Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Paweł Althamer in New Museum

After walking through a narrow aisle, I saw this group of Pawel Althamer’s sculptures: under dim lights, hundreds of figures’ shadows stand there with warm body language. For a second, I stopped to see what was going on-- none of them moved; the whole atmosphere was peaceful. Then, I realize these are works of art, not live human beings.

The size of these sculptures is human’s size which make me feel accessible. Gestures and facial expressions of each sculptures are differ, but them all are alone and closing eyes. Except the faces, other body parts are simply constructed by steels in a beautiful way, which looks fragmentary. But this imperfection highlights the vivid facial expressions: sadness, joyful, suffering, which sparks audiences to image.  

The documentary videos in four corners show the daily life of Althamer: sometimes, he acts like an irritable syndrome person; but sometimes he walked in a forest like a peaceful rabbit. A tear drop from his closed eyes, I am touched.

On the whole, the curating really helps to deliver the sentiment. If these sculptures are presented individually somewhere, they may look like average figurative sculptures. However, when all works come together in this space with the light setting and videos, they are quite impressive. However, the 2 video screens in main gallery maybe too sparkling for this silent emotional atmosphere. Without them, I will enjoy more.  

Emil Lukas at Sperone Westwater.

Pennsylvania based artist Emil Lukas suggests a body of work that engages in a vivid dialogue with the history of abstraction and minimalism.

Lukas puts together two bodies of work that after a first glance seem to have not much in common. But in the few things that connect his Thread and Larvae Paintings we can find the core element of Lukas's practice.
The thread paintings are a result of a process that seems to be an investigation of color, material and space. The artist gives us a very interesting take on image making, as he creates a powerful relation between the three dimensional presence of the threads, and the depth of the painting.
This relation between the object as a painting, and the object as a sculptural construction, is what makes me think of Lukas as part of a long history of minimalism.
The second body of paintings, the Larvae ones are created again by a very interesting technique. The artist dips threads into paint and then moves them over the canvas, organizing shapes that could never be formed by the human hand. The gray biomorphic result reintroduces a query about the role of chance and the authority of the artist in the end result.
Emil Lukas tackles in a contemporary manner issues inherently important to painting. His techniques and his attachment to his materials give an interesting voice to contemporary discourse about abstract art.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Alex Prager’s Face in the Crowd, at Lehmann Maupin

     Photographer Alex Prager is known for her still images that look cinematic, which are highly structured and complexly prepared. Face in the Crowd, a two-part exhibition at Lehmann Maupin, includes one venue that features Alex Prager’s large-scale photographs, with another venue featuring a three-channel video installation.

     The show consisted of several large-scale photographs of crowd scenes taken in an aerial view. The portraits were set up in various locations, such as beaches, movie theatres, airport terminals and other public spaces.  Every detail was considered when constructing these spaces.  The clothing and hairstyles chosen for each individual are mixtures of time periods that range from mid-century to present day. It is quite obvious that the artist took control of model casting, hair, makeup, costumes and set design when creating these environments. For the viewer, the scenarios seem familiar, but at the same time they are very strange as it is difficult to place the time and location of the narratives. The combinations of objects are deliberately staged and selected from various time periods, which allowed the viewer to relate to some objects. Any sense of real time is unclear in all of the images. Prager creates another reality for the characters to live and share the same physical space with each other, but all seen as separate individuals. They are detached from their surroundings and isolated in their own reveries. These photographs make parallels to how people in today’s society interact in public spaces. The use of technology, a major source for communication in today’s culture creates these distances and disconnection between individuals. People’s lives revolve around communicating though social media, but in reality they do not realize that they are absent-minded and unaware of their surroundings.

    Prager is successful in conveying the feeling of disconnection by forming crowds. Also, by manipulating the models’ physical characteristics, such as facial expressions, clothing, hairstyles, and other props, she elevates the piece to another level. Each frame is captivating from the numerous details that force you to look again and find something new.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Re:In The Air, TJ Wilcox at the Whitney

In the Air, T.J. Wilcox’s 360˚ video installation at the Whitney Museum of American Art makes a new attempt at capturing the illusive character of  New York City.

 As the titular work of the exhibition, Wilcox’s panoptic screen, which can be observed from both sides, fills the main gallery of the exhibition with a translucent cylinder several feet high that hangs four feet above the ground, just high enough to slip underneath and into the bird’s eye view of the city. The film, shot from atop the artist’s studio high above Union Square, captures a 15 hour period in time-lapse. However, the viewer must step into the cylinder, and into the city, to appreciate the six interchanging video anecdotes that appear superimposed on the skyline. Each video appears on the screen to reveal a moment or figure that Wilcox associates with that vantage point. The most potent of these, looking towards lower Manhattan depicts the artist recounting 9/11 as he motions to the now empty part of the cityscape. From other vantage points of the encapsulating installation the subsequent videos, mostly documentary and reenactment collages of art icons tied to New York City in some respect, seem to carry a mockumentary lightness to their production that does not resonate nearly as well. The installation is complemented by several artworks,selected by Wilcox, that attempt to characterize the city as a dynamic landscape.

For the awe-inspiring view and technical production that T.J. Wilcox's installation presents, the video collages that are intended to present the conceptual depth of the work only present few moments that communicate a genuine connection and kinship with the city that Wilcox attempts to recreate.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Laure Prouvost at the New Museum

     Laure Prouvost's installation For Forgetting occupies the fishbowl-like gallery space on the New Museum's ground floor.  The piecemeal construction of raw 2x4s, collaged prints and text, video, and bits of this and that, give the impression that one has entered the makeshift home of a transient.  The tone is purposefully casual and reminded me of the awkward posturing of an adolescent 'talking tough'.  By parroting this tone she creates an oxymoronic clash of intention and apathy which causes a wonderful friction and strangeness throughout the space.

      A shanty-esque construction houses a video and breaks up the work into three distinct sections.  The jerky cuts and assembled images of the film are reminiscent of a manic dream.  A husky woman's voice, thickly accented, promises great wealth and success over flashing captions and incongruous music.  The video kindled a vague but powerful desire for some unknown product or service.  It was as though I had been subliminally primed for some capitalistic campaign.  This inexplicable want remained long after I moved on.    

     This work is full of humor, whimsy, irreverance and nebulous foreboding, Prouvost is scrapbooking with shreds of reality, imagination and tapping the subconscious.  By so doing she is piloting a new surrealism, one adapted for all the complexities of the 21st century.