Friday, September 30, 2016

A Beautiful Film and an Unimpressed Audience: Alex Prager at Lehmann Maupin

Alex Prager's current show on the Lower East Side is compelling and charming and funny, but only for the viewer that makes the effort to see it all.

Prager’s show, "La Grande Sortie", takes up the first and second floor of the gallery. The first floor has 10 large photographs depicting a small, mostly white, half-interested audience.  The large photographs are technically well done, but a casual observer might have difficultly finding anything interesting within them. The audience depicted seems to be intentionally composed of people who are not particularly special.  The photographs are single frame depictions of Prager’s film that confronts the the dual perspectives of performer and audience. This is nearly impossible to glean unless the viewer climbs to the second floor.

Up the stairs, hidden behind a heavy black curtain, is the work that is the heart of this show:  a short film commissioned by the Paris Opera Ballet, "La Grande Sortie." The ten minute video tells the story of a ballerina’s performance on opening night. Her dance is hampered by stage fright. The real or imagined indifferent and hostile reactions of the audience only intensifies the fears of the dancer on the stage.  The tempo of the classical music and the feeling of dread increases as the ballerina begins magically dancing with members of her unimpressed audience.  Concluding with a vanishing act, The ballerina disappears in a cloud of smoke, the film elegantly speaks to the universal sense of anxiety that many people battle daily.  Once viewed, the first floor’s photographs transform from dull to poignant.  The show leaves the viewer with a sense of compassion and empathy for the internal struggles others face.

OSGEMEOS Transforms Lehman Maupin Gallery into an Urban Art Space

Brazilian twin brothers Gustavo and Otavio Pandolfo, collaborating under the name OSGEMEOS, have transformed the Lehmann Maupin Gallery space into an immersive interior landscape in their new show Silence of the Music.
 OSGEMEOS's show illustrates the evolution of urban street culture, in paintings depicting boom-box-toting-b-boys dancing on cardboard mats, a mystical music-cart made of junkyard scraps, interactive turntables with gramophone horns, and a child's lullaby mobile. The exhibit diminishes the traditional physical separation between art and viewer. Every surface of the gallery has been transformed, including the floors and ceilings.  Bright colors, glitter, and sequins create an enthusiastic celebration of street music and visual culture. Depicting the evolution of street music through the lens of visual art, the show illuminates how music and art in urban communities are inextricably bound to one another; that to comprehend their unique history, one must examine them in tandem. The irony of bringing graffiti art into the private gallery space, initiates a discourse about art hierarchies established by the institutionalized art community, but this discourse does not take away from the celebratory emotion expressed by the work. Thus, OSGEMEOS brilliantly creates an exhibition that is to be both thoughtfully considered and sensually enjoyed. 
Every surface of the gallery has been transformed, including the floors and ceilings. Bright colors, glitter, and sequins create an enthusiastic celebration of street music and visual culture. Depicting the evolution of street music through the lens of visual art, the show illuminates how music and art in urban communities are inextricably bound to one another; that to comprehend their unique history, one must examine them in tandem. The irony of bringing graffiti art into the private gallery space, initiates a discourse about art hierarchies established by the institutionalized art community, but this discourse does not take away from the celebratory emotion expressed by the work. Thus, OSGEMEOS brilliantly creates an exhibition that is to be both thoughtfully considered and sensually enjoyed. 

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Meleko Mokgosi - Lerato

Meleko Mokgosi
Democratic Intuition, Lerato

When entering the gallery, we are welcomed by a long, wide hallway containing a big painting on the right. Half of this large piece is text in a language unidentifiable to the average American. One could find this frustrating, being in country where we can read practically everything. This seems an intentional move by Mokgosi, a way to say that we do not know everything.

As you walk into the main room there is a door opening to the right that you almost miss seeing. In this small room is a beautifully rendered painting of a South African woman in a chair surrounded by children latching onto her. It alludes to classical portraits of Mary and child, but with a non-European woman. At its center is a large room with only a few pieces on each of the four walls. All the the paintings are rendered beautifully and are intriguing to the eye. There was one more small room in the back that held another painting of a South African women surrounded by children, similar to the painting in the first small room.

There was a lot to take in, in Mokgosi’s exhibit with how the subjects in the portrait engaged each other, but also how the paintings engaged the viewer through the eyes of the subjects starring right back at you.

OSGEMEOS's "Silence the Music" at Lehmann Maupin

(The illuminated), 2015, mixed media with sequins on plaster

Most commercial gallery shows are simple: art objects are displayed in a white room. But beyond these conventions is fertile ground to create new ways of engaging with an art-viewing audience. Enter OSGEMEOS, a Brazilian artist duo whose current show, “Silence the Music” at Lehmann Maupin, pushes the boundaries of what an art show can be with a show that says goodbye to the white cube and clinical remove from the art itself.

The work of twin brothers Otavio and Gustavo Pandolfo (the two members of OSGEMEOS) has always been based on its accessibility to common people. They started off their careers as street artists in São Paulo, Brazil. Using bright colors and  depictions of 1980’s & 90’s Brazilian hip-hop culture, OSGEMEOS creates their own world based on the culture and people of Brazil. 

 The show consists of distorted and cartoonish figures dancing and exploring dream-like realms. They’ve combined painting, installation, sculpture, collage, kinetic sculpture, and music to make the gallery all their own.  Once you walk through the front door you are immediately overwhelmed with the all-encompassing nature of this show. Pieces like “The Illuminated” are situated perfectly in their installation space. The piece consists of a sculpture of a man on a rotating, vibrant pedestal, at the center of a room. All four walls are covered in a mural depicting a woman caught in a storm at sea; when the main sculpture turns it seems like he is surveying the scene unfolding around him. This piece, and many others, suggest that the entire gallery has become the work. In the back room, the walls are covered floor-to-ceiling with paintings and wall sculptures that play Brazilian hip-hop, salsa, and dance music. They’ve brought you into their vibrant, lively, dreamy, musical world, and you won’t want to ever leave. 

OSGEMEOS: Silence the Music

On view through October 22nd

Lehmann Maupin
536 West 22nd Street

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Bouchra Khalili: The Mapping Journey Project, MOMA

The Mapping Project Journey is an exhibit by Bouchra Khlili. As I entered the space - a big room with all black walls, eight screens with videos on each - it allowed me to see this mysterious world through eight people’s eyes at the same time.

For The Mapping Project Journey, Bouchra Khlili gathered eight people to share stories about their travels through Africa, Europe, or Asia. As the eight people speak, their hands, which are holding black markers, move around the maps, leaving thick black strokes and indicating the direction they travelled and passed. Due to the harsh economic and turbulent conditions of their home countries, these people were forced to leave their homes, South Africa, for example, and travel to wealthier countries to gain higher wage. The obstacles they faced crossing over the borders are mentioned. One of the people onscreen notes, “I was beaten by the police. And I were in jail for six months.” However, the stories revealed that the warmth and kindness of the people along the way were a reason why the storytellers survived.

While your mind gets numb due to your everyday routine, spend some time exploring this world and you will realize that people from another side of this earth are experiencing life-and-death challenges. Do not just jump on a plane, but travel along the path of The Mapping Project Journey.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Bruce Conner's "Easter Morning" (2008)

Since visiting “It’s All True,” Bruce Conner’s first full retrospective at the MoMA, I haven’t been able to stop thinking about “Easter Morning” (2008). The film manages to stand out from an immense oeuvre (and a packed exhibition space) that spans assemblages to painting and drawing to film. For the piece, Conner reworked footage from his 1966 Super 8 film “Easter Morning Raga,” digitalizing the 8mm footage to expand the images. The result appears like a stop motion picture, with frames that move in rhythm to the trancelike instrumental chant of Terry Riley’s composition “In C” (1964). Various lens flares act as a kind of compositional force, driving the movement of the shots through close-ups of plants, burning candles, and a nude woman. The humming pace of the cuts work with the sound and the sometimes blue, sometimes honey amber light to build towards the culminating feeling that the film has somehow transcended the sum of its parts.
Conner envisioned “Easter Morning” as a “metaphysical quest for renewal,” and the piece acts as a triumphant closing act to a retrospective – and a life – filled with anxious questions about the destructive consequences of human power. The reworked version manages to both lift away from the sixties-era themes of the original, as well as act as a significant contrast to the apocalyptic fear dominating the rest of the exhibition. Perhaps it’s this contrast that, for me, buoys up the memorability of the film. With his final work, Conner seems to suggest that the best way to resolve a life filled with a fear of death is to learn to accept it.
2008, 8mm/Digital, color/sound, 10min.
Music: “In C” by Terry Riley

Through October 2
Museum of Modern Art
Organized by the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.

Co-curated by Stuart Comer, Chief Curator, Department of Media and Performance Art, The Museum of Modern Art, New York; Laura Hoptman, Curator, Department of Painting and Sculpture, MoMA; Rudolf Frieling, Curator of Media Arts, SFMOMA; Gary Garrels, The Elise S. Haas Senior Curator of Painting and Sculpture, SFMOMA; with Rachel Federman, Assistant Curator, Painting and Sculpture, SFMOMA.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Jonas Wood Portraits at Anton Kern Gallery

If you are not a bar or bat mitzvah, then let me depict the scene for you; the height of luxury and ending of your childhood and transition into young adulthood are things to expect, along with the posh middle school cocktail attire and the excitement surrounding having your first slow dance during the game of snowball. These are all themes you can pick up on in Jonas Wood's oil and acrylic painting of his own bar mitzvah; a pre pubescent boy clearly nervous and excited while surrounded by his family as he transitions from child to man.

In Jonas Wood’s fifth solo exhibition at Anton Kern Gallery, Portraits, Wood’s introduces us to many of his different family events. Whether it be his own bar mitzvah family photo, or a portrait of an idolized basketball player, Portraits presents a group of oil and acrylic paintings that depict his family, close friends, and himself. Through the use of vibrant colors, lines, and blurring the differences between classical painting and contemporary abstraction, Wood interprets personal moments from his own life, while maintaining a sense of an outsider's perspective looking in that leaves a sense of mystery surrounding each piece.

Wood’s practice encompasses multiple different facets of art; most of which reflect his family life and childhood, pieces together a collage of memories, places, events, and people. He first starts his work by collecting an items of significance, such as photos or drawings and continues by layering blocks of color.

Wood’s display of oil and acrylic paintings allow you to enter the artist's world: whether it be through an idolized basketball player or a young bar mitzvah boy Portraits will feel like you stepped into a photo montage of the artist's life.

Sol LeWitt and Liz Deschenes at Paula Cooper Gallery

The works of Sol LeWitt are once again on display at the Paula Cooper Gallery, sharing the space with Boston born photographer Liz Deschenes. With works spanning almost thirty years of LeWitt’s career, viewers are treated to a variety of the artist’s methods. While the majority of the exhibit focuses on photography, the LeWitt’s geometric structures bring the gridded compositions found throughout the gallery into the third dimension.

On each of the walls LeWitt explores space differently; whether through light, proportion, or habitation. Lit twenty-eight different ways, a simple sphere combines with its shadow to create the negative space of a composition, or disappears as the object and ground are washed out in strong light. On the opposite wall, using a cube as his subject, LeWitt further explores the relationship between a figure and ground proportion. Tension increases as the cube overwhelms the ground, becoming tripartite, while at the other end the object is reduced to a speck. Autobiography takes the ordinary – filled trash cans, electrical outlets, books on shelves – and creates a pair of 3 x 3 grids in each frame. The wall of works captures the often unnoticed objects which fill our spaces.

Amongst the black and white prints Liz Deschenes’ Untitled (LeWitt) #2 and #3 is the only color in the room. Two solid pink sculptures made of UV-prints on plexiglass echo the removed sections of a map of New York by LeWitt. Like the absent pieces of the map, one wonders what image once occupied the vacant space.


Paula Cooper Gallery 521 W 21st St

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Afteur Pasteur by Slavs and Tartars

With subtle humor and a unique style, artist collective Slavs and Tartars negotiate cultural identity through the concept of ingestion in their multifaceted exhibition, Afteur Pasteur. Occupying two floors of the Tanya Bonakdar Gallery, the cultural implications of ‘otherness’ is considered through army cots, multilingual wall sculptures, skewers of books, and a fermented milk bar.

The collective, self-identified "[devotees] to an area east of the former Berlin Wall and west of the Great Wall of China”, discuss the intricacies of Eurasian history with the keen aesthetic attention of a 1970’s bachelor pad. The exhibition succeeds where many gallery shows fail: it educates without being too lofty and captivates the senses without falling victim to sensationalism.

Exploring the concept of fermentation, fuchsia and mint fluorescent lighting set the sour tone of Afteur Pasteur. The lighting (and a free yoghurt drink) made me nauseated, but that felt  appropriate when viewing works that tackle on the dizzying historical narratives of Central Asia. Despite the cultural specificity and a possible upset stomach, the exhibition puts forth a timeless and universal question: who are we? You may leave Afteur Pasteur with more questions than answers, but perhaps that is the allure with identity-centric art.

Rashid Johnson's "Fly Away" at Hauser and Wirth

Rashid Johnson’s use of tropical flora and fauna provides an aesthetically refreshing escape from the concrete life of New York City.  Through the use of carefully selected materials, Johnson’s work has serious undertones that address racial injustices and the instability of social structures.

While the work is aesthetically pleasing, it is impossible to ignore the issues and questions that Johnson poses in his work.  The works high contrast, simplicity and scale are beautiful to see. As viewers enter the gallery they are immediately confronted with a series of faces made of black soap that are sculpted in low relief on white tiles.  These faces have an eerie quality to them and dominate the large space.

Navigating the next two rooms is a much different atmosphere.  The wallpaper cutouts of tropical plants employs heavy use of rich and bold colors. These bright greens, blues and yellows, along with the use of real plants on a huge metal framed cube sculpture, provide a window into what seems to be a warm tropical paradise.  There is a strong sense of escape that comes up, a sort of departing from the city that happens while you sit with the work. By juxtaposing materials such as black soap with white bathroom tiles, a dialogue of absurdity and the grotesque is raised. Overall, Johnson’s use of materials is wittily done and the scale of the pieces fit perfectly into the large rooms of the venue.  

Nan Goldin: The Ballad of Sexual Dependency, The Museum of Modern Art

Nan and Brian in Bed, New York City. 1983. Silver dye bleach print, printed 2006, 15 1/2 × 23 3/16". The Museum of Modern Art, New York.

If you were around during the mid- to late-1980s in New York City, you probably know of Nan Goldin’s The Ballad of Sexually Dependency. If you are 20-to-30-something, interested in that “scene,” and/or live outside of New York, you may own the photobook—or have perhaps flipped through it in a bookstore, possibly seen an image from the series online. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, you must at least be curious about the title alone.

MoMA’s iteration of The Ballad is arranged in three rooms: ephemera from previous exhibitions/screenings in one, framed photos from the series traditionally hung on the gallery walls in another, and the final slideshow room—with soundtrack—depicting the intimate moments that compose The Ballad. Goldin wasn’t shy with her camera; “[it] is the diary I let people read.” This shoot-everything style of photography is common today since everyone has a camera in their pocket or purse, but what makes The Ballad so powerful is its voyeuristic feel and its scattered narrative quality. We all curate our own real-time streams of photos online to tell our stories, but Goldin's story has no filter, no facade.

In the slideshow, visitors sit in the dark and watch the images clip by at a steady pace, fully-engaged because there is something for everyone in The Ballad, whether it be a kiss or evidence of abuse from a lover, motherhood or family, cigarettes or drug-use. Even though we are all voyeurs into a life we didn't live populated with people we didn't know, you walk out of The Ballad happy knowing that you are not alone. Goldin's loose but thoughtfully crafted Ballad has the ability to resonate in everyone.

Jonas Wood by Adam McGowan

The exhibit of the work of Jonas Wood titled "Jonas Wood Portraits" is at the Anton Kern Gallery in Chelsea from Sept 8 - Oct 22.  The exhibit consisted of portraits of friends and family.  Most of the portraits were oil and acrylic.  

The paintings were representational but had abstract attributes and mechanics such as flat colored shapes, hard edged contours, and the color in an exaggerated color  palate.  

One of the signs of a great portrait painter is the ability to express or illustrate the true personality of the subject and sense of identity.Which i believe that every good portrait painter has this skill under there utility belt.   Jonah Wood does this very well.  You have a sense of familiarity when looking at the people in his portraits. This was the most appealing factor in the paintings.  It is what drew me to the work.  It almost seemed to be like an invitation to be introduced and meet his friends and family. 

His use of these flat shapes helped to create a satirical campy or cartoonish aesthetic. For example, in the Bat/Bar Mizvah Weekend, these shapes create a sense of a cardboard cutout which emphasizes this satire.  I feel this is very contemporary. Contemporary pop art can deal with social issues and in this painting, the Bar Mitzvah  a traditional religious spiritual ceremony, is reinterpreted in a humorous way.  

Blockchain Future States by Simon Denny at Friedrich Petzel Gallery

      Blockchain Future States wants you to delve into the inner workings of cryptocurrencies. The exhibit by Simon Denny explores the idea of globalization and inclusivity through non-traditional sculptures, displays, videos, and a lot of techy talk. You’re greeted by iconic images from the popular video game series Pokémon. The backs of these works, aided by the displays of key players in the Bitcoin game, introduce you to the subject of cryptocurrency and blockchain, and what it can do for the socioeconomic climate of the world.
      Entering the next room, the complexity of blockchain is elaborated upon. The classic board game Risk has been reimagined as a way to illustrate the idea of blockchain as a loophole in globalization. Repurposed computer cases display multimedia sculptures exploring the topic along the wall, while a short film defining blockchain for the viewer plays on loop at the back.

      Blockchain Future States is by no means a traditional gallery experience. Don’t expect to be quietly appreciating meticulously hung artworks. This exhibition commands your attention by translating blockchain, a complex string of technical code, into a work of art utilizing different mediums. Break free from your globalized code with Blockchain Future States.