Saturday, October 3, 2015

Yoko Ono: One Woman Show at MoMA

          Visiting “Yoko Ono: One Woman Show, 1960-1971” at MoMA is like having a casual conversation with the artist in her high sprite. Yoko Ono's paintings, sculptures, installations, musics, and films directly convey pleasures to the viewers. From embracing the obvious in Apple (1966), Glass Keys to Open the Skies (1967), and Box of Smile (1972) to inviting viewer participation in A Painting to Be Stepped On (1961), Grapefruit (1963-1964) and Bag Piece (1964), the artist strives to celebrate the simplicity of daily life.

          The label for White Chess Set (1966) inscribes the humorous words from Yoko Ono,“chess set for playing as long as you can remember where all your pieces are.” Although the piece seems ordinary at first, with a second glance the viewers would realize all the chessmen on the board are wearing white, matching the game table and chairs in their purity. From a grandmaster's perspective, the design confuses the purpose of the challenge. However, the artist wishes to invent a new game where players work together in honesty in order to continue moving the chessmen. Like the playfulness of White Chess Set, the exhibition transforms the museum space into a playground with Yoko Ono whispering “play with me,” in her works.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Doris Salcedo at The Guggenheim

A Flor de Piel (2014)
     Doris Salcedo’s retrospective at The Guggenheim is as declarative as it is subtle. Her visual language is poetic and haunting. What initially appears stagnant and lifeless evolves into something quietly powerful.
     I began at the top floor of the show, hardly bothering to take a closer look at the wooden tables that had been arranged awkwardly throughout the room. I was alerted upon reading the plaque that Salcedo had woven individual hairs through miniscule holes across the tabletops. Confused and curious, I revisited the structures, wincing at the unsettling combination of a pierced surface intermingling with the texture of the hair; something familiar was transformed into something sinister in the context of this installation.
     This became somewhat of a game for me; that is, I attempted to independently identify each painstaking detail that reflected Salcedo’s commitment to her subjects’ tragic experiences. Whether it is the image of preserved rose petals stitched by hand together to create a textile resembling flayed skin or a young girl’s dress claustrophobically engulfed in concrete, Salcedo’s work is an outcry of sorrow for the unspoken tragedies of the people of her native Colombia.
     Ultimately, I believe Salcedo taps into our innately human fear of having our personal story forgotten.

Mike Kelley at Hauser & Wirth: Kandors and English Vice

In Mike Kelley’s show at Hauser & Wirth, a somber approach to the superhero story is taken. In a dark room, resin casts of retro-futuristic cityscapes are lit from below in different colors, showing different versions of Kandor, the city on Krypton where Superman was born, from the comics. You continue into another room displaying a megalopolis, bell jars and vacuum tubes: a representation of Kandor’s destiny to be "saved" only by Superman’s cunning. A corridor where lenticular images depicting versions of the jarred city shift is preceded by a strange image of a group of clowns engaged in violence, and image from the film showing in the final room. The set of the film is also present: the ruins of Superman’s Fortress of Solitude. Inside, you see what is left of Kandor, a glowing city in miniature that illuminates the desolation surrounding you. A pocket of gold and jewels shines in the corner, but the overall feeling is that of despair. The sounds of abuse and glee from the film add a sense of discomfort for the viewer, even if they do not watch the entire film.

Despite the both the literal and emotional darkness of the exhibit, it is a refreshing take on superheroes and multimedia installations.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Take an Object : MoMA

In 1964, Jasper Johns wrote himself a note in his sketchbook: "Take an object / Do something to it / Do something else to it." The special exhibition at the MoMa, Take an Object, consists of 1950s-60s art works from the artist of the new art movements. The leaders of Postmodernism took objects and created a whole new piece of art by reassembling them into different shapes and meanings. Contemporary artists, such as Robert Rauschenberg and Jacques de la Villeglé explored the "combines" of the scrap materials like smashed autoparts, canvas bags, and food. Their work generated new themes and ideas by giving meanings to fractures, trash, and junk. 

Jasper Johns’ Flag (1954-1955) makes viewers ask, "Is this a flag or a painting?” His work presents ambivalence to the viewers as he demonstrates the thin boundaries between the 2D paintings and 3D sculptures. Robert Rauschenberg and Jacques de la Villeglé also explored the hybrid of materials. Common focus of their works was recycling of the items that were once abandoned to create a harmony of abstract forms that suggest the artist's purpose and theme. This style reminiscent of Abstract Expressionism became a radical approach that began the art movements of Neo Dadaism and Nouveau Réalisme in 1950-60s.


This multimedia installation consists of three black lit text panels where locates on the wall of a corridor to a dark room. At the end of the corridor, there is a fully empty room which has black painted walls. A giant bright white screen is full of the facade wall and facing to the entrance. Alfredo Jaar is known for The Rwanda Project, which is a political installation about the 1994 Rwandan genocide. Many of his works have been collected by the MoMA, Guggenheim and New Museum.
This piece is also a politically motivated installation which focuses on some controversial  issues behind the images, such as unbalancing power, archiving history and the truth. The piece consists of two parts. One is the three black lit text panels, which more like announcement boards. There are no sounds, no lights except the panels on the wall. The other part is after viewer passing by the panels and continuing walking in a dark narrow corridor, they can see a glimmer from a room. The abstract minimalistic light lights the entire dark environment. The whole project, especially the contrast between documentary panels and the bright light room creates a violent vision between the exposures' facts and the buried truth.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Yoko Ono: One Woman Show at MoMA, Taste the Hodgepodge

The MoMA presents its first exhibition dedicated exclusively to the work of Yoko Ono. Approximately 125 of her works have been packed into the space piece by piece—paintings, installations, performances, audio recordings, and films. Well-known pieces such as Cut Piece (1964), Apple (1966), and her more recent work, such as To See The Sky (2015), are included. In regard to both medium and subject, It is always not easy to answer what exact kind of art Yoko does. This exhibition makes it clear that she does a little of everything. 

                                       Yoko Ono’s Cut Piece (1964)
In the Cut Piece, which is a famous early work of feminist art, the audience was invited to cut off any piece of the clothing Yoko was wearing. Unfortunately, Marina Abramovic’s Rhythm 0 came out ten years later— as sort of a prettier younger sister with much better execution. Yoko is a master of brilliant ideas and half-baked execution. Most of her work is consistent only in this way. After three visits, I get the sense that this curator would make a good housewife. When a smart housewife happened to have a tiny kitchen and a bunch of random vegetables, she stuffed them all in a pot and hodgepodge was born. 

Yoko Ono: One Woman Show at the Museum of Modern Art (Revised)

“Yoko Ono: One Woman Show, 1960-1971” at MoMA exhibits an oeuvre of painting, sculpture, film, performance, and music by Yoko Ono. The exhibition appears focused on artistic merits, but closer inspection reveals otherwise. Yoko Ono’s pieces are direct—you are told to forget it; the lobotomy needle awaits. You are told to step onto the floor painting, to touch each other— and you reach nervously for the closest stranger.

Although interactive elements were included, (notably Bag Piece (1964)) I could not ignore the barrier between what could and could not be touched. Yoko Ono’s conceptual art completes in the viewer’s mind, but the unperformed pieces cause confusion. Participation in White Chess Set (1966) cannot occur in the guarded work. Visitors can ascend To See the Sky (2015) staircase, while Ceiling Painting (1966) ladder is off-limits? Although these curation choices are likely for protection, learning that John Lennon engaged in the latter and Painting to Hammer a Nail (1961/1966), it becomes clear that celebrity also usurps artistic intention. These regulations defeat Yoko Ono’s message, and instead of breaking down the walls of the museum, we are left in the same space continuing to keep our hands to ourselves amongst historical artifacts.

Sarah Sze: Tanya Bonakdar Gallery

Planks of wood. Paint, on gallery floors. Feels like you’ve accidentally wandered into an HGTV Demo at the Tanya Bonakdar Gallery. You wonder if the foundational wall is happenstance for the exhibit. The two by fours and three by eights are a bold introduction to Sarah Sze’s landscape of sculptural household-found objects. 

There is a ladder with Poland Spring bottles, dried drip-paint sheets hanging from the ceiling, newspaper with blacked-out print, tape, torn photographs, mirrors. Sze has constructed a playground of implied lines. The lack of information implores the viewer to think twice about the structural fragments. Deliberately balanced metal, scientific pendulums floating from thin strings - time being measured within spatial confines.

She presents a physical manifestation of digital concerns, allowing the participant to pick up the mental pieces and scrap together reality. Amidst what seems to be the progress of the artwork and the product itself, perhaps we are displacing an artist’s struggle with the puzzle. Sze’s mixture of sculpture, painting and installation are analog instruments at our disposal. They dare the viewer to define the lines of time, space and information in a digitally driven world. She extends the works of Fluxus by leaving it to the audience’s free association to complete the narrative of her artwork.  

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Endless House: Intersections of Art and Architecture, MoMA

Borrowing its name from Frederick Kiesler’s unrealized project, Endless House: Intersections of Art and Architecture presents drawings, models, videos, and photographs from MoMA’s collection from 1940s until today. Curated by Pedro Gadanho and Phoebe Springstubb, the exhibition creates a dialogue between architects and artists that explore the creative potential of the house as a means to expand the limits of architecture.  

Kiesler’s project is the point of departure of the exhibition; his organic, fluid forms are shown in direct contrast with Mies van der Rohe’s Farnsworth house, an icon of the rationalism of the International Style. The center of the gallery is filled with models, from the post-modernist Vanna Venturi House by Robert Venturi to the odd shapes of Frank Gehry and contemporary projects by Kazuyo Sejima and Asymptote Architecture – all reflecting a desire to challenge the concept of house through experimentation. However, while most of these projects seem to break with tradition through a formal approach, fragmenting and re-ordering spaces, works from artists Gordon Matta-Clark and Rachel Witheread, among others, remind us of larger themes related to the house: the relationship between public and private space as well as between impermanence and memory. Artists and architects bring different perspectives to the subject, presenting the major role of the house in the evolution of architecture as well as the universal and personal subjects that the idea of home evokes. 

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Tanya Bonakdar Gallery: Sarah Sze (revised)

The Tanya Bonakdar Gallery exhibits Sarah Sze’s latest installation and sculptural works, as her materials range from paint drips, wood planks to light bulbs, mirrors and rocks. As she incorporates various materials, she blurs the boundaries between sculpture, painting and installation, transforming the gallery space into a complex landscape.

If you are new to the gallery, it is possible to miss the gallery on the first floor, which is located on the left side of the entrance. The confusion is multiplied when one notices a pile of wooden planks on top of a plastic bag with drips of white paint sliding off is stacked near the glass window, as if the gallery is in the process of some kind of construction. Coca Cola cups, unfinished Poland Spring water bottles are placed “randomly” on top of the ladder along the white and blue paint drips, as if the workers of the gallery had left it after a day of work. After a couple minutes of wandering the space and stumbling in to random objects, one notices that the high ceilings with clamp lights, paint drips on the floor, wooden planks, mirrors and ripped photographic images are not just randomly thrown away in space but precisely placed, offering the viewer to connect the dots, construct meaning and relationship between these objects and themselves.