Friday, February 23, 2018

Nature Confined at Tanya Bonakdar Gallery

Carla Klein explores greenhouse interiors across Europe through sweeping, panoramic lenses in her seventh solo show at Tanya Bonakdar gallery.
Klein’s work is a mediation on juxtapositions: nature and artifice, objective and subjective. Her subject matter is nature dominating a space where it’s meant to be confined. Low vantage points combined with large scale, life-sized botany give each painting a sense of power. Klein’s deliberate exclusion of humans contribute to the timelessness of her work. Her cool-toned, reflective landscapes feel utopian and futuristic, while her warm, sepia depictions of banana leaf trees are reminiscent of a prehistoric past. The collision of nature and artifice is epitomized in one painting split horizontally- the top half is naturalistic but the bottom resembles a print being looked at in a darkroom, overwhelmed by a vibrant red and drawing attention to the synthetic process of photography.
Klein’s technique isn’t particularly groundbreaking; her style is relatively traditional and painterly, yet the architectural elements of her converging lines and her dramatic use of one-point perspective feels modern, attracting the viewer into her picture plane. What didn’t quite resonate with me were the sets of slightly different paintings rendered from the same photograph. The intention behind making duplicate paintings was not at all clear, and because they differed in composition but were identical in subject and palette, the diptychs made each individual painting feel less significant.
Although Klein’s paintings seem to transcend time, the themes present in her work address contemporary issues of today, questioning the role of nature in our increasingly artificial and technology-dependent world.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Particulates at Dia:Chelsea

Nothing disrupts the weighted double doors, white walls and polished concrete floors of a blue chip Chelsea gallery quite like a single industrial door leading into a dark, brick, basketball-court-sized box. To enter Rita McBride’s Particulates at Dia:Chelsea one must go through the basic metal door posted with a caution for exposure to lasers and radiation. At first this seems like a joke, something reminiscent of Maurizio Cattelan or Duke Riley. But, on the other side of the door you're transported into an unfinished basement shelter. Your eyes adjust to the darkness and green lasers beaming from across the space come into focus. 16 beams span the length of Dia:Chelsea forming a hyperbola around a single horizontal axis. A slow consistent stream of mist disperses over the beams, intensifying the green wherever the laser light goes through water. The air is humid, the floor shines with condensation, and a slight buzzing rings in your ears. An uneven zigzag fence designed by McBride blocks visitors from getting too close to the lasers for one can't help walking the fence, staring into the beams of green light and pondering how Particulates captivates the senses. 

Tanya Bonakdar Gallery: Carla Kevin

   Carla Kevin’s exhibition was open in Tanya Bonakdar Gallery. The huge and bright gallery helped to make large paintings look larger. His paintings create a silent and calm mood. There are not any moving objects in his paintings, so when appreciating his paintings, it is able to feel that our surrounding has stopped or flows very slowly. Also, the wide gaps between paintings lead people to appreciate it slowly like his painting. These paintings are drawn with leaves and pipes which we can see in the greenhouse. The paintings do not look realistic, but they seem like old, vintage photographs because of the colors and lines. The colors he used, set the warm and comfortable tone which look like real sunlight.

   Most of them have white and bright backgrounds, however, some paintings are darker with brown backgrounds. These paintings which have dark color make the gloomy, stuffy and even scary moods. One painting which I was really moved by, is a half white and half red painting. The upper part contains relaxed tones, while the bottom part is painted red. this contrast creates two different worlds. The red part looks like everything is destroyed, feels cold and hopeless. It is not as detailed as the upper part. His paintings include both warm and cold, hope and despair, and and the curating was great at showing this contrast between paintings. 

Friday, February 16, 2018

Brian Alfred: “Future Shock” at Miles McEnery Gallery

It seems to be everyday that one encounters news of a fresh threat to humankind, a new possible reason for the destruction of our species. Brian Alfred tries to capture this feeling of the world spiraling towards disaster. He succeeds in a handful of paintings but really truly achieves this goal in the video piece on display. The film included the digitally produced version (from which the artist works from) of most of the work in the exhibition, but it was the inclusion of dark synth music, movement of components within the frame, and a few strong pieces that were nowhere to be found in the gallery, that made it much more powerful. 

Communication of the central idea is an important part of this show and there were a number of pieces that detracted from this idea. Out of context, and really in context as well, the painting cryptically titled, Enclaves of the Future, is simply a painting of a night sky. This is one of the first pieces you see upon entering the space and there is no inkling of a planet wrought with environmental disaster and political strife. Nevertheless, Brian Alfred produces some provocative and visually pleasing work that serves as an innocent envelope containing a dark message accenting humanity’s casual flirtation with destruction and chaos. Although this is not a new concept, Alfred’s eye for certain images that hint at this out-of-control expansion of technology and increase of environmental disaster serves him well, especially with the image of the interior of a server farm in the video and the painting of a flooded suburb titled, Time and Change.
(This is a promo video provided by the gallery that is similar to the video in the exhibition)

Thursday, February 8, 2018

The Whitney Museum of Art: An Incomplete History of Protest: 1940-2017

       Amid the sea of signs during last month’s Women’s March, one poster exemplified the event: “Too many demands to fit on one poster”— which more or less summarizes the Whitney Museum’s 6th floor exhibition. An ambitious curation of activist art, the show offered reflection on various (incomplete) forms of protest over the past eight decades, organized into eight themes ranging from protests against the Vietnam War to self-referential protests within the museum’s walls. Room filled with poignant Vietnam war posters are juxtaposed with abstract works such as Ad Reinhardt’s non-objective, timeless, spaceless, relation-less black field painting to show that protest can happen in many forms. 

The curation’s inclusive nature is precisely the positive outcome of one of its exhibited protests, titled “Strike, Boycott, Advocate: The Whitney Archives”. Featuring objection letters from artists against the Whitney as an institution, artists disputed over the museum’s inclusiveness and accessibility. It is a relief to read these letters and then witness how the Whitney was willing to admit its imperfections and made efforts toward change. Only if we could see more of the protested acknowledge their protestors, and by acknowledging I do not mean the President tweeting about the Women’s March, of course. 

Cowabunga Michelangelo

At the Metropolitan Museum of Art staff curator Carmen C. Bambach put together an exhibit entitled Michelangelo: Divine Draftsman & Designer. On display are a collection of over one hundred thirty drawings in addition to several sculptures, paintings, and an impressive reproduction of the Sistine Chapel ceiling. A key takeaway from the exhibit included how it highlighted Michelangelo’s pursuit of perfection. This was showcased not just through completed sculptures and paintings but also though his numerous preparatory sketches each of which were completed masterfully. His pursuit of perfection can also be found in the figures themselves, as one would be hard pressed to find a rendering of a body that was not physically magnificent. Also magnificent was Michelangelo’s ability to express emotion through the contorted body.

In presenting the sheer volume of work, the show encompasses Michelangelo’s artistic career with dramatic spotlighting that treats each work – be it a sketch or a sculpture - as a masterpiece worthy of careful examination. The exhibition has done Michelangelo’s legacy a great service. The only frustration with the exhibit was with the crowd this celebrated artist attracted. Much shuffling is required to get close enough for a good look at divinity.

The Whitney Museum of Art: Laura Owens Survey Review

Mirthful critters, absurd clocks, and portal-sized geometric paintings were among the main players in the survey of this young painter. What I admire most about Owen’s work is her daring; Who’s to say a painting can’t be deliberately frivolous, humorous, or mischievous? The kittens, ponies, and pirate ships challenge a conventional understanding of  serious contemporary painting. Her boldness extends to the third dimension by overlaying chunky paint on vinyl and adding extraterrestrial elements like pebbles, latticing, and bicycle wheels to her abstract paintings. At times these additions feel extraneous, gimmicky, and overworked.

Yet in the face of her playful defiance, there is still a historic footnote of painting, made evident in the room full of Untitled figurative works. These 30 or so pieces make quotations of The Bayeux Tapestries, Toulouse Lautrec, flattened shapes reminiscent of Matisse, or painterly Bonnard-like marks depicting flora. What overall redeems this body of work from its moments of overt self-consciousness is the surprising earnestness present. A bright childlike palette and cartoon animals might, in the hands of a lesser artist, arrive at something predictably sardonic a la Jeff Koons. But Owens is not interested in social commentary manifested in an incisive twist. The success of the exhibition is in displaying her rigor and exhilaration in carving out new spaces, even personalities, for painting to inhabit in a contemporary dialogue.

William Wegman at the Met

In “Before/On/After: William Wegman and California Conceptualism,” on view at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, William Wegman’s work reminds us that a significant faction of conceptual art has its roots in humorous pursuits. Wegman’s work is funny: it acts quickly and feels distinctly Californian and is in line with someone like John Baldessari, who was included in the show. During the video - Wegman’s donation of 174 of his short videos prompted the show - there was audible laughter from viewers. The humor is dry but rewarding and Wegman seems earnest in his pursuit of eliciting joy. In one video, Wegman, in a near deadpan, creates a narrative between a man and woman where the copyright information of a Merriam-Webster Dictionary acts as points of reference for these characters’ lives, resulting in an ridiculous application of copyright law. The exhibition also featured several playful drawings made by Wegman. “Distorted Vase,” is a twist on “Rubin’s vase,” an illusion where two silhouetted profiles facing one another make a vase in their negative space. The drawing has both profiles but they have been shifted up and down, distorting the illusion. The effect is goofy and succinct: the components of the illusion are present but the shift destroys the negative and the illusion is broken.

Monday, February 5, 2018

Hockney At The Met: Thoughts Afterwords

This show was a stellar review of Hockney’s canonical output, exhibiting a handful of pieces that to some are considered the strongest work he’s ever produced. In the two middle rooms of the Met exhibition, containing the dry, still sun warmed images of leisure and a specific kind of California wealth and social-strata we are able to embrace this moment in Hockney’s carrier. I find myself reading to much into this somber group of pools, still figures, and vacant splashes. Point being, that I even regard these works painted in California in the early 60’s and 70’s as somber at all, many people would not possibly. I speck specifically of Portrait Of An Artist (Pool with Two Figures) painted in the early 70’s, and American Collectors (Fred and Marcia Weisman) painted before in the late 60’s. De Chirico meets a contemporary blasé’ness. A warm sun- soaked stagnation of the most fortunate kind. I guess what I’m sensing is the rise, and maybe always present social disposition or hidden irony emanated from the perfection of these finely executed and collaged spaces. In the rooms leading towards the exit, huge canvases are filled with brightly illuminated explorations of interior and exterior spaces. Drawing from the bright colors of a painter like Matisse, these canvases will be sure to life your spirits, away from thoughts of art markets, and power relationships. Upon exiting you can even snag a Hockney original lithograph for 12,000$ on your way out.

Monday, December 12, 2016

“Take me (I’m Yours)” at the Jewish Museum

Cans of water, magnets, buttons, safety pins and dozens of free objects can be found all over the second floor of the Jewish Museum. But these aren't just any kind of mass-produced items, they are all works of art produced by a group of 42 artists from different generations and nationalities. In this unique show visitors are allowed to touch, eat and even take home the works of art, thus defying the conventions established by the art market.

The visitor is welcomed by a large green neon sign reading the title of the exhibition, a sort of flashy announcement of the of the unconventional artworks inside. A set of clear plastic bags are available for the viewer to take and then fill with the pieces they choose to take from the show. Inside the exhibit, artworks are not arranged thematically or chronologically and are exhibited in a seemingly random way. Felix Gonzalez-Torres, "Untitled" (USA Today), is perhaps the anchor piece of the show. The 1990 installation consists of thousands of candies extended in a long stripe over the floor created to pay a conceptual homage to the victims of AIDS. The viewer is free to take a piece, contributing to the disappearance of the pile of candies and consuming a sweet product that seems to hide the bitterness of the situation. On the other end of the exhibition, Carsten Höller, Pill Clock (red and white pills), created in 2015, allows the viewer to take another type of placebo, perhaps a more literal one. The Pill Clock drops a red and white pill onto the gallery floor every three seconds. 

Both artworks form part of an intergenerational dialogue of artists creating work that involves the viewer to address sociopolitical issues. But the structure of the exhibition turns the artworks into loose fragments, singular moments that aren't connected to a larger context.  

Sunday, December 11, 2016

The First Viewing of Dreamlands

The Whitney Museum’s website informs potential visitors that Dreamlands: Immersive Cinema and Art, 1905–2016 will “connect different historical moments of cinematic experimentation” with films that span more than century.
    The first film I came to was Edwin S. Porter’s Coney Island at Night. Filmed in Brooklyn in 1905, is full of filigree and sparkle.  Due to technological limitations at the time, it is a silent film. The combination of the filmed lights at night and the silence results in a quite appreciation of spectacle.  An interesting augment to the quiet pageant of this 111 year old movie is Oaskat Schlemmer’s Dar Triadische Ballett from 1922 and restated in 1970. The bright colors and occasional music in my side vision from Dar Triadische Ballett as I watched Coney Island at Night gave me more of an appreciation for the older film’s silence.    
    Entering the next room I came to Stan VanDerBeek’s Movie Mural from 1968. It is a collage of newsreels, glass slides, projected drawings, found film footage, and some of the artists own experimental films. This is all projected on multiple screens and surfaces. It is a lot to take in. As the films in the previous room affected my frontal vision and my periphery, VanDerBeek’s work was a relentless assault on my audio and visual senses. I was left with feeling of over-stimulation and wondering if this is what we have come to expect from our media.
    The Whitney seemed to have an answer for the modern fractured attention-span with many other films and film installations scattered throughout the floor.  There are 38 in all. Some can be seen with the music and light of other, unconnected films influencing the viewer. Some are standalone immersive movies with entire matching theme rooms built around them. Each work is engaging in a unique way and is impossible to view them all in completion in one visit. Dreamlands: Immersive Cinema and Art, 1905–2016 is a show to see again and again.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Dreamlands: Immersive Cinema and Art, 1905–2016 at the Whitney Museum of American Art

“Line Describing a Cone” (1973) by Anthony McCall. Photo credit Jake Naughton for The New York Times.
A few years ago, while working at a used bookstore, someone sold us a DVD copy of By Brakhage. I vaguely knew of Stan Brakhage and his work, so I stashed the anthology in the back, bought it on my break, and raced home after work to watch it. After about twenty minutes, my excitement faded and I was left feeling underwhelmed. The issue wasn’t the films themselves but rather the setting. Watching experimental film on a boxy 27-inch TV from the 1990s in your parents’ basement isn’t an ideal set-up. The Whitney is the appropriate environment for this kind of avant-garde and experimental film.

With close to forty artists in Dreamlands: Immersive Cinema and Art, 1905–2016, selecting a few highlights isn’t easy. Oskar Fischinger’s “Raumlichtkunst (Space Light Art)” (1926, restored 2012) is definitely one that shouldn’t be missed. This three-channel projection of colorful shapes and images set to music was one of the earliest multimedia installations of abstract art and predates Disney’s Fantasia–which Fischinger did concept drawings for shortly after leaving Germany for Hollywood in 1936. Another powerful piece is Anthony McCall’s “Line Describing a Cone” (1973). Installed in a nearly pitch-black room with a smoke machine that fills the with a fog, the light from a projector slowly brings the empty space of the room to life as a circle is drawn on the wall and a cone becomes visible connecting the projector and the wall. Lasting ten minutes, a circle is drawn on the wall and a cone becomes visible in the smoky room extending from project to wall. Ben Coonley’s “Trading Futures” (2016) is a 3D video set inside a cardboard geodesic dome. The ‘professor’ in this piece calls on the viewer to actively look around and respond to certain commands–close one eye, now the other–while discussing financial derivative trading.

The Whitney has transformed its fifth floor into a space devoted to charting a course through the twentieth century up to the present in order to explore arthouse cinema, experimental film, and digital video. Dreamlands is successful as an exhibition, but not every work is immersive. In some areas there are sound bleeds, other areas have distracting light creeping in from works across the hall, and some just don’t fit in the physical space. That being said, many works do fully immerse the viewer; they draw you in and keep your attention for twenty-plus minutes. Overall, Dreamlands is a huge success whether you are wandering in off of the street or making a day of it and taking it every moment of immersive cinema presented here. You will get lost in the cinematic experience.