Monday, September 30, 2013

Pure: Barry McGee at Cheim & Read

San Francisco-based artist Barry McGee's exhibition of new work contains a dynamic assortment of paintings, installation, and ceramics all done in McGee's West Coast street-art style. Using geometric shapes and patterns in a mix of exuberant neons, corals and earth tones, McGee's work is approachable and set to please a diverse audience, from local graffiti artists to international art world professionals. 

It is a pleasure to see this collection of works in various mediums balancing and communicating with one another. From ceramic objects that could fit in your hand, to large, eloquently composed paintings of text and intricate patterns, there is a wonderful sense of play and enjoyment. McGee's practice seems to be one of constant making, intercepting, and documenting. This is particularly apparent in the large installation in the back room of the gallery, where photographs mix with paintings and drawings in found frames. This compilation of dozens of framed pieces comes across as composed storytelling, allowing the viewer an entryway and journey through McGee's work.

Longtime fans may challenge McGee's cult credibility for showing in such a commercial arena, but he is an artist who can command any indoor or outdoor space and his work looks comfortable in Cheim & Read. This exhibition demonstrates that McGee is a contemporary artist who is relevant to a larger audience than is often reached through the traditional Chelsea gallery space.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Living in Fiction (Revised) - Philip-Lorca diCorcia’s Hustlers series

  Taken in Los Angeles from 1997 until 2008, Philip-Lorca diCorcia’s Hustlers series include total of thirty-six photographs. Neatly framed in white, his image carries portraits of prostitutes in the neighborhood of Santa Monica Boulevard. The figure’s dignified stance expresses immense amount of self-confidence. The title holds information about each subject's name, age, hometown, and the amount of money Dicorcia spent on each shoot.

The mysterious and fictitious quality of his photo first intimidates the viewer then causes curiosity to wonder who they are and where they are from.
                                        Philip-Lorca diCorcia. Marilyn; 28 Years Old; Las Vegas, Nevada; $30. 1990-92. 
The series is composed of portraits of male prostitutes; Most of the subjects are staring directly into camera while displaying a bored detachment from their naked surroundings. It is apparent that artist wants to maintain a certain distance from the subject matter.     

            Most of times, Dicorica selected public places gas stations and bus stops as his backgrounds but occasionally, he also placed models in private places like motels and its interiors. The artist confessed that shoot was almost always planned ahead. Only after completing the preparation would he start a real shoot. Stipends equivalent to a charge for prostitution were given to a model in exchange afterwards. His prearranged idea is heightened by the use of artificial light, creating an uncanny tension. This visual composition offers a cinematographic quality.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Thomas Hirschhorn's Gramsci Monument

Thomas Hirschhorn’s The Gramsci Monument stood for 77 days on a green in the Forest Houses public housing in the Bronx.  Under Hirschhorn’s direction, the residents of the Forest Houses built and staffed this project, and the Dia Foundation paid for the materials and salaries. This triangulation of interest, commitment, and enthusiasm resulted in a social club more than a monument. Hirschhorn designed the functional plywood structure of two bunkhouses connected by a footbridge. On the surface, it looked flimsy, like it was constructed with brown packaging tape.  However, the building was quite solid, containing a library, an Internet room, a radio station, a newsroom, a café, an art room, and lecture hall.  Every day was programming provided by artists and philosophers performing, discussing, and answering questions on various ideas about art, democracy, and freedom, and anything relevant.
            This is Thomas Hirschhorn’s fourth monument to philosophers who are his ‘heroes.’ Antonio Gramsci was an early 20th century Italian Marxist. According to Hirschhorn, Gramsci’s writings  are the intersection of ‘love and politics.’ Many quotes from Gramsci’s diaries like “Every human being is an intellectual” are spray painted throughout,   One remarkable result of Hirschhorn’s optimism and belief, an art foundation’s sheparding, and a housing project’s invitation and courage is a dismantling of a singular cultural hegemony.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

The poetic bridge between art and designs

Canadian artist Marc Hundley’s new work is coherent with respect to his previous one including an interest in Virginia Woolf. In fact, the title The Waves, The Body Alone is taken from Virginia Woolf’s experimental novel The Waves. Hundley often uses appropriated materials as his subjects such as texts from novels, favorite film posters, and images of music icons that can be both extremely personal and public at the same time. Although he takes the clear physical presence of vintage material, he does not merely reproduce the original. Hundley's fabrication of posters can be interpreted as mental imprints of his subconscious mind. Details in the work subtly imply his memory towards the subject such as mismatched titles, pixelated prints, and offset layers.

Hundley's art appears to have more in common with graphic design than with what would be considered to be fine art. This can lead to the main concern where his design stands in gallery context. An eye level display, mint colored walls, and symmetrically placed two large benches are not a coincidence and exist to serve a purpose. Design is created for function, and non-functional design is considered as a failure. Hudley's work is successful as design. However, the nature of art should always fail which non-art can never be. Perhaps the bridge he is trying to connect between art and design in this exhibition can lead to either a great success in design or glorious failure in fine art.  

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Gramsci Monument: an attempt at unity

Heroine. That was the topic of one poem by visiting artist Tracie Morris. "Some of you might be familiar with this," she said. In front of me, an older black woman paused from crocheting a colorful flower to look up and say, "yep."

Tracie Morris was part of the Gramsci Monument's visiting lecture series, which took place on a ramshackle stage made of plywood and tarp amidst the Bronx Forest Houses. Like the residents there, Morris also grew up in public housing. She is now a professor of poetry and a published poet. She has developed an energetic, improvisational style that infuses slam poetry with her body as an instrument, and she beats on her chest while she speaks in syncopated rhythms.

For me, Morris was the most redemptive aspect of visiting the Monument. During her performance, I felt that the whole audience was enraptured by her rhythm and her innovation, and I may never have learned of her otherwise. But the rest of the Monument was more obtuse and unreachable for me: the library housed an intimidating collection of communist literature, the radio station seemed uninviting and off-limits, and the food stand didn’t have a single meat-free option for a vegetarian like me. The German philosopher who followed Morris on the stage was cold and monotone, and I feared sometimes that the stage would fall out from underneath us. Regardless, the Forest Houses community seemed to be in favor of the monument, which is what really matters in the end.

(revised 10.3.13)