Monday, May 28, 2012

Trending: Animals in Art

Bjarne Melgrade’s IDEAL POLE, A Reality Testing at Ramiken Crucible is a three-part affair and the first is called Undoing (What has been done): Tigers by the Pool, which shockingly has two white tiger cubs.  I assumed the email announcement with a white tiger was a put on, a wink of an idea, but to actual jaw dropping surprise when I went to see the show there they were, white tigers in a not so secure looking cage.  The tigers are cubs but they are not little or cuddly in size, they could definitely eat a dog or a child, which was palpably felt when a boy of about five came in and the tigers looked like they were going to pounce through the cage.  There is a clutter of art from various artists in the space but it all feels like background in the presence of the tigers.  Seeing tigers in this space, in this context, was shocking and made art, life, rules, and possibilities seem to evaporate a bit.  It is amazing to see such creatures in such a way.  But of course there is the flip side.  It has come to light that the animal farm that these tigers came from in Ohio has numerous animal neglect charges to its name.  You would think that the folks at the gallery would have crossed their Ts on this one.  I hope that the animals are not sad, suffering or traumatized by any of this but the reality of how human beings treat and display animals is in truth and practice horrible.  This is not to say it is acceptable but this is the reality of it, we treat amazing creatures as total spectacle or as rugs.  Melgrade is an art shaman that seems actually insane and at times over-rated but he gives a good show.  He gives us the slight mind fuck we all think we want. 

Ryan McGinely has two shows at Team’s two locations one is called Animals and the other Grids.  McGinely is the perpetual young darling of art world photography and being so makes it essential for those that want to measure what is tops to see these shows.  Grids is a continuation of McGinley’s music performance photos, this time focusing on close-ups of youth’s faces as they watch concerts.  There are various expressions of ecstasy, boredom and eager focus.  They have the patented McGinley hues of soft blues, purples and yellows that makes it all so very special.  They were a bit dull to me but they were exactly what I thought they would be so it didn’t make much of a difference.  His Animals is a much more interesting show.  They are actually different, still very McGinely but the color, composition and humor pick up the pace of images in an enjoyable way.  The photos are of naked youths and their various body parts being clutched, spooned, laid upon, etcetera, by creatures large and small.  The animals win in personality.  There are a few that are a bit too editorial but most are successful in the contrast of flesh and fur.  There is a smart use of color, in the backgrounds and in the flesh and animal tones and it veered away from the default prismatic glow, which is a nice change.  I’m sure we will now see an uptake in this coloration and composition in other young photographer’s work as there is no other artist who has such influence over a medium.  It boggles the mind. It’s nice to see things progressing in McGinley’s oeuvre.  Are these shows earth shattering?  No, but who needs depth when you have all those young fresh things having the time of their lives.    

Monday, May 21, 2012

Can You Judge an Artist by Their Cover?

We all know the phrase, “Don’t judge a book by its cover,” basically meaning that what is on the outside does not reflect what is in the inside.  This can be applied, yes to books and other objects, but more so it is used as a morality tool so that people don’t judge or assume things of others.  It’s very handy to prevent oneself from looking like a jerk or a rube and most times it’s true.  In the art world this is very useful as the appearances of who is rich, poor, star artist and up and coming is as smudged as mascara after a good cry.  But what about art, does this phrase hold the same weight when looking or experiencing a piece of art?  Looking at art is a bizarre interaction.  The steps are simple; a person looks at/experiences an artwork and then they eventually leave the space that the work is viewable/experienced in.  Most times there is a press release or bio that will enhance the knowledge behind the piece but in essence the act of looking/experiencing art is rudimentary and specific.  

For those that do not look or seek art on a regular basis, this activity of standing in front of or being a part of an artworks’ vicinity of engagement may at times seem odd, boring, or intimidating.  For those that do regularly look/experience art there can be at times feelings of quickness, dullness or obligation.  For each person there are various ways of seeing and thinking about art and each person carries it in a different way.  There is no right way to experience art.  Seeing something for the first time and that triggering wanting to know more about an artist and their practice is what makes looking at art exciting and fantastic. 

Judging an artist by their artwork on first glance may seem like a terribly rude thing to do but I think that this impulse is what most people do when they first encounter a work.  They think; Who made this?  What were they thinking? Who is this person?  Below are some surface judgments on artists who have been on my mind but I have not yet met in real life, nor possibly ever will.  

Darren Bader, Chicken Burrito, Beef Burrito – Has a lot of close male friends, doesn’t eat a lot of sugar, knows how to play an instrument, comes from upper middle class family, sleeps on his stomach, generous, has distinct laugh, wears same clothes repeatedly. 

Wolfgang Laib, Pollen from Hazelnut – Studies Buddhism/Hinduism, has special diet, knows multiple languages, sensitive, soft spoken, does yoga, has slim fingers. 

Bjarne Melgaard, IDEAL POLE – Insane and or genius, stoops shoulders, does psychedelics, wears sandals a lot, crazy eyes. 

Joan Mitchell, MERCI– Anxious, strong willed, shouts but apologies afterwards, cuts hair often, doesn’t feel like she can talk to most people, sleeps on her back.

Mai-Thu Perret, Melancholia III- Thinks deep thoughts, makes notes in books, drinks wine, wears nicely tailored clothes, doesn’t talk about her work a lot, reads a lot, clean living and work spaces.

Frances Stark, The New Vision- Quirky, good sense of humor, likes sweets, alone often, makes funny faces in the mirror, goes out at night, clutter in work and home spaces, occasionally puts on music very loudly.

John Stezaker, Love XI- Doesn’t like to be in loud rooms, wears plaid, soft spoken, goes to bars alone, has large hands.

Dana Schutz, Swimming, Smoking, Crying – Thinks in colors, watches a lot of movies, quite, likes bagels, not argumentative, takes time to make important decisions.

Rosemarie Trockel, Balaklava- Fantastic sense of humor, meticulous, exact in giving direction, wears hair so not in her face, gardens, makes meals for friends.

Jan Van Eyck, Portrait of a Carthusian – Insomniac, has vivid dreams, eats a lot of fruit, does stretching exercises, purses lips when upset, never raises voice. 

Vincent Van Gogh, A Portrait oh Joseph Roulin – Drinker and smoker, likes dogs, not talkative but sensitive.  Has leg pains, eats simple meals.  Helps neighbors carry heavy things.

Aaron Young, Tumbleweed (crushed fence)- Highly confidant, travels to warm places, drinks (but not excessively), bored often, does pushups everyday.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Something Written in 2005

Most travails and thoughts in the everyday look foolish, or insignificant, and not that big of a deal when enough time has gone by.  The saying, “hindsight is 20 20” is often applied to once stressful situations as a consolation of the uncontrollable known and unknowns.  For those of us who are fortunate, most of our time is spent accomplishing minor goals, making small decisions and building on things slowly in thoughts and deeds.  This is the way time works and befuddles but there is nothing diminishing about this as it is simply the way things are. 

Today, more then ever, we have the ability to glimpse back at one’s former self through a variety of means like pictures, video, digital social archives, etc, to re-see oneself.  This happened to me the other when I was searching for a recipe file in my computer and came upon a folder marketed ‘old computer’ and in that folder there was a document with various ramblings of mine from 2005.  In 2005 I was 24 years old and had just graduated undergrad the previous spring.  It was startling to re-read my 24 year old self’s words and thoughts.  It was honestly a bit cringe-worthy but there were also small revelations and consistencies with my current self.

The below is one of these small ramblings (without edits) and within it there are things I still believe, others I don’t and a variance in stylization and word use that seems touchingly idealistic to me.   The ability to self-reflect in various measures of time and mediums is comforting, I highly recommend it to everyone, even if it makes you wince at times.

April 15, 2005

We are living in a culture that is fumbling to find what is “real” we are all active in knowing what are the unspoken truths and rules of behaving yet there is constantly the action on self mutilation.  The desire to be recognized, to be singled out, to be noticed, not invisible has manifested itself in an absurd behavior of uniformity.  The uniformity of things allows the fine tuning of distinction to really show.  Homogeny stimulates a level playing field that once actively participated in results in a fierce process of comparison. 

As singular entities each individual is distinct and interesting, it is the relationship and thus comparison to others that makes an individual undiscript.  That is why many find the act of isolation and social hermitage, or critical disassociation as a zone of comfort.  There the individual is always the highest standard to be measured upon. Parallel to this isolation behavior is the act of miming.  Most individuals have a distinct knowledge of the social apparatuses that surround them.  Not only this they see the faults, flaws and traps and also how difficult it is to overcome these conditions of social integration.  In this position the individual has a few options, one is to fully integrate and to have these concerns pushed to the backs of their heads and slowly let it rub out the spots in their brain that makes the concerns have significance.  The other is the one that most opt to participate in, to be active in social constructs but have inner debates on this choice of inclusion. The conflict that arises form this has created the need to debate and to further analyze the questions of existence.  Sadly many of these debates reach only a certain strata of society for many times issues of instinctually survival enmeshed in a the flawed social construction results in behavior that is outside of reducible reasoning. 

Monday, May 7, 2012

Frieze Art Fair : NADA New York : Karen Kilimnik at The Brant Foundation

Frieze Art Fair, Randall’s Island, New York

The first ever Frieze Art Fair on Randall’s Island is a bona fide success.  The large white tent that is the fair is as massive as it is impressive and it feels like you are at a giant art wedding.  The tent is more than generously high and natural light creates a humanizing glow to the whole scene.  The height of the tent also makes sound dimmed and muffled like thought clouds above. I wonder how much thought fair organizers put into acoustics.  If I ran a fair, I would pay a great deal of money for an expert in acoustical engineering.  Oh yes, the art.  There was plenty to see, it was conventionally good and pro and laid out with generous allotments for the blue chips galleries from around this globe.  There were introductions to many new artists as well, well at least for me, and this was nice, although not astonishing.  What struck me the most were New York’s very own larger established galleries and also the smaller, young hip ones really brought it.  It was if they were saying, “You are in New York, don’t forget it.”  What makes this fair a success is that it changes things in New York’s art fair land.  It shows that New York can do something on par with fairs in other cities and the fact that it is in New York doesn’t make it redundant.  It is open today as well, if you have not gone, go.  Take the ferry, it’s a lovely way to see how big and yet how small this city is. 

NADA New York, 22nd Street Chelsea, New York

Piggy backing on the Frieze glow, NADA quickly set up camp at the old Dia building on 22nd Street in Chelsea, the same building that hosts the Independent and frankly far too many things at this point.  The galleries and the artists on display were entirely NADA but this time they looked more ready to sell than usual.  This is not a fault of any, but an understandable necessity.  The fair being in this building was its biggest detriment.  The booths and the layout were entirely practical but they were tight, cramped and felt more like horse stables then most fairs.  If there were more than four people in a booth, it felt too packed.  Also, being in this building gives no surprise or curiosity to the whole thing.  Yes, one wants to go to see the goods of the many very good galleries there but things feel stale even with the most fashionable galleries when the variables are so known.  NADA has a branding power and a consistency that is hard to rattle and this fair barely kinks that armor, next year though they should seek another locale, or at least a different arrangement of the space.  Stand out booths were Honor Fraser, Nichelle Beauchene Gallery and Callicoon Fine Arts.

Karen Kilimnik at The Brant Foundation, Greenwich, Connecticut

Rich people, sigh.  The Brant Foundation is a generous thing in many ways.  Peter Brant has a massive, I mean massive estate in Connecticut which is deceptively close to New York City, and on this estate there is a large stone and wood building that hosts shows by big name artists like Urs Fischer, David Altmejd and now Karen Kilimnik.  The space is large, not grossly so but large enough to have a full-fledged show that contains many parts.  Kilimnik’s work has never bothered me very much nor has it made me do anything but vacantly absorb.  This show did more of that, with a tinge of sadness and vapidness.  Her work isn’t “vapid” per se but the intellectual subtext of the whole show and its setting picked at my overly sensitive political hot spots.  The show did have some elegant minuets.  The chinoiserie room with wallpaper, umbrellas, paintings and small objects was very nice to experience.  There was a cluttered effect throughout the show, both in the work and its installation.  It felt somewhat like an all-nighter sort of installation.  Well intentioned but a sense of relief and incompleteness in its final arrangement.  Her paintings range from great like the one with the Leopard to good, various portraits, to flat like the ones in a room with fake shrubs and fountain.

This show is also a situation of contexts.  The context of Peter Brant, his influence and prowess in the art world is massively impressive and also stingingly influential.  This too had a large white tent, topped with Camelot like white flags and it was open to the pastoral setting.  There was a spit of splayed lambs (minus the heads), looking crucified and too revealing in their anatomy.  Their morsels were served nicely under the tent with various plates of yummy foods and drinks.  Surrounding this were large soft pink circular couches and also blankets on the floor with giant fluffy pillows in the same color.  There were children romping, curators, musicians, other art stars, collectors, press, pretty young men and women, the Greenwich elite and a bevy of handsome strapping serving men all basking in the exclusivity of it all.  It was all very pleasant but it made me think that maybe this art world and me weren’t meant to be because to me, there is something dangerous about this scene.  There is a desperation to it and in the end a tradeoff being made.  I am not judging the Brant’s, how they function in the arts is their prerogative and necessary in various ways, but what has me still so unsettled is all that influence and how it effects art and those that are in the art world.  It’s all a bit touchy I know, and I can’t even really go fully into it as it is unresolved in my own head but I cannot shake the feeling it left with me.  The Kilimink show may have been a bit of a flop and the whole leisure of art made me act like a sour puss but good art was certainly seen.  The Richard Serra in the lawn was great; the Urs Fischer was unseemly from afar but impressive to stand next to and Jeff Koons’ floral Puppy, just absolutely marvelous.