Our latest New York Close Up is now live! Click to watch Alejandro Almanza Pereda’s Obstacle Course on Art21.org.
How do artists overcome the hurdles of moving to New York City? In this film, artist Alejandro Almanza Pereda contends with a series of obstacles while enrolled in his first semester of graduate school at Hunter College in Manhattan. A Mexican citizen, Almanza Pereda’s first difficulty is finding a way to live and work as an artist in New York City. He decides his best way to get a visa, and join an art community, is to go back to school. Without enough money for rent, he relies on a network of friends and fellow artists, couch surfing for four months in exchange for favors and throwing parties. While settling into his MFA studio and preparing for his first graduate critique, tragedy strikes when he accidentally destroys a series of sculptures built with fluorescent bulbs. Ever-resourceful, Almanza Pereda exhibits what survived and then dismantles the sculptures, returning what he can for a little extra cash. The final hurdle in the film is school itself: Almanza Pereda learns that Hunter College plans to demolish the current studio facility—a gritty building with grand underutilized spaces near Port Authority. He hangs an artwork, in protest, on the facade of the building to express both his frustration with the school’s administration and his solidarity with fellow graduate students. Says the artist, “When you have a harsh path, you improvise, you learn, no?” Featuring music from Alejandro Almanza Pereda’s band Bachelor Sound Machín, and the artworks Bachelor Sound Machín, and the artworks This placed Displaced Misplaced (2012), After all these years I see that I was mistaken about Eve in the beginning; it is better to live outside the Garden with her than inside it without her (2012), Spare the rod and spoil the child (2008-12), Change the world or go home (2009), Just give me a place to stand(2007), Andamio (2007), and Untitled (Ropero) (2006).
Alejandro Almanza Pereda (b. 1977, Mexico City, Mexico) lives and works in Brooklyn and Manhattan, New York.
CREDITS | New York Close Up Created & Produced by: Wesley Miller & Nick Ravich. Editor: Brad Kimbrough & Wesley Miller. Cinematography: Don Edler, Ian Forster, Nicholas Lindner, John Marton, Wesley Miller, Nick Ravich & Andrew David Watson. Sound: Scott Fernjack & Wesley Miller. Associate Producer: Ian Forster. Production Assistant: Amanda Long & Tida Tippapart. Design & Graphics: Crux Studio & Open. Artwork: Alejandro Almanza Pereda. Additional Photography: Elizabeth Meggs. Music: Bachelor Sound Machín, Los Locos Del Ritmo, Los Saicos, Rene Ivan Peñaloza Galvan & Rigo Tovar. Thanks: Erik Benson, Alberto Borea, Miriam Castillo, Melissa Cooke, Bernardo Hernandez, Hunter College, Rick Karr, McKendree Key, Shawn McGibboney, Irvin Morazan, Birgit Rathsmann, Claudia Peña Salinas, Abelardo Cruz Santiago, Jess Wheaton & Marela Zacarias. An Art21 Workshop Production. © Art21, Inc. 2012. All rights reserved.
High political season is underway with a particular sense of urgency this year, and it seems that nearly every aspect of American culture has joined in the debate. In keeping with a historical trend that began during the Enlightenment, prints are playing a role in today’s political arguments as a means of disseminating the views of artists and rallying the people. Recent releases of note are the Occuprint Portfolio 2012 and Artists for Obama 2012. Both are fundraisers to support their eponymous causes: the former was issued earlier this year through the Booklyn Artists Alliance–the latter debuted last night at Gemini G.E.L. in Los Angeles and will also be presented in its New York gallery in Chelsea later this month.
While these two print portfolios are both political in their aims, other similarities are few. The facture and content of Occuprint, as may be anticipated, reflects the values and concerns of the grass-roots Occupy Movement that spawned it. Issued in an edition of 100 with a net fundraising goal of approximately $30,000, the thirty screenprints it contains were selected from the thousands of submissions that have been posted for free download on the Occuprint.org website. Since last fall, these have been sent in by relatively unknown designers from all over the world in support of the various political aims that have sprung from the Occupy Movement, including We are the 99%, the ballooning costs of higher education, the subprime mortgage crisis, as well as May Day. The portfolio’s production was supported by pre-publication sales to twenty public institutions, including a number of top universities, and proceeds benefit the activities of Occuprint.org, a non-profit affinity group that operates independently of the Occupy Movement.
Aldo Tambellini is an experimental artist working in performance, film, video, sound, painting, sculpture, and poetry. He is perhaps best known for his explorations of the color and concepts surrounding black, and his electromedia performances. His most well-known performance series grew out of previous performances titled Black (which premiered in 1965 at the International House at Columbia University) and culminated as Black Zero in 1968 (at the Brooklyn Academy of Music). Black Zero has extensively evolved through new iterations for over 40 years, including at Performa 2009 in New York, and its most recent adaptation will be featured at the Tate Modern in London from October 9 - 14 this year.
Aldo, currently 82 years young and based in Cambridge, MA, is experiencing a revived interest in his work. This well-earned and long-overdue appreciation follows his reunion in 2005 with his personal art archives, which he has been estranged from since 1971—when the commercial success of Pop Art, AbEx, and Hollywood films seemed to muffle the artists and innovators who instigated the expanded studio practices which took place in the late 1960s.
As a survivor of World War 2, a relocated Italian-American who grew up in Fascist Italy, and a witness to the New York race riots (an issue of a different kind of black altogether, which also found its way into his work), Aldo created artwork that interrogates an era in America that is frequently passed over in favor of our tendency to shine brighter distinguishing lights on our more honorable histories. Aldo’s oeuvre is fascinating, therefore, due to its demonstration of the critical gulf which consumed much of the 20th century’s most innovative artworks, but also—in a way that ties into my interests in this column—its crucial historical relevance to the development of those contemporary experimental artworks that merge sound and visual media.
Following is an excerpt of an interview conducted earlier this week with Aldo Tambellini and his companion (and archivist) Anna Salamone.
The Ken Price retrospective opened last night at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Before I left for the reception, I read Christopher Knight of the LA Times say that it was “exquisite,” in a review he must have written in a mad rush of excitement just after previewing the show. The first two paragraphs include the words “brilliantly nuanced,” “voluptuous,” “iridescent” and “richly patterned as a Persian rug.” I suspected some hyperbole, but felt a bit bubbly too when I saw for myself. Really, the retrospective is good in a guttural way. The organic and paradoxically precise sculptures, sometimes with finger- or turd-like things oozing out of orifices, aren’t quite seductive. They’re something else — “otherworldly,” a friend of mine said, like aliens that are adorably wonky but also unfathomable in their perfection.
There are always forces at odds in this world of dualities, often beautifully illustrated by actions occurring in nature. Order is challenged by chaos, movement disrupts balance, struggle defies rest. Perhaps I consider these forces more in recent days with the shifting seasons. More likely, I consider them in relation to the remarkable spectrum of artists and practices I have encountered during the last month. They, too, exist as powerful forces of nature.
A few weeks ago, I participated in a discussion group led by visiting art critic and theorist Lane Relyea. The discussion, focused around his article entitled From Institutional Critique to the Myth of Spontaneous Socializing, explored ideas around recent shifts to a “more communication-based idea of radical transparency” and the embrace of everyday practice in the art world. In contrast to the static identities of many institutions, artists now openly embrace a wide range of roles and tasks as part of their art practice. The distinctions between work, life and socializing with other artists in “the everyday” are indistinguishable.
Relyea argues that these dissolving separations have reconciled realist pragmatism and utopian idealism, thus “illuminating a new age of innocence” for contemporary artists. While we had also discussed some of these ideas in graduate school, it now resonates more deeply as I have shifted from the theoretical to the practical. It’s one thing to be debating these ideas from the comfortable seats of a lecture hall; it’s quite another to be considering them as they pertain to an active career.
Monday evening I had the pleasure of participating in a dynamite online conversation with our current group of Art21 Educators. We decided, based on some recent requests, to spend a little time actually looking at art together. While teaching, planning, and discussing ways of bringing contemporary art into the classroom are topics that come up a lot in our yearlong relationship, sometimes the simple act of looking at art together gets lost in the shuffle.
We focused on Arturo Herrera’s collage, Untitled, above. The group was initially asked about their interpretations and ideas about it:
Ca: Student made?
JH: Such an interesting comment- why do you say that?
D: I’m thinking “I saw the Figure Five in Gold”
S: Is this a photo of something sculptural or a painting?
A: It makes me think of paper graffiti…. dripping, tubes, lines, subway
G: I love that I don’t know what I’m looking at… what’s the scale? The space is so deep but flat at the same time!
T: Thinking about paper cutouts…
M: It reminds me of a spiral made out of a simple piece of graffiti
Ch: It looks 3-dimensional but I think it is a 2-dimensional piece
M: Not graffiti- paper
T: Is it 3d?
Ca: I see what looks like some photo with some paint?
D: Charles Demuth painting – the gold floating in the air
Cr: Something about it makes me think of Warner Bros. Cartoons
CM: There are lots of layers within layers
M: Looks like some fun with an X-acto
Ch: It looks like it might twist like a mobile
Ca: That looks like a sleeping loft up above
A: I just saw the bodies exhibit
T: My brain wants to see more than I do but I don’t. If that makes sense
C: it looks like a collage/painting . . . and the background creates the illusion of space and the overlay . . . flattens it out. A cabin interior or stage curtain?
J: Do tell…
D: Arturo Herrera, I’m looking for Disney
M: It looks like it is done in Photoshop or with a computer
CM: Are there some figures within it? The front piece (intestine shape)
M: Agreed- looks digital
T: I want the missing pieces
A: I want to unravel it
Then we revealed the “credit line” including the artist’s name and title of the work: Continue reading »
I read two great biographies this summer: Robert Irwin’s biography, Seeing is Forgetting the Name of the Thing One Sees, by Lawrence Weschler, and Will You Take Me as I Am, Joni Mitchell’s Blue Period, by Michelle Mercer. I find truth in these types of narrative accounts–I put faith in seeing other creative lives unfold. This blog post is my attempt to tie together a myriad of ideas that I’ve been thinking about over the past couple of months, much in relation to these two. Joni Mitchell and Robert Irwin were both constricted by labels throughout their career, and turned to a dedicated “studio” practice (often resulting in reclusive behavior), to sustain their creative acts. I’d like to tie these biographical accounts to the art world at large. Rather than embracing labels and discipline categories, the introspective studio act of making is the current modus operandí for many young artists.
On Winning Swimsuit Competitions: I wouldn’t be the first person to call Joni Mitchell my emotional muse, but she actually despises being pigeon-holed as an introspective autobiographical songwriter. Her songs surely emote, but that is largely due to her undeniable ability to write music pictorially. “‘This is what you get when we get into Debussey-land,’ she says. ‘With La Mer you see the ocean. You see the butterflies. Mozart was very mathematical, you know, the agility is amazing, but it’s not very metaphorical. Not many people can paint pictures with notes’ (Mercer, 55).”
Our latest Exclusive video is now live! Click to watch Catherine Opie: Cleveland Clinic at Art21.org!
In this Exclusive short, photographer Catherine Opie describes her intentions behind the permanent installation “Somewhere in the Middle” (2011) at Hillcrest Hospital, a branch of Cleveland Clinic, in Mayfield Heights, Ohio. Created specifically for the hospital setting, the installation consists of 22 photographs taken from the shores of Lake Erie near Opie’s hometown of Sandusky, Ohio. It is Opie’s hope that the photographs provide a space for patients, doctors, vistors and hospital employees to experience an ethereal moment during what may be a difficult time in their lives.
Catherine Opie is featured in the Season 6 (2012) episode “Change” of the Art in the Twenty-First Century program on PBS. Watch full episodes online for free via Art21.org, PBS Video or Hulu, as a paid download via iTunes, or as part of a Netflix streaming subscription.
CREDITS: Producer: Ian Forster. Consulting Producer: Wesley Miller & Nick Ravich. Interview: Wesley Miller & Susan Sollins. Camera: Mark Falstad & Laura Paglin. Sound: Darryl Dickenson & Heidi Hesse. Editor: Lizzie Donahue & Morgan Riles. Artwork Courtesy: Catherine Opie. Special Thanks: Cleveland Clinic. Theme Music: Peter Foley.
I have this fear of going to barber shop to get a haircut. I’ve had it for a long time. I don’t really know why that is. I know I hate barbershops because all the mirrors make me feel self conscious. I hate making small talk with barbers and hair stylists. I hate the smell of hair products. Yet all of these are peripheral things and do not fully explain my anxiety about it. Finally, two days ago, when I went into a barbershop for the first time in a year, I realized where my fear lies: in the problem with language.
As you know, going into a barber shop or hair salon requires one to explain what kind of hair she/he wants. The majority of that explanation is done through words. For me, this is where words fail miserably. I feel that I don’t have the right vocabulary to explain the complicated form and shape of the hair I want. This results in me feeling defeated every time the barber holds up the mirror behind my brand-new haircut. Not that I am a particularly fashionable (if at all fashionable) or neurotic individual, but when there is cash involved and a service exchanged, I do want satisfaction. When it is not there when I walk out the door, my fear and anxiety get the best of me.
But there are people who get good haircuts. I have seen them on the streets. Sometimes I even turn around and stare at them for a few seconds longer, wishing the same thing could happen on my head. These people must have the command of words that I lack. These people must knew the nuance of each word they conjure up to achieve an image that is understood perfectly between him/her and the hairdresser. How come I can never achieve such command of words for my hair?
What it comes down to, I have to conclude, is that I just don’t have the sufficient lexicon to describe hair: the form, the flow, the angle, the volume, the direction, the curvature, etc. Probably deep down I just don’t care about hair enough to really acquire these words. Then I realized, it’s not really about hair at all. My real anxiety has to do with my relationship with language. I want my words to succeed.
In this week’s roundup Bruce Nauman explores the phenomenon of the face in video art, Laylah Ali questions society’s conventions in her notes, Rashid Johnson examines black identity, Andrea Zittel addresses visual and functional objects, and more.
- Bruce Nauman‘s work is on view in Faces: The Phenomenon of Face in Videoart at Galerie Rudolfinum (Prague). The exhibition presents 18 works, which are split approximately fifty-fifty between those featuring the creator and ones that turn the camera on others. The show traces video’s development from early experiments by the medium’s pioneers to performance and installation. This show runs through September 19.
- Laylah Ali: Note Drawings is on view at the Walter J. Manninen Center for the Arts, Endicott College (Beverly, MA). In this exhibition Laylah Ali uses text and images, i.e. her notes that include random thoughts, overheard conversations, and snippets from newspapers and radio. Ambiguous characters dressed in masks, wigs, and costumes confuse rather than clarify sexual and racial identities. This exhibition closes October 12.
- Rashid Johnson: Message to Our Folks is on view at the Miami Art Museum. Rashid Johnson explores the complexities and contradictions of black identity in a practice that is rooted in his individual experience. Incorporating commonplace objects from his childhood in a process he describes as “hijacking the domestic,” the artist transforms everyday materials such as wood into conceptually loaded and visually compelling works. The exhibition closes November 4.
- Vija Celmins, Elizabeth Murray and several others are featured in Contemporary Prints by American Women: A Selection from the Gift of Martha and Jim Sweeny at the Museum of Fine Arts (St. Petersburg, FL). The show includes more than 60 prints by American women artists, made after 1950, which have recently become part of the Museum’s collection. The exhibition closes February 2, 2013.