Newsletter: March 2009
Damaged Romanticsm: A Mirror of Modern Emotion
In conjunction with The Parrish Art Museum in Southampton, Grey Art Gallery at NYU has a wonderful exhibition on display until April 4, 2009. The show stems from the premise of the following quote from Thomas L. Dumm’s Resignation:
“One ethical task of critical thinking might be to steer us through our disappointment; to prevent it from turning into a permanent disillusionment; to make of our disappointment a plausible beginning, rather than a certain ending.”
This show attempts to prove that from disappointment and difficulty come amazing periods of genius, that there is often a creative renewal after a deluge of horror. The works of the 15 international artists in the show are hopeful, they celebrate and anticipate rather than denigrate. Works by Petah Coyne, Wangechi Mutu, Sophie Calle, Annee Olofsson, Florian Maier-Aichen, Edward Burtynsky, Richard Billham, and Jesper Just were the ones that made the strongest impression on me.
In Mutu’s work there is a deconstruction of the ideals about female beauty. She uses magazine images to create collages of odd and alien-like figures that while disturbing, also manage to magnetically draw you in with their beauty.
Calle’s work, “Exquisite Pain” from 2000 is inspired by loss she experienced. She managed to get over her own pain by asking others when they had suffered most in their lives. Photographing images and sewing text that captured the experiences and pain of other people became a coping mechanism and a cathartic experience for her. Olofsson’s videos explore the idea of solitude and aging.
Maier-Aichen’s large-scale photos, while stunningly beautiful, use odd perspective and altered colors to show landscapes devoid of any human element. There is something cold and scientific about his work.
Burtynsky uses photographs to make a statement about the industrialization of our world. Compositionally the works are perfect–but the industrial subject matter addresses the “upheaval caused by industrial globalization.” And Jesper Just, whom I have written about before, creates videos which explore the struggle for human connection. I saw this show on a Wednesday night and I was the only person in the gallery. It was a wonderful experience and I encourage you to make a visit to the Grey Art Gallery before the exhibition ends.
“The Intimate Line” at Sepia International
Sepia International is an organization “dedicated to supporting and encouraging artists of all nations whose work reflects issues unique to their socio-cultural environment, by highlighting the vision and skill of photographers from all over the world. “- www.sepia.org
I was led through the current exhibiton “The Initimate Line” by one of the artists, Elinor Carucci. The other artists in the show are Sunil Gupta, Amy Jenkins, and Angelika Sher.
Carucci, an Israeli-born artist who lives and works in New York, has always used her family and self as subjects for her photos. In the series My Children, on view here, Carucci documents a new phase in her life—-that of motherhood.
Pictures of children crying when given medicine, snooping when curiosity takes over and moments of simple tenderness are included. Carucci honestly documents the ups and downs that occur on a daily basis in a home with young children. Her works are extremely powerful and moving.
Sunil Gupta is HIV positive and in his photographs he relates to children with his shared situation. He focuses not on the illness of the children but on the innocence of childhood by photographing everyday images from the home where the HIV positive children live in India.
Jenkins video on view is of her breastfeeding her daughter who cyclically falls asleep, wakes up to feed, and falls asleep again. The mother’s face is not seen and so the focus becomes the daughter and the natural act which creates an intimate bond between the two.
Sher’s photos share images from her own childrens’ lives but unlike Carucci’s, they capture moments of childhood experiences in a joyful way using bright colors and carefully planned compositions.
The show is beautiful and Carucci’s works in particular struck me in their honesty. The experience was tainted a bit, however, when certain members of the group of Junior Associates from MoMA I was with asked bizarre questions of Carucci. One man expressed his discomfort at seeing a nude child hanging in a gallery while another asked if Carucci worried about a pedophile buying one of the images of her children without clothes. Carucci remained poised and confident when responding to their outrageous comments. I mean shouldn’t we be comfortable with our bodies? If people have a problem with this show then a) they probably don’t have children and b) they have their own issues they have to work out. With the glut of so- so shows out there right now, this show exhibits work that captures human connection and real emotion. Bravo, Sepia!
The Armory Show, Scope, Pulse and Volta
Well, somehow I managed to see all four of these fairs in one day while also working at my gallery’s booth at the Armory Modern. My overall impressions were that the positive attitude at the Armory was a nice surprise. It was crowded and there was some good art to be seen. The new addition of the Modern section actually added something to the fair though it does veer away from the original avant-garde intent of the 1913 Armory Show founders upon which this fair is based.
Highlights from the Armory were: a Marca-Relli in plastic at Armand Bartos, an O’Keeffe pastel on paper entitled, Great Horns with Blue from 1945 at Hirschl and Adler for a mere $985,000, and every piece of art in Italy’s Studio la Citta’s booth.
In the Contemporary section D’Amelio Terras has a great Tony Feher work from 2009, Glass Jars. Sikkema Jenkins had a tremendous Mark Bradford.
Kerlin Gallery from Ireland had a Callum Inness painting for $35,000 called Repetition, 65 x 61 inches that was amazing–it looked like wood.
A Gupta work called There is Always Cinema made of found objects and brass was very cool.
Peter Blum had a wall filled with works by an artist I had never heard of called John Beech which I liked a lot.
Rhona Hoffman had sold a 1972 Lewitt work on paper that I adored. IBID Projects from London were showing photos by Olivier Richon. He references still life paintings from the 17th century. And Two Palms had Mel Bochner etchings for $1200 which seemed like a steal.
I though Pulse was fine but I felt that it was better last year. There were some good buys at the fair though.
Freight and Volume had various works by Jim Lee that I liked.
Bravin Lee was showing affordable gouaches on paper by Douglas Florian for $800 each.
ACRIA had a Donald Baechler called “The Lucky Ring” for $1000 and a Tomaselli archival digital print for $300.
But my favorite works, the works I would purchase if I could, were William Powhida’s works in the Schroeder Romero booth called “Post-Boom Odds,” “Acquisitions,” and “Why I Make Art.” Of course I always love a little humor in my collection and the biting wit is definitely present in these works.
Scope only had one artist whose work intrigued and that was EVOL at Wilde Gallery from Berlin. They were works on cardboard, very street arty, and they were all sold out. I am going to do some research on that artist as his works were in the $2000-7000 range and I really liked them. Other than that, Scope was a bit of a mish-mash of work.
Volta had some good booths and some that puzzled. By the time I saw that fair, unfortunately, the only thing I wanted was a chair and some water. An exhausting weekend but worth it all to share my finds with you.
ADAA: The Art Show 2009
While I did not find a lot at the fair, I did see a few works that stood out. There was a Louise Bourgeois lithograph for $4500 entitled, Rose, from 2002, and an amazing maquette by Anne Truitt (a Minimialist artist who is not nearly as well-known as her male peers) for a price that I was shocked by so I won’t even include it. I had never seen a work by her that small before; it was intriguing.
I saw a wonderful Daniel Buren from 1989 that was made up of three light boxes with his signature stripes in black and white for a mere $30,000 (haha). And one booth had a Diebenkorn monotype from 1988 that was a very nice piece.
Inspiration and Influence at James Goodman Gallery
I had to post a blog about the show I recently curated at James Goodman Gallery (where I work until the end of the month). See images, installation shots and the press release below.
Inspiration and Influence:
Contemporary Masters and Their Predecessors
February 25, 2009- March 31, 2009
James Goodman Gallery is pleased to present Inspiration and Influence: Contemporary Masters and Their Predecessors. This exhibition juxtaposes works by five contemporary artists with artworks by modern artists whose work has been influential to their oeuvre. Some of the pairings are quite straightforward while others ask the viewer to make associations where none have previously been made. All of the couplings challenge one to explore the dialogue that exists between the works and the different generations of artists.
Artist pairings include:
Sky Gate XXXI by Louise Nevelson and Curry 2 by Subodh Gupta
In both these works a systematic repetition of forms is utilized and compartmentalized. The wall pieces repeat patterns and forms using found objects. In Gupta’s work rhythm is created by stacking like-objects next to each other. The shiny stainless steel surfaces reflect light, moving the eye throughout the work. Nevelson, also intrigued by light and
shadow, uses arcs juxtaposed with linear verticals to create movement in the work.
Pumpkin by Yayoi Kusama and Blue Net by Ross Bleckner
Both artists utilize organic shapes and monochromatic backgrounds that draw the viewer in by transporting them into an alternate universe. Kusama expands our world by looking out into the cosmos while Bleckner investigates the microscopic cellular elements of our environs.
Deux Danseuses by Edgar Degas and Nude by Richard Diebenkorn
Diebenkorn is most often cited as being influenced by Matisse in his portraiture but here we see a parallel with Edgar Degas’ drawing not only in subject matter but also in the technique used to draft the figure. Masters of strong and definitive line, the artists both depict the women in less than flattering positions—figures twist, sprawl and sit awkwardly. Both viewed the human figure as a prop to be manipulated. Degas and Diebenkorn’s figures are not about the narrative but more about the balanced composition and naturalism shown through the body in movement, and in these works in particular, torsion. Like Degas, Diebenkorn cuts off part of the figure creating the illusion of a spontaneous moment.
Site Aloire avec 8 personnages by Jean Dubuffet and Untitled by Jean-Michel Basquiat
While elements in Basquiat’s work were based on the African Diaspora, jazz music and New York City urban life, Dubuffet was concerned with an ‘art brut,’ a raw untrained art created by the mentally ill and children. Both Dubuffet and Basquiat had a desire to breathe new life into a stale antiquated art world using spontaneity and a grafitti-like primitive technique. Art for them was a means of communication with the common man and an expression of life.
Untitled by Sol Lewitt and Untitled by Keith Haring
Unlike other paintings in this exhibition, these two works do not appear to have much in common at first glance. Both artists often moved away from the canvas to create impermanent wall drawings utilizing their own visual language in order to make art accessible to the public. Though not a wall drawing, the Lewitt gouache on view is a perfect example of Lewitt’s strong use of color and line that became one of his trademarks. Haring’s work on plywood from 1983 is simple in composition and subject matter and is the perfect example of the pictographs that he became best known for.
Quotes that were hung on the wall next to the art:
“Like 80 percent of the population in India, I grew up carrying my lunch in these tiffin pots…The objects I pick already have their own significance. I put them together to create new meanings.”—Subodh Gupta
“Art is everywhere except it has to pass through a creative mind.”—Louise Nevelson
“My hand just moves across the canvas by itself. I don’t control it, and I don’t make preliminary sketches. The painting comes first and any thoughts come after.”—Yayoi Kusama
“So much of my work is about building up and taking apart, about how the shapes form and uniform, how they dissolve and reassemble.”—Ross Bleckner
“No art is less spontaneous than mine. What I do is the result of reflection and the study of the great masters.”—Edgar Degas
“In a successful painting everything is integral…all the parts belong to the whole. If you remove an aspect or element, you are removing its wholeness.”—Richard Diebenkorn
‘Art brut’ is “anything produced by people who are untainted by artistic culture, works in which mimicry…has little or no part…pure artistic operation, unrefined and thoroughly reinvented in its every aspect by its maker acting entirely on his own impulse.”—Jean Dubuffet
“I start a picture and I finish it. I don’t think about art while I work. I try to think about life.”—Jean Michel Basquiat
“The idea or concept is the most important aspect of the work.”—Sol Lewitt
“There are some images that I will use only once, and not use again because they don’t seem to really hit the nail right on the head, but there are some which are so strong they have to be reduced; sometimes just reusing them makes them stronger.”— Keith Haring
Fred Wilson at the 92nd Street Y
Fred Wilson is a jack of all trades. He is an artist and curator whose career has spanned the past four decades. Never boring, his work challenges viewers to think deeply about the multi-layered art before them . In 2003, Wilson represented the United States at the Venice Biennale. I was lucky enough to see that show entitled, “Speak of me as I am,” a line from Othello. In the Jeffersonian pavilion Wilson included imagery that might, at first, appear to be linked to American slavery. However, upon closer inspection, Wilson was filling the space with art from modern day Venice. There were black figures which Venetians would recognize from a doge’s tomb in the Frari Church. He examined the history of the Moors in Venice when he found figures on doorknockers, in the Teatro La Fenice, and in the paintings of the Accademia Museum. He explained that a Tiepolo painting from 1725 had been extremely influential in his becoming an artist. In this work, Tiepolo puts himself in his studio along with his wife and his black assistant. This was something that Wilson had not seen before and for him, it made an African’s connection to art real.
The rotunda in the entryway housed a beautiful black glass chandelier. Murano is the mecca of beautifully blown glass but objects are usually colorful or clear, never black. Having just come from a residency at a glass school in the US, Murano glass seemed a logical step for Wilson. In one room visitors could find objects created for the show as opposed to the other spaces which included works based on found objects placed in different contexts.
Drip, Drop, Plop was made of the same black glass as the chandelier, but the glass formed drips which could be interpreted as tar, tears, or ink. He added eyes to some of the drips playing on the notion of cartoon stereotypes. Including a variety of works was important to him because though he had been creating work for years, it afforded an opportunity for a larger worldwide audience to become familair with his work.
In the late 1970s Wilson took photos in his continued quest for finding the truth in what you see before you. In a show he curated in 1987 called “Rooms with a View” he investigated how different environments alter the way in which works on display are viewed. The works never changed, but their presentation did. He is always reinventing himself and though his art changes, it always demands something of the viewer. He is a fascinating man and a wonderful artist. Keep your eyes out for him. If you want to learn more about him visit: http://www.pbs.org/art21/artists/wilson/index.html
Studio Visit with Sanford Biggers
I thoroughly enjoyed my recent visit to Sanford Biggers’ studio. Not knowing much about his work I went with an open mind and was impressed not only by his articulation about his process but also with the work itself. As I have mentioned before, some studio visits can be awkward because the artist is shy or doesn’t know how to explain why they do what they do. It was obvious to me that Biggers teaches (having previously been an educator myself) because his presentation was organized and extremely informative. Born in LA, he has lived in New York since 2000 with stints at Moorehouse for undergrad, 2 1/2 years in Japan, time in Italy, and in Chicago at The Art Institute for his graduate degree. He also had residencies at PS1 in Queens and The Studio Museum in Harlem. All of these various places have had an impact on his work, and Buddhism and hip-hop culture have clearly been powerful influences. For an installation for PS1 he created Mandala of the B-Bodhisttva II, a mandala made of colored floor tiles, an art historical nod to Carl Andre, which turned into a performance space for breakdancers at the 2000 Battle of the Boroughs competition. After the breakdancing competition the work was placed in PS1 with scuff marks and all in order to show the hip-hop culture that became an important part of the piece. He treated it as an ethnographic object with a utilitarian function. He views art the same way Duchamp did; the artwork itself is only half of the experience, the viewer is the other crucial part of the equation.
The next work he showed us was another installation (he considers himself primarily a sculptor and installation artist who also does video and performance-based work). It was a prayer rug made of colored sand which actually faced Mecca and took over 300 hours to create. The sand was loose just like the Tibetan mandalas that monks spend hours making and then sweep away in an instant to show the impermanence of things.
In Cheshire from 2007 he videotaped professional black men such as doctors, dentists, lawyers, etc. climbing trees in order to just hang out. This was the opposite of how black men had normally been seen in the past in trees–hanging from them, not relaxing in them.
Trees are a recurring theme in the work of Biggers for many reasons–because Buddha found enlightenment there and also because of their association with the lynchings that took place in them. They are filled with meaning.
The most intense work he showed us was created as a dedication to James Byrd, the black man who was intentionally dragged behind a pickup truck in Jasper, TX in 1998. Biggers created a tree in a gallery that extended from floor to ceiling. It had a monitor in its trunk and earphones that hung from a branch so that when the viewer put them on, it looked like he/she was hanging from the tree. The video playing on the monitor was of a naked black man (Biggers himself) playing hymns on a piano in the middle of nowhere. Biggers felt this man represented the freedom that a black man would normally not have in the south in this situation–a naked black man in the middle of nowhere by a tree had usually been tortured and killed. So while the way I describe it sounds morbid, it is actually a beautiful piece which embraces and celebrates freedom.
Passage was made one week before Obama’s inaguration which just happened to be also be Martin Luther King’s birthday. This was my favorite work that Biggers showed us. In the center of a dark room was an oversized bust of Martin Luther King, Jr. A spotlight shone on the bust which Biggers had altered with a beeswax mohawk. This was not terribly noticeable until you looked at the wall behind the bust where a profile in shadow was cast—not of King, however, but of Barack Obama. It was a beautiful work I would have loved to have seen in person.
Biggers explained that he starts with an image or idea and asks how it would best manifest itself in an installation or performance. His work investigates identity, notions of race and gender and is very cerebral and layered. He says he puts so many layers in his works that he “confounds the complexities of race.” In this way the works are not about separate issues but the whole that the multi-layered pieces creates. Viewers tend to focus on the simple aesthetics of the work and not necessarily the singling out of one social or political tone of a work. He hopes that people will ask questions after seeing his work.
Not only does he create installations and sculptures, but all over his studio hang drawings and paintings which are inspirations for his larger works. I fell in love with a Japanese ink painting of Buddha and a smaller sketch of the famous fertility figure from prehistoric times, Venus of Willendorf. These are for sale and are a great way to get work by this wonderful emerging artist for a fraction of the cost of his larger works. I am certain that even bigger and better things are in his future. Check out his website: www.sanfordbiggers.com
Ammi Phillips and Mark Rothko at The American Folk Art Museum
The Seduction of Light: Ammi Phillips (1788-1865) /Mark Rothko ( 1903-1970) Compositions in Pink, Green, and Red is an interesting exhibition currently on display at The American Folk Art Museum. The show, located right next door to MoMA on 53rd Street in Manhattan, runs through March 29th. While I would never think to group work by these two American artists together, there are connections that can be made when it comes to their common interest in the creation of light on the canvas through the use of color. While Rothko’s investigations utilize abstractions, Phillips paints portraits. Though Phillips’ works are representational, there is an abstraction in the angularity of shapes and body parts which was quite advanced and unique at the time they were created. In Woman with Pink Ribbons the dress has a luminous quality. Pink highlights are used, ember-like in its haunting glow from within the green dress.
Untitled, a work by Rothko from 1956, is in my opinion the best work in the show. Somehow Rothko manages to make the black rectangular area recede while the white hovers above the canvas. It is truly remarkable and gained power as I moved away from it to gain perspective. A show worth seeing if only for the Rothkos on view.
Fischer Landau Center for Art
Last Monday I had the pleasure of seeing three exhibitions now on view at the Fisher Landau Center in Long Island City, Queens. I have been wanting to take a trip there for a long time now and was pleasantly surprised by my visit. It is a beautiful space that is free to the public.
The real draw for me was the show on the top floor, Jasper Johns: The Screenprints. I just love his work and there was one piece in that show that I would sell my soul to the devil for. Target, a screenprint from 1973, is Johns at his best. Just a beautiful work.
On a print called Untitled (Skull) he put a large “x” through his signature which I had never seen before. Perhaps he was just having fun, or maybe he didn’t like the way that particular work turned out–interesting nevertheless. Seeing all of these works together was fun because you could make comparisons between the black and white (gray) version and the same one done in color. The pieces reminded me of works by Johns’s friend Bob Rauschenberg in which he would paint the exact same image over on two canvases each as a unique work. Only by staring at the two works for awhile can one find the subtle differences. It reminds me of that game where two photos are side by side and you must identify what is different between the two images. In the conference room on the top floor the works on view are progressive and can help the viewer begin to understand the printing process. One can see trialand progressive proofs that show what one part of the image will look like — then for the final one, they all get laid on top of one another.
Five Decades of Passion Part One: The Eye of the Collector, 1968-1988 can be found on the second floor. All works from the permanent collection, one gets a quick sense of how vast and varied this collection is and what a good eye Emily Landau has. Standout pieces were a very unique Kenneth Price sculpture aptly titled 1914; it has a cubist feel to it.
A Georgia O’Keeffe entitled Ladder to the Moon from 1958 has a simple skyline with a floating ladder and is almost surreal-like. I have never seen an O’Keeffe like it before. The blue of the night sky is vibrant and spectacular. A 1961 Agnes Martin work with oil, gold leaf and pencil on linen took my breath away. It is gorgeous with small blue/gray markings that hover on a subtley shimmering background.
In a Mark Tansey work entitled, Triumph over Mastery II from 1987 the figure in the work paints over the Sistine Chapel hence the title. This work definitely made me stop and look twice as to what was going on in the composition. Lastly, there was a sculpture by Al Taylor from 1988 made of brass, wood and paint that I enjoyed. Its materials are simple but there was also no pattern, no rhyme or reason to the piece. I also enjoyed the way he used straight rods to create spirals.
On the ground floor was the exhibition Imagination Noir which consisted of works of photography by artists whose names should start to sound familiar to you now: Baldessari, Nan Goldin, Gregory Crewdson, and Hiroshi Sugimoto.
They are open Thurs-Mon 12-5 and it is very easy to get to from Manhattan. Visit www.flcart.org for more info.