Monday, June 27, 2011

B. Wurtz, 1970-2011 – Metro Pictures: Mark Grotjan, Nine Faces – Anton Kern

B. Wurtz, 1970-2011

When being introduced to the man that is B. Wurtz prior to his art, there are certain things that are made clear. One, he is eccentric but sweet. Two, he exists in his own sense of time and space. Three, he is warm, goofy and a bit scattered. Then you see his works, which can currently be seen at Metro Pictures. The works span 40 years, mostly from the artists’ holdings, and they are levels of whimsy, consistent practice and developed aesthetics in composition. There is a collection of varieties in his works. They are pieces of wood balanced in arrangements that are reminiscent of tiny Calders but have more good humor and less welding. There is the unpretentious use of the everyday like buttons, plastic bags, lids of hummus, shoelaces. They look like miniature gardens, monuments, movie posters for a civilization made up of nice arty people who get Beuys but are too busy having a good time to want to write about him. Wurtz has three points of focus in the construction of his works; “sleeping, eating, keeping warm.” This three-point manifesto is beyond fitting and is done to a sensitive T. Who is this B. Wurtz? Why doesn’t everyone know about him and his work? This is the frustration and also the exciting part of this art thing. You can discover an artist that will change the way things will be considered from that point on even though he has been beloved by so many before. See this show before it closes, see any shows he may have in the future at his representing gallery Feature. It’s a win win for all.

Mark Grotjan, Nine Faces

The critics are in L.O.V.E with Mark Grotjan’s exhibition, Nine Faces, that is soon to close at Anton Kern Gallery. The need to know what is in the know requires a personal visit to these large paintings. Yes, they are faces. Does that matter? Not too much. They are thick, they are smelly, they are tribal but very controlled. The paint is in layered streaks, they are very large finger paintings made by hallucinating giants. Then you step back and seeing them at a distance reveals their subtly, they become less about surface and more about the complexity of the composition. This is impressive in that there is such a sense of chaos in these works. There is an inability to go back, to erase, to change ones mind when a stroke, aggressive or lyric is made. Another subtle evidence of control is in the balance of color. Every color known to oil paint seems to be used but these paintings are not about color, they are not over informed by any shade or any juxtapositions. The colors are just another element that is controlled in this prehistoric-trippy-chasmos. The illusions of a face, an eye, nose, dragon snout are slightly unnecessary but as Grotjan did with his butterfly series, this seems to be a needed point of formal focus. Sometimes the requirements for limitations or goal are the only things that can reign in the uncalculated messiness that is in brilliant skill. If Grotjan walked in the gallery and the scale of his person to the scale and density of his paintings were made stark, there would be a gasp of disbelief. How could a mere man and not some twenty-foot shaman-stoner make these works? Yes, these works are impressive, they are very skilled and are good evidence that a different sort of abstraction in painting is being produced that is somehow “new” but lets relax on the coronations for at least a bit. Doing this too much, too fast and with too much zeal is too much for any artist, brilliant, genius, lucky or otherwise. We should all just let Grotjan continue what he has always been doing. Paint, paint and paint more.

Monday, June 20, 2011

The Metropolitan Museum of Art: Alexander McQueen, Savage Beauty+Richard Serra Drawings A Retrospective/The New Museum: Gustav Metzger Historic Photo

Alexander McQueen, Savage Beauty

The Alexander McQueen show at The Met is all the rage. The ingredients of Lady Gaga, post recession escapism, the tragic suicide of an enfant genius, and general fashion-smashion, mixed with a well treaded yet grand institution equals the most delish blockbuster cake. People; rich, poor, New Yorkers, tourists, suburbanites, professors, feminists, moms, boyfriends, college kids, they are all waiting in line to see this “amazing” show. It is a cultural spectacle and a coups d'état for The Met. McQueen was truly gifted in the craft of making clothes. He wasn’t ever normal though and he upped it with his use of incongruous materials such as razor clam shells, wood, bone etc. His interests, nay obsessions, lay in the macabre; Jack the Ripper inspired clothes in his graduate years, head gear resembling the torture device the Iron Maiden, and the impossible shoes echoing the bound feet of Chinese courtesans. In all his clothes and their accoutrements there is sex. With their razor sharp tailoring and fetishistic accessories, these clothes are made to whet. The display was over the top, absurd at points, a fashion haunted house for the masses. Who can say what the alternative should have been…the sheer volume and density of people shuffling tightly along to see the many displays is an unenviable task of corralling. The clothes. The clothes are amazing. Seeing the videos of his shows and also a hologram of Kate Moss as a light/cloud/angel/goddess/fairy gave breath and movement to the clothes and to see the illusions and the drama of these presentations is wondrous. The only negative remark is McQueen’s pants. There is something about the limp verticality of them that made it too Saks, the idea of rich, boring, tucking up women being the lucky few who are able to wear the more reasonable cuts makes the heart plunge. If McQueen were alive, would this show have such a clamor? Who knows, who cares, it is a revelation in high fashion and anyone, even him, would be flattered by the snaking lines which perhaps contains the next daring and brilliant designer.

Richard Serra Drawings: A Retrospective

Across the way on the same floor as the McQueen show is Richard Serra’s drawing retrospective. The godfather, the tough uncle, the dad who uses the belt to contemporary sculpture is in full glory with these massive drawings that are uncanny in their nowness. Spanning thirty years, starting in the 1970s, these drawings are black, the blackest black imagined. They are done with paint stick, a very fat pastel but oil based. They leak the smell of this oil, of a cauterized rubber. The drawings are in the Serra scale; large and in charge. They block out the entrance to a shed, a house, a church. Their immense size is not oppressive though, there is a weight to them, an un-negotiated presence but they are not bullying you. They do not push the viewer around but draws you closer to its never dry, absorbing surface. The shapes are simple; rectangles, tipped over squares, there are less successful circles and curves, all the forms are basic but necessary to delineate a limitation to the layers of black paint stick which in some accumulates to small tufts. The titles of these works are mostly reductive, such as Abstract Slavery, but let’s skip over that human error and take in the mediated awesomeness of these works. Standing between two massive black squares that are touching the corners of two opposing walls, you in the middle, you feel like Alice in a minimalist rabbit hole. When standing in front of the even more massive rectangle of the densest blackness stapled to the wall in the middle of a tall room, you think, this is what Rothko was trying to get at. The sparseness of visitors in contrast to the show across the way is telling of certain things, but this show benefits from the lack of bombast that is at times crippling in Serra’s shows.

Gustav Metzger: Historic Photographs

Gustav Metzger’s current show at The New Museum is fatal. It is so heavy handed it makes Christian Boltanski look like he’s telling fairy tales. This eighty something year old artist has been given his first solo museum show in the US under the curatorship of Massimiliano Gioni, who was recently made head curator of this institution. In a recent profile in New York Magazine, Gioni basically states that he doesn’t care about blockbuster shows, popular shows, for the money and limelight shows. Understood, respected, highly anticipated, but Mr. Gioni, this show is an utter downer. Metzger has blown up photographs of war atrocities, Hitler, Palestine, Vietnam, all the goodies are there and then he matches these with minimal solid colored structures; a gray square, a yellow cloth, a curtain, a smashed red car. These one to ones are simplistic and although exercises in participation and or tactility of the atrocity, what they really add up to are un-clever props for a boring self-serious play. The downer effect is not just due to the subject matter; political art should be made, and can be made with umph and relevance, but this exhibition is veering on glib. It will be a dour future for this museum if this is the direction is continues to pave.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Art World Classifieds

It’s summer time but not even the sunny days and beach getaways can make an unemployed or underemployed person get into the relaxed mode. The recent recession slapped the face of the art world in the same way one would slap a cheating lover; it leaves a shocking sting but no lasting damage. Although not back to its steroidal self, the art world, aka, the money, is flowing again but alas, it is still a dog eat dog world when it comes to jobs, fair labor practices and general transparency of this whole industry. The below are job postings for various positions in the art world in a satirist style.

Gallery Assistant
Entry Level

Contemporary art gallery is seeking an attractive recent graduate who has a BA in Art History, or English. Females who are below in weight to height average preferred, shy-gay males also expectable. Must have stylish clothes, no Old Navy, Zara, Banana Republic allowed.

Tasks include but are not limited to: Answering the telephone. Being able to telepathically know who is calling and why they are calling. Telling obtuse and aggressive artists that the gallery is not taking any submissions. Telling people there are no public restrooms. Receiving packages from delivery people. Making and purchasing coffees and lattes with micro variations of cream, milk, soy silk, half and half, sugar, splenda, sweet and low, and raw sugar. Ordering and carrying up to twelve lunch orders in one trip. Making doctor, haircut and dog sitting appointments for owners and owner’s children.

Must have working knowledge of: Computers, how to turn on and off every day, the internet, copy machine, scanner, telephone.

Knowledge of foreign languages a plus, especially German, French, Japanese and Chinese. Access or blood relation to rich or connected individuals nearly guarantees employment.

Growth potential is possible after one year or if fellow employee of greater position has a mental breakdown or becomes pregnant.

Starting and ending salary between $22-$25k, health benefits, no dental.

Associate Director
Full Time

Established art gallery in the heart of Chelsea seeks an experienced gallery associate who has three to ten years experience in the art world.

Ideal candidate will have worked for years as an underpaid gallery assistant at a low to mid tier gallery. Knowledge of the arts, other galleries and basic contemporary artists required. Most essentially, candidate must be able to talk a lot of bull to usually very uninteresting clients and make those clients buy artwork represented or affiliated with the gallery. When clients are interesting and powerful, having prowess to cultivate this relationship essential. Ability to remember clients’ children’s’ names, pets and last vacation destinations highly desirable. Ability to recall everyone’s name at any given time highly sought.

There will be no commissions, candidate should be happy to have a job in the first place. Weekends and travel required without extra pay. Ability to mind read and drink heavily without engaging in explicit social faux pas required.

There is moderate room for growth but after five years candidate will most likely seek to work on a farm, teach third grade or move to Chicago or Berlin.

Controlling, verbose, slightly manic but not drugged male or female is most suitable for this position.

Salary $35-$60k but always less then 1% of what the gallery earns quarterly

Art Handler
Part Time

Seeking strong male aged 20-45 who can lift things over their heads and measure things evenly on a wall. Candidate should have a BFA or MFA in which they overpaid for and need to slowly pay back. Ability to hammer, drill and to not break very expensive things required. Actual construction and carpentry will be done by actually experienced people.

Being invisible required, talking is not expected or requested. T-shirts, cut off shorts and bikes acceptable. Talking to clients or to females in gallery restricted. Talking to top directors or owners forbidden.

Salary $20-$25 dollars an hour. No salary negotiations as you are making almost double the girl at the front desk. No health benefits. If you cut off your hand, we will pay for the cab ride to the hospital but we are not responsible thereafter. Being disgruntled for failing art career tolerated.

Art Writer

Art magazine is seeking a freelance writer for expansion in print and online coverage of the contemporary arts. Candidate should be male, under 35 and had graduated from Columbia, Yale, Harvard, UC Berkley, or Brown. Females may be considered if graduated summa cum laude at one of the Sister Schools but cannot be an explicit lesbian or feminist. Looks do not matter, that much.

Being able to write reasonably well required. Knowledge of art history and art criticism will make this much easier for you. Writing reviews for galleries with potential ad generating revenues highly beneficial. Positive slant to be taken on 80% of reviews, 20% will be snarky or merely descriptive. Any shortcomings in writing style will be redeemed by large accompanying photographs and graphic fonts. Actually what you write will in most cases not even be read in full, as everyone only really cares that it has been printed/published.

Paid by the word, $.05 to $2.00 depending on who you are. This can terminate at any time without reason.

Artist’s Assistant
Full Time

Seeking a congenial BFA MFA grad that can be either male or female but has to be willing to do whatever I say. Depending on who I am, tasks can include: writing my emails, fixing my sink, picking up laundry, delivering art work, filing, making my art work, lying to my mother, feeding the dogs, walking the dogs, organizing my schedule, making flight arrangements, knowing where I put everything, making sure I buy a gift for my boyfriend/girlfriend for their birthday. Organizing press, liaising with everyone I don’t have time for, stretch canvases, vacuuming, labeling, painting, PowerPoint presentations, dictation, watering plants, making coffee, buying salads, managing accounts, paying yourself.

In return you will have full access to the glory and insanity that is me and it will be at times thrilling, boring, horrifying and illuminating.

Salary is $20-$30 an hour plus full benefits and 2 weeks vacation. We artists are crazy but take better care of our employees then most. Oh and as a perk you can have whatever I don’t use/throw away including; materials, clothes, food and drugs.

Monday, June 6, 2011

2 Days of Art

Out Of Practice - ART BLOG ART BLOG : The Art Book Club- St. Cecilia’s : Between Two Friends : Composite Factor - Interstate Projects : Shit. Free art n Good times - Cinders Gallery : MMMW Open Studios

The 54th Venice Biannale is underway. Most of the crème de la crème of the art world has scuttled off to go to parties and peruse the “who’s hot” in international art. Jealous? Just a pinch, but truly, the idea of that madness is less glamorous then it perhaps should be. The Biannale as an idea is like believing in heaven and hell, the Biannale being the Elysian Fields, it auto triggers reverent nodding without really knowing why. What is interesting is that this type of event, this critical mass of the arts seems almost redundant. There are more art fairs, biannales, triennials, greater thans, younger thans, and surveys then will ever be necessary. Everything is international and cosmopolitan, everyone is connected and not just because of the World Wide Web, but because of our supreme hygiene and commercialization of all manner of transport. No nostalgia please, it is what it is, but because of this it does make such international hubs seem very turn of the century. There is no solution or alternative per se, but in the face of the one-world-global-community smoochy smooch, one option is to turn to the local.

New York’s art world is different then most, obviously, and its intensity is based on its density. A sampling of this within two days reflects on the bigness, but also the smallness of this art mecca. Mostly this reflects that hey, I just like to go where I can see some friendly faces, drink a bit too much, and say phrases like, “you two should definitely know each other.”

Out Of Practice – ART BLOG ART BLOG – 508 W. 26th St. – New York, NY

This is a group show curated by Baltimore’s NUDASHANK Gallery and includes the work of eleven artists, not necessarily from said fair city, and it is in the temporary space that ART BLOG ART BLOG, aka Joshua Abelow, has access to for temporary duration. The show was exactly the show expected but that is not necessarily a bad thing. There is a lot of art in a certain style at the moment; canvases being used as looms or transformed into sculptures or pretending to be a skinny box on a wall. This is getting a bit momentous but hey, movements take time. What is lacking in a dynamic installation was made up for in consistency. The works fit together, but there could have been a bit more risk. This understandably may be too much to ask for such a short show with probably limited funds, but a bit more of push on that front would have been a benefit. A stand out in the show was the a piece by Noam Rappaport, apologies title unknown, it was an approximately 4 x 3 feet of raw stretched canvas with objects, small ephemeris such as wire, metal bits, those plastic tabs for bread, attached in specimen style. The small scale of each object and the muteness of color created a soothing effect. This now familiar way of constituting and fortifying the ordinary or the basic plane of the canvas feels transitional but perhaps that is the best place to be making work these days.

The Art Book Club - St. Cecilia’s - 21 Monitor St. Brooklyn, NY

St. Cecilia’s is; a church, which still holds mass; a school, now amazing studio spaces; and a vacant nun’s house. It is in the nun’s building that The Art Book Club presented a piñata of art for three days. The opening was dense, too dense, but it’s an opening so it must be endured. The first floor was promising, the room to the immediate left had some interesting sculptures, a cement cinder block in a fish tank, a cool looking sausagey weather vane like sculpture. The room to the right is a blank memory hole but vaguely left a “cool” indent. Down the hall there was the biggest room and it had an annoying cloud piece recently seen at another opening a few weeks prior, and then some things on the wall and floor but it was all sort of too nesty. Now up the stairs, there were three floors. This building was obviously built before there were fire codes because the hallways were about three feet wide. Pushing through the stylish boys and gals into small rooms that contained the work of a single artist. Some were interesting, but there was no way to tell whose was what without concerted effort. Within most of these rooms were things on walls, paintings dominated. They were minimally hung, doesn’t sparse = cool/intelligent? There were very few installations, very few framed or photographic works. Entering the rooms one after another, floor-by-floor the thought of orphans living in these cramped quarters came to mind. Finding out it was where the nuns lived makes one realize why it is a dying profession. To be fair, the architectural quirks are not to fault for the show’s cacophony. The effort was great, the energy positive and it was inspiring in its sheer volume but it must honestly be aired that it felt like a post grad MFA open studios extended tour. Not necessarily a bad thing but there that is.

Between Two Friends, Matt Jones, Matt Lillis, Amanda C. Mathis, Jon Newman, Brian Novatny, Aaron Zimmerman – 245 Varet Street, Brooklyn NY

As the title says this is a show between friends, not two but of six. Is this enough to go on for an exhibition? Usually no, but in this context why the hell not. Paintings, drawings, sketches and sculpture politely share a room. Notables were Matt Jones’ black and white obelisk that was like a Beatle Juice tome, Aaron Zimmerman’s cast of a house of horrors family portrait salon, and Amanda Mathis’ delicate but mildly deformed illustrations. The entire show had a certain kitsch-creep which could seem misplaced on a summer’s evening but this show is only trying to be a place where a group of friends can exhibit their work to each other and to some others and whose to suggest otherwise?

Composite Factor, Justin Berry, Arielle Falk, Jesse Hulcher, Alyssa Taylor – Interstate Projects – 56 Bogart Street, Brooklyn NY

It was Bushwick Open Studios this past weekend. Bushwick’s scene can be specific at times, the bikes and bros and bad attitudes can make a gal gag but its true, a lot of artists have studios out there and it is worth the trip, especially for a show where you like and know the artists. Interstate Projects’ third show includes the work of Justin Berry, Arielle Falk, Jesse Hulcher and Alyssa Taylor. The space is small, not tiny, but small, and fortunately it was installed well. The show loosely ties in ideas of erasure and reconfiguration, it is thin thread but it’s enough. Berry is a digital-clone-stamping-wiz. Taking covers of science fiction and other vintage styled novels, he removes all signifying content and makes them into seamless cover images. Easy to explain, harder to do, still cool to see. Falk made sunglasses that cover the entire face; they are very well made, stylish, Gaga like expression hiding visors. What makes these interesting versus mere props is a video showing the artist wearing and using them as if in an infomercial. Lacan, the ego, before and after shots, a soothing narrators voice, are interspersed and creates a witty humor. Hulcher has two works; one is Tolstoy’s War and Peace in Microsoft’s auto summery, it is thirty or so pages. It reads like text messages or a bad soap opera. His other piece is a video where you take the movie Jurassic Park and you can make a trailer with your family’s names and home photos. Hulcher re-inputted not his own images but Jurassic Park clips with the family script, thus creating a banal Jurassic Park trailer. Both are on the verge of clever simplicity but someone has to do it so might as well be done intelligently. Taylor has four large photographs where she burns and dodges two negatives, one of idyllic mountain paintings and the other of dark city streets. The effect is a hard to register but the idea is recognized. This is the perk and perhaps a limitation of this show, the back-story really juices up the final products, but maybe that’s better for everyone in the end.

Shit. Free art n Good times, Kyle Ranson & Sara Thustra – Cinders Gallery - 28 Marcy Ave Brooklyn, New York

Sto and Kelli of Cinders have contributed to the Brooklyn art scene in leaps and bounds. This persistent gallery has been a staple to anyone who has lived in Williamsburg for any real amount of time. A two-person show with Kyle Ranson and Sara Thustra at their new location reflects consistency to the max to the gallery’s aesthetic and ethos and this is appreciated. The show is colorful, detailed, at times illustrative, at times adolescent but very tight. There is also a game where you throw ping-pong balls into colored cups and you can win prizes at various levels. This is not a show that will redefine anything but that’s not the point. The art is evidence of a way of living life, of choosing to be in this big old thing and not giving a squat what anyone else thinks. And that kids is the point.

MMMW Open Studios – 180 Noll Street, Brooklyn, NY

In what felt like an apartment, there were six artists with one performance at the MMMW open studios. The standout of the installations was a kinetic wall piece by Ali Miharbi. It had moving parts, wires connecting this way and that and a consistent clacking sound that vibrated something deep in the ear. The full context, mechanisms and ideas are unknown to me currently, but it made one pause when near it. At 9:00pm, almost precisely, Joe Jagos performed a new audiovisual piece in the small backward. The video was projected onto a wall and it was a complex remixing of video and digital that is glitchy, but not annoyingly so. The composition has a seductive rhythm that allows it to feel loose but also expertly controlled. The images were of British royal weddings and also Second Life weddings. During the performance Jagos and his friend where in two suspended columns of semi transparent white fabric, framing the projection. Within them they played guitar and Jagos had pedal controls as well. In a nativity like hut a third person was inside with possibly a saxophone, various other instruments and a computer perhaps. The music was abstract and dense and synced with the video. The effect was very stimulating and there was no other impulse but to watch and listen. The music and the visuals combined created a hyper dystopic mirroring of our culture, of our rituals. Princess Diana's face, the history of that tale pushing in and out of images of ample breasted Second Life brides felt all too connected. Doing work that mixes multiple senses, especially harnessing the effects music has, can at times seem weak or easy but in this case it was clearly not a crutch or distraction and anyone who was lucky enough to observe it knows how good it was.