Research

“The art world is and always has been a  complex system, a field of constellations and interrelations—some friendly to each other, some antagonistic… each of us acteurs decides where we position ourselves and in what direction we move…

Exhibitions are opportunities to test situations and combinations, and to explore thoughts. For me, they… carry the potential to construct architectures of discourse. From my perspective, exhibitions are equal to seminars; both produce a space for communication through artistic and intellectual means…

An exhibition is a zone of activity, a space for communication that one must produce; it is not a given. An exhibition has to clarify what questions are being raised and share this process with the audience…”

—Ute Meta Bauer, “Zones of Activity: From the Gallery to the Classroom,” from Learning Mind: Experience into Art, Mary Jane Jacobs and Jacquelynn Baas, eds. (2009)

Ute Meta Bauer on Exhibitions

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Sights

See: Light and Landscape and Tom Sachs

These look like they’ll be great show, well worth the hike upstate and uptown.

May 12–November 11, 2012
Light and Landscape
Storm King Art Center
Old Pleasant Hill Road‬, Mountainville, NY 12553‬

Storm king presents contemporary art that explores creative and conceptual possibilities of natural light.

Storm King Art Center presents a special exhibition devoted to contemporary art in which natural light is both a primary medium and a conceptual focus. Light and Landscape, organized by Associate Curator Nora Lawrence, encompasses 25 works by 14 artists who use a variety of strategies to engage with light as a central component of their art. Encompassing sculpture, installation, works on paper, and video, the works encourage viewers to contemplate not only their natural surroundings and the effects of sunlight, but also the vast impact of light on our daily lives and ecosystem.

Artists represented in the exhibition are Matthew Buckingham, Peter Coffin, Olafur Eliasson, Spencer Finch, Katie Holten, Roni Horn, Donald Judd, Anish Kapoor, William Lamson, Anthony McCall, Katie Paterson, Tobias Putrih, Alyson Shotz, and Diana Thater. Their work will be installed across Storm King’s 500 acres of hills, fields, and woodlands—interspersed with the Art Center’s permanent collection—and in the Museum Building.

May 16–June 17, 2012
Tom Sachs: SPACE PROGRAM: MARS
Park Avenue Armory
643 Park Avenue, between 66th and 67th Streets, New York, NY 10065

From May 16 through June 17, Park Avenue Armory and Creative Time join forces with artist Tom Sachs to launch SPACE PROGRAM: MARS, a four-week mission to the Red Planet that explores the universe as a path to discovering ourselves. This interactive installation recasts Park Avenue Armory’s 55,000-square-foot drill hall as an immersive space odyssey featuring dynamic and meticulously crafted sculptures, including elaborate spacecraft, Mission Control, a launch platform, a Mars landscape, and much more. SPACE PROGRAM: MARS will be manned by Sachs and his studio team of thirteen, who will perform the myriad procedures, rituals, and tasks of their mission at the Armory.

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Community

See: Paintings by Jane Corrigan

I like these paintings by Jane Corrigan, an NYC-based painter and fellow artist in residence at Woodstock Byrdcliffe Guild.

Two Girls Reading (by day), 2011

Two Girls Reading (by day), 2011

Two Girls Reading (by night), 2011

Two Girls Reading (by night), 2011

You can see Jane’s work in person in Brooklyn now.

Through August 19
Goodbye, Space Shuttle
Curbs & Stoops Active Space
566 Johnson Ave, Brooklyn, NY

Tues­—Sat 1—6pm

New works by a diverse group of contemporary artists, including: Taylor Baldwin, John Bianchi, Matthew Capezzuto, Jane Corrigan, Bill Donovan, Jen Durbin, Sue Havens, Alexis Knowlton, Andy Lane, Beth Livensperger, Sakura Maku, Brian Maller, Vasken Mardikian, Jason Mones, Wilfredo Ortega, Jen Schwarting, John Silvis, Lee Vanderpool, Peonia Vázquez-D’Amico and Letha Wilson.

Take the L train to Jefferson stop. Walk north by north west.

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Art & Development

points of reference, starting with the rückenfigur

Yesterday with ABC, I re-visited Glenn Ligon: America, the beautiful mid-career survey at the Whitney. It’s a stellar show, and I experienced anew this installation:

Glenn Ligon, Rückenfigur, 2009, neon, paint. Source: Whitney.org.

Glenn Ligon, Rückenfigur, 2009, neon, paint. Source: Whitney.org.

The word rückenfigur refers to portraits with figures looking at a landscape with one’s back to the viewer, as in the famous Caspar David Friedrich painting below. Rückenfigur is one of Ligon’s  masterful America neons, and it’s an elegant use of text, in title and in form. Ligon’s neon features individually-reversed letters; the word is clearly “America” at first glance, but it is not backwards, yet individual letters, like the “R” and “C,” clearly are. This causes an experience of uncertainty, of not comprehending what is plain before you, similar to trying to grasp the vast culture of the US.

Additionally, the sign is painted black on the back side; viewers see no soft glow on the wall, just hard linear neon, an effect that is extremely rare among this nearly ubiquitous type of sign. Listen to the audio guide that accompanies this work.

Caspar David Friedrich, The wanderer above the sea of fog, 1818, oil on canvas. Source: Wikipedia.org.

Caspar David Friedrich, The wanderer above the sea of fog, 1818, oil on canvas. Source: Wikipedia.org.

The rückenfigur also appears in Ligon’s self-portraits, installed as a series of five photographs rendered in screenprint on canvas. Of the five images, four are of the back of the artist’s head.

Glenn Ligon, Self-Portrait, 1996, screenprint ink and gesso on canvas. Collection of the artist  ©Glenn Ligon. Source: Whitney.org.

Glenn Ligon, Self-Portrait, 1996, screenprint ink and gesso on canvas. Collection of the artist ©Glenn Ligon. Source: Whitney.org.

ABC—always an inquisitive and passionate interlocutor—and I discussed these images. She guessed that they were gestures of turning towards a landscape of sorts. I surmised that the artist was giving us his back, refusing to be identified, pinned down, or boxed in, or perhaps, embracing or representing the anonymity or blankness of social perceptions. They seemed to be about ambivalence, or making the viewer project his or her own assumptions onto the image to me.

Ligon is an artist of remarkable subtlety; the exhibition tells a compelling story about an artist who expresses pointed political stances through others’ language. The show is gorgeously paced and installed; I even became fond of the Marcel Breuer-designed galleries, to which I was indifferent to (though I’ve always loved the lobby, with its grid of chandeliers with half-silvered bulbs). America continues through June 5 at the Whitney, then travels to LACMA in the fall of 2011 and to the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth in early 2012. Mark your calendars.

Claude Glass, Manufactured in England, 18th century. Source: V&A Museum website.

Claude Glass, Manufactured in England, 18th century. Source: V&A Museum website.

In thinking about the rückenfigur, and the negation of turning one’s back, I recalled the Claude glass, or black mirror, which I’ve blogged about before. The Claude glass is a pocket mirror of black glass that Romantic painters would use to restrict the tonal range of the landscape. To use the mirror, painters would turn their backs to the landscape and reflect the landscape in the glass. They’d paint the reflection, not the actual landscape.

Thanks to Google Images, I came across a series of beautiful photographs of a Claude glass in action by Carter Seddon. The site is under construction, but if these photos are any indication, I’d advise: Get it together; the pictures are good.

 Arcade Fire’s “Black Mirror” single comes to mind. View the arcane and lovely filmic video on YouTube.

Detail, untitled, 2008, site-specific window intervention: window film, gels, acetate

Late one night in 2008, I was installing Activist Imagination at Kearny Street Workshop. One of my projects required tinting a window with black film. After nightfall it was much easier to see my reflection than it was to see what I was doing. The Arcade Fire single came on, and my mood surged; I was overjoyed by the coincidence.

mirrorsblackportrait, 2011, mirrors, paint, frames, wire, motor, hardware; 112 x 21 x 21 in / 2.8 m x 0.5 x 0.5 m (site variable).

mirrorsblackportrait, 2011, mirrors, paint, frames, wire, motor, hardware; 112 x 21 x 21 in / 2.8 m x 0.5 x 0.5 m (site variable).

Memory and time…. Earlier today, I participated in the artist’s talk for The Black Portrait at Rush Arts Gallery in NYC. It’s an exhibition to which I contributed mirrorsblackportrait, a kinetic sculpture of two mirrors, one painted black on top, one painted black on bottom. During the talk, I mentioned the Claude glass, and the idea that suppressing perceptions might have the paradoxical effect of opening up a space for viewer’s experiences. Then, I had the good fortune of receiving kind and thoughtful feedback from other artists in the show. KO told me that as the sculpture turned, his mind stitched the memory of the lower reflection with the memory of the upper reflection. SS added that in revisiting a memory, it becomes strengthened. In this sense the work is also about time and recognition.

KO also mentioned a fascinating project of his involving flea markets, and how the lives of objects often outlast the lives of their owners. This reminded my of my favorite Daniel Spöerri quote, which is just as fresh and relevant to my practice now, as it was when I first read it five years ago:

We are all fetishists snared by the object…. The object is the vehicle of the affections… until they reach the flea markets of the world, where these objects continually pile up stripped of their magic and cut off from the memory of their history… All that remains of these preserves is the container the artists made for the time, the “can” the preserves came in…. The container will never interest me as much as the contained, but where would I pour my wine without a glass?—and it is in between these two poles of the inseparability of the two that my anxiety of finding a definite solution will oscillate, which could be interpreted positively as the desire for instability and change.

—Daniel Spoerri, The Mythological Travels, 1970.

To this, SS added her memories of going to the racetrack as a child. She recalls it as a site populated by outsiders, rife with belief in luck, superstitions and talismans. The idea of imbuing an object with magic or meaning carries over in to so much of what artists aspire to do.

Another attempt to refine a sensibility: CV recently pointed out that my work is not about optimism and pessimism per se, but that it’s about the moment of discovery. I think she meant that my work offers experiences that elicit responses, which highlight optimistic or pessimistic tendencies.

As my work has shifted towards happiness and sentiment, I’ve encountered skepticism—disbelief of my earnestness. And as a viewer, I am not always sympathetic to earnest works of art. Social practice gardening, for example, can seem a bit cutesy, and not very thought-provoking to me. So how could I expect or encourage viewers to take my earnestness at face value, and to not assume that sincerity is antipathetic towards criticality?

I recently posed two questions, and received two very good responses from friends. As I interpret it, AV answered in terms of what an artist or his/her work of art should exhibit to a viewer.

What makes earnestness beget curiosity and kindness?
AV: Genuine commitment.

What makes earnestness beget cynicism and ridicule?
AV: Naive idealism.

AR answered with what a viewer should bring to the work of art.

What makes earnestness beget curiosity and kindness?
AR: Courage.

What makes earnestness beget cynicism and ridicule?
AR: Fear.

Demonstrating genuine commitment in my inquiry seems like a more tangible goal than cultivating courage in viewers.

Whimsy, earnestness, sentiment and insignificance… On a somewhat related note, I recently came across Charlotte Taylor’s 2005 article in Frieze about whimsy. The article counterposes The Believer‘s intellectual whimsy against n+1. In the process, Taylor identified these observations:

…whimsy triumphs when the import of the apparently insignificant and the relevance of the random are discovered.

Like camp, intellectual whimsy is not best understood as ironic: it places a premium on unabashed sincerity while at the same time treading a fine line of self-parody. It often signals this self-parody by appropriating typographical and design conventions from the past… The provocative or unexpected becomes the precious….

For the editors of n+1 whimsy signals a dismaying lack of conviction and encourages the conspicuous squandering of energy on trivialities rather than issues of substance….

Wes Anderson’s films are whimsical because their unexpected juxtapositions are imbued with sentimental significance.

…whimsy values the ability to appreciate the aesthetic harmony possible among myriad incongruent objects. It draws attention to the act of perception and the sensibility of the perceiver. This is why intellectual whimsy can readily become grating—it invites you to be pleased by the innovations of another person’s taste.

Ironically, the style of these Points of Reference posts is to draw connections between seemingly incongruous ideas. Though I’m still sorting them out, I believe these points relate and that finding their similarities can be a productive exercise to advance my studio practice. I’ll leave you with a paraphrased quote, from today’s NYT video of friends pitching in to save one Alabama man’s house from flooding. As they built levees against a rising river, a friend expressed, without contradiction, his simultaneous feelings of futility and determination:

It may seem like a wasted effort. But it would not be for lack of effort.

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News

mirrorsblackportrait

mirrorsblackportrait, 2011, mirrors, paint, frames, wire, motor, hardware; 112 x 21 x 21 in / 2.8 m x 0.5 x 0.5 m (site variable).

mirrorsblackportrait, 2011, mirrors, paint, frames, wire, motor, hardware; 112 x 21 x 21 in / 2.8 m x 0.5 x 0.5 m (site variable).

I made mirrorsblackportrait, a new kinetic sculpture, for The Black Portrait, an exhibition curated by Natasha L. Logan and Hank Willis Thomas, currently on view through May 16 at Rush Arts Gallery, 526 W. 26th Street in New York City’s Chelsea district. I’m quite pleased of the result and very proud to be in the show, which is mostly 2-D portraits or figurative works by African American artists, as well as a few videos and installations. I think my piece is points out the construction of race, as well as working as an abstraction, in a sense, within the show.

I’ve posted a video on Vimeo of mirrorsblackportrait. Have a look!

If you’re in town, please visit the show, I think it’s got a lot of strong works in it. I’d also be happy to walk through the show too, if you’re interested—email me. Cheers!

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Community, News

Through April 16: IMPRESSIONS: From the CCA(C) Print Shop

Thanks to AR for pointing this out to me: An old woodcut print of mine, originally exhibited in my BFA senior show in 1998 at the California College of the Arts, is in a current exhibition in Oakland, CA.

Curated by CCA(C) printmaking instructors Tim Sharman and Jack Y. Ford, I’d wager that the exhibition includes lots of oldies-but-goodies, with etchings, lithographs (from actual limestones!), woodcuts and letterpress prints on view.

I haven’t made prints in a while, but I’ve hung two etchings in my kitchen here in NY. They were acquired in one of the department’s end-of-semester print exchanges.

March 4 – April 16
IMPRESSIONS: From the CCA(C) Print Shop

Studio Quercus
385 26th Street, b/Broadway & Telegraph, downtown Oakland, CA

THE FAMOUS, NOT-SO-FAMOUS AND THE TOTALLY UNKNOWN
Curated by Tim Sharman and Jack Ford

An exhibition of prints spanning 60 years of printmaking from the print shop at the California College of the Arts—formerly known as the California College of Arts and Crafts. Examples of lithography, intaglio, relief and screen printing will be on display. Over the years, the CCA(C) print shop has seen many students and teachers using the presses to create images to remember. This survey is a celebration of that long history of creativity.

Curated by CCA(C) alumni and instructor Tim Sharman and CCA(C) alumni and professor Jack Ford, this exhibition honors the traditional craft of printmaking.

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News

3/31: The Black Portrait opens at Rush Arts Gallery

I’m producing a new kinetic installation for this group exhibition….

March 31 – May 21, 2011
The Black Portrait

Opening: Thursday, March 31 · 6-8pm

The word black has several meanings in our society. It may reference individuals or groups with dark skin; a complete absence of light; the opposite of white; or the embodiment of a negative or pessimistic disposition. A portrait is understood to represent a person or thing, usually in the form of a drawing, painting, photograph, engraving, or text.

When these terms are linked, a sense of alchemical potency is suggested. This exhibition brings together paintings, photographs, videos, collage and sculpture by ten artists contending with what it means to make a black portrait. It aims to use this linkage to expand dialogue about identity, difference, and belonging in contemporary culture.

Artists:
Kajahl Benes
Delphine Diallo
Duron Jackson
Coby Kennedy
Toyin Odutola
Kambui Olujimi
Shane Aslan Selzer
Keisha Scarville
Felandus Thames
Christine Wong Yap

Curated by Hank Willis Thomas and Natasha Logan.

Rush Arts Gallery
526 W. 26th Street, Suite 311 (between 10th and 11th), New York, NY

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