Monday, November 30, 2015

Alberto Burri Retrospective at The Guggenheim

Composizione (Composition), 1953
A visit to an exhibition at the Guggenheim is always highly curated experience; that is, the main atrium (with its famous spiral walkway) provides a specific context in which the viewer can observe the art. Throughout the years, the Guggenheim has been criticized for being an awkward and unorthodox space to present artwork; yet, it is in fact a perfect location for the Alberto Burri retrospective.

The act of ascending the spiral walkway (despite architect Frank Lloyd Wright’s wishes that visitors descend from the top floor) imbues the show with a rhythmic narrative quality. Burri’s legacy as a master of materiality experimentation and a pioneer of modern abstract expressionism is best showcased chronologically, a presentation that hearkens back to storytelling traditions from antiquity. The space itself allows for a celebration of the artist’s evolution over time, as well as his own story, which adds a singular quality to his approach to visual expression.

Burri’s work presents a thorough exploration of materiality, and dissects and reassembles the language of dada, surrealism, and collage. His materials run the gamut from organic to processed and further reflect the retrospective’s narrative quality. We can see a sequential progression from one material to the next; as one “experiment” ends a new one begins. Often times, Burri’s choice in material coincides with a dynamic point in Italy’s history. For example, his manipulation of hard metals through welding came about during an economic boom, during which steel production skyrocketed. By contrast, Burri’s older work breathes life into banal imagery with his Sacchi, in which he creates tortured collages of humble and familiar textiles such as linen and burlap, which allude to Italy’s ravaged social landscape during and after the Second World War.

In a way, Burri’s retrospective at the Guggenheim respects ancient traditions of storytelling, and allows us to appreciate the art for its craft and its context. The rawness and humanity of his work, the way in which materials can be both beautiful and crude, become the spirit that unites the artist to his surroundings.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Susan Cianciolo at MoMA PS1: Greater New York (revised)

The fashion industry aligns with perfection, a prescription, rules, which place limitations on design. At MoMA PS1’s fourth Greater New York exhibition, fashion designer and artist Susan Cianciolo subverts these expectations.

In a quiet and somberly lit room, a line of mix-matched mannequins stand atop of wooden panels, exhibiting pieces of Susan Cianciolo’s brand RUN. Hand-rendered with Crayola markers: eyes, lips, and shoes accessorize the haptic designs. On the middle platform Reconstructed vintage Carolina Herrera with patchwork applique featuring hand silkscreened fabric (1990) features woven ribbon collages, patches developed from tablecloths, and smeared thick paint strokes of gold and pink embellish the manipulated nude and gold flecked dress. The work is handcrafted and purposefully unfinished, undermining the fashion industry favor for perfectionism in design. Susan Cianciolo’s visceral approach made her a leader in the 1990s deconstruction movement, against the mainstream focus on trends and the new.

Looping on repeat: collaged clips of Cianciolo’s films and runway shows are projected on the opposite wall. A mundane old TV set sits alongside streaming clips of models walking down the runway. Unlike what fashion films are thought to be: a high quality advertisement, pursing lips in high heels—status, Cianciolo’s films are not focused on the clothing at all, but on a narrative, where characters just happen to be wearing her pieces or “costumes.” The lo-fi image quality separate Cianciolo from the futuristic HD expectations of the fashion industry; nostalgia over idealization.
            The third wall contains books that Cianciolo used to document her thoughts, research, and plans for developing collections. The books are not blank sketchbooks but found mediums, already containing text and images Cianciolo builds, tapes, scans, and draws over. Just like her clothing, Cianciolo builds into, overlaps and collages into that which already exists.
            Today, Cianciolo’s design philosophy inspires the contemporary market, resurfacing in brands like Eckhaus Latta, and through her role as a professor at Pratt Institute: encouraging students not be afraid to be themselves.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Kiosk at MoMA PS1's Greater New York

In it’s fourth 5-year roundup, MoMA PS1 presents Greater New York with a special focus on the nostalgia for the past. Of the 157 exhibiting artists, there is a wife and husband duo, Alisa Grifo and Marco ter Haar Romeny with a collection that particularly traverses the line between the local-artist reminiscence for the past and the sting of expensive real-estate reality in the present.

Among the overwhelming landscape of over 400 paintings, sculptures, photographs, garments, and surprisingly few new media installations, is their quirky display, the KIOSK Archive of about 3,000 small objects. 

Neighboring a gallery of life size figuration, KIOSK is configured in a rectangular room with a fair amount of square-footage stacked and filled to the brim with 1ft by 1ft modular plastic squares. The cubes house individual curiosities, from Kazoo trumpets, to copper cheese graters, kinder creme and pocket Japanese carpenter-knives. 

MoMA PS1’s curation of a curated collection of cheap and not-so-cheap international novelties arise a fascination with consumption culture. Since the items are in fact for sale, it leads me to think there might be a slight indulgence with a consumerist appetite. 

Though, there is something clever to hosting a consignment shop in a show that seeks to subdue today’s urban financial challenges by relishing in New York’s past. Kiosk was once a local store in Soho founded in 2005, until an expensive lease seized it’s closing in 2010. A decade ago, one could peruse the shop’s textured surfaces and tangibly marvel the curiosities facilitated by a knowledgeable clerk. Now, the Kiosk is solely an online market, where one must browse an archive of square images behind a screen and clicks for paragraphs of informational text. The exhibition of Kiosk is representative of an all too familiar gentrified-fate of artist goods going to the transient digital.

Revised: Richard Pousette-Dart: 1930s at The Drawing Center

Richard Pousette-Dart was most recognized as a important member of the New York School of painting and also the youngest member of first generation of abstract expressionists. Before the 1940’s, his paintings and drawings were marked by thick black contour lines and primitive themes, such as figures.  The Drawing Center exhibition is the first in-depth consideration of Pousette-Dart’s drawings from 1930’s.  During this period, the artist made sculptures and did drawings and paintings also.  These drawings explore a lot of his concerns about sculpture, line, shape and form. These simple elements, along with vivid colors are prominent in these works. Some may say they enjoy the pure visual pleasure, some may say the drawings look like a mix of Picasso and Matisse, some may feel the work is somehow linguistic and find it extremely boring.    

"Agony" is a drawing made with graphite, ink on paper, it is about 18 by 15 inches. A twisted solid figure form is in the center of the work; the shapes are full and sharp. The deep red background is powerful, with a heavy emotion also expressed by the figure.

"Untitled" (Figue-495) is a drawing made with India ink and gouache on paper. It is about 17 by 14 inches.  It is a weird drawing; The figure is in a distorted dancing pose. The pose looks unnatural and the proportion of the body is untrue.

There are also small brass sculptures on display. They are hand-cut, pendant-like and mostly about 5 to 8 inches. The artist noted that he based his designs on forms in nature and organic symbols that people variously seem to attach. These little sculptures are functionless but adorable. I wish I can see theses sculptures as paper-weights.

Samson Young at Team Gallery (Revised)

I was on my way to the Drawing Center when I first caught a glimpse of the man in the gallery. Behind the pile of sound equipment and monitors a drummer sat without a band. Looking in from the street at Samson Young's show "Pastoral Music," I wondered if I'd caught someone in the middle of rehearsal. The gallery looks spare, with just a few pieces on the walls.

Entering the space, you start to see what the artist is doing, even if you can't yet hear it. Young stares into a monitor. There is dirt on the table in front of him and a large drum at his feet.

He is carefully building sound effects. A walk around his tangle of equipment reveals what he is dubbing: video of bombings, the familiar green night-vision images from the beginning of the war in Iraq.

On the walls there are delicate drawings, carefully penned diagrams that live somewhere between abstract musical notation and battle plans. Next to each is an FM radio frequency, a cue for the visitor to find the little radios hanging on the wall and tune in. This worked out a little less elegantly than intended, as random radio stations blared out until a gallery attendant instructed everyone on how to use the radios. The radio stations are playing sounds that Young is creating live in the gallery. Sounds that may correspond to the drawings in front of you, but you just can't quite figure out how. There is something eerie in the beauty of the drawings, since they seem to  representations of bombs and bullets, or battle plans at the least.

However, the show fails to cohesively tie together its disparate elements. All of these potentially interesting pieces fall a little flat in the confusion of trying to experience the show. It feels less like a meditation on war and more like an experiment on how to display sound art.

Raha Raissnia's Aberration at Miguel Abreu Gallery

   Smudges of dark black charcoal compel viewers to squint their eyes and scrutinize the enigmatic figures in Raha Raissnia’s paintings. The bare space and clean white walls of Miguel Abreu Gallery are accentuated by the robust contrasts of Raissnia’s works that are boldly installed. Raissnia’s somber vision is delicately demonstrated not only through her paintings but also in her works on film. Her most recent video work, Longing, is a 16-mm film that captures the solitude life scenes of New York in 2013. The camera angle and the crop of the frame that are hard to figure out at a first glance emphasizes the ambiguity in a narrative sense. This film consists of her paintings, drawings, film slides, and even raw footage that she recorded with her mobile phone camera. These materials are altered often by cropping into more zoomed in composition and scratched to show etching style. Both of her two-dimensional works and films present the abstraction of erratic movements and locomotive actions.

   Blurred images that reveal the quick fleeting moments are successfully established using various materials, such as Sumi ink, compressed charcoal, oil paint, and film strips. Similar to her two-dimensional works, Raissnia’s artistic films are composed of several mediums that are mixed over layers of paints and scrapings on the slides. The film is made out of her painting works. Films, in general, are often times considered to be a very different genre of art compared to the medium of painting, especially when the paintings are so abstract like Raissnia’s. However the similarities in both mediums of works allowed to bring connections among them. Therefore, the exhibition as a whole demonstrates the unity in theme and correlates to each work’s abstract visions. This approach allows the viewers to take in the exhibition as one wholesome experience. One of Raissnia’s work that clearly conveyed her emphasis on the longing tones and capturing of the memory is a mixed media painting, Main drag (2015). This dreamy image manipulates the oil paints by scraping and blotting and also by smearing the charcoals. One can hardly determine the time period of this work and where this picture is taking place. These barely comprehensible suggestions of images with vague textures and figures allow the visitors to feel like they are dreaming inside Raissnia’s mind. The wide space of the exhibition evokes surreal and eerie moods and becomes a sensation as a whole.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

The New York Earth Room_Dia Foundation in SOHO

Walter De Maria’s The New York Earth Room has been presenting in the heart of SOHO by the Dia Foundation since 1980. Literally, a gallery space was filled with 280,000 pounds of earth. 22 inches heights of earth placed neatly and evenly. Although the installation space is prohibited to enter, I could see inside. When I approached the installation work closely, I could smell soil and feel humidity and chilly air. It was a moment to feel the work with five senses. One step was enough to feel the huge difference of temperature between the installation environment and outside of the installation. The spatial experience from the installation made me feel that I was in under the ground. I was surprised that the installation work has been well maintained the humid environment without drying.

Although I could not enter into the installation space, my eyes were so busy to see the all parts of the space that I could not get bored. A combination of dark brown color of earth and unbelievably clean white walls aroused a huge minimal art work. The space seemed vivid black and white contrast however had perfect harmony together at the same time. Walter De Maria brought the mother of nature into the gallery space for conveying surrealistic experience. It was a new interpretation of the relationship between interior and exterior. The New York Earth Room took my breath by giving depaysement which is changing sensory by making the unfamiliar combination with familiar things.

Doris Salcedo at the Guggenheim (revised)

Tables, chairs, shirts, shoes, grass, rose petals, and hair. Familiar things that, in Doris Salcedo’s work, carry the weight of violence and oppression. From June to October 2015, the Guggenheim presented Salcedo’s retrospective featuring works from 1980 to the present. The exhibition showcased the artist’s subtle but powerful approach to the lost lives of marginalized people.

The exhibition took place in the four levels of the Guggenheim’s side galleries, a more traditional space if compared to the peculiar circular ramps surrounding the rotunda. Although the space felt awkward at first, with its columns, small irregular galleries, and circulation through emergency stairways, it soon proved to be a good setting, providing an intimate – almost claustrophobic – experience that forced visitors to confront Salcedo’s works.   

The artist’s engagement with the effects of political violence in Colombia, her home country, is present throughout her works. But Salcedo’s art does not require a back story or the use of long labels; her work is able to touch viewers without much explanation, addressing universal experiences of loss, violence, and death. In Plegaria Miuda (2008-2010), Salcedo filled a room with paired wooden tables – one turned upside-down on top of another with a layer of dirt in between them. On the top wooden surface, grass grew through the cracks. Referring to the death of marginalized people both in Colombia and in the United States, the work carries a sense of mourning but also of hope.

Perhaps more impactful is Salcedo’s untitled long-running series (1989-2008) of domestic furniture filled with concrete, which instantly evokes a sense of loss. Chairs, armoires and bed frames lose their functionality and turn into memorials. As in houses abandoned due to war or catastrophe, these objects remain as witnesses to lives that ceased to exist.   

Salcedo’s art is an attempt to remember the many anonymous lives that were never mourned due to war or political violence. Whether in Colombia, United States, or any other country, Salcedo reminds us of the fragility of life and, more importantly, of a sense of compassion that is sometimes lost in the midst of so many tragedies.

Julia Bland "If You Want to Be Free" (revised)

Noon Ashes, 2014
Linen, wool, and oil paint
87 inches x 86 inches

Julia Bland makes a notable New York City debut with “If You Want to Be Free” at On Stellar Rays gallery in a showcase of her large-scale abstract works integrating textiles and painting. By employing knitting, stitching, braiding, weaving, crocheting, gluing and painting in unique ways, she presents the audience with intricate, multi-layered textile abstractions that draw the viewers' attention and stimulates their curiosity.

By stitching oil-painted canvas, woven fabrics, silk, linen and ropes together, Bland utilizes the various textures and transparencies of her materials in creating geometric shapes. The piece “Noon Ashes” (2014), measuring around 7 ft. by 7ft., hangs on the wall like a large tapestry. The linen in contrast to the thickly applied oil paint, next to the netting stitches, cast a faded shadow on the wall, adding depth and a new dimension in the piece. The distinct fabrics delicately stitched together seems to “float” on the wall. As you take a closer look at the front and the sides of the works, the artist’s multi-faceted process becomes more evident.  

Noon Ashes, 2014 (detail)
Linen, wool, and oil paint
87 inches x 86 inches

Bland’s works, with titles like “Noon Ashes” and “Spring Shadow,” appears to evoke country-like, calming mood and emotions. Crisscrossed knots, web-like stitches, the arch-like shapes, and the triangles and aggressive diagonal lines that go through these works also suggest a vast scenic view of nature. In “Noon Ashes” (2014), the bright yellow triangles against soft gray tones, and a faded red color invoke warmth. The symmetrical triangles against the diamond-pattern shapes tucked under an arch suggest calming and meditative emotions. It appears to be that the artist was influenced by panoramic views in the country-side or perhaps she was influenced by a memory or a mythical story—whatever her works represent, the beautifully interwoven fabrics imbue far more than the technical artistry but a sense of spirituality. 

Friday, November 13, 2015

MoMA PS1, Greater New York

Jimmy DeSana work

MoMA PS1 exhibits the fourth survey of the last five years local artists' work from the metropolitan area, especially under the strong alteration of real estate and the robust art environment. The whole exhibition places in the whole PS1 building from the basement to the third floor. This exhibition features photographs, interactive installation, sculpture, painting and film, and also involve a few past year works.

The photography work of Jimmy De Sana locates on the second floor and it creates a sentimental and sexual atmosphere. The photos are mounted on giant panels and lean on the wall next to each other. Sana always focused on sexual concept and captured human bodies. The multimedia painting from Donald Moffett,  Gold/Tunnel depicts a simple poetic scene of central park. It is so natural to notice that the oil painting is combined with a video by projection mapping on the surface. This scene and the flickering video also reflect the place that gays and public sex once.  However, I feel like the curation team is so desperate to show the struggling and conflicts of New York artists that they intended to put everything “provocative” together. For instance, the ceramic series works on the third floor are visually and conceptually abstract. It is hard to unify all the artwork into one theme, especially there are so many social issues involved.

Gold/Tunnel, 2003, Donald Moffett

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Alvin Baltrop at MoMA PS1's Greater New York (revised)

This year, rather than focusing on new works by new (and often lesser-known) artists, or even new works by older, established artists, the Greater New York show at MoMA PS1 aimed its focus back in time to the decade it was founded: in the mid-70s, the counter-culture was active, and many artists were working outside margins of society.

A group that was possibly beyond the margins of society was the gay community. Even before the AIDS epidemic, some people saw homosexuality as an illness. For many men to satisfy their sexual desires, they had to retreat to a life of secrecy, meeting in the shadows of dilapidated corners of the city.

Alvin Baltrop’s photographs from the West Side provide a both voyeuristic and intimate look at this life. This series is displayed as small photographs framed with large mounts. While some of the scenes are portraits, the subjects aware of Baltrop’s presence, others are taken from a distance, a picture of the warehouse landscape, where only close inspection reveals the subject.

The distancing scale of these images forces the viewer to lean close to the photographs to see what is happening: scenes of love or passion, or occasionally fetishized hate in the form of extreme bondage, all within the realm of secret lives Baltrop brings to light in these images. This is an eye-opening and moving collection of photos that is at home within the Greater New York show.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Richard Pousette-Dart 1930s The Drawing Center (revised)

There are numerous vivid color and sculpture-like drawings on papers presenting in the biggest room in The Drawing Center. "Richard Pousette-Dart 1930s" showing Dart's painting, drawing and craft brasses he made between the ages of fifteen and twenty-five.

In 1930s, Dart was fascinated by sculpture and made numerous figure studies on papers. The studies content the dance, animal, African mask, and human heads. It is amazing to see how mature the works were when he made them in such a young age. By his drawing, people can see the influences by Picasso and Matisse with his geometric forms and bright color.

The figure drawings explore the concerns about sculpture, and working three-dimensionally. At the same time, we can see how Dart influenced by African, Oceanic, and Native American art by his abstract and geometric forms. On the other hand, Dart designed a lot of adorable flat and small sculptures- brasses with a non-figurative way. We can see snake, water, and leaf by the forms of symbols and organic shapes. The brasses are somehow like the drawings he made, but with more fluency lines on them. Since Dart has a long career as an artist and become a very famous in the New York City, it is amazing to have such an exhibition to see the artist’s early life and the pattern of his creation.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Jim Shaw: The End is Here at New Museum

          Before being crowded into the elevator, the only access to the exhibitions at New Museum, I owned the freedom to exchange conversations with others. After the elevator left me standing at the entrance to Jim Shaw: The End is Here, the artist's perspective of the world was forced onto my thoughts. A survey of Jim Shaw's artistic career invaded three floors of the museum to display his visions of pop culture and subconsciousness in drawings, paintings, and installations. However, the overstated pop culture references caught in the act of sex did little to justify his expression but narcissism with the desire for attention. 

          In Jim Shaw's Dream Drawings (1992-99), a series of comic strips with sex being the dominant content recorded the artist's dreams after waking up every morning, revealing the erotic pattern of his subconsciousness. Browsing through an entire room of obscure pornography-like drawings where Micky Mouse bites on a penis and zipper grows on a vagina, I doubted the truthfulness of the project for its quality tailored to satisfy the viewer's curiosity. Pop culture references such as President Kennedy and Wonder Woman are sacrificed to keep the viewer's interest while Jim Shaw tells stories about disgraceful dreams under his interpretation. The collections in the exhibition showed the artist's shallow understanding of human interest through a single lens unworthy of conversation exchange.

Friday, November 6, 2015


Labyrinth: I Dreamt I Was Taller Than Jonathan Borofsky
          Is it disrespectful to describe Jim Shaw’s dynamic retrospective at the New Museum as a glorified sketchbook? Let me elaborate: “The End is Here” is certainly one of the most unfiltered shows I have ever seen. The show contains large-scale painted works, small-scale comic book illustrations, found “thrift store art”, and cult religious relics. There’s a lot to look at, really; it’s almost too much.
This is telling, however, of the frenetic (and often carnal) energy of Shaw’s diverse sources of inspiration. His work breathes new life into the surreal and the subconscious by inviting audiences into the mind of, perhaps, an eighth grade boy. There is a gritty, sexual component to some of the artist’s comics, for example, which often feature pornographic scenes, but star quasi-ultra-sexy alien maidens. Though initially unsettling and a little awkward to look at, there remains a curious innocence in the untethered weirdness of his illustrated works.
            Another unforgettable part of the show is Shaw’s collection of found art. It’s like entering the attic (or basement) of someone on the show TV show Hoarders; Shaw has obsessively scoured the corners of both our physical and our digital world and found a plethora of unfiltered and unprocessed art, the stuff that would make an art snob recoil in terror. But with this collection of work Shaw shamelessly asserts his unique vision of the human condition.