Saturday, December 6, 2008
This Berlin-based artist is doing a kind of Eliasson, making things happen mechanically (also an interest of my own). These installations aren't providing second hand experiences - in other words, illusions of what someone saw or imagined - but exist as immediately experienced reality. Its a sort of abstract painter's version of performance art perhaps, or installation - genres which obviously provide numerous precedents for the idea, but not quite the form these two artists' work is taking.
The upper picture shows the puddle left when a fluorescent light bulb (previously carefully frozen in a block of inky ice) has been activated in the gallery space, heating up the bulb and at some point exploding it.
The lower picture shows panes of glass constructed into light boxes with simple tape joins, and light escaping from it in a kind of perspective/hall of mirrors pattern. (Some of them have 500 watt bulbs in them that get too hot and also explode).
The wonderfully baroque puddle made itself, the light comes out from behind the glass to stupendous effect. It appears to be the ultimate "anti-aesthetic" decision, as far away from traditional art process as possible...but entirely linked in content. I like it.
I've just read a critique of Eliasson's work in Art Papers that seems to question his lack of ethical direction, real belief in anything, noting his lack of alignment with "social polemics" that, in contrast, accompanied many of those powerful art movements of the 20th Century. I thought we'd given up on the master plan for utopia...
My thoughts are that perhaps just setting out the possibility of something is enough. Let's get to the meaning slowly, individually. Maybe the fact that this art connects with the past but is achieved differently is message enough.
Friday, November 28, 2008
this is just magical. Such a cool idea! It looks like trash, its animated into something curious, endearing, enjoyable by something that happens anyway. It is free, it surprises, delights. It is shared. Its positive and innovative - it brings a smile to people, like a gift. A reminder that good things are possible? To me, it seems that way. No matter it is not rocket science, and we understand how it works - it shows us a new way of using the materials and the situation. For friendly fun. Fab.
Thursday, November 20, 2008
Before the landlord finds us
Acrylic, enamel & silver leaf on panel 48 x 48 inches
This is a large painting, given its outsider flavor. It has blown me away. Why?
It seems to connect with real life, and has a freedom about its expression that touches a chord in me. Esther Pearl has lived (apparently) life with an oddball family (Daddy built spaceships in the garage) and does not hesitate, riddled with doubt about her worthiness or worry about it being ridiculous to tell her story. There it is, in glorious home-made detail...but connecting a real sense of atmosphere and beauty (the sky is lavish, the fields stretch into the distant evening, and the dirt yard meltingly soft and beautiful) with the quirky childishness of folk art. Yet its about serious shit going on. I mean, running out on the rent...there is an urgency and a terribleness about it. Its not cosy, not safe, not pretty. We all understand the implications, and that is what gives this work its strength somehow. It is real, it connects to humans. On that note, I have to post another painting here...
Out of gas
acrylic on panel
8 x 10 inches
Here's (Dad?) racing across the highway with the (tiny) pint of gas that'll get them all out of there. The kids stand with their hair blowing as the cars whip by. Grit on the shoulder, exhaust, slip roads... and then that wonderful skyline and cloudscape. While all that is going on, someone (the artist - the artist in all of us) is looking around, seeing the world in all its fullness. It has the attention to seemingly irrelevant but telling detail that folk art has, and a lack of theorizing and paring down that in its directness, enriches the image.
Way to go Esther.
Wednesday, November 5, 2008
Godiva 2, 2003
inkjet print 30 x 38 inches
Not exactly recent work, but interesting in the context of presentation. Trash that we usually throw away photographed and presented as an art object. Beautiful.
Footnotes to Duchamp, still? In a way. But I think there is more going on here. The urinal brought the pissoir into the gallery - low end brought high. Here we recognize that this object, though trash, exists/existed, was created, designed and manufactured to showcase a valuable product. Its golden rays suggesting a relationship to icons and religious paintings can't be coincidental. But it is trash. Why? Because we throw it away? Because it has no use? Because it is made of plastic? Because there are so many of them?
The reality is that this could be called beautiful. Because of what we know (all of the above comments) we do not value it. What other things are we dismissing?
Sunday, October 26, 2008
I've mentioned craft a few times now in unflattering terms. What's my problem with craft? And what does this have to do with the "change in a wider sense" I mention on the header of this blog?
I'll share my history. My first art qualification was a 3 year diploma in studio ceramics obtained in 1984. After that I had a designer/maker ceramics business that did very well. I immersed myself in this particular section of the craft industry, the intersections of craft and industry, and all the reasons why craft survived in the age of factory production - along with how craft becomes a version of factory production. I saw a lot of craft work in all kinds of guises and situations. I enjoyed it, I bought it, I thought it often beautiful and intriguing but at some point it ceased to have much to offer me. I wanted more - what, I didn't know.
Ultimately I closed down my business and went back to university to learn more about fine art, getting a BFA and an MFA in painting. I never wanted to see another piece of clay again... My interest in craft ran out. Though I was disillusioned in various ways that may color some of my comments, the main point is that I feel craft (in the strictest sense) to be limited by certain parameters, and to function mainly within arenas that I would rather question. So when I say William Pye's bronze wave deserves a booth at the local craft fair I mean that he is showing a lack of awareness of wider issues. He is not addressing concerns that I consider important.
"Craft" refers to a skill, and craftwork often centers around these skills. A well-crafted novel MAY be rather dull conceptually. The craft of painting refers to how the painting is made, whether the layers will adhere, or the brushstrokes are well made or the face on the portrait is ... what? Neat? Suitable? Skilled? Professional? This has nothing to do with what art can accomplish by altering assumptions, opening up visions and ideas of things we hadn't thought of before. The visionary, intangible aspects that live on beyond the layers of varnish and nicely turned handles. My previous interest in craft and industry has become more conceptual, involving a contemplation of the cultural contexts and implications.
My current manifesto is that technology (or "skill") is just a tool, and that re-defining the criteria used to direct technology (or skills) opens up the possibility of new outcomes. This process is the basis of human ingenuity and development, at the core of progress, responsible for all the technological innovations we currently enjoy, for better or for worse. And as such can be seen at the cutting edge of contemporary concerns, part of the way forward. This is where I see artists contributing to contemporary debate, imagining the unimagined - as opposed to providing palliative products, soothing and reassuring us... which is what the Kinkade cottages are all about, no? Pleasure and fun and reassurance are fine and worthy, but ART is one of the few cultural ...what, institutions?... that is able to deeply question the fabric of society and its assumptions, and propose incredible, fantastic, unimaginable alternatives. As such, my definition of art is that which engages that potential.
Above is pictured an object for sale on an artist/designer's website, falling between craft, art, design and industry perhaps. Open for debate? There are huge crossovers between these areas - its not clear-cut, and all objects can function in different ways. That's my point about Alice Ballard's ceramics. It is a question of definition more than it is a value judgment. What is called craft can function as art, there is no doubt, but for an artwork (whatever other qualities it may have) to fall into the craft category is to conclude, for me, that it has not reached its full potential.
Wednesday, October 22, 2008
Comparison of two presentations of this artist's work illustrate (to me) the move from craft fair to museum. Craft to art (or craft that also functions as art). Why? Its not a style thing, but about attention to the qualities of the item and what it signifies. The black and white (color) photo focuses on intricate form and pregnant lushness contrasting with the smooth, luscious but lifeless material the items are made of. There is balance, contrast, rhythm and a variety of descriptions of form. Black and white, magnolia pod... color issues of the south. Tender white... vulva-like forms... supported by encompassing blackness... well, yeah, it weaves some interesting ideas back and forth! There's a tenderness, a brokenness, a mystery and darkness about the beauty we are shown despite the hard and permanent, pristine reality. The image offers the possibility of discovery, of different understandings.
This color photo is downloaded from the artist's website http://aliceballardmunn.com and may be her own.
Maybe this collection of work doesn't function as well together as the previous selection but its presentation also positions Ballard's work as craft. It does not encourage me to linger on philosophical concerns, it doesn't particularly highlight the qualities of the objects. They become decorative products with a focus on the homespun and rigid layout. Serried rows might suggest factory anonymity, military overtones, or even informal markets (that may be the rattan...) but industrial hardness and logic seems at odds with the objects' lush, full roundness and textured additions, their feminine nature. Lying on a mat at a country market might work but isn't quite coming off. It also suggests casual and affordable - objects "unremarkable" in the daily round that gain cultural significance largely through acknowledgment of cultural context or removal from the market setting.
However, they are obviously for sale, and offers a handy way to display your purchase(s) for those without any better ideas.... What else would you do with one if you bought it? It would be harder (but not impossible) to display it in a special situation laid out permanently like the items in the first image. Or have it in a simple stand near a window where you could pick it up, or just observe the change of light over its shape. Then again, it might be easier to buy a Luis Quiles photograph of Alice Ballard's work with the presentation all worked out.
What am I saying? Last post mentioned the benefits of professional documentation. These images of Ballard's reveal that making the item is only part of the process of making art (or craft with benefits), given that the definition of "art" relies on a consensus of opinion regarding cultural significance.
Top photo from ArtDaily.com, publicising Tradition/Innovation : American Masterpieces of Southern Craft and Traditional Art, which will be at Knoxville Museum of Art, TN October 4, 2008 to January 18, 2009.
Thursday, October 16, 2008
Interestingly, Yellow Fog was first shown in NY in 1998, I think in a group show. I might have to search for a picture of that... Shows that sometimes developments take a while to reach their full potential, something that may get forgotten in the feverish demand for "new work".
Article mentions creating a new perception of urban space. I like it, a lot. Love the place you live! We are not robots and respond to our environment. The press release also talks about the effect of the inside reaching towards the outside, and connecting the two spaces. Apparently the electricity company (Verbund) has an art collection inside the building. Hmm, electricity, mysterious fog and Vienna kind of...spark... some possibly misguided Mary Shelley Frankenstein associations. Not a bad thing.
Interesting thought about the effect of presentation and professional photography on the perception of an artist's work. I found an amateur clip on YouTube which is good to see but maybe made me think of this. It won't let me post the link but it is easily found. (I'll also post an example of another artist's work illustrating the contrast, next time). Eliasson can now afford the best photographers, the costliest help, advice and materials, which adds an exponential curve to success, when it comes.
Yellowfog, on the facade of an Austrian electricity company HQ, Vienna. (They paid 75,000 euro - good move! Cheap at the price for great publicity and warm fuzzies for them.)
(above) photo by Rupert Steiner
(below) photo by EFE/ Hans Klaus Techt.
Friday, October 10, 2008
I came across this photographer today and am blown away. She showed for the first time in Paris recently, having come to NY for the first time in the summer. (Must feel great!)
Its a situation that most of us are familiar with...being in the water, looking back at land... but I'm trying to think of other photographers who achieve what she does with this series.
She has gone further than anyone I've seen (I'm not encyclopaedic in my references, so tell me if I'm wrong) in removing the dislocation between viewer and image that photography is famous for. I seem to recall images of football fields with large blades of grass in the foreground, but the physicality of being in the water engages me on a bodily level beyond knowledge of proximity. I so strongly relate to the image can almost smell the water. At the same time as my senses absorb this setting and the freshness of the day, my mind considers the meanings along with the beauty of the graphic image itself.
She apparently holds the camera at chest level and just takes pictures by judging the waves and swells. Wonder how many she takes, and how exciting it is to open them up later! This could account for some of the different visuals - her own visual approach was overridden and it relates more to the body experience. I like to wonder about this stuff. Anyway
more at http://www.yossimilo.com/exhibitions/2008_07-asak_nara
I read a blog referring to these images with someone complaining about the lack of "fine craft" and "artistic merit" in photography nowadays... reminding me how valuable it is to examine one's assumptions and definitions occasionally.
Tuesday, October 7, 2008
One of the great things about the internet is that you can get to see contemporary work - by known AND emerging artists - around the country relatively quickly (if you are willing to spend the time looking...that's the catch). In the old days you'd have to wait for the catalogue or magazine article, or the book.
I like Holzer's large text pieces and this strikes me as a delicious image of one of her latest, created specially for the Guggenheim (wasn't it their re-opening?). It transforms the space, and we all know the shape of the building so well that it connects powerfully. To me. I found it at the ArtDaily newsletter. Bear in mind that (I think) you'd only be able to read this text so clearly from a vantage point close to the projector... the circular shape of the building means that the lettering would be displayed rather differently from an acute side view. I like that about it. Its not fixed, both in the medium, and in its accessibility. Interesting connection with speech, words, etc.
This is a quote from existing texts, quite apt for the current political situation, as we would expect. I have a yearning to see her project positive messages about hope rather than the gloomy words she prefers. Humans do survive incredible things, and it is usually because of hope and faith in the value of life. Positive is powerful.
IMAGE : For the Guggenheim, 2008. Light projection. Guggenheim Museum, New York. Text (pictured) : "Tortures", from View with a Grain of Sand, by Wislawa Szymborska, translated by Stanislaw Baranczak and Clare Cavanagh. Copyright 1003 by Wislawa Szymborska. English translation copyright 1995 by Harcourt, Inc. Used/reprinted with permission of the author. copyright 2008 Jenny Holzer, member Artists Rights Society (ARS), NY
This reminds me, I hear of a bill they have passed in the senate that will effectively change copyright law (if adopted as they are pressing for) - to the detriment of the artist. Check out http://www.owoh.org/index.php to help prevent this from becoming the rule.
Tuesday, September 30, 2008
Ok, here he is. I'm showing a couple of images from the works using water, as a contrast to the sculptor mentioned in the last post. Eliasson does many other things with light - and water - which can be seen at his website, link below.
The images here are two of my favorite of Eliasson's works. Totally simple but at the same time enlarging spectacularly on a phenomenon that we utterly understand. That he has brought it directly into a gallery/museum setting on such an impactful scale is quite an achievement.
We've had renderings, or versions of the effects of light, in all paintings and photographs since we moved beyond the middle ages, most inventively perhaps, with the impressionists. But a photograph, or a painting of an event is not the event itself, its paint or metal oxides creating the illusion of a real thing.
Here, if we go to the museum we have the event without mediation - we experience it for ourselves. Even looking at these images now, we understand the scale of the real event and that it would be experienced first-hand. (The scale of the installation below is the same as the above with the people - the reflection covers a wall-sized area.)
I saw a You Tube video of him discussing his work which was fascinating. In it he says that he is after engagement. He doesn't want the look of the work to be too "perfumed" and pretty. For him, the beautiful visuals are secondary - he believes that beauty and pleasure catch people's attention and suggest that it is worth getting more involved with, more engaged with the artwork.
The brochure for the NY waterfalls says "... at the root of his artworks... is his keen interest in the way we perceive the world around us. Eliasson's work encourages us to consider what we see, and more importantly how we see and experience our surroundings. With the New York City Waterfalls our attention is called to the riverfront and the addition of something seemingly natural - waterfalls - that have been artificially constructed".
Well, the NY river interface has been there our whole lives so we feel that IT IS natural, when lots of it really isn't. The waterfalls draw attention to the whole idea of man-made, and what it is for, what it does, what it might be for.
Not everyone has liked the waterfalls, perhaps because of the distance most people see the installation from but the photographs are interesting. It is quite a scale, even compared to the urban landscape that dwarfs it. The images (I couldn't download them) can be seen via this link to the brochure.
here you can read someone else's blog that discusses the waterfalls and some of its detractors
So William, though it may be very lovely to sit next to your fountains and beautiful ripples, Olafur appears to be infinitely more interesting.
Images shown above are from Notion Motion, 2005, at the Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam, Netherlands. See it at Eliasson's website here www.olafureliasson.net
Tuesday, September 23, 2008
This piece is in the departure lounge. The water rises and falls in programmed cycles, creating an air-core vortex . The water finally reaches the top and ripples down the sides (as with vessels on right).
Looking at different approaches to making art, following my recent posts. Well, here's an artist - I didn't know him - described by a press release as "arguably Britain's most distinguished water sculptor". He is well known, has many, many public works but to me is hugely less interesting than Eliasson. (I'll post his work next time). Why does Pye's work generally fall into the merely decorative category?
The work IS decorative - its pretty, its showy. Its spectacular in some instances, he has water walls and long, stepped tanks spilling ripples in public plazas, luscious reflections, jets etc. He has figured out the vortex and the meniscus and some interesting qualities of water. It is fabulous that those fountains and vortices make it to public places. Good for Pye, getting out there and sharing, revitalizing, gettin it done. They look interesting, beautiful, and curious. But, as a serious artist with something to say... Makes you look, makes you stare... but he doesn't ultimately go on to make you think. There is more that he could do in this direction but he chooses not to. Each to their own.
William Pye, Pole, 2001
(the central pole is just water pouring out of the tank)
Pole has a wonderful stream of water but is cluttered and distracting with its utilitarian welded steel. I know its meant to be, but it hasn't pulled it off, it still seems clumsy. The mechanisms and practicalities intrude too much, without sufficient contribution. The point is, they don't contribute - they detract. He hasn't thought that through.
I'm not sure I want to post the next two pics... they reveal Pye's feet of clay and are outside the remit of my blog. However, I think they are needed to hammer the point home.
Little Plateau, 1984
Well, this IS from years ago, but still tethered to post-war British form. Abstracted geometrics artfully arranged. It is an endearing little thing to have in your garden, I might even like to see more of them in my neighbors' gardens. But its not part of a serious artistic dialogue.
Kanagawa, 2000, currently exhibited at Sculpture at Goodwood (UK).
This one is Hokusai's wave... Ok, I know Pye means well but this deserves a craft booth at the local flower show. Sorry, Pye, but it is clumsy, turgid, and labored. And not the least bit conscious and aware of its associations and restrictions. Even THEY could have been capitalized upon at a pinch.
Make up your own mind at www.williampye.com.
Tuesday, September 16, 2008
Image and text from an article at artdaily.org newsletter. I want to see more... Searching led me to various sites where art is particularly defined not as a commodity but an exploration of ideas. Totally the most interesting part, after I've paid my mortgage, of course. More later.
Linz - Ecology of Techno Mind presents a selection of works by Slovenian artists who are deploying technology and science as a means of delving into social reality today. ...These projects do not address the notional gallery visitor in the sense of traditional consumption of art, they place him in a similar situation than a visitor to the theatre or a concert, where the entire artistic event is performed on location and the artistic object cannot be bought or taken home. ... We are as consistent as possible in being serious about artistic exploration, for we perceive contemporary art as privileged, non-linear and multisensory production of meanings that, along with theoretical and philosophical practice, makes an essential contribution to understanding the world of change.
Jurij Krpan, Curator
Thursday, August 28, 2008
Tomaselli replies : "Back when I was a high school philistine, skateboarding around California's Venice Beach, some friends and I happened to go into a gallery that was showing the work of James Turrell. The entire exhibition appeared to consist of a single, large black rectangle painted on the wall of a dimly-lit space. We all thought it was the stupidest thing we'd ever seen and began lauging at it. I reached out to touch it, and to my surprise, my hand passed through the wall and into a limitless void. Solidity literally vanished into thin air. My laughter disappeared into awestruck silence. Turrell taught me to pay attention. he taught me that what you see isn't always what you get. ... I think great art involves a little magic on the road to altering perception.... I personally like to create a fictive premise for the work that breaks down on closer reading."
(Another Magazine, "Magic Realism" by Siri Hustvedt, Autumn/Winter 2007)
(image below is the cover of a publication, also seen at James Cohan website)
Saturday, August 23, 2008
Jen Stark, http://www.jenstark.com . Paper again. Something in common with Tomaselli in the jewel-like color, detail and patterning. Interesting sculptural qualities for a flexible material we use every day for more ordinary things.
Thursday, August 21, 2008
Migrant Fruit Thugs, 2006
Photocollage, leaves, acrylic, gouache and resin on wood panel
78 X 96 inches
Hang Over, 2005
Leaves, pills, acrylic, resin on wood panel
84 X 120 inches
Thursday, August 14, 2008
Reveille, the bugle call which signals the start of the military day, is the subject of Wake Up, a sound and light installation by the San Juan-based artist collaborative Jennifer Allora and Guillermo Calzadilla. ... their ongoing investigation into Vieques, an island formerly used as a bombing test site by the U.S. military... [is] ... a critique of socio-political agency in the face of increasingly remote authority.
In focusing on the trumpet, however, Wake Up has its genesis in Returning A Sound, a video in which the artists attached a trumpet to the exhaust pipe of a moped that was driven around Vieques by one of the island’s residents. A military call was replaced by the trumpet’s steady, shrill vibrato, its pitch changing with the moped’s speed. Returning A Sound was one amongst several works done and shown in Vieques. Some of the works were didactic, others involved Vieques residents."
Excerpts from Hamza Walker's article "Good Morning" :
(Figured out the link idea, finally!)
I'd love to have heard the trumpet on the moped exhaust - and the other sound explorations mentioned in Walker's article. Totally fascinating.
Wednesday, August 13, 2008
You Can’t Hold It, but You Can Own It
...Yasmil Raymond, the curator of the
read the article (sorry, its cut and paste right now - can't figure out why these links aren't live)
Tuesday, August 12, 2008
Styrofoam Cups, Hot Glue
Ace Gallery Los Angeles, 2005
Isn't this fab? Has kinda romantic (as in sublime) overtones - storm clouds and awesome power.
Which reminds me, a friend told me the Terpsicorps dance company had performed here in Asheville the other night, a dance that was a hurricane. She said it was incredible. Couldn't find an image of it. :-(
Sunday, August 10, 2008
Like the majestic columns in the Parthenon - only see-thru. Magical! Made of videotape and nails.
"... 'Columns' continues the artist's startling and evocative employment of the unusual medium of unspooled videotape. Thirteen floor-to-ceiling columns of stretched tape will transform walking through the space into a dramatic physical and optical experience. The tape is stretched lengthways so that its thin edge and wide edge are seen alternately, creating a vibrant and disorienting effect as one moves around the columns. Masterfully manipulating the unusual physical properties of tape - lightweight yet strong and flexible - 'Columns' also extends its sense of confounding materiality to the gallery itself, subverting the common load-bearing association we expect of such an architectural feature."
Zilvinas Kempinas, Spencer Brownstone Gallery, NY (Jan - Feb 2006)
(note - I know this isn't exactly current news but if you haven't already seen it... dates don't matter for good stuff.)
Mary Temple, Mixed Greens, NY.
"These are trompe l'oeil paintings of light on walls, giving the appearance of sunlight streaming through a window.The painted outlines of windowpanes and plant life trick the eye as they appear to animate walls with the presence of light."
My Living Room Rug in Hyperbolic Space, 2007
double-sided inkjet print on folded paper
12 x 81 x 105 inches
This is just my reaction, check out the work itself at www.benroosevelt.com
check this out - they look like solid things but they are not...