Curators' Notebook

SculptureNotebook is a Tumblr that features artists, events, books, and other cultural material pertinent to issues in contemporary sculpture.

Dec 30, 2011

Antonis Pittas: RETROACTIVE

At left and right: Antonis Pittas, RETROACTIVE, 2011. Installation views. Center for Curatorial Studies at Bard College. Images Courtesy the Artist.

At the Center for Curatorial Studies, Bard College, Annandale-on-Hudson
December 7 - 16, 2011 and February 1 - 26, 2012

For those of us partial to big open expanses like those conjured by DIA Beacon and the Chinati Foundation, Antonis Pittas's current show at Bard College's Center for Curatorial Studies is a stunner. The two barrel-like halls are sparsely punctuated by a handful of Pittas's sculptures and a few direct-to-surface graphite drawings, and yet these gestures are enough to take control of the space. They bring the architecture into collusion, taking advantage of its grandness as well as its subtle vulnerability to the outside weather and time of day via the skylights—the galleries' only source of lighting.

The various elements of Pittas' installation don't need dramatic staging: his wall-mounted plywood sculptures house their own neons, which from one view highlight the iconicity of their square forms, while from the other, articulate further spaces delineated by the diffusion of bright, white light. In this way, they strongly situate the archetypal shape within the space of art. Here it is the square, but in other locations, and by other means, the triangle and circle. References abound to Malevich, Palermo, Judd and perhaps even Morris, but there is far too much a sense of individual presence for this to be simply a recapitulation of Supremacist, Constructivist, or even Minimalist aesthetics. Instead, aligning these movements with the aesthetic strategies of current protest movements—particularly in the artist's native Athens as well as New York—Pittas finds a political urgency in his forms. Like the reception of the Occupy movement, which Pittas cites in two lines that traverse the entrance to the first gallery, there is some bewilderment as to what these gestures can achieve, and how. What is for certain is the evidence of present bodies, not only in Pittas' references to hand-held protest signs and the circular arrangement of bodies as human microphones, but by the labor-intensive, graphic markings that make up the solid, lustrous surfaces of text and forms throughout the space. In these ways, this exhibition resists a mere romanticization of art history's major figures and avant-gardes in order to posit a more intentional forward movement in light of our past. As the title tells us, this look is retroactive. --Alicia Ritson

Dec 21, 2011

City Within the City

Left: Abraham Cruzvillegas, Autoconstruccion (resources room), 2010-2011. Books, stones, found wooden pieces, glass, maps, steel nails, rope, wheelbarrow, 40 silkscreen prints with selected revolutionary images from 1968 to 2008, variable measurements. Courtesy of the artist and Kurimanzutto, Mexico City. Right: Alicia Frankovich, Volution, 2011. Single channel video projection transferred from 35mm color, sound, 2 min 41 sec and video still, installation variable. Courtesy of the artist and Gertrude Contemporary, Australia.

At Artsonje Center, Seoul, South Korea
November 12, 2011-January 15, 2012

City Within the City is a two-part exhibition presented in Seoul, South Korea, and Melbourne, Australia: two expanding metropolises within the Asia-Pacific region. The first part of the show at the Artsonje Center in Seoul contextualizes the ethos of a city as a fluid cluster of interweaving and ever-evolving urban and human networks. The exhibition examines how human subjectivities exist within the city, while still producing possibilities for resistance, creativity and transgression.

The Mexican artist Abraham Cruzvillega explores what he terms "survival economics," described as the "constructive opportunity available in found materials." In this exhibition, he presents his ongoing project Autoconstruccion (resources room). As the title alludes, Cruzvillega has constructed the installation through a "self-building" process. The work is comprised of objects collected over many years, inspired by his childhood spent in an impoverished district in Southern Mexico City where houses were often constructed from pieces of landfill waste and urban debris.

New Zealand-born Alicia Frankovich explores the limitations of movement in Volution, 2011. A human-sized plank of wood is suspended using a kinetic system that sporadically spins the object in random, disrupted spirals. The object is displayed adjacent to a single channel video projection, Video & Choreography 1, 2011, which documents a quasi-boxing match that evolves into a morphed dance. Participants swing, back-step, fall and turn in stomach-churning, multiple rotations. These works together investigate the performative body in dialogue with its urban environment, re-explored as a site for creative engagement.

Visitors can attend the first part of this exhibition series through January 15th at the Artsonje Center in Seoul, South Korea. The second component will be on display at Gertrude Contemporary in Melbourne, Australia from October 5 - November 10, 2012. -- Tess Maunder

Nov 30, 2011

Out of town: Andrei Monastyrski & Collective Actions

Left: Collective Actions, The Third Variant, 1978. Savyolovskaya railway line, near Kyevy Gorky village, May 1978. Digital C-print.
Right: Collective Actions, The Comedy, 1977. Moscow region, Savyolovskaya railway line, near Kyevy Gorky village, October 1977. Digital C-print.

At e-flux, 311 East Broadway
November 5, 2011-January 7, 2012

e-flux has inaugurated its new space in the Lower East Side with an exhibition of Andrei Monastyrski, a key figure of 1970s Moscow Conceptualism, and the Collective Actions group that he cofounded in 1976. Boris Groys conceived of this show as a continuation of Empty Zones, curated for the Russian Pavilion at the 54th Venice Biennale. The show is comprised of photographs, books, and photo and video documentation of early and recent performances.

Encouraging invited audiences (usually other artists and thinkers) to take an active role in various situations, these works exemplify some of the earliest participatory art in Russia. The majority of actions organized since the 1970s were held in vast sites outside of Moscow, such as fields, forests and rivers. For instance, in The Third Variant (1978), guests traveled by train to a designated site and upon arrival were instructed to gather on one side of a field. 150 feet away a person appeared, dressed in purple robe. He laid down in a pit, disappearing from sight, and minutes later the same figure emerged from a different ditch, closer to the audience and now with a red balloon in place of his head. The balloon was pierced, creating a cloud of white dust. The performer then laid back in the second pit, while a man dressed in casual clothes stood up from the first and left for the woods. Returning to Moscow, participants wrote about their experience and gave interpretations of its meaning.

As Monastyrski claimed, their goal was to observe the "demonstrational field"--a combination of participants' psychology and vision which includes experiences preceding and following a given action. This field was a metaphor for participants' consciousness, thought to be open during the anticipation of an event, and activated when performers appeared. Hence, an action's plot could be improvised, as its symbolic or metaphysical meaning was less important than the process of free interpretation in the viewer's mind--the main site of the action. These works were aimed at liberating thinking from a routine and overwhelming Soviet ideology. As Claire Bishop argues in a special issue of e-flux dedicated to Moscow Conceptualism, at a time when the dominant discourse and spectatorial regime tended towards a collective and rigidly schematized apparatus of meaning, the collective Actions gave rise to liberal, democratic indecision; a space for difference and debate. -- Anna Komar

Nov 23, 2011

Mika Rottenberg and Jon Kessler, SEVEN

Mika Rottenberg and Jon Kessler: from the performance SEVEN, 2011. Images Courtesy of Art in America and Performa.

Performa 11 at Nicole Klagsbrun Project Space, 534 West 24th Street
November 3 – 19, 2011

Seven is the number of chakras we each have, according to models of the tantric and yogic bodies. In Mika Rottenberg and Jon Kessler's collaborative performance-cum-installation, each of these psychic centers is tapped by an intricate yet expansive system that has cycle power, body-heat transfers and pneumatic transportation as other nodes in the overall distillation of "qi". With each chakra corresponding to a unique color of the visible spectrum, you would be right to anticipate an eventual climax of vibrant, energetic color. Yet it's the intricacy of Rottenberg and Kessler's system-in-process—rather than any grand finale—that makes this work worth its time.

The performance itself involves repetitive sets of procedures that focus on one chakra at a time on each of seven performers. Spa and laboratory are one and the same space, and in fact, are where the audience finds themselves immersed—brushing past each other as well as the performers as they move between waiting room, sauna, and bicycle generator. Perhaps "audience" isn't even the right word for what the visitor becomes in this space. "Witness" perhaps better represents the visitor's presence within and alongside the unfolding extraction of chakra essences. Each person is further brought into the production via Rottenberg and Kessler's ingenuous compression of fiction and real-time experience, achieved in no small part through a simulated live-video-link to co-conspirators in a Saharan elsewhere.

As a collaboration between two artists who usually work in quite different ways, SEVEN is surprising for the seamless synthesizing of Rottenberg's and Kessler's individual practices and sustained tropes. It's hard to imagine where one would exist in this work without the other, but out their fold emerges an absurdity brought about by the earnest commitment to apparatuses of fictional and worldly pleasures, a movement between high production and the makeshift that is thankfully not so easy to tether. --Alicia Ritson

Nov 9, 2011

Circa 1971: Early Video & Film from the EAI Archive

Left to right: Gordon Matta-Clark, Chinatown Voyeur, 1971, video (black-and-white, sound), 54:41 minutes; Nancy Holt and Robert Smithson, Swamp, 1971, 16mm film transferred to video (color, sound), 5:54 minutes; Nam June Paik and Jud Yalkut, Video-Film Concert, 1966/1972, 16mm film transferred to video (black-and-white, color, sound), 26:32 minutes. All images courtesy of Electronic Arts Intermix (EAI), New York.

At Dia:Beacon, 3 Beekman Street
September 17, 2011 – September 4, 2012

Circa 1971 marks the fortieth anniversary of Electronic Arts Intermix, whose core program preserves and distributes one of the world's most comprehensive and renowned collections of video art. The exhibition at Dia:Beacon comprises a diverse assortment of videos created between 1970 and 1972, and sets into motion a dialogue between artists including Eleanor Antin, Shirley Clarke, Carolee Schneemann, Dennis Oppenheim, and Vito Acconci. Circa 1971 presents a fertile political moment in which artists took interest in process over form, explored the technical possibilities of video and film, used their own bodies as subjects, and usurped mediated images from television culture.

Chinatown Voyeur, Gordon Matta-Clark's first video, was shot through a single window in a downtown New York apartment. The black and white, surveillance-like video slowly pans across rooftops and zooms in on individuals inside of their Chinatown apartments. The experience of watching this piece highlights the inherent voyeurism solicited by the camera's gaze. Conversely, Robert Smithson and Nancy Holt's Swamp, is a study of visual perception, the limits of the camera, process, and the filmic techniques of a 16mm Bolex camera, a device commonly used by artists starting in the late 1960s. In the film, Holt navigates tall swamp grass, guided only by what she can see through the lens and by Smithson's verbal instructions. John Baldessari's deadpan video, I Am Making Art further foregrounds the artist's body as subject, a common practice of the era. In this work, Baldessari slowly gestures and performs in the frame, repeatedly reciting the phrase, "I am making art," paying homage to and parodying other contemporaneous art movements such as Body Art, Process Art, and Minimalism.

Nam June Paik's Video-Film Concert assumes a critical position in relation to mass media and the television industry and in his Waiting for Commercials, the artist appropriates a series of advertisements—Pepsi, the clothing brand YeYe—from Japanese television, initiating a major trend in video art strategies that would be later adapted by digital media artists. Circa 1971 presents a snapshot of this historical moment, in which film made way for the more readily available medium of video, and artists adapted their practice to keep up with the changing times. These artists laid the path for future generations of artists, who, in the twenty-first century, now critique the mass proliferation and appropriation of imagery from the Internet. --Misa Jeffereis

Nov 4, 2011

Gareth James, Human Metal

Left: Supérieure Normale Ecole, 2011, Chalk and chalkboard paint on wood. Right: Untitled (Old Claude Lévi-Strauss, with White to Black Spiral), 2011, Chromogenic print. Images courtesy of Miguel Abreu Gallery.

At Miguel Abreu, 36 Orchard Street
October 22 – December 23, 2011

Human Metal, Gareth James's current exhibition at Miguel Abreu, is the last in a three-part series—the first was held at Galerie Christian Nagel in 2008, and the second at Elizabeth Dee in 2009. This show, comprised of wall-reliefs, sculptures, and black and white photographs, is centered around an inexplicable diagram, which appears on a chalkboard behind an iconic image of the French philosopher Louis Althusser taken by Jacques Pavlovsky in 1978. While the previous exhibition in New York was built around the diagram as an unknown, the current show was conceived as a pedagogical task, a search for the graph's meaning. However, instead of revealing new information, the artist concludes that the diagram is unknowable. James instead engages with numerous historical, political, cultural, postcolonial and autobiographical references in order to explore the mystery that surrounds it.

With large-scale, multi-paneled chalkboard wall reliefs, James turns to his own personal history as well as Althusser's biography to address the myth of the diagram. The first relief at the entrance of the gallery, Supérieure Normale Ecole, depicts the campus map and inscription of the school's name to which Althusser's life and work were closely connected. Another explores the artist's Welsh origins and the history of oppression in Wales under English colonial rule. Several photographs depict subjects with faces obscured by superimposed versions of the diagram. These portraits include Claude Lévi-Strauss, who analyzed the cultural evolution of myths through the study of masks, Edward Curtis, who photographed these masks, and Charles De Gaulle, who coined the phrase that appears on a chalkboard behind Althusser: "L'avenir dure longtemps" (The future lasts a long time), also the title of Althusser's autobiography, which James inscribed onto the portraits.

James' work echoes a suggestion which Claude Levi-Strauss made in his essay The Structural Study of Myth--that anthropologists should not look for the one true and "authentic" version of a myth, but rather should consider all myths as equal variants of the same permutation structure, working to solve a logical problem. On the other hand, the formal qualities of James' work are influenced by Alain Badiou's concept of subtraction, "...limit[ing] the endless openness of the concrete situation in favor of making something intelligible within it that was previously inchoate." Through this pedagogical exercise containing condensed historical and cultural time, the artist/professor explores the limits of knowing and not knowing. --Anna Komar

Oct 18, 2011

Charline von Heyl

Big Joy, 2004, oil on canvas, 82 x 78 inches. Black Mirror, 2009, acrylic and oil on linen, 82 x 72 inches. Images Courtesy of Friedrich Petzel Gallery.

At the Institute for Contemporary Art, Philadelphia
September 7, 2011 - February 19, 2012

If abstraction is thought to be in love with itself when it gives only answers and asks no questions*, then Charline von Heyl's paintings occupy a far more open position on the self-love spectrum. Each work in the artist's current solo show at the Institute for Contemporary Art in Philadelphia declares von Heyl's fully-fledged commitment to abstraction, but across the collection of almost twenty incredibly diverse works, it's clear that this kind of abstraction is one that's open to having its limits of possibility interrogated. The paintings harry the line between form and effect to such an extent that by the time all works have been viewed, it seems totally feasible that a painting like Big Joy, 2004, with its heavily labored and disintegrating smears and drips of paint should be produced by the same artist as the more intact forms of Black Mirror 2, 2009. Indeed, in many of von Heyl's paintings, such seemingly incompatible styles set each other off within a single frame.

These are works that show a thorough investment in their medium and in the modes of abstract operations. While they sit apart from a self-contained, perhaps narcissistic form of abstraction epitomized by some post-war American painting, these works could neither be described as taking up the nihilism of postmodern pastiche. What they do is assert a claim to autonomy that has—until relatively recently—remained unfashionable, excepting art scenes like 1980s Cologne out of which von Heyl emerged. On canvasses layered with all kinds of marks and painterly obliterations in which it's difficult to discern a chronology of traces, Heyl is playfully reflexive towards the affects that paintings can produce while using such affects to create anew. A generative abstract love, if you will. -- Alicia Ritson

*Charline von Heyl in an interview with Kaja Silverman in the exhibition's catalogue.

Oct 11, 2011

Do Ho Suh

Left: Home Within Home - Prototype, 2009-11, photo-sensitive resin, 86 x 95 x 101 inches. Right: Fallen Star 1/5, 2008-11, ABS, basswood, beech, ceramic, enamel paint, glass, honeycomb board, lacquer paint, latex paint, LED lights, pinewood, resin, spruce, styrene, polycarbonate sheets, PVC sheets, approximately 131 x 145 x 300 inches.

At Lehmann Maupin, 540 W 26th Street
September 8 - October 22, 2011

Since Do Ho Suh left Seoul, Korea for the United States in 1991, displacement from his native culture, people, and environment has become a recurring motif in his artistic practice. Suh's current solo exhibition at Lehmann Maupin, which includes recent and older sculptures, textiles, and works on paper, is no exception.

Filling the front gallery is Fallen Star 1/ 5, a continuation of the project Perfect Home, which Suh began in 2008. The piece enacts a crashing of two replica models of the artist's former homes: the small hanok, a traditional Korean house, where Suh spent his childhood, and the home he lived in while attending the Rhode Island School of Design. Introducing a narrative dimension to his sculpture, Suh tells a fairytale-like story where he and the hanok have been parachuted to the U.S. Alongside autobiographical references, Suh's practice embraces themes of nostalgia and exile—the architectural narrative is also a metaphor of a clash between Eastern and Western traditions and cultures. The almost empty model of the Korean house, built by his parents, is juxtaposed with abundant objects in the American home. Suh removes the boundary between personal and public space by cutting the Providence building in two, allowing viewers to contemplate spectacular details of the intimate spaces where the artist and his neighbors lived. We see a recipe book next to a half-made salad, croissants and two coffees ready to drink, and an opened laptop computer. Something is awkward in this voyeuristic experience—there are no people inhabiting the apartments—however, we can construct a complete picture of their identities from these possessions. Besides fusing two separate traditions, this piece also suggests the co-existence of distinct social identities within North American culture.

Other works in the show include replicas of Suh's domestic appliances made of transparent fabric, another example of meticulous craftsmanship. These light and foldable objects originate from the artist's desire to bring his home wherever he travels. Ultimately, in a dark, rear gallery, the translucent resin sculpture Home Within Home – Prototype shows the perfect home the artist longs for—the same Korean and American houses, but merged and cut in four quadrants so that the audience can look and pass through them. Deconstructing and re-creating his living spaces, Suh emphasizes their instability and impermanence, thus evoking the feelings of fragility and disorientation associated with displacement in today's globalized world. -- Anna Komar

Oct 5, 2011

The NY Art Book Fair

Left: Denise Schatz, Plantlife/Tokyo (Brooklyn, NY: Miniature Garden, 2011). Right: Francis Van Maele, Salt & Pepper (Achill, Ireland: Redfoxpress, 2010).

At MoMA P.S.1, 22-25 Jackson Avenue, Long Island City
September 30 - October 2, 2011

This past weekend, Printed Matter, Inc. hosted the sixth annual NY Art Book Fair, the world's premier event for artist monographs, exhibition catalogues, art periodicals, and artists' books. MoMA P.S.1 was filled with more than 200 exhibitors from 21 countries, with approximately 60 zine booths filling an outdoor tent in the courtyard. The jam-packed event also included special projects such as screenings, book signings, The Classroom—a series of artist-led workshops and discussions—and a symposium on the current state of art-book culture. Exhibitors ranged from nonprofit organizations like Art in General to major galleries such as Gagosian and Paula Cooper, from individual publishers making unique books to powerhouse companies such as The MIT Press.

A highlight in the zine tent was Plantlife/Tokyo by Miniature Garden, an 18-page, color book featuring photographs of potted plants arranged as makeshift gardens. In Tokyo, this is a common occurrence and has resonance in New York City living, where tenants create DIY planter boxes hanging from windows or on fire escapes. Images of everyday life was a theme throughout the fair. Another standout seller was Redfoxpress, a small printing company out of west Ireland founded and run by Francis Van Maele, whose photographs fill the pages of his charming diaristic books. His Salt & Pepper publication features beautiful black-and-white photographs of shakers in various restaurants that Van Maele visited between 2007 and 2010 in Dublin, Istanbul, Tokyo, and New York. The mundane household objects are transformed into portraits resembling couples from around the world. And finally, a stunning monograph on the work of photographer Uta Barth was a must-have. Published by New York-based Gregory R. Miller & Co., Uta Barth: The Long Now is 384 pages of Barth's photographs spanning from her earliest work in college to her most recent body, ...to walk without destination and to see only to see (2010). The monograph presents the ways in which Barth's work has remained consistent from her first experiments to her newest series: all manifest the artist's interest in visual perception, and her attempt to highlight all planes of a photograph by experimenting with depth of field and cropping.

The fair was an overwhelming whirlwind of sensory overload, and far too much information for any one person to take in over the course of just three days. However, the precious treasures hidden among the seemingly never-ending booths made the digging well worth it. -- Misa Jeffereis

Sep 22, 2011

Jimmie Durham

A Stone Asleep In Bed At Home, 2000, as seen in the series Collected Stones, 13 Short Videos, 2002.

At The Artist's Institute, 163 Eldrige Street
August 24, 2011 - January 15, 2012

The Artist's Institute thinks that today we should be looking at the work of Jimmie Durham, and I have to say that I wholeheartedly agree. Collected Stones, the work currently on view at the Institute, is a suite of short videos by the artist in which the stone, as form, is given centrality. Across the thirteen individual works, stones of various dimensions are thrown, dropped from out-of-frame, put into model boats and used as fruit knives in scenarios that demonstrate the material's brute force as well as it's utility.

Rather than stand-ins or purely representational objects, the central role these stones play in Durham's videos—where they are always in a state of activity and exchange with other objects—makes them read almost like characters. Yet they are far from anthropomorphic. The stones have active power, meaning, and to some extent accountability as the material of classical architecture, monuments, tablets, and indigenous tools. Durham shows the stones to be powerful in the present, rather than inert and merely referential. This presentness is salient given that his work has consistently interrogated the structures and institutions of history with their grand narratives of Western and Native American cultures: such pursuits have seen his practice be framed in a way that perhaps over-identified it with (or at least limited its discussion to) identity politics and revisionist historicism. Watching Collected Stones through the lens of vital materialism and actor-network theory (ideas with much currency for contemporary artists and thinkers) opens up a reading of Durham's practice such that histories, traditions, and customs can be thought not as objects of knowledge, but as things to be actively and re-generatively engaged with. The point is not the production of an "anything goes" kind of world where everything is estranged from its original context and in free, inconsequential play. Rather, Durham's work makes us pay attention to the collected stories as well as the forward thrusting life of objects through the networks of their social, political, geographic and historical dimensions. It has always done this, but the Institute's framing pushes more firmly on this aspect rather than the politics of the artist's own indigeneity in a move that allows for more surprising and nuanced connections with native American cosmology as well as with larger discussions pertaining to biopolitics. Such connections, and more, will be explored over the coming months as The Artist's Institute hosts a range of events and encounters with Durham's works, the next one being on September 28th when Jason E. Smith gives an introduction to the French collective Tiqqun's Introduction to Civil War. -- Alicia Ritson

Sep 13, 2011

Mika Tajima: After the Martini Shot

Installation views of After the Martini Shot. Mika Tajima's SAM Next exhibition at the Seattle Art Museum. July 16, 2011 - June 17, 2012. Photo: Nathaniel Wilson.

At the Seattle Art Museum
July 16, 2011 - June 17, 2012


In Hollywood, "the Martini shot" refers to the last take of the day, after which the set is abandoned and props remain in place. Mika Tajima is known for her installations that play off of film terminology and themes, creating active environments in which objects potentially become actors. At the Seattle Art Museum, a large yellow roll of butcher paper used for photo shoots is rigged from a crude metal structure, onto which a video is projected from a ladder. Tajima uses other staging elements like freestanding lamps, mirrors, as well as paintings on wheeled structures that create a sense of movement and also blur the line between art installation and film set. Whereas the arrangement seems to be in a holding status, waiting for something to happen, Tajima's projected video, Dead by Third Act (2009) is all action—the video documents her 2008 performance in which the artist used a sledgehammer to destroy a car in the original Fiat Factory in Turin, Italy.

Again referencing jargon from the film industry, Tajima seeks to free painting from its "typecast" as a work of art. A monochromatic painting functions as a bulletin board for another work of art, while two paintings lean to form a sandwich board. In The Extras (Seattle) (2011), Tajima used a painting rack structure, which was featured in SculptureCenter's exhibition Knight's Move, as an archive of her work mixed with a selection of pieces from SAM's collection. In this crate-like cube, Andy Warhol's Flowers and a portrait of Mick Jagger are casually stacked with a print by Anni Albers and a modernist color study by Josef Albers—all leaning back to back with Tajima's silkscreen patterned paintings and an angled flatscreen playing a video of her 2009 performance at SFMOMA. Tajima references these artists in her work, amongst her past work, inside her current work. The artist claims that she holds the paintings captive, showing them not as they were intended, but as part of her visual vocabulary. In her installation, Tajima not only explores the intersecting languages of film and painting, but also allows works of art to "play against type."

In Tajima's installation at SAM, objects are scattered in scenario arrangements, doubling as actors in the wings or stored in racks on the side, waiting to be called into action. As the director, Tajima creates a space bursting with potential. -- Misa Jeffereis

Sep 6, 2011

Celebrating 100 Years

Left: Eadweard Muybridge, collotypes from Animal Locomotion: An Electro-Photographic Investigation of Phases of Animal Movements (detail of plate 409), 1887. Right: Andy Warhol, Flash—November 22, 1963 (detail), portfolio of 14 color screenprints, 1968.

At the New York Public Library, Fifth Avenue at 42nd Street
May 14 - December 31, 2011

Celebrating 100 Years at the New York Public Library marks the centennial anniversary of the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building, inaugurated at 5th Avenue and 42nd Street in 1911. The library may not be the first place one would look for an innovative art experience, but the scope of prints, artists books, photographs, and historical objects in its collections is surprisingly vast, and considering these art and non-art objects from disparate times and locations allows for a rare, intertextual experience.

Highlights include works by pioneer photographers such as Eadweard Muybridge's 1887 serial collotypes and nineteenth century botanist Anna Atkins' Photographs of British Algae: Cyanotype Impressions. (Atkins is credited with producing this first photographically illustrated book.) Andy Warhol's Flash—November 22, 1963, incorporating news imagery and text drawn from media sources during the days following John F. Kennedy's assassination, is presented alongside a collection of civil rights buttons brandishing political slogans such as "Free Angela," "Eldridge Cleaver for President," and "Stokely is a Riot." Some pairings are more whimsical than chronological, as with the placement of Virginia Woolf's walking stick near Richard Long's Nile, a book from 1990 documenting the artist's walks in nature, each page made in part from the mud of various rivers.

Sumerian cuneiform tablets and a Gutenberg bible are juxtaposed with projections from the library's image gallery and a curious display case housing a Mac laptop set to the New York Times homepage—all evidence of the value that the NYPL places on research tools old and new, physical and digital. The breadth of the library's holdings is guided by the philosophy that all knowledge is worth preserving—which results in some disturbing inclusions, such as a copy of Mein Kampf and a Ku Klux Klan robe. A noteworthy quote on the entry wall from Edwin Hatfield Anderson, library director from 1913 to 1934, explains: "If the devil himself wrote a book, we'd want it in the Library." Celebrating 100 Years is a must-see; don't miss it. -- Kristen Chappa

Aug 30, 2011

Declarations of States

Cyclone Fence. Exhibition view, Castelli Warehouse, New York, 1968. Image via e-flux.

ZKM Museum of Contemporary Art, Karlsruhe
May 28 - September 25, 2011

When he left New York and the art world in 1974, Bill Bollinger was an artist that other artists admired. An extremely important artist in the fertile period between 1966 and 1974, he then moved upstate and subsequently disappeared from the art historical discourse. The first retrospective of his work was recently organized by Christiane Meyer-Stoll of the Kunstmuseum Lichtenstein. I saw the exhibition last week at ZKM in Karlsruhe, its second stop on a three venue European tour. Young New York artists will be shocked to see this work which, to my eyes, is a distillation of so many ideas that we think of as coming out of New York in this period. Utilizing readily available, industrial materials such as two-by-fours, chain link fence and rope, the sculptures are spare and direct. Concerned with basic principles of weight and gravity, Bollinger's aesthetic experimentations enact structural ideas and make conceptual propositions. Material always does what it does in his work – its not transformed or manipulated but rather is selected to perform its properties. Water finds its own level, chain link fencing torques in a gentle arc, a rope attached to the ceiling and floor holds taut. The gorgeous drawings (of which there are a multitude in the show) explore the nature of the edge. It is a shame that a major New York museum did not take this exhibition. Bollinger was a brilliant artist who never achieved any commercial success despite being at the center of what was considered, and history has acknowledged, a turning point in art history when minimalism started to give way. Let's see what we can do to bring this work back to New York. -- Mary Ceruti

Aug 16, 2011

Miriam Böhm, Rosy Keyser, and Erin Shirreff

Left: Erin Shirreff, Pages (no. 6), 2011, book pages pinned to mat, 12 x 12 inches, 13 1/4 x 13 1/4 inches. Right: Miriam Böhm, Unfinished V, 2009, Chromogenic color print, 17 3/4 x 25 1/2 inches. Images courtesy of Lisa Cooley.

At Lisa Cooley, 34 Orchard Street
June 26 - August 12, 2011

The current show at Lisa Cooley presents the work of Miriam Böhm, Rosy Keyser, and Erin Shirreff, three artists whose work spans across mediums—photography, sculpture, painting, video, and installation. The show centers around the theme of perceptual dislocation, translated through various means: repetition of form, abstraction, impermanence, and reuse of everyday materials. The tight grouping of objects thoughtfully presents the variety of methods and mediums in which these artists are similarly working through issues of subjectivity and multiple perspectives.

Among the three, Berlin-based artist Miriam Böhm most literally creates disjunctions of space in her complex photographic constructions. In her Unfinished (2009) series, two related images stand on a carpeted floor that resembles that of an office building, but their spatial relationship is unclear. The sometimes-visible hand holding a paintbrush distorts our understanding of the narrative. Is the image depicted a painting or a photograph of a painting, or perhaps a digitally manipulated image that floats as its own layer? Böhm exploits perceptual vertigo in her multifaceted photographs, with attention to repetition, reproduction, and process.

Lean to Cuneiform (2011) by Brooklyn-based artist Rosy Keyser commands attention at its seven-foot height and simultaneously welcomes viewership with its brandished surface. The leaning, painted canvas is supported by a metal frame that juts out from the wall, creating geometric angles that bring the work away from its secure place on the gallery wall into the space of the viewer. Keyser is known for her imposing "Neo-Brut" style of assemblage paintings that incorporate various types of paint, everyday objects, and, in this case, cutout crossword puzzles. Keyser manages to bring concreteness to abstraction, while simultaneously highlighting the impermanence of her medium.

Erin Shirreff is recognized for her subtle gestures and manipulations of mundane objects and images. In her series Pages (2011), Shirreff pieced together black-and-white pages from books featuring early and mid-century sculptures. The reproductions are pinned to a mat board, hanging as if sculptural objects themselves. The conjoined images awkwardly form a new three-dimensional object, one that does not quite make sense or form a whole. The images hover between abstraction and representation, two-dimensionality and objectness, unity and emptiness.

Together, the concise selection of works brings complex issues of perceptual disruption down to earth. The showing ultimately provides varying aesthetic strategies that problematize the subjectivity of seeing in an easily digestible way. Whereas this could have been a disjunctive and perplexing grouping, the simple gestures and subtlety of these works enable us to look and look again. -- Misa Jeffereis

Aug 2, 2011

Bard MFA Thesis Exhibition

Left: Chris Austin, Untitled (detail from Notations), 2011, inkjet print from scanned negative, 40 x 50 inches. Photography: Chris Austin. Right: Natalie Häusler, We are getting a little bit too close here (detail), 2011, mirrored desk, tiles, blueprints, laserprints, painting on wall and fabric, text on cards. Photography: Peter Mauney.

At the UBS Gallery, Red Hook
July 17 - 24, 2011

Bard's MFA Thesis show proved worth the hot, dusty trip to the UBS gallery in Red Hook, NY—a pole barn transformed into a sizable exhibition space. The show featured all twenty-six members of the 2011 graduating class working with, and between, the mediums of drawing, installation, painting, photography, sculpture, text, and video.

Natalie Häusler's work would typically be identified as installation, however the artist conceived of her thesis project as a type of expanded-field painting. For the piece We are getting a little bit too close here, the artist examined interior design and architecture, borrowing marks and color palettes from tiles as well as cropped graphic forms found in educational institutions. Covering constructed walls, flooring, and shelves, her gridded and layered composition remains within, and strays outside of, self-prescribed bounds. Using disparate mediums such as laser prints, fabric, vinyl tiles, and acrylic paint, Häusler draws attention to the surfaces of these physical structures, while simultaneously delving into illusionistic space. Ultimately, the piece exhibits its own self-consciousness—calling attention to its context as an institutional site of art education.

A selection from Chris Austin's Notations project, on display in a dedicated room, belongs to a highly sculptural strain of contemporary photography. The project draws from an archive of 501 black and white photographs shot at the artist's childhood home in Chicago over the past seven years. An image of the backyard, Untitled, is the largest and most prominent. In it, a central form that appears to be both static and moving is shrouded in black cloth and surrounded by fallen leaves, barren tree branches, and a blank white sky. Other smaller pieces in the series are multiple-exposure amalgams of shots taken from different vantage points inside of the house—the additive results of 27, 35, 59, or all 501 photographs generate curious and minimal geometric forms. The blurriness of their edges and status as abstraction supports Austin's aim—to create a kind of prosthesis for memory, while delving into the murky space between what is tangible and intangible. He trades in mystery and obscurity, resisting full disclosure of his subject matter. The aesthetic is dark and ominous, presenting memory, time, and space as unknowable, otherworldly specters.

Reminiscent of Postminimalist Gordon Matta-Clark's (and more recently, Monica Bonvicini's) propensity for breaking surfaces or slicing through architecture, Adam Marnie enacts smaller, serial acts of aesthetic destruction that engage both the mechanisms of photography and the languages of sculpture and painting. In the main UBS gallery, his Camera Incidere spans four walls spaced at set intervals. Together, the walls and the artworks hung on them manipulate the distance between a windowed roll-gate and a large photo-collage at the back of the room. Each of the intermediary walls are linked by mounted drawings and photographs that breach their own frames, display constructed fissures in drywall, and allow the viewer to gaze through aperture-like peep-holes. The work changes according to the conditions of the gallery—the amount of light at a given time of day alters the overall effect. As its title reveals, the piece is, in part, an investigation of optics and the act of looking. Given that "incidere" means to incise, affect, or record, it is as if Marnie has materialized the impact of light—leaving its imagined, forceful trace on sequential partitions.

Some of the most promising works in this thesis exhibition displayed a resistance to, and questioning of, the confines of one primary medium of choice. Amongst many Bard alums, there is a long-standing joke that its best photographers are sculptors, and vice-versa. In this year's culminating presentation, these three artist standouts resoundingly supported the claim. -- Kristen Chappa

Jul 27, 2011

Under Destruction III

Left: Jonathan Schipper, To Dust, 2009-2010, cement, steel, electric motor, approximately 64 x 42 x 40 inches. Courtesy of Pierogi, New York. Right: Ariel Schlesinger, Untitled (Bubble Machine), 2006, wood, electric drill, ladder, soap, cooking gas, grill, transformer, stool, glass, approximately 90 x 78 x 82 inches.

At the Swiss Institute, 18 Wooster Street
June 29 - August 7, 2011

If you haven't already done so, it's time to visit the Swiss Institute for the last two weeks of the stellar exhibition Under Destruction curated by Gianni Jetzer and Chris Sharp. The current collection of works is the final in a three part series, the Swiss Institute's solution to programming a show that was previously installed in the much larger galleries of the Museum Tinguely in Basel. The curatorial impetus was the fifty-first anniversary of Swiss artist Jean Tinguely's Homage to New York, an auto-destructive machine for the sculpture garden at MoMA which has become especially famous for having not actually self-destructed. In the third iteration of Under Destruction, it's not so much the intended nihilism or end game of Tinguely's project that weighs heavily as it is the positing of destruction as a necessary and constitutive force.  

The destruction in this show is controlled and at times, exceptionally slow. In one work, two classical figures in concrete are suspended from the ceiling, swinging ever so slightly by way of a motorized mechanism. Swaying out-of-sync, they come into contact, gently grinding one another's forms away. It's clear from a thin layer of dust collecting beneath them that their complete obliteration is hardly imminent. And neither is it for Kris Martin's sculpture, a bronze ball marked with the words: TEN BOMBS WILL EXPLODE IN 2104. Marking gradual or deferred processes of annihilation, these pieces can't help but speak to a death drive, the "destructive" or "dissimilatory" impulse Freud identified in his patients as both a regulating force and an ultimate desire to return to an original inorganic state.  

Ariel Schlesinger's Untitled (Bubble Machine) channels the Arte Povera artist Gilberto Zorio in its assemblage of "poor"—or at least banal—materials into a machine for quasi-alchemical transformation. Through its various cogs, valves, and electrical currents, perfectly formed bubbles are produced, one-by-one and upon contact with an electrically charged grill they are set on fire. It's an exquisite piece in which the theatricality of a small explosion is as much of a guilty pleasure as a fragile, free-floating bubble. In Alexander Gutke's The White Light of the Void, blank film runs through a projector, casting a yellowing light onto a suspended projection screen. Gutke simulates the deterioration of the film with an image of the celluloid distorting and eventually burning right through to return a blank image. Like Schlesinger's Bubble Machine, Gutke stages the repetitive, mechanical decomposition of form. The process of imaging destruction begins again. -- Alicia Ritson

Jul 7, 2011

Morgan Fisher

( ), 2003, 16mm film, film stills. Courtesy of Galerie Daniel Buchholz.

At The Artist's Institute, 163 Eldridge Street
June 5, 2011

Born in 1942, Morgan Fisher is an American filmmaker, artist, writer, and teacher, who makes unique avant-garde films that consistently push the definition of film itself. His 16mm piece entitled ( ), 2003, was recently curated into a screening of his works at The Artist's Institute by Hunter graduate students Sean Delaney and JJ Maloney, on June 5. This is the first film that Fisher made after a twenty-year hiatus, and a brilliant one at that. Most of Fisher's works are directly concerned with the machinery of cinema; he creates systems and rules that exploit its apparatus, physical material, and production methods. ( ) is made up of nothing but inserts—precisely twenty-one minutes of found footage. His overarching rule is that no two shots from the same film appear in succession. In Hollywood, inserts traditionally show newspaper headlines, letters, and similar sorts of significant details that are included for the sake of clarity in storytelling. Inserts are above all functional, but Fisher seeks to pull them out of this role and as the artist explains, "make them visible, to release them from their self-effacing performance of drudge-work, to free them from their servitude to story." Fisher's film pieces together moments of clarity, from an image of a gun in hand to a spinning roulette table. Dramatic shots that serve as "aha" moments are removed from their original context and are revealed for what they are, not what they do, as well as their remarkable beauty. The flood of suspenseful moments in ( ) inundates viewers, sometimes creating humorous juxtapositions as well as uneasy sentiments. ( ) is an intelligent film that examines and toys with the structure of narrative film, leaving viewers unable to grasp a story line.

The Artist's Institute is a project spear-headed by Anthony Huberman, former Curator at SculptureCenter and now Distinguished Lecturer at Hunter College. Each semester graduate art history and fine arts students join Huberman in exploring an associative and open curatorial model where existing knowledge is tested, complicated, and propelled elsewhere. For approximately six months, a small selection of artworks by an anchor artist remains on view and provides a steady reference point for repeated encounter. The work is considered in today's context, and the artist is juxtaposed with a rotating series of loosely associated exhibitions and events by other relevant artists, writers, performers, filmmakers, or thinkers from around the world. I highly recommend checking out The Artist's Institute—it is a nimble and fluid operation that presents smart and provocative work. -- Misa Jeffereis

Jul 5, 2011

A Day in the Life of the Piccadilly Community Centre

A police officer enjoys the hula hoops at the opening of Christoph Büchel's Piccadilly Community Centre.

Piccadilly Community Center, Hauser & Wirth, London
May 13 - July 30, 2011

If you are in London between now and the end of July, you must visit the Piccadilly Community Centre. A project by the artist Christoph Büchel, the Piccadilly Community Centre has completely usurped the historic Sir Edwin Luytens designed bank building that is normally Hauser and Wirth Gallery. One seems to be hard-pressed to find any semblance of a blue chip contemporary art gallery in these environs. No one is pretending this is something that it isn't, yet what it is (a community center or an art installation, or both) somewhat depends on how you approach and engage it.

The exterior has placards advertising space for rent, check-cashing and the Conservative Party. A defunct check cashing office occupies the "lobby". The day I visited, I was welcomed by a warm and friendly man who was offering free Mediterranean food he had prepared in the kitchen. I didn't ask, but I imagine that it might have been made during the 12 pm cooking class that was on the calendar that day. A group of youngsters were making art in the art room (that I think sometimes doubled as a gym), a guitar lesson was taking place in the ballroom, and a few art tourists like myself were milling around the building. The prayer room had a sign that said it was in use so I didn't enter and the counseling room was vacant. I did linger in the canteen and perused literature about donating blood, the benefits of prenatal yoga, and identity protection on the Internet. I took the liberty of checking my email on one of the computers in the computer lab that had a steady stream of users both young and old. And after browsing in the Geranium Shop which benefits the Fund for the Blind, I bought two children's books and a copy of an English translation of Michel Houellebecq's Atomized. The cashier was enthusiastic about my choices. I must admit I avoided contact with the person staffing the Conservative Party Archive that shared space with the thrift shop. I did venture up a ladder to the roof and attic and wandered around a squat that was so precisely rendered I was expecting to interrupt its inhabitants as I peered around a ratty sheet hung from the rafters. Oddly, outside on the roof, there is a clean-cut young guy sitting on a chair reading a book. He would have looked perfectly at home as a gallery attendant — as of course that is what he was. Down in the basement where the disco and bar are located, having been tipped to open the door marked "private", I found the janitors' room complete with stacks of paper towels, party decorations, old versions of safety procedures, tools, and perhaps as Büchel's embedded self-portrait, a collection of cuckoo clocks.

Büchel is known for his ultra-realistic installations that expose the rifts in the social and political fabric of our societies. Beginning with an epic installation in the entirety of the Fredericianum in Kassel (Deutsche Grammatik, 2008), Büchel has increasingly pushed past the fictitious environments and more into the creation of real places that function as snags in the social fabric. Büchel has always demanded a level of engagement from his audience that goes beyond viewership, but these recent projects move more fully into the social and political realm. Piccadilly Community Centre does all of the things a community center might do, but its frame is temporal and it functions (with the collaboration of its participants and volunteers) as an artwork at the same time. The Conservative Party Archive suggests a critique of the current regime's abandonment of social responsibility and the project implies that the space between Büchel's fictional squat and janitor's closet and the "real" canteen and the computer lab maybe much narrower than we think. --Mary Ceruti

Jun 30, 2011

If you lived here, you'd be home by now

Left: Blinky Palermo, Projektion (Projection), 1971, screenprint on paper, 15 3/4 x 15 3/4 inches. Installation view at SculptureCenter. Right: Imi Knoebel, Projektion X (1971-72), still from video.

CCS Bard Hessel Museum of Art, Annandale-on-Hudson, NY
June 25 - December 26, 2011

Occasioned by the Blinky Palermo: Retrospective 1964-1977 on view at the Hessel Museum and Dia Beacon, If you lived here, you'd be home by now is an unusual curatorial collaboration between CCS Bard Executive Director Tom Eccles, Dia Art Foundation Curator-at-Large Lynne Cooke, and artist Josiah McElheny. Having culled from both the Hessel collection and the private collection of Marieluise Hessel, the project proceeds by way of domestic mis-en-scene as the viewer encounters furnished interiors that prompt particular vantage points and moods.

Featuring historically influential furniture designs by R.M. Schindler, Frederick Kiesler, and Jean Prouvé, among others, the viewer is encouraged to sit, lounge, and lay about while taking in signature works by Palermo's contemporaries—including Gerhard Richter, Sigmar Polke, and Imi Knoebel—as well as major works from the Hessel collection by the likes of Franz West, Christopher Wool, and Rosemarie Trockel. It's an intriguing, thoughtful, and playful setup that feels almost like the unfolding of a long weekend passed in convivial conversation with occasional moments of solitary reflection. Including newly commissioned works by McElheny (part of a great SC panel last year at Vera List Center for Arts and Politics with Johanna Burton and William Pope.L), the project continues a series of exceptional interventions in the collection at CCS Bard organized by Tom Eccles. From Martin Creed's exhibition FEELINGS, 2007, to Rachel Harrison's Consider the Lobster And Other Essays, 2009, Eccles has extended some of the most adventurous curatorial invitations in terms of collaboration and working with a collection. The current collaboration with McElheny is no different. Highlights of this moveable feast-like exhibition also include recent Hessel acquisitions of works by Chantal Akerman, Moyra Davey, Michel Auder, RH Quaytman, and an amazing new video Jason Simon with furniture design by McElheny.

One of the most interesting pieces chosen from the collection by the trio of curators, and shown here for the first time, is a series of gelatin silver prints by Imi Knoebel from his Projektion works from the period of 1969-71 which include nocturnal projections done both inside and outside of the studio. An excerpt of Knoebel photos shown within the exhibition is stunning and directly relates to the work Projektion, 1971 by Blinky Palermo, on view at SculptureCenter in Time Again and at CCS Bard. From Knoebel's live Intermedia performance in 1969 through to his under-known video collaboration Projektion X, 1972, done in collaboration with video art pioneer Gerry Schum, the use of projection was a central area of experimentation for Knoebel that took place both in the confines of the studio and in a kind of temporary public iconography imprinted upon the urban landscape. Knoebel's investigation clearly played a part in his close friendship with Blinky Palermo and no doubt exerted an influence on Palermo's own projected work but also reveals an interesting complement to Palermo's institutional interventions that I will take up in more depth. This connection between Knoebel and Palermo came up during a recent SculptureCenter conversation, Question the Wall Itself, with artists Kerstin Brätsch, Liam Gillick, and David Reed. Discussing the influence of Palermo on subsequent generations, the conversation can be listened to on our website. A later post will look again at the role of projection in Knoebel and Palermo but in the meantime go see the show at the Hessel. -- Fionn Meade

Jun 28, 2011

Apichatpong Weerasethakul: Primitive

Left: Nabua, 2009, video still (detail). Courtesy of Overgaden. Right: Primitive, 2009, video still. Courtesy of Kick the Machine Films, Bangkok.

At the New Museum for Contemporary Art, 235 Bowery
May 19 - July 3, 2011

As the title of Apichatpong Weerasethakul's recent body of work at the New Museum alludes, Primitive is in part an investigation into the address of time. At one point in the eponymous two-channel video installation, a youth, when asked if he is aware that he has access to the future and the past, explains that people only care about what is yet to come (The questioner colludes, by pressing the youth for winning lottery numbers). Primitive is a collection of works that continually inhabit this problematic of how to live through a more complex sense of time, and part of Weerasethakul's ongoing talent as a filmmaker has been to slow the cinematic register right down in order to really give a sense, and produce an experience, of being in the moment.

The largest of the New Museum's installations within Primitive includes a room with four separate works, each contributing a different tempo. The installation comes across as a bricolage of moving-images pertaining to the Northern Thailand town of Nabua and its contemporary youth as they negotiate the boredom and the complicated sociopolitical history that are part of life in this border town region. Each screen has a dedicated focus: an orblike form rises and falls, staying close to the earth; a group of men casually shoot out into the open jungle; a time machine is being built; forms of light and fire are cultivated and manipulated. Subsequently, each view manifests a different camera technique. The contrasts between these techniques produces enough of a tension to highlight the act of watching itself, especially interesting when one considers this in relation to Weerasethakul's Palme d'Or winning Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives. The filmmaker's feature-length film is both a part of the multi-platform Primitive project, and in some ways the culmination of these smaller works concerning the younger generation of Weerasethakul's hometown. Operating through both documentary and fictional registers, the overall exhibition resists overreaching and stepping into magical realism, delicately finding a balance between mythology, imaginative life, and the everyday. -- Alicia Ritson

Jun 21, 2011

Gwen Allen: Artists' Magazines

Left: Artists' Magazines: An Alternative Space for Art by Gwen Allen, MIT Press, 2011. Middle: Aspen, no. 5+6, Fall 1967, edited and designed by Brian O'Doherty. Right: General Idea, FILE, no. 1, April 15, 1972. Photograph by David Hlynsky.

MIT Press
March 2011


Make room on your bookshelf: recently published by MIT Press, Artists' Magazines: An Alternative Space for Art is a fascinating read and indispensable resource. Gwen Allen's comprehensive text analyzes a selection of influential alternative publications from the 60s, 70s, and 80s, including 0 to 9, Art-Rite, Aspen, Avalanche, FILE, Interfunktionen, Real Life, and the early issues of Artforum. A broader directory of over one hundred international artists' magazines produced between 1945 and 1989 is also incorporated as an appendix. These publications functioned as sites for exhibiting and distributing artwork beyond established institutions, and many artists turned to periodicals as an extension of the conceptual art movement. (Articulating a loss of preciousness, Joseph Kosuth claimed in his 1968 work Second Investigation, "people can wrap dishes in my work.") Such magazines not only subverted conventions of more traditional publications and the art market, but also legal and economic systems, editorial hierarchies, and the standardization of information. FILE, a parody of LIFE magazine (brandishing a similar logo with sans-serif type on a rectangular red background), faced a legal suit from the Time-Life corporation. The multimedia publication Aspen so radically defied bureaucratic regulations of size, format, and seriality conforming to postal service schedules and advertising standards, that the U.S. Postal Service revoked its second-class mail license on the grounds that it did not qualify as a magazine. In calling Aspen a magazine, editor and founder Phyllis Glick (née Johnson) insisted that the 3D box containing disparate items such as films, records, unbound texts, jigsaw puzzles, and blueprints "hark[ed] back to the original meaning of the word as a storehouse, a cache, a ship laden with stores."

During these formative years of self-publishing, content creators set out to transform the medium of the magazine itself, opening onto possibilities for later interventions and experimentation, a topic of discussion at the June 11 panel discussion Volume Number, co-presented by Printed Matter and Triple Canopy. Allen, Colby Chamberlain (Triple Canopy), Paul Chan (Badlands Unlimited), Angie Keefer (The Serving Library), Matt Keegan (North Drive Press), and David Platzker (Specific Object) participated in a conversation about contemporary publishing practices. Despite an earlier affinity with the dematerialization of art as well as more recent trends toward sweeping digitization, many artists involved with self-publishing today retain a strong interest in materiality. Current production of artists' periodicals frequently lie at intersections between the physical and digital, negotiating ephemeral and archival impulses while maintaining the artists' magazine as sculptural and even performative space. Artists' Magazines: An Alternative Space for Art will undoubtedly prompt further research and response into this rich yet under-examined territory. -- Kristen Chappa

Jun 10, 2011

Three Days in Venice

Clockwise from top left: Karla Black. Image courtesy of Contemporary Art Daily. Nairy Baghramian. Allora and Calzadilla, image via NYmag.com. R.H. Quaytman, image via Contemporary Art Daily. GELITIN, image via Frieze.com. Hany Armanious, image via 01 Blog. Ayse Erkman, image via Designboom.

At the Venice Biennale
June 4 - November 27, 2011


Three days in Venice during the opening of the Biennale is only enough time to see a fraction of the exhibitions and artist projects that have been mounted as part of or in conjunction with the Biennale. The main exhibition ILLUMInazioni - ILLUMInations curated by Bice Curiger, contained few surprises although it had a larger proportion of young artists than in recent years. It is a very elegant show with many artists that will be familiar to American and European audiences. A few of my favorites: An installation of sculpture by Nairy Baghramian in the Central Pavilion suggested elements of a restaurant kitchen that have been cast, stripped of their function and reassembled. The sculptures are odd, unbalanced and seem to resist categorization as furniture, architecture or even sculpture. Their compelling material presence and form echo the figure but remain a bit unstable in terms of our ability to recognize them. The GELITIN performance installation in the Giardino delle Vergini in which they have set up an encampment centered around a kiln where they will spend the summer melting glass. It was playful, absurd and an apt metaphor for the creative process. Our friend and SC exhibiting artist, R. H. Quaytman has a beautiful room of new work in the Central Pavilion that continued her interest in light and painting both as a matter of art history and optics. In the Arsenale, Carol Bove made a beautiful installation on a giant room sized plinth that considered the principles and problems of sculpture and its display from multiple positions. Some artists that I would like to see more of: Amalia Pica, Yto Barrada, Antonio Lauer, and Haroon Mirza.

As far as the national pavilions, anyone with an interest in sculpture will want to see Hany Armanious' exhibition at the Australian pavilion. Armanious' sculptures reference masterworks of modern sculpture in juxtaposition with trash and the most mundane of objects. Critical and reverent at the same time, this pavilion stood out for its quiet thoughtfulness. Ayse Erkmen (SculptureCenter Artist-in-Residence 2005) is representing Turkey with an elaborate sculptural installation about Venices (and all cities') complex relationship with water. A functioning water filtration system pulls water from the nearby canal and purifies it only to return it to the ocean. Karla Black's abstract sculptures at the Scottish Pavilion made from soap, cosmetics, paper and dirt feel like they may dissolve despite their insistent materiality. Israeli artist Yael Bartana's trilogy of films "And Europe will be stunned..." on view in the Polish Pavilion reflect the tense status of the Polish-Jewish relations but perhaps more generally the complexities of national territorialism, cultural integration and political organizing. The films revolve around the activities of the Jewish Renaissance Movement in Poland, a political movement Bartana initiated that calls for the return of 3,300,000 Jews to the Polish homeland. Finally, Allora and Calzadilla's exhibition at the American Pavilion was one of the more experimental efforts on show. The upside down tank cum treadmill was a monumental sculptural (and aural) presence in the Giardini. -- Mary Ceruti

Jun 3, 2011

Calimari e Campari

R. H. Quaytman, Spine, Chapter 20 (Ark / Eggerer, Cohen), 2010, oil, silkscreen ink, gesso on wood, 32 3/8 x 52 3/8 inches. Courtesy die Künstlerin & Miguel Abreu Gallery, New York.

Basking in the glow of "calimari and campari" (as a friend recently described one of the distinctive charms of Venice) and Director Bice Curiger's Biennale, the artworld's path will soon shift to Art Basel, and there are a number of things to look forward to, including R.H. Quaytman's exhibition Spine, Chapter 20 at Kunsthalle Basel. This exhibition follows on last year's excellent show with Moyra Davey which opened during Basel, Speaker Receiver, yet another sign of strength on the part of Director Adam Szymczyk's program. And there's also a mid-career survey of Danish artist Henrik Olesen's work not to be missed at the Kunstmuseum Basel, while the Schaulager has Francis Alÿs's Fabiola for those that might have missed it at the Dia Art Foundation in 2007. And those are just a few of the things pre-Basel to check out. Within Art Basel there's a number of things I'm looking forward to, including a spate of Art Statements projects, including artists we've worked with here at SC in the past year Uri Aran, Alex Hubbard, and Alexandre Singh, who all contributed to last summer's Knight's Move, but also new work from Lisa Oppenheim, Kathryn Andrews, Andrea Büttner, Emily Wardill, Adam Pendleton, and Jimmy Raskin, among others.

And in the Art Unlimited section there are major projects to look forward to from Matthew Buckingham, Lucy Skaer, Michel Auder, Louise Lawler, Goshka Macuga, Deimantas Narkevičius , Allen Ruppersberg, Cathy Wilkes, James Nares, and John Baldessari, among others. And among the site-specific "Parcours" projects, I'm particularly intrigued by the promise of Joan Jonas at the Pavilion Christoph Merian Foundation and Ugo Rondinone in the St. Alban Churchyard. Needless to say, those are just a few highlights, a lot to see and take in. -- Fionn Meade

May 27, 2011

Vision is elastic. Thought is elastic.

Left: Joy Episalla, 5 Women. Freud's bookcase. London, 2011, pigment print mounted on Plexiglas. Right: David Wojnarowicz, When I Put My Hands on Your Body, 1990, gelatin silver print and silkscreen text on museum board, 26 x 38 inches.

At Murray Guy, 453 West 17th Street
April 21 - June 4, 2011

Murray Guy is currently presenting a curatorial project by Moyra Davey and Zoe Leonard, two prominent artists working in the field of photography today. Davey and Leonard selected artists whose work investigates the various intersections of photography and writing. The range of artists includes Josh Brand, Roy Colmer, Pradeep Dalal, Shannon Ebner, Joy Episalla, William Gedney, Roni Horn, Katherine Hubbard, Babette Mangolte, Mark Morrisroe, Adrian Piper, Claire Pentecost, James Welling, and David Wojnarowicz.

With these diverse photographic works, Davey and Leonard sought to present the symbiotic relationship of text and image. The interchangeability and fluidity of these two forms of communication take on many forms within artistic practice. A highlight was David Wojnarowicz's When I Put My Hands on Your Body (1990), which consists of a black-and-white photograph of skeletons overlaid with red text describing the sensation of touching the flesh of another person, likely his lover Peter Hujar. Wojnarowicz creates a disjunction between the words and the image, which unexpectedly do not correspond. James Welling's Diary of Elizabeth and James Dixon (1840-41)/Connecticut Landscapes (1977-86) is a series of diaristic, pedestrian photographs of the outdoors paired with a journal entry. Welling presents the complementary relationship of image and text, both serving to record a personal memory. Another standout piece was Shannon Ebner's Notebook Pages (2009), comprising ten framed C-prints of lined notebook pages, empty of words. In sequence, each page becomes progressively darker (exposed to more light) perhaps signaling the writing potential or fullness of each. Finally, Roni Horn writes on—or in the case of Still Water (The River Thames, For Example) (1999), footnotes—a photograph in its margins. Miniscule numbers spatter a photograph of the River Thames, with comments such as "I sometimes suspect the Thames of being water" or "The Thames is you." Davey and Leonard not only highlight the various ways that writing and photography overlap in artist practices and contemporary culture, but also the use of the camera as a writing instrument. -- Misa Jeffereis

May 16, 2011

Emily Roysdon: A Gay Bar Called Everywhere

Left: Neal Medlyn performing "Unpronounceable Symbol" (photo by Steven Schreiber). Middle: Aretha Aoki performing Vanessa Anspaugh's "We are Weather." Right: Jibz Cameron as Dynasty Handbag.

At the Kitchen, 512 West 19th Street
May 6 - May 7, 2011

Emily Roysdon's A Gay Bar Called Everywhere (With Costumes and No Practice) recently ran for two consecutive nights at The Kitchen to sold out audiences. Roysdon's practice, now ten years old in New York, consistently demonstrates a deep commitment to collaboration. As principal artist, she designed the set and provided a rough conceptual frame for the performance, but then allowed a coterie of peers to take center stage. K8 Hardy, JD Samson, and AL Steiner were among those invited to imagine the author, literary theorist, and political activist Susan Sontag seated at a table in a gay bar, watching her life and works depicted over the compressed timeframe of a single evening. Highlights included a rendition of Miley Cyrus's "Wake Up America" by Neal Medlyn, who emphatically sang and danced while awkwardly adjusting a short, hot pink shirt-dress. Other standouts were Aretha Aoki and Vanessa Anspaugh's dance/spoken word piece that examined the complex relationship that exists between artistic collaborators, as well as Jibz Cameron and Sacha Yanow's homage to Dorothy Arzner, the first openly lesbian Hollywood film director. Taking Arzner's 1940 film Dance, Girl, Dance as a point of departure, Cameron performed an inspired, spastic parody of Lucille Ball that concatenated disparate physical vocabularies such as jitterbug and contemporary club moves. Using reenactment, impersonation, and drag in order to reanimate different time periods, A Gay Bar Called Everywhere offered reflection on the inheritance of queer history, and ultimately questioned the nature of current queer concerns. -- Kristen Chappa

Apr 28, 2011

Rosalind Nashashibi

Jack Straw's Castle, 2009, 16mm film, color, sound, 17 minutes. Courtesy of the artist and Tulips & Roses, Brussels.

Rosalind Nashashibi, an artist in SculptureCenter's upcoming exhibition, Time Again, is concerned with aspects of rehearsal and performance, most demonstrably in her 16mm film Jack Straw's Castle, a centerpiece of her solo exhibition at the ICA in London in 2009. This earlier work contextualizes This Quality (2010), Nashashibi's featured piece in Time Again, which also deals with the spectator's gaze and challenges linearity, duration, and continuity in filmmaking: concepts at the core of the artist's explorations.

Jack Straw's Castle is divided into two parts. In the first, a forested gay cruising spot on Hampstead Heath is occupied by silhouettes at dusk and self-conscious glances at the artist's partially concealed camera. In its second half, Nashashibi films a behind-the-scenes view of film lights and technicians at night. Their apparent task is to fake a golden glow in the dark and vacant woods. We learn that the director character in this second half is, in fact, Nashashibi's mother. Hampstead is not a likely place to take one's mother, and the conjunction of sexuality and family is disturbingly off-putting. In both parts of the film, the milieu is male and the rules of the ritual being enacted remain enigmatic to the viewer, especially the female viewer, whose gaze is both an invasion of privacy and an invitation to perform. Having seen the second half of the film, we become aware of the carefully constructed ruse. Nashashibi informs us that we are the actors performing in this play. -- Misa Jeffereis

Apr 22, 2011

Mark Morrisroe: From This Moment On

Left: Untitled, (undated). Middle: Untitled, 1988, colorized gelatin silver print, photogram of X-ray. Right: Blow Both of Us, Gail Thacker and Me, Summer 1978.

At Artists Space, 38 Greene Street, 3rd Floor
March 9 - May 1, 2011

This first comprehensive exhibition of Mark Morrisroe (1959-1989) offers a playful yet melancholy body of photographs and related ephemera from an immense talent and extraordinary persona. Inextricably imbued with his social experience and circle of friends, the work on view chronicles Morrisroe's work and life as his images feature friends, lovers, and the everyday. From polaroids to photograms, cyanotypes, and hand-painted prints, the iconography Morrisroe is at times elegaic, melodramatic, hilarious, and haunting. This is a great show and features early efforts (including the zine Dirt) and last experiments. In particular, Morrisroe's late engagement with the photogram extend and vary his ongoing experiments with printing techniques in brilliant ways. Beginning in the mid-1980s and continuing through to his last days, the photograms evince Morrisroe's restless technique, pushing the imprinted nature of the photographic image as a contact surface to the forefront. And, in this way, they betray a more playful if still elegiac vein to his later work. Chest X-rays showing the pneumonia he had contracted due to the complications of advanced AIDS, for example, are repurposed into a retouched triptych where saturated orange, pink, green, and blue tones preside along with the marks of his rough handling of the surface with acidic colors and caustic dyes; the three side profiles of his emaciated body give off a semi-transparent glow as Morrisroe transposes the evidence of his deteriorating body—recalled by his name and patient ID visible in the upper right hand corner of each composition—into a pulsing abstraction that still gives off a virtual heat.

And while another X-ray image of his cupped hand is more easily read as frail and deathly, two separate hand photograms show Morrisroe playfully pushing his hands on technique: one captures the pink outlined impression of a hand mimicking horns offset by a scumbled blue background and smoky foreground, and yet another captures the gesture of handgun outlined in white against black but with a receding depth inside the hand's impression. These are the kind of images that you can immediately conjure even in their absence. And the exhibition is one that resonates long after. Don't miss it. -- Fionn Meade

Apr 8, 2011

Sergej Jensen

Left: Untitled, 2005, linen. Courtesy Anton Kern Gallery, NY. Middle: Untitled, 2011, sewn fabrics. Photo by Matthew Septimus. Right: Blessed, 2008, sewn cashmere and thread. Collection of Charlotte and Bill Ford.

At MoMA P.S.1, 22-25 Jackson Avenue, Long Island City
January 23 - May 2, 2011

Sergej Jensen's solo exhibition at MoMA PS1 features over twenty recent paintings that cross into multiple genres, approaches, and temporalities. The artist subtly incorporates a broad range of additive and subtractive materials, including saffron, diamond dust, and chorine bleach, to create what he has described as "painting without paint". Although not entirely accurate—Jensen also uses a variety of oil, acrylic, and gouache—his most dominant medium is, in fact, cloth. Fabrics such as burlap, linen, cashmere, wool, and silk riff off the ubiquitous canvas support and effect shifts in color and texture. Here, the domain of painting co-mingles with the realm of textiles and craft, further underscored by Jensen's use of quilt-like collage, monochrome beading, and repetitious marks that mimic pattern design. The artist evokes many elements of modernism, oscillating from gestural works with large swaths of fabric standing in for brushstrokes, to minimal pieces that recall Agnes Martin's early paintings or Blinky Palermo's Stoffbilder. Jensen's interdisciplinary method and assertion of surface also reinforces his work's three-dimensional objecthood, thus rejecting essentialist or endgame thinking associated with modern painting. Many of his weathered surfaces have a human quality—imperfect with stains or small punctures, their scars retain a visual record of their forming, yet are unclear in their exact origin, age, and status as readymade or handmade. The relevance of Jensen's paintings lies in a hybridity that is sited between intention and accident, the artist's hand and industrial production, the historic and the contemporary. -- Kristen Chappa