Research, Values

Off-Cuts, Part 1

In no particular order, I submit some exhibitions, passages, and ideas worth savoring. Get the stockpot ready;  offcuts are best after a low and slow simmer.

Richard Wilson’s 20:50 (1987/2012)

I’d only read about this installation involving tons of used sump oil in installation art books and on Matt’s Gallery’s website. It was a delight to stumble upon it in the Saatchi Gallery. It doesn’t look like much; but you have to be there to understand its depths (literally and figuratively).

Richard Wilson, 2050, 1987/2012. Saatchi Gallery, London.

Richard Wilson, 20:50, 1987/2012. Saatchi Gallery, London.

Sarah Bridgland’s papercut assemblages.

Sarah Bridgland, The Pier, 2012, paper, card, balsa wood, glue, thread, pencil, paint. On view in The First Cut, Manchester Art Gallery, Manchester, UK.
Sarah Bridgland, The Pier, 2012, paper, card, balsa wood, glue, thread, pencil, paint. On view in The First Cut, Manchester Art Gallery, Manchester, UK.

I loved this for the typographic exuberance, plus who can resist the miniature pennant flags? But have a look at Brigland’s site—the less figurative work is quieter yet lovely as well.

Seen at Manchester Art Gallery’s The First Cuts exhibition. A neat survey of works on paper by international artists. A lot of nature/tree/leaf and bird artworks—maybe too many.

Rob Ryan‘s paper cuts.

He works in a sweet, illustrative vein, making children’s books and gift cards. Not unlike Nikki McClure.

Rob Ryan, papercut, The First Cut, Manchester Art Gallery.

Rob Ryan, The Map of My Entire Life, framed papercut, 2012. The First Cut, Manchester Art Gallery, Manchester, UK.

VIEWER FAIL.

I had the sad experience of watching museum goers fail to engage meaningful artworks. I was able to find a silver lining—which could mean I’m an optimist, finding the positive, or maybe I’m a cynic, so low are my standards.

When a group of museum goers encountered  silhouettes by a well-regarded artist, they didn’t register the horrifying narratives of slavery, rape, mutilation and vengeance. Instead, they took photos of themselves mimicking the pose of one pair—a gentleman taking the hand of a Victorian lady. Ugh!

Though I was morally outraged, I was able to find a comforting logic: If even this artist’s work can be regarded so flippantly by “viewers” (the label seems to be an overstatement in this case), then it can happen to any artist’s work. So, if it happens to my artwork, I don’t have to take it personally. It’s not my problem.

Dust bunnies under a Richard Serra sculpture at the Tate Modern. Good decision to leave it as is. Would you want to sweep under a massive sheet of steel that is not fastened to anything?

Dust bunnies under a Richard Serra sculpture at the Tate Modern. I’m glad I don’t have to sweep under gigantic, unfastened sheets of steel, and it looks like no one at TM does either.

Alfredo Jaar‘s kinetic lightbox sculpture

Brilliant. Two identical lightboxes; one hangs upside down from a motor on the ceiling. As it lowers, the room is washed with greater intensities of light, until the tables meet and seal the light inside, and the room goes dark, like a supernova, except for a fine horizon line encircling the room. A perfect Minimalist gesture, loaded with content if you consider Jaar’s interests in history, who tells it, etc.

Alfredo Jaar, Lament of the Images, 2002, motorized lightboxes. Tate Modern.

Alfredo Jaar, Lament of the Images, 2002, motorized lightboxes. Tate Modern.

Alfredo Jaar, Lament of the Images, 2002, motorized lightboxes. Tate Modern.

Alfredo Jaar, Lament of the Images, 2002, motorized lightboxes. Tate Modern.

Ewa Partum

When I think of early language and conceptual art, I think of b/w photos and videos, often of white, Western men. So learning about Partum, a female Polish artist pioneering conceptual art and feminist performance in the 1960s, is exciting. More info at tate.org.uk.

Still from Poem video documentation by Ewa Partum. Tate Modern.

Still from Poem video documentation by Ewa Partum. Tate Modern.

University of the Arts London's MA Textile Arts students' massive textile baobob.

University of the Arts London’s MA Textile Arts students’ massive textile baobob.

Yinka Shonabare had some amazing public installations (love the Fourth Plinth project!) in London, and when I saw this baobob tree covered in world textiles at the Southbank Centre, I assumed it was a work of his as well. But it’s not! It’s but MA Textile Arts students. I love it, I think it’s brilliant especially in connection with this summer’s Olympics, signaling a place for the whole world to gather.

Art Update

Really became a fan of Art Update’s booklet-format gallery guide. Each neighborhood in London had its own spread: maps right next to listings.

A spread from my well-travleed copy of Art Update: London.

A spread from my well-traveled copy of Art Update: London.

I hope I never have to open any more large maps standing in the middle of the sidewalk again. I also hope I never have to sort through gallery listings not separated by neighborhood. And I hope more gallery guides indicate locations with gallery names instead of numbers.

The Liverpool Biennial had a lovely identity, but way finding was not its best asset. Why separate the map from the listings in the brochure? Why put an arrow when a location was off the map, but omit the address? There were sandwich boards announcing that you’ve found a location, but not many signs helping you get there, or find the entrance (as much needed on the Cunard Building). I walked around Flag Exchange looking for flags or an exchange, only to see that the design-conference-y tents were the artworks… <disappointment> …I think?  <Uncertainty.> It was too cold (upper 30s, and I had only a light jacket on) for me to care <indifference>.

Cheryl Strayed

From “Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Life and Love from Dear Sugar” (2012):

Let whatever mysterious starlight that guided you this far guide you onward into whatever crazy beauty awaits….

Something to aspire to:

What do you do when you don’t know what to do about something?

…I attempt to analyze the situation from the perspective of my “best self”—the one that’s generous, reasonable, forgiving, loving, bighearted, and grateful. I think really hard about what I’ll wish I did a year from now…. I move towards the light, even if it’s a hard direction in which to move.

And, for artists (myself included) who think of themselves upon hearing of other artists’ successes:

You know what I do when I feel jealous? I tell myself not to feel jealous. I shut down the why not me? voice and replace it with one that says don’t be silly instead. It really is that easy. You actually do stop being an awful jealous person by stopping being an awful jealous person. When you feel terrible because someone has gotten something you want, you force yourself to remember how much you have been given. You remember that there is plenty for all of us. You remember that someone else’s success has absolutely no bearing on your own. You remember that a wonderful thing has happened to one of your … peers and maybe, if you keep working and if you get lucky, something wonderful may also someday happen to you.

And if you can’t muster that, you just stop. … There isn’t a thing to eat down in that rabbit hole of bitterness except your own desperate heart. If you let it, your jealously will devour you….

I know it’s not easy being an artist. I know the gulf between creation and commerce is so tremendously wide that it’s sometimes impossible not to feel annihilated by it. … the people who don’t give up are the people who find a way to believe in abundance rather than scarcity. They’ve taken into their hearts the idea that there is enough for all of us, that success will manifest itself in different ways for different sorts of artists, that keeping the faith is more important than cashing the check, that being genuinely happy for someone else who got something you hope to get makes you genuinely happier too.

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Travelogue, Impressions

Manchester and London Travelogue: Top Ten

I just returned from the UK, where Chinese Arts Centre invited me to install Irrational Exuberance (Asst. Colors) in their new project space / pop-up shop. I had a fantastic trip, extended, at the last minute, by Hurricane Sandy.

I wish all those affected by the disaster a smooth, quick recovery. Cheers to first responders, volunteers, and everyday workers—like those at JFK who, by simply turning up to work despite hamstrung transportation, allow people like me to come home.

I spent a week installing the show and learning more about the art scene in Manchester. I also visited Liverpool, and spent six days in London. Here are my UK trip highlights.

#1 Being an artist.

Like most artists, the overlap between my practice and income is small, so increasing the amount of time I can be an artist is an ongoing process. That’s why the support of organizations like Chinese Arts Centre is so valuable—it scales up my work and exhibition opportunities. CAC shared their resources, space, talent, and time so that I could create and present my art. For that, I am unspeakably humbled and grateful.

I arrived a week ahead of the opening, and got to work right away prepping the newly remodeled space. I painted the walls and readied the space for Jon, the art technician, to help me mask and paint diagonal stripes. This exhibition design detail is important to me because it relates to a psychological study that found a correlation between upward movement and positive sentiment.

Chinese Arts Centre Curator Ying Kwok and Programme and Engagement Co-ordinator Liz Wewiora making selections.

The stripey blue wall awaits art, as CAC Curator Ying Kwok and Programme and Engagement Co-ordinator Liz Wewiora make the final selections.

Cheers to Jon, Gass, and Lee, whose technical assistance was tremendous, as was their patience with English-American differences in units of measurements, names of tools and materials, etc. (FYI, Americans: If I understand correctly, joint compound, spackle, and filler area all simply known as fillers. Drywall and Sheetrock are gibberish terms to Brits. Ironmongery means hardware. Paint isn’t latex, but emulsion.)

Vinyl posters in progress.

Vinyl Posters in progress.

I also made new site-specific works—two Vinyl Posters using ribbon, thread, transparent vinyl and acrylic. They’re inspired by supermarket’s oversized sale posters, which were ubiquitous in my childhood but seem less common today.

Vinyl Poster #1 & 2, 2012, vinyl, acrylic, ribbon, thread, 36 x 45 inches each.

Vinyl Poster #1 & 2, 2012, vinyl, acrylic, ribbon, thread, 36 x 45 inches each. View from the Thomas Street windows.

None of this would be possible without the vision of curator Ying Kwok, and the support of all of the staff. I’m especially grateful to the staff and volunteers for the lovely preview they hosted; I’m so honored to have been a part of it.

Opening reception of Irrational Exuberance (Asst. Colors) at Chinese Arts Centre, Manchester, UK on October 25, 2012.

Opening reception of Irrational Exuberance (Asst. Colors) at Chinese Arts Centre, Manchester, UK on October 25, 2012.

The exhibition continues through February 16, 2013. More info at CAC’s exhibition page.

#2: Transparent democracy and the merging of art and life in Manchester.

Mike Chavez-Dawson is an artist and curator, an impresario of the contemporary art scene in Manchester, among many other things. He told me about the idea of ‘transparent democracy’ and how it shapes his practices. His art and curatorial work are integrated into his life and vice versa, and woven into the fabric of Manchester, too. For example, in addition to curating a show of propositional work by David Shrigley at Cornerhouse (through Jan. 6), he worked with Shrigley to create Shrigley’s Anti-Psychotic Brain Bread at Bakerie (with beets and ginko).

David Shrigley's Anti-Psychotic Brain Bread at Bakerie, Northern Quarter, Manchester.

David Shrigley’s Anti-Psychotic Brain Bread at Bakerie, Northern Quarter, Manchester.

MCD’s the inaugural curator-in-residence at a cool new project space called Lionel Dobie. More on transparent democracy will be forthcoming in the form of MCD’s PhD and, surely, future exhibitions.

Drawing in the Sketch-O-Mat. Sitters drop a suggested donation of £1 for a 5-minute portrait.

Drawing in the Sketch-O-Mat at Cornerhouse. Sitters drop a suggested donation of £1 for a 5-minute portrait.

MCD also let me trade off drawing with him during his Sketch-O-Matic session. The Sketch-O-Matic is like a photo booth, except an artist sits inside and makes a drawing of your likeness. It’s a brilliant idea, and I’d love to see it franchised in other places. Situated at Cornerhouse, which is really an intersection of food, drink, art, and film, the booth attracted a really wide audience. I had a lot of fun doing a public project that still allowed the privacy of a tiny studio.

My Sketch-O-Matic drawing of Mike Chavez-Dawson.

My Sketch-O-Matic drawing of Mike Chavez-Dawson.

Mike Chavez-Dawson's Sketch-O-Matic drawing of me. It's with a digital collage of Noel Gallagher's face.

Mike Chavez-Dawson’s Sketch-O-Matic drawing of me. It’s with a digital collage of Noel Gallagher’s face.

(Plus, MCD invited David Byrne, who was in Manchester, to my preview. I’m a conceptualist, so the fact that the idea of my art has been thought, even for a millisecond, in that genius mind, is kind of an honor.)

#3 The Hospitality and Kindness of New Acquaintances and Old Friends

Huge thanks to Kate and Paul, muay thai buddy Mai and Danielle, and my Airbnb hosts. I’m so thankful for their hospitality in the days while I scrambled to re-schedule my flight home to NYC following Sandy.

Best sofa-surf ever: a view of the full moon from MW's sunroom.

Best sofa-surf ever: a view of the full moon (echoed by double glazing) from MW’s sunroom.

#4 The excellent curation of photography on in London right now.

Out of Focus: Photography 
Saatchi Gallery
Partially on through Nov. 4

Maybe one of the best shows of photography I’ve seen ever. Saatchi’s perfect galleries help. But also the amount of space given over to individual artist’s projects, so that viewers get thorough looks at significant bodies of work, is really key.

Katy Grannan, Anonymous, Los Angeles, 2008, 2010, Archival pigment print on cotton rag paper mounted to plexiglass, 39 × 29 inches (99 × 74 cm) // Source: Salon94.com.

Katy Grannan, Anonymous, Los Angeles, 2008, 2010, Archival pigment print on cotton rag paper mounted to plexiglass, 39 × 29 inches (99 × 74 cm) // Source: Salon94.com.

Katy Grannan‘s portraits of people in Los Angeles and San Francisco are stunning for the character of the individuals, who express aspirations of glamour and rude realities simultaneously. Shot in unforgiving sunlight, printed large, and hung on a very low centerline, every wrinkle and scar is on display. After my initial disgust wore off (if there were two empty seats on a bus, and one of them was next to one of these characters, you might opt for the other seat), I got a sense of Grannan’s sense of  humanity for her subjects. It was a nice turn.

David Benjamin Sherry, Holy Holy Holy, 2009, traditional color print, 40 × 30 inches (102 × 76 cm) // Source: Salon94.com.

David Benjamin Sherry, Holy Holy Holy, 2009, traditional color print, 40 × 30 inches (102 × 76 cm) // Source: Salon94.com.

David Benjamin Sherry‘s lovely landscapes in color tints are majestic and somehow right, despite the unearthly color shifts.

John Stezaker, Seat (Film Portrait Collage) III 2008 Collage 10.31 x 8.46 inches // Source: Petzel.com.

John Stezaker, Seat (Film Portrait Collage) III 2008 Collage 10.31 x 8.46 inches // Source: Petzel.com.

John Stezaker‘s collages of b/w head shots are compelling. They work, but it’s not clear why. We see two faces, then one, then two again. Other collages place non-portraits within portraits, yet the brain still seeks out facial features in the patterns. Even with dozens of photos on display, the ingeniousness doesn’t wear out.

Adam Broomberg and Oliver Chanarin‘s reprints of archived material demonstrates a keen eye, penchant for acts of omission, and attraction to social violence.

Unfortunately, the show was only partially on view, as many of the galleries had been changed over for Karl Lagerfield’s The Little Black Jacket photo show. As KD said, with the oversized portraits of models and celebrities printed with a visible halftone pattern, “It’s basically like being inside a fashion magazine.” Another room, featuring huge multi-color prints on perspex, was blatantly Warholian. Yawn.

Also on at Saatchi, Prix Pictet’s exhibition, Power (ended October 28), featured works from twelve photographers, with some very strong selections.

Seduced By Art
National Gallery
Through Jan. 20

Ori Gersht, Blow Up #1, 2007, c-print mounted to acrulic 98 x 74 1/2 x 1 3/4 inches // Source: CRGgallery.com

Ori Gersht, Blow Up #1, 2007, c-print mounted to acrulic 98 x 74 1/2 x 1 3/4 inches // Source: CRGgallery.com

Seduced By Art exhibits traditional paintings alongside early and contemporary photographs that they inspired. It’s a beautifully installed exhibition, with tasteful black walls and spot lighting. The didactic texts were thankfully concise. There are a few works by photographers I recognized—Jeff Wall, Nan Goldin, Renee Dijkstra, Sam Taylor Wood—as well as many others new to me—Ori Gersht (awesome image of exploding flowers frozen with liquid nitrogen), and Helen Chadwick among others. I found it an enlightening exhibition whose premise seems obvious (unless you’re a whinging traditionalist), but whose execution is thoughtful.

Short and sweet, An Ode to Hill & Adamson is sure to charm. It’s a sped-up, making-of-a-photo video by Maisie Broadhead and Jack Cole, wherein a model and production crew re-stage a historical photo also on view in Seduced by Art. Watch it on Vimeo.

#5 The potent everydayness of the players of Tino Seghal’s show at Tate Modern.

I walked into the last night of Seghal’s show in the Tate’s Turbine Hall (closed Oct. 28) at just the right moment. There were clusters of people standing around. I stood among them and waited for something to happen. It was late, and already dark when I crossed Millenium Bridge to get here. I started to wonder if the performances had ended for the day.

Then, people started singing, en masse. People who I thought were the public were actually performers, while there where viewers like myself, and then members of the public just chitchatting. Soon the performers broke from their spots, and everyone began to disperse. As people passed me, I searched their faces for indications: Were they actor or viewer? It was a revelation—being in this situation created a change in me. I saw people differently; I saw their potential, and the possibilities for our interactions in a new way.

I observed as the ensemble walked in various formations, chanted statements, and made their way around the massive hall, while the lights went on and off at key junctures. I was attentive, but self-conscious, behaving in a way that says: I’m  respectful of your performance, staying quiet and out of the way. There were only the walls of Turbine Hall, yet I remained behind the psychological fourth wall of the theater. Then, after the ensemble  sang a composition from static positions, one of the activators walked straight up to me and, standing very closely and behaving as though we were very dear friends confiding in each other, she told me the story of her immigration and path towards finding confidence in herself. This was for an audience of one—me. I felt intensely honored to be engaged on this one-to-one level, with this larger exhibition, with this unique stranger who I might never meet again. It seemed to me a great act of generosity.

There was a statement, which I couldn’t quite remember, which seemed to be a central tenant of Seghal’s show, if not his entire purpose: that even in this technological age, the potential for humanity and human relations is great. In my words, it sounds trite, but it was enacted by such a moving, pitch-perfect ensemble that I felt like I was in a different place or time, like I was observing a super-race or our future selves, so unified and purposeful were the actions, despite the various ages and everyday appearances of the actors.

[Note: I did shoot many photos, but I decided not to include them here. These experiences and revelations are so much larger than what the work looks like; I can understand why Seghal doesn’t want his work photographed—it would reduce the gesture too much.]

#6 Painters of colorful texts. Two solo shows in London. 

Mel Bochner: If the Colour Changes
Whitechapel Gallery
Through Dec. 30

Thank goodness for art capitals. I might have to go to London to see such an in-depth survey of a longtime New York conceptualist painter, but it’s a damn fine show and I’m glad someone organized it.

In the ground  floor galleries, Bochner’s concern with the basics—texts, numbers, shapes, color, blocks and grids—is illustrated with experimental works and installations.

In the upper galleries, viewers encounter works that trace refining conceptual and textual interests.

If the Color Changes #4 (1998) features a brilliant text from Wittgenstein’s “Remarks on Color” (1950-1):

One observes in order to see what one would not see if one did not observe.

I love this text—it fuels the patience necessary for looking at art. Also, the form and content jackknife beautifully: Bochner painted this text in offset layers, so that the interactions of color provide countless opportunities for observation.

Meditation on the Theorum of Pythagorus (1974) is a surprise—it’s a series of shards of colored glass arranged on the floor in rectangles and squares, with an empty space for a right triangle.

Mel Bochner, Amazing!, 2011 oil and acrylic on canvas, two panels.  Courtesy Peter Freeman // Source: nga.gov.

Mel Bochner, Amazing!, 2011 oil and acrylic on canvas, two panels. Courtesy Peter Freeman // Source: nga.gov.

Mel Bochner, Oh Well, 2010, oil and acrylic on two canvases, 100 x 75 inches. Courtesy Peter Freeman Inc., New York © Mel Bochner 2011 // Source: http://jumpsuitsandteleporters.com/

Mel Bochner, Oh Well, 2010, oil and acrylic on two canvases, 100 x 75 inches. Courtesy Peter Freeman Inc., New York © Mel Bochner 2011 // Source: http://jumpsuitsandteleporters.com/

Lastly, a gallery filled Bochner’s two signature styles. First, tidy lines of all-caps rounded sans serif texts, including thesaurus entries. I had much more engagement with the paintings than reproductions I’ve seen in the past. I especially resonated with a positive/negative pair, Oh Well and Amazing (both 2010) Second, colorful paintings that display their own dimensions, quite baffilingly, fill Whitechapel’s wall perfectly. I wonder if this conceptual piece is re-made for every institution that shows it? If so, it’s a brilliant, if time- and materials-intensive painting series.

Bob & Roberta Smith: The Art Party USA Comes to the UK
Hales Gallery
Through Nov. 17

Bob and Roberta Smith, The Art Party USA Comes to the UK, exhibition view, 2012, Hales Gallery, London.

Bob and Roberta Smith, The Art Party USA Comes to the UK, exhibition view, 2012, Hales Gallery, London.

Bob and Roberta Smith—a single artist that goes by the moniker of a duo—might be known primarily as a painter of signs, but there is much more (especially in contrast to the the nostalgic craft artifacts exhibited in art galleries by New Bohemian Signs-affiliated sign painters) to it. As this new show demonstrates, Bob and Roberta are even more political and topical now.

Bob and Roberta Smith, The Art Party USA Comes to the UK, detail.

Bob and Roberta Smith, The Art Party USA Comes to the UK, detail.

Join the Art Party appeals directly towards Michael Gove, the Secretary of State for Education, to restore art education in the UK. Bob and Roberta encourages audiences to appeal to Gove as well.

The exhibition exudes cheeriness. The walls are lined with cloth pennants and several paintings. Kooky, folk-arty, figurative sculptures fill the space. Bob and Roberta appear in a sweet, educational-style video outlining the platforms of the Art Party (it’s shot in a small wooden shed capriciously labeled as an institute for contemporary art by the artist). The video is presented on a mobile screen, and viewers are offered brightly colored molded plastic chairs for seating. It evokes a schoolroom, gently nudging adult viewers to recall the art that lined their childhood classroom walls.

Bob and Roberta Smith, The Art Party USA Comes to the UK, 2012, Hales Gallery, London.

Bob and Roberta Smith, The Art Party USA Comes to the UK, 2012, Hales Gallery, London.

Bob and Roberta have a knack for stating truths simply: “All things are made,” he argues in the video in support of art education in UK schools. “Demand that all schools are art schools.”

The aesthetics and forms are endearing, optimistic, and winsome. It would be cloying but for the urgency of the message.

#7 Manchester’s growing contemporary art scene.

When I spent three months in Manchester in 2009, it seemed like a pretty good place to be an artist: cheap studio rent, active alternative and artist-run spaces, and vibrant activity via the universities. I was really inspired by artists’ mutual support.

This visit followed the Manchester Contemporary art fair weekend and coincided with the Free for Arts Festival. I also visited newer spaces Lionel Dobie Project and Malgras|Naudet.

Chris Kenny, Cultural Instructions, 2012, found text, scanned, enlarged, printed, mounted. On display in The First Cut at Manchester Art Gallery.

Chris Kenny, Cultural Instructions, 2012, found text, scanned, enlarged, printed, mounted. On display in The First Cut at Manchester Art Gallery. Through Jan. 27.

I sensed more energy; indeed, momentum. MCD estimated that there are many more practicing artists now. There were three shows at three venues exhibiting the work of recent graduates (Bachelor’s degree students). (I liked the title of one, So Far, So Good.) The question that occurred to me, as more artists work to gain access to more exhibition opportunities, is to what degree with the mutual support continue, or give way to an atmosphere of competition?

Corridor8 is a new publication exposing the art scene in the NW. Issue #3 includes fascinating interviews with local leaders such as Whitworth Art Gallery Director and Manchester Art Gallery Director Dr. Maria Balshaw. Those interviews lend insight on the direction of major institutions.

One thing that seems missing, however, is critical writing on all these shows happening in Manchester. A weekly column in a paper would be too centralized and limited. Something like Art Practical, with a large, distributed base of writers comprised of artists, critics, and curators, with editorial excellence, and a fixed schedule, could do a lot to document the art scene and create more rigorous dialogue. There are plenty of very, very bright minds who can provide artists and venues with a feedback loop. They just need the right platform.

#8 Fallowfield Loop.

A railway line converted into a running and bicycling path through the southern part of Greater Manchester. Cool, damp, green, quiet. A place to run for miles, away from the traffic that baffles this American.

#9 Cheap Eats.

Currency conversion = constant sticker shock. Cheers for healthy, reasonably priced bites: This and That curry in the Northern Quarter. Sainsbury’s bag of pre-washed raw veg: green beans, mange tout (snap peas) and broccoli. Onogiri from Wasabi. Thai Pie (green curry in a English pie) from the Manchester Market in Piccadilly.

#10 Turner, not the one you’d think.

I went to see the Turner Prize show a the Tate Britain, which had great drawings by Paul Noble, who continues his uncanny text/architecture drawings.

But the JMW Turner show had some pleasant surprises for me.

Color and Line: Turner’s Experiments
Tate Britain
Through Spring 2013

These interpretive rooms are educational, accessible, and not overly complicated with digital gee-gaws. In fact, there weren’t any screens. There were static (!) texts, charts and some electrical displays showing the physical properties of light á la the Exploratorium. There was a suite of amazing intaglio prints that examined how Turner’s color was interpreted by printers working in etching, aquatint, and mezzotint. Spend some time with these if you can.

There was a time line which elaborated paint colors with their years of invention, and a map that showed how Turner adjusted his palette for different sites. Finally, there was a series of drawing tables, where viewers can sketch a Turner image and display their drawing. It was a wonderfully low-tech educational exhibit.

Celmins Selects Turner
and
Artist Rooms: Vija Celmins

Joseph Mallord William Turner, The Yellow Sky, circa 1820-30 // Source: http://www.tate.org.uk/

Joseph Mallord William Turner, The Yellow Sky, circa 1820-30 // Source: http://www.tate.org.uk/

There were two additional rooms that showed museological inventiveness: In the first, contemporary realist draughtsman Vija Celmins selected Turner’s sketches and underpaintings. It’s a really lovely, exceedingly elegant set of washes and expressions of light and weather that I think a lot of young artists would relate to today. In the second room are Celmins’ own works, always a treat in their mastery and unthinkable labor. Her drawings of starry skies are unbelievable.

Vija Celmins, Night Sky 3, 2002 // Source: NationalGalleries.org.

Vija Celmins, Night Sky 3, 2002, Aquatint with burnishing and drypoint on paper, 37.20 x 47.10 cm // Source: NationalGalleries.org.

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Research

Points of Reference: Irrational Exuberance: Artists’ shops

A partial selection of artist’s shops and shop-like installations informing Irrational Exuberance (Asst. Colors), on view at Sight School through June 12:

Claes Oldenberg’s The Store, (Ray Gun Mfg. Co.), 1961
107 East 2nd Street, New York, NY, USA

Claes Oldenburg, The Store. 1961. Letterpress, composition: 26 5/8 x 20 7/16" (67.6 x 51.9 cm); sheet: 28 3/8 x 22 1/8" (72.1 x 56.2 cm). Mary Ellen Meehan Fund. © 2010 Claes Oldenburg. Source: Moma.org/collection

Read MOMA’s gallery label text for this poster.

Claes Oldenburg’s The Store (1961), photographed by Robert R. McElroy. Source: Artnet.com

In 1961, Claes Oldenburg began working on The Store, a storefront on the Lower East Side of Manhattan where he made and sold his work. He presented himself as both a shopkeeper and a manufacturer, cramming the store windows with brightly painted objects he made by layering plaster-soaked muslin over chicken-wire armatures. These items, including Bride Mannikin, constitute non-wearable clothes and inedible food displayed for sale. Putting into question each object’s function, Oldenburg sought to blur the line between sculpture and commodity, viewer and consumer, and art and life. (moca.org)

Michael Lüthy wrote about Claes Oldenburg’s “The Store” for Shopping. A Century of Art and Consumer Culture, ed. by Max Hollein and Christoph Grunenberg (a catalog for an exhibition at Tate Liverpool, Ostfildern-Ruit, 2002, p. 148-53). You can read an excerpt on Lüthy’s archive.

You can see a large selection of sculptures from Oldenburg’s “The Store,” including “Bride Mannikin,” in Collection: MOCA’s First Thirty Years, at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles thru July 12.

Various artists, The American Supermarket, organized by Ben Birillo and Paul Bianchini, 1964
Bianchini Gallery, Upper East Side, New York, NY, USA

American Supermarket Exhibition 1964. From Life magazine. Source: Timelines.com

Roy Lichtenstein, Turkey Shopping Bag, 1964, Screenprint on shopping bag with handles, Composition: 7 1/2 x 9" (19.1 x 22.8cm); sheet (irreg.): 19 5/16 x 16 15/16" (49 x 43cm). Publisher: Bianchini Gallery, New York. Printer: Ben Birillo, New York. Edition: approx. 125. Source: MOMA.org, collection section

A collaboration between the great names of Pop Art including Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, Richard Artschwager, Robert Watts, Tom Wesselman and others, the exhibition is an evocation of an ordinary 1964 supermarket – complete with meat, cheese and fruit counters, neon signs and jaunty background musak. In the installation’s “aisles,” real foods are mixed together with iconic Pop works such as Warhol’s stacks of Campbell’s Soup cans and Robert Watts’ alluring chrome fruits and multi-colored wax eggs.
…With its Pop Art proprietors The American Supermarket celebrated the spectacle of consumption with a happening-like event in which shopping was elevated to an art form and serious art collectors were turned into ordinary supermarket customers. (from a press release from The Andy Warhol Museum, May 20, 2003

More info on The American Supermarket can be found in Shopping. A Century of Art and Consumer Culture, ed. by Max Hollein and Christoph Grunenberg (a catalog for an exhibition at Tate Liverpool, Ostfildern-Ruit, 2002

George Brecht and Robert Filliou, La Cédille qui Sourit (The Cedilla that Smiles), 1965-8
Villefranche-sur-Mer, in the south of France

George Brecht with Robert Filliou at La Cédille qui sourit, rue des May, Villefranche-sur-mer, 1965-1968. Source: Flux Fest: Fluxus & Happening

The shop was intended to explore ideas about the ‘obtuse relationship(s) to the institution of language'[35] but instead ushered in what he described cheerfully as “accelerated creative inactivity” (Brecht’s obit from the Independent, as quoted in en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Brecht)

Allan Ruppersburg’s Al’s Cafe, 1969
1913 West Sixth Street, Los Angeles, CA, USA

Allen Ruppersberg, Al's Cafe, 1969-1995. Source: x-traonline.org

Allan Ruppersburg, Als Cafe, 1969 Installation, 1913 West Sixth Street, Los Angeles, CA. Source: Air de Paris website, Artists, Allan Ruppersberg, Kunsthalle Dusseldorf page

The Cafe was intended to be a limited-run restaurant, staged once a week—Thursday nights from eight to eleven—in a rented location in downtown Los Angeles. It was to function socially as a meeting place for friends, members of the art world, and anyone else who wanted to drop by. In direct opposition to what one might have expected from a young [Minimalist/Post-Minimalist/Conceptualist] artist at the time, the decor was familiar to the point of strangeness: hyperfamiliar, you might say today…. It was a place where any American would have felt at home. It was exorbitantly familiar….

…[Ruppersberg] was determined to emphasize culture at every turn, to demonstrate that we are wholly defined by it in every act of … of representation of any kind…. In my memory, it was Al who reminded our troubled generation that simple, normal, everyday rituals of human commerce (horrors!) contained a significant complement of decency and joy that needed to be recognized and appreciated—not in spite of, but along with whatever else might have been wrong with the world in those especially uneasy years. (Allan McCollum, “Allen Ruppersberg: What One Loves About Life Are the Things That Fade,” from “Al Ruppersberg: Books, Inc.,” Frac Limousin, France, 2001)

Gordon Matta-Clark, Food, 1971
Corner of Prince and Wooster Streets, New York, NY, USA

Promotion for Food, a restaurant by Gordon Matta-Clark and other artists. Photo: Richard Landry, alteration by Gordon Matta-Clark. Source: New York Times.

Artists were also invited weekly to serve as guest chefs, and the whole dinner was considered a performance art piece. One of the most fabled, costing $4, was Matta-Clark’s “bone dinner,” which featured oxtail soup, roasted marrow bones and frogs’ legs, among other bony entrees. After the plates were cleared, the bones were scrubbed and strung together so that diners could wear their leftovers home. (Randy Kennedy, “When Meals Played the Muse,” New York Times, Feb. 21, 2007.)

Martha Rosler’s Garage Sale, 1973 / London Garage Sale, 2005
University of California at San Diego art gallery, CA, USA / Institute of Contemporary Arts, London, UK

Martha Rosler, Garage Sale, California, 1973, image courtesy of the artist. Source: e-flux.com

Martha Rosler, Garage Sale, 1973, Art Gallery of the University of California, San Diego. Source: ica.org.uk

In 2005 Martha Rosler restaged her piece from 1973, Garage Sale. The exhibition offered a piece of institutional critique on object festishism, the act of buying and selling, and the notion of an ‘art exhibition’. However, Rosler was now a known entity, an institution in herself. Is all critique eventually undone, institutionalised, aestheticised? Or did the restaging prove the persistent validity of such a project? Art into Society: Society into Art (ICA, 1974) brought together the greatest agent provocateurs of their day – Hans Haacke, Gustav Metzger and Joseph Beuys. Are such attempts at undoing the binary oppositions suggested by that exhibition title still pertinent? Was truly anti-institutional exhibition-making simply channelled into live art and happenings, events and music, leaving the exhibition the place for historicised critique? Did we stop chewing the fat of Beuys’s critique when we started preserving it? (London ICA’s website, description for event: Institutional Critique held on October 29, 2008.)

Haim Steinbach’s installations and sculptures, 1970s-current

Haim Steinbach, six feet under, 2004, plastic laminated wood shelf; plasitc frog; plastic feet; ceramic pig; wooden clogs 38 x 69 1/4 x 19 “ (96.5 x 175.9 x 48.3 cm). Source: haimsteinbach.net

Haim Steinbach (born Rehovot, Israel, 1944 and living in New York City since 1957) has been an influential exponent of art based on already existing objects. Since the late 1970’s Steinbach’s art has been focused on the selection and arrangement of objects, above all everyday objects. In order to enhance their interplay and resonance, he has been conceiving structures and framing devices for them.

Steinbach presents objects ranging from the natural to the ordinary, the artistic to the ethnographic, giving form to art works that underscore their identities and inherent meanings. Exploring the psychological, aesthetic, cultural and ritualistic aspects of objects as well as their context, Steinbach has radically redefined the status of the object in art. (from the artist’s website)

Keith Haring’s Pop Shop, 1986-2005
292 Lafayette Street, New York, NY, USA

A close-up shot of the awning and signage of the recently closed Pop Shop, posted October 9, 2005, on Global Graphica, blog of Visual Culture. Ivan Corsa Photo.

Installation view of the re-creation of Keith Haring’s Pop Shop (1986), featuring original Pop Shop ephemera, "Pop Life: Art in a Material World," Tate Modern, 2009. © Tate Photography. Source: ArtInfo.com/modernpainters

Haring’s Pop Shop was recreated for Pop Life: Art in a Material World at the Tate Modern. You can read more about it in the catalog (purchase it from tate.org.uk or find it in the nearest library collection on worldcat.org), or visit the exhibition as it travels to the National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa from June 11–September 19, 2010.

The Keith Haring Foundation maintains an online Pop Shop.

Cady Noland’s installations and sculptures, late 1980s-1990s

Cady Noland, Trashed Mailbox, 1989. Source: Artnet.com

Cady Noland American, born 1956 This piece doesn't have a title yet 1989 Beer cans, scaffolding, cloth and vinyl flags, hand tools. Source: Mattress Factory

Noland, not Barney, Hirst, or Gonzalez-Torres, is the crucial link between late-1980s commodity art and much that has followed; she is the portal through which enormous amounts of appropriational, political, and compositional notions pass. So mercurial, fierce, and originally poetic is she that I think of her as our Rimbaud. (Jerry Saltz, “Invasion of the Sculpture Snatchers,” Village Voice, May 9, 2006)

Tracy Emin’s and Sarah Lucas’ The Shop, 1993
103 Bethnal Green Road, London, UK

Sarah Lucas (L) and Tracey Emin (R) at The Shop. Bethnel Green, London, UK. Photo by Carl Freedman. Source: Artnet.com

Read Tracy Emin’s reflections on The Shop in the Times (“Tracey Emin on her previous life as a shop girl,” Sept. 26, 2009). Or, listen to a podcast of the artist’s talk at Tate (Tate Events podcast, 08-12-2009 Tracey Emin discusses ‘The Shop,’ released 4/6/10, 1:18:03.)

Harrell Fletcher, Jon Rubin, and neighborhood participants, Gallery HERE, 1993-1995
College Avenue, Oakland, CA, USA

Jon Rubin, Harrell Fletcher and neighborhood collaborators, Gallery Here, garage sale, 1993-1995,

Jon Rubin, Harrell Fletcher and neighborhood collaborators, Gallery Here, garage sale, 1993-1995,

Jon Rubin and I started Gallery Here while we were still in Grad School at CCAC. We borrowed a vacant retail building that was in the neighborhood where we lived. For a year and a half until the building was rented we put on a series of shows about people and places in the neighborhood. … For another show we had people’s garage sales in the gallery and put story tags on all of the stuff that was for sale. (Harrell Fletcher’s website: projects: Gallery Here.)

Cary Leibowitz (aka Candyass) Carnival installations, early 1990s

Cary Leibowitz, Art Forum Berlin, 2007. A re-creation of Leibowitz’ iconic Candy Ass Carnival installations from the early 1990s. Source: Alexander Gray Associates

Cary Leibowitz’s Tondo Schmondo Fran Drescher Fan Club and Sad Rainbow, Happy Rainbow at Alexander Gray Associates. Source: Artnet.com

Cary Leibowitz mixes Jewish identity, kitsch, modernist critique, Queer politics, and design culture into dryly witty multiples and paintings. (Contemporary Jewish Museum)

Watch a short video on the installation at Art Forum Berlin on Vernissage TV. Or watch Cary Leibowitz’ artist’s talk in conversation with Glen Helfand at the Jewish Contemporary Museum in San Francisco on March 28, 2010.

Takashi Murakami’s Louis Vuitton shop in ©MURAKAMI, 2008
Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, CA, USA

Murakami at MOCA (Glenn Koenig / Los Angeles Times) A fully operational, fully staffed Louis Vuitton boutique, with merchandise designed by Murakami, sits above the show. Source: LATimes.com, Arts & Culture, Murakami at Moca

Watch extensive videos of Murakami discussing his works in the ©MURAKAMI exhibition at MOCA.

One gets spat out of the Murakami’s wonderland not through a volcano, but through a fully operational Louis Vuitton boutique. And if the Vuitton bag exceeds the budget the true Murakami experience can yet be attained through a shopping splurge in the Murakami-equipped museum store. Without a clear boundary between them, exhibition visit and shopping blend together to a borderless state of full satisfaction or, as Murakami likes to call it an ‘ongoing study in meaninglessness.’ (from Anna Gritz’ review of the exhibition in Frieze Magazine.

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Art & Development, Community

Meanwhile, Thameside…

If I were Bugs Bunny, I’d burrow my way to London today, and re-surface Thameside just in front of the Tate Modern. After dusting myself off and gliding past stunned tourists, I’d visit No Soul For Sale, A Festival of Independents:

The festival will bring together over 70 of the world’s most exciting independent art spaces, non-profit organizations and artists’ collectives, from Shanghai to Rio de Janeiro, to take over the iconic Turbine Hall with an eclectic mix of cutting-edge arts events, performances, music and film on 14-16 May 2010.

Alongside venerable alt spaces like Artist’s Space (NYC) are groups like Arrow Factory (Beijing), cneai (a French org devoted to artist’s multiples), Green Papaya Art Projects (who hosted my work, along with that by Stephanie Syjuco, Mike Arcega, Reanne Estrada, and Megan Wilson in Galleon Trade international art exchange in Manila in 2007) and The Royal Standard (a Liverpool-based collective, whose past directors include Laurence Payot, who participated in This & That International Mail Art Swap).

After that, I’d jump onto a Tate ferry to visit the Douglas Gordon exhibition at Tate Britain (thru May 23).

In 2009, [Gordon] was commissioned to create a site-specific work at Tate Britain, to be installed in the Octagon and alongside Art and the Sublime, a display of historic sublime works in the adjacent gallery. These spaces are remarkable for their austere, neo-classical grandeur, with barrel-vaulted ceilings and a central dome designed to make the gallery a ‘temple of art’. Gordon’s response was to utilize and animate the architecture itself with a complex yet cohesive installation of over eighty text-based works entitled Pretty much every word written, spoken, heard, overheard from 1989… (2010).

On one level, the effect seems to articulate Gordon’s idea of art operating as ‘a dialogue between artist and viewer’, hence many of the texts address us directly, employing ‘I’, ‘You’ and ‘We’. On another, it underlines the artist’s fascination with language and its potential for ambiguity, obscurity and multiple meanings.

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Art & Development, Research

Pop teeth

Artists are consumers themselves. They have their own elaborately constructed systems of valuation as subsets within larger realms of consumer value. No art is absolutely pure, or created in a vacuum outside those larger realms. (Gibson Cuyler on Libby Black’s Be Here Now, Art Practical 13, April 22, 2010)

Strange that this must be re-stated, but it’s often the case that criticism and radical opposition are considered equivocal. (Johanna Drucker argues that critics and academics best accept our complicity and move on to responding to the actual art in Sweet Dreams.)

To broach capitialism or material culture in one’s artwork is to risk easy, politically loaded readings. The work might be interpreted sympathetically as anti-capitalist commentaries, leftist/Marxist/politically correct indictments of globalization/consumerism/mass media/environmental destruction. On the opposite extreme lie allegations of consumerist gluttony, environmental sinfulness, aesthetic hedonism, artistic slumming, or naked ambition. Tsk-tsk! should art, which could signify genius and the sublime, muddy itself in base, money-grubbing popular culture.

I’m interested in work that doesn’t deny the facts of the world: capitalism, labor, production, material culture, popular culture. I think artists have the right to beg/borrow/steal from these themes without having being pigeonholed into positions of critical subversion or immoral kowtowing. It’s possible I’m a waffler. That I’m exploiting ambiguity by not taking a stand. If you were really cynical, you could argue that the only crime worse than politically incorrectness in contemporary art is being boring and didactic.

I’m looking at the catalog for Pop Life, the recent survey of Pop Art after 1970 at the Tate Modern. As I’m developing Irrational Exuberance (Asst. Colors), a shop-like exhibition of work on paper, sculpture and installation coming up at Sight School (opens May 14), it’s neat to think about Keith Haring’s Pop Shop and Sarah Lucas and Tracey Emin’s The Shop. I also listened to the Tate’s podcast of Emin talking about The Shop, wherein Emin clicked for me: her personality, class, background, enmeshed in the world, results in work that is likewise enmeshed in the world and her life.

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Art & Development, Sights

so much easier to love…

I came across some snippets of snipes on NYMag.com, wherein two of NYC macho-garde chefs rain rants across the land. It’s hilarious, and it made me wish that there was an equivalently funny bullshit-calling in the art world.

But, there isn’t that much that I hate in art. Hate is a strong word. Maybe I’m just not grouchy enough. Plus, there are loads of things right now that I love, or at least, expect to really, really like:

Maurice Sendak at the Contemporary Jewish Museum
In my college years, I spent hours studying the illustrator’s line and hand lettering. In The Night Kitchen remains one of my all-time favorite illustrated books. We may take for granted the grief and pathos in children’s fables thanks to Pixar, but I think Sendak, along with Roald Dahl and Shel Silverstein, bridged a tradition of making children’s stories that are more psychologically powerful and ambiguous than the sanitized moralism of fairy tales and Disney.

Charley Harper at Altman Siegal Gallery
Sooner or later, every designer (myself included) borrows from modernist geometry and late 20th century decoration, but the illustrator Charley Harper was the real deal. I’m looking forward to checking out this show of illustrations from Harper’s estate in person, and spying on his paintings on canvas. It naturally follows that for hard-edged, patterned, geometric abstraction would evolve in Adobe Illustrator, but it’s destined to result in hollow imitations without illustrators’ keen eyes.

—-
Black Mirrors

Some of my fellow CCA post-grads share an interest in black mirrors. For example, I learned of the Claude glass from Elizabeth Mooney last year. Recently, Bessma Khalaf created a black mirror for a video. The object and video appear in You’re Not There, Khalaf’s current solo show at Steven Wolf Gallery. The exhibition is sometimes funny and often disturbing. Bessma’s style might be described as no holds barred; You’re Not There trades in creepy, powerful experiences that are hard to shake, the visceral discomfort reminds me of Bruce Nauman’s work.

My project for SoEx’s Bellwether, incidentally, is called mirrorsblack. I’ve been literalizing the idea of putting viewers into my work for some time, but this new sculpture also attempts to literalize the dissolution of self as well. So it’s a pleasure to read about the latest massive installation in the Tate Modern‘s Turbine Hall: what it amounts to be is a black hole of visual perception: Miroslaw Balka’s giant, pitch black chamber. So often I think people go into museums expecting only visual pleasure, I love the idea of turning this expectation on its head, and putting nothingness — or, perhaps more accurately, non-visual experience or the vision of darkness — at the fore.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Exercises in Seeing, a show curated by Matthew Post at Queen’s Nails Annex coming up in November. It’s a one-night exhibition in which the gallery will be completely dark. The question of where the art is will be literalized, and again, experience will be emphasized over visuality. I’ll post more details as I hear of them.

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Art & Development, Community, Travelogue

thameside art highlights

Shadows and lights on the Queen's Walk, Thameside, London. Sorry, none of the exhibitions allowed photography. What you see is what you get.

Shadows and lights on the Queen's Walk, Thameside, London. Sorry, none of the exhibitions allowed photography. What you see is what you get.

Some highlights from my recent trip to visit museums in London. It seems like there’s never enough time in London, but I hope to make it back for galleries and more fun.

Annette Messenger
Mark Wallinger Curates The Russian Linesman
Hayward Gallery

Messenger is amazing. The exhibition makes evident how she was influential in the development of installation art. The work highly symbolic and theatrical — “a dreamscene tableaux,” as Claire Bishop might describe it — so it’s not exactly my favorite type of installation art, but I was profoundly moved nonetheless. In particular, I really liked “Articulated/Disarticulated,” (see a photo on Urban Landfill blog) a recent, room-sized installation where stuffed human and animal forms were mechanically tortured. It really captured the essence of her dichotomies — both comical and horrifying, humorous and tragic, magical and corporeal. “Casino” is a giant installation — the most phenomenological of the works on view, I think — and it’s stunning.

Wallinger curated a show that probed perception and thresholds. Artifacts are mixed in with contemporary and historical works. It’s a really perceptive show. Fred Sandback’s space delimitations looked fantastic. I knew that the rectangular outline was comprised purely of black string, not glass or some other solid surface, but I tried to bring myself to interrupt the immaterial plane and I couldn’t. Good stuff.

Wallinger’s also got some of his own work, mixed in with a series of 3-D viewfinders of historical photos. They set a high expectation for excellence for the show, and it doesn’t disappoint.

Roni Horn
Rodchenko & Popova
Tate Modern

Horn’s work is highly idiosyncratic. I’m still mulling it over — especially the strange groupings of photographs, including the signature weather/model image — but two things immediately stuck. First, of course, I enjoyed “The Opposite of White” dyad — giant, solid cast glass sculptures in transparent glass and opaque black. Two irreconcilable, but true facts: white reflects light, hence its opposite is transparency; or is its opposite that which absorbs light (black)? Second, you have to see Horn’s hermetic, strange drawings. Reproduction doesn’t do them justice. They’re extreme — a pattern is loose and gestural, pencil marks diagrammatic, and cuts and inlays mechanically precise. They’re astounding, quiet feats, really.

Rodchenko & Popova is a major survey of the dynamic output of two pre-Stalinist artists. Paintings, graphic works (pleasingly tight in pen, weirdly wonky in color crayon, of all things), letterpress publications, films, textile design, furniture, posters, 3-D constructions, photographs and did I mention motion graphics?—means that there is loads to look at and appreciate. I really ‘get’ the Constructions in Constructivism now, and formally appreciate the simple compositions of repeated lines and circles. Most of all, I came away with the sense of avant garde fearlessness, as the couple was unafraid to make clean breaks from previous art styles, even their own. They formulated many new platforms and embraced integration and service to the public.

Altermodern
Tate Britain

Nicolas Bourriaud curated this triennial of mostly British artists. Bourriaud has coined “Altermodern” to describe an in-progress theory about the globalized, interconnected epoch to follow Postmodernism. He casts the artist as “homo viator, a traveller whose passage through signs and formats reflect a contemporary experience of mobility.” When I turned my gaze from the Tate Britain’s impressive pediment towards the Thames (where it’s easy to recognize the seat of imperial power), I wondered how fully a British art institution could embrace a new, multi-polar, Zakarian world. My skepticism was corroborated, when, in Global Modernities, the coinciding symposium, Walter Mignolo labelled the theory “a Eurocentric critique of Eurocentrism.”

I think altermodern an interesting term, and it may be useful for categorizing some existing themes in art — transitional sites (e.g., Walead Beshty’s FedEx boxes, “transit-specific works” as Galleon Trade colleague Eric Estuar Reyes would put it, see video at the Whitney 2008 Biennial site) and liminal states (Spartacus Chetwynd’s beanbag installation with psychedelic performative video, or Gustav Metzger’s crystal light show — I shit you not). The triennial is sort of, well, triennial-y: giant, well-executed spectacular installations, some big names, and limited thematic connections. Here’s what stood out:

Franz Ackermann posits what seems to be a critique of immigration and national identity. (Pics on ArtNet.)

Darren Almond delivers surprising, stunning photographs as usual.

Peter Coffin‘s staged projection- and installation-based museum exhibition, where photos and videos are projected on works from museum collections, e.g., bees on a painting by Joseph Albers. A virulent strain of MJT uncanny.

Navin Rawanchaikul‘s hand-painted Indian-style movie billboard is a riot; the accompanying documentary video of interviews of Indians who’ve relocated to Thailand seems pedestrian and conventional by comparison.

Bob and Roberta Smith create a “junk space” (as identified by Irit Rogoff, the consequences of global modernity) littered with disused stuff and the characteristically ironically upbeat-but-sad-sack enamel signs. One, “I wish I could have voted for Barack Obama,” (pic on ArtNet) is paired with a colorful plastic tricycle, highlighting the wishful thoughts of Britons. Smith pointed out that the exhibition is meant to be interrogative, but I think it’s pretty cool to have an explicitly didactic space within it via his signs. Extra points to Mr. Smith for avoiding the common UK mispronunciation of Barack (“BER-rick,” as opposed to “Buh-RAWK).

Simon Starling illustrates his brilliant reduction of forms with a series of desks commissioned by emailing low-resolution photographs to furniture makers. There’s more to it, of course, having to do with Francis Bacon and others, but the gesture is pure poetry.

Tate-to-Tate ferry
Brilliant, easy, scenic, affordable. You know, art institutions usually have short hours, so minimized travel during open hours is appreciated. Also, “Tate-to-Tate” is a nice sounding phrase, like a mirror, and also reminds me of the 1980s TV show, “Hart to Hart.”

Reconnecting with Mediha

This quote.
As an existentialist, I tend to agonize about my art/legacy/life becoming fodder for “the dustbin of history,” so it was surprising to hear the ever-optimistic M.D. say: “The great thing about history is that things disappear” in regards to the dominating influence of Conceptualism and Minimalism in contemporary art today.

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