Saturday, April 24, 2010

Kentridge at MoMA

_Felix Crying _ finished state of a drawing from the film Stereoscope_

I started to take an interest in William Kentridge a few years ago after seeing a few things on YouTube. Last year on the PBS series, art: 21, Kentridge continued to amaze me. The MoMA exhibition of his work only confirmed my respect for this mans art. (the link is a terrific resource for understanding the depth of this exhibition)
It has been a long time since I spent so long immersed in any artists work; yet last Friday I took in the Kentridge exhibit for five hours and then decided to return on Saturday for another three. I had to go back because I didn’t know when or if I would ever see this all assembled again. His command of two of my personal forms of expression, namely drawing and film are genius. Perhaps in many ways I see in Kentridge the artist I would like to imagine myself as, not in the sense of envy at his recognition but in his success at bringing to life the intense dialectic of the artist in the studio struggling to bring forward the universal part of himself.

Perhaps I also see the energetic use of drawing as a metaphor for the caged animal Kentridge seems to be as he stalks his imagery in his studio. The drawings we view at the exhibit are not finished so much as exhausted; they are simply stepping-stones to the next drawing. Kenbridge’s method of drawing, erasing and reworking all the while stepping back and filming the progress leaves an extremely energetic surface to the paper before it is abandoned for the next blank page. In his methodology we are witness to a struggle to narrate a story that doesn’t seem quite thought though as it develops; the accidents of drawing seem to lead the artists invention of narrative as much record any intent. The exhibit itself is divided into five themes and in each this drawing/ film making is at the heart: except when it’s not…. Contradictory, yes because the artist also employs theatrical actions and the arrangement of torn paper in much the same way he manipulates the drawing.

View of Magic Flute theater showing prop tracks
One room is devoted to a puppet theater type performance of the Magic Flute. This is a compact wonder of the marriage of high tech computerized mechanics and Kentridges decidedly low tech approach to animation.

Two of the rooms on exhibition are projections to all four walls of the space that immerse the viewer in the rooms theme. Complimentary or conflicting realities are presented to our minds eye to tease apart and this takes time. I found myself stalking the spaces much the way Kentridge does in several of the videos; at time glancing over a shoulder to catch what imagery is going on behind my back. Changing, movement, and contemplation: A rare and poignant look into the soul of an artist.
At MoMA in NYC through May 17th and I hope I have time for another visit!

Lost by Mara Thompson

I received a beautiful original work from Mara Thompson this week. Mara has been working on some great new works lately so take a moment to visit her link to see her inventive collage work.

Now - what is going on in my studio will have to wait for another time. I've spent the past week mostly archiving work and that was a long overdue task without starting new projects. Of course now that I've seen the Kentridge I've got to pick up my pace of drawing or most probably with me, my ink drawing.

Still to come are some thoughts on Marina Abramovic and the not to be missed woodcuts by 19th century Japanese master Kuniyoshi at the Japan Society. Through June 13th.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Greetings from Dadaland

Art Detox in front of Printed Matter, NYC - 4/16

_Whew! Last weeks trip to NYC was packed with too much as usual. Attending the opening for the Greetings from Dadaland exhibition turned out to be the tip of a very large iceberg. Far too much for a single post so I'll save thoughts on Abramovic and Kentridge at the MoMA as well as the woodcuts of Kuniyoshi at Japan Society for this weekend.

_But Fluxus first, starting with the John Held and Picasso Gaglione curated exhibition of Fluxus, mail art and rubber stamps at the Stendhal Gallery. (545 W. 20th, NYC - April 15 - May 29th) Held and Gaglione, collectively known as the Fake Picabia Brothers, present an exhibit taken from their collections of poster art, box sets of rubber stamps, collage and video. The variety of the exhibit showcases the interests of Held and Gaglione in the curve of art history encompassing Dada, Russian Futurism, Constructivism, Nouveau Realism, Conceptualism and Mail Art.

_The boxed rubber stamp sets follow the example of George Manciunas and Flux-Kits. Inexpensive multiple edition stamp sets showcasing various artists as well as commemorating exhibitions are displayed in vitrines in the center of the gallery.

_The show is very nicely organized with a variety of works of great historical interest; well worth a visit and on view through May 29th. The opening itself was well attended with many of the artists involved in various Fluxus and mail art projects in attendance. Some nice shots of guests at the opening are posted on New York Social Diary. The evening rounded out with Dada Machine Fluxus performances.

video still from Dada Machine Fluxus performances
Keith Buchholtz in foreground

_On Friday Dada Machine Fluxus continued with performances at Printed Matter.

Reed Altemus, Cecil Touchon and Jennifer Zoellner, Melissa McCarthy, Art Detox, Mark Bloch and Christine Tarantino.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Spring Cleaning

_Detail from "Tip of Iceberg " studio clutter_
_There is a time every so often where too many projects have been piling up without the benefit of documenting. So I’m devoting the week to spring cleaning my studio spaces before things are any more out of control. I do admit to enjoying a certain amount of chaos and having several projects open and in progress at any one time. Things that actually are finished seem to be the ones that I’ve imposed deadlines on. So while I do have open projects and some new ideas to begin I don’t have any serious need for deadlines right now; so time to step back and survey.

Myself with Reid Wood, Mark Bloch and Valery Oisteanu (photo by Gail Wood)
Taken at Marks show at Emily Harvey Gallery

_But part of that process is procrastinating and slipping out to look at the work of other artists. My wife and I took the train into NYC last week to catch a couple of shows about to close.

_A friend from ABAD (A Book About Death), Mark Bloch was in the final day of a show at Emily Harvey Gallery. Marks exhibition “Secrets of the Ancient 20th Century Gamers” showcased his art of Storàge as well as some collage and sticker art. What immediately draws the eye when entering the gallery is a variety of trunks, suitcases all chained and roped closed.

_A tongue in cheek high security that references the art form Mark describes in his wall manifesto posted nearby. “To err on the side of invisibility is never a mistake. If an artist has any doubts at all about the worthiness of what has been created, they should simply place the work in a secure area, free from intellectually curious intruders where no one can see it.”

Mark described each case as being a unique museum.

Each trunk or container is actually labeled as such; the above detail from the Museum of Marriage. Of course, contents are unknown at present per the art of Storáge.

_ Another of Mark's pieces I've pictured here is his Sticker of Stickers. Mark has collected sticker art during his travels throughout the city and has used them as collage elements in this large (guessing 8') mother of all stickers. In talking to Mark there was some conflicting ideas on how best to exhibit this piece. Should it be stuck directly to the wall, perhaps should it be stuck to a nude? In the end its simple placement on the wall seems very satisfactory without any additional commentary on the nature of sticker art.

_In addition Mark's zines are present in a news stand type display. If you follow the link to the artist site you will find that the zines have much commentary on the nature of art and influences that make up much of Mark's art.

_Another bonus... Karen and I happened to be at the show the same day that Reid Wood and his wife Gail were visiting the city from Ohio. It was a pleasure to meet Reid and exchange some small pieces.

_I admit what drew me to the Tichý exhibit at the International Center for Photography was his intriguing homemade cameras. I left feeling the same way; intrigued. The photography leaves me a bit conflicted in light of the incredible back story of Miroslav Tichý himself. While trained at Prague's' Academy of Fine Arts as a painter, his photography seems more of a personal reaction to government repression and hints concerning mental illness. I say seems, as while the deliberate mishandling of his artistic production method is intentional, it does bear an obsessive hoarding quality as evidenced in the display cases containing the cameras and decomposing piles of negatives and prints. That being said, any mention of mental illness is in the context of the crackdowns following the Prague Spring. Working in an environment of repression and surveillance and in fact rounded up for a detention on a routine basis, he seems to have the persona of the mad artist let loose in the village; misunderstood and little tolerated. The work itself is centered on his daily strolls through his hometown in Kyjov, Czechoslovakia.

_The subjects of his photography, mostly women, are for the most part unaware of his presence. Intentionally at odds with photographers who obsessively detail the settings, lens, filters used in the work; in his words "Photography is painting with light! The blurs, the spots, those are errors! But the errors are part of it, they give it poetry and turn it into painting. And for that you need as bad a camera as possible! If you want to be famous, you have to do whatever you're doing worse than anyone else in the whole world."
_ His work becomes the mirror world of his environment; a voyeuristic surveillance of his town for unknown purpose.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Flower Show Wrap

Artist Aithne Sheng-Ying Pao holding a gallery visitor to the telescope to view my video Thorns in the Garden

_In putting a wrap on what was a successful conclusion to the Alternative Experimental Flower Show, there are three artists who I have not mentioned. Heidi Kayser is working on what is essentially a durational piece titled Calculating Icarus. This work is based on the Japanese paper crane and the idea that folding 1000 origami cranes brings luck. Heidi’s ongoing work (as she finds venues) consists of clipping the wings of the cranes in order to capture the cranes’ luck. The cranes are displayed as elements of simple elegant arrangements that capture a tea ceremony feel; although as I learned, Heidi has no direct studies in this art form. None the less, the austere look to these structures with the ‘flawed’ cranes clinging to the branches and other elements leave the viewer with a feeling of ritual. The clipped wings themselves are also displayed mounted on pins as if part of a scientific collection.

Calculating Icarus cranes by Heidi Kayser

_Stephen Curator shared a video of a work in progress Cr{t}cH. This work consists of hundreds of extreme close-ups of vaginas rapidly cycling. The large scale of the projected images and the rapid changes becomes a hypnotic meditation of pelvic architecture. Stephen’s explains that the piece is part of a larger work in progress, The Empire S.N.A.F.U Restoration Project.(facebook fan page link)

E. Stephen Curator's Cr{t}cH

_Sarah Rushford was represented by a piece called Terrarium. Sarah has provided a visual metaphor with corn planted in milk bottle terrariums. Overcrowded and laying on their sides the newly sprouted shoots spill out. While easily overlooked because of its small scale it was a quiet work; very effective in its simplicity.

Terrarium by Sarah Rushford

_Overall, while the show was of short duration (in keeping with the flower show weekend theme) it was a creative alternative take on a spring tradition in a city where tradition runs deep. Mobius has been in the forefront of artistic alternatives for Boston for well over 30 years and that is a tradition in itself. Many thanks to Cathy Nolan Vincevic for not only curating the show but adding her unique exhibit long performance as resident gardener.

Cathy Nolan Vincevic