Archive for the ‘Recommended Viewing’ Category

Glacial Posting Notice

July 29, 2009

Posting has been, ummm, slow, while I work on some other projects. I also claim physical exhaustion induced by the day job. Things should pick up in the next week or so.

I could make excuses based on how slow summer is in the New York art world, but that’s not really the reason. That said here are a few things I’ve managed to see that stand out amidst the doldrums. If you’ve made it to Chelsea over the past month, or say read the New York Times, then these shouldn’t be surprises:

The Fantastic Cavern: The Tibilisi Avant-Garde at Casey Kaplan thru Friday. Roberta Smith wrote something along the lines of “It never hurts to learn about something you don’t know.” (I’m too lazy to type into the Google bar right now and then have to add another hyperlink.)

Also for the history buffs, Lynda Bengalis / Robert Morris: 1973-74 at Susan Inglett thru Friday. Warring adverts and letters to the editor. Wouldn’t it be great if Mad Men did an art world subplot?

Your Gold Teeth II at Marianne Boesky thru August 14. I’m a sucker for any exhibition title that cites Steely Dan, not to mention a clever curatorial conceit that dives full on into the decorative, even as it plumbs very conceptual arrangements.

Tris Vonna-Michell and Keren Cytter solo projects at X-Initiative thru September. I was bored by the Luke Fowler film showing on Fridays, but may be better on other screening days. Cut out at least 30 minutes to an hour for the Cytter installation/film cycle, and the same for Vonna-Michell. Most people who walked on to those floors while I was there seemed to stay for about 30 seconds on each of these floors. I think the average tourist arriving at X-Initiative right now must be pretty baffled, and doesn’t take the time to sit and get drawn in. Too bad, because these shows could be entertaining regardless of what you know about “contemporary art.” If you have another 45 minutes watch Seth Price’s Redistribution in EAI’s screening space on the ground floor.

White Noise at James Cohan thru August 12. Another chance to see Moyra Davey photographs. And a lot of other things I like, such as Tacita Dean, Robin Rhode, etc…

Space is the Place: Eduardo Gil and Ferrán Martín at Newman Popiashvili Gallery thru Friday. Also gets a mention for having an exhibition title drawn from Sun Ra. Watch your head.

Tris Vonna-Michell: History-Telling

July 8, 2009
Performance view, Photo by CAD

Performance view, Photo by CAD

As mentioned in the previous post, Tris Vonna-Michell’s performance at Governor’s Island was enthralling, and in its own way, virtuoso (*gasp*). The setting was thus: a musty room in one of the many historical buildings on the island. The exterior hallways are covered with history murals depicting iconic events in American history. Inside, rows of chairs face towards a lone microphone (recording), flanked by a large aerial photo over Governor’s Island and Lower Manhattan. The Twin Towers, the photographic quality, all bespeak the 1960s or early 70s. Clearly exhausted in what ended up being his last performance of the weekend (he decided to forgo the final one), Vonna-Michell endeavored to describe the circuitous events ¬that led him to that very place, all beginning, unlikely enough in Japan in the early 2000s, when it seems the artist was traveling and low on funds. Straightforward seeming enough, except for the artist’s self-imposed time restriction of 10 minutes given to the task. This time limit is elemental to the project, and gives his storytelling a particular urgency. Part of the meta-narrative is an admission that he has yet to get to finish explaining through any of the previous performances, so he will have to try to go even faster.

The result is a compression of language, often incoherent as narrative to the audience. Words become dislocated from grammatical structures, taking on an almost hieroglyphic function in the litany of places, brands, historical events that come flowing out as though a stopper has been removed: at the same time releasing only nouns and the occasional verb, filtering out all prepositions, adjectives, articles… Repetition is the norm, and after seven minutes, a “sentence” like “Toblerone, Koji” not only makes sense and has some sort of context (temporal as much as narrative), it is absolutely hilarious. Or, apologetically, Pardonnez mon mauvais francais.” All of this travels through, in no particular order, Hiroshima, London, Berlin, Paris, the Stasi, Detroit, the Berlin train station, which of course can’t get you to Tokyo… Autobiographical and historiographic information are part of a single constant stream. Martin Herbert describes Vonna-Michell’s performances as

The possibility of knowledge emerging from the intersections of personal experience, history, and coincidence… a dazzlingly fast, borderline-impenetrable monologue recounting his quest, edited or expanded on the fly… semi-improvised recitations…

Vonna-Michell foregrounds his performance as an act of storytelling, in which each “telling” is a conflict with the act of integrating what is relevant within the limits of language and narrative. Every word becomes a calculation of what is essential, more concerned with the evocative than the factual. Gestures and a sort of sign language evolve to accompany the story; the lanky artist sways around the microphone like a dancer, every movement fluid as though conducted by his words.

Action shot, to quick even for the camera. Photo by CAD.

Action shot, too quick even for the camera. Photo by CAD.

The performance ended, predictably enough, with Vonna-Michell apologizing because he has run out of time, and of course his tale is nowhere near Governor’s Island. When I saw him later that afternoon as we were exploring other works included in Plot 09, the artist explained that it seemed appropriate that the commission was incomplete. Part of this was pragmatic: during the performance, and again in personal conversation afterwards, he admitted that the curator’s proposal of something like 10 performances in two days was a bit absurd considering he had done just four such performances in the previous year. But there was also an appropriate poetics to the cancelled final performance, suggesting a synecdochal relationship to the failure of each of the individual monologues to complete a story. Embodying a corollary relationship to larger mechanisms of history in process, what constitutes Vonna-Michell’s oeuvre remains a series of open-ended archives.

I highly recommend Martin Herbert’s introduction to Vonna-Michell’s work from the January issue of Artforum (Log-In required.). As I re-read it I found it dealt with almost all of the major ideas that I brought away from the Governor’s Island performance. Herbert points out the archival aspect of TVM’s project as well—certainly a theme of interest to me personally.

Also: X-Initiative’s Phase 2 opens today, and includes solo shows by Vonna-Michell, Keren Cytter and Luke Fowler. Each occupies an entire floor of the old Dia building.

On the one hand I am very excited about this, as what I have seen of each of these artists is impressive and makes me want to experience more for myself. But there is also a bit of the business as usual here that the cynical side of me wants to question. The press release goes to great lengths to point out that each of these artists has been included in major international biennial-type affairs. They’ve each received notable awards, received profiles in the major art magazines, etc.

When I first saw the line-up, my first thought was, “Oh—they were all in Younger than Jesus.” Granted, a full floor allows a very different presentation than the limited spaces allotted each at the New Museum, but when you remember that X Initiative curatorial director Cecilia Alemani is also the partner of Massimiliano Gioni (one of the curators of YTJ)… well, I’m ambivalent. Granted, X Initiative is working from a sort of ad-hoc model, with limited planning timelines and exhibition budgets, so it makes sense to present exhibitions heavy on ephemerality and video (low shipping costs). So I while I am excited to see the exhibitions and the potentially ambitious presentations from each artist, I do wish that X would take a greater risk.

Plot09: This World & Nearer Ones

June 29, 2009
Tue Greenfort: Project for the New American Century

Tue Greenfort: Project for the New American Century

Spent a beautiful Sunday on Governors Island visiting Creative Time’s new quadrennial Plot, with the inaugural edition curated by Mark Beasley, This World and Nearer Ones. The highlight of the exhibition (although I didn’t see everything), and the reason I made sure to go opening weekend, was Tris Vonna-Michell’s performance. I’ll try to collect my thoughts on his “storytelling” and get something more substantial online later this week. In the meantime, a selection of photos on site. There are number of other decent works that didn’t photograph well, including a several sound pieces. For a full review, check Ms. Smith’s take. She calls for a re-evaluation of site-specificity.

Above is Tue Greenfort’s contribution, culled and cut from the interior of Brick Village, slated for re-development in the near future.

Tercerunquinto: Insular Act

Tercerunquinto: Insular Act

Mexico City-based collective Tercerunquinto decided to through a rock through a second story window of building that is protected through historical preservation, capturing it through 10 video cameras. Their action was pre-approved, and the window was quickly replaced.

Bruce High Quality Foundation: Isle of the Dead

Bruce High Quality Foundation: Isle of the Dead

Merry pranksters BHQF contribute an art world zombie movie, filmed in and screening in the on-island movie theater. Good clean fun, complete with sing along.

AA Bronson and Peter Hobbs: Invocation of the Queer Spirits (Governors Island)

AA Bronson and Peter Hobbs: Invocation of the Queer Spirits (Governors Island)

Inspect the remains of a Bronson/Hobbs seance, a ritual cleansing of historical wrongs. All male communities, marginalization, gays in the military. Plus taxidermy and dried underbrush.

AA Bronson and Peter Hobbes: Invocation of the Queer Spirits (Governors Island)

AA Bronson and Peter Hobbs: Invocation of the Queer Spirits (Governors Island)

[Left] Tris Vonna-Michell: Performance view, [Right] Anthony McCall: Between You and I

(Left) Tris Vonna-Michell: Performance view, (Right) Anthony McCall: Between you and I

Tris bobs and weaves, making sure to stay within his 10 minute time limit. Children avoid “the vortex” of McCall’s smoke and light projection in the St. Something Church.

Teresa Margolles: Muro Balleado

Teresa Margolles: Muro Balleado

Venice Biennale participant Margolles transplants a wall from her home town where drug-related shootings took place. File under site/non-site, bullet-ridden, supposedly bloodstained post-minimalism. Tags: Dislocation, border crossings, NAFTA, etc. Wonder if bullets are still in cinder blocks. Marvel at the fact the cinder blocks, the world round, are what most structures are constructed with.

Judi Werthein: La Tierra de los Libres

Judi Werthein: La Tierra de los Libres


Judi Werthein: La Tierra de los Libres

Rural Colombians displaced by drug trade move to urban areas, are asked to perform literal translation of the Star-Spangled Banner, in their own style. Filmed (and projected) from both sides; English subtitles, literal translation of the Spanish version, included on rear. “You say, you can see, you say, you can see… Does the flag still wave over the home of the free? ”

Jack Goldstein: The Jump

May 10, 2009

via Ubu. (and YouTube due to embedding difficulties)

On view in The Pictures Generation, 1974-1984 at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, through August 2.

Fear and Loathing in Los Angeles

April 29, 2009

38942224My recent visit to LACMA was filled with highs and lows. Let’s start with the good stuff:

Franz West: To Build a House You Start with the Roof didactic wall text: It’s a good sign, and indicative of curatorial wit and perceptiveness here, that I laughed out loud a number of times when reading the curators’ descriptions accompanying wall labels. One example elucidated West’s intention that an art object be used while “doodling or relieving oneself;” another work, a painting with a hook is contextualized with text that blithely implores “Please feel free to try on the cap.” The labels were not lacking for contextual or serious information, but it was also with leavened by a humor simpatico to the work it described. Bravo.

Focus installations from the collection: Tucked into odd corners of the permanent collections, these mini-exhibitions were little windows into the curatorial mind: pet projects that just plain work. In photography there is a humble installation juxtaposing the 1970s magazine-based works of Robert Heineken with Elad Lassry’s contemporary photographs, often based on imagery from that era. Simply titled Photographic Conversations No. 7: Found, it speaks for itself, and how.

beall3Deep in the Art of the Americas building is a revelatory gallery featuring a selection of posters by graphic designer Lester Beall. Basically Constructivism meets the Heartland, it is fascinating to see how avant-garde aesthetics get filtered over into posters for the Rural Electrification Administration. The colors are bold and brash, with dynamic, simple lines activating the rather banal imagery. For more info check out Unframed’s post on the subject.

Now for the bad news. This was my first visit to the Broad Contemporary Art Museum. When it first opened in February 2008 I remember the Guerrilla Girls making a stink about the severe lack of diversity in Broad’s collection and the inaugural installation of the BCAM. At the time, 30 artists were included in the installation, of which 97% were white and 83% were male. The Guerillas engaged in a delightful tête-à-tête with Joanne Heyler, director and chief curator of the Broad Collection. No wonder their archives ended up at the Getty.

Fifteen months later, things are even worse. The few women represented in that installation were primarily located on the second floor, subsequently displaced by the exhibition Art of Two Germanys. Gone were the Jenny Holzer’s and Cindy Sherman’s. What is now on view is the usual white, boys’ club, names sung by Louise Lawler’s trained birds: Baldessari, Warhol, Ruscha, Cy Twombly, Beuys (at least some of them are gay) plus Johns, Serra, Rauschenberg, Lichtenstein, etc. But unless this was some Sturtevant retrospective masquerading as the Broad Collection, it is nothing short of offensive that this was the best LACMA could pull out. To add insult to injury, much of the art looked impotent in the cavernous space. The curatorial politics of such a presentation are laughable.

Aptly, the one work I noticed at BCAM by a female artist was Barbara Kruger’s special commission lining the central elevators, titled, Cassandra-like, Shafted.

Obligatory Futurism Post and Travel Notice

April 15, 2009

giubberosse_003If you read any of the major international art magazines then you have probably realized that earlier this year marked the 100th anniversary of the First Futurist Manifesto. Filippo Tommaso Marinetti’s impassioned rant still holds some water evidently. Thus we get Maurizio Cattelan posed in any number of historically inspired states of buffoonery.

If not for my efforts to plow through 1500 pages of Roberto Bolaño, I might actually be able to say something intelligent about Futurism. At my parents’ home in Portland, Oregon over the holidays, I picked up a copy of Marinetti’s Critical Writings at Powell’s Books. (Aside: How great is Powell’s? I got a brand-new hardcopy of this book for $8.99, down from the original $40.) It’s an incredibly thorough volume, more than any accept for a few scholars could every possibly need.

My first encounter, so to speak, with Marinetti was as a student in Florence one cold winter and frosty spring. An overly enthusiastic Italian professor waxed about the Futurists and their avant-gardism, excitedly pointing out the Giubbe Rosse caffe in Piazza della Repubblica where they used to sip their macchiati. I had no idea what she was talking about until a couple of months later when I stared at the Bocconi’s of the Peggy Guggenheim Collection in Venice.

I became more intrigued when Rachel Kushner, writing the 2006 On the Ground: Los Angeles feature for Artforum, singled out the Getty’s exhibition A Tumultuous Assembly: Visual Poems of the Italian Futurists. There is no denying the intensity of Marinetti’s beliefs, even as in hindsight we can view them as naïve or self-destructive. Hopefully post-Bolaño I might get the chance to indulge myself further.

On another personal note I am traveling to Los Angeles this week. Let me know if there is anything I definitely need to see.

Although I love MoCA very much, I’m going to bypass this time since Dan Graham is traveling to the Whitney. Otherwise I hope to see Nine Lives at the Hammer, and Art of Two Germany’s / Cold War Cultures and Franz West at LACMA, as well as see some friends in Culver City. Other ideas? Or particular gallery shows?

Also, I just got an email that Skarstedt Gallery’s exhibition of early Barbara Kruger collages have been extended through April 22. I haven’t made it uptown for this one yet, but a couple of art historians whose opinions are worth listening to have assured me it is a must see.

Automated Response

March 18, 2009

I will be out of town through the weekend. Regularly scheduled posting should resume next week.

*(Same Bat Time, Same Bat Channel)*

In the meantime, check out these things:

Ry Rocklen at Marc Jancou

Walead Beshty at Wallspace

Paul Sharits at Greene Naftali

Huma Bhabha and Jason Fox at Andrea Rosen

John Stezaker at Friedrich Petzel

Trevor Paglen at Bellwether

Will Rogan at Small A Projects

Zoe Leonard at Dia at the Hispanic Society of America

Kori Newkirk at The Project

Emmet Gowin at Pace MacGill

Fia Backstrom, Mario Garcia Torres, Stephen Kaltenbach at Jack Hanley

Most importantly, the immortal Kate Bush:

Exquisite Corpse: As if

March 2, 2009

A serious business

of Dispersion

as described by Michael Bell-Smith.

Postscript: Why?