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.