Saturday, October 29, 2011

Andy Coolquitt, Agnes Denes, and Robert Smithson at Lisa Cooley

The works of Andy Coolquitt, Agnes Denes, and Robert Smithson may have completely different aesthetics, but they all engage concepts of energy and are unified by their use of geometric forms.

Denes’ works on paper are highly refined and systematic. Her Map Projections series maps the earth as different geometries found in nature, such as The Egg and The Snail. Earth’s latitude and longitude lines that form these new shapes are orderly and calculated. Denes’ Pyramid series explores pattern and geometry in an equally meticulous way. The fine lines of these lithographs are printed on black and white paper and sprinkled with a silver dusting that makes them shimmer up close. The familiar five-sided pyramid is twisted and stretched just enough so it is recognizable, but begins to look like it’s floating or moving through space. Titles like, Bird Pyramid for the Twenty-Second Century, suggest the pyramid is not only an ancient form, but also a geometry of the future.

Smithson’s drawing of The Spiral Jetty explores a natural geometry similarly to Denes’ work, but is casually sketched on paper with marker and pencil. Smithson’s iconic earthwork, in the shape of a spiral, explains the irreversibility that happens in nature without the expenditure of energy. The work is exposed and submerged over time by changes in its environment, and without repair, it gradually loses its original identity.

Coolquitt’s colorful found-object sculptures contrast the pristine paper works in the show. Rosemont Towers is a collection of lighters that the artist gathered from vacated crack dens over several years. Each lighter has its own individual characteristics, which are kept intact as they are stacked on top of each other in a tall tower-like form. Most of the lighters are empty and worn down, so they can no longer supply energy, referencing the individuals that once gathered in these abandoned spaces. In A Soft Striped Place, Coolquitt creates a comfortable meeting place where viewers can lean against soft fabric rectangles in one of the corners of the gallery. These soft forms invite conversation and closeness, which counterbalance their cool, minimal aesthetic.

Denes’ maps and prints convey that natural shapes have the ability to change into new forms while adhering to universal systems and patterns. Smithson’s Spiral Jetty coils out in natural space to form a perfect geometry that suggests duration at the cost of energy. Coolquitt’s forms invite the exchange of energy through conversation among the visitors in the gallery and reference the lost energy in abandoned spaces, people, and objects.

While the works of each artist don’t formally complement each other, there is a unity in each artist’s interest in systems, whether they be social or mathematical, and the use of geometry to create minimal works. However, the show is too vast in the artists’ concepts of energy in space, nature, and people for there to be a strong conceptual connection between each work.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Glen Fogel: Goldye


The Lower East Side’s Callicoon Fine Arts Gallery is host to artist Glen Fogel’s second New York solo exhibition this year. Sentimentally titled Goldye, after Fogel’s late grandmother, Goldye is an installation consisting of a white 1991 Cadillac Seville, an mp3 player, two audio speakers, a mosfet transistor, an arduino circuit board, and a framed certificate of sale, made out to the artist’s grandmother— who was the original owner of the car— hung in the rear right corner of the room.

The Cadillac Seville fills the tiny Callicoon gallery, confronting the viewer head on as they enter, taking them by surprise since the space’s large front windows are reflective two way glass, only allowing the viewer to see through it from within the gallery. The inability to see inside suggests the feeling of privacy, which once inside, gives way to full on intimacy as the viewer inches around the vehicle. The size of the object versus the size of the space promotes the idea that the car is not so much a piece of art in a gallery, but that the space is a mere container for the automobile, nothing more than, say, a car garage.

The Seville's imposing presence is emphasized by the sudden but regular flashing of its headlights as it emits a guttural sound that we begin to recognize as the word “Shit”, drawn out over several seconds. What is heard is a recording of the artist’s voice as he recites the word slowly, dryly, and somewhat painfully. This verbal and visual “response” from the Cadillac, actually a looped recording, feels like a human reaction to the claustrophobic confines of the space combined with the inevitable physical contact made with visitors.

Goldye is an intriguing unification of the mechanical aspect of an automobile and the emotive quality of the visual and aural stimulus. More than that, though, Goldye feels like a monument. Fogel’s late grandmother, for whom the show is named, suffered a near-death experience approximately one year before her recent passing, and Goldye comprises a reenactment of this near-death event. In that regard, the lights can be explained as relating to the mythicized lights one reportedly sees upon their death, and the verbal repetition as Goldye’s response to her near fatal condition.

Callicoon Gallery is the perfect space for Fogel's Goldye because without the tight, somewhat uncomfortable forced intimacy with the work, we might not fully grasp the familial nuances inherent in the piece-- that presence of dark, comical sentimentality embedded in this and other works by the artist.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Ry Rocklen Believe You Me

Ry Rocklen
Second to None

Trophies, trophy parts, wood 94.5 x 146 x 39 inches 240 x 370.8 x 99.1 cm

 At UNTITLED gallery this month, Ry Rocklen’s debut exhibition titled Believe You Me is on display. Rocklen has had an extensive art career based in the use of found objects and this show is no exception. Each work calls to it’s thrift store companions that you have seen a thousand times, but now seem to rise above into a new poetry. This show in particular, has the extremely specific and sensitive undertone of being in line with the ten year anniversary of the September 11th terrorist attacks. However, Rocklen has shifted the focus away from the iconic imagery from that day and given light to the expansion of the American flag into our everyday lives.  
This eye catching show draws the viewer into the gallery immediately from the street. A monumental American flag displayed solemnly in the font window spanning the complete length of its pole, gently touching the floor. Extremely simple in material, this work acts as a nod of respect to those who were lost that day and allows the viewer to enter a post 9/11 world of imagery and symbols. 
Upon entering the gallery you are lead towards the back of the space where a bedazzled collection of work forms a shine-like arrangement. A sign and wooden bench invites you to remove your shoes and move around the psychedelic checkerboard of concrete tiles and liberated thrift store paintings. While enjoying the chill of the concrete upon your feet you encounter four smaller works, a chrome telephone book, a towel entombed in mosaic tiles, an earring embellished umbrella stand and a plaster female head resting upon American flag pillow. Then the breath taking structure of the work titled Second to None. Hundreds of once prized trophies have now been reconfigured into a great shrine which dazzles the eye. 
After the first wave of visual euphoria washed over me and I began questioning the intentions of the works, I became quite frustrated. Without the undertone of 9/11(which is very easy for the viewer to miss), Rocklen’s work seems to be made by a formula for contemporary art with the end product being that of spectacle rather than meaning. Although with further investigation these objects joined together by their previous lives, together now speak of the realization of dedication and the cost of our lives, that we as American’s enjoy everyday in a post 9/11 world.

Steinbach revision

Haim Steinbach's Creature shows both the familiar work of objects placed on shelves, as well as new explorations of text and patterns on the wall. The first gallery room shows Steinbach's object groupings, objects ranging from toys and household goods to junk shop items. These every day items are placed on beautifully constructed wooden shelves that are triangular and sleek. Western Hills, one of the first pieces in this first room, displays a cartoon-ish sheriff statuette with the word USA carved on the bottom, a metal bucket that has a sticker saying "INVEST IN AMERICA. MADE IN USA", and a wooden childs toy where different colored slices of a cone can be stacked. These objects seem to obviously go together; the viewer feels a memory or story from their own past from these objects. However, along with this sense of familiarity, the meaning also seems inaccessable because we can never know why Steinbach chose these objects and what their pairings might mean to him.

The next room featured large black vinyl text on two walls (No Elephants and to think it all started with a mouse), while the other two walls have shallow wooden frames with painted bronze Degas statuettes of dancers inside. Upstairs, the viewer is confronted with walls covered entirely in patterns or text. The walls are set up at odd angles to each other so the viewer must squeeze through narrow spaces to enter a smaller room which reads, "you don't get it, do you?"

I enjoy Steinbach's playful nature, but I find that the object groupings are the strongest work in this show. They introduce an interesting juxtaposition of personal memories and meanings and the meaning Steinbach may have intended.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

FLUXUS and the Essential Questions of Life REVISED

'FLUXUS and the Essential Questions of Life' is an exhibition currently on view at NYU through December 3. The exhibit focuses on some of the vital questions pertaining to life, as seen and addressed by the Fluxus artists. These questions are explored through an examination of daily events as containing the qualities to be viewed as art. The exhibit presents to the viewer a true international collaboration of artists with similar goals.This idea of art as 'social process' is introduced through a collection of objects, event cards, and art-as-games-in-boxes. Their collections of specific objects or instructions packaged into 'Fluxkits' underline their views on the interrelation of life and art. These kits would then be mailed out or sold at art stores to facilitate the spread of a fluxus way of life.

Often comical and ironic, fluxus object compositions, theories, instructions, language and terminology all propose to the viewer an opportunity to reexamine quotidian events and object in terms of art. The work is attributed to an international network of artists who sought to question art as commodity. Fluxus originated with George Maciunas in the 1960s, and grew into a movement that integrated everyday actions and events into art and art into everyday life. They blurred the boundary between the two, demonstrating how any mundane action can transform into a performance.

The exhibit is organized into several categories, all of which intend to guide the viewer through essential questions the Fluxus artists were addressing. 'Change? Danger? Death? Freedom? God? Happiness? Health? Love? Nothingness? Sex? Staying Alive? Time? What am I?' These questions are explored through clever compositions of objects and concepts, as well as collections of phrases, instructions, and correspondence. 'Fluxsyringe' by George Maciunas, for example, found in the 'Health?' section is a metal pump with fifty-six needles. Bearing the familiar concept of a syringe, the abundance of needles give it a threatening appearance and strong underlying commentary on western medicine, as equating the amount of medicine consumed to the state of health.

Nam June Paik's 'Zen for Film' under the 'Nothingness?' section is at once comical and exploratory, questioning the definition of nothingness as a 'lack of' something, and rather characterizes it as the space contained by a form giving that form utility and function. The idea of emptying one's mind, of letting go of everything material in order to attain a higher state of being, is explored in Paik's blank film that acquires information (dust, scratch marks) over time as it is continuously spun through the projector.

The show is successful in addressing issues Fluxus artists were confronting, namely the commodification of art, the accessibility of art to greater public as 'art part of life', and the integration of art in everyday life as a playful/analytical way of handling and observing objects.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Talk to Me Exhibition (Revision)

Kacie Kinzer, Tweenbots, 2009

Multitouch Barcelona, Hi, A Real Human Interface, 2009

The skills of new age artists; passion, vision, creativity, and humility are displayed in the special exhibition at The Museum of Modern Art, Talk to Me: Design and Communication Between People and Objects. Crossing the main lobby of MOMA, the first piece of creative technology you will see is Tweenbots, a cardboard robot with a smiling face designed by Kacie Kinzer (2009). It frequently bumps into people armed with a flag that asks them to talk with it, and depending on the visitor’s reactions, it may walk with them. Some people don’t notice the robot; others are filled with intrigue and amazement while interacting with him and taking his picture.

The exhibition starts from outside the third floor with a wall decoration of pixilated characters from digital games. Talking Carl, by Yann Le Coroller (2010), is an interactive feature that welcomes visitors at the entrance. A red box-shaped creature, Talking Carl has the ability to respond to sound and touch. If no one is interacting with him, he starts making funny noises like sneezing or laughing just to grab people’s attention. Walking through the hallway, eight LCD screens display different imaginative video projects, including a human doing a computer’s daily work (open and compose emails to upgrade software) project called Hi, A Real Human Interface by Multitouch Barcelona (2009). Watching a human isolated inside a box made me feel unhappy and think how we are getting disconnected from the world around us, but at the same time computers can connect us. Concepts like these make one think and experience how objects function from a human perception and establish for them an emotional connection.

The main space of the show, designed as a maze, is divided into six categories; objects, bodies, life, city, worlds, and double entendre. There is a lot to absorb. The various interactions and sounds created between people and objects can be overwhelming. All the objects are communicating either by lighting up, displaying text messages, playing music, changing color, and even talking back. Visitor’s reaction to such interactions is priceless; from shuffling impatiently, laughing aloud, or scanning the QR code (a digital square pattern that placed next to each project to lunch a special app/website) by using their smartphones as they walk around the exhibition. Talk to Me highlights the experience of people communicating with objects through design, which continues to improve to finally reach into a museum show.

Ryan and Trevor Oakes - Revision

New York based artists, Ryan and Trevor Oakes, recently exhibited a body of drawings and sculptures that collectively illustrate a modern approach to a timeless challenge. Breaking process down to a physical and almost scientific level, the twins produce mechanically assisted drawings that capture an accurate spatial perspective as it appears to the human eye. Exhibited alongside the drawings was their means of production, “a customized, curved easel and attached, rotatable head rest,” as quoted from the exhibition’s press release. By using this tool, the artists could harness a split-image vision that allowed them to render the most complicated cityscapes on curved canvases that mimic the shape of the eye. Their appropriately titled Concave Easel meshes the arts and sciences into a set of remarkably realistic spatial drawings. Before one might undermine the truth of these drawings as an art form, it is important to note that even Van Gogh was known to rely on similar inventions such as a perspectival frame.

The exhibition space itself failed to justly present the twin’s inventive exploration of perspective. The twin’s work was presented as a mere set of drawings and lacked any complementary material that might have sparked a more serious discussion. Communication between the viewer and artistry was nonexistent, and it was evident that several gallery-goers were unimpressed. Had there been a more effective dialogue between audience and artist, perhaps highlighting the innovation of timeless perspectival conventions and the scientific backbone behind the work, the exhibition would stand as strong as the series of drawings that is housed within.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

SOUS-VIDE by Anicka Yi

The first thing I noticed when walking into Anicka Yi’s SOUS-VIDE was the holes in the wall with urine-like liquid slowly pouring down them. The French term SOUS-VIDE means process of cooking food sealed in plastic. The deceiving yellow liquid is really olive oil and gives off an odor throughout the galley. It is inevitable to think of urine, especially with the bathroom like interior installed behind this piece, which can be seen by peering through the holes or walking into the door entrance around the corner. The space is made up of white tiled walls and floors. Once stepping into the room, the viewer realizes that this is not a pristine space, but it sprinkled with dust on the floor. This idea of deception carries into some of the other works as well because of the objects that are placed together.

In another work, Yi uses a vacuum bag to seal pearls and peanuts. By putting these two elements together, food and luxury, the work is about the importance of those objects in relation to each other. It does not seem like they are meant to be together but are forced to since they are tightly squeezed into this vacuum-sealed bag. The peanuts have far more significance over the pearls. The peanuts are meant to live off, and the pearls are used as a materialistic object. The play of colors, pearl and tan, and the shapes of circle and oval create a haphazard pattern throughout the bag. The clusters of peanuts and pearls in certain areas talk about the significance each of these objects hold within the bag. For example, in some sections the peanuts are more spread out than the pearls and in other areas some of the pearls are more isolated than the peanuts. This piece, along with a few others, made me think of commodity versus necessity. There is also a play on gender within this piece because of the opposing roles each object has within the confined space.

To the right of the vacuum-sealed bag is a vibrant red sweater with flowers coming out of the top. This has a similar feel to that of the peanuts and pearls, although not as big of a symbolic gap between the two objects. Within the piece, both are necessities, but in different ways. The sweater could be linked to the pearls in the other piece, whereas the flowers can be linked to the peanuts. The flowers, even though they are dying, have a more glamorous feel to them than the peanuts.

None of the objects Yi puts together compliment each other. With the placement of items, there seems to be something wrong within each sculpture. Although I can tell the artist is discontent with something, the sculptures do not make a clear enough thread to completely analyze it.

Every Woman

The Strange Attractor.

Reena Spaulings presents “The Strange Attractor” an exhibition of new work by artist Stephen Willats. Willats work encompasses both the scientific and the artistic by the merging of
cybernetics, system research, and communication theory with visual aides that include film, photography, and some collage. Willats work strives to transform the perceptions of the culture of objects into the possibilities within the community of people that are interacting with those objects. More simply the artist believes that reality is of our own construction, that we create the reality we want within our lives, and that there is not merely one way of experiencing or viewing reality.
The driving force behind the exhibition is the city in which the exhibition is located, New York. By gathering information from the streets of New York, Willat has created a complex system linking every minute detail of the city and the people dwelling within it.
The largest piece found in the exhibition is entitled “ Data Stream Portrait of New York.” The piece consists of a free standing wall, which is covered in small square images linked together by a thin black line on each side of the square. The photos consist of images of information found within the city. By assembling the piece in this way the artist has left most of the interpretation up to the viewer enabling them to create their own reality forcing them to interact with the work.
Another work that illustrates the idea of creating your own reality with the objects and moments around you is a piece entitled “How the future looks from here”. The piece is centered around a Brooklyn based family who is striving for a harmonious future, and includes images of the family with text beginning with a concern the couple has and ending with the concern becoming a reality and something they couple has to figure out how to deal with. The text and photographs in this work tie it together to reiterate Willats point, that you create your own reality through the choices you make. The artist also conveys through this piece, the fact that you can manipulate that reality. “The Strange Attractor” successfully conveys the artists message of humans controlling their reality while still leaving the actual reality controlling up to the viewer.

Elger Esser at Sonnabend Gallery (Revision)

Elger Esser’s exhibit, "Et nous avons des nuits plus belles que vos jours,” (translated as And we have some nights more beautiful than your days) is a subtle, yet intriguing collection of photographs and heliogravures.

Prints in color and grayscale showcase a variety of images taken in Giverny, France, at the Fondation Claude Monet gardens, the site where Monet undertook his famous water lily paintings. While Esser’s photographs appear as escapades in capturing dusk and dawn lighting, in truth all were shot at night. Playing with high contrasts and reflections, the images seem otherworldly and mystical. As the title of the show suggests, the beauty captured in these long exposure shots rivals the beauty of the gardens during the daylight. Many of the grayscale images mimic the appearance of early photography, while the ones in color work with ethereal colors of deep purples and blues and golden auras. In terms of subject matter, the grayscale prints adhere to traditional landscape shots; the color prints’ subject matter experiment with reflections and reflecting surfaces.

Also on display are a number of large sepia tone prints displaying grandiose architectural/landscape shots. Engulfing in their size, these nostalgia-tinged images somehow continue to pervade fairy tale innocence, despite their larger dimensions.

Overall the show is truly an ephemeral journey through beauty and light. Traveling through the unearthly Giverny gardens, completely devoid of life, and then through fanciful sepia-scapes elucidate worlds integrally dependent on dramatic lighting and the interaction between the earthly and the aquatic.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

What a wonderful world Seher Shah

Scaramouche Gallery presents a fascinating collection of drawings, prints, and photographs by the internationally acclaimed artist Seher Shah. Seher’s solo show displays her ardent exploration into architectural engineering and cultural designs associated with geometry, linear perspective, and iconic patterning, all of which attribute to a cohesive series of picturesque architectural landscapes.

A majority of Shah’s prints and drawings, contain a singular black quadrilateral that repetitively bisects her compositions. Shah’s largest graphite drawing on display measuring seventy- two inches by one hundred and six exemplifies the artist’s adeptness at creating juxtaposing harmonies. Object Relic (2011) portrays a vast architectural landscape composed of tightly detailed patterning that recedes endlessly into space. Intersecting its’ form is a penetrative black quadrilateral which ostensibly originates from off the page. Similarly in a smaller scaled archival print titled Monument (2009), exhibits a visually symmetrical composition, which unlike Object Relic, involves a lower horizon line behind a zoomed out perspective of an architectural island. However, it is the centrally pillared quadrilateral that almost functions as an ancient obelisk which grants this particular work a distinct ambivalence between spirituality and occultness. Any possible symbolic function associated with Shah’s compositional designs is left only to the viewer to ponder over.

The detailed background informatively affords a cultural insight into the traditional design process attributed to her Pakistani heritage, while the centrally pillared quadrilateral highlights an affiliation to contemporary art; abstracting the representational. A smaller thirty by twenty inch drawing titled Monument Wall (2009) conveys most profoundly Shah’s bold distortion of spatial composition. She employs quadrilateral and triangular forms which acquire negated movement while juxtaposing that, the artist builds an intricate web of “frolicking” bands and patterning creating a beautifully surreal skyscape. The employment of these two polar technical elements affords Shah’s works, dare I say, a “perfect” balance between space, line, and form thus enabling each formal element to harmoniously coincide with one another. Interestingly, (and perhaps the least interesting) Shah presents a floor- based installation titled, Object Repetition (line to distance). This three- dimensional piece is constructed of several small, acute plaster objects, which have been judiciously positioned to recreate a literal representation of her two- dimensional architectural compositions.

In totality, Scaramouche Gallery’s gorgeous space grants each of Shah’s works an absolute iconography. With every mark and shape converging to form these expansive planetary landscapes that surpass all knowledge and understanding, and yet, their infinite architecture and ambiguous space evokes an exquisiteness that is very much human.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The Oakes Twins at CUE Art Foundation

56th Street and 1st Avenue, NYC, 2006
Pen on concave paper

Concave Easel deployed in Millennium Park, Chicago, 2008

Concave Easel, 2004, Head Stabilizing Device added 2008

New York based artist’s, Ryan and Trevor Oakes, recently exhibited a series of drawings that grapple with an issue continually revisited by artists. Breaking artistic process down to the physical and technical level, the twins produce mechanically assisted drawings that capture an accurate spatial perspective as it appears to the human eye. Also exhibited in the space was their vehicle of production, “a customized, curved easel and attached, rotatable head rest,” as quoted from the exhibition’s press release. By using this tool, the artists could harness a split-image vision that allowed them to render the most complicated cityscapes on curved canvases that mimic the shape of the eye. The Concave Easel, as it is titled in the CUE Foundation, ultimately meshes the arts and sciences into a set of undeniably remarkable perspectival drawings. Before undermining the legitimacy of the mechanically produced cityscapes, it is important to note that even Van Gogh was known to rely on an innovative perspectival frame.

The exhibition space itself, located at 511 West 25th Street, failed to justly present the twin’s inventive exploration of perspective. Communication between viewer and artistic intent was practically nonexistent, as it was evident that several gallery-goers were unimpressed or did not take the exhibition seriously. Had there been a more effective dialogue between the audience and the body of work, perhaps highlighting the innovation of a timeless artistic convention in terms of physics and human spatial perspective, the exhibition would stand as strong as the body of work that is housed within. "The Oakes Twins" is on view through October 29th.