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May 6 2009 4 06 /05 /May /2009 14:14

At the Workspace of the Blanton Museum, Lisi Raskin investigates these parallel and contradictory movements of the accomplishment of the American dream and the growing fear of an atomic war through an immersive environment, “Armada”.

This exhibition, curated by Risa Puleo, is a group of sculpture whose forms are based on military airplanes and aerospace crafts, surrounded by a landscape of abstracted painting with bright colors and simple geometrical shapes. Materials and forms are studied in order to embody both fears and dreams of the American society.

Indeed, for the past ten years, the heart of Lisi Raskin art is based on the complex emotion that went through the Americans during the Cold War. From 1947 to 1991, technologies and innovation were developing very fast, as the economy, which created this very idea of the American dream. At the same time, people were afraid of the possibility of an atomic attack, and the scientific researches were all turned into this direction.

Thus, many sites were created all around United States for military defense system, and her work focuses on these zones of power. During her investigation for the project “Mobile Observation (Transmitting and Receiving)”, Lisi Raskin visited an Air Force base at the Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration group (AMARG). It is a storage facility which has about 4000 decommissioned military airplanes and aerospace crafts. This huge amount of materials became for the artist an image of this mix of anxiety and aspiration.

“Armada” tends to recreate this cultural, psychological and political landscape of the United States. The universe she builds, by the use of simple materials and colors, appear like a childhood dream; they come to contrast with the warrior forms of the sculptures. We pervade a world both historical and actual. Indeed, despite of the end of the Cold War, anxiety is still very present in American minds; September 9.11 trauma shifted from the fear of U.S.S.R. to Islam… a interesting  parallel to put in perspective.

Lisi Raskin will speak about her WorkSpace installation on Thursday, May 21 at 7 PM at the Blanton Museum of Art. The exhibition will be displayed until June 21.

Born in Miami, Florida in 1974, Raskin received her M.F.A. from Columbia University in 2003. She has since exhibited internationally in solo and group exhibitions in New York, Los Angeles, Berlin, Glasgow, Milan and Stockholm.

[Visual : Lisi Raskin, Installation view of Armada, Blanton Museum, 2009, Photo by Rick Hall]

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May 5 2009 3 05 /05 /May /2009 11:56

Internet changed the deal. Not its use: leaving aside for a while the Pope Milton Manetas and his Neen artists cardinals. No, Internet changed the way you look art. So, let’s cleansed the doors of perception that every thing appears to use as it is: infinite. 

We are not talking about the works, sometimes fascinating, sometimes simple, living by Internet. We won’t talk about too the main mean that Internet represents for the search of raw materials for artists, using it with talent (Steven Shearer) or with what they can do (Ida Tursic & Wilfried Mille). So yes, Internet already changed a lot of things concerning the way you make art, even on its capacity to open a door to numerous budding artists and/or needing recognition…it’s the same for every form of creation: singers, actors, writers, cooks or else, all kind of bloggers. But Internet particularly changed the way you look into art, allowing you to see everything. Big Brother, are you here? We become omniscient, virtually real spectators. 

62 years ago, a little man understood and told, in his Imaginary Museum, that photography will open access to thousands of works, internationally, mobile and distributed through books. What would he think about Internet? Would he be able to imagine it? Now, we can see works worldwide, even before the exhibition open sometimes. Our advice: go and look at the Hardcore Zombie Project by Bruce Labruce at www.peresprojects.com. We can cross an exhibition thanks to “virtual visits” without moving. Our advice: visit Phantom Studies by Lori Hersberger at www.mac-lyon.com. You can see art videos and performances of all kind and permanently. Our advice: look at the absolute king and absolutely fascinating website www.ubu.com, and begin by looking at the videos Selected Works (1970-71) by Bas Jan Ader. Worst: you can even buy a work, without seeing it “in real life”… (Ah, Internet excesses: where is parental control?). Our advice: don’t do it. 

We are not here to judge of the progress Internet represents, obviously. We evolved since the Workers leaving the Lumiere Factory. All the excesses and drifts, including the ones concerning art dangerous field, have to be banned (well, only the ones which are not constructive experience). Internet is a gift for all those are not happy billionaires art collectors, jet-lag terrorists, going to Tokyo MOT, to see the… sound exhibition by Kyoji Ikeda, just for fun. Internet is so great that you don’t want to go out anymore and believe you can see everything. Well, the problem is you cannot understand Claude Lévêque without feeling his brilliant installations, perceive the outrageousness of an empty piece by Martin Creed, touch the elegance of paintings by Jonathan Meese. Art has to be lived (because art is life), deeply felt, physically. There is the same difference between a disc and a show. But art is only created for concert… and we do caps, live cds. Except from the Neen sect, all the works have to be seen (visual arts?) in their materiality, face to face with immateriality. Yeah, yeah… even photographs, and videos. Simply because the context changes the work: A piece by Thomas Ruff at the museum, on your screen, or above your couch, we swear, it’s certainly not the same thing….

So, last advice: instead of reading useless things on art on the web, stand up and go visit an exhibition!

* for the non-geeks, or the youngest readers, Arpanet is the ancestor of Internet… case made.

[Pictures : above, Martin Creed, Work No. 850, 2008. Courtesy: Martin Creed, The Duveen Galleries Commission, Tate Britain. En bas : Thomas Ruff, Nudes ru05, 2000. Laserchrome and diasec, 150 x 110 cm. Edition of 5. Courtesy: Thomas Ruff & David Zwirner Gallery, New York]

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May 4 2009 2 04 /05 /May /2009 11:21

No need to be a die-hard biker to know that. You only have to open your eyes and trust the famous “collective unconscious” (the “personal unconscious” is still hard to find…). Sit astride a Triumph 6T 1950 Thunderbird (Brando’s one on The Wild One) or a more commonly old Harley-Davidson, and take the road with a Suzuki Hayabusa GSX 1300R, a more sportive model, do not refer to the same imagery or feelings. It’s exactly the same concerning the simultaneous exhibitions of Oliver Millagou and Aaron Young. 

Well, both artists use motorcycle and its decadent environment to reinterpret, on their own way, codes and blazed signs of this “popular culture” (an other commonplace: low/high culture: what’s popular to know the characteristics of the 45 degree V-Twin engine of Harley?... or the high culture of Picasso and the Masters exhibition?). To be honest, and to sum up (so, you don’t have to read entirely this article), the difference between the French Millagou and the American Young is the same between the translation of the title of Jack Cardiff’s movie on 1967: Naked under leather became… The motorcycle. Nothing to add. 

More precisely, let’s say that Millagou seats down on the sidecar. A little bit passive, looking at the landscape. The exhibition Chapter 2 19 M.C. at Baumet Sultana Gallery, Paris, until May 14, 2009 plays the total look, from the burned door to orange walls. When you play too much with clichés, you fall into. Don’t be ambiguous: Millagou is a good (and still young) French artist, his Draw Pins, his carved and worked woods (Disco Rising), his subtle postcards, make a relevant and serious work, unusual and mastered. The fact remains that his last exhibition is not good. Painted vests (Road Painting) are clearly light (even on Spring), too much signs kill signs. The One Percent Paintings, embezzled materials (enamel and scotch tape) and bodily sculpted writings are almost successful even if Millagou, one more time, does not go into his concept in depth and stops too early, once he reached the aesthetical road. It’s the same for the slides… Millagou seems to have chosen to take the road, the wild one, without tanking up… Does he try the old fake “car’s broken down” routine?

It does not imply that the exhibition Introducing Aaron Young at Almine Rech Gallery, until May 20, works fine. Indeed, the smashed and 24-carat gold covered metallic fences, or the optical illusion stuff painting of the Christ, are totally dispensable: the first ones for their insufficiency (we’ll speak one day about the poor/noble materials changing and understand that it’s no more useful now…), the second one for its… insufficiency (the Internet joke style is not equivalent to painting as illusion). On the contrary, the Punchlines, the beautiful tag on the mirror, erased and efficient (Young perfectly uses the scriptural quotations), are two examples of the strength of the work of Aaron Young, mixing soberness and roaring power. Roaring are his two paintings, masterpieces of the exhibition, extracted from his last motorized Whitney Biennale performance (even if he already tried it). Young asked motorcycles to turn, making “burns” on beforehand paint priming wood panels discovered by tires burning. That’s true, playing to be Pollock is not really innovative but the result is, this time, convincing. Firstly because the visual result is impressive, mixing pictorial effects with materials and treatments changes on the surface of the “canvases”, the composition melts down steel, rubber and acrylic paint. Secondly and precisely because it cleverly questions the status of the work of art. What remains to sell? Are the paintings turning into specific works, acquiring a new dimension by their split or do they stay performance residues, near of conceptual art trophies? The segmentation post operated defines the artist intervention, his final gesture fracturing and annihilating the uniqueness of the piece. Between abstract expressionism, trace minimalism, concept and performance, Aaron Young elegantly redefines the way you look on artworks and joyfully breaks rules and frontiers… like a real biker, right?

So, if you choose the freeways (in a jam) of American Wild West, chocked behind Millagou or if you play outlaws (tuning version) side by side with Young, don’t forget to put a helmet on. Art is a dangerous time-killer for fragile heads…

[Picture : above, Olivier Millagou, One Percent Painting, 2009. Laque de moto sur gaffeur. 190 x 130 cm. Courtesy Olivier Millagou & galerie Baumet Sultana, Paris. Below : Aaron Young, Greeting Card 10a, 2007. Stained plywood, acrylic, burnt rubber. Courtesy : Aaron Young & galerie Baumet Sultana, Paris]

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May 3 2009 1 03 /05 /May /2009 14:34

Until May 30, you will have the pleasure to pervade an aerial and mystical atmosphere through the exhibition of Robert Longo’s latest works, at the Metro Picture Gallery, New York.

Robert Longo was born in 1953 in Brooklyn, New York; he has always been fascinated with the mass media culture. Famous for his series “Men in the cities”, featuring businessmen in contorted gestures; he now seems to aim more at contemplation and purity.  These new works reflect a search for those moments which evoke transcendence. It is with a brilliant play of lights that he succeeds to embody this overwhelming feeling. Indeed, his unique charcoal drawing technique, deep blackened expanses with sharply contrasting whites including nuanced grey tones that evokes smoky hazes and softened elusive forms; brings us faraway from the too fast consumerism society.

Evocation of solitude and meditation in “Untitled (Et In Arcadia Ego)”, where the distant shape of a man, walking in the forest, goes into the direction of a light bath. A mystical feeling is brought out in “Untitled (Cathedral of Light)”, a 25 foot drawing representing a mass, with a huge stained glass window through which the light enters and makes the whole scene vibrating. This centerpiece embodies so well the title of the exhibition as a quest for the intangible, and how men try to reach it.

Like a broken glass window, the satellite view of Tokyo smashes into our eyes like the feeling of a car accident. This amazing net of shining lines give a new image of one of the biggest cities in the world. “Untitled (The Sound of Speed and Light)” evokes a concert stage where the light is flowing over the musicians. It looks like the music is taking them out of the stage, in its invisible and abstract world.

Among these group of large scale drawings is placed a 12 foot tower of four black charcoal drawings framed behind a glass provokes a chaos of reflections into which we loose ourselves. All these works, more than a powerful demonstration of drawing, are an illustration of how art can exceed its material essence and whisper to our eyes philosophical questions.

We enter into an abstracted imagery, where our senses get to go closer to the essence of light, as an infinite power of transcendence. Therefore, what is really transcendence?  “Surrendering the Absolutes” approaches this metaphysical question and gives us a metaphor of transcendence as illumination of the mind.

Robert Longo has had solo exhibitions at Hamburger Kunstverein and Deichtorhallen, Menil Collection in Houston, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Hartford Athenaeum, Isetan Museum of Art in Tokyo, Museen Haus Lange and Haus Esters, Krefeld, Germany and the Albertina Museum, Vienna. Group exhibitions include Documenta, the Whitney Biennial and the Venice Biennale.

[Visual : Above : Robert Longo, Untitled (Et In Arcadia Ego), 2009, Charcoal on mounted paper, 60 x 114 inches, Courtesy Metro Pictures Gallery. Below, Robert Longo, Untitled (Cathedral of Light), 2008, Charcoal on mounted paper, 119-7/8  x 59-3/4 inches (each panel), Courtesy Metro Pictures Gallery]

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April 30 2009 5 30 /04 /April /2009 12:06

The Walker Art Center presents, until September 27, “The Quick and the Dead”, an exhibition which gathers 53 international artists in the lineage of conceptual art to show how art, since the late 60’s, tried to help in the evolution of time and space’s comprehension, and of what lies beyond our perception.

The title of the exhibition comes from a biblical phrase describing the judgement of the living and the dead at the end of time. This famous sentence has been used in many ways, for instance by the designer and scientist Richard Buckminster Fuller, who, in 1947 praised the ‘quick realities’ and condemned the ‘dead superstitions’. Indeed, from the fifties, science started to be able to answer to phenomenon’s that were part of mysteries. The birth of conceptual art in the sixties is significant of those progresses. Such artists as Joseph Kosuth had the aim of giving and answering to metaphysical questions whether religious, scientific or philosophical: to summarize, what lies, in Robert Barry’s words “totally outside of our perceptual limitation”.

The Walker Art Center displays a large rank of artists under the name of conceptual art, from the early sixties until nowadays. Some pieces were produced or realized for the occasion. At the edge of the discernable, artists wanted to make us consider ‘an art verging on the non existent, dissolving into other dimensions’ (George Brecht). “Timekeeper”, a work by Pierre Huyghe, is relevant of the actuality of those problematics: it is a circular abrasion to the wall revealing the successive layers of paint from the past exhibitions. Time becomes palpable. Other questions about time and space become tangible in this exhibition, like the foldable sculpture of Lygia Clark, which embodies space folding on itself. Oddities of things, of our perceptions, feelings of uncanny are featured. An occasion to rediscover conceptual art and ask what is today alive or dead within its legacy.

This exhibition will be also showcased outside of the center’s major galleries, in the parking ramp for instance, and there will be a weekly performance of a John Cage composition on the organ at the nearby Basilica of Saint Mary.
Artists presented :
Francis Alys, Robert Barry, Joseph Beuys, George Brecht, James Lee Byars, John Cage, Maurizio Cattelan, Paul Chan, Lygia Clark, Tony Conrad, Tacita Dean, Jason Dodge, Tisha Donnely, Marcel Duchamp, Harold Edgerton, Ceal Floyer, Felix Gonzalez-Torres, Roger Hiorns, Douglas Huebler, Pierre Huyges, The Institute for Figuring, Stephen Kaletenbach, On Kawara, Christine Kozlov, David Lamelas, Louise Lawler, Paul Etienne Lincoln, Mark Manders, Kris Martin, Steve Mc Queen, Helen Mirra, Catherine Murphy, Bruce Nauman, Rivane Neuenschwander, Claes Oldenburg, Roman Ondik, Guiseppe Penone, Susan Philipsz, Anthony Phillips, Adran Pipper, Steven Pippin, Paul Ramirez Joans, Charles Ray, Tobias Rehberger, Hannah Rickards, Arthur Russels, Michael Sailstorfer, Roman Signer, Simon Starling, John Stezake, Malden Stilinovic, Sturtevant, Shomei Tomtasu.

[Visual : Stephen Kaltenbach, Time Capsule (OPEN AFTER MY DEATH STEPHEN KALTENBACH), 1970mild steel 3 x 6 x 3 in. Courtesy the artist and Another Year in LA, Los Angeles]

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April 27 2009 2 27 /04 /April /2009 11:19

It is hard to say where we are when we enter the space of the CRG Gallery, totally appropriated until May 2 by the young American artist Colby Bird. Developing the concept of art as an artifact, he takes elements from the common life and diverts them. The space is then organized as a combination of objects, sculptures and delicate photographs, into which we pervade an atmosphere mixing nostalgia, enigma and banality.

Indeed he likes contrasts, his works constantly confronts different periods, values, spaces or mode of living: and instead of opposing, they reflect on each other, increasing their own meaning. “Manifest”(2008), is a diptych that juxtaposes a photograph of a rubber Tupac Shakur mask with a printed reproduction of a romantic landscape painted by Albert Bierstadt entitled  “In the Mountains”. This icon of the underground culture embodies both political commitment through a form of art and a tragic destiny. Facing it, this so romantic and this smooth and so accessible work of art of the 19th century lives us first perplex.  But as a “Manifest”, this piece reflects the desire of the artist to changes this idea of contemporary art as an hermetic and high cultural level field: through his creations, he seeks for communication to the highest number.

The other sculptures and photographs show this same will of democratization of art. He uses accessible material, that recalls us to our everyday life, and by its diversion he engages us in a new relation with them. For instance, the large and imposing gloss black banner, with the word ‘SWAGGER” written in purple, reminds us the urban produced urban advertisements and the handmade paper banners of sporting events. The use of a vinyl material that makes it glossy and vivid, increase this sensation of arrogance, the way that publicity invade our individuality as this banners invades the space of the gallery.

In his sculptures and photos, light has a fundamental paper; interviewed for the Time Out New York, Bird said : “Artificial light and the tension between indoor and outdoor always factor heavily. A lot of color that I use in my sculptures is either clinical bright white or some sort of rotten, aged yellow, and I try to let that be in contrast to some of my photos which present a more comfortable, neutral—not always natural—light. I like the shame and decadence associated with extended periods spent indoors. I saw a movie one time about a community of people in Minneapolis who made it a point to stay indoors for months and months on end. Sickening, but attractive on a very base level.”

To combine and juggle between different medias, times and cultures is not an easy task, and we can only recognise more the genuine talent of Colby Bird, as a search for a democratization of art. After the amazing and engaged exhibition of Brian Tolle, the CRG Gallery really succeed to find young promising artists whose novating works are an accurate reflection of the problematics of our time. A place to follow for contemporary art...

Colby Bird is included in numerous private collections as well as a number of public collections including The Whitney Museum of American Art. Upcoming museum shows include the PatinoMuseum, Santa Cruz, Bolivia.  He received his MFA from the Rhode Island School of Design in 2004.

Visuals : Above : Brian Tolle, view of the exhibition at the CRG Gallery, May 2009. Below : Bran Tolle, Manifest, 2009, courtesy CRG Gallery]

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April 24 2009 6 24 /04 /April /2009 14:38

For his exhibition at the Magasin 3 until June 7 in Stockholm, the alterglobalist photograph and video director Santiago Sierra will continue to awaken us to exploitation of men by men, non application of the right of human, and other critical socials conditions.

Capitalism, labor and exploitation are the main topics Sierra is interested to work on, he truly believes in the social importance of the artist. His actions provokes sometimes controversy: when he paid drug-addicted prostitutes from Brazil in their drug of choice to let them have a line tattooed across their backs, or when he covered ten Iraqi immigrants in insulating polyurethane foam and waiting for it to harden. But the artist also believes in our power of reflection, of being able to see behind those performances his struggle for human rights.

The work exhibited is constituted by the traces and documentation of two new actions he made in relation with the location of the Magasin 3, next to the port. Videos are also displayed inside. With Santiago Sierra, no need of explanations, the title lead us to reflect on the significance of the content, beyond the form : "OBSTRUCTION OF A LINE OF CONTAINERS BY A PERSON", "BANANA COMPANY ILLUMINATED BY DIESEL GENERATOR" are two performances that deal with topics dear to the artist, transport, trade and truck. The catalog of the exhibition highlights all the process of the work.

Those two actions are accompanied, in the gallery entrance and on billboards all around the city, by “89 HUICHOLS” a series of black and white photographs. They are unusual portraits of the Huichols tribe, in not showing their face but for instance a neck, a scare, a back; the silence of the pictures are shouting the intolerance they undergo. About this work, Sierra said : “The interesting thing is also that when you have somebody… when you don’t see the face of somebody, their position becomes more active, you know, you have to think why does she not show me the face, you know. And in a world full of images, this image, which is an anti image in a way, becomes full of meaning, because the person has to create what the person doesn’t see.”. Furthermore, putting those photographs on billboard, pervading the everyday life of the citizens, create a contrast to the commercial portrait they usually have on. The effect is radical, a kind of ambiguous guilt emerge from us, even if we might not even know who the Huichols are…

The Huichols is one of the last tribe of North America who kept their pre-Columbian traditions. They are very religious and don’t use the concept of money, which word doesn’t even exist in their language (The Wixarikal). The community continues to do very ceremonies and sacrifices, necessary to their beliefs. They live and work in extremely bad conditions, and have to fight against the Government and the farmers around who don’t respect their land right and their traditions.

The Huichols are not the only group of people Sierra is interested in. “184 PERUVIAN WORKERS”, made in Santiago de Chile, 2007 and “100 BEGGARS” made in Mexico City, 2005 are examples of this same work which provoke in us an uneasyfealing. The curator Elisabeth Millqvist wrote in the catalog :  “The disturbing quality of Sierra’s works lies not in the gap between me and the Other but in the unbearable recognizing of another human being.”

Santiago Sierra was born in Spain in 1966. This exhibition is the first extensive presentation of the artist in Sweden. His work can be seen concurrently at Political/Minimal, Kunstwerke, Berlin, and The Living Currency, Tate Modern, London amongst others. In London he is also showing the new work Death Counter. Sierra has exhibited extensively at venues such as the Venice Biennale (2003, 2001); ARS 01, KIASMA, Helsinki (2001); KunstWerke, Berlin and PS1, New York (2000).

[Visuals : Above : Santiago Sierra, "OBSTRUCTION OF A LINE OF CONTAINERS BY A PERSON", Anillo Periférico Sur. Mexico City, Mexico. November 1998. Below : Santiago Sierra , view of a billboard in Stockholm, "89 HUICHOLES", San Andrés Jalisco. Jalisco, Mexico. January 2006. Collection Magasin 3 Stockholm Konsthall.]

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April 23 2009 5 23 /04 /April /2009 14:29

The Guggenheim Museum of New York inaugurates a new cycle of exhibitions “Intervals”, with the Mexican born artist Julieta Aranda  : Through a production of new works, the aim is to disclose today’s most innovating practices in contemporary art.  As the title could indicate, the chief curator Nancy Spector decided to place the show in the interstices of the museum’s exhibitions spaces or beyond the physical confines of the building.

With a BFA in Filmmaking at the School of Visuals arts and a MFA at the Columbia University School of the Arts in Sculpture and New Genres, Julieta Aranda (b.1975) has this capacity of manipulating different medias in order to express a very engaged work about the dispersion of information and the behavior of individuals in our society. In brief, she seeks for alternatives, in her own words, to “generate viable propositions for alternative transactions of cultural capital.”

For “Interval”, she focused on the subject of time: she tries, and succeeds, to bring out the fact that time as a linear progression is only a subjective convention created by humans. By exploring the notion of malleable temporality, she proposes others creative solutions and also organizes some quite interesting ‘face to face’ between the viewer and this notion.

In order to activate the triangular staircase of Frank Llyod Wright ironic rotunda, Julieta Aranda placed near it a peephole. Through it, we perceive the traditional symbol of human mortality, an hourglass. The ingenuity of this piece resides in the inversion of this process: the object is seen through the refracting optical system of a camera obscura (the famous antic ancestor of the photography) and thus the grains of sand appear to flow upward.  Time is reversed; a flow of ambiguous emotion pervades the viewer, confronted to his past, or his future, or just to a present where beginning and end are confused.  To add to this confusion, the artist wrote a series of statements about time, spanning over 2000 years, which are only visible in the dark because of a phosphorescent paint. Looking like graffiti’s, they remind us our urban environment, where for instance we see those protests inscribed on the walls of the metro.

Another genius production confusing our conception of time is an oversized clock that represents a daily cycle divided in 10 elongated hours instead of 12. They are divided in 100 minutes and 100 seconds. But the movement of the second hand is connected to the heartbeat of the artist over the course of the day: the number of minutes would then rely on a very subjective matter, Aranda’s behavior and mood… Time depending on men ?

Therefore these works completely transform the relationship between men and time; a great revelation. The second “Interval” will be showcased for fall 2009, where we will have the pleasure to discover a new production of works by the Berlin based artist Kitty Kraus… to be continued…

The exhibition series is funded by the generous contributions of the Intervals Leadership Committee. Chaired by Young Collectors Council member Jeremy Steinke, the group comprises high-level Guggenheim members who are committed to the realization of Intervals projects and who enjoy a privileged insight into the processes behind them through dialogue with the curators and artists.

[Visual : Julieta Aranda, Partially untitled (tell me if I am wrong), 2009. Camera obscura (wood, paint, and translucent screen), hourglass, Lexan, rotating mechanism, and light source, dimensions variable. Collection of the artist]

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April 22 2009 4 22 /04 /April /2009 14:11

As subversive than comic, works of the father of video art Nam June Paik (1932-2006) are now exhibited at the James Cohan Gallery, until May 30, in New York. The Gallery chose to present pieces made from 1972 until 1994, which gather the amazing Robot sculptures, live feed installations and other video sculpture from this period.

Against the seriousness of modern art, this Korean born artist was one of the major representative and active members of the neo Dada movement Fluxus. With John Cage, Charlotte Moorman, George Maciunas and others, they wanted to create an attitude and forms through new combinations of objects, sounds, images and texts, and were all very aware of the radical life’s change that would provoke the new technologies of their generations. Furthermore, instead of expressing theses ideas violently, one of the watchwords of Fluxus was the humor.

In this exhibition, we have the pleasure to dive into this atmosphere, in the same time light and deep: The robot sculptures for instance, are representations of different people how inspired Nam June Paik : one – we recognize him by the felt hat and the cage he hangs- is Joseph Beuys, who was also part of Fluxus; the second is the American feminist and writer Gertrude Stein, who gives the impression of a great energy by the position of her Victrola-horn arms – which actually are phonographs.  Those sculptures, that he started constructing in 1964, are built with televisions or other materials displaying videos. “Skin has become inadequate in interfacing with reality. Technology has become the body's new membrane of existence” said Nam June Paik. The subversive idea under those works was also to symbolize how far the society was pervaded by images.  He had a very accurate prescience of his future, and thus, even if his pieces were thought 40 years ago, they remain very actual.

Another ironic comment on the experience of television is “Enlightment Compressed” (1954), a bronze statue of a Buddha, sitting on aquarium stones, watching his own reflection on a television screen. It points out the lake of self-reflexivity of the  television experience, playing with the impossibility of a Buddha being able to reach a higher level of consciousness by watching television.
The live-feed works displayed in the gallery slightly change topic, but in the same field: a close circuit image displayed on a TV monitor is real time video captured on camera : in blurring the frontier between the real and the represented, Nam June Paik make us loose our marks in the reality.

This amazing body of works showcased in the gallery is very representative of Nam June Paik’s researches. Through it, we get to understand, with humor and subversion,  how the new technologies emerging in the sixties were considered by the artists. Reality shows didn’t existed yet, but we can see they were already present in their mind, as well as a consumption society based the flow of images.

Over the past 50 years Nam June Paik has exhibited in many major museums worldwide, including the Museum of Modern Art, New York (Projects: Nam June Paik, 1977), Whitney Museum of American Art (Nam June Paik, 1982), Centre Georges Pompidou (Nam June Paik, 1982), San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (Nam June Paik, 1989), National Museum of Contemporary Art, Seoul (Nam June Paik Retrospective: Videotime, 1992), Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum (The Worlds of Nam June Paik, 2000). He represented Germany at Venice Biennale in 1993. Paik has received numerous grants and awards from, among many others, the Guggenheim Museum, the Rockefeller Foundation, and the American Film Institute; Will Grohmann Award, Goslar Emperor's Ring and UNESCO's Picasso Medal.

Paik's works are in the collection of a number of institutions, such as the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden (Washington D.C.), Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, the Smithsonian American Art Museum (Washington D.C.), the Walker Art Center (Minneapolis, Minnesota), the Museum of Modern Art (New York), amongst others.

[Visuals. Above : NAM JUNE PAIK, Gertrude Stein, 1990, antique television monitors, mixed media with two channels of video, 98 X 77 1/8 X 37 inches, courtesy James Cohan Gallery. Below : NAM JUNE PAIK, Enlightenment Compressed, 1994, 5" color LCD TV, video camera, wood TV cabinet, plastic TV case, bronze Buddha, aquarium stones, and paint, 13 X 19 X 17 1/2 inches, courtesy James Cohan Gallery]

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April 21 2009 3 21 /04 /April /2009 14:15

One of the most emblematic figures of American sculptors who succeeded to create perfect simulacra of the middle and inferior classes’ every day life, Duane Hanson, is presented from April 22 until May 22 in both locations of the Van de Weghe Fine Art Gallery. This exhibition is the occasion to turn in the direction of the French social theorist Jean Braudrillard, which will highlight the purpose of this hyper real work.

Hanson said he was  “mostly interested in the human form as subject matter and means of expression for my sculpture. What can generate more interest, fascination, beauty, ugliness, joy, shock or contempt than a human being?”
Indeed, all his work (1925-1996) represents in real life size people through a process of life casting: a 3D copy of a living human body, by molding and casting techniques. A part from Bronze, he used materials such as Fiberglass, polyester resin and Bondo that were very innovating in the sixties.  The artist also includes all the accessories, the clothing and every single little details of the skin, repealing or not: he refuses idealism and thus embodies the crude reality of the sculpture and the human.

The figures he creates are a great simulacra of the real, they completely success to fool the viewers: the gestures, the expressions of the faces, and above all the choice of the models, as common people in the situation of the American way of life, is a pure mirror of our daily life.  He recreates scenes of the quotidian, such as shopping in a supermarket, waitress on a break, or “Old Man playing Solitaire” (1973). Those subjects reflect the sad loneliness of men, or denounce phenomenon of consumption, materialism and violence.

His awareness of the socio-political problems of our times made him quite criticized by the media in the 70’s. “The Supermarket Lady” (1969) is one of the most emblematic work he did : It shows an old fat lady, characteristic of the middle class society, smoking a cigarette and walking with an overflowing shopping cart, she symbolizes the consumer society in which we are trapped in. According to Jean Baudrillard, consumption is not, “something individuals do and through which they find enjoyment, satisfaction and fulfillment. Rather, consumption is a collective phenomenon, a coded system of signs that is external to and coercive over individuals [...] The use of that system via consumption is an important way in which people communicate with one another.” An other subject that gives us a feeling of emptiness is the representation of human solitude: “The Delivery Man“ (1970) or “Rita the Waitress” (1975) have this characteristic of showing men who look down the floor, in the vague. They seem melancholic, having no expression of happiness nor sadness, just symbolizing the weight of a hard solitary life. By an accurate observation of human behavior, the works always go straight to our heart, communicating with power our own emotion, past or future.

Because the pieces are an illusion of the real, they erase the division between realty and illusion, real art and artificial world. He was called, with John De Andrea, a Verist . This hyperrealism, which is described by Baudrillard as “the generation by models of a real without origin or reality”, breaks our conception of sculpture, and art in genera, in blurring the frontiers between realty and representation. Hanson’s work is internationally recognized, artists such as Ron Mueck relate their work to him. This exhibition is the occasion to discover the premises of the hyperrealism sculpture, today also largely followed by contemporary Chinese Art.

[Visual : Duane Hanson,  Supermarket Lady, 1969]

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