Friday, September 21, 2012


When viewing Michael Rakowitz’ “The Breakup” at Lombard Freid Projects Gallery, one is presented with a multi-sensory exhibit.  A calm, recorded voice of a man comes quietly from a radio, narrating a documentary and occasionally dropping familiar names: Paul, John, Ringo, George, and is interspersed with short musical clips from various catchy tunes by the Beatles.   It’s impossible not to be drawn towards the glass-top tables, with cursive handwriting scrawled on the surface with permanent marker- the text hovering ghostlike over an orderly and historic display of Arabic/Palestinian maps, magazines, record covers, Israeli currency, and Beatles memorabilia, reminiscent of a collection of pinned butterflies caught forever in a tragic moment. 

While the connections between the Middle East and the Beatles breakup are not at first easily understood, one begins to piece together the similarities between a Palestinian attempt to unite their nations and the Beatles’ brief reunion.  Paintings referencing the color palate of the album cover “Sargent Pepper’s Lonely Heart’s Club Band” line the walls alongside collages combining images of the Beatles with flags and symbols of the Middle East, leading the viewer towards a dark room where a video clip plays the only “reunited” Beatles’ performance, followed by a video of a Palestinian band playing Beatles’ songs with arabic instruments.

Offering a reserved, “historical” collection, “The Breakup” is an unexpected juxtaposition of two disparate “failures” of collaboration.


Viewers are welcomed by a 100-foot long white curtain; and after going around it, they discover several stages and altars with signs and objects of propaganda: the central focus of the show. The artist creates a path based on sound routes and different points of attention, where different monologues are spoken out loud and podiums and microphones are guides for the audience. Hayes uses old album covers to highlight historical issues in American politics during the 70’s. The installation is contextualized in the ultimate political rebellion associated with the Occupy movement, and it has its roots in the queer right struggle that occurred in public spaces during that time. Ms. Hayes looks at this period from a critical distance.

The artist creates stages, scenarios and stands to congregate, which can be viewed as an architecture of empowerment and rebellion. However, despite the contemporary design fair or pavilion aesthetic, Ms. Hayes doesn’t create a space for appropriation or the participation; she underestimates the viewer, even though she gives us tools for a new 'revolution’.  Viewers have to behave only as spectators and contemplate in the company of the museum guards. One cannot approach the stages, touch or photograph the installation, and finally one is left to wonder: is it possible to create a revolution inside a museum? In the end, the show must be understood as a call to re-envision new forms of association, groupings and language for mankind: a universal call to congregate; pure idealism that is absolutely necessary in these days.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

JAMES WELLING: Overflow at David Zwirner

Overflow showcases three bodies of work that explore the impact of painting on both the content and process of James Welling’s photographic practice. Wyeth depicts the home, studio, and subjects of Andrew Wyeth, whose work influenced Welling early in his career. Welling digitally sampled color from those images for Fluid Dynamics, which consists of large abstract prints created by exposing wet photo paper to light. Finally, the smaller black and white photograms of the series Frolic Architecture were created by painting onto mylar, then creating photographic contact prints from the paintings.

Wyeth includes Glass House, an almost monochromatic image of two frost-covered windows in the corner of a white room, the paint on their frames peeling. This image is particularly stark, but the other photos in Wyeth have a similar sense of emptiness; the series works to depict something that is no longer there. In contrast, the stunning purple and green swirls of FD1M burst off of the wall, and the bright energy throughout Fluid Dynamics belies the subdued source of the color. Though quieter, the black and white images of Frolic Architecture take this transformation even further, giving painterly form a life of its own. Welling takes a thread of influence from Wyeth and spins it into entirely new creations, giving us insight into his personal artistic development while sketching a new paradigm of the pictorial.


Stepping out of the late-summer sun into Janet Cardiff and George Bures’ sound installation, The Murder of Crows, is shock to your senses. Beneath the single light source is a gramophone, over which Cardiff’s voice reciting dreams is heard, with seats surrounding it in a semicircle. The dark, cavernous space at Park Avenue Armory feels infinite as 89 speakers pull you in. Cardiff’s voice recounts three dream sequences that are interspersed with unnerving soundscapes until tension is finally released by a sweet lullaby.  Like sitting around a story teller, the lit space is a designated safe area while sounds crescendo to frightening intensity and break with clarity around the darkened drill hall.

Cardiff creates a loose narrative as the dreams lead into soundscapes that drive the story forward by powerfully pushing through to the next scene. Visitors experience the violent machinal clanging of a post-industrial chaos following Cardiff’s description of an unknown, flowing blood source and the beautiful operatic chorus singing about a lost leg after a description of the disembodied limb found in an abandoned beach house. The clarity and sensual quality of the sounds heighten unease as the visitor becomes totally absorbed. Exploring the darkened drill hall is welcomed but you cannot know what lurks. Each step away from Cardiff’s voice takes your further into her nightmare.

Sunday, September 16, 2012


If you come across Elad Lassry’s work and leave a little perplexed, do not fear- it is the curiosity and imagination in ambivalence that he strives for. Untitled (Presence) is an installation consisting of film, photography and sculpture, discussing how framing devices influence analysis of a work. By oscillating perspectives through altered architecture, scattered patterns in images (hollywood portraits, still lives, abstract forms) and shifts from photography to sculpture, Lassry focuses less on the content of each individual image but the potential relationships created by arrangement. Photographs line the walls ranging from still lives to portraits. A wave-like sculpture in the center of the space can be viewed through a wall or more closely after walking around the wall. At first, there seems to be no relation between the varying imagery in the photographs and with the sculpture in the space. However, Lassry creates an open discussion model away from didacticism and linear thought so the viewer can make relationships between the objects for themselves. A conclusion of the work does not have to be of a singular path of thought, but of forking paths with conclusive potentials. It is not only the content in each image that makes the piece whole,  but the relationships with what is surrounding the image. Lassry leaves  the “meaning” of art  to the perceptive audience- a welcomed freedom.