Friday, September 30, 2011

Ceal Floyer at 303 (Revision)

Ceal Floyer’s third exhibition at 303 Gallery is both massive and minimal. The vast warehouse-like gallery features the magnitude and bareness to intensify the simplicity of Floyer's multimedia works. A soft buzzing sound permeates the space and becomes louder and more distinct as one approaches a collection of black speakers embedded into the wall. The installation, Line Busy (Us Version) , appears from the entrance as a simple horizontal line, but reveals itself to be loud speakers humming the sound of a telephone’s busy signal.
Each of the four installations occupy one wall, dramatizing each seemingly simple object and forcing the viewer to notice each one’s subtleties. A silver ladder, simply titled Ladder, leaning on one wall of the gallery, bares only the first and last steps and is therefore unusable. One wonders if this is in some way a nod to the notion that an object upon losing its utility becomes a work of art. The same thought comes to mind in the centerpiece of the exhibition, Page 8680 of 8680, reported by the gallery to be the height and shape of a pedestal upon which a sculpture would normally stand. However, like the ladder beside it, this pedestal gives the impression of solidity and purpose, yet has no function as it is made entirely of stacked sheets of paper. The realization of the works’ deceitfulness combined with the white noise of Line Busy leaves the viewer unsure of whether to explore the work further or to leave before something falls out of place.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Steinbach: Enigma or Memory Keeper?

On view until October 22nd is Haim Steinbach’s Creature at Tanya Bonakdar. The work varies a lot, showing familiar Steinbach themes and also new explorations with text, patterns on the wall, and singular objects. The first gallery room shows typical Steinbach- random chotchkies on beautifully constructed simple wood triangular shelves. The next rooms featured large black vinyl text put onto two walls (No Elephants and and to think it all started with a mouse), while the other two walls have shallow wooden frames with painted bronze Degas statuettes inside of dancers. Upstairs shows use of entire walls, one with a floral pattern, one with a squiggly absent-minded pattern, and another again with text, reading, “you don’t get it, do you?” These walls are set up at odd angles to each other, making the viewer squeeze by them until they find themselves in this odd shaped room, only to read the statement that Steinbach suspects we don’t understand. Honestly, I’m not quite sure that I do. Although I appreciate any artist who tries to delve into new territory, I did love the first gallery with the objects thrown together on shelves. They are at once personally familiar and inaccessible. The objects, so beautifully presented on the shelves, appear to obviously go together; the viewer feels a memory or story from their own past from these objects. But at the same time, the meaning is inaccessible to us because we can never know why Steinbach chose these objects, and what their pairings might mean to him, because the pairings are so random. Here is where an interesting question emerges: as viewers of art, should we focus more on what the work may mean only to us, or what meaning the artist intended? In the case of Steinbach, his playful nature seems to suggest that our minds should wander, coming to our own conclusions.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Jennifer Dalton: Cool Guys Like You

At Chelsea’s Winkleman Gallery, Jennifer Dalton gives us her take on gender bias as found in politics and popular media with her fifth solo exhibition Cool Guys Like You (a title which quotes the 1988 cult-film Heathers). With her work, “What does an Important Person Look Like?”, she exposes the Daily Show as a virtual boys’ club, displaying rows of selected archival images of the show’s past guests and color-coding each image’s frame to draw a visual distinction between the obviously less-depicted females and the more-depicted males. Significantly, the men’s frames are gold and the women’s silver, only one of the many subtle touches of indignation against the gender-based imbalance of interest in public figures by the media, in this instance, popular radio and television talk-shows. This imbalance is a theme she deals with in other such works as “To Whose Opinions Am I Listening?” a hand-painted wall-chart, reiterating her claims against the socio-political media outlets in question. I find it interesting that in the act of hand-painting the chart, as well as the use of pencil drawing in other works, Dalton plays on the traditional stigma of women as hand-crafters: painting, drawing, sculpting (in the ‘ceramics’ sense) and otherwise crafting precious objects— kitschy items, decorative relics awash with sentimentality and naivete, ironically reinforcing the notion of women as child-minded, detailed-oriented artists, just as she called out the notion of women as “second class” citizens by giving them "second place" silver frames. Dalton's clever, poignant ways of presenting her data are what pull the show together, affording it a witty and well-articulated, yet ever-so-delicate defiance.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Nick Cave 'Ever-After'

Nick Cave explores the crossroads of identity, race and ritual through

elaborate costume design and performance.

Entitled ‘Ever-After’, the show exhibited at the Jack Shainman Gallery in

Chelsea, presents a collection of whimsical ‘Soundsuits’ - hand made

garments made of various materials, such as string, faux-fur, buttons.

They are so named for the sounds they produce when worn by a performer.

Thus the viewer is allowed to infer what type of noise would emanate from

the suits when allowed to assume their intended function.

The foreboding feeling aroused by these creatures with human bodies and

zoomorphic characteristics - daunting as they are - is contrasted by the

highly attractive intricacy of costume design and bold use of color. The

elegance and rhythm of these garments, the ambiguity of sexual

characteristics, and the social and political underpinnings of the

artist's goals overturn the unnerving first impression and metamorphose it

into appeal.

The costume compositions are arranged in specially allocated spaces, which

allow the viewer to process each display as an individual work of art. For

instance, the work ‘Speak Louder’ is composed of several figures with

gramophone-like heads, made and joined by same material (black buttons).

The title, along with the formal composition of the figures, cleverly

implies the idea of a ‘broken telephone’, which communicates to the viewer

their reliance on one another in order to move in a specific direction. This

idea of miscommunication between seemingly congruent, corresponding parts, relay the interdependence of individuals in society.

A video presented in the show documents the ‘shamanistic’ performances with these objects, which at once convey transcendental and threatening characteristics. Nick Cave proves to be

successful in achieving his goal of bringing attention to social

incongruence despite through conceptually and visually compelling design and performance, which erases boundary between race and identity.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Brian Jungen at Casey Kaplan Gallery

Walking Heart, 2011
Aluminum Group Chairs, elk hide, tarred twine, granite, steel
Installed dimensions: 50 x 55 x 24.5" / 127 x 139.7 x 62.2cm

   The most recent artworks by Brain Jungen are currently on display at Casey Kaplan Gallery on West 21st Street. Included in the exhibition are various sumptuous sculptures and a collection of large scale prints.  Departing from his usual reconstitution of  “found objects” such as Nike footwear and mass produced plastic objects (lawn chairs, storage bins, etc.), Jungen has chosen the new mediums of modern furniture and American elk hides. 
What once were sleek beacons of modern design have been stripped of their use and composed into primal drum like objects, atop plinths of steel and granite. The raw natural beauty of the elk hide is complemented by the taut symmetry of the threads used to attach the hides to the furniture and consequently blurs the elegant lines of the chairs into more visceral forms.  Alongside these sculptures in the gallery are a selection of silver prints on black polyethylene foam.  Like ghosts, these prints give light to the viewer of what the elk hides once looked like before they where cut and stretched like drums upon Jungen’s personal collection of furniture. The scale and repetitive nature of these prints nod's to Andy Warhol’s Elvis paintings but may lack in comparison to the lavish juxtapositions of the sculptures they are paired with. Although these works are relatively tame for what seems to be a career filled with bold eye catching artwork from Brain Jungen, this show may mark a crucial step into a direction of quiet nuance.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

East Weets Mest! (revision)

East Meets West, a spoonerism indeed, is the epitome of the vibrant world interplaying East/West esthetics into one exhibition. The New York-based Japanese artist Tomokazu Matsuyama displays more than 20 pieces of vividly colorful paintings and installations in his second solo exhibition in New York City. Clearly, his intention of a homogeneous display reiterates the absolute necessity of understanding that the world is one backyard of combined signifiers.

Upon entering a Joshua Liner Gallery, Matsuyama’s large-scale canvas, Toy and Candy, covers the entire crisp, white wall; set apart from the rest as the key attraction. Exposing an historical defeat in both traditional and modern graffiti, the canvas is made of juxtaposing bright colors of acrylic paint and artistic techniques of slicing the proportional figures into one canvas. Further, Money Talks, entertainingly displays the ascetic Monk Basu Sennin wearing a metallic robe holding in his hand a pink piggy bank, shiny plastic coins decorated with happy-sad theatrical faces, and the salvation deer; all of which emphasize the contradiction between aged Eastern spiritualism and modern Western economics.

Overall, there is no doubt that Tomokazu Matsuyama creates a rich cultural collision between imbedded Japanese roots and modern life as a universal language. Within the exhibition, a unique eastern experience awaits the visitor whereby a sign at the entrance affirms Eastern social behavior: “Please wipe your feet before entering!” The symbolism in Matsuyama’s pieces is astounding. It does not stop in the art itself but reaches out to us in the title, East Meets West!

Monday, September 19, 2011


Lombard Fried Projects presents an installation by artist Eko Nugroho entitled “Snobs Behind Ketchup”. An exhibition that fuses a whimsical aesthetic with politically charged content. The works showcased range in a variety of media from sculpture and spray paint, to hand embroidery. Nugroho uses brilliant colors and depictions of monster-esque characters in order to reference his homeland of Indonesia and it’s artistic history and political past.

Upon entrance into the gallery the variety within the installation is apparent, on one wall sit four traditional canvas paintings, on another floor to ceiling depictions of monster/alien hybrids exist and in several places abstract text are visible.

Although Nugroho’s work can seem cryptic, the references to his homeland are apparent. The textiles utilized in the piece “Overwhelming”, a sculpture composed of a pile of hand sewn badges with two legs protruding outwards, references the badges worn by Indonesian gang members and government officials. The portions of the installation that include text : “Stop thinking and just plant something...Relax and enjoy your pressure” also reference the problems within Indonesian society.

Instead of being obvious, Nugroho leaves the meaning up to the viewer. He suggests the dysfunctional nature of modern Indonesian society while also alluding to the problems that span globally. “Snobs Behind Ketchup” immerses the viewer in a whimsical world filled with surrealistic characters, while subtly pulsing the artists sentiments. Not to mention that the backroom of the gallery is transformed into a Pop-up Daging Tumbuh Comic Collective store complete with items for sale.

Unshamefulnessly at Andrew Kreps

Combining themes such as over indulgence, desire, gender, humor, performance and grotesqueness, Unshamelfulnessly by Robert Melee is a mixture of sculpture, painting, photography and video. When entering the space, the viewers are transported somewhere through a black tunnel of videos. Successfully creating a twisted domestic-like setting makes the subjet matter within that space even more bizarre because of the contrast. Comparable to Leigh Ledare's photographs is the Freudian way Melee presents his mother naked and all made up. Melee creates many worlds of erotica, disturbance, and grotesqueness while making sure there's plenty of empty liquor bottles placed throughout those spaces. Taking up most of the gallery space is a swirled painted staircase reminiscent of Benglis' Fallen Paintings.

The photographs, with their bizarre set ups of Melee's mom, his childhood home and mens erections, examine sexuality, nostalgia and relationships. Melee's video work seems inspired by Paul McCarthy's videos of disturbing and unsettlingly disgusting scenes. For example, one depicts a man sitting in his underwear on a chair when objects such as spaghetti, confetti, ketchup, streamers, shimmery strings, chocolate syrup, etc. start falling on top of him, as they continue to slide down his skin. The man sits passively, letting all this be poured on him, which creates a fetishistic quality to the piece because he seems to pleasure it. All of these normally desirable objects are turned grotesque. When something can be and look so undesirable, while perserving this desirable quality of bright colors and nudity that wants to be looked at makes a successful piece.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

"...and Hammond said 'let there be light' " (revision)

In yet another impressive solo exhibition, Jane Hammond presents a shimmering series of photographs and paintings that bring life to the walls of the Galerie Lelong Gallery.

Light Now: Dazzle Paintings and Photographs showcases a dozen paintings each of which portray a specific photographic event. Hammond’s use of an eclectic range of lustrous materials such as shreds of silver, gold, and copper leaves alongside with mica and Plexiglas enhance her aesthetical design tonally and compositionally. The combination of illuminous materials coupled with Hammond’s photographic-like compositions are all painted on Plexiglas, affording each painting a delicately precious quality that render her subject matters both divine and mysterious. Similarly to Hammond's black and white photographic collages, the juxtaposition between her thematic serenity and the unconventional usage of industrial mediums, attribute to the ominousness within such works as children climbing precariously in Jungle Gym, and Carry Me depicting a child staring solemnly beyond the picture frame as she is carried by a male guardian. One exemplary painting titled Nude with Wallpaper conveys strongly the artist’s acute sensitivity to material as a mundanely traditional rendering of a figure slouching carelessly on a chair is unconventionally rendered with gold and copper leaves articulating naturalistic light and shadows. The mesmerising effect of the blotchy acrylic paint on Plexiglas layered on the brilliant radiance of Hammond’s industrious mediums articulate quite glowingly the artist’s fondness for ethereal tactility.

The unconventional application of Hammond’s paints, plastics, and metals strongly testifies to her versatility to combine and create conventional compositions out of anything, and seemingly, everything.