Monday, April 25, 2011

Picasso and Marie-Thérèse, L’amour fou: Gagosian Gallery : New York, NY & David Altmejd : Andrea Rosen Gallery : New York, NY

Picasso. There has always been something about him that rubbed me wrong. Something about his god-like worshiped status that I just refuse to condone. That refusal still hasn’t changed but I have to say, confess perhaps, that the show at Gagosian on 21st Street, Picasso and Marie-Thérèse, L’amour fou, curated by Picasso biographer, John Richardson and Picasso’s granddaughter/art historian Diana Widmaier Picasso is really something to see.

The show revolves around a sun that is and was Marie-Thérèse Walker. She was a French girl Picasso met when she was, ah-hem, 17 years old and he was, uh-hum, 45 years old. Icky I know but I guess those things have and always will happen. When you enter (after you have been relieved of your personal belongings from an attendant) you see reproduced photographs of Marie-Thérèse. I was startled to see a sort-of plain looking girl. I mean she is pretty but she was not this ravishing perfection that I was anticipating. She was actually quite masculine looking and I thought ah, Pablo must have liked a more brusque type of girl. Her age, yes, is relevant but she possessed an incredible presence, she seems unmovable, fully realized in her confidant gaze. This introductory glimpse of this significance of existence was further revealed and confirmed by the proceeding rooms of paintings, sculptures and other works made in ode to her.

Marie-Thérèse seems to have illuminated and perplexed, each work Picasso made of her reflects this. Picasso’s various virtuosic styles, they are as distinct as costume hats, appear to be mere tools in trying to act as conduit to the idea that was Marie-Thérèse. Even the works that employ the most Picasso-y of Picasso’s style (the ones with the ovid faces, two eyes like a flounder and colors bright and bold) are less annoying in their over confidence because the more works done in the name of Marie-Thérèse the more you, yourself, see her and get why Picasso is the man to immortalize her. There were also fascinatingly curious works, usually smaller in scale, paintings that were just a few lines, a few circles, making expressive cannibalizing faces. The texture and the strokes throughout feel as present and heavy as if Picasso swiped his index finger along your thigh.

Quickly now to the idea of being a muse: I think to be a muse and to be one for such a grand cut as Picasso must have been utterly divine. Marie-Thérèse - poor girl her nothing. She spent about ten years, 1927-1936 with Picasso, and had a child by him, whom they called Maya. She was the sunbeam but also the lightening rod that ended Pablo’s marriage to Russian ballerina Olga Koklova, whom he had a son named Paulo with. She was also the dead weight when it came to Picasso’s next amour, Dora Maar. In any case, yes these were real people, there were real tears, real children, real bedrooms and walks in gardens but these things have now become bigger, not better, but more tantalizing. In this way Marie-Thérèse is immortalized, well in our narrow beetle-brained sense of time at least, she has become myth and Picasso’s love for her transfers mightily onto any who sees this show.

Picasso haters, as I can be called at times, stop the charade of anti-populism. Go see this show. It is curated and presented well and it is very good. Leave the know-it-all airs at the coat check with your bag.


I can never pronounce David Altmejd’s name, but who cares, as soon as you say something like, “that guy who does those sculptures of those crystal animals heads,” people know who you are talking about. He’s Canadian, I’m not sure why this is always mentioned but I’ve noted it to be consistent. He has a new show up (will be closed by the time this is posted) at Andrea Rosen Gallery. (Just as an aside, what is up with Andrea Rosen’s hair? Can an insider please let me know?!)

The main gallery has two clear plastic boxes. They are large, fit a car large, and house intricate scenes. The one closest to the entry resembles a swan. Well, a weird, fucked up, DNA type of swan. The intricacy of the internal construction is like looming, blood vessels, timeline drawings, static electricity. All of it illusions to an uncanny suspension. The delicacy of the threads in their accumulation is impressive. The other box is less referenced, but it is definitely doing something. There is a strange sense that it is showing you how something works or some sort of evolutionary codex. In both there are also weirdly stop motion animated elements. Hands that are carved out of the walls move down into the boxes then move inside, turning into a head, then into an ear or into noses. They are creepy. It all has a creepy vibe.

In a separated room there is a more massive display of the illusion that some angle-demon was hatched from the Andre Rosen gallery and mauled the walls in its birthing. At the center of this room there is a smaller squarer box with stone, minerals, pretty rocks on an ascending ramp. Black at the bottom, white at the top, colors in the middle. This is the point when it’s like okay-okay we get that this is supposed to be some sort of key! It’s all very Goth but what can I say, I’m a sucker for some fake hair and agate.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Art Crushes

It is getting to be springtime in NYC, and with it comes a lightness and a breeze of renewal. There has been too much rain, too few 60-70 degree days but we’ll take what we can get. It feels just wonderful. Everyone, in NYC becomes nicer as the degrees tic up and what’s more, they become sexier. This city is filled with lovelies and it is the best place to be when you can see the stylish clothes and eccentric gaits, not hidden under a mass of black wool and scarves.

This spring bug has bitten me; planting seeds, cleaning rooms, looking online for sandals and sunglasses and also getting the flutters for romance and mischief. I have embraced the goo-goo-ga-ga primordial reflex when it comes to the boys and men on the streets, in the movies, in the subways, wherever else they can be seen and I am thoroughly enjoying it. This made me think about all the men in the art world that I have seeded crushes on. This list has existed for a while in my head; usually visualized in cursive lettering like Catholic schoolgirls used to have, and I would like to share this with you.

None of this is of course serious. It’s more about the certain je ne sais quoi these men posses. There is nothing to be taken literal or personal folks…this is just a doodle in my spiral notebook. And yes, of course I have crushes on many (probably more) female artists and insiders but this one is just for the boys. This is in alphabetical order:

Bas Jan Ader --------------(the most tenderest of lovers I imagine)

Aids 3-D -------------------(both hot, both have the best looking GFs)

Ivin Ballen ---------------- (looks like a hockey player, sweetest to his GF)

Matthew Barney ----------(duhhhhhhhhh)

Colby Bird -----------------(doing such interesting work)

Slater Bradley -------------(not too into his work but with a name like that…)

Olaf Breuning -------------(can we party?)

Marcel Broodthaers ------(can we hold hands?)

Caravaggio ----------------(yums)

Coley Brown --------------(work is so-so but so friggin cute)

Chris Burden --------------(everyone loves a badass)

Holland Cotter ------------(I would love to get a bagel and coffee with you)

Simon Critchley ----------(I am an anglophile)

Anne de Vries -------------(fashionable and sweet)

Carroll Dunham ----------(penises, the man is fixated on penises)

Roe Ethridge --------------(I like New England types, and his name is Roe...duh)

Sam Falls ------------------(best mix tapes)

Alex Gartenfeld ----------(I know we would never work out but can I still be your plus one?)

Giotto ----------------------(pillow fight!)

Tomoo Gokita ------------(coolest date ever)

Hans Haacke -------------(can we ride bikes together?)

David Hammons ---------(walk at sunset)

David Hickey -------------(only if we can get drunk together)

Jonathan Horowitz -------(I would make protest signs with you)

Peter Hujar ----------------(sensitive)

Williams E Jones ---------(can we get tacos?)

Andrew Kuo --------------(seems “hip” maybe just besties)

Oliver Laric ---------------(so good…but sort of distant, we gals love that)

Leigh Ledare --------------(like total dirty hot sex)

Rene Magritte -------------(I would walk around with a sheet on my head all day for you)

Christian Marclay --------(you melt me)

Gordon Matta Clark -----(sigh)

Michelangelo -------------(magic hands)

Henrik Olsen --------------(I would wear leather pants for you)

Blinky Palermo -----------(hawtness)

Javier Peres ----------------(never saw irl but seems like he would be intense)

William Pope. L -----------(would show a gal cool places)

Adam Putnam -------------(so tall, so smart)

Walid Raad ----------------(raaaaad)

Christian Rattemeyer ----(not sure why…)

Andrew Russeth ----------(if anything is right in this world he will be a big time critic)

Ben Schumacher ---------(the best of whatever it is that is currently happening)

Peter Schjeldahl ----------(Now THIS is a man I would want to go to baseball games with!)

Egon Schiele --------------(meh, why not)

Robert Smithson ----------(it’s chill, we can collect rocks)

Paul Thek ------------------(sensitive, sad eyes)

Wolfgang Tillmans -------(strong and flannelled)

Jeffrey Tranchell ----------(catalog good looks, hangs out with cool kids)

Diego Velasquez ----------(aiyiyi)

David Wojnarowicz ------(sexiest voice ever)

This is really just a quick list. I’m sure I left some gems out but eh, anything that takes more then an hour is not a good idea especially when it comes to this post.

So there that is. Hope you are enjoying the sunshine, making out, holdings hands and telling your significant other(s) how cute they are. Let’s embrace this spring, even if soppy at times, and be excited by all the lovely faces and art to be seen.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Ode to Bashō and A Few Art Haikus

Matsuo Bashō was a famous poet during Edo Japan born November 28, 1644 in Ueno, a province of Iga (now part of Mie Prefecture). His poetic form was the haibun, a combination of haiku and prose. His haiku poems are recognized as the ultimate examples of this style. A compilation book published by Penguin Classics and translated by Nobuyuki Yuasa, (1966) presents five of Bashō’s travel sketches, The Record of a Weather-Exposed Skeleton, A Visit to the Kashima Shrine, The Records of a Travel-Worn Satchel, A Visit To Sarahina Village and The Narrow Road To The Deep North. As with any translated work, there is certainly something lost but we can only be gracious in this unenviable task and be understanding of the admitted limitations. The fact that it is poetry adds to the acuteness of errors but in any case, I sadly cannot read Japanese. For those who can, I envy that you can read these in their natural form.

Bashō’s travels extended throughout Japan and take years to “complete”. There is of course a quest quality to these stories but there is just as much a heartening sense of companionship and the enrichments of human contact. Bashō named himself thus from a bashō tree that was presented as a gift and planted by his home. This is a type of banana tree that does not fruit or flower or have a trunk that can be of any use. Bashō seems to have relished in the uselessness of this tree. Through Bashō’s travels there is a sense of the external complications of existing, the desire for solitude and of seeking, the mundane and the persistent that are one in the same as they are elemental. This idea of the quest is timeless but the telling of it by Bashō far exceeds the novelty of Kerouac.

The prose elements are like brief journal entries, they place the time in between the destinations of the shrine or the friend’s home or a certain tree. They can briefly contain the unremarkable events of days and weeks and guides you to whatever present experience Bashō wants to share with you in the form of a haiku. The haikus are about the specifics, sometimes written by one of his traveling companions or at the request of a stranger just met. These tend to use nature as stand-ins for emotion and time. Their form also requires the slowing of the pace of reading, something that is wonderful to submit to. Below are some examples of haiku and prose verse in this compilation:

Should I hold them in my hand,

They disappear

In the warmth of my tears,

Icy strings of frost.

The Murder Stone was in a dark corner of a mountain near a hot spring, and was completely wrapped in the poisonous gas rising from it. There was such a piles of dead bees, butterflies, and other insects, that the real colour of the ground was hardly discernible.

Bitten by fleas and lice,

I slept in a bed,

A horse urinating all the time

Close to my pillow.

No matter where I fall

On the road,

Fall will I to be buried

Among flowering bush-clovers

In a silly homage to Bashō I will now write a few haiku’s about some art thoughts and experiences I have had this past week. I am being intentionally glib as to attempt this form in any just way would require a skill that I am not equipped with. Please note that traditional Japanese haiku is composed of 17 on (sound units) not 17 syllables. As was remarked earlier, it is regrettable the complications brought on by translation. The English application of the haiku form has been predominantly practiced using a 5,7,5 syllabic form (17 syllables total) while in truth if following traditional Japanese form this translates to roughly 12 English syllables to the Japanese 17. For all intents and purposes though I will use the more inculcated English 5-7-5 form. Although presumably an incorrect form, it is easier to follow this then to pretend I have a mastery of poetic syllabic content. Here goes:

If he were still here

Warhol sits in a corner

Fearing silver face

Long Island City

What has become of your back

A daffodil scar

Vaulted mirrored room

Trembles CMYK sky

Found him there naked

A room of faces

Masks of sumi lines surround

Come hang out with us

Your voice is a box

memory machine maker

Drum drum the kids say

China will defeat

All of us eventually

It will be okay

Monday, April 4, 2011

Bas Jan Ader : In Search of the Miraculous : Jan Verwoert : Afterall 2006

Bas Jan Ader is probably my favorite artist, if such a question can ever be answered. He was Dutch and lived in California, and was a quote unquote conceptual artist whose work was based on an extremely un-conceptual thing, feelings. He is wonderfully tragic in that he died (presumably) while attempting a work entitled In Search of the Miraculous (Songs for the North Atlantic: July 1975-). Jan Verwoert’s very slim but thoughtful book traces this piece and those that proceed it as well as framing Ader’s artistic practice within trends of the times and its revelation of basic human impulse.

I was only just recently introduced to Jan Verwoert via a mock-projection-lecture but his affirmative tone and complete security of his thoughts and articulations of them impressed me. He is German, writes for art magazines, and is just about everywhere now that I recognize his name. He is impish and his mouth a smirk, he is probably smarter then you (me for sure) but that’s okay because his thing is about anti-authority, I love those types. From what little I have read and listened of him, he thinks authority; be it intellectual, political, material, philosophical etc, should be re-framed and then re-used to create something different, better. He does this with sharp tongued, catty, pop-culture aplomb. His confidence is fierce and although I would love to talk to him in person I fear I would be too intimidated to say anything of consequence except maybe something like, “Joseph Beuys, what’s up with all that?” Anyways enough on Jan, I thought it necessary to go on a bit about him as the below will just be about my total love for Bas Jan Ader. (Anything in quotes below is from to Verwoert’s book.)

In Search of the Miraculous was a work that contained parts, there was the part where Ader walked from dusk till dawn from Hollywood Hills to the Pacific Ocean in 1973; he took photographs of himself silhouetted in the deserted streets. Each image has lyrics from a Coaster’s song Searchin’ that talks of a man who is searching for his girl. Then there are is the projection of his UC Irvine students singing the sea shanty, A Life on the Ocean Wave. Then there are the posters and cards, one showing Ader as a blurry figure on a sailboat. Then there is the morning of July 9, 1975 when Ader sets sail from Cape Cod in a one man-yacht in quest to cross the Atlantic to the Netherlands. His boat was found ten months later on the coast of Ireland, no body was found.

Even though the ending of In Search of the Miraculous creates an aura of romantic tragic figure that we all love to have, it is only just a part. Ader’s work is not made more “authentic” because of his death. His work was based on formula, rationality, and direct evidence of the basics of human emotions. The work that drew me to him originally was I’m Too Sad to Tell You (1970-71). This is a black and white film of Ader’s face, close up at points, crying, there is no beginning or end, it just this. “Despite its intensity, however, the crying does not seem like a sudden emotional outburst. There is no dramatic build-up or climactic moment of release. Ader just cries. What he displays is not a momentary stir of emotion, but an elementary emotional state of grief.” In all of Ader’s works he is just a stand in. It is not about him, or anything specific it is about the thing that is being done. The before and after are only relative to what you want them to be. “By doing the crying for real he stages sadness as a fact. The piece invites interpretation not on a psychological level, but rather on a conceptual, rhetorical and existential one. As it isolated the idea of the sadness for no reason I’m Too Sad to Tell You can be read as an allegory of melancholy. Ader singles out a sentiment, which, in the history of ides, is as closely connected to the formation of modern subjectivity as the yearning for the sublime…” Verwoert then gives a quite interesting synopsis of conceptions on melancholia throughout time.

This gesture can also be seen in Ader’s Please Don’t Leave Me (1969), which is a photograph of a white wall that has the title’s text hand painted in black, it is spot lit. The words conjure an emotion that is featured as a presentation. It is speaking, begging this idea to you. “According to the way that Ader represents them, emotions are not motivated by other forces but are motivating forces in themselves. Rather than being products of subconscious causes, they are productive themselves in that they seek to trigger relations and analogous feelings.”

The book goes on to detailing and re-linking other performances and projects by Ader, there were unfortunately not very many, but all of these works speak to Ader’s unique approach to art making and very specifically in terms of conceptual art. Verwoert concisely references Sol Le Whitt’s 1967 Paragraphs on Conceptual Art to define the settings of this intellectual time and also to show how Ader was successful within this. Sol Le Whitt writes, “Conceptual art is made to engage the mind of the viewer rather than his eye or emotions.” This artistic stance was in reaction to the predominance of abstract expressionism, which was very much about the internal, heroic gesture. Le Whitt gives guidelines to making work, “To work with a plan that is pre-set is one way of avoiding subjectivity…The idea becomes a machine that makes the art.” Ader used this system to a T, he used a set of instructive actions to express an idea. The difference with him was that the idea/the concept was about; sadness, heroic journey, transcendence of gravity and of love. Ader followed all of the rules of conceptual art but gave it a pulse and made it something that does what any good art should do. Go to the core of something, just to take you there.

Anyone who has an interest in Ader should read this book and why there aren’t many more I have no clue. There is no doubt that Ader’s much too youthful death, he was only 33, does create the halo affect of cult magnetism, but there is much more to Ader then just him having to happened to die. He is, I think, a major influence, if not the major influence, of artists working today that are situating their artistic practices from a conceptual linage. The rigorousness of the form and the act of carrying out a formula is not enough today. There is the need for self-analysis, of the personal, not in a diary way but in a source material way. Being able to combine the two is a tool that is severely needed and used in contemporary art practices because now it isn’t just about revolting against the movement that just was or what is too popular because there is no movement. Post-post-post-Post Modernism, you did it, you won, thumbs up, we feel nothing. What Ader’s method lets us do is find a way to take this nothing and trace it, record it, systematize it and then realize that hey we may still feel something.