Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Neo Rauch At the Wall Exhibit at David Zwirner Gallery

Rauch’s paintings are like windows into fantastical, dream-like worlds. The large scale parti-colored paintings depict visual conundrums populated by figures, animals, and bizarre hybrids. Some of his paintings like Der Felsenwirt (2014) and Marina (2014) have a collage aesthetic because of the way he composes separate elements together, generally ignores perspective and scale, and uses dramatic light, shadow, and color.  
In many of his imaginary scenes the creatures appear to be engaged in various indeterminable and sisyphean tasks. In Das Horn (2004) people appear to be engaged in a ritual. One male figure blows a horn while people clutching spears surround  a modernist sculpture. The environment Raouch creates in Das Horn is beautiful and surreal in that it does not spell out what exactly is going in to the viewer but some things may still appear familiar. The narratives appear unrecognizable but Rauch leaves traces of familiarity enabling people to connect with the work at an emotional level.
Heillichtung (2014) is a diptych three meters tall and five meters wide. In the upper left hand corner Rauch included a psychedelic rectangular insert visually distinct from the rest of the painting. It depicts a discordant arrangement of houses in vibrant colors. The insert functions as an additive compositional device that contrasts the tenebrous narrative taking place in the rest of the piece. In the rest of the painting elements including the head of a donkey, Brancusi’s Endless Column, what appears to be a UFO, a burning building, a man on a stretcher surrounded by other men and women tending to him, and men in uniform contribute to the sensation of uncertainty of what the narrative means because their relationship to each other is unknown.
Rauch’s work cannot be pegged down to be purely social realism or surrealist despite its surrealist qualities because his paintings come from real and imaginary experiences. He does not aim to shock people or depict sexual fantasy as Surrealist Salvador Dali did. Rauch describes his work as having a vital quality like a creature or animal that can be acknowledged as such but its meaning does not necessitate understanding by the viewer.  

Friday, November 21, 2014

Neo Rauch at David Zwirner Gallery

Neo Rauch’s exhibition, At the Well, shows dramatic and surrealistic nostalgia through his unique painterly style. Especially, his works remind me of El Greco’s figure paintings and Giorgio de Chirico’s surrealistic landscape paintings. I am interested in his eccentric and fascinating styles to think how his paintings can be linked to styles of two different artists and what his unique style is.
His figures are expressed as the distorted and elongated proportion of body. These characters relate to El Greco’s dramatic and expressionistic style. Their facial features look similar as Mannerism’s stylistic paintings. Otherwise, his figures mostly are drawn in half-side or profile and their sizes are various regardless of the perspective. In particular, mystical creatures that are having a partly animal and a partly human form brings me a sense of bizarre atmosphere like a dream; Pan, who is playing rustic music, a woman having crab hands next to a sleeping person, a woman having octopus’s legs, and so on. Its allegoric expression arouses my curiosity about inner narratives.
            His landscape mostly presents pastoral scenery with cottages. An idyllic landscape from the imaginary space brings me to feel surrealistic nostalgia. Giorgio de Chirico’s neoclassical style also can be related to his style in the background expression. Both artists use bold compositions to show dreamscape out of perspectives. Their paintings imply various narrative stories through their complicated composition through combining a bird’s eye view with different angle of views. Also, the effect of light and shadow reveals dramatic expression as a still life or stage setting. Their landscapes have gloomy atmosphere but there are some differences. Giorgio’s sky consists of dark greenish blue without clouds. However, Neo’s sky is covered with heavy clouds based on a grey tone background. He applies not only monochromatic color but also vibrant color from specific parts. His color scheme attracts me to see how he creates the color balance in his picture plane by considering color temperature. For example, Das Horn, 2014 consists of cool bright yellow and deep dark green with warm grey tones in the background.

                                            Neo Rauch, Das Horn (2014)                                                     

El Greco, The Burial of the Count of Orgaz (1586)  

Giorgio de Chirico, Mystery and Melancholy of a Street(1914)

Zhao Zhao’s in “Zero Tolerance” at MoMA PS1.

Artworks in this show is far from beauty and happiness. It is rather brutal and harsh. It shows the contemporary world’s tensions between freedom and control, and explores artists’ responses towards our society’s various controversial issues, such as violation of human rights, racial or sexual discriminations, and wars. In this exhibition, Chinese artist Zhao Zhao, who is known for following in Ai Weiwei’s footsteps shows his two photographs, “Cobblestone”, and “On Guard.”

 In 2013, Zhao was held in investigative custody for 12 days by the Chinese government, without any official explanation, and his two photographs in Zero Tolerance confront the Chinese government’s controls and regulations. Through the works he is questioning the role of authority in China. In “On Guard,” the artist wears a police officer’s uniform and stands in Tiananmen Square  in Beijing, the capital of China.

 The work shows Zhao wearing the uniform and includes people’s reactions around him. Zhao is just standing there without any gesture or words. It is hard to figure out whether he is protesting against the government or accepting the authority. Even though both Ai Weiwei and Zhao have made their works a tool to reflect and criticize the social issues in contemporary China, there are differences between Zhao and Weiwei’s styles. Zhao’s protest is more subtle compared to Weiwei’s direct approach. Weiwei demonstrates outspoken and obvious intensions in his art works. For instance, he has even used broken rebar from a collapsed school building from Sichuan province, China, to criticize Chinese government’s poor constructions in one of his recent works. Unlike Weiwei's straight-forward and strong confrontational style, Zhao’s works are indirect and conceptual.

In “Cobblestone,” Zhao is gluing a tiny stone on the ground of Tiananmen Square. His action can be interpreted as a symbolic gesture, and seems to demonstrate against the control by gluing a tiny stone in Tiananmen Square which embodies the authority of Chinese government. The scale of a tiny stone and enormous Tiananmen Square in comparison with each other leaves a powerful impression on viewers. Maybe the tiny stone is a symbol of irregularity which can be a starting point to breaking the gigantic social contract, and representing Zhao’s voice protesting against the restrictions in contemporary China. 


Another Picasso Show?

Another Picasso show has arrived at Gagosian Gallery at 21 st in Chelsea. “Picasso and the Camera” was curated by Picasso’s biographer, John Richardson, with the help of others (including Picasso’s grandson).

What shocked me at the get-go was how multi-sensory and unpredictable the show was  in its design. I always had this image in my head of Picasso bouncing around from drawings to paintings to photographs to sculpting something to moving about in his studio. Just as the camera allowed Picasso to better understand how he painted/sculpted (as well as serving documentary purposes); the show mapped the innumerable ways that technology could manifest itself in the creative process. It’s not as easy as merely exhibiting the photographs he was involved with.

Walking around the open exhibition spaces, I was able to make connections to the various media representations. It was refreshing to view an original painting, see how it was photographed by Picasso and view a photograph of Picasso making the work by another photographer simultaneously. There would be a bust of a cubist sculpture, and placed next to that would be photographic images on a wall of Picasso drawing outlines of figures with light. I hadn’t realized how much Picasso collaborated with photographers and filmmakers. A grid of lithographs, “Diurnes”, showed about 30 experiments with photogram’s Picasso made with Andre Villers.

The central multi-media feature in the middle of the gallery contained a room with ceiling-high walls, upon which various films are projected (above eye level). Viewers could enter/exit at each corner of the square shaped room and had many films to focus up on. One of the films, “Les Mystere Picasso,” directed by Henri-Georges Clouzot, shows Picasso drawing on a glass plane with paint. The film gave me insight into Picasso’s process. Looking at other peoples’ gazing faces, I realized how important it was to interpret the ways Picasso worked just as much the finished works themselves.

Puddle, pothole, portal at SculptureCenter

Saul Steinberg
The current show at Long Island City’s ScultpureCenter, Puddle, pothole, portal, is a group show featuring 23 artists and a variety of work. SculptureCenter’s beautiful building was just renovated, and Puddle, pothole, portal becomes a kind of trail of sculpture that tours you through the space, begging you to explore. In addition to a large main room, several small side rooms, a courtyard, and a spooky maze of a basement house the artwork in the show. Puddle, pothole, portal showcases many different kinds of sculptural work, including paintings, installation, and video work, which makes for an interesting show that pushes the notion of what is traditionally called sculpture.

On the main floor, beautiful stained glass and an open warehouse space create a relaxed atmosphere to take in the work that is dotted around the room. However, in the basement the long hallways are so dark you might not think the show continues. There the fun really happens, with the louder, colorful moving sculptures and the maze like challenge of not knowing what lies ahead.  While some of the pieces are more successful than others, like Abigail DeVille’s rotating conveyor belt with severed mannequin parts next Judith Hopf’s painfully un-funny video about a flood in an apartment, the show seems to work as a hodgepodge of styles and medias, capturing diversity of sculpture now. Puddle, pothole, portal has a lighthearted feel to it, with many of the artists using cartoon imagery and comical gags that keep you on your toes so as to not accidentally step on the art. From Olga Balema’s Long Arm 2, a rubber glove several feet long, to Maria Loboda’s bronze lobster claws subtly sticking out of the wall, the humor and attention to detail and the ways the artists are showcasing their humor in Puddle, pothole, portal is unparalleled.

Maria Loboda