(noun) nonchalant absurdity with a dash of embarrassment.

(verb) to be shark bitten.

(adverb) in a manner that is nonchalantly absurd and embarrassing.


13 November 2013

Between Death and a Happy Place

Love, Photo Courtesy of the Artist  
I walk into the gallery and the first thing I see is Love. I spy the bats and forgo any art world kiss-kiss hellos. Standing before it for quite some time, gazing closely at the delicate wings of the once living animals, their spidery fingers, thin as paper. The free-floating creatures of the night are beautifully daunting, able to stir up the dark places in the psyche if you let them, even if the bats form the shape of a heart, generally a symbol of comfort. Comprised of 122 taxidermied bats on wood, Love is the second generation of this type of work for the artist––same materials, different subject matter, equally as eerie. That moment, standing before Love induced a flashback. Rewind two years ago when artist Joseph Grazi was first beginning the original bat piece Legends. It was in the experimental stage, you know, no big deal, just getting taxidermied bats shipped in from the other side of the world. The studio became a cave––bats hanging throughout the room, from some sort of prototype web, an early version of what we see throughout the gallery in his current show Happy Place. Anything but normal, the studio visit had me temporarily crazed. I was convinced these bats carried some sort of disease . I successfully avoided the studio until the piece was complete, safe behind glass. The scenario sounds much like Joseph and his work: subtly shocking.

Altar Cats, Photo Courtesy of the Artist
Happy Place: New Works by Joseph Grazi explores fear, contemplates the many ways of seeing and thinking about death, and ultimately celebrates death’s certainty. Fear, the feeling or one's questioning of the emotion, we find in Love. The symbol of the bat alone forces our perspective into the nocturnal. In Altar Monks, the existence of the roses activate feelings of love and lightness, the rose representing the complete opposite of the bat. But is the flower convincing? Does it have the power to bring the spiritual realization of death and its darkness into a full bodied reality? Do you now regard death as a happy place? Ultimately, it is up to you.

Altar Monks, Photo Courtesy of the Artist

And are these works luxurious or cruel? Whatever your cup of tea, animal lover, vegan, carnivore, they do hold their weight in aesthetics. These modern mummies are elegant, refined and evocative, even if one is completely offended by, let’s say, a cat’s skeleton behind Plexiglass. Altar Cats is placed high upon a pedestal: boxed within Plexi, atop 3000 red marbles, crouched in a Sphinxpose, over a delicately placed living red rose. Here, death, or the process of, becomes visible in the show. The flower that is now a crisp, red will soon dry out, showing the fragility of a lifespan be it human, animal or plant. Once dead, the rose will be replaced, thus repeating the process––a sacrifice of beauty.

Smile, Photo Courtesy of the Artist 
Red, the color of life, dominates the show. The web installation, similar to that in The Seeds That Release, frames individual pieces and connects the drawings in one room to the sculptures in the next. From the rope to the marbles, the attractive quality of red, conveys vitality and warmth, creating a harmonious balance in the space.

 Photo Courtesy of the Artist

In Happy Place the past is in conversation with the present. In 2012, for the Fountain of Youth, Grazi filled an entire room with plastic toy balls, inviting his audience to jump around and play in the ball pit as if they were 7-year-olds at Chuck E. Cheese. Repetition, for Grazi, is key. Thousands of balls for Fountain of Youth, thousands of marbles for Happy Place. Not a coincidence, a running theme. Remember the chair made of plexiglass and 76 syringes, lined up in perfect rows? If you don’t, you should look it up. Find the time to see this show. See for yourself if it makes you want to celebrate death or that it just simply freaks you the fuck out. Happy Place is up at ArtNowNY until November 30, 2013.

22 October 2013

Project Paz Raises $105,000 at the 4th Annual Project Art

Pictures for Paz
Last night Project Paz raised over $105,000 at their 4th annual Project Art. Curated by Anne Huntington, the silent auction included works from emerging and established contemporary artists influenced by the organization's mission. From photographs to paintings and more, Project Art and Pictures for Paz, curated by Phoebe and Annette Stephens, exhibited a dynamic show, lining the massive walls of 82 Mercer from end to end.

Monica Lozano
So many great pieces, to only discuss a few is unfair. Monica Lozano’s Mr. Luggage is part of the larger series Borders that explore the notions of struggle, survival and departure. The portraits tell the stories of several individuals' courageous journeys from one place to another, or their attempt, to begin a new life. Kat Kohl’s Light Volume V, is simply elegant and just the right amount of minimal, back lit by an LED light box. Other pieces of note were Maria Fernanda Jimenez’s Mexican Still Life, an illustration printed on leather, Amit Greenberg’s Thoughts Between Two Dots, ink on paper, Alvaro (Mosco) Alcocer’s Untitled, graphite on paper, and the photographs of Priscilla Falcon Moeller, specifically Release the hurt, release the fear, Lucia Oceguera, Andy Culp, and Anne Grauso.

Kat Kohl
Founded in 2010, Project Paz is a non-profit organization that fundraises to support programs that empower the Juarez community. Ciudad Juárez, in the Mexican state of Chihuahua, is a vibrant, hard-working border community with important historical and economic ties to its sister city El Paso, Texas. Its strategic location as the border between Mexico and United States is attractive for the manufacturing industry, business centers and foreign investment. Unfortunately, Juarez has also attracted drug cartels and criminal organizations. While the city has been affected for decades, the wave of crime reached its highest in the city’s history in 2010 with over 3,500 murders. While crime and murder rates have gone down since 2011 (in 2012, the homicide rate was down 90 percent compared to two years prior), its negative repercussions are still prevalent in the community.

Priscilla Falcon Moeller
Funds raised from last night's event support Ampliando el Desarrollo de los Niños (ADN in Spanish for extending children’s development), a program by the Fundación del Empresariado Chihuahuense, A.C. (FECHAC), an independent, autonomous, non-partisan and non-profit organization formed by Chihuahua state entrepreneurs. ADN helps keep Juarez’s most unprivileged children off the street, offering them an opportunity to expand their cognitive and physical abilities rather than finding themselves in a vulnerable situation. When a child feels safe, they are able to learn. When a child lives in fear, their cognitive and emotional development are greatly affected. Last year, the $150,000 raised from Project Art gave 2,456 children a safe after school program with classes in art, reading, music, karate and soccer.

Andy Culp
New to Project Art this year was Pictures for Paz. Launched in the summer of 2013, with a curriculum written by artist Monica Lozano. Teaching the children the basics of photography with digital cameras, instructor Luis Arenas addressed topics such as composition and light, landscapes and portraiture, and how to develop a photographic narrative. The outcome––absolutely beautiful, one of the photos was one of my favorites amongst the show. Shadows of the kids, Community Center of Riveras del Bravo, Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, August 2013 shows the bottom half of the children’s bodies, full shadows in perfect high sun, hands interlocked, the camera angle pleasingly disorienting.

Delicious eats were provided by Toloache Mexican Bistro, serving authentic Mexican bites that complemented drinks inspired by Maestro Dobel and Bohemia. A great night raising money for a great cause. Inspiring, to say the least.

To see all of the work featured in the silent auction, visit the Paddle8 page for Project Paz.

For more information: Project Paz.

Lucia Oceguera
Alvaro (Mosco) Alcocer
Maria Fernanda Jimenez
Amit Greenberg
Anne Grauso



16 October 2013

EMPIRIA: Works by Kajahl Benes, Miguel Ovalle, and Esteban del Valle


Miguel Ovalle
Curated by Coby Kennedy, EMPIRIA features the work of Kajahl Benes, Miguel Ovalle, and Esteban del Valle. Ranging from floor to ceiling installation and sculpture to paintings that span an entire wall, the show brings together three artists with distinct styles, "creating their own interpretations of reality, exploring the themes of lost and found history, and all the building of a mythology."

Kajal Benes
When entering the gallery's main room you first catch sight of the canvases of Kajahl Benes, rich with color and detail, synthesizing different styles within one painting, mixing fantasy with reality, holding the viewer's gaze for quite some time. As your eye wanders to the left one sees Miguel Ovalle's sculptural installation––covering an entire wall, from floor to ceiling––his work constantly evolving, an ambitious artist as is evident in the meticulous design and detail of his sculptures and typographic works. Across from Ovalle, spans Esteban del Valle's loosely stretched, horizontal grey-scale canvas. Within the work lies a man in an ominous atmosphere, beautifully disorienting, is the man dead or dreaming?

Esteban del Ovalle 
The show's opening reception will be held on Thursday, October 17, 2013, from 6 to 10 PM at Superchief Gallery at CULTUREfix, 9 Clinton St (between E. Houston and Stanton), New York, NY.

01 October 2013

IT TAKES MONEY TO MAKE MONEY: Help an Artist, Become a Collector!


With everyone crowdfunding these days, it's hard to choose which projects to support and which to pass up. I get it, sometimes you're saying to yourself "Hey! Are you going to fund my next project or, better yet, stock my fridge next week?" Albeit these crowd sourced fundraisers are omnipresent, funding projects in the arts is a bit different. Essentially, what you're doing is two-fold: you are donating to a fundraiser, thus contributing to the arts, AND (given the chosen sum to donate), because of your awesomely amazing deed, the artist is exchanging money for art. So, that's make you a philanthropic collector. It's a win-win and you're paying it forward.

Mauricio Herrero has 3 days left of his fundraiser. A Costa Rican artist, whom I met while he was completing his MFA at Parsons the New School for Design in Manhattan, is raising money, well, to make money, literally. Herrerro's concept for his month long residency at Argentina's Proyecto Ace consists of fabricating his own currency in print/paper form, which will also function as a work of art in itself, made through graphic techniques, from original designs. According to the artist "divisions between categories, between concepts, between territories are unstable. I explore those places where boundaries blur and look into the way symbolic representations, can be transfered from one space to another, converted and abstracted, only to be created anew. I generate new associations from displaced elements, exploring relations which transcend their initial context, into larger systems." Fund Mauricio HERE and think about how great one of his prints will look on the wall of your home.

Click CC for English subtitles for the short video below.

23 September 2013

Dia: Beacon: Partly Cloudy and Perfect


Hi! I'm back after a three month summer hiatus!  This past Saturday a group of us headed upstate for some fresh air and art, which, naturally, led us to Dia: Beacon, a 300,000 square foot former Nabisco box printing factory that now houses an impressive art collection that dates from the 1960s to today. Nearly entirely lit by natural light, the building is the perfect platform to exhibit such a collection.


Imi Knoebel

John Chamberlain
The factory was built in 1929, alongside the Hudson River, with its original design credited to Nabisco's staff architect Louis N. Wirshing, Jr. To renovate the building artist Robert Irwin collaborated with the architecture firm OpenOffice, working with the building's original design, emphasizing natural light, and essentially converting the space into a white-walled, hardwood floored (I was wearing wooden heels and each step echoed through the spacious galleries) heaven of a museum.

Bruce Nauman
When I first walked into the museum I was greeted with Imi Knoebel 24 Colors--for Blinky, simply minimal, the work presents itself in a large corridor, which accentuates the colossal scale of the building. The white canvases of Agnes Martin, by which I would walk right past, say, if I were at the Met, appeared differently in Beacon. The abundance of natural light changes the viewing experience. The spacious, sunlit rooms make the large scale sculptures, such as the work of John Chamberlain and Richard Serra, seem as though this is where they were meant to be all along. The work of Bruce Nauman is housed in the basement. Slightly creepy, his Performance Corrido, incorporates "surveillance cameras and closed-circuit video systems that function like mirrors" and is the perfect Instagram worthy photo of your friend flipping you the bird. The drawings of Sol LeWitt, in some rooms, flank the wall from floor to ceiling, with detail that brings your eye a couple of inches from the wall–––together, a beautifully curated collection, in an awe-inducing, Hudson School of painting kind of lighting, nearly perfect space. I highly recommend this day trip to EVERYONE. 


Louise Bourgeois

Agnes Martin
Dan Flavin
Sol LeWitt
Bruce Nauman



















28 June 2013

Paul McCarthy's WS: A Day of Disgust and Intrigue

Paul McCarthy’s WS, an acronym for White Snow, is the NC-17 NYC summer art blockbuster, a twisted and subversive adaptation of the 19th-century German fairtytale Snow White. WS explores McCarthy’s artistic oeuvre: in the show we find his fantastical forests, large-scale installations that represent the interior/exterior model, an installation tableaux that synthesizes the body, object, and space; here, in the the Armory’s massive Wade Thompson Drill Hall. Evoking your gag relaxes at times, with its filthy subject matter, both the 7-hour looping film and the food-based objects, the exhibition simultaneously disgusts and intrigues. An internationally acclaimed artist, yet still a bit foreign to many New Yorkers, the L.A. based McCarthy creates a provocative set with graphic content that is not new to his work, and, according to curator Hans- Ulrich Obrist and Alex Poots, the new Artistic Director of the Armory, WS is a “true Gesamtkunstwerk” or “total artwork.”


McCarthy is known for creating challenging, raw and visceral work that “questions and critiques social norms, cultural icons, and accepted histories alike.” When you walk into the Armory you’re first confronted with noise. What you hear are the loud, guttural sounds of the actors in the film, namely the 3 female Snow White-esque characters wearing the red, blue, and yellow dresses of the primary spectrum. These women are casted as White Snow, “a figure who represents both the archetypal virgin and vixen, a daughter as well as a fairytale princess;” the dwarf-like characters with awful prosthetic noses, some wearing college hoodies (also yellow for UCLA and blue for Yale); and Walt Paul, the 50-year-old archetypal figure, a synthesis of Walt Disney, Paul and Paul's father, who, at the beginning of the party, is wearing a tuxedo and later ends up in his birthday suit. According to Lisa Phillips in "Paul McCarthy's Theater of the Body" a main concern of the artist’s work, which has been recurrent throughout his larger body of work, is his use of repetitive, obsessive, and expressive actions. The multichannel video, with and without actually seeing what is going on, is a noisy, sensuous mess and this noise permeates the Armory as you explore the exhibition in its entirety.


If Disney started a porn company, McCarthy would be it’s artistic director. The dwarves are wreaking havoc: banging a steel pot with a wooden spoon, creating atonal noise (not the music genre, just straight noise) with the tambourine, clarinet, accordion and other stringed instruments, and drinking heavily (which originally starts as sipping champagne and martinis and quickly escalates to chugging Jack Daniels and Kettle One straight from the bottle or forcing it down another's throat). The more drinking that takes place the more havoc is wreaked. Odd celebratory objects fill the room, which appears to be the living room in McCarthy’s created space: a Happy Birthday banner hangs from the fireplace’s mantel, a Christmas tree is in the corner, and a floral couch, or a grandma couch, similar to the print of Kim Kardashian’s dress she wore to the Met Ball this past spring. What does this all mean? That McCarthy pays incredible attention to detail? Perhaps, but, moreover, this is the artist doing what he does best, and the reason he has become so popular over the latter half of the 20th century and now into the 21st: his attention to detail is his socio-cultural, sexually inflated commentary on the mundane norms of American life.


The video is the insight into what we are looking at when one continues on to his classic motif of the inside/outside model, inviting us to be voyeurs into the product of what was once chaos. The three-quarter-scale, 8,800-square foot sculpture and yellow ranch style house is an exact replica of McCarthy’s childhood home, it is the central part of the overall exhibition, and it is surrounded by a beautiful, colorful, forest, as if out of a fairytale (duh!) that towers over you as you walk through it and it is the only element in the show that provided me with a sense of ease.

The front red door is cracked open and inviting the viewer inside, but really you can only look through the windows and holes created as intentional viewing spaces. The set smells awful from the lingering condiments everywhere. Walt Paul and White Snow appear as dead, their naked, lifeless bodies thrown on the couch and floor. Confused, you continue on, and, not surprisingly, the bathroom is as disgusting as the other rooms: nice wall paper, black with blue and pink flowers, and, of course, shit or something that resembles it, on top of the toilet. In the first bedroom, the beds are unmade, two Red Bull cans sit atop the nightstand, and the artificial light creates shadows of the blinds on the walls, another recurrent theme in his work, that is, exploring the boundaries of artificial vs. natural. Surprisingly, for such a dirty home, the white sheets are rather clean. Same goes for the second bedroom, except here, one finds dirty white panties and a neon yellow stuffed bunny rabbit staring back at you.



The kitchen is just downright nasty. It smells of rotting baked goods, the dresses of the female characters are on the floor, uneaten cookies on the counter, chocolate syrup on the wall, and bottles upon bottles of empty and half-empty Jack Daniels and Kettle One on the kitchen table, which gave me this feeling similar to one when you’re so hungover that the last thing you want to do is even look at  the bottle that caused your body so much physical grief the next morning. I actually saw flies, which left me wondering will Armory have a rodent/ bug issue by the time this exhibition is complete? Beer bongs also lying on the floor, and, again, another bunny rabbit looking out at you, on the shelf, naturally, beneath the base of the blender, above the dirty dishes and the salt on the kitchen counter. The dining room is not quite as grotesque: more beer bongs, broken dishes, a rocking chair on top of table, crushed Sprite cans, Red Bull and Jack Daniels on the floor, and an uneaten apple on the china cabinet.

I’ll save the most disturbing room for last. In what appears to be some sort of TV room or recreational room, one finds an impaled, naked Walt Paul bobbing for apples centrally placed in the room. More liquor lying around, an oversized jar of mayonnaise, more broken glass and chocolate syrup. And more bunnies, only this time it is taxidermied and its looking at Walt Paul and not you.

I looked around constantly while there, up, down, into spaces and, mostly, at people's reactions to the work. Some faces seemed undaunted by what was going on around them, others jaw-dropped looks of pure disgust. I was more of the latter, disgusted, yet intrigued. Lisa Phillips refers to McCarthy as an “unorthodox, west coast maverick” and I 100% agree, but I can’t guarantee that you won’t leave more desensitized than when you entered.

Jack Hunter for New Yorker's DOMA Cover

Artist Jack Hunter's "Bert and Ernie's Moment of Joy" on the cover of the New Yorker shows pop-culture's most famous gay couple (although Sesame Street denies this and claims they have no sexual orientation) celebrating the DOMA Supreme Court ruling on television. The image, both timeless and incredibly dated to this historical moment, invites the viewer to share in Bert and Ernie's joyous, intimate, and quiet celebration. Well done Jack!

23 May 2013

UNCOLLECTABLE: THE INTERSECTION OF SOUND AND MUSIC

[PRESS RELEASE]

UNCOLLECTABLE

SHOW DATE JUNE 21 and 22

Inspired by sound art’s resistance to commercialization and conventional art-collecting practices, UNCOLLECTABLE is a performance at the intersection of sound and music. The pop-up show will combine elements of an art exhibit reception and a musical experience to expand upon the compositional vocabulary of songwriting and concert programming. This multicultural performance will be kicking off a month-long art exhibit hosted at SoHo’s Hotel Particulier

Matthew HalleyEthologist/songwriter will be joining us to play banjo, sing, and integrate bird sounds into the show

THE SHOW | The program is built to reflect the thresholds of how sound and music can come together; rather than offering a critique of the music industry, UNCOLLECTABLE is an exploration of where and how the two meet. By exploring sound art through a songwriter’s lens, UNCOLLECTABLE enables visitors to explore Middle Eastern culture in a new light – while also offering an opportunity to reflect on the future of indie music.

Ticketed guests will go through a program developed by +Aziz, a Kuwaiti songwriter and trend spotter who seeks to create musical experiences informed by cultural trends beyond entertainment. This project is inspired by a trend in the art world. UNCOLLECTABLE is developed in collaboration with ArteEast, a non-profit focused in contemporary Middle Eastern art in New York, and NUQAT, a design conference in the Arabian Gulf.

In addition to adding sound components to all songs played, there are moments where structured music is nowhere to be found, and the art of sound becomes the foreground. Attendees can expect to experience a collage of tactile experiences. Various collaboration occasions within the show’s program will culminate to creating online content such as an UNCOLLECTABLE Dropbox folder, a music video, Soundcloud files…etc.

THE CROWDFUNDING | Supporters of UNCOLLECTABLE’s crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo can take advantage of perks like first hand peeks of a rotating exhibition (through July 10th), exclusive consultations, and personalized tours from +Aziz. The Indiegogo campaign is live until June 21st.

THE SPACE | Hotel Particulier is an establishment where encounters, cross-pollination of ideas, disciplines and collaboration can take root and grow in a space that is different - and where there is a freedom of experimentation. It is a place of hospitality, of de-compartmentalization, of conversations, and where not only artworks are exhibited but also ideas.


We hope you can join us for the show and/or help support the crowdfunding campaign. Please direct all inquiries to Lori Zimmer at Art Nerd, Lori@artnerdnewyork.com

20 May 2013

video_dumbo: Re-Return to Sender

Exhibited through May 25th at Eyebeam, as part of video_dumbo 2013, Re-Return to Sender,   explores and manipulates the devices, which generally create the image. The exhibition "speculates about the imagined consciousness of digital and electromagnetic moving image displays and projection apparatus."

 Annica Cuppetelli and Cristobal Mendoza, Transposition, 2013

Transposition, an interactive video installation, by Annica Cuppetelli and Cristobal Mendoza, reacts to its audience using a projector, CPU, MDF, a surveillance camera, and sound speakers. A structure composed of 144 vertical lines made of elastic is illuminated by a video projector. Once the participant crosses the space between the projector and the image, with use of custom software, the patterns change based upon the motions of the moving participant.



Daniel Canogar, Spin, 2010
Daniel Canogar's installation, Spin, plays upon piracy in the film industry; here, the copied contents of 100 discarded DVDs are projected back onto their surface, and its reflection creating celestial-like bodies, floating in space.

Steina + Woody Vasulka, Reminiscence, 1974
Steina and Woody Vasulka's experiments are the earliest examples in this show demonstrating "the origin of the video medium's signal-as-protagonist theme." The wavy image is actually the deconstruction of "digital images into two-and three-dimensional properties."

These are but a few of the handful of experimental video art showcased. Take some time out of your week to check it out yourself!





16 May 2013

Unveiling the Art Supermarket

When I started visiting the fairs and shows in this art-filled weekend, I was mostly annoyed. Angry enough to Instagram and Tweet a diatribe I had with myself while lying in bed recollecting what I saw and thought, writing it in the notes section of my i-Phone as if it were a personal journal. Anywho, I screen shot that little memo, uploaded it to my so-called online world, and suddenly everyone knew exactly what I thought. It went something like this:


So, there it went, as nicely as I was able, I ranted, made fun of the art world and many of the people that exist within it, then fell asleep. When I found myself at the next fair, I made a silent pledge to look for the wholesomeness, the academic, something thematic, something worthy of an article. What I found all around me were veils. Perhaps this was influenced by a particular personal situation in my life, lies are technically veils, right? I started seeing veils everywhere ––from the culturally and religiously literal to the abstract and I made it my mission to go on an art pursuit, turning it into a game, searching for all types of veils, in some sort of organized chaos. It was a personal desire to bring some integrity back to these art supermarkets.

The veil is ubiquitous in history and art, and so, I turned to “The Veil: Women Writers on History, Lore, and Politics” as the meat to my vegetables; the vegetables naturally being the art before my eyes. Edited by Jennifer Heath, the introduction goes on to say “as much as a veil is an article of clothing and fabric, it is also a concept–– an illusion, a deception, a concealment.”

Newsha Tavakolian, Look, 2012, Image Courtesy of Thomas Erben Gallery

I became increasingly interested and aware of the contemporary art scene in Iran after visiting Shirin Art Gallery’s booth at Scope Miami, speaking to the gallerist and buying and imbibing in the book Tehran Art: A Popular Revolution. Then at the beginning of April, I heard about Newsha Tavakolian’s exhibition Look at Thomas Erben Gallery. Ever a procrastinator I waited to see it on the last day of the show.  Iranian born Tavakolian is one of few self taught, female photojournalists covering the wars and natural disasters in Iran, Iraq, Syria, Saudia Arabia, Lebanon, Pakistan and Yemen. I was drawn to this show, and the whole concept of the beautiful, wide eyed woman, framed in black, staring at us with slight tears in her eyes.  Look “brings to life the story of a nation of middle class youths who are constantly battling with themselves, their isolated conformed society, their lack of hope for the future and each of their individual stories.” The cultural identity of this woman is part and parcel of this veil, our Western view of women in the Eastern world, but let’s try to blur the categories of these different types of coverings, and when we do what we find is a visual trope of beauty and mystery.

The Seeds That Release, 2013

I’ve covered the Seeds that Release exclusively this past Armory week, but the performative installation at Cutlog Art Fair, in its second go in a new space, amazed its audience nonetheless. The concept of Brian Gonzalez, the installation by Joseph Wolf Grazi, this veiled experience is one that changes given it's location. The noise-jazz by Double Ghost that permeates the room as it echoes off the symbiosis of the performers Akil Vishus Davis and Bryan Longchamp. The audience was encouraged to cut the strings, and when they did, the performers, with their perfect physique and subtle movements, reacted wide eyed, wide mouthed, the light emphasizing the elasticity which bound them. The white body paint, recalls slow-moving Japanese dancing, where every movement is felt at a maximum capacity. The web, encapsulates the ties that are meant to be severed. If we don’t free them, then they are bound. The severance inflicted upon them is necessary and inevitable. Hypnotic and mesmerizing, by the end of the 4 hour performance the men are freed and, thus, unveiled.


Francine Spiegel, Lora, 2013
Francine Spiegel’s Lora, exhibited at NADA, is a bright, provocative and layered female figure– the painting only a 2-dimensional component of a larger performative project. What we see is a collage of horror film influences and other objects adorning the woman, who is wet and strangely sexual, though the fact she is partially dressed in Victorian garb creates irony in the subject matter. Similar in style to the body of work in her solo show The Visit, the woman we see in Lora looks as though she is that “archetypal woman, excessively feminine, innocent and wholesome,culled from the world of horror, where the most shattering images of subconscious desires and fears are found. The figure rises out of the mess, peeling away the gore to explore the psychology underneath and stripping away the social mask. The creature that emerges is enchanting and alluring rather than horrific.” Veiling has a huge impact on our psyche, and, although at times, we are so heavily veiled that we are unrecognizable, what we’re left with is what lies behind the mask, our pure selves freed from all external influences of the world.

Paul McCarthy and Daniel Firman, Linda,2012
At Frieze, veiling became a form of camouflage from Paul McCarthy’s giant balloon dog (which sold for nearly a million) poking fun at art superstar Jeff Koons’ stainless steel structures to what was inside the massive tent on Randall’s Island. What looks like a woman, covering her face, crying against the wall is French artist Daniel Firman’s Linda, made of resin and clothes, and is part of his Attitude series, where all human figures are covering their faces, with different gestural poses. The figures become sensuous objects, inanimate, yet defining the body and its relation to the feelings we possess. Then there is the obvious veil, like Ryan Gander’s ghostly image made of marble resin. In Tell My Mother not to Worry,  Gander is simply taking inspiration from his daughter at play, where she is pretending to be a ghost beneath a sheet. The sculpture captures “a fleeting moment in the creative development of a child”––a type of profound, divine, hidden knowledge, a work of art that conceals as much as it does reveal.

Ryan Gander, Tell My Mother Not to Worry, 2013


Rain Room
Random International’s immersive environment Rain Room opened at MoMA’s party last Saturday night: “The work invites visitors to explore the roles that science, technology, and human ingenuity can play in stabilizing our environment. Using digital technology, Rain Room creates a carefully choreographed downpour, simultaneously encouraging people to become performers on an unexpected stage and creating an intimate atmosphere of contemplation.” It’s up until July, so there is no rush due to the usual fair week run around. The experimental project and installation offers participants the experience of controlling the rain––as you walk through the downpour you leave completely untouched by the water. Walking through the rain, a veil of nature, embodies a motif of cleansing, removal, and renewal. Just watch out what shoes you wear, the floor is grated, and skinny heels are a no no––I learned the hard way.

Veils exist in many realms of our lives, not only in art, but also in the the art world, they permeate our lives, and, in the non-theoretic sense, we find them in fashion, whether it is worn by choice or not. When we conceal objects, feelings, desires, verities, we are also revealing what we don't want others to see or feel. When we unveil the unknown, it both isolates and provides an elating sense of ease. The hidden and obvious meanings of veils in art and in life both contradict and bring to light what we know about ourselves and that of what is unknown. 

24 April 2013

Saber: Process, Politics and Palomino Beige

Last Thursday, Saber&Rostarr opened at Opera Gallery and the popular artist duo drew quite the crowd from young fans, artists, collectors, to old school graffiti cats. Luckily I was able to pull Saber aside for a few minutes (even then he was intermittenly approached by friends and fans praising his work and asking him for photos) to talk about his process,politics and the power of palomino beige.
Base Elements, 2013. Photo Courtesy of Opera Gallery
The show’s overarching theme is calligraffiti, given its namesake one can surmise that this is the combination of calligraphy and graffiti, yet Saber was much more explicit: “It is the mastery of the brush or can.” In Rostarr’s All Eyez on You we see the confidence of his brushstroke––clean, tight and linear. In Saber’s Base Elements it’s more about desegmentation: the letters come alive, semi-translucent and their lines fluid. For Saber, “the most abrasive and celebrated element of this work is the fat cap and the style it creates.” Here, the palamino beige is on canvas, yet the reference has further implications. It’s the color you see when your wall has been buffed, specifically in L.A. What the artist spoke most about was the idea that these walls, those written upon outdoors, like canvases, live and breathe like us. The city can paint over a piece of art work, perhaps one that they do not like, or consider illegal, and they buff it out. Over time, that buffed topcoat begins to crack and again that underlying layer resurfaces, exposing an ideaology that Saber adheres to: the walls become organic vessels, breathing, cracking, changing over time. It was Jackson Pollock who once claimed it was on the floor where he was most at ease, well, Saber, said he feels the same way about walls. Saber’s relationship with the walls he paints illustrates and embodies a universal sensibility that the work of an artist has the ability to reflect the ever changing condition of life and time.

Beautiful Outbreak, 2013. Photo Courtesy of Opera Gallery
The artist, part of the MSK crew based in L.A., has quite the following and quite the political voice. With over 17K followers on Twitter and over 25K on Instagram, it is clear that the world is listening. His political attitude and beliefs are evident in his work, yet more subtle and symbolic. The American flag is a recurring motif in his work, which we see in Beautiful Outbreak; the painting conveys an undertone that emphasizes a more minimal style, expressing his love/hate relationship with the government. He was particularly passionate about how much money Los Angeles spends each year on graffiti removal ($30 million) and the lack of government funding for art education.

Subductus 3, 2013.  Photo Courtesy of Opera Gallery
Always experimenting with new processes in his studio, Saber is working more with mixed-media. In Subductus 3 the artist buries the text under the beige buff, like graffiti is covered outdoors. Just as outdoor walls begin to crack, Saber creates a process in the studio where he’ll “rip” the work in the last step, discovering the color. The color becomes the light. The literal layers of his paintings create layers of dialogue that address an idea of suppression. “We subconsciously accept suppression. Graffiti is an attempt to search for something”–– to look beyond the layers, the stigma, and equate both the studio work and graffiti simply as an act of expression.

Rostarr, All Eyez on You.  Photo Courtesy of Opera Gallery

08 April 2013

The Affordable Art Fair

This year was my first time visiting the Affordable Art Fair, and my apologies in advance, for posting after the fair has finished, but at least it’s informative for those seeking to attend next year. Naturally, I was overwhelmed at the amount of people on the opening night reception, yet quite impressed with the work throughout the fair. Galleries from all over the world showcased art that ranged from $100-$10,000, with more than half priced at less than $5,000. What I loved most about the opening night was the humbleness of the attendees and the eagerness of the gallerists to talk you about the work. For those who travel to the fairs each year, you know the snooty gallerists with their noses raised to the air, those who find it tacky to place a price tag or even a label near the work. God forbid! The Affordable Art Fair labeled all its work and all came with a price tag. When you buy a piece of art you are allowed to take it with you that night, making the galleries dynamic, not static. When art sells, a new piece replaces it––a constant, rotating stock of art. I saw a lot of smiling faces, perhaps it was the first piece of art these smiling faces had bought or they were just happy to add a piece to their collection.

Yves Marchand and Romain Meffre
The work in the fair itself is safe and relatable, most pieces incredibly livable. Yves Marchand and Romain Meffre’s The Ruins of Detroit were among my favorite. Printed in a series of 15, the photographs (each priced between $7,000 and $8,000), document a city in ruins: “Ruins are the visible symbols and landmarks of our societies and their changes, small pieces of history in suspension.” The photographs have an eeriness to them, like one is looking at that pinnacle moment in history where an empire falls and the city is left, disintegrating, falling apart. The artists capture the beauty of once iconic structures that have simply been left to decompose.

Yves Marchand and Romain Meffre
James Sparshatt’s Graciela, a platinum print, edition of 12, priced at $3350 framed, pictures an older woman with small framed glasses, a wise and wrinkled face, with a crooked smile and a big, fat cigar in her mouth.

James Sparhatt
Photos of flowers constructed from mice bones? An interesting, slightly grotesque, but equally serene image–a black background and white flower. In Hideki Tokushige’s Bone Flower/ Spider Lilly (priced at $3,000 unframed) you can distinguish the skeleton (the spine as the stem, the hands and feet as the petals) of the once living creature. It’s a bit creepy, but I like this type of art.

Hideki Tokushige
And getting back to art that is a bit more livable: Thomas J. Hagen’s The Bridge, oil on linen, priced at $3,000. That fiery red, and smoky background caught my eye from 20 feet away. Safe, affordable, a true painting, but is it an investment? Will this art appreciate? That is what the buyer risks when purchasing from a fair such as this. However, if you are buying art for the sake of buying art, then who cares about whether or not you will double your money on this work at next year’s Sotheby’s spring sale. You are a patron, an art enthusiast, not a business man or woman who treats the work as a commodity. Congratulations.

Thomas J. Hagen