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

"ZERO: Countdown to Tomorrow, 1950s-1960s" at the Guggenheim

Are cold wars better than hot wars?  This question was demanded of me upon entering ZERO: Countdown to Tomorrow, 1950s-1960s, a historical survey of the Cold War-era international artist group now exhibiting at the Guggenheim.  
I typically am not so casual to wear earbuds while at the museum, but listening to 1980‘s “end of Cold War” music while gazing down from the top floor provided an insightful foil to the “beginning of Cold War” display light, color, and movement anticipated at each descending level. 

Zero Founder Otto Piene’s explains the name as “a zone of silence and of pure possibilities for a new beginning.”  With the stage stage cleared for artistic expression came the possibility of a literal clearing of the earth’s landscape.  Abstraction came with actual obstructed truths.  Zero’s resulting art is kinetic, colorful, and meaningfully playful.

Günther Uecker’s Light Disk, 1964 rotates, shifting shadows casted by hundreds of straight nails, illuminated by a single flood light. “The City” emerges, both beautiful and threatening in its starkness.  Yves Klein is comfortably placed into Art Pop style; a field of his patented pigment color IKB (international Klein Blue) mesmerizes and affects just the way he planned.  Numerous artists worked in painting with fire, leaving scorched canvases marked with performative gesture.

So to answer the question I began with, “No, because all wars are bad!”  But surely the fatalism of the time was constructively turned on its head by Zero, and transformed into a destiny beyond the bomb.


Zero Tolerance looks, predominantly through a video lens, at global people’s action and reaction towards impinging government control in the name of civic improvement.  Timely and political, what is at stake in an exhibition such as this is reflection on communal desires as they press against the possibilities afforded by the capitalizing powers that be.

The exhibition opens optimistically with a series of Lorraine O’Grady photographs, Art Is..., 1984.  Part performance and part photo-documentation, smiling attendees of the 1983 African-American Day Parade become active participants and stars via a golden picture frame that is passed around for posing.  Framing friends, fathers with daughters, and prancing afro-haired dancers together with bashful cops, O’Grady’s vein of community is in that moment, harmonious. The joy is sincere and most congruent to an ideal freedom.

Halil Altindere’s Wonderland, 2013, takes the format of a music video.  3 young Romani guys dodge through the streets of Istanbul while unleashing a tirade of hard lyrical offense directed at the gentrifying forces threatening their ancient home.  The rhymes are specific to their own community plight, but they clearly inform of a situation that has become the norm in every oppressed quarter of the globe.  Wonderland presents a hyperbolic scenario of gentrification, the city’s rich aged ruin is juxtaposed against the crumbling poverty and youth of the rappers.

I was riveted for the full 106 minutes of Andrei Ujicâ’s Videograms of a Revolution, 1992, an extensive reconstructed chronology of the the last days of mass protest that led to government overthrow in Romania, 1989.  Compiled from the only tools censorship would allow- handheld home video cameras, security cams and official news footage- the multiple angles of defining moments are never tiresome or mundane. The weight of hope and anticipation experienced 25 years ago so far from Long Island City, is felt anew, amazing and exhilarating.

The area where PS1 is located feels like the renewed, safe yet soulless non-community urban space that is warily anticipated by Zero Tolerance, begging to question if revolutionary discourses can be authentically engaged in the thick of gentrified comfort.