Wednesday, November 18, 2009
This summer it was possible to wade in the waters of pornography, erotic art, psychoanalysis, and feminism by visiting four almost concurrent art exhibitions: Peeps at CUNY’s James Gallery; John Currin: Works on Paper—A Fifteen Year Survey of Women at Andrea Rosen Gallery; Dorothy Iannone: Lioness at The New Museum; and The Female Gaze: Women Look at Women at Cheim & Read. Taken together, these shows trace a line of erotic imagery from the crass commercialism of pure pornography to the more refined commercialism of the art gallery, raising questions about how these forms relate to modern sexuality. Let’s be explicit: sex sells. It sells itself—always one click away—and it sells other commodities: beer, cars, tennis rackets, and, yes, art. Certainly, the aspiration for erotic imagery presented in an art setting is that it would stimulate reflections on desire, sexism and human rights. Working from the opposite direction, however, the exploitative forces at work in the making and selling of pornography cannot be completely sugarcoated in a fine art frame...(read full article here.)
Tuesday, November 17, 2009
ARTWALK NY 2009
Art Auction Benefit for Coalition for the Homeless
Co-chairs: , and
Artist Honoree: Pat Steir
Skylight Studio, 275 Hudson Street, NYC
6:30 pm doors/8 pm live auction
Tickets are $200 and $500
Full details here
ARTWALK NY unites artists and art lovers in an effort to help our homeless neighbors, and to celebrate the most important artists of our time. Coalition for the Homeless provides housing, food, job training, crisis services and children's programs to thousands of New Yorkers each day. We believe that affordable housing, sufficient good, and the chance to work for a living wage are fundamental rights in a civilized society. Since 1981, we've fought successfully for lansting solutions to homelessness through our renowned advocacy.
"Owning a car is an American birthright. It is the personalization of American power, prosperity, and autonomy. Regardless of the impact on the environment or national security, we Americans go where we want, when we want, and in the car of our choice. Speed is the hook: put your foot on the accelerator and go. At least, that’s the way it’s always been. Now, with the rapid slow-down of our economy, we are being forced to confront our relationship to our cars. Andrew Bush’s “Vector Portraits,” photographs of people driving their cars, can give us a place to start. Opening April 23rd, two Chelsea galleries—Yossi Milo and Julie Saul—are showing Bush’s near life-size color images taken in the 1990s..." (read full article here.)
Saturday, July 11, 2009
Monday, July 6, 2009
To die, to sleep.
To sleep, perchance to dream—ay, there’s the rub,
For in that sleep of death what dreams may come
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,
Must give us pause.
It’s only from observing someone else’s death that we can get any clues about what dreams may come. All we have to go on is our experience as a witness to another’s death -- its approach, occurrence and aftermath. Our response to this sequence of events is shaped by how well we know the deceased and how well we know ourselves. There is a special pull and fascination with having proximity to another’s death. What we see “gives us pause.” Eventually, we know, it will be our turn.
Nearly a decade ago painter Judy Glantzman kept her father company as his health deteriorated. She briefly tried sketching him, she told me recently, but was not comfortable representing her father’s decline directly. Glantzman took the impulse of recording her experience of his death back to her studio. She wrote of bringing to her painting a heightened sense of the provisional nature of our “physical selves.” The resulting work was not shown widely at the time it was painted. It is, however, the basis for Glantzman’s show at Betty Cuningham Gallery this summer, “The White Paintings 1999 -2001.”
The focus of the show is five large, mostly white oil paintings. In each work there is a single, ambiguous presence drawn in contours of paint using minimal color – mostly reds and muted blues. Centrally placed, the lone figure is female and has a youthful, fidgety appearance. The effect is spare, as opposed to the colorful, populated feel to much of Glantzman’s prior and subsequent works.
The figures are incomplete and misshapen, missing arms, a torso, or legs. Rendered quickly in narrow painted lines, several wear a veil or headpiece and some are clothed in a full gathered skirt. The most prominent element in each painting is the subject’s doll-like face. The stylized facial features have similar proportions as they face the viewer. They could all be drawn from a classicized conception of the human face rather than from a specific individual.
Overall, the works have an interrupted and erased feel as if the artist made multiple, incomplete attempts at rendering her subject. What is left of the figure for us to see has been partially covered or reworked. However, the unfinished quality of the rendering does not result in an unfinished work. The striving and repeated attempts to understand her idealized subject suggest that which we can never really know.
Above image courtesy of the artist and Betty Cuningham Gallery:
by Judy Glantzman "Angel," 2000, Oil on Canvas, 90" x 80"
Saturday, June 13, 2009
I made it through Grand Central Station from the south side, but got jammed up trying to get into the MetLife building. Just as the security guard waved me to stop I noticed -- with an overwhelming jolt -- two huge paintings by Julian Schnabel in the stone-faced interior lobby. What? Art? Here, in the heart of this imposing citadel? In perfect contrast to their polished, corporate setting – they were oversized, nearly falling apart, on dirty, wrinkled-looking canvas. The ham-handed strokes and forms looked to be painted by a giant who almost didn't care. The artist who, “cultivates provocation and paradox,” loves to define himself as a “cave painter,” according to a press release issued about the paintings when they were shown in Italy in 2006.
Immanuel Kant contrasts the beautiful with the sublime in his “Critique of Judgment.” A judgment of beauty involves a perception of harmony and purpose with respect to something we can grasp all at once. Judging the sublime adds size and scale to the equation – it addresses things that are bigger than us and even beyond our ability to imagine. “The feeling of the sublime is …produced by the feeling of a momentary inhibition of the vital forces followed immediately by an outpouring of them that is all the stronger…The liking for the sublime contains not so much a positive pleasure as rather admiration and respect, and so should be called a negative pleasure.” Schnabel’s oversized paintings functioned as a single sublime thread hanging from a tailored suit of stone. If tugged, the thread could unravel the entire building.
The guard let me see a third Schnabel on the floor closed to the public and explained that there were two more even bigger — measuring probably twenty feet square -- on the lower level. From there I could get back to Park Avenue and fulfill my mission. Ogling the larger Schnabels and making only one wrong turn inside the Helmsley building, I found my way uptown on the other side.
Julian Schnabel says about his work, “I use any tool I can to realize the physical embodiment of my impulse.” There is a connection between the artist’s impulse and their materials that is replicated in the audience’s experience of the work. The British photographer Tactita Dean believes “art works best when it responds to the autobiography of the viewer.” The connection may not be so much the gratification of a desire, or fulfillment of a fantasy, but a sublime “negative pleasure” such as recognizing our fears. Stumbling upon the paintings unexpectedly, my surprise drove the connection deeper. As I faced down my concern about getting lost in the labyrinth of stone and steel over Park Avenue, I found the treasure: Schnabel’s cave paintings.
Post Script: Takako Azami
On a different day I set out on a "safer" straight line to see a short list of shows In Chelsea. The walk was just a typical stroll from point A to point B, and, unlike my trek up Park Avenue, I fully expected to see some art. In thinking about Schabel’s translation of impulse to artwork, the clearest connection I saw was in Takako Azami’s ink paintings on stretched hemp paper at M.Y. Art Prospects. “Pine Trees”, in particular, felt musical with its rich array of tones and intervals. The artist has trained in the traditional style of Japanese ink painting, but has adapted and transformed the technique over the last 10 years. Visible on the surface of the stretched paper is the “back” of the artist’s dabs and blots of black and grey ink and white chalk pigments. The simple directness and intelligence of the work was right on the surface.
Above image: by Takako Azami, "Pine Trees," 2008, Ink, pigment on hemp paper, 4' x 6', courtesy of M.Y. Art Prospects Gallery
Friday, May 15, 2009
I went to a panel discussion at MoMA expecting to learn about the six artists presenting, and ended up more curious about the format of the lecture: Pecha Kucha. Each presenter is allowed 20 images and has 20 seconds per image to comment. MoMA is hosting five presentations in this format this spring in conjunction with the exhibition, “Compass in Hand: Selections from The Judith Rothschild Foundation Contemporary Drawings Collection.”
Pecha Kucha, which translates from Japanese as “chit chat,” is a recent innovation first used by architects. In 2003, Mark Dytham and Astrid Klein, who have a Tokyo-based firm, saw the potential for expanding the role of the design presentation into the realm of nighttime entertainment. Pecha Kucha tightens up the parameters of a traditional lecture presentation relocating it to a bar or nightclub. Consider Pecha Kucha as a substitute for Karaoke or a drinking game. In the new, relaxed atmosphere, the shorter presentations allow architects and designers to quickly share their ideas.
So, does it work for artists?
To get in on the game, I am modeling this post on the Pecha Kucha style. In addition to the MoMA presentation I will cover several recent art events: a lecture on surf blogging and an exhibition of Carolyn Swiszcz’s paintings at M.Y. Art Prospects; Thomas Torros Cordova’s performance, “Everybody Loves the Sunshine” at CUNY’s new James Gallery; Josephine Halvorson and Andy Rosen ‘s two-person show, “Close to Home” at Cuchifritos; and Angela Dufresne’s new paintings at Monya Rowe and CRG. This is more than I would normally write about at once, but I’ll try for short and sweet.
Ready, set, go.
At MoMA, the artists presenting were Christian Holstad, Kim Jones, Julian Hoeber, Dana Schutz, Dannielle Tegeder and Elizabeth Simonson. Most of them started with older drawings from the exhibition, followed by more recent work in other media. While the styles and subjects of their work were diverse, by the end all of the artists where united in feeling nerve-racked by the constraints of the Pecha Kucha format. Disco lighting and a pitcher of beer might have helped.
One side effect of presenting under pressure was a generous outpouring during the Q and A and the end. The artists offered personal advice to the audience about countering some common professional hazards. Elizabeth Simonson stressed the importance of having a studio and keeping a close circle of friends. In response to a question about disappointment, Dannielle Tegeder offered, “it is a natural part of the process of making and showing work.” Dana Schutz says she fights doubt by making lists of ideas and running. Several artists agreed with Kim Jones that doing yoga helps. Looking back, it may be that the artists’ discomfort came from trying to jam the contents of a more traditional presentation into too small a space. The most memorable moments came after the timer had stopped and the artists were more at ease.
Moving right along.
To mark her gallery’s 10th anniversary, Miyako Yoshinga has initiated a monthly informal lecture and discussion series called Telling Evenings (T.E.) at M.Y. Art Prospects. On April 9 -- the debut of the series -- new media artist and filmmaker, Marcin Ramocki talked about the brief history of surf-blogging. He projected on-line examples of this visual telephone game, played by closed surf clubs on the Internet. Surf blogging sprang up from the fertile crescent of amateur pornography connoisseurship and Internet image piracy. The audience’s reaction to Ramoki’s presentation was swift and polarized: outrage at the unauthorized use of images posted on the Internet, and delighted fascination with the humor and creativity of the results.
Also at M.Y. Art Prospects through May 23rd, “Minnesota Miracle,” an exhibition of Carolyn Swiszcz’s paintings combines a bleak “South Park” aesthetic with pitch-perfect atmospheric effects also found in Hokusai’s ukiyo-e landscape woodblock prints. The artist’s use of repeating geometric shapes to depict modern suburban architectural facades – they are “rubber stamped” – becomes a commentary on the winter-weary heartland mindset. Her gaze at an impoverished, strip mall and beer-pong culture is both sympathetic and steady.
Under the new directorship of Linda Norden, the programs at The Amie and Tony James Gallery at CUNY’s Graduate Center located at 35th and Madison have nearly exploded out of its large-windowed corner gallery space. Performances, videos, readings, and politically charged exhibitions rotate in and out of the gallery at a whiplash pace. On April 17, 2009, film-maker, performance artist and crooner, Thomas Torres Cordova screened his 3-D film “Everybody Loves the Sunshine.”
During his performance Cordova narrated and sang over his video montage accompanied by Woody "Uncle Woody" Sullender‘s live banjo playing. Cordova is a full-time on-the-ground airlines employee whose family runs an air-conditioning business. Airplane crashes, “loony” astronaut love triangles, the American need for artificially controlled air environments, and the mass merchandising of art, piled together spell out an SOS in sky-writing. Where, in our airtight, super-sonic space age, is there room for the lonely heart to sing out and be heard?
In “Close to Home,” curators Melissa Levin and Mike Quinn have paired fine art “souvenirs” from a northeastern sensibility at Cuchifritos in the East Village through June 13th. The modestly sized still life paintings by Josephine Halvorson exhibit a wry, deadpan humor and play off the physical comedy of Andy Rosen’s nautical sculptures.
A double dose of work by painter and musician Angela Dufresne’s is now up at Monya Rowe and CRG in Chelsea in “Modern Times I and II.” Painting the movie of her life, scored by Bob Dylan and scripted by Charlie Chaplin, Dufrese’s friends understudy for contemporary and classic movie stars. She slides a filmic veneer under her painted forms and strokes reminding me of the late Picasso's, and the paintings of Louise Fishman and Cecily Brown. There’s a split-screen music video made by Dufresne floating around the Internet I wish would show up in her galleries.
Pecha Kucha for writing: is the result a haiku collection or a shopping list? I’ll take their word that it works for architects; the jury is out for fine artists. “Chit chat” implies a tuned out superficiality, but it sounds like the process is supposed to be more like skipping rope, it gets the heart rate up, hopefully pumping more oxygen to the brain. Maybe fine art is less programmatic than architecture, so its harder to regulate. Or should MoMA be serving cocktails?
Above Image by Carolyn Swiszcz, "Walker Art Center, Minneapolis," Acrylic and rubber stamp on canvas, 36" x 48", 2009. Courtesy of M.Y. Art Prospects.
Sunday, May 3, 2009
Later we can see that leaving home happens in marked stages. Making her new home at Versailles, the young Queen shed her girlhood clothes, wearing now only clothes of the Court. New experiences, new responsibilities. Her golden chairs encircle the round table, pulling back toward the water. The North Fork marshes of the girl’s childhood summers flood her dreams. From whose mind’s eye are these images being projected? Who is writing the story? The girl is my daughter. These are my paintings. I hold hopes, as any mother does, for my child to make a home for herself -- to fearlessly define her own world.
Image above: Anne Sherwood Pundyk, "Journal", 2008, 10" x 10.75", watercolor on paper