Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Tijuanatanjierchandelier- Jason Rhoades at David Zwirner

Debuting in New York, David Zwirner brings Tijuanatanjierchandelier, the exhibition by American artist Jason Rhoades to the city. Upon entering the room, visitors are inundated by bright, glowing, neon lights tangled and hanging by wires above blankets, hides, and small knick knacks. 
The exhibition comes across as not several works of art hanging in one room, rather a singular experience contained in one large room. True, a viewer can take works in a small bit at a time such as the neon phrases, frankensteined light fixtures, or small collections of objects, but where one work begins and another ends is nearly imperceptible. He sets the space up like a marketplace with rugs laid out on the floor topped with pots, ornaments, souvenirs, and the like; objects one could expect to find in both the titular cities of Tijuana and Tangier.  However, Rhoades changes the intent of the marketplace, originally meant to buy and sell handmade goods often unique to the culture, country or person, and hangs above them slang words for vagina. 
Rhoades plays with language, hanging neon translations and colloquial terms and euphemisms for vagina to provoke and discomfort the viewer. His use of neon with the slag invokes the feeling of an environment similar to a sex district rather than a typical marketplace, even with lamps, ornaments, foods, and other crafts lay on the floor as if being sold. With this exhibit he seems to evoke the sale of exotic "stench trench" as a marketable good on the same level of objectness as a craft one might buy as a souvenir.

Rhoades seems to embody with this exhibit the exotification of sex workers white male tourists project on to different cultures during travel. One can not only buy crafts and artwork, but sex workers as well. He takes away a level of humanness by reducing sex workers only to the slang terms for vagina, which are often not said with respect and reduces them to the same commodification as a souvenir.

Sunday, November 24, 2019

European Romanticism or Subversive Cat Lady? You decide.

Karen Kilimnik’s solo exhibition first reads as an unironically giddy shrine to the romantic sublime of European culture. Small paintings and photographs are stacked salon-style on the walls. Idyllic images of English landscapes, herds of cows, and luxurious mansions are bedazzled with glitter and rhinestones. Video footage of a ballet and World War II troops play on screens. Rhinestones are crudely hot glued to miniature models of world-famous landmarks, such as the Louvre and the Eiffel Tower, intensifying the sickening feeling you are in someone’s naively reverential, fantasy world. Thankfully, if you look long enough, you will find that world infiltrated by nuggets of irony, hiding in the clutter. 

The first hint of subversion is found in the titles, which are casually written in all lowercase. While most are innocuous, such as “the pretty sheep in the golden english afternoon sunlight,” others are a bit odd, such as “thank you, i’m rested, i’m ready for my dinner now.” The latter conveys the sentiments of a cat whose image has been pasted onto an image of a Renaissance-era bed worthy of royalty. Many similar collages with strange titles have been quietly slipped in among the paintings and photographs. All of them are silly, and most of them portray cats in slightly surreal situations. In “secret meeting of the generals - onward!” five cats sit on chairs in a lavishly-decorated room. This ridiculousness suddenly permeates everything in the room, revealing that the miniature Louvre is just a store-bought 3-D puzzle, the rhinestones are actually Swarovski crystals, those sweet little paintings are made quite casually, and many of the photographs are of humorous subjects, such as urinating sheep. While the work still feels optimistic, it reads less saccharine, more playful, and a bit more critical of the social divisions between high and low art. 

Saturday, November 23, 2019

Sur Moderno at MoMa

  Sur Moderno at MoMa Since it closed in June 2019 for renovations, art enthusiasts have anticipated the grand reopening of the “New MoMa”. This inauguration does not only introduce an expanded floor plan but also a cultural shift in the museum’s curatorial practices. The exhibit Sur Moderno: Journeys of abstraction (open through March 2020) is part of the museum’s agenda to expand the narrative of the art canon beyond the prevalent Western-northern hemisphere. Consisting of artworks donated by the collector Patricia Phelps de Cisneros, the exhibit dives into the work of South American artists that engaged with modernist ideas of abstraction. As one enters the exhibit, one encounters a foreword by the Argentian group MADI that captures the essence of the exhibit: “Por un arte ESENCIAL - abolida toda figuracion” (For an ESSENTIAL art - abolish all figuration).

       Divided into three chapters (unsteady optics, a revolution of limits, and a modern worldview), museum-goers are shown how modernist abstraction was embraced in South America through art, architecture and home decor. For example, we get a glimpse of the wide creative range of Brazilian visual artist Hélio Oiticica. His prints, which play compositionally with repeating monochrome shapes, are a denunciation of figuration.

The hanging sculptures by Venezuelan artists Gego are a highlight of the exhibit, made primarily of steel, they are like line drawings lifted from a page and made three dimensional. In Reticularea Cuadrada 71/6 (1971) Fragile lines connect to make a grid, a blanket of mostly empty space. Shadows cast on the wall create a ghostly copy of an already frail-seeming arrangement.

Tucked away in a side gallery is Mondrian's abstract classic Broadway Boogie Woogie (1942-43), as it sits comfortably at home with its Latin American comrades, it is a reminder that Modernism, its interest in shape and materiality, was a concept that swept across the globe and was adopted and reinterpreted by many artists.

Friday, November 22, 2019

Architecture is Everywhere by Sou Fujimoto

Architecture is Everywhere by Sou Fujimoto is part of the exhibition Surrounds 11 Installations at The Museum of Modern Art. Created in 2015, Fujimoto’s installation consists of various materials on pedestals. MoMa states, “Fujimoto here uses unexpected materials to construct miniature architectural models.” The pedestals are lined in rows, housing individual small scale models. This display tactic asks the viewer to closely confront each structure, to spend time with the work. Each pedestal displays an unconventional material manipulated into an architectural form. Amongst these forms tiny white model humans can be found interacting with the spaces. By adding this perspective, the viewer begins to question the scale and construction as well as the surrealistic quality of each model. Each architectural environment is also accompanied by short sayings describing notions of space. 
One of the components in the installation features potato chips stacked and layered on top of each other. A pile is created, with some model humans sitting on the edge of the chips and another standing on a flat chip closer to the ground. The size of the model humans is significantly smaller than the potato chips themselves, transforming the model into a space that has height and weight. 
Another feature within the installation contains five white ping pong balls glued together. They are fused together in a way that has some balls suspended in the air, while others are grounded on the pedestal. The model displays lightness and buoyancy, while also suggesting strength and presence from the cast shadows. Human figures are placed on the ground at various areas around the structure, suggesting interaction through proximity to the model and distance from one another in both shadow and light. Throughout this installation, Fujimoto is successful in creating imaginary and complex architectural forms that ask the viewer to question their own space, and how they relate to the everyday objects around them. 

Thursday, November 21, 2019

Haegue Yang: Handles at MoMA

MoMa presents an installation piece, Handles by Haegue Yang, a Korean artist. Coming up with an idea of interaction between humans and objects, Yang created an installation piece incorporated performance, making her sculptures movable by people. 

On the second floor, a large open space, multiple sculptures are placed on a floor that has irregular patterns of rainbow-colored glittering geometric shapes mixed with black triangles. The walls and pillars are also full of the glittering and black shapes that attract audience to look up to the whole area. Playfully, red handles are placed on the walls like a rock climbing wall. The black versions of these handles are put on the main mobile sculptures on the floor, that sculptures are created with steel, nickel, mesh, in bronze and silver tones. The center piece, Sonic Gate, is covered with copper- and nickel-plated bells, and contains a star form with seven sharp points. With the handles on the center and the craters of the bottom, the piece can be operated to be moved by people. The three dynamic-looking pieces, the Sonic Handles, are displayed right next to each one of the three walls. They all have a center circle with oval forms stuck out, and balance on four legs protruding from each center. 

The other pieces displayed near Sonic Gate, the Sonic Coupe series, show bottle-like forms with thinner oval tops and thicker middles. These all have craters and metal handles as well. From 4p.m. to 5p.m., a performers wearing black clothing come to activate each piece by piece. Any viewers in MoMA are welcomed to take a look and shoot videos and pictures of the shiny moving creatures.       

"Shape of Shape" interesting concept, but is it well executed?

  Image Credits: Artist choice: Amy Sillman from MOMA website

    Amy Sillman’s The Shape of Shape is the part of MOMA’s Artist’s Choice program in which MOMA invites artists to select works from MOMA’s collection and to curate exhibition. Amy Sillman, who is this year's artists' choice curator,  feels that shape is an important visual element that people don’t talk much about.

    The selected artworks have a wide spectrum of styles and depict different subject matters, from Lee Bontecou’s welded steel and canvas sculpture, to photographs of a Carolee Schneemann’s performance; from an Edvard Munch lithograph of a bear, to prints of Senga Nengudi’s “Inside/Outside” performance. The exhibition creates interesting dialogues between artworks from different historical contexts. However, the exhibition design seems poorly executed. The room was extremely overpacked even for a salon style layout. With tilted artworks resting on different stairs of  pedestal and large-scale abstract paintings barely fitting on the wall, the design of exhibition feels very disorganized. The floor to ceiling “salon style hang” can be dated back to 1667 with the emergence of annual Royal Academy salons in Paris. This style of hanging technically allowed more artwork to be featured in exhibition and more efficient utilization of wall space. Unfortunately, the chosen artworks in the exhibition are not suitable for salon-style hanging because there is so little negative space in between each artworks. It is a major pitfall that an exhibition focuses on shape that doesn’t really pay attention to negative space, which itself is defined by shapes and thus doesn't encourage a positive conversation between each shape focused artworks. Depending on the viewer’s position, the artworks can sometime even overlap with each other which interfere the artist’s composition.

    Amy Sillman’s The Shape of Shape brings out new conversations from the works in MOMA collection, However, it presents a gap between an interesting curatorial concept to a not well-considered final execution.

Sunday, November 10, 2019

The Power of Two Suns: Yto Berrada with Bettina

In the exhibition The Power of Two Suns, Yto Barrada joins her own work with artist Bettina to comment on the apathy and insularity of the world to environmental disasters. Inspired the condition Tangier Island whose shores have been visibly shrinking due to rising sea levels, Barrada ruminates on the desire of the islanders to build a wall to stave off the impending floods. 

Image Curtesy of Patrick McMullen for LMCC

A large structure built of crab cages filled with charcoal stands tall in an open clearing in the room; one of the few areas of the gallery not obscured by walls. But the sculpture itself acts as an obstacle. The cages, filled with coal, obstruct any attempt to see through the wall, and even the empty cages create a grid thick enough to only barely be able to see through. This work, along with the walls separating the rest of the works speaks on a desire to save oneself through quarantine. 

Barrada’s decision to include Bettina in her exhibition space came from Bettina having famously lost a substantial chunk of her work to a fire. The artist relied on isolation and reclusion to rebuild her collection. She kept to herself and became famous for her reclusive behavior as she rebuilt her portfolio. The strict lines, and opposing colors of Bettina’s works, even the spacing of her sculptural pieces invoke this lonesome feeling; nothing touching, nothing blending. 

The exhibition asks visitors to question what is more effective against disaster, whether it be a personal disaster like a fire or a humanitarian disaster like climate change, isolation or hospitality?

Friday, November 8, 2019

Patricia and Jacolby Satterwhite at Pioneer Works

You’re at home is an unsettling spectacle of commercial allusions, enigmatic rituals, and appropriated projects of Jacolby Satterwhite’s late mother, Patricia Satterwhite, who suffered from schizophrenia. The central environment is a long, low-lit room with a stage at one end and a retail environment at the other. Commercial displays sit against a neon kaleidoscopic wallpaper, and an overstimulating series of videos are projected under a cluster of disco balls the stage. Overwhelming, dazzling excess is the common aesthetic. Also on view are some of Patricia Satterwhite’s original drawings and notebook pages in a much more traditional gallery setting. The press release for this show states that the “authorship between mother and son is intentionally blurred,” raising questions of the artist’s responsibility for his mother’s work and legacy. But that line of questioning is not pursued in this exhibition. Rather, by showing their work side-by-side, the exhibition implies a false equivalence between the two individuals. False because only one of them intended to show this work, has power over the context of this display, and is able to consent to the use of his image in this public spectacle. Even assuming the best intentions behind the appropriation of his mother’s work, You’re at home makes a spectacle of her mental illness, and the ethical questions arising from that situation overshadow the content of the artwork.

Thursday, November 7, 2019

Van Buren’s Flights of Fantasy

From afar, Richard Van Buren’s fantastically futuristic sculptures look like they have been frozen mid-transformation between bird and machine. While shiny and robotic, each abstract tangle is reminiscent of limbs, wings, and beaks, twisting and jutting out in unexpected angles. Floor works such as Dervish I (2019) take on the shape of a large bird of prey, about to take flight at any moment. This impact is further heightened by the magnificent lighting scheme, which is especially exquisite on the wall pieces, such as Silver Lining (2019), a piece consisting of five separate forms spaced evenly on a wall. Lit from at least four different directions, each static form casts multiple shadows, which are surprisingly arresting as they layer over each other to create delightfully unexpected shapes. This bolsters the illusion that they are rotating or flying around in a flurry of energy. 

However, when you examine the organic forms closely, the synthetic nature of their materials is confirmed. Seductive swirls of metallic pigments, glitter, beads, and tinsel are suspended in sleek resin forms, composed into arrangements on the wall or the floor. Unfortunately, the materials’ obvious origins in craft-store kitsch strip the works of their mystery. Though it is a pleasant experience to explore the layers of texture and transparency, ultimately the works are more compelling from a distance. 

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Jacolby Satterhwite, You're at Home (but do you want to be?)

Jacolby Satterwhite’s exhibition You’re at Home, currently on view at Pioneer Works in Brooklyn, takes viewers on an uncanny journey through an alien environment. The large gallery space is covered in bizarre videos in which the artist eerily superimposes animations over natural elements — figures dancing, drumming, and even dangling writhe throughout the large warehouse.
Photo courtesy of pioneerworks.org

In one video, Satterwhite himself is suspended by his ankles above the ground while figures in white hazmat suits appear to whip him. Upon further viewing, the audience may begin to realize that the figures clad in white are in fact covering the artist in paint, but the initial impression the video leaves is quite disturbing. Small picture frames line the gallery walls, displaying more of the artist’s odd videos rather than the typical family photos which may have previously resided in the frames, further contributing to the space’s alien ambiance.
Photo courtesy of pioneerworks.org

The entire exhibition adopts this jarring atmosphere; virtual reality headsets allow gallery visitors to fully immerse themselves in Satterwhite’s macabre universe — an immensely disconcerting activity. Every work of art in
You’re at Home seems to refute the exhibition’s title, highlighting the disastrous state of today’s world in which we are somehow still able to feel ‘at home.’ By melding typical domestic objects such as picture frames and disco balls with perplexing, often times disturbing video footage, Satterwhite forces observers to recognize the fact that our ‘home,’ our earth and our society, is in distress. 

Saturday, November 2, 2019

Garry Winogrand "Color" at the Brooklyn Museum

       Garry Winogrand’s (1928-1984) best-known photographic work are black and white snapshots of New York street life. His photographs are considered iconic and a time-capsule of a begone an era, the 60s and the 70s. The Brooklyn Museum has curated an exhibit that offers a new frame of reference for Winograd’s work, one in vivid colors. With “Color” (May 3, 2019 to December 8, 2019) the museum introduces visitors to this lush but rarely exhibited body of work.

     The centerpiece of the exhibit is a dark hall where large scale slide-like images are projected onto the walls. Over 400 images cycle through at a slow, hypnotic pace; Viewers are encouraged to take their time, to sit down and observe the colorful spectacle. In the luminescent projections, small elusive stories unfold; they depict scenes from the every-day and reveal the beauty that lies within it.  In a side gallery of the exhibit, visitors are presented with a more classic examples of Winogrand’s work but with an educational twist: black and white prints are placed next to color photographs to illustrate the photographer’s compositional tendencies (wait-level action shots) and recurring themes (street life).

      As a whole, the exhibit successfully finds a new way of viewing an American standard, one that embraces the full spectrum of colors but stays true to its form.

Garry Winogrand (American, 1928–1984). Installation view, Garry Winogrand: Color. Projection of 35mm color slides. Brooklyn Museum, May 3–December 8, 2019. (Photo: Jonathan Dorado)

(Photo Credit: Jonathan Dorado)

Friday, November 1, 2019

Richard Serra at Gagosian

Reverse Curve by Richard Serra, bisects the gallery, asking the viewer to travel around the sculpture to fully experience the space.The work measures 99 feet long and 13 feet high, made from two plates of weatherproof steel. The sculpture conceals and reveals space simultaneously. Upon stepping into the space the viewer is faced with immediate presence of the sculpture. It stands strong and solid, with an even patina of rust covering its surface. Towering overhead, the steel effortlessly curves, forming a subtle wave. This delicate winding prompts viewers to move and interact with the piece, and asks them to contemplate their own bodies in relation to the sculpture. In addition to the movement of material, the piece vacillates between light and dark in ways that impact the spatial experience. At times the viewer is pushed out further from the piece, experiencing openness and lightness, while at other times is enveloped in shadow close to the steel. When in this space, an overwhelming sense of weight is imparted by the work. The viewer is affected by the density of the material, the heaviness it imposes on the space, and the overall immenseness of the piece. Serra successfully uses minimal material to create a dramatic effect. The exhibition demonstrates Serra’s fascination with weight and his ability to compel the viewer to enter in and experience the magnitude of his work. 

HIGH NOON at UrbanGlass: Einar and Jamex de la Torre

Brothers and collaborators Einar and James de la Torre return to UrbanGlass after 21 years to present the spectacular exhibit HIGH NOON. The works on view, curated by Ben Wright, are a feast for the eyes. 
The title HIGH NOON implies a lawless reckoning and the artists deliver. A dystopian battle rages in gallery. Wall collages made of glossy transparent glass with layer upon layer of decorative objects and psychedelic sci fi murals surround cosmic sculptures that make one think of Baroque on acid.  The handblown doll sized glass sculptures are like galaxies contained inside of the preverbal marble.  One figure removes his heart from his chest, then licks it while standing atop what appears to be a Jell-O mold surrounded by tiny mugs.  Another neon green chimera wears an octopus over their stomach while flowers ring their nipples and penis. A fly, a snail and an Aztec God stand in as warriors on other pedestals covered in hieroglyphics. 
             The brother’s live and work in San Diego and Mexico. Their work is informed by their bi cultural identies and religion, nature, and place are repeated themes.  Deities, dice, and snails, carrots, octopus and so much more stimulate, confuse and intrigue the viewer in the one of a kind exhibition.