(noun) nonchalant absurdity with a dash of embarrassment.

(verb) to be shark bitten.

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

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.