Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Here And Elsewhere At The New Museum

The New Museum's current exhibition "Here and Elsewhere" is not something you would typically see in contemporary art galleries in New York. Featuring works from only Arab artists, the group show puts together 45 works that show, express, and discuss contemporary Arab life.

With such a broad theme that is unique to every artist who falls into the category of "Arab artist", the New Museum does a lovely job curating a wide selection of works of various mediums. Showcasing video, sculpture, installation, paintings, and so on, not one work is quite like another. While the works are all very different from a visual standpoint, many have reoccurring themes, such as violence, oppression, and lack of rights.

One of the larger pieces, "The Mapping Journey Project" by Bouchra Khalili (2008-2011), is a video installation that tracks the journey of immigrants illegally traveling from Africa to Europe. The piece is 8 video projections, suspended from the ceiling. Each projection has an ambiguous hand which draws on a map with a black marker. While doing so, they explain their immigration journey. Each video projection shows a different story of 8 immigrants, each with their own powerful story to tell of trials and escape.

Here And Elsewhere is on view at the New Museum until September 28th, 2014.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

There and Everywhere - the Here and Elsewhere Exhibit at the New Museum

Wael Shawky, b. 1971 Alexandria, Egypt, The Cave (Amsterdam) 12:45 min., 2005

After a whirlwind tour of varied media art pieces on four floors, I would say that “Here and Elsewhere” lives up to the exhibit’s title in two particular video installations, exemplifying the Jean Luc Godard reference. The two videos play on both the cinema verité style (making aware the presence of the camera) as well as Godard’s canonical style (the metaphysical questioning of language, image interpretation, and reality construct of the moving image).

In The Cave (Amsterdam), artist Wael Shawky recites a long religious episode from the Qu’ran in Arabic. He strolls in a grocery store in a black tie and suit (with a ticker tape news flash transcription at bottom) with European whites shopping in the background oblivious to the significance of his religious prayer and pushing the viewer to reconsider his/her own gullibility of this faux documentary presentation.

Abdel Abidin’s music video reworking of songs commissioned by Saddam Hussein, are sung in transliterated Iraqi by English only singers, and here the piece communicates an original narrative from the Here and Elsewhere video – which is “Why is that we were not able to see and listen to such simple images? … Without any doubt, we know neither how to see nor how to hear?” The lesson: as seductive and believable video is, we must reexamine our methods of constructing reality and deriving information about “other” people and narratives from video.

Abdel Abidin, Three Love Songs, Video, Color, Sound, 8:41 min, 2010

Friday, September 19, 2014

James Bishop at David Zwirner Gallery

James Bishop at David Zwirner Gallery

         The show features the abstract works of American artist, James Bishop, abstract works, painted during the 1960s to the early 1980s. From the moment viewers enter the exhibition, the framework and simple horizontal-vertical configuration of squares grasps their attention. As much as his works are compressed and abstracted, the impact from the simplicity is direct and powerful.

His squared and repetitively divided pictorial spaces look similar and blended, when seen from a distance, but when you get close enough to see them, each subsquare in his paintings has distinct individuality. They have differences in brightness, hues, and even in shapes. Those are minor, but exist, and make viewers feeling the paintings more organic. Another notable point is that Bishop’s concretely divided surfaces are not flat, and the many textured painted areas actually reflect the lights. Through the reflections, his brushstrokes become alive and vivid, and it makes his ostensibly static paintings more interesting.
According to the author of Recent Drawings, Elke M. Solomon, Bishop is one of the minimalist artists who has the most limited and repetitious formats in his work, but within it, there is great richness and subtlety of design. No individual squares are the same, and no divided spaces are symmetrical, so we can see the minimalist artist’s abstract works are not as nearly simple as they seem.

Artists may hide underlying meanings in their paintings, but viewers are not always able to completely understand the artists' ideas in abstract works. As abstract paintings often ask viewers for their own interpretation or even assumption, James Bishop's series of works also need such participation. 

(Photo courtesy of the David Zwirner Gallery) *REVIEWED

Lily van der Stokker: Huh at Koenig & Clinton

Lily van der Stokker’s cartoonish Huh show currently on view at Koenig & Clinton is both a soothing and fun experience.  The solo exhibition, an installation of all large-scale pink three-dimensional objects, globular-shaped wall paintings, and matching pink custom-made furniture presents a greater discussion about femininity, beauty, and vacant optimism as well as relationships between artists, critics, and equality between the sexes.  
At first glance the room is an almost an overwhelming blast of saccharine cuteness, however there are underlying subtle messages of deprecation throughout the show. A pink cloud-shaped retail sign affixed to the wall stating: only yelling older women in here- Nothing to sell is one message in particular breaks up the seemingly calm feeling of the room making a bold statement on being an older female artist today. The large wall paintings that engulf the space also seem to communicate with each other in the context of the exhibition space. For example two large pajama inspired blobs stand side by side with pink bubbles stating both nice being here on the right side and nice being here on the left side. At the center of the gallery the large irregularly shaped box sculpture is covered in doodles, perhaps referencing pieces of hair, as well as pink flowers and looks to be oozing cartoon paint on to the floor.

Huh plays with the comforts of feminine decorative flatness while making direct references and statements to the art world, but does so with graceful humor boldly requesting that the viewer question both the substance and seriousness.
(Image source: Jeffrey Sturges/Koenig & Clinton, New York)

Cao Fei's "La Town" at Lombard Freid Gallery

Viewing Cao Fei’s newest video work, La Town, is an experience that consists of equal parts enchantment and confusion. Cao’s film draws the viewer into a dark, seedy and crumbling town: La Town. In La Town Cao highlights both the mundanity and vice of contemporary society through the creation of an obviously fake, alternate world modeled on our own.

Bright, artificial colors, and the sort of omnipresent night and severe lighting one might find in a neo-noir film characterize the film. Roughly hewn, yet vividly human wax dolls and plastic buildings act as substitutes for real actors and locations. Intense music and vague voiceover narration enhances the films dark mood. Whispered voices discuss La Town’s dark fate in broken, nebulous phrases, only ever half-informing the viewer of La Town’s fate and history

At the beginning of La Town the words “this simulacrum remains unsurpassed in its invocation of the real” flicker across the screen. With this, Cao acknowledges the unreality of La Town, while affirming its credibility as a stand in for reality. Though it may be composed of no more than dolls and plastic toys, Cao asserts La Town’s validity as a representation of reality. By distilling the experience of contemporary society and transposing it onto an obviously unreal realm, she challenges the viewer to question similarities between La Town and the real world.

Image Source: http://www.lombardfreid.com/cao-fei/

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Jason Rhoades PeaRoeFoam

Jason Rhoades’ PeaRoeFoam is an arrangement of installations about mass production, spirit, and space. The hodgepodge of interdependent consumer items on display obscure boundaries between the utilitarian and the artistic.
The installation’s title indicates Rhoades’ innovative material of green peas from his family’s garden, salmon eggs, and white beaded foam. Adhered together with non-toxic Elmer’s Glue, the individual elements form a complex and unitary whole. Rhoades “kebab skewers” displays PeaRoeFoam as dense objects and the veiled light wall disperses little clumps of PeaRoeFoam throughout.
The actress Marilyn Chambers image holding an infant is featured on the scattered boxes of Ivory Snow Detergent filled with PeaRoeFoam. Chamber’s image is also  displayed throughout the exhibit on cardboard with a circular hole cut-out in the place of her mouth. The proximity of the images creates tension between advertised wholesomeness and vulgar fantasy.
The Grand Machine/ Areola toys with functionality and the concept of a creative space. The skeletal metal structure congested with mass produced objects doubles as a karaoke center. Do it yourself kits, shrink wrapped pallets,  and tools among other replaceable commodities animate the factory setup.  
There is nothing random about the installation; the overwhelming presence of the objects, the dichotomous back stories and word play, the viewer’s physical awareness of space, and the variety of ways PeaRoeFoam is used contribute to a profound visual and conceptual experience.
image from http://wsimag.com/art/10899-jason-rhoades-pearoefoam