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March 17 2009 3 17 /03 /March /2009 12:09

The Cheim & Read Gallery offers us a world of faerie in presenting, until March 21st, the latest works of the British artist Paul Morrison, mixing sculpture, paintings, and an animated film collage, Sponzia.

From afar, the canvas could be taken for those wood engraving of African and Oceanic art: a large and strong black line, forming a cartoon like drawing, depicts a smooth world where nature seems to have all his place, even more...

In fact, his references are taken from popular and classical imagery: botanical pictures enlarged to over human size, sweet feminine figures coming straight from a kind of Lewis Caroll books. Here is no fear, just the strange feeling that we enter in a totally different world. 

Used to only black and white works, we will be pleasantly surprised to see also gold leaf canvas, and a silver one. The link to the old- renaissance- times is then done, when the nature was still mysterious and magic. Thus we won’t be surprised to face two huge dandelions (one silver and one black), oversized galvanized steel and aluminum sculpture (about 10-foot), reflecting majestically its environment.


 “Morrison's compositions are the result of an intensive and detailed process which rethinks spatial and historical juxtapositions. He manipulates his selected source imagery, removing color and editing detail; separate images are then collaged to create an original composition. The final image is projected on canvas (or, for site-specific murals, directly on the wall) and painted in two coats of black acrylic. Often large-scale, Morrison's work reinterprets the physical space in which it is shown. Morrison creates shifting sensations of scale and space, and allows for associative interpretations of the various stylistic constructions of his imagery.”

In the Lewis Caroll’s world, everything becomes a non-sense, but, after all, some very truth ideas can rise up. In the fantastic world of Paul Morrison, that we have the chance to be very well composed in the Cheim & Read Gallery, we will get a smooth and delicate experience, thanks to the fine arabesques creating those light and magical images. 

[Visuals : Paul Morrison, installation view at the Cheim & Read Gallery, New York, 2009. Courtesy Cheim & Read Gallery] 

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March 13 2009 6 13 /03 /March /2009 12:33

For his first show at the CRG Gallery, the artist Brian Tolle presents until March 21st “Levittown”, a group of cast silicones sculptures representing sort of melting houses in some very unexpected positions.

Levittown was the name given by Abraham Levitt to a complex of houses in Long Island, New York. Designed and built by the latter, this housing community became in the fifties the model of the American suburban life, and was strictly reproduced all over the blighted farmland. This mechanic mass production, where only the color was varying, was a great symbol of the American dream. In this exhibition, Brian Tolle brings us a very accurate metaphor of the actual collapse of this ideal.

Indeed, these houses that were yesterday an easy way to access to a middle class society, are today lost by their inhabitants because of the subprime mortgage crisis. The dream became a nightmare, and like in the nightmare, the reality is falling apart. Tolle distorts, manipulates the shapes of the houses, which are in fact only frontages:  like ghost houses, they remain empty inside. Emptied of furniture, of people, of life.

A house, one of the fundamental element of our everyday life on which a man can rely on on, where he gets the comfort of a family life, is here left in a basket, there extended and as planted in the floor like a provisory tent for camping, they are also deformed and put in a trolley, or even gets ironed on a ironing board. The unbelievable is here happening; the houses are contorted like any common and useless object, ready to be transported like a vulgar box of chocolates.


“The rubber houses, without any means of internal support, resemble deflated or melting skins. Meticulously crafted and bearing all the architectural details of the original houses, the effigies occupy the gallery space in different forms, each draped over or suspended by different appropriated objects. In one of the works, the elastic house hangs languidly and contorted over a 1950's vintage beauty parlor hair dryer. The elastic shell takes on the figure-like structure of the form beneath it, resembling a cloaked and bowing figure (…). Within each pairing, the found object and pliable architectural rendition inform each other; at times they exemplify hidden social or political signifiers that might remain dormant outside of their union.”

The objects chosen are, like the houses, the standard mass products of the American way of life. Thus, they respond to each other and emphasize the enormous conformity of the American consumerism.

Finally, two ideas are rising from this exhibition: one is, because of the actual economic context, the fall of the American dream. The second, is an image of the particular American way of consumerism, implying all this tendency to live in the strict conformity of the mass-produced standard

[Visual above : View of the installation at the CRG Gallery, New York, 2009. Courtesy CRG Gallery] 

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March 12 2009 5 12 /03 /March /2009 11:55

Before his solo exhibition at the Asia Society, the famous Japanese artist Yoshitomo Nara presents his new works in preview at the at the Marianne Boesky gallery, until March 28th. His famous mixture of naive and aggressive figures where children and animals wear weapons already became cult.

Here are presented two new installations and selected paintings...


“Constructed from reclaimed wood, the forms of the two immense sculptures recall stylized tannenbaums, with their roof shingling evoking exaggerated tree needles. Small cut-out windows and hanging lights punctuate the sculptures, providing them with the feel of a house or some surreal abode. The structures are hollow and present interiors replete with drawings and paintings all created in the artist's hand, and with a multitude of stuffed animals from fans selected by the artist(…)The paintings, rendered on both canvas and wooden billboards, depict lone portraits of dreamy-eyed figures. Pencil and colored pencil drawings on found envelopes and discarded papers similarly parse the psychological landscape of their subjects.”
Mischivious and tender, the universe depicted gives us this feeling of uncanny, dear and so well expressed by the artist : the soft yellow light inside the built houses, which whisperes us to come in, the big and round eyes of the little girl portrait scrutinizing us, and the pile of stuffed animals, left to abandon. All those elements are created to look familiar, but an indefinite shadow is flying over the place. A tasteful preview before the solo exhibition…

[Visual above: Yoshitomo Nara, installation view at the Marianne Boesky gallery, New York, 2009. Courtesy Marianne Boesky gallery]

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March 11 2009 4 11 /03 /March /2009 11:06

Full of innovations and surprises, the Deitch gallery is presenting until April 04th two very noticeable shows. One is the presentation of the New Yorker Ryan Mc Ginness’ latest works: In a swarming of small characters, geometrical forms and fine arabesques which could easily be messy, this graphic illustrator offers us a colorful world ingeniously composed. Indeed, those canvas are the result of a very fine and balanced composition, which leads us to an in between world of nature and graphic design, coming directly from our inside world:

“His work combines all-over composition, inspired by Jackson Pollock and the mechanical silkscreen process inspired by Andy Warhol. The work also fuses naturalistic and contemporary pop culture references. His imagery derives form a broad range of sources: from dreams and hallucinations to song lyrics and fragments of art history. There is a push and pull between content and form, and between literal meaning and intuitive feeling. McGinness' paintings represent his own mental landscape. His compositions reflect the infinite, ever-flowing continuum of the universe.”


The second exhibition, entitled Kessler’s Circus, is an installation made by Jon Kessler where we instantly fall into the aggressive and exuberant world of the American war machine. A unique experience that raise up the meaning that can have today an installation in the art world: “The work depicts the American military-industrial complex as macabre circus, traveling from country to country, importing nothing and exporting atrocities under the veil of democracy. Rather than simply presenting a mediated spectacle, Kessler indicts the audience in the violence.

Surrounded by handmade mechanisms and surveillance cameras, the viewer becomes part of the machine. There is an induced sense of vertigo and surge of paranoia, as the viewer's own faces appear in the video feed. Entering Kessler's Circus, one is immersed in an undefined state, conflating machine and spectacle with entertainment and horror.” In a time of masquerades and collapse, this installation makes us think twice to the power of massive technology when used in the name of security.


[pictures: on the top Ryan McGinness, Master of Reality, 2008, Acrylic on linen, 96 x 144 inches, 24. 3.8 x 365.8 cm. courtesy Deitch gallery. Below, Jon Kessler, The Palace at 4 a.m., P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center, New York, 2006, courtesy Deitch gallery.]

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February 17 2009 3 17 /02 /February /2009 11:35

The 20 finalists and over 70 mentors (*) joined for an intensive day of mentoring, presentations, and panel discussions at the Microsoft Technology Centre Paris. The high standard of teams resulted in 5 winners rather than the customary 3! They are (drum roll please)….

Art and You

(*) From MSFT and Sun to the founder of Kelkoo, Remy Amouroux and Brad Gillespie, Advisor & Board Member at various early-stage technology ventures, along with 50 other top industry movers and shakers including VC’s, Investors and product specialists. A few notables are:
Mike Butcher, TechCrunch
Alain Caffi, Founder & General Partner, Ventech
Philippe Herbert, Partner, Banexi Ventures
Xavier Lazarus, Partner, Elaiaa
Marc Menasse, Co-founder of Nextedia and Business Angel
Andreas Schlenker and Philippe Colombel, Partech International

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February 16 2009 2 16 /02 /February /2009 12:20

Consequences of the scenarists strike last year, restructured calendar by the TV channel, metaphor of the chaotic current mood and linked murder wishes, well, Canal+ points out now the (very good) Dexter series with an ambitious media planning. So, a lot of spectators discover the second season, one year late, of this strange series and follow the wanderings and questionings of a serial killer of killers to sum up. More astonishing, his job, blood spatter analyst, a sector of legal medicine, does exist. Not really the kind of job you’re thinking about when you’ve got your diploma… Projections, stains, blood drips are dissected and interpreted to reveal their deep significations. Exactly what we offer you at the carte today…

Let’s say that we’re going to restrict firstly to the things that pour, run, drip, slide, drag, spill and leak. The artistic recuperation of the drip can take different forms. The first one is the manifestation of a body language, putting the living at the heart of the process. The drip is close to the unconscious line, the spatter. The pictorial vehemence of the unfortunately still underestimated artist Georges Mathieu is an obvious example of this outflanking between mastership and rupture, consciousness and divine aspiration. The painting liquidity added to furious moves create projections as tangible proofs, as painter footprints. The drip turns itself to signature, a distinctive sign. Following the example of tags, the drip becomes the artist denomination. On these limit cases, we find artists like Jon One whom accumulated trickled tags on canvases mix genders and transcend distinctions of paintings. Joyce Pensato’s streaming became a distinctive trademark. Applied to Walt Disney heroes (Donald, Mickey, Pluto…) among others, the dripped treatments bring a sentimental projection, reverse values and associated connotations to characters. If the result is aesthetically very beautiful, the meaning is more questionable. The drip makes the painting living, it’s a possibility to rebel against mechanized reproductions processes, new medias, dehumanization and detachment adopted from conceptual artists to today. Concerning the great family of drippers, we have untidy painters: the handmade abstractions by Todd Chilton, the delicate drips on invented architectures backgrounds and pictorial structuralism perfectly executed by Christian Hellmich, the emotional transpositions of the trickles by Marc Desgrandchamps. We have also the voluntarily conscious of the deterioration artists : the poured streaks of Rosson Crowe accentuate the ill-at-ease feelings and the disturbing nature of really amazing compositions. On the mastered category, Dirk Skreber tactfully puts long lines of paints that interfere with the first reading of his pieces and introduce a part of supernatural abstraction into figuration. For Bruno Peinado, the drop stains the smooth finish and give to his works a vibrating and direct counterpoint.

Parallel to this drip penetration, constitutive or added, into preexisting pieces, other artists opted for a use of drip as full work, independent or predominant. We don’t care to know if Ernst, Masson or somebody else is the one who invented the dripping technique. What Pollock did with it is an absolute miracle. But it’s certainly reductive to consider the demoniac work of the American artist as a simple drip. It’s much more closer to a bloody projection. Great sparkling canvases by John Armleder are better examples of the possibilities offered by the drip by itself. The Pour Paintings are huge cascades of sequined, metallic, iridescent paintings mixed and clanked on vertically installed oblong canvases. Icon Tada creates fake drips mathematically developed and numerically printed. The accident is decided, overcame and put as a decorative element. If Christian Achenbach adds excessively colored paint trickles to figurative and almost naïve elements, the drips remain the main component and give strength to paintings. On Plaza, 18 carrots or Rock me Move me, the crude squirting of paints by Jim Lambie is the disruptive and central element of his embezzlement of every day objects. By mixing humor and tension, his works become a complete demonstration of the conceptualization of painting into installation domain. Lucas Ajemian on UT takes identical principle and process to Rock me Move me, exchanging the mattress with Black Sabbath’s Master of Reality vinyl (and putting Klein into the used blue…). Let’s say that it does not prevent him from being a very good and promising artist, alone or with his brother Jason.

Finally, a third experimental field could be analyzed : the drips that detach themselves from their pictorial position and acquire a new dimension, the third one. The Founding Father of this movement is the outrageous Robert Smithson with two brilliant interventions : Asphalt Rundown on 1969 and Glue Pour on 1970. If the definitions are on the titles, the consequences are unlimited. Earth’s transformation is a grand gesture and repercussions are what art should be waiting for and reach. To sum up, it’s beautiful, strong, clever, multiple, sensitive and aesthetic : a nice (master) stroke. Cesar Baldaccini’s Expansions are discharges of polyurethane simulating paint, treating drip on a sculptural way, fixing the extension, stopping the move, mastering the uncontrollable. We could also mention Joachim Blank and his Black Rain series that defies painting/sculpture/installation limits. He cuts shapes of paint drips on wood panels, then slide a black Plexiglas plate behind his cut to reproduce an illusion of dripping. He gathers trompe-l’oeil tradition, nature imitation, fake reality on a perfect minimalist collection. The result is magnificent and conceptually elegant. The drip almost reaches an iconic status underlined by the technical creation of its realization.

Symbol of badly and quickly done, of dirtiness, the drip became a rebel sign revealing, by its mastership or by its freedom, a disconcerting and mature aesthetical power. And if you say that, such a daubing, your kids do the same, promise, we send you Dexter…

[Pictures : above, Joachim Blank, Black Rain III, 2008. Weisses Acryl, schwarzes Acrylglas, MDF-Holz, 104 x 80 x 10 cm. Courtesy the artist.  Below : Dirk Skreber, Untitled (Sunken Houses), 2000. Oil on canvas, 366.4 x 169.5 cm. Courtesy the artist and Friedrich Petzel Gallery, New York]

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February 9 2009 2 09 /02 /February /2009 15:51

Dan Colen looks like a hood, a bad boy, a nonchalant genius fearing neither God nor man, detached and rebellious. He’s got the whole outfit, till caricature: the attitude (a “nihilist” would say Jeffrey “the Dude” Lebowski), the sloppy look, the tattoos, the gang (no, we will not mention the names of Dash Snow, Ryan McGinley, Nate Lowman, Aaron Bondaroff & Co. as in every article about Dan Colen. Is it an obligation, a pact?...). A rebel we love to hate and hate to love too. One of these ephemeral leaders, master of the Lower East Side, a layabout star, a hero-worshipped junkie (Pete Doherty style), an happy few of New-York parties… The problem is that Dan Colen is everything but that. Well, almost.  Let’s say that his aura and reputation are for the most part created by the medias, the same ones that will complain soon. After all, “we only sacrifice the things we love” said the Voodoo Child philosopher, right? So, let’s love him first, we’ll see what to do with him later…

Actually, Dan Colen is a complete artist: technically gifted, conceptually relevant, master of his references and conscious of art history. Coherent, disconnected and slightly provocative, his work makes light work of pretences and keeps on fighting prejudices, starting off with the ones he’s directly involved in. He’s not a poser but composed, not an offhand person easily productive but a reflective and patient artist. Dan Colen creates fake things, i.e. art. His emblematic piece of that production is Secrets and Cymbals, Smoke and Scissors, an identically reproduction of bedroom’s wall of his friend Dash S. (remain anonymous: see above comment). Facsimiles, artifacts, forgery and use of false documents, everything on this imitation wall is here to deceive us, questions our relationship to the real (objects) and the reality (wall exactitude) and introduces the living on the museal morgue (like the installation My Bed by Tracey Emin). On Get High or No Sex, no War, no Me, Colen paints illusory tags (like Tony Just pastels) and integrates falsified pieces of reality into art domain. The Untitled pieces (Eat Shit & Die, Zippideedoodah, Vete al Diablo), totemic menhirs, emblems of a civilization, function on the same principle. Giants of paper mache put on titles/promontories, they perfectly reproduce a reality that doesn’t exist. A kind of décor of a future discovering a past that never existed. The monoliths are tagged as if the Youth had voluntarily damaged lost monuments, had appropriated the potential danger contained on these blocks of emptiness.

The falsehood interferes into his complex and devious relationship with painting. The Birdshit paintings, realizations of mucks realistically and precisely executed, position painting between disgust and calculated irony towards great American abstraction. One more time, the real is masked and progresses under Colen’s pictorial games. The series of copies of a candle extracted from Pinocchio’s background (Walt Disney Studios, 1940) is revealing of a perverted and perverting practice of the painting medium. Repeating the same subject on a faithful style to original (cartoonisc photorealism) points up minimal differences between two different copies of the reference book. His personal touch animates words born on candle smoke and give sick titles to the final pieces (Fuck, Untitled (blow me), Untitled (Boo Fuck’n Hoo)…). This particular conceptual approach to painting derivates from the feigned photorealism of the beginnings with its improbable titles (Madonna and the Fairy Madonna and the Fairy (" First they exchanged anecdotes and inclinations") / The Firecracker and the Old Man ("Just leave me alone")). The anxiety of exterior as reality and his appropriation by the execution portray on his rewriting gesture on preexisting paintings too: 4 women, 4 men / Fuck Authority reminding us similar interventions by Cyprien Gaillard ("New Pittoresc" Series).

Finally, Colen defends his link to the real in the very middle of his materials. The most famous is undoubtedly the bubble-gum (Untitled (gum), To be titled) . He uses it like raw material directly put on canvases (we find the same practice on Adam McEwen works who is probably friend enough with Colen to be allowed to share his technical trademark…). If the attitude is inevitably provocative and punk (well, Rock’n’Roll at least, see The Virgins cover), the execution embraces and embarrasses the transcendental dimension of art from the 1950s to the 1970s.

So, yes, Dan Colen is definitively, successively and simultaneously, the King, the Conceited Man, the Drunkard, the Businessman, the Lamplighter, the Geographer, the Aviator, the fox, the flower… but he remains, first and above all, quite a strange Little Prince.

By Benjamin Bianciotto

[Picture : Dan Colen, Untitled (zippideedoodah), 2006. Installation view from :"Day For Night", 2006 Whitney Biennial, curated by Chrissie Iles and Philippe Vergne, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York. Mixed media sculpture: wood, wire, polyurethane, paper mache, gesso, oil paint Approx. 6 x 4 feet, base approx. 1 ft. tall. Courtesy the artist & Peres Projects Gallery, Los Angeles & Berlin]

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February 4 2009 4 04 /02 /February /2009 13:40

“If only your parents
Wanted to live on our island
Everything would be happier
And life would be easier for everyone”

L’île aux enfants – Christophe Izard

Well, it depends on the island you are invited to.... AES+F’s children island is closer to the Okishima island from Battle Royale (Kinji Fukasaku, 2000) than Casimir one. The emblematic work of the Russian artists group, children playing, acting dramatically realistic warriors on a 3D background is a relevant parabola of actual social and international relationships. It is connected to the Japanese drama and finally, to the children island stuff too.... 

Some commonplaces are ingrained. Every body stopped on a given pose inevitably refers to the antic statuary and Greek in particular (more precisely to the classic period for the pernickety-minded person). Xavier Veilhan’s statues (even if he plays with that too, all fussiness spirits are not of bad faith) would remind Praxiteles, Phidias & Co., as the children cut short of AES+F would be direct descendants of the Tyrannoctones group or Laocoon (yes, Hellenistic period...). Ok. But no. The statuary evolved, like painting or photography, and there is no need to come back to (dead) ancestors and (mortified) references to justify the quality (or not) of a piece. The main common point between AES+F works and the great antic statuary is undoubtedly their contemporary links to described events and their implication on the social and politic field of their time. Art was not neutral: it is still not.  

But come back to our island. An island as big as our world. Children involved in a fight without winners or losers, without blood, tears or screams, mime a fighting of silence, a factice and choreographed struggle. Maybe they are only playing? That’s the most disturbing part. Following the example of cinema, AES+F creates a virtual world, frightening but relieved of documentary implication. Closer to Marithé & François Girbaud or Calvin Klein ads than military confrontations images (we do not mention the ones of Gaza invasion... nothing to see!), broadcasted on a, not immediate because media covered, reality, on TV screens. But, as in Battle Royale, the decision to put children on murderers posture alarms. It could be interesting (but long) to analyze troubles, given place, evolution and status of child on our structured modern societies and its obligatory mirrored return to art field. Christian Boltanski appears as an obvious reference when we talk about, often dark, childhood. "The King of the Forest "series by AES+F offers the world as a playground to children, cruel or lost (as their paradise), imperious or orphans, worried or sad, like the vague look of (artistic) children of Boltanski. On "Suspects" (1997), AES+F mixes 7 neutral photographs of pre-teens murderers with 7 innocents and (involuntarily?) updates the piece Images d’une année de faits divers (1972-73) by Boltanski: 408 photographs incorporating murderers and victims on an unsettling but salutary lack of differentiation. 

The warriors of Action half life simulate fight on “virtual reality” (if this tarnished expression means something) backgrounds, between future taking shape, innocent video game and demoniac present. Because present is now on AES+F works. Europe-Europe porcelains show incestuous loves of political, economics, moral opponents (Neo-nazi and Turkish girl, policewoman and Arab boy, Tourist and Thai children, Businesswoman and Gastarbeiter...) on a bitter and violent critic of our social gangrene. On Islamic Project, the group redecorates occidental monuments on an Islamic way, asking to Occident to face its greatest fear... If political involvements of the Russian artists question, do we have to interpret them as linked to their Russian conscience (South Ossetia, Tchetchenia, Georgia...) or are we going too far? Are they trails to follow? 

We can notice that, from zombies with extracted guts on Corruption.Apotheosis or Family portrait in the interior, to corpses dressed up with luxury clothes on Defile, to stopped and smoothed images on Last Riot, AES+F operated on body and death visual themes an evolution to sobriety, going back time and fight finals backwards. If blood disappeared, violence became interior, underground, silent, and problably more deeply moving. The actors, younger, do not let us hopes to a possible future. Even kids kill each other. So, Christophe Izard is probably right: it would be easier if parents come live, and die, on this island...

By Benjamin Bianciotto

[Picture : AES+F, Islamic Project: New Liberty, 2003. Lambda print. Courtesy: AES+F & Art Statements Gallery, Hong Kong]

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January 28 2009 4 28 /01 /January /2009 15:50

Do you know an art collector, enlightened or not, who never dreamt of an art collection making Dakis, Bernard, François, Eli & Co. become pale? How many art lovers, in total darkness, don’t know they have some magical works at home?

Do you envy them ? Be an art collector is not so hard a job : few euros, a nice frame, a patch of wall, et voilà! that’s all folks! Oh, of course, you need to love art music.

Relationships between pop music (to generalize) and contemporary art (to simplify) begin at the birth of... both finally. Maybe that’s the reason why they are as thick as thieves, they are almost brothers. If the first use of a pop icon is probably Oedipus (Elvis #1) by Ray Johnson on 1956, the first cover made by an artist may be the Velvet Underground & Nico and the famous banana by Andy Warhol. The collaboration takes history the wrong way and rises on myth. The disc is a Warhol piece, only his name is written on the cover and a sentence invites you to “peel slowly and see” a beautiful flesh-colored banana... Warhol’s class as identification. Except from any music considerations, close to artistic performances, the appropriation of the format by Warhol is perfect. What’s surprising? This new medium of artistic diffusion is a mass resource serving his own legend. Blatant. 

From arcane bands (Kaz Oshiro for Soft Punk by John Wiese) to famous ones (Julian Opie for the Best of Blur), from rock (Andres Serrano for Reload by Metallica) to rap (Takashi Murakami for Graduation by Kanye West), from experienced artists (Damien Hirst for Greetings from the Gutter by Dave Stewart) to young ambitious ones (Dan Colen (photography by Terry Richardson himself) for the eponymous album by the Virgins), all the combinations are possible. If there is no doubt about the exchanges between the two creative sectors, what these latter let us know about the motivations and the consequences for each one? Obviously, the band takes advantage of an intellectual aura (even Coldplay looks more clever with a Delacroix on the Viva la Vida cover), an epochal aesthetic (the This is Hardcore of Pulp by John Currin) and a vitality that art only can hand over (Tim Webster & Sue Noble for Dig!!! Lazarus Dig!!! by Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds). For the artist, it’s a great window overtaking the art market and exceeding the white cubes. It’s the opportunity to match a new audience, bigger, younger too. It’s the possibility to participate to a marketing machinery, fabulous by its productivity, dangerous by its manipulation. 

The exchange can be fertile for both simultaneously and give interconnections and pertinent style fusions. The absolute masters are the Sonic Youth. If Kim Gordon, bass player and singer, has an artistic background and exhibits on art centers, the whole band impresses by its implication and the regularity and the perceptiveness of artists’ choice. 

To sum up, and by chronological order, we successively find: Kim Gordon (!), Richard Kern, Gerhard Richter, Raymond Pettibon, Mike Kelley, William Burroughs, Richard Prince, Jeff Wall, Christopher Wool... Let’s say that it makes quite a nice little collection, available to everyone. The disc cover is the invention of a really democratic art. It has been covered itself by artists, embezzled, closing the circle of referents and references interacting between the two universes. So, you know what to do now: leave nonchalantly lying a Julian Schnabel around on your lounge (By the way by the Red Hot Chili Peppers) or declare, entertained, you offer yourself this little Jenny Saville (The Holy Bible by the Manic Street Preachers) for next to nothing... at the Fnac.

By Benjamin Bianciotto

[Pictures : above, Takashi Murakami, Graduation, Kanye West, 2007, Roc-a-Fella Records. Below : Richard Prince, album Sonic Nurse, Sonic Youth, 2004, Geffen Records]

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January 28 2009 4 28 /01 /January /2009 15:10

Cedric Smith is currently exhibiting at Nordine Zidoun Gallery his artworks : colored  advertisments from the 50' that he created after his own mind. Art and You tried to know why he's interested in adding black people in his ads/paintings.

Could you explain me why you paint ribbons at the bottom of some of your paintings ?

I'm looking at my paintings like i'm giving a pack, so the ribbons is, like you're wrapping a gift, and put the ribbon on it. They're more like a symbol of given this gift back to my family or people that didn't see images like this. What I'm doing is also formal standpoint of a research,  questionning the all thing about being americana. What is african-american ? What is americana ? Andy Warhol, when you look at his work, is americana. Because it's stuff of America. If you put Blacks in it, people don't consider it americana.

I'm questionning and I'm also trying to show that these images could have been considered americana. I think, some people that are here, in France, when they look at these paintings, they see this americana. It's an american painting ! So, it's americana to them, but it's not americana to people over there, in America. That's weird.

You told me about a gift. You use old photographs, is this a present to the past ?

Yes,that's what I'm doing : I'm taking something old and i'm adding it to something new. I'm borrowing from the past, I try different combinations of things. Basically, it's like I'm looking at an old film, that's why I use some old photographs, because I want you to think at something old.

Compared to Renée Cox, which was the previous artist exhibited here, you seem to have a different vision of advertisement. She was trying to free black people from advertisement, whereas you're trying to put them in !

I think the advertisments she's talking about are more the advertisments of today, they are more « enslavement » : a guy, playing basket ball, and « Nike ». Everybody look at him like he's just a slave from Nike : they only use him because he brings more money.  And I'm saying, why did they not do this kind of advertisment back again ? It would be more positive. Today advertisement, to me, is something negative. They don't put, you know, the big woman, or the real black guy. Some people consider them still negative today. And I think that's what Renée is thinking at. That's a différence between her work and mine.

You look more positive, you're not fighting.

No, it's like I'm fighting, but I'm doing it in the way advertisement work. I use advertisement to draw your attention to the fact that blacks are not in this images. But I'm using pretty things. I don't want to do it in a radical way.
From my standing point, there are so many black kids wo don't have any social image, like, they don't think they're good. I believe if this images were back again, people would think differently about themselves. You always see image of whites, you think, they're popular, they're better than I am, because, they don't put ME on these images. Kids got images of blacks, but still, even with that, these are rappers, or ball players. To a lot of kids, the only thing, the only way out of the ghetto is ballplaying or rapping. They don't think a bout being a doctor, they don't think about being a president !

Do you think Obama's election will change anything in your art creation ?

Why are people so shocked that Barack is the president ? Because they don't have anything to prepare them to think like they could become a president. So now, I'm hopping  that a lot of change come, him being a president. More so, I should say now « I think I could be a doctor, I could be a president, I could be an artist ». It 's amazing me how many kids don't even think you can do anything with your art. Because they're taken out of school.

It' won't change anything in my artworks, I'm just hopping it will change more the kids, as I hope my paintings change them, because I go to schools, and I talk to kids about this, and I see the difference, I see a change in them after I talk to them. Their first question is « You make money ? From this ? » and I : « Yeah ! » and them : « Really ? ». I'm juste gonna keep questionning and questionning, because since I've been here, I hear it from you and other people that the advertisement here is not like that. I wanna do something with that, like showing french advertisement.

Do you try to keep this « child eye » on everything ?

Yes, I think, we always have to keep these part in us, to those day we all have kids. I'm doing it in an innocent way, so it will draw attention to people. I created some paintings about slaves, but it's more educational : people advertised slaves as they sold them, they did'nt advertise them as regular people. But I think I'm more popular with these child images.

How did you meet Nordine, the galerist ?

Well, you know, I still haven't met him ! He saw my works on an Art fair in Florida and took contact with me. There's a lot of galerist I never met, still I got shows in their galery ! Because of the Internet, everybody's doing it now : email you, ask you « Will you show here ? »

Is this your first show in France?

Yes, and my first travel too ! I never thought being here in France. I always thought my works would stay in America, because my work is americana. I only thought this is only important for Americans, but I see, now I'm talking with people, that it's not. This kind of separation exists everywhere. I've been to Brazil, you have the light skin, the dark skin. So it's like « God, that's a good thing being travelling, because now it brings new meanings to my work ». I'm happy now to go home and to work on some french advertisments. I'm taking photographs of all the signs that I'm seeing. I will use french letterings, but still will make them look old, and I will ask « What if these advertisements have taken place in the 1940' in France ? ».

I hope the show does well, I hope people will receive it well. I hope to share a little light about what goes on in America. Now I just have to learn french ! So that i will be able to expose my french works in America, to make people understand that it exists not only over here, but over there too. I'm very happy to go home, just to experience that alone.

[Pictures : above, Cedric Smith, Carrot Cake, 2008. Huile sur toile, 122x91 cm. Below : Cedric Smith, With sugar in top, 2008. Huile sur toile, 91x91 cm]

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