Thursday, April 30, 2015

Basquiat: The Unknown Notebooks at Brooklyn Museum (Revision)

Basquiat: The Unknown Notebooks at Brooklyn Museum

Brooklyn Museum presents the Basquiat: The Unknown Notebooks which includes numerous of his notebooks which are rarely seen before, and paintings that are related to the notebooks. I was very excited to see Basquiat's work in New York because it was hard to find his works when I was in Korea and even when I traveled in Europe. I might had some high expectations for this show since Basquiat was born in Brooklyn and the show held at the Brooklyn Museum. However, the show is quite small, mostly concentrated on the documents but not the paintings. I understand that the show is supposed to present unseen documents but I think it might be better to have more of the painting or other works that the audience could understand his major art works. 

Most of his notes are poetry fragments, wordplays, sketches and personal observations ranging from those about street life and pop culture. Those works gave me a good chance to know what he was interested in every day life and how he worked spontaneously. Some pages contain his signature motif like skulls and crowns which can also be found in his larger paintings and drawings. However, the gallery space is not large enough to show 160 pages from the notebooks. They use only two galleries which feels quite small. Also I felt that the display which lined up the documents in a one row without enough gap between each pages distracts my interest and it was hard to concentrate, appreciate and read the notes. I think they did not managed the space properly because there is one more space, they used it as an art shop which they also have another one which is even bigger than it on the ground floor. 
The concept of the exhibition was good, but the contents that they presented were not strong enough to attract, despite how many lives visited for the name Basquiat.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Surround Audience: New Museum 2015 Triennial (Revised Version!!!)

              The New Museum holds 2015 Triennial with the title as “Surround Audience”.  The curators of the Triennial, Lauren Cornell and the artist Ryan Trecartin showed 51 artists‘ works in one venue, so it was hard for them to avoid disappointing audiences. In 2015 Triennial, the two curators bring up the significant topics about technology, bodies, genders, ethnicities, and social-regulations. However, this show is too packed, too overflowing, and disorganized to “surround audience.”

            Despite my disappointment, the third floor was the most successful in terms of display. The overall atmosphere was more organized by different four sections, where I could appreciate artworks in enough space. A key issue to the relationship of bodies to technology was strongly emphasized in the third floor.  


            What appealed to my eyes was “Not How People Move but What Moves Them”, an installation by Eva Kotatkova. Around yellow walls, she arranged bizarre shaped objects, which seem to physically activate/inactivate people.  She created metal-framed gadgets recalling a steel-barred window or an experimental instrument, in a surrealistic aura. Combined with sculptures, drawings, photo-collages, and performance, the whole installation looked like the symbolic collections of human’s physical and mental constraint related to the institution, disciplines, frames, or even out body themselves. Her work was enough strong to evoke what technology really gives us in this era. Many of the Web 2.0 generation can surf around and conquer any cyber space, but instead may have worse our sight and body postures. In Kotatkova’s work, the conflicting amalgamation between helpful tools and torturing machine made audiences keep in tension.  The viewers may ponder the border of our bodies and technologies, ceaseless human efforts, perverted imaginations, and even the awe of the institution in our society.

            Through Eva Kotatkova’s artworks, the two curator of 2015 Triennial might be able to avoid severe criticism. They made a great harmony between Kotatkova’s work and others’ photographs, videos, and installations in the third floor, by reminding audiences of what surround us. At least, the third floor’s exhibition at the New Museum might be valuable for viewers to look around.  

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Kehinde Wiley: A New Republic at Brooklyn Museum (Revised)

            Amazing. Kehinde Wiley: A New Republic shows his successful 14-year-old career. Wiley’s work is appropriation at its finest; it is refreshing and thought provoking to question the never-ending questions concerning race and gender through the European masters painting and sculpting techniques. There is no doubt the exhibition is a spectacle. However, while it provokes ideas that must be asked and answered, the exhibition falls into the trap of being another ethnocentric representation that one cannot empathize with without the aid of specific background and culture.

        Wiley’s work is meticulous and labor intensive. He scouts for his subjects, photographs them, and then digitally manipulates images photographed. Only then does he start the painting. In works like Napoleon Leading the Army over the Alps (2005), he merges references of Jacques-Louis David’s painting Napoleon Bonaparte Crossing the Alps at Great St. Bernard Pass with contemporary black culture. Most of his models are displayed in majestic, heroic postures; to the point where an ‘average Joe’ he found in Harlem could indeed resemble historical figures like Martin Luthor King Jr. and Nelson Mandela.

In Femme piquée par un serpent (2008), Wiley was inspired by Auguste Clesinger. There is a notion of eroticism, naturalism, and heroism. There are influences from diverse cultures embedded even in the textural designs of the background. However, one would easily notice a trend in his body of work. While I have nothing but compliments for his modern reiteration of classics, I cannot help but to point out his exhibition was conveniently and almost coincidentally displayed along side of Jean-Michel Basquiat. It is as if what started, as an awareness of a specific misunderstood culture never left its home to prove a point. While I fully agree with Wiley’s proposal that Western art is unfairly ethnocentric towards white culture, I see no room for progress if he does the same with his own. Would he be recognized as he is today if he was an Italian decent who painted Italians in Little Italy? Why does the problem have to be either determined as white or black? To tackle such global issue, Wiley needs to paint more than a single portraiture of an Indian (which was displayed at the exhibition) to prove that he indeed is aware that there is a world outside of Harlem.