Sunday, January 27, 2008

Accidental Modernism at Leslie Tonkonow

A group show consisting of works created in the last century, titled Accidental Modernism on view at Leslie Tonkonow gallery. A very well curated show based on the theme of artist appropriating their voice onto found, or happen chance materials, manipulating found products to incorporate and incise with their individual expressions. A vast range of artists from Jean Tinguely and Rudolf Stingel to Keith Tyson and a collaboration with Reena Spaulings, Bernadette Corporation and others.
Each work coincide in their interest with ambivalence and abstraction, transcending the interpretable, creating witty nonsense, yet separating with each other as very separate singular entities. They communicate the same concepts in different dimensions.
Bill Morrison's video "Light is Coming" is ethereal and dreamy, with a couple scenes superimposed, a stop animation of paintings, similar to the works of Jacco Olivier. A horse, a man and a woman make appearances throughout the video, blissfully drowning in a sea of earthy orange and yellows. The painterly-ness of the video creates an existential environment, tempting the viewer to jump in and escape from reality.
Keith Tyson's "Table Top Tales: The Little Silver Screen" from 2000 is a comical take on the existence of the artist in an artwork. He takes a used table with scratches and holes and gives them definitions, specifically indicating them to a tv guide schedule. This specificity grounds the work with our space, and the table mounted on the wall by its legs converts it into a screen for our viewing. We see chance and text combined with artificial surrealistic meaning, witty and comical in its rendering of the artists hand.
Rudolf Stingel's signature foil work is mounted here with a single panel engraved with bathroom graffiti phrases. There was no mention of the viewer to take the freedom creating their own remarks, but here the artist takes away the author and creates a work that stands alone defiant of being manipulated by a single creator.
Each work in the show, no matter their medium, either come together or go against each other, almost simultaneously, creating an ambivalent, confusing and surreal conglomeration.

El Anatsui at Jack Shainman

A series of works by El Anatsui on view at Jack Shainman gallery comprises of obsessive and repetitive patterns made by bottle caps and foils creating a landscape of muted glitter and billowing waves. The artist's African background is essential in interpreting these works, as they reminisce kente cloth patterns and symbols, delving into the nitty gritties of common culture and twisting it to a disorienting effect.
Each work is carefully crafted by hundreds of disposed liquor caps and the foil neck wrap. Each are punctured and connected by thin copper wires, each foil wrap either straightened our or folded into squares or twisted. The colors are exquisitely coordinated by palcing the wraps on the outside or flipped to reveal the muted silver underside. The works from afar glitter but also resemble jewelry that could use shining and cleaning. The overall effect is disorienting, as the rigid weaved pieces unite to create undulating waves of false fabric, a smoothness and regal authenticity marked by the refused and mundane.
As abstract and non-representational as they may seem, each work is titled mindful of the realities of nature, its gifts of order and beauty, its curse of death and violence. In Bleeding Takari II, straight and narrow bottle wraps reveal their backside, an army of rigid and dignified soliders lined up in discordance that result in the waves of overwhelming patterns. Random spots of red caps seem to grow out of these figures creating the blood of the work, dripping down in single file, trickling like a leaking dam into the viewer's space, transforming the silver plane into a multidimensional abstraction. The title references the political polarizing occurring in our all too real world, but a rarely heard of term/identity that face their own significant turmoil.
Overall the works in the show are beautiful in their scale, their obsessive repetition, with respect and awe for the patience of the artist, and his gift of giving meaning to objects so mundane and easily disposed of.

Jesuvian Process at Elizabeth Dee Gallery

A group show consisting of artists working in the last 50 years, portrays a concern with the contemporary obsession with recognition, blinded by the market and undervalued by lack of constructive criticism.
The title of the show "Jesuvian Process" takes on 2 significant meanings for the show, one pertaining to a term coined by art historian Rosalind Krauss, which describes the castration anxiety felt by men and the overall desire to overcome, secede and superiorize, over their rahter or larger counterpart. The second meaning pertains to the dialogue these works engage in, unconcerned about representation, regal conceptions, focusng rather on delapidated found material and jumbling them all together to create a successful un-pompous object.
The curated concept puts these artists on a self-created pedestal, guilty of "I'm larger than you because I made a good work of art that is formless yet meaningful, superior without even trying using garbage." I am certain this is far from the case but the concept behind the show, and the press release tells otherwise.
The most appealing in a non-appealing way is Hillary Harnischfeger's paper collage works. A dense layer of paper is carved deeply and concisely, most likely by an electronic cutter, creating a bulbous landscape, abstract forms that are underlined and outlined with thin colors of marker. The overall color scheme is an off dirty white, tainted and marked by blotches of subdued grays, maroons, and forest greens.
They are reminiscent of the large scale expressive abstract paintings of Janaina Tschape, especially the work titled Patternist II from 2007, made of paper, ink and plaster. There is a feminine crafty aspect to the work that is appealing to the eye, but not as clean and pretty. The sharply incised cuts and ridges create a subtle violent tone that is missed at first glance. The incongruent pattern making process seems spontaneous, uneven, disheveled, but unified by an imperfect beauty which is more real and tangible than the over-archiving perfection-ing act of the too careful and mighty.
The wooden sculpture works of Louise Nevelson perfectly exemplifies the theme of the show, with its kitschy and haphazard assembling of scrap pieces. The piece seems to be stifled and stuck on the wall, as if it were a breathing figure trapped and wishing to be free standing. The layers of elements are geometric and abstract, but again as in the works of Harnischfeger, very tangible, humble and dignified in its solidarity, its all encompassing dominance of color. It has a tinge of Raucherberg's Combines to its agenda but fiercer, more subdued, demanding.
These two artists seem to conversate to each other and perfectly understand each other, although they speak in 2 different languages.
Majority of the works in "Jesuvian Process" successfully transcend today's anxieties of making it big in the art world, and because of this irresponsibility to contributing ot the neuroticism, they succeed in getting their message through, which is formless, layered, and free.