Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Emilio Perez: Where Wild Style Graffiti and Fine Art Meet

Emilio Perez, a native New Yorker and former Pratt Student, is had his first solo show with Galerie Lelong (528 West 26th Street). His automatic drawings and organic doodles are painted with slick latex while portions are sliced from the board. They reminisce with urban Wild Style graffiti in a softer, more educated palette. Somehow they have mixed together industrial cleanliness into street art not found on typical corners. These collections of paintings, some as far back as 2005, have graduated from his sometimes centrally based earlier work. Their cascading, swirling, landscape compositions are a trademark of this artist. While many of the images appear similar, Perez shows the ability to create a cohesive body of work. The movement and energy generated by these are sometimes visually bogged. However, this work is outright invigorating and inspiring to gallerists and viewers that not all art in Chelsea has to be expensive and horrible to look at.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Richard Serra: Forty Years

The Museum of Modern Art is currently exhibiting a retrospective of Richard Serra titled Richard Serra Sculpture: Forty Years. The work exhibited ranges from older work from the 1960’s after graduating from Yale University until recent work from 2006. Richard Serra was born in San Francisco California in 1939 and has been creating large sculptures for over forty years. His use of materials and styles has varied during this time, but began working almost strictly with steel in the 1970’s. Previous to using steel, Serra used lead because of its malleability and before that dabbled in vulcanized rubber.

His early work such as Belts (1966-67) is reminiscent of Bruce Nauman’s “dude ranch dada” with his use of neon tube lighting and vulcanized rubber formed into hanging saddle-like structures. The neon imitates the forms of the saddle shapes, but is somehow opposite as if it was meant to reflect the outside contours of a horse rider. The rubber at first appears to be large strips of leather in various earth tones. Upon reading the plaque, one discovers that the material is in fact rubber. Other early works like Equal Parallel: Guernica - Bengasi (1986) resonate with the minimalist work of Donald Judd with his use of democratic, compositional hierarchy of forms. Serra’s title however, compares the grievances and suffering of Picasso’s Guernica and the old port city of Italian colonized Libia, Bengasi; which has seen its share of empirical suffering and violence. Serra’s new work from 2006 is located on the second floor: Sequence, Band, and Torqued Torus Inversion. They are all made from weatherproof steel, but have explicit, separate sensations to each of them. Band (2006) propels the viewer to walk closely to the steel while imitating the movement of a stream. Torqued Torus Inversion (2006) is actually two large sculptures next to each other. One gives a sensation of an open area inside and the other feels like the sculpture is closing in on the viewer. The most successful piece in the show is Sequence (2006) because of how Serra wants his work to be received; “I wanted to get away from the imagistic value of an object in an empty space and instead put the focus on the experience of the entirety of the context”. Sequence accomplishes what Serra expresses in this quote and can be the most enjoyable for most visitors. If Serra had pushed the limits of the angles on the material beyond what is physically possible, the sensation would have been the opposite, uncomfortable and claustrophobic. Sequence imitates the sensation of walking through a great canyon, like one of the small trails at the bottom of the Grand Canyon in Arizona. It was something that one would want to walk over and over again. On the other hand, it was a bit crowded and would have been more appreciable without the constant stream of people and the incessant docent tour going on in the background.

While Richard Serra is a very important artist in the 21st century, he has not always been favored by female artists in the art community. He embodies phallic, oversized sculptures teetering on the obscene. This oversized work insinuates many negative stereotypes of male artists from his generation. He has been recognized as a great artist while female sculptors such as Petah Coyne have gone unnoticed until recently. One has to take this into consideration when attending a forty year retrospective at the MOMA, but Serra has some new work that produces the exact experience he is attempting to create between the work and the viewer. That is something very difficult for an artist to achieve, and in his own right he deserves the recognition that he gets.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Neo Rauch at the Metropolitan Museum of Art

Neo Rauch was born in Leipzig, Germany, in 1960. He is a contemporary painter who uses styles from the Social Realists, Pop, and the Surrealists movements. Rauch is also a well known international artist who is represented in New York by the David Zwirner gallery at 525 West 19th Street. Currently, he has created a group of works for The Giaconda and Joseph King Gallery on display at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, titled “para”.

Para is a woman who has given birth to a number of children, or the children themselves. Rauch has specifically created all new paintings for this space, as if the title para references him in this act; the act of creation, of something like a child. The show in another setting may not have been as well received, but in the Metropolitan Museum, the show is stellar. The paintings are strikingly strange, yet somehow work in a confused mix of old and new iconography. Die Fuge / (The Gap) (2007) is the largest, which hangs outside of the smaller gallery and in the bigger, contemporary collection. Die Fuge has a strange sense of time where there are mythical human-creatures, old-style uniformed soldiers, and a woman with a double-vision head who has been misplaced from the forties. There is also modern architecture and contemporary graffiti on the building. Der Nachste Zug / (The Next Move /The Next Draw) (2007) shows an interior scene of men at a card game and a man and woman at the back table. Between the spaces, Rauch uses linearly abstract smoke lines, which hardly make sense. Yet, he pulls it off. They are the most abstract forms in the exhibit, as if Rauch can play with his paint and not loose sight of his imagination and story telling. The back wall and the floors also appear abstracted from his chosen use of textures. Next to the men at the card table, there is a shrine like structure that holds a book. Along the top of the shrine is the word, para. Once again Rauch is referencing his role as a creator. His socialist, East German background helps the viewer to understand that these creations are not narcissistic interpretations of himself. Instead, Rauch is creating a story, and perhaps telling a history that may or may not have existed. This is reminiscent of the formation of Germany as a country and it’s creation of a heritage with mythologies and heroines. It is difficult to tell if Rauch has chosen to use this historical reference as a commentary of his experience in Germany. One would assume that these contrasting governments made a great impact on him and these stories are how he makes sense of his culture and experiences. Another historical technique that Rauch uses is from Chinese history. Chinese scroll paintings used transitional spaces to tell narration and time. Warten auf die / (Waiting for the Barbarians (2007) is a prime example of this because of its landscape backgrounds and transitional space from mountains to war- ridden fields.

Neo Rauch’s new works are successful because of his use of transitional space, but also because he successfully references his culture while still managing to freak out the viewer a bit. It is appreciating to see rendered works that don’t have to be taken too seriously, yet can be contemplated as dialogue of contemporary German culture and their mix-match themes that Americans can so well relate to.

Monday, May 21, 2007

The Shape of Space

The Shape of Space currently on view at the Guggenheim Museum consists of various artists from different movements. The cohesive theme is geometry referenced or used to show space. There are particular curatorial issues where the show continues to be added upon from April to July, leaving many blank walls and a feeling of seeing work, that has been shown before- except hung next to different works. Bluntly put, don’t pay the full admission price until the show is fully hung.

The Guggenheim Guide briefs the visitor on the theme and some of the artworks currently on view. It references the historical artistic endeavor to portray space through cubism, linear perspective, and minimalism. The first work to stand out is Sarah Morris’s Mandalay Bay (Las Vegas) (1999). It references contemporary geometric abstraction based artists such as Julie Mehretu and many of the younger painters emerging from school. It stands out particularly because of its larger size compared to the rest of the works, and it precise, bright color palette. Strangely enough, it is hung next to Agnes Martin’s White Stone (1965), which is from the minimalist movement and addresses space in a very different fashion. Agnes chose a minimal white oil paint on linen with a small grid motif drawn into the surface. Sometimes minimalist art can be a bit heavy on the conceptual side, but in this particular case, the minimalist work of Martin and Morris next to eachother creates a dialogue between space and the lack of space tied together with a grid theme. One can begin to put together a consistent theme climbing the Rotunda Gallery, difficult to distinguish unless the visitor is an avid Guggenheim Guide reader or is keen on grids and geometry. Not until seeing these pieces side by side does one appreciate the work of Carl Adre or Laszlo Moholy-Nagy. How backwards does this idea feel? Moholy-Nagy in particular have two pieces hung that have both a quality of contemporary work and an old pioneer of the tradition of geometric abstraction. He used new materials like plexi-glass and painted planes in space, but also used the wall behind as another use of space with the shadow on the wall. Piotr Uklanski’s Dance Floor (1968) is somewhat overbearing for a museum setting. The constant hip-hop pop music plays in the background while colored squares below light up in various grid patterns. It receives most of the attention in the exhibit, but somehow people are missing their “thug get-ups” and a stiff drink in their hands. However, can appreciate Uklanski’s take on urban culture in 1968, but by adding contemporary hip-hop music to the work today, makes it latent with unprocessed cultural commentary and seems indirectly out of context with the date on the plaquard. It is difficult to imagine the artist isn’t sitting home now, laughing to himself about blaring hip-hop in the Guggenheim for the first time.

All of the artists chosen visually deal with geometry and space but what is most interesting is not the works chosen, or the curatorial theme developed by the institution, but how it references contemporary art trends. It is urban, architectural, contest capitalism and is old, yet somehow new and fits in New York. Perhaps this collection of works can be personally identifying for what has happened in the past and validates the forward trend of its re-emergence today. It will be interesting to return to the show when it is fully hung, and hopefully it will develop into a fully processable show, that does not wreak of – we had nothing else to hang up, so why not.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Niels van Eijk- Bobbin Lace

Domestic lighting; post B. Franklin connotes a filament surrounded by sensitive, heat-conducting glass. Niels van Eijk the Dutch artist hailing from the Netherlands is renown for their woven lighting systems, which are unquestionably spectacular. The clean seemingly simple design is highly loaded with subtext.

Plait from Fiber optics and trace meal wire the Bobbin Lace Lamp is composed of five main elements. A brief dense twist of fibers extruding from the ceiling, immediately following, a conical pan of fibers assembling a circle parallel to the ground; I aptly suspect there are exactly three-hundred-sixty-five fibers protruding from the dense braid aligning so properly to said circle. Nearly four feet of expanding knot-work connect the first ring to another nearly two hundred percent its own size.

The seemingly simple design is now creating problems in which it solves; the material handling has clearly been manipulated to appear as if it is not obeying the fundamental laws of gravity. A tighter stitch towards the center creates elegant, arabesque curvature through the visual experience thus far. Obeying gravity blindly now, the lower circle lures the viewer (with striking resemblance to methods adapted by cave glowworms). Long, thin, glowing, shiny, shimmering, delicate strands hang freely from said ring; each varying slightly in length.
Other dominant variables in the work include but are not limited to the scale of the rings parallel to the floor and the negative space created by the dynamic handling of the material; the negative space fills the object with solidity through a highly sophisticated activation of the physical space it occupies. The inescapable fact that the object at hand is radiating commands the attention not only of the viewer but the space surrounding it (again a highly sophisticated method of activation, although basic is very well considered by the artist.)

The object’s radiance and gesture also transcribes a figure, actually quite strongly, incorporates a sense of gravity, scale, and a voluptuous sensory experience. The figure is quite feminine, elegant, and curvaceous. The artist elevates the subject to a dominating position, scaled noticeably larger than life-size at nine feet, ten inches (not to mention it is literally higher than the viewer). This full body portrait is complete without all of the traditional elements however, there are no appendages (i.e. arms, legs, head)!

The fixed article holding the gesture is related to a simple, traditional dress design. A strong dialectical problem however, its glowing, and it would not be anywhere near the modest adornment it claims to be at a glance. Positioned in such a manner that one cannot walk under, to look directly up into the work, it cannot be exposed. One sees what is present but cannot experience it in any other manner than what seems to be the artists intention; again emphasizing the dominance of the subject over the viewer.

The work appears the same from every angle, it emits spherical references; one cannot help but to make the connection between Bobbin Lace Lamp (keeping in mind it is emitting photons, and radiating heat) and the Sun. The artist has now accurately presented the sun at static and transformed the viewer into a revolving planetary system, again accurately, sustaining life, and obeying the act of revolutions. The connection could be further drawn to include the dialectical conversation between women and the sun, articulating the life-granting prowess of the sun in conjunction with the act of internal child development endowed by solely women. The sun is arguably the entity within our entire galaxy that we as Earth inhabitants are most dependent upon (grass is the primary food source for more animalia than any other); we as humans are arguably most directly dependent upon women if for no other reason than the action of childbirth.

The clear curatorial goals include illustrating a severe dialectic; namely one involved with a domestic craft, specifically string-work whether it be laced, tied, sewn, rubber, cut metal with an oxyacetylene torch or even fiber-optic. The defining element tying these works together is that the subjects at hand are antithetical to the traditional use and understanding of the their placement within society, culture, and our personal experiences. Clearly, this work was exceptionally chosen as it stands to be the defining work in the show; most illustrating the intent of the curator behind the grouping of the works chosen. Two major themes expressed by the curators within the catalogue are involved with light and scale, in the presented terms, there is no work in my mind that rivals Bobbin Lace Lamp in consideration of scale and lightness.

Written by Trevor Freedland

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Wangechi Mutu at the Brooklyn Museum

Walking into the Brooklyn Museum’s new Elisabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art wing, I was directly confronted with sexually charged sculpture followed by Judy Chicago’s The Dinner Party, 1974-79. Only by wandering further, into the Global Feminism show did I run into Wangechi Mutu’s Installation, Try Dismantling the Little Empire Inside of You, 2007. It is one of the more visually bold works in the show, which confronts feminism through grotesque aesthetics. There were other pieces that also dealt in the grotesque, but the visual tactile qualities of Mutu’s grotesque surfaces seemed to be missing from many of the other rooms in the wing. First impressions got me thinking about her recent visit to Pratt Institute, and her lecture on how she used the scarring of the walls as complementary elements to the drawing and painting sections of her installations.

This gives way to the many curatorial errors in how the show was set-up surrounding Ms. Mutu’s work. To the left and right of her installed wall, there was Tracy Rose’s Venus Baartman, 2001, and Bemi Searle’s Girl from the colour me, 1999. These works were important pieces of modern feminist work from South Africa, but Mutu’s Installation should have taken up the entire sectioned area. The three works were done by African female artists, who are addressing feminist issues, but all of the mediums and specific themes were not. It was impossible to stand in front of her work and not see the works to the left and right. Furthermore, there were many video artist’s in the show, and were in close proximity of each other. Audibly, they would intrude on Mutu’s installation and it was extremely difficult for me to even stand in front of the work and take notes on the piece while hearing wailing, trumpets, and singing. It was completely overwhelming and did not give me the chance to fully focus on the work and the emotions that is directed me to have. Instead, it would have been a wiser decision to lower the volume of the video works, to an even-toned, acceptable level, or place them in areas where the sound could be better contained.

Embedded in the installation, the wall appears to have these jewel-like pearlescent forms, which may or may not have been intended to also be seen as acne. This duality comes from her use of the pearlescent forms coming out of reddish sores on the wall which may represent something positive emerging from the grotesque or the grotesque could at any time consume the jewel-like pearls. In contrast to the violent imagery on the mylar panels, these precious scars jut out of the surface making the entire wall feel like a spongy organic wall-being. The mylar panels portray a pictorial scene, making the entire installation reference an internal and external perspective.

Next to the piece, the placard describes Mutu’s materials used, and a quote: “I think a Revolution dies when somehow it is deemed to have completed its work… Feminism in all its various iterations has permeated only certain very privileged classes and sections of women’s lives worldwide… and only succeeds when it transcends, mutates, and empowers every section of our personal, social, economic and political lives”.… giving more meaning to the work at hand. It is unclear if this statement was made in reference to the work, or if it was applied to the work as a well rounded perspective on the artist view on Feminism. I feel that the particular imagery in the installation directly relates to the quote. In that context, the imagery and meaning of the work became more encompassing and well-rounded.

The cutout imagery consists of women’s legs, skulls, machine parts, and a chimpanzee. The machine parts are attached to the larger, goddess-like figure on the right who seems to be simultaneously emitting and dismantling the leg and skull figures. Above this ball of collected bleeding and diseased imagery, there is a chimpanzee with a saint-like halo, giving a similar hand gesture to the blessing of Christ. The ball also has stick-like star shapes which allude to a 3-dimensional, geometric object made of thorns. Below there are long natural grass stands that give an outdoor setting to the floating, thorny ball and the goddess-like figure. It is important to mention that none of Mutu’s chosen images or painted areas are attractive, but they are so beautifully, technically executed it makes the installation a very vibrant section to the entire Global Feminism show. Because the machine parts are attached to the main figure and the diseased, bleeding, grotesque images are coming out of the breast or armpit of the figure, the piece seems to be an internal and external struggle of the standards of beauty; As if, the figure is ridding themselves of these vile concepts, but can’t really get away from them at the same time. This is a blessed process, by a monkey- one that seems comical but ominously serious.

I feel that this piece was particularly meaningful to me because as a feminist woman, I feel the same internal struggle of contemporary beauty standards and what I should and should not be doing as an independent woman. To me, the monkey could represent the socially sanctioned media, where it gets to deem what sorts of things are attractive. Mutu represents these things as painful and negative which only lead to a personal infestation of what women want. It is something that all women deal with, but some get sucked into the easier, thornier web of social trends. Women want to feel attractive and emotionally valid, but what we really need as women is to create our own personal standards- not allowing it get inside and taint ourselves.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Intentions of a blogger

Finding myself on Saatchi's website- http://www.saatchi-gallery.co.uk, I ran into some new artists that I found particularly interesting in regards to the type of work that I have been resonating with lately. I would like to pass their fascinating sense of energy and strangeness along to you. In order, Alisa Margolis, Michael Bauer, and Jacqueline Humphries.

What I would like to know, is why this type of work is not being shown in Chelsea? As a student, as an artist, and as someone involved in the professional art world, I find Chelsea to be particularly mis-representational of the work that I have seen in emerging artists. I guess this is what has prompted me to start this blog in the first place. Every good artist needs to be a critic , but not every critic is an artist. My intention for this is not to be a space for my personal rants or an allegorically, sexually transmitted disease. It is instead a place to infect the community with a new artistic perspective and to get people talking. Not to mention, STD's are a major social issue, but I have some weird sexual perversion that I love to include in anything that I find passionate. Throughout this process, I hope to have other artists and critics contributing and conversing over new art today.

If you are interested in posting an art critique to this blog, please contact me and I will review your submission. Happy STD'ing.