The galleries have revived after their summer dormancy, and I’ve been very eager to reinstitute my monthly art-marathon Saturdays — so eager, in fact, that I’ve spend the past two Saturdays in the galleries, with some nice company.
I also had the pleasure of attending two recent art symposia: one for Theaster Gates, who’s the Vera List Fellow at The New School this year; and the other on “sensing space,” which was staged in relation to the James Turrell show at the Guggenheim (which I also saw). I was actually asked to take part in the Gates conference as a panelist — but because I hadn’t had an opportunity to see his Dorchester Projects, in Chicago, first-hand, I felt uncomfortable pretending that I had anything authoritative to say. I tweeted parts of both events. Here’s my Storify for Gates (I should note that Twitter repeatedly auto-corrected Aleksandra Wagner’s name to “Alexandra” — so there are a lot of typos here), and another for Turrell.
And now I’ll highlight the most memorable of the 19 exhibitions I’ve seen over the past two weeks, then gloss the rest. These art-roundup posts always end up taking me a ridiculous amount of time, particularly when I add commentary — so I’m simply going to copy in some relevant PR speak to explain the salient points in this work.
While Turrell aims to obfuscate our perception of space, Harriet Bart, in “Locus” at Driscoll Babcock, examined various means of exploring, measuring, and orienting ourselves within space:
In Locus, bronze, coal, and found objects form imprints of memory and choreographed geographies. Manifesting in plumb bobs, vessels and deconstructed letters, Bart’s open investigation of place is simultaneously poetic, philosophical and architectural in nature.
As Christina Schmid writes in the gallery guide:
To plumb a space, we cast a line. Weighted with a heavy object of delicate proportions, the line divides. Pulled by gravity, it points downward in perfect verticality and divines the meaning of ‘here’ and ‘there.’ In Locus, questions of place, abstracted into space and held in the physicality of objects, preoccupy Harriet Bart.
I’ve seen several of Carter’s shows, and I’ve always enjoyed his playful approach to mapping and the representation of urban systems. I have a poster from a 2006 show hanging up in my office. The most recent work reminds me of Julie Mehretu, only way more whimsical. Here’s what Casey Kaplan says about the current show:
In new drawings and panoramic panel paintings, Nathan Carter has begun an investigation into an idea of the future that is the product of years of volatile urban growth. Heavy maritime salvage, mining, drilling, logging, pirating and an ever-expanding industry of data-mining operations have in effect created a new dynamic landscape. Built at high altitudes and by the water’s edge, Carter’s cities are populated by monuments to their own hubris, fragile towers topped with carousels, dilapidated dormitories, and take-away eateries veiling their dystopic nature with an exuberance that suggests a “bad business as usual” attitude. In response, the environment has become equally turbulent, battering the settlements with rogue waves, electric snowstorms and pink lightning, which amplifies mounting social tensions – verging on a state of industrial disaster and perpetual crisis.
Formal explorations remain central to these works. They represent equally an interest in the language of abstraction as they do a series of layered references to these precarious environments. Taking an approach that is both studied and jerry-rigged, Carter’s new works are an exploration in storytelling achieved through an experimentation with form and material…
Similarly, Carter not only builds the cities of his drawings and paintings through his fictional narratives but also through the process of drawing itself. Flat planes, loose gestural marks and shapes are revisited and reworked, expanded and refined to give way to the structural foundations. In an almost cartographical approach, areas of color and form are first designated as mountains and rivers, then gestural lines become roads, aerial lifts and skyways before they are further developed into an infrastructure – buildings, bridges, tunnels, signal towers – intrusions from the crevices that constantly react with the abstract, invented landscape. In effect, Carter’s process mimics a refined stream of consciousness, creating systems that are perpetually in flux.
Like Bart, William Kentridge is concerned with “instrumentality.” His magnificent “Second-Hand Reading” show at Marian Goodman was undoubtedly one of the most memorable shows I’ve seen in a while — which is not surprising; Kentridge is among my absolute favorite artists.
I’ll quote the press release at length:
The exhibition evolves out of works and projects begun in 2012: the Six Drawing Lessons, delivered as part of The Norton Lectures series at Harvard University in 2012 in which a consideration about work in the studio and the studio as a place of making meaning developed; and the recent 5-channel video and sound installation with breathing machine, The Refusal of Time.
Four different bodies of work will overlap and intersect: ink drawings on book pages, flip-book films and their drawings, kinetic sculptures, and linocuts. Concerns and directions in this body of work include, as Kentridge says, “taking sense and deconstructing it, taking nonsense and seeing if sense can be constructed from it …. This leads to the question of mistranslation, and the pressure that imperfect understanding gives to the act of imagination. Hence the fragments of brush marks on pages turning into trees, and the objects of the Rebus having alternative readings – seen this way, the bird becomes its own cage; the tree contains the man carrying the wooden load; the sphere, cone and cube of Cezanne contain multitudes.”
A series of large drawings of trees in Indian ink on found encyclopedia pages, torn up and reassembled, analyzes the form of different trees indigenous to southern Africa. Drawn across multiple pages from books, each drawing is put together as a puzzle – the single pages first painted, then the whole pieced together.
Three new ‘flip book’ films and framed blocks of drawings on found pages from which the films were made over the past year will be shown. Constructed from hundreds of new drawings, the films include self-portrait sequences of the artist, texts, geometric blocks of color, and calligraphic renderings. They include: In the North Gallery viewing room, NO IT IS, a triptych of flip-book films shown on three flat screens comprised of Workshop Receipts, The Anatomy of Melancholy, and Practical Enquiries (2012). In the South Gallery, Second-hand Reading (2013), with music by Neo Muyanga, will be projected. Sonnets (2012), a flip-book film edited to the rhythm and sound of Shakespeare’s Sonnet No. 18, will be shown on a flat screen. Created from panels of color painted onto book pages, the hues correspond to an exploration of colours for a future production of Alban Berg’s Lulu.
Rebus, 2013 is a new series of bronze sculptures and will be presented in two sets. Referring in title to the allusional device using pictures to represent words or parts of words, each individual bronze object forms two distinct images when turned to a certain angle. Each piece will be shown in the exhibition with its two views. When paired in correspondence, for example, a final image – a nude – is created from two original forms – a stamp and a telephone.
Kinetic sculptures with music and sound have their origin in both The Refusal of Time, shown at Documenta (13), and the performative piece Refuse the Hour, and are constructed from found objects such as bicycle wheels, sewing machines, bellows, megaphones, tripods and drums. They include Small Bellows, Wooden Kinetic Megaphone, Flag Kinetic Sculpture, Drum Machine, Steel Rotating Megaphone. A Singer sewing machine and a chorus of Singer sewing machines, perform music composed by Neo Muyanga, as does a rack of drums, with software design and circuitry for both done by Janus Fouché.
Rubrics, Colour Charts, and Universal Archive are new series of prints. Rubrics is a series of 14 red silkscreened texts which punctuate the space with phrases related to the series of Six Drawings Lessons, the Norton lectures presented at Harvard University last spring. Both the extensive linocut series titled Universal Archive, and the two Colour Chart prints were first made as ink drawings on paper, then transferred to lino and cut.
Kentridge writes, “Between these various bodies of work exist formal mistranslations: brush marks of ink drawings turn into linocuts; the two dimensional ink drawings turn into bronze sculptures. Some points of intersection: ink drawings to linocuts to bronzes; ink drawings to trees, with the brushes producing multiple marks for the leaves of trees. The requisitioning of old forms for new uses: encyclopedias are supports for drawings, sewing machines and a bicycle become sculpture. Words as provocations towards meaning rather than clear syllogisms: the phrases in the drawings push us to make some sense; the Rebus sculptures as hieroglyphs, placed in a line like a line of letters or words or syllables which can be rearranged to make new sentences. ”
And from his stunning Second Hand Reading video:
I’ve seen a number of Barry McGee shows, and I always leave them feeling totally blissed out and much cooler than I actually am. He’s at Cheim & Read (which I originally mis-typed as Cheim & Rad — a very fitting typo); the gallery folks have this to say about him:
McGee’s boldly graphic, colorful work incorporates a multitude of influences (including, for example, graffiti, American folk art, and Op Art), but is most immediately evocative of the urban street culture from which he hails. Engaging the ways in which the city’s unique vernacular translates into artistic imagery, McGee celebrates the diversity, distinctive characters (one of his well-known motifs is a crawling, sad-sack bum), and neighborhood communities of the inner-city. His work critiques consumerist culture and the constant backdrop of commercialism in everyday interactions; rejecting the billboard and chain store, McGee instead finds inspiration in the seeming randomness of graffiti, the endless uploading of images on the internet, and the creative styling of misfits…
For the Cheim & Read exhibition, assembled clusters of framed drawings and hand-painted wood panels accompany loose stacks of embellished surfboards, fetish-like wooden objects, and specially-made furniture. Drawings, paintings and sculptures are treated equally; echoing his anti-establishment sensibility, McGee refuses hierarchies of material or subject matter. His recent work is comprised of flat-surfaced, brightly-colored geometric motifs, serial images and caricatures of cartoon-like characters, and recurring monikers, like the pseudonym “L. Fong,” and the acronyms “THR” (The Human Race or The Harsh Reality) and “DFW” (Down for Whatever).
Down for Whatever. Preach. That’s totally been my M.O. as of late.
Aldo Tambellini @ James Cohan:
Iconoclastic and experimental artist Aldo Tambellini was among the first artists in the early 1960s to explore new technologies as an art medium. Tambellini combined slide projections, film, performance, and music into sensorial experiences that he aptly called “Electromedia.” Such work informed Andy Warhol’s Exploding Plastic Inevitable and Woody and Steina Vasulka’s The Kitchen. With the rediscovery of this material, Tambellini’s work has become the subject of great interest for early new media.
Tambellini’s artistic practice is based on black and its polar opposite, white. The artist believes that the circle is a metaphysical manifestation of energy, stating “Black is the beginning. It is birth, the oneness of all, the expansion of consciousness in all directions” and “light is energy…the same energy we have discovered in the atom.”
For this exhibition, Tambellini will create a multimedia piece incorporating his seminal cameraless films, “Lumagrams” (projected hand-painted glass slide), selections from the Black Film Series and sound in an immersive environment that is meant to “dislocate the senses of the viewer.” Additionally on view will be Tambellini’s paintings and unique photographs, or “Videograms,” most of which have not been seen since the 1960s and have only recently been rediscovered.
There were certainly some parallels between Tamblelini and Nalini Malani @ Galerie Lelong:
Nalini Malani’s immersive video/shadow play, In Search of Vanished Blood, will premier in New York on September 6, 2013. This large-scale multi-media work was a highlight of dOCUMENTA 13 held in Kassel, Germany during the summer of 2012. Malani, widely considered the pioneer of video art in India, continues themes explored throughout her illustrious career: violence, the feminine, and the politics of national identity…
Drawn from history and culture and from her direct experience as a refugee of the Partition of India and the legacy of colonialism and de-colonization, Malani presents a highly personal narrative in an installation that is colossal in size, with mesmerizing layers of imagery and sound that require time for the viewer to move through and absorb. In Search of Vanished Blood takes its title from the 1965 Urdu poem Lahu Ka Surag and is inspired by the 1984 novel Cassandra by Christa Wolf and the 1910 book The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge by Rainer Maria Rilke. Literary texts, mythology, and actual historical events are a basis for much of the content in Malani’s work.
Video projections filter across five suspended, rotating Mylar cylinders featuring reverse painted imagery of both Hindu and Western icons to create a shadow play in In Search of Vanished Blood. As the cylinders revolve on motorized mounts, images move at different speeds on the walls, like a frieze of moving images, crossing one another in shifting scale and fleeting clarity. Like fast paced theater in the round, gaining a visual grasp on the whole eludes the viewer. Amplified sound furthers a fully immersive experience. This aesthetic choice to use overlap and simultaneity supports Malani’s intention to offer different perspectives from which to examine the complexities and challenges of cultures meeting.
Allan McCollum @ Petzel, organized by Andrea Zittell (so obvious!)
And McCollum’s work resonated with Morgan Fisher’s “Interior Color Beauty” show @ Bortolami, which, according to the gallery, consists of “enlarged facsimiles of paint chips showing color combinations for interiors in the booklet Exterior and Interior Color Beauty, produced in about 1935 by General Houses, Inc., a manufacturer of prefabricated houses founded by the artist’s father, Howard T. Fisher.”
And this work, in turn, seemed to find its digital counterpart in Casey Reas’s “Ultraconcentrated” @ Bitforms, who explain that:
Reas’ latest work inhabits the increasingly voluminous, yet invisible, spaces of information systems and mass communication. Using a variety of materials, his new projects explore the behavior of television signals and entropy… The series Signal to Noise intentionally disrupts the information of local broadcast signals. It investigates the field of technical images, as theorized by philosopher Villem Flusser, such as visual information transmitted as data, which relies on text-based instructions to “write” a picture. In the creation of this work, television content was captured from the air with an antenna. Reas edited, and then processed the appropriated material with his own custom software, which runs live in the gallery. The programmed logic is visible as a geometric lattice, building the illusion of a surface.
In these works, software’s capacity for precision and order is subverted. Each generative animation in the series scrambles a 20-minute segment of television captured from a major US network, such as ABC, NBC, Fox or CBS. They fracture and distort the intended images and narrative, to craft alternate, imagined spaces. Their construction is comparable to early twentieth-century collages built from the media of that time, and mid-century video collage.
Similarly elemental was Sol Lewitt @ Paula Cooper:
Yet more in the “elemental” vein: Olivo Barbieri @ Yancey Richardson:
And still more: Edward Burtynsky’s “Water” @ Bryce Wolkowitz:
Raymond Pettibon at David Zwirner. Eh.
A few more:
Charline von Heyl @ Petzel
Zhang Huan @ Pace:
Jonas Wood @ Anton Kern:
Mary Mattingly @ Robert Mann, which the gallery describes as follows:
In her latest exhibition House and Universe, multimedia artist Mary Mattingly weaves together lush digital photography with experimental design to tackle real-world environmental issues in ways that are both radical and pragmatic. Mattingly imagines a world of imminent vicissitude, in which humanity must become reliant on a collective ingenuity in order to survive floods, war, and the inevitable decay of the urban habitat.
William Pope L. @ Mitchell-Innes & Nash:
T. J. Wilcox @ Metro Pictures: