Saturday, November 21, 2015

Susan Cianciolo at MoMA PS1: Greater New York

As part of MoMA PS1 Greater New York, the fourth of its 5-year series, fashion design was included for the first time. Of 157 artists, three being fashion designers, Susan Cianciolo takes the cake.
In a quiet and somber lit room, a line of mannequins with hand-painted faces stand atop of wooden panels to exhibit pieces from Cianciolo’s fashion archive and brand RUN, as calculated clusters of forgotten limbs are placed thoughtfully around the curious dolls. On the second platform, Reconstructed vintage Carolina Herrera with patchwork applique featuring hand silkscreened fabric (1990 captures the visceral raw and innocent qualities of Cianciolo’s cerebral designs. Woven ribbon collages, reversed table cloth patches, and na├»ve smeared washes of gold and pink paint embellish the manipulated nude and gold flecked vintage dress. Cianciolo’s unmodern approach to designing clothing made her a leader in the deconstruction movement of the 1990s.

               On the opposite wall, a series of films loop from a projector and old television set on the floor. As models trail behind one another in sequence, in tandem with fashion films, the viewer begins to understand the role of Susan Cianciolo as both artist and creative visionary who actually participated in the fashion system. The clothing shown on the runways, however was actually handmade in the most traditional format-- a sewing circle. 
               The third wall contains a layout of books, look book archiving, and collection plans that display how Cianciolo thinks and collects her research. Building into books and over text, taping, scanning, and drawing over—the same deconstruction of the designs is applied to another canvas.
In 2001, Cianciolo’s decision to begin working independently disconnected her identity from the world, which at that time was not interested in obsessively storing media online. Forgotten then and resurging now through brands like Eckhaus Latta, Cianciolo’s work inspires New York’s contemporary fashion designers today. Immensely influential and very exclusive makes Cianciolo’s archive a special and rare opportunity to witness up close.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Kiosk at MoMA PS1's Greater New York

In it’s fourth 5-year roundup, MoMA PS1 presents Greater New York with a special focus on the nostalgia for the past. Of the 157 exhibiting artists, there is a wife and husband duo, Alisa Grifo and Marco ter Haar Romeny with a collection that particularly traverses the line between the local-artist reminiscence for the past and the sting of expensive real-estate reality in the present.

Among the overwhelming landscape of over 400 paintings, sculptures, photographs, garments, and surprisingly few new media installations, is their quirky display, the KIOSK Archive of about 3,000 small objects. 

Neighboring a gallery of life size figuration, KIOSK is configured in a rectangular room with a fair amount of square-footage stacked and filled to the brim with 1ft by 1ft modular plastic squares. The cubes house individual curiosities, from Kazoo trumpets, to copper cheese graters, kinder creme and pocket Japanese carpenter-knives. 

MoMA PS1’s curation of a curated collection of cheap and not-so-cheap international novelties arise a fascination with consumption culture. Since the items are in fact for sale, it leads me to think there might be a slight indulgence with a consumerist appetite. 

Though, there is something clever to hosting a consignment shop in a show that seeks to subdue today’s urban financial challenges by relishing in New York’s past. Kiosk was once a local store in Soho founded in 2005, until an expensive lease seized it’s closing in 2010. A decade ago, one could peruse the shop’s textured surfaces and tangibly marvel the curiosities facilitated by a knowledgeable clerk. Now, the Kiosk is solely an online market, where one must browse an archive of square images behind a screen and clicks for paragraphs of informational text. The exhibition of Kiosk is representative of an all too familiar gentrified-fate of artist goods going to the transient digital.

Richard Pousette-Dart: 1930s at The Drawing Center

Richard Pousette-Dart was most recognized as a founding member of New York School of painting and also the youngest member of first generation of abstract expressionists. Early before 1940’s, his paintings and drawings were marked by thick black contour lines and primitive themes, such as figures.  This Drawing Center exhibition is the first in-depth consideration of Richard Pousette-Dart’s drawings from 1930’s.  During this period, the artist curved sculptures and did drawing and painting on the side.  It is not hard to tell that these drawings explore a lot of his concerns about sculptures, lines, shapes and forms. These simple elements along with vivid colors are mostly what you can see at this show. Some say they enjoy the pure visual pleasure, some say the drawings look like a mix of Picasso and Matisse, some feel the work is somehow linguistic and find it extremely boring.    

Agony is a drawing made by graphite, ink and wash on paper, it is about 18 by 15 inches. A twisted solid figure form is in the center of the paper; the shapes are full and sharp. I think the deep red background is pretty powerful with a depressed emotion also expressed by the figure.

Untitled(Figue-495) is a drawing made by India ink and gouache on paper. It is about 17 by 14 inches.  This one is a weird figure drawing. The figure is in a distorted proportion and strange dancing pose.

There are also small brass sculptures on show. They are hand-cut, pendant-like and mostly about 5 to 8 inches long and wide. The artist noted that he based his designs on forms in nature and organic symbols that people variously seem to embody. These little sculptures are definitely functionless but adorable. Despite that being adorable may not be what art suppose to do, I wish I can have some of this sculptures on my table, and I can use them as paper-weights.

Samson Young at Team Gallery

I was on my way to the drawing center when I first noticed the man sitting in the gallery behind the pile of sound equipment and monitors; a futuristic drummer without a band. Looking in from the street at Samson Young's show "Pastoral Music," I wondered if I'd caught someone in the middle of rehearsal. The gallery looks spare, almost empty really. It is as white cube as a white cube can be.

Entering the space, you start to see what the artist is doing, even if you can't yet hear it. He stares into the monitor in front of him, and with everything from dirt on the table in front of him to a large drum at his feet, he is carefully building sound effects. A walk around his equipment reveals the fuel for the sound effects: video of bombings, the familiar green night-vision images from the beginning of the war in Iraq.

On the walls there are delicate drawings, carefully penned diagrams that live somewhere between abstract musical notation and battle plans. Next to each is written an FM radio frequency, which is presumably a queue for the visitor to find the little radios hanging on the wall and tune in. This worked out a little less elegantly than intended, as random radio stations blared out until a flustered gallery attendant instructed everyone on how to use them. Predictably, the radio stations are playing sounds that Young is creating live in the gallery. Sounds that must correspond to the drawings in front of you, but you just can't quite figure out how. There is something eerie in the beauty of the drawings, since they represent images of horrific violence.

Overall, the show doesn't quite bring all of it's elements together. All of these potentially interesting pieces fall a little flat in the complexity of trying to view the show. It feels less like a meditation on war and more like an experiment in sound.

Raha Raissnia's Aberration at Miguel Abreu Gallery

   Smudges of dark black charcoal compel the viewers to squint their eyes and scrutinize the enigmatic figures of Raha Raissnia’s paintings. On the other hand, the bare space and clean white walls of Miguel Abren Gallery are accentuated by the robust contrasts of Raissnia’s works that are boldly installed to capture the audience’s eyesight. Raissnia’s somber vision is delicately demonstrated not only through her painting works, but also in her video works. Her most recent video work, Longing, is a 16-mm film that captures the New York in 2013. This film consists of her paintings, drawings, film slides with altercations, and even raw footages that she recorded with her mobile phone camera. Both her two-dimensional works and video works present the abstraction of erratic movements and animate mood.

   Blurred images that impose the quick fleeting moments are successfully represented using various materials, such as Sumi ink, compressed charcoal, oil paint, and image transfers. Similar to her two-dimensional works, Raissnia’s video art also comprises of several mediums that are mixed over layers of paints and scrapings on the slides. The video works are comprised of her painting works. By doing so, the exhibition demonstrates the unity in theme and correlates to each work’s abstract visions. This approach allows the viewers to take in the exhibition as one whole experience. One of Raissnia’s work that clearly conveyed her emphasis on the longing tones and capturing of the memory is a mixed media painting, Main drag (2015). This dreamy image manipulates the oil paints by scraping and blotting and also by smearing the charcoals. One can hardly determine the time period of this work and where this picture is taking place. This barely comprehendible suggestions of images with vague textures and figures allow the visitors to feel like they are dreaming inside Kaissnia’s mind. The whole exhibition space evokes surreal and eerie moods and becomes a sensation as a whole.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

The New York Earth Room_Dia Foundation in SOHO

Walter De Maria’s The New York Earth Room has been presenting in the heart of SOHO by the Dia Foundation since 1980. Literally, a gallery space was filled with 280,000 pounds of earth. 22 inches heights of earth placed neatly and evenly. Although the installation space is prohibited to enter, I could see inside. When I approached the installation work closely, I could smell soil and feel humidity and chilly air. It was a moment to feel the work with five senses. One step was enough to feel the huge difference of temperature between the installation environment and outside of the installation. The spatial experience from the installation made me feel that I was in under the ground. I was surprised that the installation work has been well maintained the humid environment without drying.

Although I could not enter into the installation space, my eyes were so busy to see the all parts of the space that I could not get bored. A combination of dark brown color of earth and unbelievably clean white walls aroused a huge minimal art work. The space seemed vivid black and white contrast however had perfect harmony together at the same time. Walter De Maria brought the mother of nature into the gallery space for conveying surrealistic experience. It was a new interpretation of the relationship between interior and exterior. The New York Earth Room took my breath by giving depaysement which is changing sensory by making the unfamiliar combination with familiar things.

Doris Salcedo

Tables, chairs, shirts, shoes, grass, rose petals and hair. Familiar things that, in Doris Salcedo’s work, carry the weight of violence and oppression. From June to October 2015, the Guggenheim presented Salcedo’s retrospective featuring works from 1980 until the present. The exhibition demonstrated the artist’s subtle but powerful approach to the lost lives of marginalized people.

The exhibition took place in the four levels of the Guggenheim’s Tower galleries, a more traditional space if compared to the circular area surrounding the rotunda. Although the space felt awkward at first – with its columns, small irregular galleries, and circulation through emergency stairs –, it soon became interesting, providing an intimate experience, at times almost claustrophobic, that left no choice to the visitors but to confront Salcedo’s works. 

The artist’s commitment to reality – more specifically to that of Colombia, her home country – is present throughout her works. But Salcedo’s art does not require a back story or the use of long labels; her work is able to touch us without much explanation. In Plegaria Miuda (2008-2010), Salcedo filled a room with paired wooden tables – one turned upside-down on top of another with a layer of dirt in between them. On the top wooden surface, grass grows through the cracks. Referring to the death of marginalized people both in Colombia and in the United States, the work carries a sense of mourning but also of hope. 

Perhaps more impactful is her untitled long-running series (1989-2008) of domestic furniture filled with concrete, at times fused with each other. Chairs, armoires and bed frames lose their functionality, turning into memorials – they remind us of a past that was once forgotten. As in houses abandoned due to war or catastrophes, these objects remain, as witnesses of a life that ceased to exist. 

Salcedo’s art is an attempt to remember the many anonymous lives that were never mourned. Whether in Colombia, United States, Syria or Paris, Salcedo reminds us of the fragility of life and, more importantly, of a sense of compassion that is sometimes lost in the midst of so many tragedies.   

Julia Bland "If You Want to Be Free"

Noon Ashes, 2014
Linen, wool, and oil paint
87 inches x 86 inches

Julia Bland makes a notable New York City debut with “If You Want to Be Free” at On Stellar Rays gallery, showcasing her large-scale abstract works that integrate textiles and painting. By employing knitting, stitching, braiding, weaving, crocheting, gluing and painting in unique ways, she presents the audience with intricate, multi-layered textile abstractions that draw their attention with curiosity.

By stitching oil-painted canvas, woven fabrics, silk, linen and ropes together, Bland utilizes the different textures and transparency in creating geometric shapes that become a bigger part of the symmetry. The piece “Noon Ashes” (2014), measuring around 7 ft. by 7ft. hangs on the wall like a large tapestry. The linen in contrast to the thickly applied oil paint, alongside the netting stitches that cast a faded shadow on the wall, adds depth to the piece, a dimension created by the different layers. The different fabrics delicately stitched together seems to “float” on the wall and as you take a closer look from the front and the sides, the artist’s multi-faceted process becomes more prominent. Like a collage hanging on the wall, the artist utilizes the transparency of the distinctive fabrics to create depth in space as well as color.  

Noon Ashes, 2014 (detail)
Linen, wool, and oil paint
87 inches x 86 inches

Bland’s works, with titles like “Noon Ashes” and “Spring Shadow,” evoke some kind of country-like and calming mood and emotions. Crisscrossed knots, web-like stitches, the arch-like shapes, triangles and aggressive diagonal lines that go through these shapes also suggest a vast scenic view in nature. In “Noon Ashes” (2014), the bright yellow triangles against soft gray tones and the faded red color invoke warmth, as the symmetrical triangles against the diamond-pattern shapes hugged under by an arch suggest a calming and meditative emotion. Perhaps the artist was influenced by scenic views in the country-side or perhaps she was influenced by a memory or a mythical story—whatever it is, the beautifully interwoven fabrics imbue far more than the technical artistry but a sense of spirituality. 

Friday, November 13, 2015

MoMA PS1, Greater New York

Jimmy DeSana work

MoMA PS1 exhibits the fourth survey of the last five years local artists' work from the metropolitan area, especially under the strong alteration of real estate and the robust art environment. The whole exhibition places in the whole PS1 building from the basement to the third floor. This exhibition features photographs, interactive installation, sculpture, painting and film, and also involve a few past year works.

The photography work of Jimmy De Sana locates on the second floor and it creates a sentimental and sexual atmosphere. The photos are mounted on giant panels and lean on the wall next to each other. Sana always focused on sexual concept and captured human bodies. The multimedia painting from Donald Moffett,  Gold/Tunnel depicts a simple poetic scene of central park. It is so natural to notice that the oil painting is combined with a video by projection mapping on the surface. This scene and the flickering video also reflect the place that gays and public sex once.  However, I feel like the curation team is so desperate to show the struggling and conflicts of New York artists that they intended to put everything “provocative” together. For instance, the ceramic series works on the third floor are visually and conceptually abstract. It is hard to unify all the artwork into one theme, especially there are so many social issues involved.

Gold/Tunnel, 2003, Donald Moffett

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Alvin Baltrop at MoMA PS1's Greater New York (revised)

This year, rather than focusing on new works by new (and often lesser-known) artists, or even new works by older, established artists, the Greater New York show at MoMA PS1 aimed its focus back in time to the decade it was founded: in the mid-70s, the counter-culture was active, and many artists were working outside margins of society.

A group that was possibly beyond the margins of society was the gay community. Even before the AIDS epidemic, some people saw homosexuality as an illness. For many men to satisfy their sexual desires, they had to retreat to a life of secrecy, meeting in the shadows of dilapidated corners of the city.

Alvin Baltrop’s photographs from the West Side provide a both voyeuristic and intimate look at this life. This series is displayed as small photographs framed with large mounts. While some of the scenes are portraits, the subjects aware of Baltrop’s presence, others are taken from a distance, a picture of the warehouse landscape, where only close inspection reveals the subject.

The distancing scale of these images forces the viewer to lean close to the photographs to see what is happening: scenes of love or passion, or occasionally fetishized hate in the form of extreme bondage, all within the realm of secret lives Baltrop brings to light in these images. This is an eye-opening and moving collection of photos that is at home within the Greater New York show.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Richard Pousette-Dart 1930s The Drawing Center

There are numerous vivid color and sculpture-like drawing on papers presenting in the biggest room in The Drawing Center. "Richard Pousette-Dart 1930s" showing Pousette-Dart's painting, drawing and brasses he made between the ages of fifteen and twenty-five. In 1930s, Pousette-Dart was fascinated by sculpture and made numerous figure studies on papers. The studies content the dance, animal, African mask, and human heads. It is amazing to see how mature the works were when he made them in such a young age.

The figure drawings explore the concerns about sculpture, and working three-dimensionally. At the same time, we can see how Pousette-Dart influenced by African, Oceanic, and Native American art by his abstract and geometric forms. On the other hand, Pousette-Dart designed a lot of adorable small sculptures- brasses with a non-figurative way. We can see snake, water, and leaf by the forms of symbols and organic shapes. Since Pousette-Dart has a long career as an artist and become a very famous in New York City, it is amazing to have such an exhibition to see the artist’s early life and the pattern of his creation.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Jim Shaw: The End is Here at New Museum

          Before being crowded into the elevator, the only access to the exhibitions at New Museum, I owned the freedom to exchange conversations with others. After the elevator left me standing at the entrance to Jim Shaw: The End is Here, the artist's perspective of the world was forced onto my thoughts. A survey of Jim Shaw's artistic career invaded three floors of the museum to display his visions of pop culture and subconsciousness in drawings, paintings, and installations. However, the overstated pop culture references caught in the act of sex did little to justify his expression but narcissism with the desire for attention. 

          In Jim Shaw's Dream Drawings (1992-99), a series of comic strips with sex being the dominant content recorded the artist's dreams after waking up every morning, revealing the erotic pattern of his subconsciousness. Browsing through an entire room of obscure pornography-like drawings where Micky Mouse bites on a penis and zipper grows on a vagina, I doubted the truthfulness of the project for its quality tailored to satisfy the viewer's curiosity. Pop culture references such as President Kennedy and Wonder Woman are sacrificed to keep the viewer's interest while Jim Shaw tells stories about disgraceful dreams under his interpretation. The collections in the exhibition showed the artist's shallow understanding of human interest through a single lens unworthy of conversation exchange.