Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Keiichi Tanaami

(Coca-cola and flag, 1969)
Japanese artist Keiichi Tanaami’s show at Sikkema Jenkins&Co. brings back vivid colors and dynamic characteristics of 60’s Pop-art. American iconography and consumerism is especially well blended in his works. Tanaami’s work includes familiar subject matter, such as Mickey Mouse, the Tower of Pisa, a Japanese flag, the Mona Lisa, Hollywood stars, and the Statue of Liberty. However, using these recognizable and symbolic objects or figures from the world, he creates an unrealistic, unusual but fascinating world in his works, which hold colorful illusions.


I thought the works on display at the gallery were new, and when I learned that they were made about 40 years ago, I was quite surprised. Tanaami created dozens of drawings, prints, video animations, and collages influenced by his frequent trips to New York City since 1967, and the ‘cartoon style’ works from the 60s are still fresh and hip enough to make viewers to believe that they were made at 2014.
A Series of Tanaami’s graphics reminds me of James Rosenquist’s pop art collages, Roy Lichtenshtein’s cartoons, and Andy Warhol’s consumerism works, such as Marilyn Diptych and Campbell’s Soup Cans. It feels like he combined all the characteristics from these masters, such as Lichtenshtein’s dot patterns and Warhol’s endless color combinations within each composition. Tanaami creates his psychedelic graphics by imitating fellow pop artists’ works, and editing the glaring Pop-culture of the 60s. His works can be seen as typical in that sense, but he achieved uniqueness in his works by adding vivid and provocative color combinations with radical compositions, and erotic content with a level of sexual expression that sometimes can be disturbing and haunting.

 5710_KT 14377
(42nd street Scissors, 1969)

(Photo courtesy of

Monday, October 20, 2014

Erica Baum at Bureau

An array of works by artist Erica Baum at Bureau provides a brief survey of her diverse photographic appropriations. Culled from three series – Stills, photographs of half-tone book illustrations; Viewmasters, photographs of the round discs that house the film positives viewed with a Viewmaster; and Naked Eye, photographs of book edges left splayed open to reveal fragments of images and text – these photographs chronicle the photographer’s exploration into the place of images within visual culture.

The images in Stills are made by dog-earring book pages, and photographing the overlap. One photograph from the series, titled The Warren Commission – presumably taken from the infamous report of the very same name – depicts nothing more than two light gray triangles, opposed to form a square that floats off center in a black field. The photograph is essentially an information-less image, belying the very function of the images within the report: to inform.

In Viewmaster the text etched on each disc is the central concern. In absence of the corresponding images the words become little more than meaningless quotes and phrases around a central axis. Blacked out squares, film positives whose detail is lost in Baum’s image-making process, encircle the text. Through a process of fragmentation and reconstitution – more than appropriation alone – Baum reconstitutes everyday images into fine art, reevaluating these images' roles.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Little Boxes
Anne Mourier

Small white boxes on white pedestals contain a variety of miniature domestic objects encapsulated under glass. The minimalist setup includes a partition wall, corner and shadow box wall displays that viewers can navigate through. Binoculars on a pedestal in the center of Cuchifritos’ gallery space encourages viewers to scrutinize the domestic scenes and interiors. The expectation of how work is typically displayed is altered and viewers must seek and at times strain to see Mourier's work. The display requires viewers  to look up, down, through, and into the episodic stagings. Contained narratives including the dresser with woman’s interior clothing, tiny clothes hung up on a clothesline, a closed box with two windows allowing visibility straight through to the other side, and a little pile of dust/debris in the crack of an open door adjacent to a line up of brooms place the viewer in delicate, dwarfed site specific scenes frozen in time. The objects themselves conjure nostalgic sentiments towards family and the household. Isolated doll arms that come out from walls and roof like surfaces imply interaction with the objects, yet the absence of the arms’ body disassociate the interaction from anything real. Mourier utilizes the physical distance between shadow box scenes as well as arrangements on pedestals, walls, and corners to highlight the intimacy and personal space these scenes depict.

image from

Thursday, October 9, 2014

James Bishop at David Zwirner Gallery

From September 6th through October 25th, David Zwirner Gallery is presenting an exhibition of paintings by James Bishop. The exhibition contains some of his work from the 1960s to the early 1980s. It is on view at second floor of 537 West 20th Street location. James Bishop, while still keeping traditions of post-war abstraction, has created his own visual that captures viewer with its subtle colors and the light that is captured within. His immensely large paintings gathered together in one room as each painting glows from within. Drawn by the light, the viewers are invited to look closer and examine all of its layers and transparent nature of its paint.

James Bishop, Untitled [Stone], 1969, Oil on canvas, 196 x 196 cm, Purchased 1973, National Gallery of Australia.

His use of vertical and horizon lines divide up his delicate space into a window. He creates delicate layers to carry light on its own, and when all the layers come together, Bishop creates this frames within the painting that lets the under layers to shine through. In some of his paintings, he uses linear quality to create abstraction of architectural element. He interweaves painting and drawing to create a quiet corner of his world. Bishop’s works not only explores the linear quality and a flat form, but also his use of layering creates ambiguities of material opacity and transparency. Bishop has created unique language within the post-war abstraction era. He has mastered his craftsmanship of his medium and created subtle, light-capturing window to his world.

Sari Dienes at The Drawing Center

Circle Tred (detail), c. 1953-1955
Ink on webril
75" x 33"

The works by Sari Dienes on display at The Drawing Center shed a gritty light on the abstract expressionist movement of the 50's. Upon descending the stairs and entering the brightly-lit room, one sees an immediate contrast. Larger works (around 70" x 30") present a dark, textured and abstract world of which urbanites of any city around the globe can relate to.

 These experimental ink rubbings on webril (a type of cotton padding) are strikingly rich in detail. NYC, from 1953, sets the tone of the exhibition as well as places the works in context. The piece has a horizontal orientation with a half circle shape in the upper right section. I'm imagining a sun with its beaming rays of light radiating to the other corners of the image. As soon as one sees the letters 'N Y C' imprinted into the middle of the inner section of the half circle, it becomes clear that we are looking down at a sewer grate in NYC. I feel the layers of the rubbing bearing down on the paper, the ink providing a weight that carries the stamp of the humble surfaces that they touched. Another strong image, Circle Tred (above image)  provokes the types of archetypal patterns that one steps over on their way to work or to walk down to the grocery store.  It's observations like these that give the viewer an entry point to relate to the works and reflect upon the abstract beauty below them.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Ai Weiwei at the Chamber Fine Arts


            Ai Weiwei’s recent show presents Rebar Casket and Marble Rebar(2014), Tofu(2012), and so forth. This exhibition recollects the disaster of the 8.0 magnitude earthquake in Sichuan province, China on May 12, 2008. Even though these works are made recently, they bring up a topic of the Sichuan disaster six years ago by asking a question: what changes occurred between 2008 and 2014?
            A series of Rebar Casket and Marble Rebar(2014) is an extraordinary tomb for marble rebar pieces, which are laid on the geometrical caskets. Rebar pieces are created through a full-scale replica. They replicate the steel skeleton from the collapsed Sichuan schools. The forms of rebar show tense moments of a catastrophe vividly. Otherwise, Tofu(2012) is formed as gigantic porcelain with wrinkled texture on the outside.
             His abstract sculpture reflects the political and social issues from Sichuan province. Especially, these works symbolize corruption and shoddy construction behind school collapses in China earthquake. As the Sichuan schools corruption scandal, a series of allegations of corruption against officials in the construction of Sichuan schools, the proverb of  “tofu-dreg schoolhouses” emerged in the Chinese public on the online. Its satirical outspoken criticism against the government shows a change of democratic awareness.
            Ai Weiwei criticizes veiling truths from his country through his artworks that he disclosed the contradictions in his society. His objective presentation toward the reality from the dark side of his country makes viewers read his cynical subjectivity.