Thursday, March 31, 2011

Evan Penny

Frightening beauty is what awaits viewers at Sperone Westwater Gallery’s newest exhibition. The life size- and sometimes larger than life- human silicone sculptures by Evan Penny are beautifully grotesque. The scale and medium employed provide an overbearing visual experience as the viewer is compelled to embrace an ugly truth- no human being is perfect, and quite literally at that.

In one of three self- portraits, Old Self: Portrait of the Artist as He Will (Not) Be. (2010) is a life size bust which compels the viewer to repulsively observe and at every magnified detail; every ghastly follicle, every wavy wrinkle, every tiny skin pore. Protruding from the wall whilst sporting a dull green t-shirt, the artist has portrayed himself ingloriously, notably making no effort in hiding his frail countenance, signs of aging, nor his facial blemishes. It is Penny’s intricate handling of human imperfection that is humbling and successfully conveys that which ultimately makes us human.

The notion of imperfection is pushed to extremes with his largest piece, Jim Revisited (2011). Jim’s larger than life presence isn’t heightened by his majestic contrapposto stance (or his gargantuan genitals), but more interestingly, it is the obscured anatomical structure of Jim’s slanted stance that not only disillusions the viewer; actively distorting the space in which the sculpture occupies. As Jim leans disconcertingly off his pedestal the only rational question beckons, why disallow Jim a noble pose? The answer ironically is in the pose itself. Penny’s reconciliation of detail and scale informatively enhances a renewed sense of appreciation for the human being, not as a life form, but simply as an art form.

The splendour throughout Penny’s mesmerising sculptures lays in his honest depictions of his own imperfections essentially leaving the viewer both bemused and humbled. Such diligent attention to detail is inspiringly adept, even more so in Female Stretch (2011) - undoubtedly the most confounding of Penny’s sculptures- involving distortion that is inconceivably elongated from floor to ceiling. Female Stretch personifies fright as it effectively challenges the audience’s perception of reality; bulging eye balls, compressed lips, and a painfully sharpened nose coupled with Penny's compulsive handling of human detail, attracts both repulsion and fascination.

As iconic as Female Stretch is, it is Penny's work’s that will collectively leave the viewer greatly confused, baffled, and at the same time in love- in love with the notion that even in imperfection, there is still beauty.

"The Light Show" at Kate Werble Gallery (revised)

The Light Show features nine New York City-based artists who each made a self-illuminating artwork specifically for the exhibition. The result is a group of very differing pieces. Some of the artists took the objective more literally and created pieces that could be functional lamps, others are more imaginative.

A highlight of the show is Matthew Ronay's Advance/Deteriorate. The sculpture reaches to a dramatic 10 feet tall. It is made using an array of materials - such as leather, fabric, metal and beads. The haunting piece looks like it represents a ceremony from an ancient culture. It is composed of a life sized shape of a body wrapped in dark cloth lying on a white cloth, which mimics the shape of the body, on the floor. Along the edges of the cloth the artist has printed a small decorative symbol; this gives it the look of an Oceanic or ancient Greek culture. Coming out of the hollow face area of the body is a pole with three levels. Each level is lit from within a surrounding form. The first level is an elongated dark dome shape with almost life sized sculpted white hands hanging all around the rim. The next two levels are open circular lampshades with intricately laced threads and beads hanging from them.

Heather Rowe's sculpture is humorous. It looks as though she approached a home as if it were a cake and took a narrow slice out of the hallway. Elements of a home are compressed into a six-foot high, four-inch by four-inch partially enclosed rectangular space. When you look at the piece initially you see the reflection of the elements inside the piece's space - a mirrored surface is placed on the inside of one of the long areas of the piece's interior. The familiar domestic objects in the reflection draw you in. Placed on the opposite long side to the mirror is a narrow strip of wallpaper. The wallpaper looks like the kind you might find in an old-fashioned living room - dark floral line patterns. Placed on the "ceiling" of this compressed space is a small old-fashioned hanging lamp. On the "floor" of the sculpture is a clever patch of carpet.

The artworks fulfill one objective, each in a unique way. Some of the pieces walk a line between art and design. Together the works create a beautiful display of light and form.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Ursula von Rydingsvard At the Sculpture Center(Revised)

The smell of cedar permeates the main gallery of the Sculpture Center. This exhibition showcases sculptural pieces by Ursula von Rydingsvard’s from 1991-2009. One cannot help but be enveloped by the massive wood based sculptures within the gallery. Although the material she uses is consistent the work is varied in its form.

Upon entering the gallery the viewers’ eyes go directly to the center of the space where we are confronted with Wall Pocket. This work is tall, built with layers and layers of cut cedar boards that have been glued together. Through this process of gluing individual boards together there is an opening down the work’s center. This is unusual for von Rydingsvard’s vertical sculptures, as they tend to be closed vessels. It looms over the viewer, as it is nearly two times the size of an average person. Wall Pocket’s texture is heavy and cragged like rock that has been weathered over years. The individual layers of cedar are gashed with the saw blades and cut specifically by von Rydingsvard and her assistants. von Rydingsvard rubs graphite into the surface of her sculptures adding to their worn natural appearance.

Five Lace Medallions is another work imposing in its size. It is however not as striking in its composition. There are five panels each with a lacey topography on the top, and a flat panel from which it emanates. The panels are constructed with multiple cedar boards that have been gouged and drawn on. The panels are leaned up against the galleries wall in a succession. There is a visual disconnect between the projection on the top of the work and the flat, gouged lower area. The drawn elements look to be left over directions for cutting rather than merging seamlessly into the work as a whole.

von Rydingsvard’s Ocean Floor is located in a back room is another work that is spectacular in its size but fails to deliver. The work is boards glued together into a large bowl shape with a cragged exterior. This work seems out of context as much of this exhibition does, these works need to be displayed in nature where her ideas originate. They seem too far removed in the reclaimed factory space of this gallery and seem to cancel each other out because of their grand scale and consistent aesthetic.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

The Armory Show (revised)

It is like walking through hundreds of white office cubicles but all the galleries at the Armory Show are trying to catch the viewers’ attention. The art market is lucrative and its commerce is at the forefront of this show. The fair shows us the solid investments, young artists and the latest trends. A viewer has to be both patient and curious to take in the Armory show and the nearly 300 galleries represented. The fair is divided into two parts: the “Modern” which focus on Modernism, and the “Contemporary”, which shows present art scene.

Yayoi Kusama’s giant polka dot flower is one of the first things the visitor will see upon entering the art fair. The flower demands attention with its high contrasting colors and intense patterns. Kusama became famous during the sixties when she lived in New York, making sculptures, happenings and paintings. Her works are represented by many dealers in the art fair and because of her long career her pieces are both in the “Contemporary” and “Modern” section.

Ivan Navarro´s “The Armory Fence” was specially made for the fair. Paul Kasmin Gallery´s (New York) entire cubicle space is marked out with a simple but spectacular fence made of neon lights. It breaks up the conformity of the fair and at the same time it is imaginative; where could this fence exist outside the art fair? The fence offers a topic for conversation, which is good marketing for Kasmin Galley, but it also gives the visitor a necessary visual break. The fence lets the viewer focus on one object and the space the fence is creating. Navarro’s piece contrasts with the booths filled with a mix of paintings and photographs that is a standard exposure at the Armory Show.

At “Gallery Side 2” (Japan) a big painting of three whales rendered in naïve style made by Takeo Hanasawa is almost disturbing by being so easy on the eye. The whole space is filled with her work which is refreshing; almost all galleries are showing works from many different artists. We can see a body of work, which is not challenging but sensitive.

The Armory offers so different kinds of art in the same kind of display, making it difficult to see and distinguish the individual works. The pieces that relate or oppose the white box showcase, relating to the context of an art fair remain the strongest.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Stephen G. Rhodes - Metro Pictures (Revised)

The current installation by Stephen G. Rhodes provokes the senses and challenges the viewer’s concentration. Clocks with fixed times, a four wall rotating projection and acute alcoves furnished with supplementary art works, combine to formulate a disorienting walk through Rhodes’ material translation of Immanuel Kant’s The Illnesses of the Head. The idiosyncratic fusion of eighteenth century philosophy and twenty first century art production is a potent compound, elaborately portrayed throughout the three-room installment.

The first room stages a familiar setting for viewers who are subject to delirium; ordinary domestic objects have been rendered inoperative after their decent into Rhodes’ rabbit hole. The walls have been marked with agitated line drawings that are uncomplicated in design and infused with cryptic insinuations. The tightrope spectacle between reality and delusion secures the visitors attention (but not their commendation) as they continue into the following rooms.

The second room hosts a video segment beaming images of parking lot fires and wig wearing men. Rhodes constructed an impressive island of projectors situated around a desolate table lamp, which encircle the visitors with obscure imagery. Turbulent music saturates the air making the room heavy with uncertainty.

The final portion of Rhodes’ installment is spatially more fragmented (artificial walls were installed to fracture the rooms square floor plan) and is occupied by work in a more traditional medium. Mixed media sculpture, mounted wall cabinets littered with curious objects and floor grazing canvases capturing the penumbra left by a vacant subject, is the closest thing comprehension-seeking visitors will encounter before exiting Metro Pictures gallery.

Big Shots: Andy Warhol’s Polaroids of Celebrities, January 8 – February 26, 2011 (Revised)

Upon entering the exhibition of Andy Warhol’s Polaroids, one feels that the art on view may actually be viewing him. Tiny eyes stare, seduce and surround the spectator from four walls, evoking moods as diverse as the row of celebrity faces. Cultural icons including Arnold Schwarzenegger, Yoko Ono and Jane Fonda model youthful displays of vanity, showmanship and contemplation, engaging visitors and one another within the space of Danziger Projects’ small front room.

Even in the clean, white confines of a Chelsea gallery, the snapshots of Warhol’s acquaintances and eccentric self-portraits maintain the informality of their original size and picture quality. The viewer’s familiarity with the Polaroid print as a medium lends an accessibility to the photographs that mirrors his connection to their recognizable subjects. The intimacy of the portraits is established upon this combination of popular media as well as the relatively commonplace appearance of the prints themselves. Their harsh lighting and plain backgrounds recall the aesthetics of a scrapbook, almost stark in comparison to Warhol’s celebrated iconographic screen prints. With their everyday associations, the photos feel more akin to keepsake objects than Fine Art museum pieces.

Uninhibited by filters of formal technique, styling and process, the Polaroids offer moments of genuine transparency between the artist, subject and viewer. The famous faces are allowed to speak for themselves, masterfully embodying their own compositions and creating a personal experience beyond the traditional roles of art and spectator. Here, thirty-eight "big" personalities reach beyond the confines of small formatting to create a collective discourse that sparks and then builds upon the recognition of its audience.

Lynda Benglis retrospective

As the elevator door slides open to the New Museum's second floor gallery, the visitor enters into an unexpected horizontal landscape. Welcomed in by strange and colorful forms, we find ourselves in the middle of Lynda Benglis' first New York retrospective. The show spans Benglis' extensive forty year career, and includes works in the numerous mediums with which she has experimented.

The six-room exhibit is divided largely along thematic lines, with the largest area dedicated to her early sculptural work. Interested in gesture, Benglis created her series of latex "fallen paintings" in the late '60s. Contraband (1969) a seminal work from this series, sprawls across the gallery floor. A cornucopia of primary colors intermixes randomly, forming a messy composition of poured paint. The work, while slightly faded and curling around the edges, still makes a powerful impact bridging sculpture and painting creating a grand gesture.

Within the same room we see a transition of Benglis's work into the round with her metallic poured sculptures. Eat Meat, a 1973 bronze, sits squatly on the floor resembling a foundry error, yet closer inspection reveals a carefully layered and executed work. These sculptures have presence, they are strangers in the room, but their organic form enables a personality. Eat Meat's beautiful green patina embeds history into the work; these are minimalist sculptures, but rather then cold and disconnected they are humble and inviting.

Benglis's dynamism is clearly seen in her "froze gesture" sculpture. Erupting from the wall and oozing over an invisible landscape, works such as Wing (1970) give the visitor pause. The sculpture engages the viewer, entering their space in a painterly fashion reminiscent of a foreshortened Caravaggio figure. Phantom (1971) elevates Benglis's sculptures to the level of spectacle. A series of four latex flows are infused with phosphorescent pigment. Black lights flicker on in the dark room, energizing their fluorescence. After a few minutes the light turns off and you are left alone with the four glowing figures; the strangers in the room just got a little stranger.

Benglis later work is equally important, yet is compressed into one of the smaller rooms. Ceramic sculptures, Polaroid montages and multiple video installations all compete for attention. Multiple audio tracks shouting over each other combine with the dense documentary photography to overwhelm the viewer. The stark contrast with the calmness of the sculpture rooms will likely entice the visitor to backtrack and spend some more time with the stars of the retrospective

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Gordon Matta-Clark at David Zwirner

The current exhibition at David Zwirner is collected works of the 112 Greene Street Gallery and has a large selection of work by Gordon Matta-Clark. Clark’s work looms large, as much of this collective exhibition is Clark’s photos, screen prints, sculptures, and collages. Zwirner has installed hundreds of prints in a large grid on the gallery’s wall. The screen prints are of various architectural structures on newsprint in an array of colors. These prints give the viewer a sense of being on the street, with multiple posters plastered on construction walls. Stacks of prints lay at the foot of the wall installation, similar to newspapers displayed at a newsstand. The gallery also presents one of Clark’s cut sculptural works; it is on display in front of multiple photos of his building based installation work. There are correlations between the sculptural cut out and the photos of the building installations that Clark documented. The photos are in simple frames displaying multiple shots of the holes that had been cut in walls and floors of buildings as well as photos of the sculptural cut outs from those buildings. The multiple arrangements of photos are appealing because we can see a progression of his working style and the variations on his installation works becomes evident. Gordon Matta-Clark’s work is well showcased at Zwirner, Clark’s use of multiple medias is exciting while still showing his interests in abandoned architectural spaces and other manmade structural forms.

Steven Bindernagel & Tomas Espina @ The Armory Show (Revised)

If you are an important dealer, artist or gallery, you’re there, but, the Armory Show isn’t just for the art connoisseur, it’s also for the lovers of art and for all of the people who participate in the art world. Although the scale was large, if one looked hard enough, they could find something that they adored and if one walked quickly enough, perhaps, see the entire show.

The Armory Show “Focus” was on Latin America this year. One could feel the honesty of the art from the often under-represented countries. The art was refreshing and evolved, coming from a newfound hotspot that is the Latin American art market. The smokey, sooty black and white piece titled “Big Bum” by Tomas Espina, on display with the Ignacio Liprandi Arte Contemporaneo, is filled with historical and cultural connotations. The work is often violent taken from military or political conflicts Tomas sees on the news. He creates with gun powder, then lites it on fire, a process called “drawing expanded.”

One of the notable collections was from Steven Bindernagel on display with the CRG gallery. Bindernagel does magnificent watercolor on a fairly large scale. The color palettes are bright and vibrant, however his methods of mixing watercolor to the point of muddiness make portions of the work dark and sullen. It’s like walking along a New York City street, busy and bright and yet ridden with the filth at our feet. While the paintings are abstract the geometric shapes and lines bring a sense of reality and balance and allow the viewer the comfort of recognition in each piece. Each precise line and shape make you feel like you’re actually looking at a land or cityscape. The nuances created from the unpredictable watercolor washes being aloud to play on the canvas give the viewer a sense of freedom. There’s a level of playfulness that Bindernagel exudes in each piece and he allows the viewer to really enjoy and take part in that.

The Armory Show really was a sight to behold, and every type of creative mind that exists was represented, whether on display, sitting in a booth or wandering through the crowd. Tomas and Bindernagel were just two of the many, many powerful works and collections on display. The Armory Show really did prove itself a worthy place to be: a place that harbors the best contemporary art in the world.

Evan Perry

Frightening beauty is what dawns the Sperone Westwater Gallery with the hyper realistic silicone sculptures of Evan Perry. The life- size- and sometimes larger than life- human sculptures magnify and reveal details that are minute and flawless. The scale and medium employed provide an overbearing visual experience as the viewer is uncomfortably confronted, and essentially forced to embrace reality as surreal.

In one of three self- portraits, Old Self: Portrait of the Artist as He Will (Not) Be. (2010) is a life size bust which compels the viewer to repulsively observe and glare at every ghastly follicle; every wavy wrinkle, every tiny skin pore. Protruding from the wall whilst sporting a dully green t-shirt, the artist has portrayed himself ingloriously, vainly making no effort in hiding his frail countenance, signs of aging, nor his facial blemishes. It is Perry’s adeptly intricate handling of human imperfection that is beautifully magnificent and thus that which ultimately makes us human.

It is this notion of imperfection that Perry pushes to extremes with his largest and dramatically distorted (not to mention, empirically painful) piece, Jim Revisited (2011). Jim’s larger than life presence isn’t heightened by his majestic contrapposto stance (or his gargantuan genitals), but more interestingly, it is the mesmerisingly obscure anatomical structure of Jim that not only disrupts the viewer’s perception, but wonderfully distorts the space in which the sculpture occupies. As Jim leans disconcertingly off his pedestal it is logical to assume that underneath this flimsy sculpture lays a solid structure coated with silicone and pigment. However Perry’s intrinsically vulgar attention to detail; details that devilishly invite the viewer to hypnotically gaze at Jim’s bareness, quickly dissipate all that is logical and real- Jim is suddenly reality.

Throughout Perry’s pretentious exhibition, it is the splendour in his honest depictions of imperfections that essentially leave the viewer both bemused, and humbled. Such obscene attention to detail is inspiringly profound; even more so as Female Stretch (2011) - undoubtedly the most confounding of Perry’s sculptures- involves distortion that is inconceivably absurd, it effectively contests our perception of reality. As iconic as Female Stretch is, what is it and is it a part of reality? Is reality defined by how we perceive and learn it to be? Or is it how we create it that defines it? The answer to this conundrum may truly lie within the walls of Sperone Westwater Gallery.