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May 26 2009 3 26 /05 /May /2009 10:30

Israel, a name that usually evokes more images of religion, conflict, than images of art. But in the hyperactive and cosmopolitan Tel Aviv, contemporary art is actually leaving and growing with power and grace. Dvir Gallery is one these delicate places which takes care of the Israeli creation and in the same time brings in the finest actual international art. Mircea Cantor, Adel Abdessemed, Douglas Gordon, Boris Makihailov, Lawrence Weiner are among the foreigner artists the gallery represents.

In the following interview, Yotam Intrator, assistant director of the Dvir Gallery, shares  his passion for Israeli art and give us a sense of the Tel Avivian very singularity, which gives birth to great works of artists as Eli Petel, Ariel Schlesinger, Pavel Wolberg, Miri Segal etc…

This conversation is an occasion to discover this intimate but renown gallery, and get a different perspective about lifin Israel, as an incredible melting pot of ideas, and an active art creation.

Created in 82', Dvir Gallery came to represent more and more international artists. Today, out of 27 artists, 11 are from abroad, how did this international expansion happen?
For the first exhibition  the gallery opened with artists like Kokochka, Atlan etc', so it always had worked with international artists. As for the expansion, the change came naturally; we started to do art fairs and expand our activities in Israel and abroad. Our artists started exhibiting abroad, in museums, art centers and so on and the international artists presented us to other artists and galleries.

What kind of relation did you want to create with international artists?
Our taste never changed. I wouldn’t characterize it, in a precise way, but I think it is very obvious. When you see an exhibition in the gallery, you have a very clear sense of what we are showing and what we like.

What is this specificity that you show in every exhibitions?
It is very hard to define… It is an emotional process

When foreigner international artists exhibit in the gallery, they often are in private residency and create specific works for the occasion, how the fact of being in Israel affect their creations?
 Israel is a very complicated place on the one hand, and on the other it strikes people directly and makes them think of their own situation. Most of the time staying in Israel, spending time together, creates a mutual interest from an intellectual point of view or a sentimental one, sometimes both of them, a kind of magic between the artists and us. 

In December 2008, the group Claire Fontaine made a very potent performance by in burning the Hebrew words ‘Palestine Occupied”. A few days after, the Gaza War started. What was the reaction of the people who came to the gallery?
There were many arguments, political ones that were sharpened during the war in Gaza, but I think for any work of art, people project their own ideology on it.

Do you think art should involve in politics? How do Israeli artists deal with the actual situation?
Each Israeli artist has his/hers own world which is created following a cultural background,  a point of view, ideology, feelings, etc'. As for the gallery and in the art world, I think that it’s a very delicate balance between the aspiration for normality in Israel and the conflict.  we try to react to the situation as for example our next show: is entitled “it won’t stop until we talk”. It is the slogan of an organization which is combined of Palestinians and Israelis who lost loved ones during the conflicts. The artists who will be exhibiting in the show are: Adel Abdessemed, Claire Fontaine, Ignacio Lang, Yehudit Levin, Paulien Oltheten, Miri Segal and Pavel Wolberg. It will deal in general, with communication and the way people are fighting between themselves, between their communities, and we are doing it here in Tel-Aviv, referring to the slogan “It wont stop till we talk”

Apart from Adel Abdemessed, and Latifa Echkhch, who is currently exhibiting in your group show “Lichtzwang”, I don’t see any Arab or Palestinian artists in the gallery, could you explain this hard situation of collaboration with Palestinians?
First of all we like to work with good artists who share the same state of mind, and aesthetical tastes. That has no relation to their origins. Secondly, Palestinians have difficulties to exhibit in galleries in Israel, which is perfectly understandable.

You mean that it comes from their own will?
Yes, of course. And we would work with Palestinians or Pakistanis or other artist wherever they come from, if we had the opportunity to.

Did you ever have collaboration projects?
Unfortunately not.
Could you define, in a few words, Israeli Contemporary art?
Talented, lots of energy, freshness, intelligence. This strong energy you can feel even by walking the streets of Tel Aviv. People here are incredibly active looking forward on doing things, finding, researching, exploring etc..

Located in the heart of Middle East, Israel is a mixture between occidental and eastern Culture, how does it affect the local art?
It is a sort of microcosm of the world. Sometimes it is a real melting pot, when it actually functions, because it doesn’t all the time.  Sometimes there are clashes between Israelis because they come from different backgrounds and communities, or the conflict with our neighbors. But when it does work, it’s beautiful and so is the art.

Any example?
Eli Petel. Born to parents of Jewish-Iraqi descent he is one of the only Israeli artists of his generation whose work addresses his “Arabic” cultural background raising questions related to identity, geography, society, religion and history in a country were the media’s international and local coverage concentrates on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, situating Jews and Arabs on opposite sides.

Dvir Gallery travels from fairs to fairs, from the Fiac to Art Basel passing by the Armory Show, how is perceived the Israeli art internationally?
It is well perceived. I truly believe that there is in Israel a great pool of talents that finally reach appreciation from the art world and the art market.

How is the art market for Israeli art?
It is evolving rapidly. Israeli artists sell well in Israeli galleries and abroad. Even major auction houses like Sotheby's and Christie's have special auctions for Israeli art, some artists also appear in Contemporary art auctions.

The gallery made some auctions, how is the art market inside Israel?
Israeli market is evolving, not at the same speed as New York or London, because it is a small country, Our auction house was established to promote Israeli Contemporary art which is not like most of the auctions houses here who sell   Modern and traditional works, Judaica, etc'. and  it worked beautifully; we stopped it because it was a bit too much with the publishing house and the gallery. But it was a good adventure.

Crisis here too?
For good and for worse everything here has a different paste. We are used to crisis's and one should remember that the art market here doesn't sell for millions. We remain a bit apart.

What is your aim for the Tel Avivians when they come to your gallery?
To continue to work in the same way, to promote and show Israelis and international artists at their best.

In ten years, how would you expect the gallery and Israeli art to be?
Getting better, always evolving, more artists, more shows, more galleries…

Any specific future projects?
Wow, there are so many projects. For instance we just opened an exhibition, ‘The man with the Pumpkin head’, at the Ein Harod Museum with Orna Bromberg, Moshe Mirsky and Karen Russo. Barak Ravitz is going to the Cité Internationale des Arts in Paris. Karen Russo will open solo show at Paradise Row in London, Miri Segal will open a solo show at the Kamel Mennour gallery in Paris etc…

[Visuals : Above : Claire Fontaine,Visions of the World (Asleep), 2008, lightbox and digital print, 90X70 cm. Courtesy Dvir Gallery. Below : Eli Petel, Negative Portrait 2, negative print, 165x125 cm.Courtesy Dvir Gallery]

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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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April 2 2009 5 02 /04 /April /2009 14:04

Frank Brunner - Nordine Zidoun Gallery (Paris). By Art-and-You

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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 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 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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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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