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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[Visual : Duane Hanson,  Supermarket Lady, 1969]

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April 20 2009 2 20 /04 /April /2009 14:50

One of the best artists to render through sculpture the exploration of human and animal fusions is the American sculptor Rona Pondick; “The metamorphosis of an Object” is an original proposition of the Worcester Art Museum which offered the artist to select sculptures from the museum’s collection and confront them to her work.

Her selection goes to three different aspects of sculpture : The communicative capacity of gesture and posture, the treatment of hairs, and the effect of repetition. But before going further in the exhibition, we must explain her own process of creation, which gives birth to hybrid representations, mixing plants with human, or human with animals: She makes a mould of some part of her own body, she modifies it with high three dimensions technologies on her computer, and then molds it in bronze, stainless steel or silicone. Thus, it is  her own body that she transforms and mixes with other biological forms.

The creatures she makes have a double effect: first when we face her sculptures, an ambiguous otherness, both beautiful and repelling, calls our whole sensitivity. The fineness of the replicated skin mixed with other forms is difficult to interprete : we could advance this idea of uncanny , the expression of the familiar with something repulsive. Indeed there is one part that we know very well, like the duplicate of a hand or a face, but it is mixed with something unknown, and this transformation is frightening.  Secondly, they recall us the actual uneasiness of the scientific researches and our own fear about this close future:  the cloning, the genetically modified organisms etc… Nowadays, scientists are going so far in human and animal manipulations that bio-ethics conferences are settled in the whole world. Thus, going back to the ancient representations of human metamorphis is an intelligent way to confront the fear of the past with our own.

Besides, this echo of creations makes us pervade the boundaries of the body's universe through generations of artists, and gives us a fresh new look to old master pieces. The artist says : “I want to look at how sculpture is physical and how the physical makes psychological impact. Viewers have conscious and unconscious visceral responses to objects that they feel in their own bodies and that make psychological meaning. I am interested in looking at the way the psychological has been manifested in sculptures from all periods. When these different historic sculptures and mine are installed next to one another, there is a visual communication spoken in "body language" that needs little explanation. The sculptures start losing their historical place and take on more physical, emotional, and visceral relations with the viewer. Gestures and postures don't translate solely into symbolic interpretations particular to a culture or time period. Otherwise, why would people look at historic work?”

Parallels with ancient works is indeed very helpful to understand better both contemporary problems and art; and it seems that more and more museums use this subject to valorize their own collection, like the Bass Museum of Art with “Endless Renaissance”, and it actually brings new people to museums that are not always turned to contemporary art.
So if you want to dive into the Ovid's Metamophoses of Rona Pondick, don't hesitate, the experience is mezmerizing.

Rona Pondick was born in Brooklyn, New York in 1952. After studying at Queens College, she received her Masters of Fine Arts at Yale University School of Art in 1977. Pondick gained public recognition in the mid-1980s, and since that time her sculpture and site-specific installations have been shown in important individual and group exhibitions throughout the world. Her work is included in major museum and private collections internationally. Pondick is represented by Sonnabend Gallery, New York and Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac, Paris/Salzburg and exhibits regularly at Howard Yezerski Gallery, Boston.

[Visuals: Above : Rona Pondick, "FOX", 1998-1999, stainless steel, 37 x 9 x 14", ed.5 of 6 courtesy Howard Yezerski Gallery]

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April 19 2009 1 19 /04 /April /2009 16:26

The David Zwirner Gallery offers until May 9 to the artist Adel Abdessemed his three spaces to display his last works from the past two years under the name of RIO (in English, ‘River’) : Massive sculptures, videos, photographs, drawings and other original and engaged propositions lead us to a subjective encounter with the artist.

Because this exhibition is located in three different places, (519 W 19th st., 525 W 19th st., 533 W 19th st.), the viewer will travel freely through a maze like environment and meet the pieces following his own choice of direction. For once, an artist gives the spectator some confidence. The number of works with different topics is quite high, but we really feel an aim to render intimate convictions. We will here evoke some works that blew us away by the accuracy of the purpose and ingenuity of the medium used.

The first work we discovered is a face to face to “Telle mère, tel Fils” (‘like mother like son’) sixty five feet long braid of three airplanes, made of their original cockpits and tailfins, while the fuselages are reconstructed in soft felt filled with air. Beside the strong evocation of terrorism, through the vision of distorted airplanes; the title, which recalls the adage “like father, like son” but breaks the genders frontiers by linking the mother with the son, would symbolize the interweaving of the generations, whether it would be male or female. Adel Abdessemed is born in Algeria; there, the separation between genders is strict and firm, thus he affirms a strong emancipation from this tradition. Also,  the artist gives here a tender sign to his mother.

Childhood is also expressed with the "Music Boxe" (2009), a sculpture made of recycled material such as a bicycle and a steel oil barrel, which looks like a barrel organ, and displays the music of the Wagner, the Valkyrie. The contrast is total: the barrel organ evokes the sweet oldies music of our childhood we were listening to with our parents, a candy in hand; but the music of the Valkyrie, which embodies so clearly the expression of war and anger, activates then a link between childhood and War.

An other expression of anger is a black terra cotta sculpture featuring a life size burned car , lying on its side, in a sort of precarious balance. “The car had been burned, that is to say physically, stained by gas. I find fascinating the alchemy that takes place between metal, plastic, petroleum, and gasoline, all these materials that come from the earth, of which the piece is the crystallization in clay.” Said the artist in 2008.  The title, “Practice Zero Tolerance (retournée)”, refers to the new politic lead by the actual president of France who claimed no Tolerance to any act that would violate the law. One of the consequences of the politic was the riots in October 2005, where many cars where burned: a strong rebellion from a forgotten part of the society, the new generation of French issued from the immigration that were aimed at by this new politic. This black car, like it was burned one day ago and close to fall on the ground, reminds us that those people are still here, suffering from racism and discrimination, still angry…

As the artist occupies three spaces in the gallery, a lot of high quality and profound works are showcased expressing in genuine and ingenious ways many ideas such as the intimacy of an immigrant, the violent nature of both men and life…we were amazed by this strong political idea of asking to three prostitute to handwrite pages of the Bible, the Torah and the Koran. We stayed mesmerized by the film “Usine”, in which we see fight predatory surviving or destroying their close environment (three others videos are displayed, Enter the circle and Les ailes de Dieu (the wings of God).  In brief, we could only recommend to discover this fresh new New-Yorker (he moved in 2008) artist, for the first time presented in America.

Born in 1971 in Constantine, Algeria, Adel Abdessemed attended the École des Beaux-Arts d’Alger and the École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts de Lyon. He currently lives and works in New York. In 2008, MIT List Visual Arts Center in Cambridge, Massachusetts hosted a solo exhibition of his work, organized by Jane Farver and accompanied by a fully-illustrated catalogue with essays by Farver, Tom McDonough, and Pier Luigi Tazzi, and an interview with Noam Chomsky. Abdessemed recently has been the focus of solo exhibitions at Fondazione Sandretto Re Rebaudengo in Turin, Italy (2009), Le Magasin - Centre National d’Art Contemporain, Grenoble, France (2008), and P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center, New York (2007). He recently was included in the 7th Gwangju Biennial, Gwangju, Korea (2008) and the 52nd Venice Biennale, Venice, Italy (2007). His work is in the collections of Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris, France; Fondation François Pinault, Venice, Italy; Fonds régional d’art contemporain Champagne-Ardenne, Reims, France; Fonds régional d’art contemporain des Pays de la Loire, Carquefou, France; Fundación Montenmedio Arte Contemporáneo, Vejer de la Frontera, Spain; The Israel Museum, Jerusalem, Israel; Musée d’art moderne et contemporain, Geneva, Switzerland; Musée d’Art moderne de la Ville de Paris, Paris, France.

[Visual: above : Adel Abdessemed, Telle mère tel fils, 2008, Airplanes, felt, aluminum, metal ,Image Size: 27 x 4 x 5 meters / 88.6 x 13.12 x 16.4 feet. Courtesy David Zwirner Gallery. Below, Adel Abdessemed, Prostitute, 2008, two manuscripts of the Koran, three manuscripts of the Bible, three manuscripts of the Torah 3 plexiglass boxes inside paper shopping bags Image Size: Manuscripts are 11.81 x 8.46 inches Paper bags: One is 12 2/4 x 1 x 6 inches. Two are 13 3/8 x 16 3/8 x 6 inches each.Courtesy David Zwirner Gallery]

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April 17 2009 6 17 /04 /April /2009 11:46

Hirst in Ukraine? The one who made a scandal in the art world by selling by himself, for a $100 millions dollars, a skull made of over 8000 diamonds ; is offering to the Ukrainians more than a large retrospective, an exclusive new series of skull paintings at the PinchukArtCentre of Kyiv : "Requiem".

The title fits perfectly to the main interests of Damien Hirst : Death and religion. As the new series continue to explore the intimate relation of men with death, Requiem, a Mass celebrated for the dead, gives a panel of pieces where the viewer confronts himself with what he tries to forget, or what he is fighting against but that will always win.
The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living (1991), a work which made him famous, is a real shark whose corpse is conserved in formalin, and shows the decomposition's process of the body: it is a direct demonstration of the reality of death and its terrible truth. The new works that will be exhibited, The Meek Shall Inherit the Earth, Men shall Know Nothing or Floating Skull turn toward the painting's medium, still relying on the main topic of the hidden places in the heart of human and nature.  We appreciate the intelligence of the titles, that always help us to go deeper  in our thoughts facing his pieces : they always imply philosophical questions, with no direct answers, so that those titles stay in our mind, accompagnied by the plastic answer of the artist.

Born in 65 in Bristol, part of the generation of the Young British artists of the 90’s, Hirst likes scandals, and completely understood the Art Market and its new tendencies. That might be why he is now exhibiting in Ukraine, at the private Art museum of Mr. Pinchuk, one of the most significant collectors of the former USSR. We shall indeed remember the number of potential collectors there is in this region, who might not be totally crushed by the crisis - like in Britain or in the U.S - and therefore might be quite interested by this new exhibition...

As Victor Pinchuk says, Hirst and him have come common interests: “This exhibition is of great significance but what is most important for me is that the opportunity to see Hirst’s new body of work occurs first in Kyiv. Damien’s exhibition in Kyiv symbolises the reciprocal and mutually beneficial relationship between contemporary Ukrainian culture and that of the rest of the world. They share a common ground.”

The Pinchuk foundation is one of the largest centers for contemporary art in Eastern Europe; its first aim is to promote the international development of Ukrainian artists. Moreover, Victor Pinchuk, his founder, created through this foundation other structures which give a significant help to modernize the country, such as an healthcare program focusing on neonatal centers, educational initiatives, a school of economics,

Eckhard Schneider, General Manager of the PinchukArtCentre: “With this fundamental retrospective including a cycle of new paintings the PinchukArtCentre gives an important international contribution to the debate surrounding one of the leading artists of our time.” Indeed, over a hundred works are here presented until September 20th, so if you plan to got in Eastern Europe anytime soon, don’t miss the occasion to see one of the most controversial artists of our time.

[Visuals : Above : Damien Hirst, For the Love of God, 2007, courtesy of the artist. Below : Damien Hirst, The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living, 1991, courtesy of the artist.]

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