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.