Category Archives: New York

New York On Making

ARTICULATE II: What is an Exhibition-in-Print?

Liz Nurenberg, The Rape of Persopina, Self Portrait as Sculpture, 2013

Liz Nurenberg, The Rape of Persopina, Self Portrait as Sculpture, 2013

I am currently working with a group of artists on an exhibition-in-print. Because people don’t quite know what to expect, it warrants some further explanation. This is neither a regular gallery group show catalogue (essay and images, not a precious object) nor a traditional artist’s book (one artist, doing their thing within the book form, often very laborious and a small print run). It is close to a literary journal for art, but a smaller run and with even less money. Articulate II is the third project in a series of art books that I started with Emily Smith in graduate school. In a book artists are able to do things that wouldn’t make as much sense in a gallery setting—the format is more personal, less formal, and can ask for extended contemplation from the audience.  Plus, we love books and well crafted objects, so why not combine the two?

On a couple of occasions, creating work for one of our books has opened a new door in an artist’s practice and a fresh body of work has arisen as a result. A book can also act as a space for documentation or exploration of the process, hopefully allowing the reader/viewer something of a “behind the scenes” experience. (There has recently been a boom in books about creativity aimed at the non-artist, but probably one of the best ways to learn about creativity is to see it in action.) This particular edition centers on love.The original call asked artists to think about art and love together–how the two concepts relate and respond to one another–but also to address love as a focus for its own sake. One of the reasons for this was the number of exciting art works I saw talking about love, but where the artist felt embarrassed about taking this as subject matter– love was not conceptual or complex enough.

Dai Toyofuku with edits by Alex Moore, Haiku for Fall

Dai Toyofuku & Alex Moore, Dirty Writing: A Haiku for Fall, poetry, annotation and edits, 2013

In the finished work there is a broad range of interpretations and approaches but a recurring theme is the challenge of completely grasping or articulating a complex thought or emotion. A number of the pieces look explicitly at the relationships intertwined within the art making process: between artist and work, artist and subject, artist and editor, or artist and viewer. Our goals with this project are to facilitate creative exploration by the artists, encourage art viewing outside of the gallery setting and maybe even sneak original artwork into people’s lives. In this case, the expanded folio version will include original work by Sarah NewmanJayoung Yoon, and Michelle Carla Handel. For now, the only way to experience this exhibition and receive a copy of either the book or the folio is through our Kickstarter campaign, ending November 15th. More details about each of the contributors are below.

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Alex C MooreI am an artist and writer. I am interested in art as a social phenomena–an action that humans undertake to attempt communication and connection. I am endlessly fascinated by our emotional quirks and our creative thought pathways. Articulate is one product of these explorations.

Azadeh Tajpour is currently the Artist in Residence at Boston Center for the Arts. Her work is about how our perception in regard to the “other” is shaped by the medium of representation. For Articulate II, her work is a digital print, which is part of a series of work based on images of women from the 19th or early 20th c. Iran. While examining the notion of representation and labeling, the work also reflects upon intimate relationships and gender ambiguity.

Carmine Iannoccone: In an old Craftsman Bungalow, I paint, draw, build things and compose the seminars that I teach. My wife and I spent twenty years restoring this structure; it’s where our children were born and grew up. It was always my ambition to have the house, the family, the marriage and the studio all be the same thing. I couldn’t make that work. But there were times when it happened anyway – by accident, by surprise, without my control, almost without my even knowing, or noticing. My drawing for this issue of Articulate is about one of those times.

Dai Toyofuku lives and works in Los Angeles. His work imagines and attempts to create an ongoing dialogue in which human culture and wild nature are intimately connected. Dirty Writing: Haiku for Fall expands these ideas through collaborative/editorial dialogue with Alex Moore.

Jayoung Yoon is a New York-based artist born in Korea. Her work represents a cleansing of personal and social memories. For Articulate II, she read current issues of the ‘New York Times’ dealing with conflicts, judgments, hatred, etc., and as a healing gesture, peeled away the destructive imagery and words with tape, leaving a purified thin remnant of paper. She then transformed the peeled layers of ink, negating it all, by creating a symbolic image of beauty, growth and harmony.

Lindsay Nevard is an industrial designer and design researcher. She focuses on asking the right questions to uncover people’s otherwise invisible motives. The Ghostface project was an interspecies collaborative effort between Lindsay Nevard, Dai Toyofuku and a cat named Ghostface.  After exhaustive research and testing, we prepared an afternoon meal for Ghostface and a handful of his closest human friends.

Liz Nurenberg: The Rape of Proserpina, Self Portrait as Sculpture, is one in a series of photographs that plays with the portrayal of the goddess in the history of sculpture, and the presence of an artist’s ego in their work. Through these photographs I am exploring intrigue, sensuality, vulnerability, absurdity, play and humor — all of which are key elements in a great love affair.

Melissa Zimmermann is an artist and mother based out of Los Angeles, CA.  As she negotiates between these two realms of selfishness and selflessness, she encounters a great deal of inner turmoil and tension. The goal of these artistic studies with her daughter is to alleviate this inner conflict through sharing her process. Through out this effort, her daughter, Eluisa Schulitz, is seen as an equal collaborator. She is expected to contribute to and guide the creative process as much as her mother. In this particular instance, Eluisa dictated the layout of the image as well as who would use which stencil shape.
Michael Carter: Los Angeles-based metaphysician, project-based artist, entrepreneur, and emergent capitalist.   #hansemelycrookston

Michael Haight is an artist based in Los Angeles, Ca. His work in Articulate II is an investigation of the accuracy and explanation of art (poetry) and relationships via astrological star charts. His video and sound work can be found on youtubevimeo and soundcloud.

Michelle Carla Handel was born in Las Vegas, Nevada. She received her MFA in Fine Art from Claremont Graduate University in 2011. Recent exhibitions include Shapeshifters at ACME; The Familiar Unfamiliar, curated by Manual History Machines; and Some Fine Women at VAST Space Projects in Las Vegas. She curated a group exhibition, Tête-à-Tête, at RAID Projects in September of 2013. Michelle Carla Handel lives and works in Los Angeles.

Sarah Newman’s photographic works engage ideas of physical and psychological spaces. She works in a combination of black and white and color, in analog and digital, and often incorporates pieces of found text into her work. She currently splits her time between San Francisco and Boston, where she is a fellow at metaLAB at Harvard University. Danger: Stay Back is an excerpt from a larger work-in-progress by the same title. Made on a beach in northern California, the work is comprised of black and white photographs and text that has been taken from warning signs on the beach.

Tatiane SchilaroI’m a Brazilian-born art writer and artist living in Bronx, NY. I’ve been working with translation and language to elicit an experience in-between understanding and irreconcilability. I work against written fluency to replicate to the reader a state of not being able to grasp meaning or to comprehend language.

 

New York On Viewing

Freelancers & Farm Animals

Lydia by Hope Gangloff

Lydia by Hope Gangloff by Hope Gangloff

I have not posted here for almost two months. This has not been for a lack of art viewing, but perhaps the opposite: the sheer volume of visual information I ingested in New York temporarily overwhelmed my mind’s receptors. I was exposed to a whole mess of contemplative puzzles that are still milling around my brain, waiting to be carefully extracted and examined. So while my analytic brain is recovering, I want to joyously wallow in the sensory pleasure of some pretty and brooding paintings.

That is not to say that Hope Gangloff‘s paintings are unintelligent–they are eloquent and articulate portraits of not just the individuals they portray but of a particular slice of life in the northeast that is furnished with outdoor showers and Adirondack chairs, and populated by freelancers and farm animals–but unlike much contemporary art, they require no further narrative or explanation. The pleasure in these paintings is immediate and unfolding.

Study of Olga Alexandrovskaya by Hope Gangloff

Study of Olga Alexandrovskaya by Hope Gangloff

Hope’s paintings are a little too hip–her subjects are beautiful thirty-somethings, living in rustic Americana, surrounded by delicate patterns and vintage clothing–but I don’t begrudge them that. The paint sings and pulses on her canvases. She creates whole individuals, teasing out their quirks and their inner life, noticing the little details that make a moment or a person specific.

According to the New York Times article, Why Music Makes Our Brain Sing, when listening to music our brain anticipates chords and climaxes based on our previous musical experiences. This sense of anticipation adds to the pleasure of listening, and our brain rewards us further for recognizing patterns and making accurate predictions. Is a similar mechanism at play when we view paintings…Is the brain rewarding us for successfully building a cohesive image out of a field of abstracts dabs? Is our mind so in love with patterns that the mere presence of a well painted stripped skirt sets off reward systems? I imagine that there must be an evolutionary advantage to being able to look at a human and hypothesize on their interior state of being, but why the hypnotic pleasure of staring at blue and pink snow?

I will research the neuroscience of  visual pleasure another day. For now, I just want to enjoy it.

May-December Romance

May-December Romance by Hope Gangloff

 

New York

Tell Me Something I Don’t Know, Give Me Something I Need

Robin Tewes in her studio.

Robin Tewes in her studio.

“You don’t choose art; you do it because you have to,” declares Robin Tewes, repeating the advice she gives her art students. Whenever I hear that sentiment I get nervous; could I have done something else or would all roads have led to the studio? In Robin’s case the answer seems clear; the paintings in her studio (which include a portrait of well-known performance artist Carollee Schneeman), the works from other established artists hanging throughout her apartment, and the gorilla mask tucked onto a shelf, demonstrate her long time commitment to New York and the art community here. And to her habit of saying exactly what she thinks.

two tewes

(L) Another Tasteful Discussion of Contemporary War
(R) Solitary Confinement

Robin paints in a flat, representational style that is reminiscent of Magritte. In an older work, Pink on Pink, a pink bedroom that is empty except for a woman’s handbag on the bed, Robin scratched text into the paint which included pronouncements by Suprematist painter Kazimir Malevich (who made a series of white on white paintings) interspersed with the more mundane concerns of every day life.  The painting suggests that abstraction based upon revolutionary theory is all very well and everything, but what about the real world of sex, money, and embarrassing personal problems?

Abstract Art #1

Abstract Art #1

In Abstract Painting I, Robin makes light of the serious, male-dominated tradition of Abstract Expressionism and its offspring. “I grew up admiring those guys, but now…I want some content. The form is just a bucket for me to pour my ideas into.” She looks at a painting of a graffiti covered wall and a trash can “or the waste paper basket in which I can throw my crumpled up pieces of thoughts.” Those thoughts meander between sharp critiques of New York and art world society, to the more personal experiences of relationships, motherhood, and loss. Like a seasoned New Yorker, the paintings have a tough, slick, and well put together exterior, which belie the neurosis and struggles contained within. At their most successful, the paintings manage to be direct, witty, and tenderly revealing.

combined moms

 

In recent years she has incorporated glitter, neon and iridescent paints into the compositions. “It is playful, for the joy of it; the opposite of what Malevich would ever approve of!” This attitude is particularly clear in a recent series that mourns the passing of Robin’s mother. The paintings aren’t without sadness, but they also let loose and celebrate her mother’s life, as she gradually fades into a world of bright and fragmented abstraction; a world that is aggressively flat and hard to absorb.

(L) I Want to be a Housewife, I Want to be a Widow. (R) Tell me Something I Don't Know, Give me Something I Need.

(L) I Want to be a Housewife, I Want to be a Widow.
(R) Tell me Something I Don’t Know, Give me Something I Don’t Have.

What makes Robin’s paintings particularly strong is her use of text that is both slyly observant and painfully honest. The picture of the waste paper basket is at first glance, merely empty and melancholy, but slowly the text reveals itself.  The graffiti reads: “All I want is my equal and then some. I want an adult unconditional love.”  Into the garden wall the artist has scratched: “Tell me something I don’t know, Give me something I don’t have,”  a demand that could be made of a partner or of a work of art. It really doesn’t seem like a lot to ask, but Robin’s work suggests that those desires are very often disappointed.

New York

Stars explode around you…

Ragnar Kjartansson, The Visitors, 2012 Nine channel HD video projection. Image courtesy of Luhring Augustine.

Ragnar Kjartansson, The Visitors, 2012
Nine channel HD video projection.
Image courtesy of Luhring Augustine.

Pulling back the black curtain and stepping into the darkness, we were quickly enveloped by a lulling, melancholy melody.  “Stars explode around you, and there’s nothing, no nothing you can do…” sang a chorus of voices. My friend and I turned to each other with broad smiles on our faces. After this brief moment of acknowledgement that we had happened upon something wonderful, we each slipped among the crowd and into The Visitors.

The installation of Ragnar Kjartansson’s piece at Luhring Augustine gallery in Chelsea, is comprised of ten large videos that are projected into the gallery walls and onto both sides of a screen that divides the space. In nine of the ten videos, a single musician is alone in a room, playing their part of a collective melody. In the tenth video, a group of people mill around on the porch of a large, Hudson Valley farmhouse, seemingly listening to the music and occasionally adding their voices to the chorus. This group provided context, an internal audience, and a little distance: the haunting sweetness of the melody, the mournful poetry (by artist Ásdis Sif Gunnarsdóttir) of the lyrics, and the intensity of the visuals were almost overwhelming, so a retreat to the porch provided a welcome break.

Installation View. Ragnar Kjartansson, The Visitors, 2012 Nine channel HD video projection. Image courtesy of Luhring Augustine.

Installation View. Ragnar Kjartansson, The Visitors, 2012
Nine channel HD video projection.
Image courtesy of Luhring Augustine.

Each musician infused the simple words and melody with their own sensibility, a detail that the artist retained by keeping the sound tracks separate. As a viewer, I was free to roam within the space, finding a sweet spot where I seemed to be in the room with both the emotionally raw accordion player and the grounded, bluesy pianist, or allowing myself the voyeuristic pleasure of watching the guitarist (who, it turns out, is the artist) forlornly strumming in the bath. The videos are carefully composed, full of interesting visual details (birds flocking across a bedroom wall, the curve of a wooden banister, the bright blue inside of full kitchen cabinets) that seem to echo the tone and body language of the separate room’s inhabitant, enhancing the sense that the musicians are in their own little worlds.

Ragnar Kjartansson, The Visitors, 2012 Nine channel HD video projection. Image courtesy of Luhring Augustine.

Ragnar Kjartansson, The Visitors, 2012
Nine channel HD video projection.
Image courtesy of Luhring Augustine.

Though the musicians played alone, they were all connected via headphones and wires that snaked around the wooden furniture and delicate antiques. At one moment, one guitar player set down his instrument to go share a cigarette and a drink with his buddy in the next room, where they then harmonized as the music swelled around us. The freedom of the performers, the “in-the-round” set-up,  and the single, unedited take, gave the video(s) a feeling similar to live theater–a living, breathing spectacle, rather than a video to speculate upon from a safe distance.

The choice of an upstate farmhouse was perfect, not only because of the warm, ramshackle decor, but because upstate is where so many New Yorkers (artists or otherwise) go to escape the city. This felt like a little slice of an artist’s retreat, smuggled back into the heart of New York’s gallery scene

The show closes March 9th. Go see it if you can.

New York

An Existential Survival Kit

First Work Set (1963–69)

First Work Set (1963–69)

This past Friday, the Museum of Modern Art presented a demonstration of First Work Set (1963–69) by Franz Erhard Walther. The piece is a collection of canvas bundles, suggestive of army tents or boat rigging, complete with an over sized life vest. The bundles are labeled with simple directives or descriptions such as “for two people,” or  “standard object.”  But as I looked carefully, I noticed that one is labeled “to forget” and another, more ominously, “to understand brutality.” What knowledge could be wrapped up in that deceptively simple package?

This is early “relational” art, in the best sense of the word. Franz was among the artists in the sixties who pioneered our current trend for art that examines the space between individuals or art that is “activated” by an interaction with the viewer. For some of the elements, the rules of engagement are clearly determined by the piece’s shape—such as the cloth covered masonite that hung from the neck of two intimately connected strangers (an early forebear of Liz Nurenberg’s wearable sculptures for two), or the long strip with a forearm shaped pocket—but some of the canvas shapes are more ambiguous, requiring invention from the viewer/audience.

The need for invention, and the viewer interactions that arose out of the demonstration exemplified why this kind of work is important–it jostles the brain, makes people feel a little silly, and presents very simple suggestions for seeing the world differently.

Though not technically a drawing ( a work on paper), this piece was in the Recent Acquisitions in Drawings exhibit because it is accompanied by a lengthy series of sketches. These pieces work symbiotically with the canvas objects, serving as a guide for use and a record of “the inner view” of the work–as Franz noted, “what happens within the person who experiences the piece, cannot be recorded by a camera.” The drawings were visually interesting and playful, giving an insight into Franz’s inner logic and mental meanderings.

For many artists the definition of drawing is less about the materials used and more about the intention: a drawing is an idea, an impetus in its most direct or basic form, or the process of seeing clearly. I have heard artist’s refer to a sound drawing, or been shown a drawing made of hair. By this definition, Franz’s canvas pieces were themselves drawings: activities for seeing clearly the elements of sculpture; actions that revealed their internal logic with no frills attached.

At the end of the two hour demonstration I approached the artist and asked him about the brutality bundle. He gave me an enigmatic smile but brushed my question aside saying that it “marked a moment in time” but really had nothing to do with the piece. I felt deflated, but not totally surprised–what sort of explanation or intimate revelation was I imagining I would receive during the rushed, post-performance hub-bub?

Since the performance, I find myself inventing canvas-bound scenarios which could potentially reveal the meaning of human cruelty, the mechanics of love or how to forget unwanted pain. And I try to imagine the circumstances of the brutality bundle’s creation. Did Franz experience brutality personally or was he at a safely contemplative distance? Is the sculpture dangerous? Or is the brutality totally abstracted? The art continues unfolding in my head, though the objects themselves are back somewhere in MoMA’s vast vaults.

This circling of thoughts, this potential for poetry, and possibility for answers that will always be just out of reach– that in itself is a survival kit.

New York

Woman! Painting! Woman!

The Tearing, 2012 by Ella Kruglayanskaya

I spent much of the six hour bus ride (a Sunday evening in the summer is the worst time to drive into New York) from Boston to Manhattan scanning Time Out, creating my plan of attack for art viewing. At a friend’s suggestion I had already booked tickets to see Rineke Dijkstra and Paul Graham in conversation, so I knew I was going to dedicate an afternoon to Dijkstra’s show at the Guggenheim beforehand.  To balance this out, I decided to explore a solo show by a young, emerging artist–a painter with a bright and playful palette.

The paintings in Ella Kruglayankaya’s show at Gavin Brown Enterprise are not great, but they are richly painted and savvy to our particular moment. The show is made up of, as the title suggests, paintings of women painting women (and the occasional man), playing with the old artistic archetype of the creation who comes to life and confront’s her creator–often aggressively or with disdain. In an amusing but unnerving reversal of Magritte’s Rape, many of the women have faces painted onto their voluptuous bodies, further disorienting the question of subject and drawing attention to their “lovely lady lumps”. These body-faces often express emotions, while the women themselves are painted with blank patterns where their faces should be: ego, body and image joust for attention and power.

A similar series to these was shown in the windows of Barney’s New York last year. As Kruglayanskaya noted in an interview for Barney’s website, she “didn’t have to change much” for them to function as window displays: the paintings are fairly graphic, commercial and eye-catching. Put into the department store environment they are ever so slightly subversive because of the curvaceousness of the women, and because they place themselves into the tepid and not particularly eye-opening form of feminist critique that suggests that women participate in our own objectification. But for the most part, like any painting put into that environment, they become props for consumption.

In the calm reverence of the gallery setting, the pieces gain gravitas, and their confusion and distrust of the painting medium and it’s historical depiction of women makes perfect sense. These pieces aren’t moving the conversation forward, but they are an entertaining and colorful reminder of just where we are.

New York

Maybe she’s lonely because no one can see her…

The Krazyhouse (Megan, Simon, Nicky, Philip, Dee), Liverpool, UK, 2009
Four-channel HD video projection, with sound, 32 min., looped
Courtesy the artist and Marian Goodman Gallery, New York and Paris
© Rineke Dijkstra

To create the video installation The Krazyhouse, Rineke Dijkstra built a white wooden studio within a club in Liverpool (The Krazyhouse) and filmed a selection of club patrons dancing alone to music of their choice. The resulting piece includes footage of five different individuals, projected on four different walls of a single room. It may not sound that exciting to watch an amateur clubber dance alone in front of a white wall, but Dijkstra cannily tunes into the energy of her subject and carefully reveals something thrilling in the human.

The most compelling of the clubbers was Dee. For the first couple of minutes of music she moved slowly and awkwardly, like a teenage girl with stage fright or someone who is playing out possible dance moves in her head but can’t quite let them out into her body.  But then, almost imperceptibly, Dee’s energy shifted and I found myself watching a young woman confidently shaking, shimmying and lip syncing, reveling in the moment.

This video installation was one of the most recent pieces in Dijkstra’s retrospective at the Guggenheim and it brought together many of the themes that emerged through the 30 years of work—raw vulnerability, the experience of looking and being seen, the performance of identity—but most specifically pinpointed the unlikely relationship between shy discomfort and confident self-assertion. Rather than being opposites, Dijkstra’s work suggests that they are interconnected aspects of an honest projection of self; in these dancers, confidence is tinged around the edges with the shy desire to be seen. The moment of Dee’s transformation was a moment I have experienced a hundred times over on dance floors, at social gatherings, in the work place–the moment of crossing a threshold from internal to external, of learning to relax into performing myself.

Rineke Dijkstra
I See a Woman Crying (Weeping Woman), 2009
Three-channel HD video projection, with sound, 12 min., looped
Courtesy the artist and Marian Goodman Gallery, New York and Paris
© Rineke Dijkstra

In another of Dijkstra’s video projects, I see a Woman Crying, a group of Liverpudlian school children respond to Picasso’s Woman Weeping. The camera rests on the children, never turning to look at the painting in question, focusing our attention on the interactions among the children. Unlike Dijkstra’s portraits, where the subjects directly confront us, here the painting acts as the mediator.

The children begin reticent, cautiously describing what they see in the image—“I can see a woman crying” — and gradually gain momentum in speculating upon the precise emotions and the narrative that created them. Their insights range from “maybe she is crying because no one looks like her” and “other people are scared of her” (this is after all a cubist piece of Picasso’s) to “maybe she is a ghost” and “she’s lonely because no one can see her.” There is an interesting interplay between the suggestibility of the students as they roll with each other’s ideas, and the revelation of individual emotional landscapes through the specific comments they make.

During the artist talk last Tuesday, Dijkstra said that she is looking for an exchange to happen between her and her subject,and that in a successful piece there is “a recognition of something truthful in that person.” In that hunt for truthfulness Dijkstra both reveals the isolation of our interiors and the longing to have that interior be honestly seen.