols, and enacting these rituals upon them just makes sense. Working on the newer works that are made from composites of the dredged material, I remember moments, and passages from older paintings, and that's a nice kind of nostalgia. It's great too to have those moments just isolated and decontextualized; it gives me a new appreciation for them. SC: Paintings such as deredemisto or deredemitcogbi are both dated as being works in process from 2007-2012. Have these works been documented during the 5 years that it took to complete, and at what point do you know that the work is necessarily completed? KB: No. They just existed, or well first came into existence back when, in 2007. Deredemisto is the perfect example for all of this. Originally it was this bright geometric gestural abstract thing called 'she's the one,' in reference to this beta band song I'd listened to a lot. That piece never had much of a life of it's own, and in fact it later became the first painting I 'disenchanted.' It, I think was shown with that first batch, when they were still very bone white, but maybe it wasn't, maybe we just kept it in storage, and I hung onto it for sentimental reasons. Then I decided to rework it again last year, and try to include it in a show in London. It was shipped over, but it was my least favorite in the group, and so it got edited out. Then a couple months later, it was just bugging me, so I had them un-stretch it, fold it up, and ship it back via post... and then I worked on it some more, and now it's one of my favorite pieces. I wish I'd just kept it for myself, but someone asked for it to be shown in Europe again, and now it's over there. I wouldn't want them to fold it up again now ha. SC: The organic gradations of colour within your sanded paintings seem to remind me of contour line maps. Is this something you have seen yourself? KB: No, but I really like that reading. Mapping is a cool idea. SC: Within your studio you avoid wasting anything, for pieces of dried paint are peeled from over used pieces of sand paper and kept, dust is collected, and small fragments that are cut from paintings are re-applied to the surfaces of new works, for instance, your DNS series. Can you discuss the reasoning behind your decision to recycle as much as possible? KB: Well really the impetus for using all this material is to dance around this romantic notion of the artist/hero/genius, and the idea that every action of the artist is expressive. I figure all these different bits of studio 'refuse' are mutated gestures, decontextualized gestures, and if I'm this expressive content translator then this all should have this aura and be clear and powerful, right? HA. But yeah, so the dust was all brush strokes at some point, and actions at some point. And the paint collected on the sanding disks is also that same paint, and the remnants of those same actions somewhere down the line. And of course all the paint chips for those dns paintings, those too, most directly, were gestures and expressive brush strokes...and in a sense all of it still is, it's just the gestures or actions are a little different. SC: In regards to your rdns series where you have re-applied the debris of past works, can you discuss how you apply the debris, and to what extent you have considered the conservational procedures if for any reason the surface would begin to further break up or deteriorate over time? KB: I’m definitely not interested in conservational things. If things break up and deteriorate more, I think it's very keeping with what the work is about. That said, I think the material I'm using for setting up those paintings is pretty high tech stuff, so it should be fine. SC: I am interested to know what you are currently working on and what you are working towards. KB: Well paintings, ha! But honestly right now I'm just putting the finishing touches on a group of works for a solo show in New York at The Hole, my gallery here. I'll have some other group shows coming up too, but that's been my main focus. Beyond that, I'm excited for some new things in the studio once this group is done; some sculptures, and some painting objects using up all that dust I've collected. SC: What should be expected within your solo at The Hole? KB: The title is Dredge and it will contain some new paintings. And carpeting. And some bean bag chairs.
Kadar Brock’s gestural, abstract paintings often tango with chance, and as an artist known to roll a dice to dictate the markings of his paintings, it comes as no surprise that his decision to pursue a career in art was not without fearless risk. Against the persistence of a fretful parent— “spooked” on his prospects of being an artist—Brock persevered, and is successful today with no small thanks to his go-to tools: Netflix, a power sander, and his trusted pair of ear plugs. Artsy: Who tried to talk you out of pursuing a career as an artist, and why did you persevere? Kadar Brock: Honestly it was my mom. She was always spooked about the prospects of being self-supporting while pursuing a creative life. This mostly came to a head when I was applying to colleges. She always wanted me to compromise and take some design or video route, but I just never took it to heart. I always really really really wanted to do this, so I pretty much just did. I was stubborn and focused, and got help from The Cooper Union—having my tuition to art school covered allowed me to own that choice and be self-supporting in it at a critical juncture. From there on it's just been more of the same—focus and stubbornness, ha. Artsy: What tools are essential to your practice as an artist (anything from the Internet to paintbrushes to a particular Pandora station to create the perfect atmosphere)? KB: Well right now my two best friends are my DeWalt power sander and the four-gallon Rigid shop-vac I have attached to it. I spend lots of time sanding these things—each go takes hours upon hours, and then I just layer it up, wait for it to dry, and sand it again. Hand in hand with those guys are some really crusty ear plugs (because after a while I'd noticed all that sanding was affecting my hearing). Other things I couldn't work without are a regular old window scraper—to do the initial “cleaning” of a painting, paint rollers, my paint mixing attachment for my drill, and most recently my laptop (which I used to exclude from the studio) and Netflix. I've taken to watching serial television with subtitles while spending hours sanding and scraping—half-attentively bingeing on things like Battlestar Galactica, Walking Dead, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Artsy: As you know, the Whitney is soon to open a new location, which has been coined the “Whitney of the Future”. What does the future of art look like? KB: If I knew, I'd be making it. Ha. It's probably gonna be some Matrix shit. But I'm too focused on what's in my hands at the moment. Artsy: Who is your dream collector?
Almost Ergonomic, curated by Third Object, at Studio 424 (Chicago) By Kate Sierzputowski Although brilliantly executed as a whole, Alex Chitty’s immensely detailed display units stood out from this exhibition, which explored the possible ergonomic functions of a work of art rather than that of a designed object. The elements of Chitty’s shelves are displayed as if they were atop the hearth of a Midwestern home, fictitiously prized items arranged and curated in a mysterious order. The handmade objects are slightly tweaked versions of objects both mass-produced and found, ranging from a wooden Rubik’s Cube to a slight drawing on a Styrofoam cup. Another favorite was Jeff Prokash’s lazy cement works, sculptures that fought their inherent materiality by drooping and leaning against the walls and beams of the open exhibition space.
The artist Nick van Woert culls inspiration from the past, frequently remixing artifacts and evoking history to build his art. His latest, “Just Dropped in to See What Condition My Condition Was In,” on view starting next Saturday at Moran Bondaroff, the just-rebranded L.A. gallery formerly known as OHWOW, borrows its title from a well-known 1968 Kenny Rogers hit. “Out of context, the words are self-referential, taking a look at ‘my condition,’” van Woert says in the office of his Brooklyn studio. Confronting the dark history of American institutional violence, the show homes in on themes of marginalization and forced evacuation by way of twisted sculptural effigy. Van Woert has taken a handful of Native American statues of the typical cigar-store variety and resculpted them to feature the faces of the U.S. presidents he considers the worst offenders when it comes to cruelty to indigenous people. He’s also built an architectural model of a Philadelphia townhouse that was once occupied by the black-liberation, hunter-gatherer society MOVE, then bombed and set ablaze by the Pennsylvania state police. The model is set on the floor, so that viewers can see it through what van Woert calls “the executioner’s gaze.” And the soundtrack slated to play in the gallery is exceptionally sinister: It’s comprised of tracks once used by the FBI in an attempt to force the Branch Davidians out of their Waco, Tex. colony, including the cacophonous sounds of rabbits dying and a cover of Don Von Tress’s “Achy Breaky Heart.” Photo Sculptures by van Woert. Cigar store-style statues of Native Americans have had their faces recarved in the likeness of U.S. presidents whom the artist considers to have been especially cruel to indigenous people. Credit Joe Leonard, courtesy of the artist and Moran Bondaroff, Los Angeles Better versed in traditional sculpting methods, van Woert made his first foray into outsourced production while creating work for this show, employing 3D scanners and CNC milling machines — plus the lower-tech help of vinyl record producers based in the Czech Republic — to take his work in new formal and sonic directions. “I’ve had these ideas for a while. But what would have taken me 10 years to do by hand, you can now do in 10 seconds,” he says. As for the name on the door, van Woert’s show is the gallery’s first under its new Moran Bondaroff moniker. Aaron Bondaroff, Al Moran and Mills Moran, who founded OHWOW in Miami in 2008, say that the rebranding signals not an abrupt shift in programming, but rather the evolution of the gallery’s focus. “We chose OHWOW in the beginning because it was vague,” Al Moran recalls of the gallery’s Miami heyday, when OHWOW ran the annual “It Ain’t Fair” group shows during Art Basel Miami Beach from 2008 to 2011 and art media referred to the gallery as “an artist clubhouse,” a “youth-cultural experiment” and a “producer of special projects.” That vagueness “afforded us a lot of freedom to do whatever came our way,” Moran says. “But as the gallery started representing artists, it became clear that that was what our focus was going to be, and that’s when we felt it was time to change its name.” Photo The OHWOW Gallery founders, from left: Al Moran, Mills Moran and Aaron Bondaroff. Their Los Angeles-based gallery has since been rebranded as Moran Bondaroff. Credit Brandon Harman Moran Bondaroff plans to refine its focus on building its roster and mounting exhibitions by gallery-represented artists, which currently include van Woert, Diana Al-Hadid, the estate of Robert Mapplethorpe, Terry Richardson, Jacolby Satterwhite, David Benjamin Sherry and Agathe Snow. They’ll keep Know Wave, their New York-based radio show, and add a new artist residency starting in an abandoned Detroit church, which will travel to a different city every year. Letting go of their old name wasn’t easy, but “the spirit remains the same,” Bondaroff says. “There’s still that uncontrollable reaction, that, ‘Oh wow,’ that’s not going away.” Nick van Woert’s “Just Dropped in to See What Condition My Condition Was In” is on view Sept. 12-Oct. 10 at Moran Bondaroff, 937 N. La Cienega Boulevard, Los Angeles, moranbondaroff.com.
September 12-December 11, 2015 Nichols Gallery Opening Reception: Saturday, September 12, 3-5 p.m. Nichols Gallery, Pitzer College Art Galleries Panel Discussion: The Politics of Painting Wednesday, September 30, 4:15 p.m. Nichols Gallery, Broad Center, Pitzer College Panelists: Artists Liat Yossifor and Nery Gabriel Lemus, with Kevin Appel, UC Irvine professor of art and Joanna Roche, Cal State Fullerton professor of art history. Moderated by Christopher Michno, writer, critic and independent curator. This panel discussion is generously supported by the Frederick J. Salathé Fund for Music and the Cultural Arts. Artist Lecture: Artists Liat Yossifor and Iva Gueorguieva in conversation with David Pagel, critic, curator and professor of art theory and history at Claremont Graduate University Wednesday, November 11, 4:15 p.m. Nichols Gallery, Broad Center, Pitzer College Although Liat Yossifor’s large-scale monochromatic paintings reference the tradition of Abstract Expressionism through their formal language, they have an entirely different agenda. As such, the exhibition, Liat Yossifor: Time Turning Paint, will explore abstraction as a political form and question the efficacy of both the medium and the genre as well as its relationship to artistic practice in the twenty-first century. Despite beginning as vibrant blue, red or yellow canvasses, Yossifor’s paintings culminate in somber variations of gray ranging from light slate to almost white. Both tactile and sculptural, these thick impasto paintings are made entirely with palette knives that sculpt, incise and move large quantities of oil paint around on the paintings’ surface. Process-based and performative, these works are governed by a set of rules that delimit the time in which they can be worked on and completed. Produced within three days—the time it takes for the paint to dry—both the color and any discernable representational aspect are erased from the surface, resulting in a void-like space haunted by its expunged referents. Although Abstract Expressionism is traditionally a male-dominated medium that celebrated the author-as-genius and abstraction as the purist form, Yossifor’s manipulation of the genre as a time-based gendered performance reconfigures the coordinates. In doing so, Yossifor encourages not only an expansion of the vernacular of Abstract Expressionism but also a different kind of meditation on its function and, as a result, its political potential. Bio: Liat Yossifor has exhibited nationally and internationally. Solo exhibitions include Liat Yossifor: Pre-Verbal Painting at the Contemporary Art Museum, St. Louis, MO (2015); Liat Yossifor: Thought Patterns at Amerigner | McEnery | Yohe, New York, NY (2012); Liat Yossifor: Falling into Ends at Galerie Anita Beckers, Frankfurt, Germany (2010); and Liat Yossifor: The Tender Among Us at the Pomona College Museum of Art, Claremont, CA (2007). Group exhibitions include Stolen Gestures at Kunsthaus Nuremberg, Nuremberg, Germany (2013) and A Reflected Gaze, Torrance Art Museum, Torrance, CA (2010).
Kadar Brock met with Alex Bacon in the artist’s Williamsburg, Brooklyn studio to discuss the recent series of paintings that he is currently showing in his first solo exhibition in Miami, at Gallery Diet (through March 8). ALEX BACON (RAIL): How did you begin painting? BROCK: Between 2005 and 2008 I started by exploring the loose, gestural, and expressive idea of abstraction that I saw in the work of German painters like Albert Oehlen and Gerhard Richter, and which I found really appealing. I wanted to use some of the formal things that I saw in their work to try to talk about the content and mythologies that they had painted out of abstraction. Mainly what they got rid of was New Age-y spiritual crap, but I grew up on that stuff because my folks were hippies. RAIL: So you wanted to use the very thing, spiritual content, that had been banished from the work of artists like Oehlen and Richter in order to reinvigorate that kind of painting for a contemporary moment? BROCK: Yes, I wanted to reconnect those links in the chain, or at least talk about them. I took some of Oehlen and Richter’s brasher, more emptied out, “bad painting” cues and structured them in triangular shapes that echoed crystalline structures, and sweeps in space, both of which I related to a digital New Age aesthetic with the addition of things like sun spots, deep perspective lines, and glowing, aura-type effects. Slowly this brasher, brighter abstract work evolved into a more succinct, specific, mark-focused, minimal brand of painting. As I was working on that stuff, getting more and more into it, I realized that the way I was thinking about abstraction in general was based on a certain relationship to the hand-made mark, and to a belief structure that surrounded artists’ actions, and to the role of the artist, and how that was manifested in the gestural acts of painting. That became something I was more and more focused on. So I started paring down the paintings and making them way more geometric, just repetitive patterns and what not. I got to the point where, instead of wanting to paint, I got really excited about setting up a motif, executing it in either pen or marker, and then using that as a stand-in for the idea of gesture, and the idea of action, and the idea of the artist’s mark, and all that. Then I started whitewashing those marks out after I had made them, all to try and see how much of it stuck. Simultaneously, as I was doing that, I wanted to figure out a way to strategically take out some of the conscious decision-making I was using to set up my compositions, and also to allow for more chance to come in. Essentially I wanted to set up a conceptual framework for talking about the contemporary painter’s relationship to gesture and to mark-making and to the idea of the artist. I was also beginning to correlate the act of painting abstractly to the casting of spells in the role-playing game Dungeons & Dragons. I thought that was really appropriate because there’s this whole relationship with belief that goes into abstract painting and the desired generation of an affective aesthetic experience. I was rediscovering this Dungeons & Dragons book that I had from when I was a kid. I was reading it and thought, “Oh, these would make great titles.” So I started titling some of the pieces from that book. Then I thought that I should start not just appropriating the titles, but starting to use the game’s rules as a way to set up ground rules for my painting practice. It segued into using dice and having an avatar. All of it allowed me to introduce a system that removed myself from the act of making a gesture, allowing it to become this autonomous thing, which could potentially be either expressive or non-expressive. I had gone to Argentina for two and a half months with my girlfriend. We were down there doing some projects and I didn’t have any way to really make art, other than to hash out ideas and keep a journal and do sketches and stuff like that. I was really mulling over and over and over how to flush out this avatar dynamic because I had discovered that it was important to me, insofar as a catch-all to talk about my relationship to painting, as well as a way to set up a fence between the act of making a painting, and what making a painting means, and what my relationship to art is as an artist, and all that. Then that suggested the idea of annihilating these earlier paintings that were expressive, or supposedly expressive, and that were potentially about a minimalist relationship to gesture and abstraction, and that were concerned with this different belief structure than the other abstract paintings that were around. It also dawned on me that I was excited about the idea of taking a piece of art and totally objectifying it. It was no longer a place of action, but a thing to be acted upon. More http://miamirail.org/visual-arts/kadar-brock/
“No Man’s Land,” the sculptor and painter Nick van Woert’s first solo exhibition with OHWOW Gallery in Los Angeles, opens on Friday. The Nevada-born artist’s latest multimedia installation works address the frightening prospect that we might render the earth nearly uninhabitable. “Everything humans created was once made of monolithic materials: stone, wood, metal. Things just aren’t like that anymore,” van Woert says. “Many of the materials I use are substitutions for natural materials.” They include chlorine, orange soda, Muscle Milk, hair gel, cat litter and coal slag. The post-apocalyptic terrain van Woert covers in “No Man’s Land” is expansive, and initially seems to lack a center. Each piece, however, addresses humans’ conflicting capacities for creation and destruction. The exhibition includes an 8-foot-tall set of silverware, with which van Woert intends visitors to “ingest” his works, alluding to the artist’s fascination with the unsustainable rate of human consumption. Ten monochromatic paintings in earthy hues are van Woert’s nod to 19th-century landscape painting in the American West, an unexpected source of fodder for an aesthetic that’s far from romantic. “I often think of myself as a landscape painter,” van Woert says. “While growing up in places like the Yosemite Valley, I realized things have changed in our world, materially.” Van Woert examines this change, unhindered by contemporary notions of beauty. “The most challenging thing for me as an artist is to battle this conversation of what looks good and what works well,” he says. “I want to ask people to see my work as an entirely material language, rather than a visual one.” No Man’s Land” will be on view at OHWOW Gallery, 937 North La Cienega Boulevard, Los Angeles, through April 6.
curated by Brian Alfred NEW YORK, NEW YORK – AMERINGER | McENERY | YOHE is pleased to announce BLACK/WHITE, a group exhibition curated by Brian Alfred. The exhibition will open on 9 July 2015 and will remain on view through 14 August 2015. Receptions for the artists will be held on 9 July and 23 July from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m. The public is welcome. A diverse group of thirty artists, working in a range of mediums, are immersed in dialog through the selective lens of black and white. The works included explore the effectiveness of this limited palette to depict light and space, mimic three- dimensionality, and allow for a greater focus on form, line, and subject. Works rich with symbolism, metaphor, and association are juxtaposed against each other creating surprising and bold pairings. Together these works explore the constraint of black and white while visually rendering theoretical themes. Artists presented are Nick Aguayo, Brian Alfred, Diana Al-Hadid, Kevin Appel, Matthew Chambers, Gerald Davis, Jay Davis, Richard Diebenkorn, Austin Eddy, Chie Fueki, Jackie Gendel, Luis Gispert, Jacob Hashimoto, Al Held, David Hockney, Hans Hofmann, Ridley Howard, Shay Kun, Andrew Kuo, Patrick Lee, Gina Magid, Matt Mignanelli, Joseph Montgomery, Robert Motherwell, Liz Nielsen, Carlos Rolón/Dzine, Dana Schutz, James Siena, Wendy White, and Liat Yossifor.
Hardcover books today are as much about sentimentality as they are about text, but the work of a young artist now on view at the Studio Museum in Harlem eschews textuality altogether for an aesthetic and material communion with these spined signifiers. Californian Samuel Levi Jones has taken over the three walls of the project space on the lower level of the Studio Museum in Harlem for “Unbound,” a small but compelling exhibition curated by Naima J. Keith. Consisting of just three large works, Jones’s wall-mounted abstractions take as their source material the covers of hundreds of law books which the artist has ripped apart and refashioned into geometric patchworks. Motivated by national conversations on police brutality and the failures of the justice system, Jones, whose previous body of work used encyclopedias as a source material, turned to legal texts. But the only traces of language visible in the exhibition are those on the spines of the exhibition’s titular work, “Unbound,” the wall-mounted piece that anchors the space. “Unbound” is flanked on either side by two smaller works on canvas that display the deconstructed cover material, which varies between cardboard, paper, and canvas. Taken as a whole, the show is subtle yet expressive. In a recent conversation, the artist spoke with ARTINFO about his process and work. Tell me a little about how you came to this site-specific project at the Studio Museum, and how it relates to the work you’ve done with books so far. In terms of having a show, Naima [J. Keith] saw my work at the gallery I work with, Michelle Papillion in LA, and we started having a conversation about potentially having a show and it came down to me submitting a proposal. This was before they contacted me about the Wein prize, which is a separate thing, because people who have gotten the prize haven’t necessarily had a show there. That’s how it came to be. In terms of working with the space and working with the material, the really large piece with the spines, titled “Unbound” — I wasn’t intending it to making it the size of the wall, but with it being a site-specific space it pushed me to make it much larger than I originally intended it to be. That piece is a continuation of a much smaller piece I made from spines. I made a piece from a set of spines from an encyclopedia, but it’s basically embedded in a wall, the spines themselves sewn together and embedded in a hole in the wall, and about half of it drapes off the wall. I had considered making a larger piece with spines based upon that piece, and I came to the law books because I was really thinking about a lot of things, what happened around the country in terms of law and law enforcement and I immediately told myself I wanted to get a set of law books and work with those and see what they looked like visually, I really wanted to obtain the books. The first set of books I purchased was maybe about 500 books or so, and sort of a discovery because I had no idea what they were going to look like inside, on the outside they are all completely the same, the finish is the same, but underneath the material is completely different, from canvas-like material to paper-like material, which was really interesting. That was a discovery in and of itself and kind of a risk, so to speak, because I started acquiring the material thinking that’s what I was going to use for the show, and it just worked itself out. For More visit http://www.blouinartinfo.com/news/story/1129157/bookworm-samuel-levi-jones-at-the-studio-museum-in-harlem#
“Making moves” is how Alex Chitty describes her structural interventions into an object or found image. She hunts for abstractions in a world where everything already makes too much sense. Chitty will carve a system of vents across photos in order to physically expand their volume. Or she will cast a pot in a grid of flexible latex, remove the original, and display its ghost-like shell on shelving systems made to resemble those at Crate & Barrel. Chitty is a welder and is constantly learning new techniques to complicate what we think we know about cultural objects. - See more at: http://art.newcity.com/2013/04/25/breakout-artists-2013-chicagos-next-generation-of-image-makers-2/7/#sthash.pciIgSKj.dpuf
(Photo by Jake Lingan) On February 13th, Chicago's guerilla curator Claire Molek revealed her latest show "Seven Over Seven" in a 5000 square feet converted factory space on Chicago's far west side. It was an unlikely location for an art show -- a neighborhood where commercial space is primarily razor wire enclosed liquor stores and check cashing stores -- but well over 200 hundred people made the trek out west, creating a vibrant event that included 20-something cool kids and 60-something collectors and other veterans of the Chicago art scene. The seven artists are young, relatively unknown and work in Chicago: Dan Rizzo-Orr, Mika Horibuchi, Ellis von Sternberg, Valentina Zamfirescu, Kenrick Mcfarlane, Nick Nes Knowlton and Anders Lindseth. Many of the paintings and installations - in particular those by Nick Nes Knowlton, Kenrick McFarlane, Anders Lindseth and Dan Rizzo-Orr --appropriated themes from classical art. Still, you did not need to know the referenced work in order to be provoked or enjoy the experience. Other works, for example the tapestries and textile-like paintings by Mika Horibuchi and the beautiful paper installation by Valentina Zamfirescu and the totem sculptures by Ellis von Sternberg offered such sensually presented material that it was difficult not to touch. There was something unsettling yet comforting in the air in this warehouse - a repudiation of the established order, an anarchic whiff of things to come, an unintentional indictment of the often large scale art built for tech and hedge fund billionaire's oversized homes. It was a return of art for the people: accessible, sensual, and affordable. Art for people. How revolutionary. It was a new day. More http://www.huffingtonpost.com/vivien-lesnik-weisman/title-chicago-seven-bring_b_6792718.html
Artist: Bryan Savitz Exhibition title: Pianos Are Also Heavy Venue: David Petersen Gallery, Minneapolis, US Date: February 21 – April 4, 2015 Photography: Images courtesy of the artist and David Petersen Gallery, Minneapolis David Petersen Gallery presents Pianos Are Also Heavy, a solo exhibition of new sculpture by Bryan Savitz. With Pianos Are Also Heavy, Savitz selectively draws from an ongoing body of work made solely of alabaster stones. Some smoothly polished while others are raw, the milky stones are modest, naked and vulnerable. Hovering flush to each wall, with some stones precario usly resting atop another, these sculptures add little physical material to the already austere gallery, while simultaneously expanding it. Elusive but present, the experience of the experience eclipses the concept of the experience. Despite the stones’ concrete existence, they have a non-presence. Ahead of understanding, in inexplicable ways they compose a silence that allows for listening. Bryan Savitz is based in New York City, where he received his BFA from the School of the Visual Arts and his MFA from the City University of New York, Hunter College. This is his first exhibition with the gallery.
Patrick Walsh, the artist otherwise known as JPW3, looks like he should be in a cologne ad or modeling Speedos. He's the kind of good looking that makes you check your breath or admire your shoelaces when he glances your way. All long limbs, dark hair, dark eyes, scruff and symmetrical angles. Then he opens his mouth. What emerges is a mellow, good-natured, sensitive dude. The kind of dude that vocalizes apprehension about walking through the community mural garden of a nearby housing project, happily accepts a purple button that reads "Capitalism is Fucking the Queer Out of Us," and pins it to his shirt, admits that he first wanted to be a writer, and still writes, and offers to buy a reporter lunch, because he is generous and polite. A bit like, a high school guidance counselor hoping to meet you at your level. His musings are soft-spoken, goofy and uniquely elaborate, all the while still sounding off the cuff. Much like his art. But that's where Walsh the Sweet Dude and Walsh the Artist, break. "One major misconception about the work is that because I seem easygoing, the process is less thought out" That work is expansive. It dips into the interdisciplinary and rotates around many imagistic themes. Some of his conceptually reoccurring symbols: Tuning forks, car engines, popcorn, stove burners, wax, wheels or doorways. Although his performance pieces, paintings, and sculptures take different outlets there is a consistency of vision, which keeps them theoretically in sync. Walsh's studio resembles a calamitous auto repair shop run by a surrealist philosopher. It's a cavernous two-room mess of toxic chemicals. Popcorn (in all its various stages), wax drippings, auto parts, tiny Bali Shag rollers and strange literary and zine ephemera, cling to every surface and crunch beneath the feet. Raised in rural Pennsylvania on his grandfather's land, Walsh spent much of his early childhood in nature. "There were ponds and I could run around and jump on rocks. I grew up around trees but always wanted to be in the city. My friends went to a way better school than I did in Scranton, an art high school. I was a country guy but I hung with the dudes in town. The skater guys, they were my homies." More http://www.kcet.org/arts/artbound/counties/los-angeles/patrick-walsh-jpw3.html
“If I can give that sense, of being, breathing, living, I’m a happy man, that’s what I want.” Matt Jones: I’m excited to focus on your practice and ask you some questions that I’ve wanted to talk to you about for a while, but maybe always forget because we had work to do or were in an excited conversation about the future or something. There are some subtle, and huge, things with your work that I’d like to talk about with you for the first time—kinda taken for granted sort of stuff. redemitf, redemic, and deredemisc are recent painting titles. You used to use Dungeons and Dragons spell names for your titles (which linked to how “casting” certain spells lead to material and mark making decisions in the work). They’re always lowercase. They feel more scientific and less fantasy based. Where do these new titles come from? What is the relationship between a painting and its title? They seem mysterious and truthful—kind of how I think about science. Kadar Brock: These titles also reference D&D, but a little more obscurely; they tie into how I got around to making these paintings. I wanted to go further with the RPG aspect of those earlier paintings and cast rituals (as opposed to spells, like you mention). The titles are initials for the name of a ritual, and the object (former painting) of the ritual. In the works we’re talking about, the ritual is a ‘dis-enchant magical item’ ritual (referring to the ‘demi’ in the titles), so that’s the stripping away part of them. I’ve started adding back into the paintings lately, so there’s also a ‘re-enchant’ aspect, so for that I’ll add in an ‘re’. The rest of the letters refer to the title of the original that’s being recycled. They’re lowercase because I don’t know that they need to be proper names, they’re more just notations, reductions, or recordings of a series of actions. MJ: I’ve been lucky enough to touch the surfaces of your paintings. Kathy Grayson has commented positively on touching your paintings, too. They feel like baby powdered skin. They are like incredibly sweet romantic moments. They’re very tender. De Kooning said, “Flesh was the reason oil paint was invented,” but I don’t think the word flesh applies—your paintings are sweeter than that and your materials don’t comply with a traditional sense of oil paint. Do you think about skin and the body relative to your work? I think about the breath and breathing when I’m in a room of your paintings. What role does the body play in your practice? KB: This is one of the sweetest things anyone has said about my works, especially the aspect of breath. I mean shit, that’s life. If I can give that sense, of being, breathing, living, I’m a happy man, that’s what I want. I don’t think about the body in a direct or traditional sense, but yeah, they are very physical paintings. I make them laying on top of them, pushing into them, scraping away at them, sanding them and so on. And I touch them, a lot. I think a lot about paintings as hugs, as points of empathy. This probably sounds very sappy, but it ties into your referencing the breath, and a sense of reassurance almost, that I hope to give a viewer with the work. And that’s a very physical sensation. MJ: Where do you place your work in art history? Who are your teachers and mentors from across time? Do you think about art history this way, like it’s there to participate in and exchange with? Or maybe its time isn’t linear like that and more expansive and spread out. What are your greatest inspirations? What are your greatest aspirations? KB: Man, this is the big one. I guess I’ll start with the last part because it ties into the previous question. I think my greatest aspiration isn’t anything other than to give that experience we were just touching on, to create a point of empathy, to give painting hugs. In regards to art history, I think it’s both linear and simultaneous. I mean, at this moment all information and art is always already present, and it’s all interrelated to what we make now, like some non-prioritized google search, like buoys on the ocean. Of course, I have a team of artists I want to hang with, and a story or trajectory I want to partake in. I’m into Romanticism, and how it segues through the Bauhaus into Abstract Expressionism, the ideals and goals, but not the heaviness and drama. I like the sublime. I like talking about spirituality. I like the experience all those folks were aiming at. I like how the Rosenbergian painting as arena, ties into ritual and conceptual art, and how that can set up poetic actions paintings.
Double Back is an exhibition of paintings concerned with the intimate relationships between Abstraction, negation, and seeing (understanding). As the act of looking (searching) is often a necessary step towards seeing, this exhibition capitalizes on certain inherent qualities of painting, such as illusion, displacement, and obfuscation, in order to amplify the surreptitious qualities within the act of looking. An act that at its root remains political in nature and oftentimes repressed in culture. Situated within the rigid frame of Formalist Abstraction, a discourse sprawling with visual theory, Double Back highlights the decisive moment when viewership must reject citizenship and tread a solo path of engagement, where one must look alone and see individually, as a means to produce forms of meaning that are wholly personal. Steeped in an arduous vacillation between sides, both literal and philosophical, the works here propagate an atmosphere of anti-neutrality. For instance Impasse: Cutting Board, composed of two paintings that each replicate one usable side of a wooden cutting board, hang on opposite sides of a room facing one another. Upon entering the space the viewer is left to decide which is worth observing, while never being capable of seeing both paintings in the same field of vision. Another painting, Back, depicts the reverse side of a bathroom mirror. Whereas a mirror is generally seen as a device for transient and subjective forms of reflectivity, Back looks at possibilities within the alternative. The grey, monochromatic painting renders an archive of fingerprints, scratches, and blemishes on its surface, displaying the mirror’s age and its many encounters with other users. Reflectivity becomes embedded in the historical and social instead, speaking to the relative connections we have to objects and others. At once, paintings that render with nearly forensic precision the surfaces of objects that are predominantly domestic in nature, yet at times retain a provisionally industrial aesthetic, braid together aspects of Abstraction, intimacy, and opposition. Matthew Metzger uses painting as a conceptual device to inscribe a sense of critical self-reflection within the viewer on the subjects of history, perception, and language. All of which fold into an intimate and willful dismantling of empirical knowledge within the viewer. In order for this dismantling to occur, the materiality of the art object must remain in question, slowly oscillating both formally and conceptually between Representation and Abstraction. For this reason, Metzger begins his practice with a strategy of juxtaposing the Greenbergian Formalism of Modernist Abstraction and the discourse therein, with the phenomenological effects of illusory representation, by concentrating on the depiction of surfaces rather than space. In particular the surfaces of what appear to be banal, discarded, familiar objects who’s initial ‘use-value’ has been culturally retired. These objects are selected according to their ability to complicate their own history of production, while simultaneously fitting, with uncanny ease, into the hermetic history of painterly Abstraction. Matthew Metzger (b. 1978, Chicago, USA), lives and works in Chicago. He attended the University of Chicago and the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture Residency Program. His most recent exhibitions include Three Specific Works at Tony Wight Gallery, Chicago and Nocturne, a UBS 12 x12 New Artists/New Work show at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago.
Bryan Savitz, New Sculpture RARE Gallery 547 West 27th Street, Suite 514, 646-339-6050 Chelsea April 19 - May 17, 2008 Reception: Saturday, April 19, 6 - 8 PM Web Site In his new series of sculptures, Bryan Savitz presents a constellation of narrative fragments. The situations he creates expose a Nature disfigured and reformed through the fluxive interplay of the sculptures’ own elements. The metamorphosis depicted in each of Savitz’s works is made possible by his open engagement with the materials he employs in their making. Milky white shapes, forged with fiberglass, resin, trinkets, and wood, appear from a distance like figures cast from fossils of an alternate evolution. On closer inspection the familiar, although estranged and suddenly unstable, is evident. Shapes that at first glance appear botanical, bestial or anthropomorphic eventually defy classification. Every initially recognizable form or aspect seems less like itself and more like the interruption, however temporary, of a process. What is ultimately recognized, when viewed against the cumulative artifice of the individual sculptures, are the lines between forming and fixedness – each one on the verge of taking another shape or else sinking back into oblivion. The prominence of pedestals in Savitz’s configurations is an insistent reminder of the inevitable artificiality of their “setting.” The viewer’s imagination is not impeded by these classical devices, but rather is propelled by what paradoxically might be considered as the sculptures’ catalysts. One example is Untitled 5 (2008) in which a blazing cumulus prematurely congealed (and affixed to a cinderblock) becomes a sort of séance. Positioned among the other works in this series, it conjures the spirit of Vesuvius. Trinkets and figurines that float to, or are excavated from, the surface here and there emerge like emblems and accidents of a lost civilization. These ghostly artifacts are in actuality discarded objects of our own “everyday.” That they now figure in Savitz’s sculptures amounts not to rescue per se but to a revived state of precariousness.
Mr. van Woert’s studio bustles—he’s been busy preparing for Artissima, a fair in November in Turin, Italy, where he’ll be featured in a special section. Four people work in the studio four days a week, and welding sparks fly amid ominous metal devices. Given all the other tools lying around the studio, the Kaczynski set is almost nondescript. There’s an axe, two trowels, pipes of various lengths, a welding mask and a recorder, the musical instrument, in a belt case with the initials TJK on it. They were recently incorporated into a major piece, similar to a few others he’s made recently, called History, that looks like a tool wall in a suburban garage. Each tool is cast with sand, which is packed into a box around it before the bronze is poured in. This gives the resulting artworks a drippy look that renders the original objects indistinct. History appeared in a show at Hauser & Wirth this past spring curated by the artist Matthew Day Jackson, who, at a press preview for the show, nervously stood before it and revealed where some of the tools had come from. It has an effect on people when they know, Mr. van Woert said. They tend to step back a little. His assistants are no-nonsense, and though there’s a tone of levity amid all the statues and chemicals one finds at his studio—there’s a skateboard ramp and a foosball table—the informality just serves to remind you that this is all about anarchy. As we spoke about Kaczynski, a nearby worker carefully shaped sand around an object, as though it were icing, or C4. Mr. van Woert’s latest piece in the tool wall series involves only surgical tools, organized by where each object would be used on the body. The skull cracker is in the middle and the flesh hooks on the outer rim. It’s reminiscent of Damien Hirst’s pharmaceutical works. "I’ve always been against mold-making, because for me its roots are in mass production,” Mr. van Woert said, “which is something I’ve never really been interested in. Sand mold, it’s an absolute bitch, but you get one cast from each mold. It gets destroyed? You have to redo it all over again. In a way it’s like growing vegetables. It’s in the dirt. You just hack it up, tend to it and dig it out.” More http://observer.com/2012/09/all-star-cast-up-and-comer-nick-van-woerts-sculptures-get-inside-your-head/
Alex’s studio space is a culmination base camp, a bright studio where her many materials finally merge together. Although previously focused on scanner distortions, Alex has incorporated shelving-based installations through a similar method of additive information. Transitioning back and forth between the design of both the shelves and the objects they hold, Alex forms cohesive arrangements that distort the viewer’s observations of personal narrative. I\W: How do you merge both your found images and found objects? AC: I found this rock on the walk here which I picked up to place as part of my longtime collection of accidentally painted rocks. This object was found, but there are different types of finding. There is eBay finding, which is when you know you want a specific object and you go search for it that way—like a material. Then there is curation finding where you kind of have a loose idea of what you know you are looking for and then you spot it—which is what I feel like I am doing with the rocks. This will be a sculpture that I know I will eventually make with the rocks, but I don't know how it will fit into the rest of what I am doing. I don't think about my practice in terms of pairing found object with found image, they just happen to be found materials. I think about images differently than I do objects, but a lot of it is about pairing found things that are either industrially made, like some kind of vase that has 50 others just like it in the world, or naturally produced like driftwood. Then I take those and pair them with something that's handmade, very clearly made by an individual—whether it's me or somebody else. I pair things that I've found, and then use those to influence what I end up making or seeking out. I use it as a reference point. The images are interesting. I think sometimes I am looking for the forms within the images, like the colors or the shapes, rather than the thing represented. I am attracted to these subtle things that are within an image that are not part of the photograph itself, but are part of the printed image. I/W:How do you use image to create sculpture, and sculpture to create image? AC: What I have been thinking about in the last year a lot are these inherent ways that we expect to see photographs or images. I have created a sculptural object that plays off of the habit we have of looking at images. You expect to see an image within the object, and approach it with that notion, but then the object is void of the typical image. The object however is also reflective, so it is just not the kind of image you would expect. I/W: Do you make your own shelves for your objects? AC: I do. I learned a lot so I could build these things. I was thinking about it as if you took paint strokes off of a canvas and thought about how to arrange them. I thought about how shelves were designed, and what objects would go on them. I design both the shelves and the objects together—it is a back and forth. At a certain point you have to solidify the design of the shelf to build it, and then after that a lot of editing happens. I think of them as a piece. All of the objects and display together. Part of it is figuring out what I have made, and what I have found. I think that is a really important part of it. I worked at the MCA for a long time doing tours, and when the lights go out at the end of the night there is a bunch of stuff sitting there just waiting. I learned a lot by watching people observe work—experienced or inexperienced. This idea that when you look at something you are going to come up with various ideas of how a work fits or doesn't fit, or what it is trying to do. Two people's opinions are never going to be the same. But I think the opportunity for mistranslation and the potential for a personal narrative have become very important for me. I/W: Why do you choose to have your practice incorporate so many different materials? AC: I am not restricted to photography or sculpture, but I use those materials or ways of working when I have something that I need to say, or when the project demands it. I will want to make a wooden orange, which sounds great and easy. Then I go to the woodshop and I can't figure out this really simple thing that I have looked at for my whole life. Two other people and myself are trying to figure out the angles, and we end up figuring out that it is the negative space that you are using to create the orange. I end up seeing the world that I have always been looking at with a great deal more detail, and understanding of how things are put together—even small, stupid things, like paper clips. It took me two and a half days how to figure out how to make a paper clip. In a way I love that I get to work with a lot of different materials. I/W: How did you find ways to channel your own creativity when working within the science field? AC: Journaling. I worked as a underwater photographer in Micronesia and my job was to photograph different species of sponges. A lot of them were in these marine lakes that weren't very deep and were very silty. It wasn't deep enough to scuba dive, so you would have to let out all of your breath until you got to the right height and then snap a shot and race to the surface. I was also drawing the sponges and differentiating them. It is not always the form or the aesthetics of the thing that make it different, but sometimes it is the sponge’s interior structure. There is a lot of aesthetic overlap, but it was also metaphor. Part of it was that I had a lot of time to myself to write and draw. I just have journals and journals and journals, but I wasn't thinking about it as art—I was just making sure I didn't forget anything. This lead to a certain point in my life where I realized that I could do art as a career. I/W: What is your attraction to scanner distortions? AC: I started thinking about the scanner because it builds information additively. It doesn't capture a moment, it captures time. For me it was this huge crossover between performance, in that it is the record of an act. I would hide in the library under a coat in the winter to do this. I had my laptop and a portable scanner, but I had to get it dark enough so I had the coat over my head. They are photographs that I use for the distortions, but they are found photographs. They are also like painting because I can take a photo and paint with that rather than paint with a pigment and achieve the same thing potentially. I love the mistranslation between analogue to digital. I can hold a scanner up to you and it won't record you. It will invent a lot of information. Someone that knows you can look at it and know it is you. We don't need all the information. I want to know how much of something can be revealed or left out and your brain will do the rest of the work. My scanner pieces are meant to be light and quick, and feel easy. I/W: How much does text inform your practice? AC: A lot. Most of my titles are found material. Most of them are pulled from the world the same way my objects are. Because they are pulled from their context, they lose the meaning that they originally had. When I am reading something, I often find inspiration when I misread it the first time. That goes back to the importance of how things are held. A lot of times when I am doing these things I think about them in terms of an essay. I think about them in the same way you would write and edit. It's not the words that tell you the end of the essay or what the essay is trying to do, it is the understanding of having to get to the end. The words are just part of that end.
Mika Horibuchi and Dan Rizzo-Orr worked closely to present “View with a Room” as a project specific to the Heaven gallery space. The mostly painted work of the two artists interlocks with ease across two rooms despite wildly various subject matter and technical methods. Visual approaches reflect neatly onto three-dimensional objects, the sculptures orienting the space in turn. Horibuchi’s “Screen/Screen,” trompe l’oeil venetian blinds facing outwards from either side of a walnut box, inhabits one corner. The vibrating edges coldly lock the eye onto the surface, revealing nothing of the void between the canvases. Eponymously oriented behind are Rizzo-Orr’s “Horse Statuette North” and “Horse Statuette Northeast,” mirrored mounts enlarged from their former decorative stature. The horse profiles are divided into draped strips, their contours supported by misaligned patterns of black and yellow. Painting as a view beyond the wall is here rudely negated. Many of the works activate physical zones in between. Horibuchi’s “Reflective Rug” echoes nearby arch paintings, and Rizzo-Orr’s “Hornets Before” and “Hornets After”—painted animation cels standing upright, create distance from what was virtual. When depth is granted on the canvas it’s the private glimpse of limbs and lips inhabiting Rizzo-Orr’s night interiors. The viewer is an accused voyeur, retreating to contend with unaccommodating physical emissaries of the domestic sphere: Horibuchi’s “Seated Tiger,” an inverted chair frame upholstered with a warped image of the animal’s pelt as well as her “Description of a Weaving,” in which rubber strips painted as woven textiles are stretched over a leaning frame. - See more at: http://art.newcity.com/2015/04/14/review-mika-horibuchi-and-dan-rizzo-orrheaven-gallery/#sthash.uPFAwP0x.dpuf
DOUBLE TAKE: The Ravenswood artist, who is gaining international attention with his combination of trompe l’oeil and abstraction, is featured in a solo show at the Museum of Contemporary Art. Inside Matthew Metzger’s Ravenswood studio and living space, half a dozen paintings line the walls around his kitchen. It’s jarring to see the same minimalist canvases that have garnered him international attention hanging so near a refrigerator. If Metzger’s rise continues, they won’t grace his walls for long. The Houston native, 32, who completed a master’s degree at the University of Chicago in 2009, is as serious as artists come. He responds to questions with thoughtful precision, and when explaining his work, displays a mind-boggling knowledge of art history. Not surprisingly, a Borges anthology and shelves of critical theory books sit nearby. “The works I usually go back to are ones that in a way operate as maps. They provide an axis for me to locate my own practice,” says Metzger, whose solo show this past February at Tony Wight Gallery was a critics’ choice in Artforum. This spring brings shows at Arratia Beer in Berlin and the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago, which will feature his paintings in its emerging artists series, UBS 12 x 12. Metzger has piqued the art world’s interest with his unique combination of trompe l’oeil and abstraction. He creates optical illusions of material surfaces: A torn label, a worn Home Depot cart, a cutting board, and a peeling advertisement all appear to be real objects—until you look closer. “What keeps me coming back to these pieces are the double takes I have when I suddenly realize they’re flat surfaces,” says Timothy Grundy, the curator behind Metzger’s MCA show, Nocturne. The exhibition will feature monochromatic paintings based on the spectrum and surface of commercial construction paper. Metzger says these works are strongly rooted in Ellsworth Kelly’s explorations of the relationship between shape and color. But where his earlier paintings were direct reactions to particular objects—an idea common in modern abstract art—he’s becoming more interested in the bigger philosophical questions that 21st-century art raises, such as the role of the artist, his audience, and the interaction between the two. Says Metzger: “If I painted in 1950, there would certainly be no place to work in the manner that I do.” GO Nocturne runs May 6th to 29th at the MCA; mcachicago.org.