Monday, March 5, 2007


The ADAA fair was far superior in quality and presentation compared to Armory and Scope. The amount of booths showing was tolerable and space in between isles were breathable. Majority of works exhibited were what you'd find in art history books from early 20th century to postmodern, from Picasso to Fred Sandback and a minimal display of emerging art. The crowd attending the fair differed greatly from whatever people watching I encountered at the other fairs: bourgeois deep pocketed retired individuals with heavy makeup covering layers of wrinkles and enough perfume to rid the odor of a hobbit.
Some highlights:
Fred Sandback at David Zwirner, 2 strings attached to the wall down to the floor, abstract and minimal, a direct encounter between viewer and work as we share the same space, emphasizing the lack of volume and the space it doesn't occupy. A poor space to exhibit since the sculpture is heavily based on its communication with its environment. The pieces are so much more appropriate in a setting like Dia Beacon where they can reveal their significance with more freedom and impact. It was awkward and visually limiting to see the piece in an art fair booth environment.
Cy Twombly at L&M Fine Arts for $485,000. His works are commonly described as graffiti, with an inscriptive nature that is illegible but maintains the gesture of writing, which makes me wonder: is he communicating within a mindset of a child limited in vocabulary and the outcome is merely frustrated scribbles of nonsense and hysteria?
Rona Pondick's Cat at Sonnabend. I found it grotesque, menacing and disturbingly androgynous.
John Currin at John Bergmen Gallery. I found this grotesque and disturbing as well. But not as bad as his disfigured and heinously morphed females.

My most admired Egon Schiele at Galerie St. Etienne. Raw and decomposing skin colors, figures always skeletal and erotic. Merging love and death with passion and suffering. The male figure looks like Prince.
Richard Kalina at Lennon, Weinberg. Anything with geometric abstract grid patterns captures my attention. Such works lets me get lost and over-empowers me with its spellbinding movement that is a manipulative play to the eye.
Jim Hodges at CRG Gallery. Contemporary, refreshing and unconventional, created from ordinary everyday objects such as discarded clothes and chains of different widths to form spider webs along the walls. This booth received much publicity for the solo booth show and its unquiet presentation compared to the stiffer neighbors. Ephemeral meets the mundane in these conglomerative works.
Jean DuBuffet at Jeffrey H Loria & Co, INC.
I thought this was more graffiti than Cy Twombly. A mixture of what alludes automotive parts, industrial, anthropomorphic, and organic, this sculptural form was mounted on the wall like a painting but protruded off a significant amount. It's abstraction and disorganized arrangement and outlined edges were enticing.
Colin Brown at Fischbach Gallery. Process-based art, a long and tedious technique to create this photographic night city scape made from nickel on board using white powder, engraving tools, black on white background and gesso. Reminds me of the spraypainted fantasy scapes sold on the sidewalks near times square and other tourist locations.
Andy Warhol's Two Sisters (after de Chirico) from 1982, serigraph ink and acrylic on canvas. I appreciate both artists and especially love the play on color overlapping the repetitive images creating a separate entity and character for each.
Lee Krasner at Knoedler & Company. While Pollock was indulging himself with dancing paint gestures dripping away Lee Krasner was involved in a less self-centered art making practice creating grids of color and pattern influenced by hieroglyphic illustrations. The outcome is just as abstract and ambiguous as Pollocks but without the arrogance of a misogynist.
Takashi Murakami at Greenberg Van Doren. I would say its cute except it's intimidatingly large and is titled Mr. Pointy. Phallic and fuzzy don't go together too well for me.
Lesly Dill's Scrolled Torso at George Adams gallery from 1995, photo silkscreen, ink, shellar thread, wire, gauze on tea stained muslin. Too gothy, masochistic teenager angst for me but I can definitely appreciate it for its expressive technique and feminist agenda.
My newly discovered favorite: Wangechi Mutu at Sikkema Jenkins. Her collages are vibrant and intense, apocalyptic and grotesque, feminine and political, ethereal and provocative. She is also showing at the side room in the gallery. She stars in some videos and photographs in Lorna Simpson's work up now at Whitney. I am her new fan.
Shahzia Sikander also at Sikkema Jenkins: decorative floral designs mixed within cultural specifics, her drawings are delicate and refined, detailed and usually on a smaller scale in reference to miniature painting within her native culture. Her animation videos are witty and historical, with rhythmic sound affects that drum to actions of fairy tale figures and ephemeral backgrounds.

An Ad Reinhardt retro at Pace Wildenstein: colorful rectilinear abstract grids that are haphazard and spontaneous in arrangement, full of shapes and patterns that are difficult to distinguish and make sense of. I found them stubbornly organic and a bit frustrated: like he wanted to create expressive gestures that were free and unlimited but keep hindering himself within the edges of the canvas.
Jean Helion at Adler and Conkright Fine Art. A curvaceous Mondrian.
Ai Wei Wei at Robert Miller gallery. It stands 8 feet tall and 2.5 feet wide. Gigantic glazed ceramic, rebelling against the idea of a functional object. A defiant and outspoken monument.

Louis Bourgeois' Femme series at Cheim & Read. Her sculptures are deformed and passionate, making literal statements about a femininity that is culturally appropriated. Each piece is created with a sense of anger and punishment, fetishistic and sexually violent.

Overall I found ADAA to be educationally fulfilling. I got to see works that were justifiably expensive for their artistic excellence and art historical significance. Walking from booth to booth was like flipping through a disorganized art book which made it difficult to comprehend with a clear lens but was informational enough to be able to contemplate and reflect on each piece.

Thursday, March 1, 2007


I attended the Scope fair for the first time last week and unfortunately I was disappointed. It was smaller than I expected, not that I would've wanted another Armory, but I was hoping for an alternative emerging art that was engaging and refreshing. Perhaps I make it sound worse than it really is, I must give it credit for exhibiting some neat unconventional work, but for the most part I found the works at the fair over-determined and pompous.
An amusing observation were the performances that were simultaneously wandering around the booths: a taller healthy woman with white latex swimming bottoms with rings of power cords around her neck and shoulders carrying a radio starring at art and occasionally changing the channel, I overheard her say "I am my own power source" or something to that extent. Then there was a mini doll house with wheels with a skinny asian guy inside strolling around each isle taking up space, there was a sign on top "art for sale $2.00". Then there was a short lady with a black trench coat video taping herself standing and occasionally flashing a passerby, opening up her jacket to reveal a red lingerie outfit.
Few highlights:
Lisa Kereszi at Yancey Richardson. I know I'm not the only one fooled to think it was Kirsten Dunst.
Aaron Llyod at Begona Malone in Madrid. There's something simultaneously comical and eerily dark about these drawings that made me laugh and turn up my eyebrows at the same time.

At Lincart booth, didn't catch artist name. Really annoying when you exhibit for a fair and think you're too good to put labels on the wall. Contradictory isn't it? This I thought was a mix between painted sea shells and painted fake nails.

At Magnan Enrich, medium: cockroaches and crushed flies.
Will Ryman's "Lovers" at Marlborough, made from magic sculpt, resin, acrylic paint, and copper. I think picture makes for a perfect postcard. Their undulating body and oversized head with tribal face features are contradictory but make for an overall amorous sculpture.
Roman de Salvo's "Naughty Pine" at Steve Turner Contemporary. Three natural circular shapes have been cut and mechanized to pop in and out of the wood panel. And given a sexual pun of a title, it's not all that convincing and is rather vulgar and obnoxious.
Alan Rath at Bryce Wolkowitz, a video sculptor with an MIT degree in electrical engineering. Far more intriguing than 3 wooden knobs playing whack-a-mole, this piece screens eyes that are at wrong ends framed by glasses, moving in all directions as if in mode of surveillance. It brings up subject of isolation, paranoia, and is as humorous as it is challenging.
And my favorite from the fair: Wu Junyong's animation dvd at Chinese Contemporary. He also has a show at the new york gallery on 24th street until March 22nd. Part of the "Opera Series", the animation depicts Chinese culture and specifically narrows on the behaviors of politicians and a changing state of society in contemporary China. The artist mocks and satirizes specific symbols and actions of Chinese culture by engaging nude men with red dunce caps to dance and frolic about a stage giving a performance that is surreal and perverse, backed by beats that coincide with each movement/scene.
Scope fair was overall a neat circus freak show with trinkets and curiosities, an entertaining past time event to satisfy the bored and the restless.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Armory: hypersensory labyrinth

The Armory Show was as I would've expected: massive, disorienting and overwhelmingly cramped. I didn't quite know where to begin upon being exposed to endless isles of compartmentalized spaces with narrow paths and came real close to turning around and giving into my claustrophobic weakness. It was a familiar experience I've had in walking into Walmart in York, Pennsylvania: gluttonous consumption overload. But I persevered and eventually found my peace slowly pacing through each space and concentrating on one piece at a time (which is very difficult when in your periphery are constellations of art to distract you).
Some highlights:
Linder Sterling at Stuart Shave/Modern Art, a rock cult figure of the hay days, made cover art for Buzzcocks and is known to be best buddies with Morissey, works with collage and mockingly comments on femininity and equalizes female body to commodities of american culture. Her collage works were also part of Matthew Higgs' curated show 'Deconstruction' at Barbara Gladstone this past summer where I first encountered her cynical raunchy images of discombobulated, 'deconstructed' bodily features, and here every female body is topped with a rose with genitals fully exposed, appropriated symbol of romance and sexiness directly onto fetishized body.
Marina Abramovic at Sean Kelley, I'd like to find out if this is related to the performance of the same title or just a staged photograph. I think she looks magnificent. A cinderella in disguise.

Robert Miller dedicated their space to Yayoi Kusama, best known for her obsession with polka dots (a result from hallucinating about them as a child) and mirror boxes that reflect off each other and reveal a world of stainless steel balls and peepholes for your sensory satisfaction. It's amusing and there were two of them at the booth that people couldn't tear themselves away from sticking cameras through the hole to take pictures, etc. Along the wall were shelves of polka-dotted wormy phallic creatures bunched into nests and compartmentalized, perhaps a reflection of the claustrophobic art fair, the serialization, unity and chaos. Or perhaps its just her continual fascination with fantasy, childish doodle creations, the japanese animated world reflected and vibrating in our very real mundane world.

Her silkscreen on canvas drawings were refreshing, finally something other than dots. A series of them were lined against the outside wall of the booth, and each seemed to have its own narrative, again a childish doodle of an imaginary world, otherwise they were patterns of jagged lines going across the canvas creating a flow from one to the other. A serial continuation of faces and lines with what seems like critter legs created a dreamy out of body experience I enjoyed very much and would have to say it is my favorite booth of the fair.

Gabriela Vanga's "Pavel" at Plan B. I thought it amusing that the gallery name coincided so well with this piece (plan b being a brand for emergency contraception). Only a matter of time before new life is (un)born.

Olaf Breuning at Kodama Osaka, a swiss artist assimilating the cute animated world of japan in miniature pottery sculptures with eyes. I would've loved to take one home.

Lucas Samaras at Pace Wildenstein, his cut paper drawing with hands emerging from each side presenting an object that gets mixed with the array of semi circle lines within the plane. The intricacy of cut paper patterns always intrigues me, as did his Reconstruction #41 made of clashing fabrics collaged and layered, chaotic and personal, gridded but disorderly, and emotionally charged.
Michal Rovner's Mathematics 3 also at Pace, a video projected onto blank book pages covered in a glass box standing on a pedestal. An animation on numbers as rows mini figures jump and merge into each other in a rhythmic dance of addition and separation. Its the book come alive as if under a spell demonstrating its calculating capabilities.

Thomas Hirschorn at Arndt & Partner, politically charged gruesome intoxicating images of deformities and annequins stuffed with disease. Fulfills the savory needs of this society of the spectacle. I couldn't stop whirling around the installation starring at each picture of deranged faces and bodies. That instinctual need to experience and relish in the suffering and on top of it all a collage of phrases that caption all around the piece like subliminal messages dictating our thought process.
Julian Opie at Lisson Gallery, video animation of a gyrating nude, minimal and hypnotizing.
Georg Herold at Friedrich Petzel. It's made of caviar and lacquer. Abstract but looks like a topographic aerial view of some obscure croissant-shaped island surrounded by white sea.
And finally, Tony Matelli's zombie monkey at Leo Konig. I'm sure many sympathized with his state of being after parading around the fair.

Overall, I enjoyed the art all taken out of context and jumbled together in a flea market setting. There was a curatorial string of any sort that tied everything together, just a chaotic conglomeration of salable commodities. But for those gathered for amusement and eye candy it was beyond satisfactory.
More later on ADAA and Scope.

Friday, February 9, 2007

James Siena at Pace Prints

images from Pace Prints website

Above the Josef Albers and Donald Judd show is a selection of prints by James Siena whose intricate abstract pattern making is mind-boggling. I love being able to immerse myself into these abstract geometric patterns, failing to let my eyes focus on one point and just getting lost within the lines and colors and shapes. And there is always the urge to go home and copy a repetitive square within square within square pattern and see if it comes out in the same effect as Siena creates. There's a simplicity and exactitude with which he executes the works that really is respectable and thoughtful IMO. It's fine-art-doodling at its best, comparable to Sol Lewitt and Sophie Taeuber.

Thursday, February 8, 2007

Sugimoto's "Good, Better, Best"

Hiroshi Sugimoto's talk at Guggenheim last wednesday, as part of series titled "Good, Better, Best: Perspective on Connoisseurship" where artists share their perspective on judging art and securing themselves through self-promotion titling their work the best, of course.
Sugimoto was a most humorously witty, small and humble man with a touch of broken english, sharing his working process and the various photographic series he's created over the years. A documentary video was included showing his studio, his medium, and ongoing projects all over the world.
From the beginning of the lecture he emphasizes that there is no correct standard to judging art, that we may think it has to do with art history, curators, or the art market but in the end there is no appropriate scale that evenly and fairly judges art.
From there he told the lifeline of his art making history, his interest in time and space consciousness, using photography to measure and observe (which reminded me of maholy-nagy and josef albers except working in different mediums, a future paper topic perhaps).
He deals mostly in black and white photography and he does this because "color is too simple and easy" and how the human eye must be trained to see in black and white.
Here are some images that exemplify his interest in 2 tones, time exposure, and space awareness:

image from hirshhorn website

Sugimoto’s seascapes transpire through time, literally through camera lens exposure, which can last for hours. The emphasis on the crisp horizon line, of 2 polarizing elements equally dividing the picture plane creates a ethereal union, a peaceful junction of opposite spaces joined to create a beautiful abstracted view on nature.

image from hirshhorn wesbite

Sugimoto’s time lapsed photographs of theaters share the same interest in space and time as the artist opens the shutter for the entire length of a film and produce the finished image which displays a starkly blank white screen. This void is coincided with the emptiness of the theater, and the over-decorated walls which creates a distance that is objective and solitary. The viewer is observes the empty theater with an empty screen and is left to wonder how to go about interpreting such contemplated seclusion.

image from hirshhorn website

Sugimoto’s early series on panoramas of the Museum of Natural History was created out of curiosity and as a reaction to what he thought was “weird, interesting, and wrong”. A staged natural environment pretending to be real is photographed and then further deceives the viewer to think it’s actually real, more convincing than actually standing behind the glass pane at the museum.

image from hirshhorn website

In the portraits from Madame Tussauds museum in London, Sugimoto recreates a non-existing presence of old world figures and followed technical painting details of portrait painters of the day. The artist mentioned he will only take a portrait of you if you are dead and made into a wax figure. Hilarious.
Currently Sugimoto is working on a series where he creates the negative print of an old bought paper print. A leaf on paper work he bought that originated from late 19th century or so is then photographed to reveal it’s negative appeal. He’s proud to reiterate that this is the first time in history that these prints have been manipulated on and reworked.

Overall the lecture he gave at Guggenheim was educational, an overview coming from the artist himself, which was enlightening seeing how it’s easy to misinterpret an artist’s intention.