Thursday, February 25, 2010

Iannis Xenakis at The Drawing Center

The recent show of Iannis Xenakis at the Drawing Center showcases the artist/musician/architect's work which crosses the boundaries between mediums and uses the strengths of one medium to inform the experience of the others. Xenakis has taken mathematics and abstract line drawing as a way to score music via a different format of representation. Constructing parabolas from arrangements of straight lines, and similarly defined portions of forms gives both the information to render a score of music as well as generate material for the sweeping abstract surfaces to his architecture. These are combined with hand drawn curvilinear lines, amounting often to what look like quick sketches or doodles. Rendered across a graph of pitch vs time, these line drawings allow for continuous modulations of pitch to be played in time to the drawings. Xenakis seems to see the strength of the hand as a rendering tool as a means to create these musical pieces. The show includes a few examples of specific recordings of these pieces that accompany videos of the images. One notable example is the piece Mycenae Alpha, where hand drawn images are interpreted and played back via a program called UPIC which Xenakis developed for this purpose.

All of this creates interesting graphical images, which carry the weight of relaying a very specific kind of information, but also generates a kind of music that becomes very hard to listen to. It could be called experimental, conceptual, or possibly even algorithmic in some instances, but the sounds are hardly harmonic and fail to conform to any tenants of music theory. Still, there's something hypnotic about watching as hand drawn lines scroll along a page and knowing that the position of each mark is directly translating into something audible, something to engage both visually and aurally.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

In Harvey's "The Room of Sublime Wallpaper" the first thing you see from the street are the backs of what are called flats, simple well made walls made thinly and used in theatre and movies because they are easily disassembled and transportable. This is art you cannot have the artist says, but it can go anywhere any time and put together fast. It, of course, didn't get made fast. These flats, and whats contained within, also indicate something else about the show, its relation to film, as what we encounter is cinematic in its presentation and overall dramatic feel. The conceptual piece "The Room Of The Sublime" is a retelling of movie making in still life, transforming film into installation, thus, If film is the accumulation of all the arts then installation is it's translator. You have the repetitive nature played out in the mirrors, framing each scene, the the wide angle of the multi sided display and the plot that continually plays out around you. That's we're the movie begins as we pause to enter. There are well painted pictures of mountains numerously displayed in angled mirrors of an even greater version to kaleidoscopic effect.

What was at the beginning an observation of highly skilled grandeur of triomphe l'oeil landscape we step into the confines that make up these reflections only to find its a careful trick of the eye in another form. Which is the disappointment we are supposed to experience. According to the artist as she says "romantic experience destroyed by arts supposed sublime experience of landscape"; Its as if we walked into the back scenes of the making of a painting. Reflections, photo assisted painted wallpaper, fakely drawn wainscoting, chincy mirror frames(?)- its all kitsch. And then this spectacle which drew us in- the cacophony of mountain pictures- have lured us onto center stage when we get closer to the mirrors and all we see are reflections of ourselves. Harvey emphasizes on framing in order to create the dialogue that the artist is having with her subject and us is also the same elements which draws us in to frame us. We are all drawn by things of beauty whether we can have it or not, and in this well crafted installation we are left to ponder ourselves and our relation to it as we are also also neatly framed in this flies eyes perspective to art in cinemascope.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Blind Sculpture

Gelitin, a performance art troupe known for creating electrifying, humorous works, held a showcase entitled The Happening of Blind Sculpture at The Greene Naftali Gallery. The piece consisted of nine performers set in an enclosed space that assumed the role of a surreal workshop. The area was splattered with paint and clustered with wooden planks, stuffed animals, and other unusual oddities. The performers—two women and seven men—were paired off in the ‘factory’ and were busy fixing and constructing installations. One member of each group was blindfolded and felt their way around the textural environment with the assistance of their partners. It appeared as though the blind workers were the ones with the actual vision for their designated projects and confidently instructed their teammates.

Urgently they worked—duct taping and nailing scraps together—and when they needed a break they would wander to a corner table where they could sit and down some liquor. They could not rest for too long though, because the queen bee—a stout man clothed in a lavender dress and black heels—would frantically check his wrist-watch and stomp around the ‘factory’ making sure each worker was staying on task. The stimulating performance was further enhanced by a blind-folded pianist who provided a dramatic soundtrack that meshed with the quirky, theatrical set. Even though the hive’s goal was unknown, Blind Sculpture was an amusing and inventive piece that ignited the imagination and compelled viewers to bare all and become part of the vivid frenzy!

Dan Perjovschi drawings at Lombard-Freid, until Feb. 20

Currently on view at Lombard-Freid is Romanian artist Dan Perjovschi's Postcards from the World, where hundreds of drawings on 4x6 inch cards are neatly pinned to the wall and organized into semi-discreet blocks. As the show's title suggests, these drawings are documents of Perjovschi's thoughts and observations whiling traveling around the world, organized geographically. The majority comes from Europe and North America, while the Middle and Far East, South America, and Australia have their place. These are extensions of his 1994 project Postcards from America, which has its own grid-block on cardboard on the wall, but looks its age. The back room holds the work-in-progress of real postcards sent to the gallery, which show more signs of wear and processing consistent travel and the post.

The works are simple and unpolished contour-line drawings in the style of newspaper comic strips. They are satirical, ironic, and often pejorative political and cultural commentaries on the places he was visiting — jokes in short. Many dig into the East/West cultural conflation issues: A "typical" suicide bomber strapped with explosives holds the trigger and boasts his "0.05 seconds of fame," drawing from the American entertainment adage. Many others poke at the art world: One shows a working figure, complete with hard-hat and building material, and asks another "what do you do for living?" The other unburdened and unoccupied figure replies, "installations." One could argue these drawings are a cartoonist's homework, but Perjovschi's humorous approach to cultural critique is worth a look, and a chuckle.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

MoMA, Projects 91: Artur Zmijewski

Passing through Joan Jonas’ reinstallation of Mirage (1976/2005) at the Museum of Modern Art, one enters a black room with a single screen displaying the film Sculpture Plein-Air Swiecie 2009 (2009). This unostentatious installation, Projects 91: Artur Zmijewski (on view October 28th 2009 through February 1st 2010), deals with the complex situation of the working class, perceptions of such, its place in society, and its relationship to the artistic process. In this film, as a reexamination of similar experiments in 1960’s Poland, the Polish filmmaker Zmijewski presents the situation of seven artists joining forces with steel workers to represent the generic “worker” in large public sculptures. Throughout the project, beginning with the artists explaining their plans and ideas to the steel workers, the focus is on the interaction between the artists, the workers, and the works of art. The two groups gain insight into and understanding of one another as the workers aid in the planning/construction of the steel art sculptures and the artists don worker’s jumpsuits and even operate forklifts. The worker’s plight is presented by the artists in their sculptures which depict the workers as pieces in a puzzle or as human targets from a shooting range. Opinions on the art and the project by the steel workers further contribute to the sense of the worker’s socially misunderstood position. This exhibition takes up the timeless issue of the worker and his/her social image as assigned by others and presents it in a reflective way.