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

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

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

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

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




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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


Michael Rakowitz


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

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

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



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


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March 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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