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March 30 2009 2 30 /03 /March /2009 21:36

Marcel Duchamp prize became, since its creation on 2000, an event that can’t be ignored by French art market. Created by the Adiaf, following Anglo-Saxon examples (as usual, and no matter what domain is concerned) and interfering, during an ephemera glory, with the self-glorified award field of the contemporary art micro-market. The field is basically evocated when the nominated are named, entering a race for the final bouquet that looks like a horseracing with fences and hurdles. 

As far as we are concerned, we obviously and totally ignore backstage, negotiations, subtleties, camouflages and confusions. For the ones who would like to fathom and understand the unreachable, we strongly recommend them to read the duchampian experience, masterly told by the great artist Olivier Blanckart, nominated on 2005, pit worker describing the descent on the very depth of French evil art… 

For the others who, like us, are floating on surface, we are going to try to enlighten the 2009 edition. The 4 nominees are already known, 4 men are engaged on this elegant rat race: Saâdane Afif, Damien Deroubaix, Nicolas Moulin, Philippe Perrot. So, what are the forecasts, the individual chances from a purely artistic viewpoint (the only one considered for the attribution: no needs to precise), our own point of view potentially disagreeing the final result… of October. 

Neon and skulls: do we really have to say more? The work of Saâdane Afif is known and renowned, but neither knowable nor recognizable. He is definitively not a rock artist (rock music is not this thing, a prostitute to make up in order to look cool), not really a hype artist, not a bad artist, much more a French artist with Celador flavor (you know, the stupid candy): the “illusion taste” said the other guy… but Afif does not seem to be a good magician. 

Damien Deroubaix smells rock, old rancid beer odor and vomit. The mix death-nazi-porn-rock (grind for the fussy ones) is not frankly innovative, not totally the most relevant possibility of interactions too. It’s completely exaggerated to mention Dada for his work (Schwitters was a punk, certainly not Deroubaix), a sure sense of composition (and good musical tastes) save a work paradoxically lifeless; his transgression attempts unfortunately fail. 

Nicolas Moulin works on unreal architectures with soberness and impressive elegance. Everything is in its right place, measured even on outrageousness, sharp and efficient, never missing a (emotive) target. Silence from his pieces appeals our own silence. The reflection does not invade space but colonizes our mind. A demonstration of strength and artistic invasion. 

Philippe Perrot is a painter. Surprising, right? Is the death of painting, repeatedly announced, only an illusory and mercantile ritual? But Philippe Perrot is really a painter. We can be not sensitive to his style, but he has one. It’s strange, mixing references and referents, not desperately looking for aesthetic, not (more or less relevant) conceptually overactive, but it traces back buried emotions on a smooth scandal background. It’s painting. For better or for worse. For amateurs only… 

To summarize, as rudely as the idea to give a medal to artists, let’s say: 1- Moulin, 2- Perrot, 3- Afif, 4- Deroubaix (photo finish for the two last ones) and we advise you to bet on: 1- Afif, 2- Deroubaix, 3- Perrot, 4- Moulin. You can bet. Beware the high odds. There’s no reason to whip a jockey anyway…

[Pictures : above, Philippe Perrot, La Haine (l’amour au bord du gouffre), 2007. Collection Carlos & Rosa De La Cruz, Key Biscayne. Courtesy de l'artiste. Below : Nicolas Moulin, Datchotel Ryugyong, 2007. Fermacell, 3 x 2,65 x 2,65 m. ex Pièce unique. Courtesy l'artiste et galerie Chez Valentin, Paris]

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March 29 2009 1 29 /03 /March /2009 15:26

In the duplex of the P.S.1 MOMA, Art Center which constantly experiment new forms of art, is presented Swimming Pool, one the most famous piece of the Argentinean artist Leandro Erlich, until October 5th.

Born in 1973, he is one the artist who always succeeds to create a real effect of surprise. In fact, he produces installations which gathered elements from the reality and changes just one parameter. It renders the work completely strange, in the sense of the Freudian concept of the Unheimlich (meaning uncanny). That is to say the interest isn’t to show us fictional topics, but rather to manipulate and divert the real. Erlich said in the P.S.1 newspaper :  “So, it is not really the surreal but the “real” that interests me. The “very real”: the ordinary and the way that our notion of reality is conceived. There is no better place to question reality than in the ordinary”.

For instance, Window and Ladder-Too Late for Help (2008) an installation at Prospect.1, New Orleans, represents a metal ladder that leads to a window surrounded by bricks wall. It gives us the impression of a floating window, standing in the air by itself. All the elements of this production are from our everyday life. Only one thing misses, and make us loose our marks.

As for Swimming Pool, the effect of surprise is increased by the space where it is displayed. Speaking about the project, Erlich says: “When I first visited P.S.1, I remember thinking how perfect the Duplex space would be for the installation of Swimming Pool. This space divided the experience of seeing the work perfectly, and in the correct order. Almost ten years since its creation, Swimming Pool is finally in the exhibition space for which I have always felt is so perfectly suited.”
Indeed, the concept of this work splits in two moments and two spaces. When we enter the first room, we face a full- size swimming pool, with all its basics elements as the deck and the ladder. At first sight we think there is actually water in the pool, but, inside it, we actually see people standing on its floor instead of floating… in a second time, we go down the first floor and actually enter inside the pool; which that the viewer become part of the work, and get to become the element of the surprise of the other viewers.

Thus, Leandro Erlich plays here with our ordinary world. He breaks what we expect the most and disorient us completely. The second brilliant element of this installation is the place of the viewer becoming viewed: in the first moment, he inspects the whole piece, especially the fake water, and what catches him is the show of the people inside the pool. Inevrting the role of the viewer and, moreover, making him becoming a substantial element of the work is extremely sharp.
Apart from Leandro Erlich, other very good artists are showcased in P.S.1: Yael Bartana, Lutz Bacher, Kenneth Anger, and Jonathan Horowitz… not to be missed

[Visual above : Leandro Erlich Swimming Pool, 2004;masonry, swimming pool ladder, laminated glass and water;20 x 9 7/8 x 10 feet (600 x 280 x 300 cm);© Leandro Erlich;Courtesy: Sean Kelly Gallery, New York;Photo: Matthew Septimus. Courtesy P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center]

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March 27 2009 6 27 /03 /March /2009 11:11

How to render sensitive the immaterial power of the word, and confer to this latter a similar impact to the one of the image? This is the whole work of the American artist Jenny Holzer, displayed until May 31 in the exhibition “PROTECT PROTECT” at the Whitney Museum.

In the filiations of minimal and conceptual art, the aim of this courageous artist, who has been seeking to give the art back to the streets, hasn’t always been understood. We should then welcome the effort of the Whitney for giving access to her ideas, without nevertheless popularizing it.

Three directions, three materials, with on the one hand a great denunciation of the inherent violence of the aggressive politics, and on the other hand a verb poetic which touch us straight in the heart.

Electronic signs

It is especially through the electronic medium that Jenny Holzer got well known. By using the LED technology (light-emitting diode), she wrote texts (the most famous are The Truismes (1977-1979) and the Inflammatory Essays (1979-1982) – presented in the exhibition), which are scrolling on large electronic bands. At the image of advertising messages, she diverts the mass medias, first to convey us strong ideas as “the absolute submissoion could be a form of freedom”, “the deepest things are inexpressible” or “Humanism is obsolete”. Against the confinement of art in closed spaces such as galleries or museum, she delivers her message to the highest number of people in displaying them in the same places than advertising panels or in projecting them on buildings, all over the world : From Vienna to Rio de Janeiro, passing by London and Washington, Jenny Holzer wants to share.
Beside, she barely signs her works, likes collaborations with other artists. She also offers us magnificent texts of poets, like the one of the polish Wislawa Szymborska, displayed on buildings in Chicago, at the occasion of her last exhibition. The topics are variable, but all create bridges over distinctive universe, as private and public, fact and fiction, and resonate in us in a poetical way.
Because whether her words attract or repel us, they have such a catching power that they instantly echo in our intimacy. Each work is built with intensive care. The fonts and the colors of the texts, the speed of the scrolling, the format of the panel and where they are located are planed in relation with the effect she looks for. Thus, a field of forces gets created, and the viewer, or the passer-by, finds himself absorbed by the image, or the verb. In fact, since the verb becomes image and vice et versa, Jenny Holzer goes beyond the traditional frontier between signified and significant. She blurs our bearings and reveals in all its splendor the power of the verb, today so often left behind for the pure image.
In her more recent works, like Purple (2008), the artist brought her words for elsewhere, in declassified documents of the American government, like the one about international trade in arm and oil. Since these are displayed in closed spaces, the possibility of multiplying the electronics bands and installing them in a powerful way opens up. This is the whole interest of the exhibition, which displays those electronics signs in more intimate, but also more aggressive way, since those lighted diodes, with bright colors, scrolling and scrolling, sometimes don’t let us time to breath. Here we don’t raise the eye by chance, the propagation’s force of the light goes directly into our look and pervades us deep into the eye. The verb catches our body…

Redaction painting
and Lustmord

Since 1977, Holzer abandonned painting for the words. In the series of the redaction painting, she comes back to the medium, trough text but also prints and photographs. This is a group of oil painting on linen where the artist also brought his sources from the declassified documents of the American government, but dealing specifically with the Iraq war. Here, she reproducts identically texts and images from the National Security of the Archives and from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). Here, the gestures consist the highlighting of a crude, dry and acid truth of the secrets politics of her government. Autopsy reports, invasion plans of Iraq, documents related to detainee interrogation… everything is put her, in front of us, as a group of proofs gathered for a trial. No transformation, no truism added is required to denunciate violence and injustice. It is enough to report the government’s own words. The absence of intervention just increase the impact of those works. No need to divert, the only transposition shouts its own truth.

Lustmord is an installation which was prompted by the atrocities of the Ex-Yugoslavia war. Lustmord is the association of two German words: Lust, which means desire, and Mord which signifies murder or assassination. In German this building of words is ambiguous and can convey in the same time “sex-murder”, but also “rape-slaying”, “lust-killing”. This installation was at first a group of photographs (a selection is displayed on the exhibition), representing written sentences on human bodies. Those are fragments, following various points of view like the one the victim or the torturer, testimonies of horrible facts such as “she acts like a left animal for cooking”, “she has no taste left to her and this makes it easier for me”. For the exhibition the installation is composed by a group of human bones, masculine and feminine, lying on a wooden table. On the bones we discover silver bands where are engraved those same fragments. The choice of the material is here of a great intelligence. It puts into light with power the eternal mark of the violence which went trough the flesh and even penetrated until the bone. The fact of not engraving directly on it but on a silver band could refer to those chain bracelets we conserve all our life, where initials or significant sentence keeps rubbing against our skin. But here there is no more protection, no more frontier between the verb and our intimacy, since those women or girls got hurt far beyond their skin. The sanctuary of Lustmord could be the incarnation of the deep violence of this war, too often left apart.

“PROTECT PROTECT” makes us go deep into the creation of Jenny Holzer, but also lights up a clear evolution of her work. Always working on the relations between the verb and the image; the word, which was constantly dematerializing through those electronic signs, gets in line with the material, takes from it more power, and depth. Breaking the individualist convention trough a lot of collaborations and open spaces exhibitions. Diverting with skill the mass media and denunciating with power what rebels her, she touches us in our intimacy, thanks to a great dynamic created by the play between the language and the medium.

[Visuals : Above : Jenny Holzer, Green Purple Cross, 2008, and Blue Cross, 2008. Three double-sided electronic LED signs (two with blue and green diodes on front and blue and red diodes on back and one with blue and red diodes on front and blue and green diodes on back); and seven double-sided electronic LED signs with blue diodes on front and blue and red diodes on back. 59 x 122 5/8 x 100 11/16 in. (149.9 x 311.4 x 255.8 cm); and 85 13/16 x 109 x 100 11/16 in. (217.9 x 276.9 x 255.8 cm). Installation view: Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA), Chicago, 2008. Texts: Erlauf, 1995, Arno, 1996, Blue, 1998 (Green Purple Cross); and Arno, 1996 (Blue Cross). © 2009 Jenny Holzer, member Artists Rights Society (ARS), NY. Photo: Lili Holzer-Glier. Collection of the artist; courtesy Yvon Lambert, Paris (Green Purple Cross); and David Roberts Art Foundation, London (Blue Cross). In the middle : Jenny Holzer, "WISH LIST pewter", 2008. Oil on linen. 58 x 44 x 1 1/2 in. (147.3 x 111.8 x 3.8 cm). Links: http://www.aclu.org/projects/foiasearch/pdf/DOD054971.pdf, page 70. © 2009 Jenny Holzer, member Artists Rights Society (ARS), N. Below : Jenny Holzer, "Lustmord", 1994. Human bones, engraved silver, and wood table. 34 x 70 x 44 1/2 in. (86.4 x 177.8 x 113 cm). Installation view: Cheim & Read, New York, 2007. Text: "Lustmord", 1993-95. © 2009 Jenny Holzer, member Artists Rights Society (ARS), NY. Photo: Christopher Burke. Collection of the artist; courtesy Cheim & Read, New York ]

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March 26 2009 5 26 /03 /March /2009 12:41

Very well located in the Artparis Fair, the Forsblom Gallery, based in Helsinky, exhibited very novating works from young Finnish artists ; we came to visit and asked the director a few questions...

      Why did you choose the Art Paris Fair, as a Finnish gallery?

       I did Artparis before, it is actually the forth time for us, and all the artists here are artists that the gallery represents, part are Finnish but other part are internationals, so the fair is one way to promote the art outside of our frontiers.

       So could you present us some artist of your gallery, like the two very interesting and singular sculptures?

       Yes, this is Hans Christian Berg, a 38 years old Finnish artist, selected as a young artist. He is very interesting, he is working basically with sculptures, and what is interesting is the way he works through the light, everything that you could imagine with this topic, the relation between the viewer and the light.

       Isn’t it a  very perceptive work?

       Yes absolutely, we have presented here those visual works but he also works with glass, iron, and many other materials.

       What the title of this work, « vortex », could you explain us?

        Well, it’s the name of a series the type of work these are. The artist tries to visualize an experience of the inside mind. Here for example it is a poetic inside with butterflies.

       You also have others works which deal with perception, like this colorfull and geometrical painting here.

       Yes, this is Peter Halley, one of the major American painter, fifty years old painter.

       It is a strong visual experience when we face it…

       Yes absolutely, it is a very typical work of his..

       And what about these small sculptures, representing a small character, alone, inside the forest?

       This Tommi Toija, he is 30 years old artist, also a young artist from Finland, he works with different materials, but mainly with ceramic and wood, most of his work is about this small figure, in different sizes.



       Most of the time among nature spaces...

       Yes, but also alone, with different expressions.

       And this major work of Julian Schnabel?

       Yes, it is a very important painting, Julian Schnabel’s self portrait, from 2007, it’s  one of the six portrait , it was in our last show in Helsinky.


       What is your opinion on the Art market and the crisis, how do you face it?

       What crisis?


        So, you are optimistic about the future?

       Yes of course, why being pessimistic, we should not be.


       Thank you very much, good luck in the fair.

       Thank you.

Here is the end of the interviews for Artparis Fairr, but  since  the Salon of the contemporary drawing is now in Paris, soon will be available new interviews and reactions about this high quality fair...

[Visuals : Above : Hans Christian Berg, Visual vortex - oily colours spiral Relief, 2008, Acrylics, 100 x 100x 33 cm. Below : Tommi Toija, Poika ja puu, 2009, painted ceramics, wood, 80 x 43 x 50 cm. Courtesy Forsblom Gallery] 

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March 25 2009 4 25 /03 /March /2009 11:11

In the Artparis Fair, we noticed a strong increase of Chinese Art in European galleries, so we went to interview the director and owner of the Xin Dong Chen Gallery, based in Beijing. In this fair he promoted Chinese artists, but major Europeen artists such as Daniel Buren are also presented in his gallery in China. He also gives us his opinion on the future of the Chinese art market.

Interview of Mr Xin Dong Chen

       Xin Dong Chen is a Space for contemporary art, in Beijing. It is our third edition in Art Paris.


       What evolution do you see since the first time you came to Art Paris?

       Well the grand Palais is a great place, new people, and more and more Chinese art coming here.


       What about this major work of Feng Zhengjie?

       My gallery introduces major contemporary art like Feng Zhengiie, internationally recognized, but we also represent new young artists in order to show the people the diversity of the new creation in Chinese art.


       Can you talk to us a bit about this two photographs from Zuaxiao Zuzhou, the pile of pigs in a mountain environment and the other one, a pile of woman in the same visual context?

       Yes, this is very famous photograph of a performance in which the artist participated. It was realized in the beginning of the nineties, in an unknown mountain. Ten years later, the artist who took part of this performance came back to the same place, made a new piece, but instead of a pile of men, he put pigs. So the title here is I do love contemporary art.  It’s a joke; the artist wants us to realize how the contemporary art changed in the past thirteen years. It’s to say: ‘look back’ in the Chinese art.


       Okay, and what about this colorful painting, representing Marilyn Monroe? 

       It is from Xue Song, he made an homage to Andy Warhol. Marilyn is a very important image of pop art, so the artist re made with is own way the Marilyn.  The painting shows her beauty and her very strong energy, like she would still be alive. Her beauty is here expressed as eternal.


        Do Chinese people like Andy Warhol?

       Yes, Andy Warhol is the pope of pop art, in the world. And specially for Chinese artist, he is very important in pop art.


       How is the art market in China?

       We have a crisis in China, because the art market, in the world is infected, not only in China. The art market in China is completely new, not so big. I think personally that the economy is still going up, and especially in Beijing, the market is too established to be able to say anything about it. We should wait a few months or until the end of the year. The Chinese contemporary art is known as a market since very recent time, so it will take us more time to discover to real value of Chinese creative visions. It is alos very connected to the China and his situation. But I believe it will compete anyway. Maybe the market will go down, but it will go up quickly.


       So you believe Chinese Art will continue to increase ?

       It is sure, I begun to introduce Chinese contemporary art to the world since the beginning of the nineties, and we still continue to make it discover to new people, like for example we’ll have soon an exhibition in Cuba. So yes, I believe it will continue to rise, because it only begun.


       Thank you very much, we wish you the best for the fair.

       Thank you

Will follow tomorow the last interview of the Forsblom Gallery, Finland.

[Visuals : Above: Feng Zhengjie, painting. Courtesy Xin Dong Chen Gallery. Below : Xue Song, Portait of Marylin Monroe. Courtesy Xin Dong Chen Gallery]


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March 24 2009 3 24 /03 /March /2009 11:21

From March 19th until March 22, the Artparis Fair took place in the Grand Palais in Paris; we went to interview three different galleries, included the David Nolan Gallery, which presented the winner of the Guerlain Price, Sandra Vasquez de la Horra

Interview of Katherine Chan, Director of the David Nolan Gallery, New York.


      So,  How is going the fair ?

      Very good, we are doing very well with the work of Sandra Vasquez de la Horra.

       Yes, could you tell us a bit about her , since she is the winner of the Guerlain price this year ? How did you met her,  isn’t she from Chile ?

       She is from Chile but she lives in Dusseldorf and we do business in Germany quiet often, because David Nolan has also a Gallery. So we met her and liked her work very much, and offered her the possibility of showing her work in New York.  So we made an exhibition in December 2007, and it was very well received, New York collectors were very positives about her work. It’s a revelation because the way she works is so unique : she does the drawings and then she deeps them in wax, that’s why they are yellow. The paper isn’t at first yellow; it is the base wax's natural color. The color of the yellow depends on the amount of cotton in the paper.
She is from Chile, she grew up when Pinochet was a dictator in the country, so she is very affected by the political climate of her childhood, and the dramatic event of that time. She left her country in 1995 and went to the Kunstakademie in Dusseldorf and learned with some very important teachers. She had been working in Düsseldorf since quite a few year, she started in galleries until becoming more well known. Daniel and Florence Guerlain found her work a few years ago at the Gallery and started to buy and be very interested. And they were always very supportive.

       So they choose the work to compete for the Gerlain price.


       By seeing her drawings and referring it to Germany, it makes me think about the drawing of the Viennese Actionist Günter Brus, did she know him ?

       Günter Brus and the Viennese actionists of that time were very interested in Performance, manipulation. Sandra has some videos and performances related works, but her drawings are much more inspired by her imagination and by literary sources. Philosophy, anthropology. She is a very intelligent and cultured person. And has a very wide curiosity. But what separates her from an artist like Günter Brus is that, for her the drawings are a lot more personal and autobiographical subjects, and has I guess less to do with time, because performance is very time based, and involves an audience. But this for her is a lot more intimate.

       And, if we continue the comparison, I see some words marked in the drawings, does she plays on word like Günter Brus did ?

       Her native language is Spanish, she speaks some German and some English, and the word come into the drawings. All the language are mixed in her head. And she does have a play on word. Like for example la mala pata, that drawing looks like a duck, la mala pata also means, to have a bad day. So they are certain plays on words. Bitte nicht shiessen, please don’t shoot. The none of Monza, it’s a from a chapter of a very famous Italian book, written on the 19th century, but the none wasn’t a monster, but in her imagination she recreates, transforms the character. It’s very strong image.


       And this one over there, could you describe it to us?

       It was cold “la visionaria”, the visionary. I am not sure if there is a lot to explain about it. It is just what it is, a girl with a skeleton of a bull, and she is smoking a cigarette, and the smoke of the cigarette is like a gost.

       It leads you far in your imagination, it’s a very enigmatic piece.

       Yes, a lot of drawing, she let the meaning very open. Sometimes she has a very specific title, a very specific text that can lead you in one direction, but ultimately the interpretation, she let open to the viewer.

       In Artparis, you chose to show only drawings, but next week there is the Salon du dessin contemporain, will you be also there ?

       No, we don’t exhibit there, it is our first time in Art Paris, and it was mostly to showcase the work of Sandra Vasquez. The specialty of the gallery is the drawing, we decided to bring a selection of other artist’s works to show the gallery’s program and to create a relation between what Sandra Vasquez de la Horra does and the other artist too as well. Because there is a relation ship between them. For example we have a Georg Grosss work, and there is definitely a link between what Sandra does and what the German expressionists were doing in the 20th century. And also we like to link the historical and the contemporary art.

       To finish, you are one of the only American gallery in Art Paris, why did you choose to come here ?

       First because of the Gerlain price, it was good opportunity to meet and introduce French collector to her work but also it’s seems like a funny thing to do. We have done many fair, like Art Basel Miami Beach, art Basel, but France is a country where we don’t have a very strong collector base, and we would like to develop that, at this fair. It’s new market for us

       Have you been to the Armory Show ?

       Yes, I thought the quality was very good and there were some really great work, but I am not sure it has gone so well.

       About the crisis, how do you perceive it ?

       People in New York are very stressed, but we are doing just fine, some gallery are closing, but it is a natural part of the process. New York had a very strong bloom for many years, and we all knew that it was not going to last forever.

       Are you going to Art Basel ?

       Yes, we will be there.

       So we will meet you there… have a great success with Sandra,

       Thank you.       

Here is the first interview; in the following days you will get the one of the Xin Dong Chen Gallery, a very important Chinese Gallery based in  Beijing, and the Forsblom Gallery, a very special one from Finland.

[Pictures : Above : Sandra Vasquez de la Horra, "Forget your name", drawing deeped in wax, 2006. Courtesy of the artist. Below : Sandra Vasquez de la Horra," Girl with depression looking for a hole", drawing deeped in wax, 2006. Courtesy of the artist ]

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March 23 2009 2 23 /03 /March /2009 14:43

The Beastie Boys are at music what Barack Obama is at politics : the demonstration that black people are able to do as well as white people… and conversely. It presupposes two things:  firstly, that Barack Obama confirms huge hopes pinned on him (do we have to specify that the majority of people who praised him to the skies, specifically on the rest of the world, don’t know nothing, or however little, about his political program?) ; secondly, that we consider Beastie Boys as a Hip-Hop band, and it’s far from being obvious….

Thanks to Paul’s Boutique, the Beastie Boys prove they are not only a particular band but they transcend gender delimitations. They reach a different status, a dimension that consecrates the New-York band one of the greatest rock band of last decades, a kind of commercial Suicide. In order to celebrate the 20th anniversary of this second album, a remastered version of this Unknown Soldier is released. It gives us the possibility to realize that, 3 years after Licensed to ill, the “3 idiots who made a masterpiece” (dixit Rolling Stone) do it again: maybe not so haphazard, certainly not so idiots.

Looking closer, we can find on Beastie Boys’ Paul’s Boutique album, some similar strategies to Kelley Walker’s work, another whitey dealing with racial issues. Beyond the usual and already known similarities of appropriation (Walker prefers the term of recycling), linking the simultaneous reuses of images extracted from newspapers by Walker to sampled vinyl’s sounds by the Beastie Boys, the Americans share, into their respective practices, the exploration of the same lands. The “minimalising” approach of Walker, reducing his intervention to the maximum: the toothpaste on the scanned magazine covers (schema; Aquafresh plus Crest with Whitening Expressions [Regina Hall]) echoes back to controlled (sampled, scanned) bass / drum rhythm sections of the Beastie Boys. The Pop emerging from Walker’s raw materials (magazines, ads) sends back to band’s lyrics. Between lightness and hidden meaning, the texts of the Beastie Boys on Paul’s Boutique enlighten on a singular way the American society of those days. The Pop reasoning leans on the society and its consumption of a music filled up with images and images filled up with sounds. The fury of Mike-D, MCA and Ad-Rock is completed by the silent screams of Kelley Walker’s pieces. On the reversed and astounding Black Star Press (rotated 90 degrees counterclockwise): Black Star, Black Press, Star Press, we sense a violence constantly ready to explode, a muffled howl, covered with chocolate softness, like the rock heart in the middle of the rap wrapping of the Beastie Boys. We recognize then the racial struggle Walker is deeply concerned about, from riots to drifted visions of its representation. Following the example of Rock, black music played by a white guy (the first Elvis, not the resuscitated one), the Beastie Boys lay down to rap a demonstration of crossover that will create a gap into musical domain during the 1990 (Looking Down the Barrel of a Gun). The mix is working.

Finally, artist and musicians play with the constitution of stratums. The Beastie Boys multiply the sampling layers, pill up references, defy the interpretation when Kelley Walker superimposes chocolates, toothpastes, dots, stars, on a choice of highly referenced images. Kelley Walker and the Beastie Boys appear as culture proponents (Nine Disasters), challenging authority (the Beatles samplings), distorting the frontiers. They simply decide to redefine the United States, a country that abolished segregation and elected a colored man to the head of the most powerful country in the world in no time (less than 50 years!). So, don’t forget, especially nowadays, that politics goes through culture…. And, unfortunately, conversely.

[Pictures : above, The Beastie Boys, Paul's Boutique, 1989, Capitol Records. Below : Kelley Walker, Schema; Aquafresh plus Crest with Whitening Expressions (Trina), 2006. CD Rom; scanned image and toothpaste; digital print on archival paper. Dimensions variable. Courtesy : the artist & Thomas Dane Gallery, London]

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March 22 2009 1 22 /03 /March /2009 14:37

If you still don’t know the work of the German artist Lothar Hempel, it is the occasion to visit the Anton Kern Gallery (until March 21st), and pervade his theatrical and sensual world.

Best known for his series of painted portraits, Lothar Hempel goes far into the idea of art as a show. Mixing larged diamond shaped photomontages, sculptures and painting, the whole with flashy colors and geometrical shapes, “Kats, Nerves, Shadows & Gin” plays with the mind of the viewer, to whom he offers to create his own story, in relation with his own psychological character.

In fact, the artist plays here the role of a director: the space is arranged in order to create a script, as much open as possible. Now it is our turn to let merge the flow of our inspiration in relation with the plastic proposition.

“Das Dreiek” (the Triangle), is an installation composed by a refrigeration unit in which we find elements of the everyday life, as two cakes, a Corona bottle, fake cocktails and a woman, looking at us. Behind it and centered, a tall representation of a woman, is the exact tipical position of Jesus, but colored in fuchsia, red and black. A modern Trinity is here settled. 

In the middle of a room, an a large low pedestal, a small sculpture of a man, with a metallic stick and a green hood, looks placidly straight. This enigmatic piece can take us far in our imagination. 

Next to an eight-foot reflective phallus, which genitals are represented by driving wheels, are standing two sculptures on a pedestal, one green and another orange. In an antic Greek style, they lead us to the image of the Milo Venus, ideal of beauty. The contrast of the values conveyed by the sculpture, mixing modern colors and ancient forms, and standing next to the phallus is simply amazing, and magestically breaks all the codes.

“Their overall behavior, firmly anchored in cultural codes, entails a set of discernible bodily movements, postures, facial expressions, as well as color and tonal modulations that take on strategic social value within a moral context. Our gaze is opened to a kind of sprezzatura, an "aristocratic cool", that in the past has related to frank amorality and love or illicit pleasures behind closed doors.”

Figures and objects are directed in a colorful ambience, dazzling all around. We found ourselves in undefined time and space, since the materials and the forms used are a melting pot of all times and values. Are we back in the ancient Greek theater, in the eighties, in the future or just in this singular era that is our? It’s up to us to choose… or not.

[Visual above : Lothar Hempel, Das Dreieck (The Triangle), 2009, mixed media, 2009. Courtesy Anton Kern Gallery]

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March 20 2009 6 20 /03 /March /2009 11:25

The Lombard Freid Projects Gallery presents, until April 4th, “the worst condition is to pass under a sword which is not one’s own”, an original proposition of Michael Rakowitz, which plunges us into the imagery of the Iraqi’s leaders, unexpected…

At first sight, when we enter in the gallery, the imposing sculpture representing two white forearms crossing plastic green and red swords leads us directly to the Star Wars movie. But who would believe that this installation is actually a détournement of the Victory Arch, a monument built under Saddam Hussein to proclaim the victory over Iran in 1989. In fact, the drawings and the sculptures presented here will surprise us, and teach us a very particular side of the Iraqi history, since the purpose of this exhibition is to highlight the influence of the science fiction genre (especially the Stars Wars movie) in the Iraqi military environment.

The whole proposition is pervaded by a symbolic referenced to History, as much in the drawings, the forms, the colors than in the materials chosen. Each element tells us a story : for the Victory Arch, he used a white papier-maché form the pages of Saddam Hussein own novels. The two swords, green and red, evoke the colors of the Iraqi flag. We also learn that before the Gulf War, Hussein made a desfilé of his soldiers down the Victory Arch accompanied by the Star War musical theme. Then the helmets down the sculpture which have the shape of the one of Dark Vador, are made of GI Joe toys : the eldest son of Saddam, Uday Hussein, was a fan of Star Wars, so he asked for his paramilitary group an exact replicate of Dark Vador helmet.

Michael Rakowitz

“As established in the drawings, Saddam’s fixation with fantasy illustration was far reaching. After Baghdad fell in April 2003, erotic fantasy paintings by Rowena Morrill, a colleague and close friend of the man who designed the famous 1980 Star Wars poster, were discovered by US military personnel in one of Saddam’s mansions. Even more, without permission, Saddam appropriated an image by fantasy illustrator Jonathon Earl Bowser to adorn the cover of his turgid romance novel, Zabiba and the King. An original print of Bowser’s illustration as well as actual copies of the novel will be part of the exhibition.”

Thus Michael Rakowitz puts into light many other stories, pointing out the intricate relation of fiction and history, where weapons and toys are not where we expect them…

We let you discover what is the connection between the CIA and the telescope “supergun” made from boxes of balsa wood and plastic military models, pointing towards an image of the moon….

[Visual above : Michael Rakowitz, Installation view at the Lombard Freid Projects Gallery, March 2009, courtesy Lombard Freid Projects Gallery] 

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March 18 2009 4 18 /03 /March /2009 10:30

“Saints and Sinners”: Ironical title for what could be one of the last exhibitions of the Rose Museum, today strongly threatened of closure and of loosing their art collection by the University it is attached to, the Brandeis University.

Since the beginning of the financial crisis, Museums and Universities are suffering from deep cuts in their budgets: losses of 30 percent in the museum’s budgets, and North American college endowment declined average of 22, 5 percent in three months. Furthermore, in the case of the Brandeis University, one of the principal donator, Carl Shapiro, lost $545 millions in Maddof’s alleged Ponzi scheme. They announced a budget deficit of more than $10 millions.  "It's like a one-two-three punch: The economy tanks, they overbuilt at the peak of the market, and their largest donor was hit dramatically by the Madoff scandal," said Mark Williams, a Boston University senior lecturer who specializes in risk management and has studied Brandeis's finances.


In January, the president of the Brandeis University Jehuda Reinharz said that he would close the museum and publicly sell the art collection to raise funds. But he revised his statement affirming that the museum will no longer be public and therefore will inclined more their activity toward the students of the university, serving the school educational need. Secondly, only some works of the art collection will be auctioned. But this statement is still vague: Does it mean that there could be classes instead of exhibitions? Which works will be sold, and at what price, considering the fall down of the art market?

Those questions remain, and the Rose family, in charge of the museum since 1961 strongly demand the school to back the plan, and ask to stop “plundering the Rose Art museum”, reported the Wall Street Journal. The criticism toward Mr. Reinharz’s politic is rising: "The art has been put on the auction block. The museum has been put on the chopping block. We object," said the statement.

In fact, it is not any art that might be sold, it is a very strong collection of American Art of the 60’s and 70’s : Wahrol, Willem de Kooning, Mattew Barney, Nan Goldin, Donald Judd, Roy Lichstenstein, are name among the 7000 works of the collection. Thus, a part of the American patrimony would be spread in private collection, invisible to eyes of the public… Is the State going to do something about it, like he starts involving in banks and industries?

On Thursday, a committee constituted of 50 members of the Rose Family will determined the role of the Museum.

“Saints and Sinners”, an exhibition about the fundamental opposition between modern and contemporary art, that the curator defines as a division between the spiritual and the material, the eternal and the everyday life. With this topic, the museum has gone straight to the point, and gives a strangely accurate illustration of the war engaged between cash and culture.

[Visual above: view of the Rose Art Museum, courtesy Rose Art Museum ]

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