Monday, July 1, 2013

James Turrell, Dawn Kasper, Essex Flowers

James Turrell, Guggenheim Museum, New York, NY

Regardless of whether or not you are a James Turrell fan his current show at the Guggenheim Museum is a must see.  I am a Turrell fan, I am not even sure why, maybe it’s the consistency of what he does or perhaps it’s more about the consistency of the practice of what he does.  Who knows… What I do know and everyone at all familiar with his work knows is that his medium in light.  Light, and the control of it, is what his whole thing is about.  There was text on the wall quoting him and it started by saying that his work is about light…I didn’t read it, I’m impatient with those things sometimes but yeah, light.  Light is the key word here. 

The main attraction of the show is entitled, Aten Reign, 2013, and it uses Frank Lloyd Wright’s building as a giant shutter.  It is a doozy and a crowd pleaser.   The whole of the museum, and its impossibly restrictive curvilinear form, are treated as a ready-made for this installation.  The spiral has been walled off all the way to the top and in between each floor there is a transparent meshing that creates illusionary flatness and helps to synchronize the light’s affects.  The light show, and that is exactly what it is, lasts for about ten minutes and it shifts, at times imperceptibly and at others rapidly, into shades of blue, purple, magenta, green, and variations of white.  It is an oohh and ahhh affair.  Really, people are actually ohhing and ahhing and you get exactly why when you first crane back to experience it. 

The control and the quality of the light is patently Turrell. It is harsh in a UV way but also has this happy, accessible, Easter-egg trippiness.  Everything in this installation is done to a T.  Perfection is palpable in how all of it was accomplished.  At times, this perfection drains some of Turrell’s works for me.  Like god, Turrell, you are not G-O-D, but in this case this perfection is impressive to see.  What I find most eerie about this control factor is how his works not only effects light and how you are perceiving space but also how sound and even the quality of the air in a space seems to change.  It’s a total body experience without any tangibles.  Manipulative, yet brilliant.  

There are other Turrell asides on the various floors as well.  Most delightful and surprising to see was the suite of aquatints from 1989-90.  They are renders but also impressive moments that transfer what he does with actual light and space onto surface.  They are a bit magical to see in how they resonate the same way his installations do and they act almost like keyholes into his visuality.  There are also other smaller light installations, some had too long of a line for me to wait to view, but of the ones I did see his, Afrum I (White), 1967, was really nice to spend time with.  It is a pure white box of light that hovers mid-height in a corner and transforms from an inverted to a three-dimensional cube and then back again depending on how long you stare at it.

The more pure white light works from earlier days does something different, it is minimal in it’s minimalism and there is something more challenging to that then perhaps the grand eggy-colored, site-specific gesture of Aten Reign.  Regardless though, this new piece is something to see and to make it as colorful and as self-aware of the architecture it inhabits is a testament to how confident Turrell is. 

Turrell is an artist that is committed to a bit but not in a bad or reliant way.  I can’t wait until he finishes his ongoing Roden Crater Project, 1979 –, which is an inactive volcano in Arizona which he has been bat cave masterminding for all these years.  If he can transform a building in New York the way he has then who knows what he can do with a whole volcano.  Yes, all of it is a bit much but hey, isn’t that what we want in our artists sometimes?  Go see this show with a friend, a parent, a grandparent, a date, whomever.  It is one of those things where even if that person doesn’t ‘get art’ nor wants to ‘get it,’ they will be impressed and many questions will be asked. 

Dawn Kasper, Performance on June 26, 2013, New York, NY

The other day I went to a ‘secret’ invite only performance by Dawn Kasper.  I am not art world illuminati but I have a friend who is so I went with him and I was glad I did even though I had little expectation.  It was in a pish-posh apartment in Tribeca and there were adult snacks and drinks and a buzzy conviviality.  It was obviously an apartment that was sort of used and people were milling around and sitting on this and that and chatting away.  After a bit of time the overhead music, which was very top 100 date specific, started to play a rap song (I forget which one) very loudly.  Things were about to begin. 

Kasper strolls in and goes to the large low black coffee table and faces the wall.  She takes her shirt off and whips it stiffly and military like folds it.  She removes her pants (or shorts?).  She then puts on a white nightgown/long button up shirt thing.  Everyone is watching.  She proceeds to act sort of weird and I wasn’t sure what she was saying or where she was going with it but it’s one of those things, you just open yourself to the void of performance art’s eccentricities.  After a bit I could make sense of what was happening, in a way.  She had a drawing that was a mapping out of a loose ‘to do list’ of tasks to perform.  The focus of it was revealed to be about failure and it is one in a larger series of performances about failure.  For this the loose objective was to take a framed photograph, unframe it, put the frame back together but without the photograph inside and then to eventually reframe the photograph once the rest of the performance was complete. 

The actual performance part was about her articulating her thoughts and telling her actions of the process of the performance without having a set plan, supposedly.  The actual methodology of the performance was to be through improvisation and she had a hypothesis that, “Through improvisation there is no failure.”  She took a giant scroll of white paper and cringe worthily taped it to the back wall and then she took black oil stick and wrote this out with audience support.  Through this talking and writing out loud she diagramed via key words and arrows what that hypothesis means, what are the signifiers, the results etc.  As this was going on things got erased, crossed out, and sidetracked.  Things like; Jerry Lewis, branding, success, money, Kings of Comedy, adoption, and rejection were all touched upon and discussed in personal and general terms. 

There was a sloppiness and heavy-footed slapstick to some parts of the performance, which resulted in times of boredom and also awkward yet consistent laughter from the audience.  There were also moments that just seemed really-really honest as well though and strangely by the end it had me routing for Kasper as a person and as a human being doing this thing in front of this crowd.  Issues that she was dealing with, failure, success, recognition, affirmation are things that we all talk about, all think about.  It’s basic but odd to see narrated to a collective audience.  It was as if she was sharing an internal monologue where an audience is necessary but not significant. 

In the end, the performance was not so much about proving or articulating her hypothesis, not really.  It was more a framework to give excuse to thinking out loud.  The final act of the performance was to take the key ideas, words, symbols that were on the white paper and to put them onto the photograph.  She then reframed the photograph and voila, a Dawn Kasper ready for market to make the $$$$$ that she emphasized is an affirmation of success.  Leaving the performance, leaving the apartment, my friend and I talked about it briefly.  As I said to him, I thought that it wasn’t that great but I am really glad that I saw it.  I meant it and not only that, it actually made me feel something else towards Kasper, perhaps a fondness or a sort of wish that she gets whatever sort of success she is talking about even though I’m not sure if that means anything to her at all.

Essex Flowers, New York, NY

There are nine artists and they are friends with each other and they are going to be doing shows in the basement of an operating flower shop called Essex Flowers located in the Lower East Side.  The artists are: Phillip Birch, Patrick Brennan, Amanda Friedman, Heather Guertin, Van Hanos, Denise Kupferschmidt, Joshua Smith, Jeffrey Tranchell, and Lizzie Wright.  They had an opening last week that showed a sampling of their work.  It was nice and hot and fun.  There is a back area where people can be less hot and smoke and talk and drink.  I don’t know what is coming up next but it’s a really fun little thing and I am sure it will be super because the artists are super and super artists make for super art time.  Yay!  I know I am a Debbie Downer sometimes and am like, “Oh my god, New York needs another art gallery like it needs a hole in its head.” You know, stuff like that, but you know what, if it’s going to be like what I hope Essex Flowers will be then, yes, we do need it.  Go check it out if you are in the area, they are open during business hours.  Also, buy some flowers while you are there, for yourself or someone you want to make smile.  Both art and flowers make life bearable.