My contribution to the Ideas issue, The Culture Wars, Redux, was an essay about the ongoing crisis of representation in cultural institutions. I noted cultural critic Vijay Prashad, who advocates for a polyculturalism which views the world as “constituted by the interchange of cultural forms.” This addendum to my original essay highlights artists who represent a junction of ideas and concepts, use different materials that permits culture to move from one form into another, and invite engagement through multiple modes of discourse. Many second and third-generation postmodernists have overlooked these intersections, especially ones that have some bearing on contemporary considerations of race and gender in art. As a social construction, this development encourages us to negotiate, or stabilize, the meanings of their work. As they relate to creative practices, these are the major tracks and themes I will explore here:
Syncretism is defined as the collision or reconciliation of disparate beliefs, systems of thought and forms of expression. It has become associated with representations and belief systems that reflect the myriad of African, Amerindian, European, Asian and North American cultures from which they emerged. Here, this incorporation has allowed for a kind of covert resistance and a rich mixture of associations between representations and a variety of techniques and media. This term is closely related to bricolage or making do with whatever materials are on hand.
Black (native) vernacular technological creativity frames language that defines a relevant social group as a fluid assemblage of individuals who share a common meaning of an artifact. It opens up interpretive flexibility to acknowledge and consider a multitude of coexisting technological meanings for a variety of social groups, and creates an opportunity to study how African Americans, and other marginalized peoples, create their own relevant social groups that decide which technologies work for them and how to use them.
In this week’s roundup, a chance to see Bruce Nauman’s famous fountain, Andrea Zittel is honored, Kerry James Marshall discusses the black aesthetic, and more.
- Bruce Nauman’s One Hundred Fish Fountain will soon be on view at the Gagosian Gallery (NYC). This sculpture, one of the largest artworks the artist has ever made, is a functional fountain comprised of 97 bronze casts of fish that are suspended throughout the air that noisily shoot water out of their mouths into a large basin below, occasionally coming to a complete halt. Robert Ryman‘s A Painting in Four Parts will also be on view at the Gagosian. Both shows will run July 30 – August 24.
- James Turrell’s Trace Elements: Light Into Space will be presented by the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center, in conjunction with an exhibition, Places Apart. Turrell’s sculpture is said to “exude such visual magnetism that viewers may believe they’ve died and gone to heaven.” The Fine Arts Center’s large second-floor El Pomar Gallery underwent a massive transformation to accommodate this work. The exhibition will be on display through September 30.
- Andrea Zittel has been awarded the Frederick Kiesler Prize for Architecture and the Arts 2012. The international jury is paying tribute to Zittel as a “leading artist at mid-career, who is both influential and somewhat under-recognized.” She was selected primarily for her experimental and innovative work that has extended the dialogue of contemporary art and ideas.
- William Wegman: Hello Nature is now on view at Bowdoin College Museum of Art (Brunswick, Maine). The show displays more than 100 works, including photographs, videos, paintings and drawings, from the artist’s personal collection. Also, the show includes examples of works not usually associated with William Wegman – i.e. paintings that insert postcards into a larger landscape, illustrations from nature books and collages. The show runs through October 21.
- Kerry James Marshall‘s recent interview appeared in the July/August issue of Art+Auction magazine. He discusses the black arts movement of the 1970s when African-American artists whose works were politically charged were largely marginalized, leading to what is now referred to as “post-black” art. A video clip of this interview is online.
- Allora & Calzadilla‘s work will be featured by Kaldor Public Art (Australia). Stop, Repair, Prepare will be performed on the hour, every hour, like the chiming of a clock. Commencing at 11am daily with final performances at 8pm Monday–Thursday, and 5pm Friday–Saturday. This performance will be on view in the Cowen Gallery at Melbourne’s State Library of Victoria from November 16–December 6.
- Richard Serra will present the Jeff Koons-designed “balloon bunnies” for the 2012 National Arts Awards that will be given to Microsoft co-founder and philanthropist Paul G. Allen, Pop artist James Rosenquist, actor Brian Stokes Mitchell, musician Josh Groban, and philanthropist Lin Arison. The honorees will receive their awards amidst a special installation of works by Julie Mehretu. This event takes place October 15.
- Last Sunday’s New York Times featured an article about Alison Klayman’s documentary film on Ai Wei Wei. Klayman’s film, titled Ai Wei Wei: Never Sorry, opened in New York last Friday. You can read the online version of the article on the New York Times’s website here.
In this week’s roundup, Julie Mehretu and Janine Antoni cross borders and cultures, Kiki Smith designs an outdoor fountain, Mark Bradford collaborates with Benjamin Millepied, and more.
- Julie Mehretu‘s work is in Pothole at Salon 94 (NYC). This exhibition features work that assumes a “21st century virtual form, crossing cities and borders.” The group exhibition is an artistic dialogue based on diverse practices that have commonalities including a strong expressionist sensibility as well as an attraction to untraditional, handmade and often “low” materials. Pothole celebrates Mehretu and her colleagues and friends. The work is on view through July 6.
- Lucas Blalock is part of a group show at Richard Telles Fine Art (Los Angeles). In Formwandler Blalock contributes photographs depicting ordinary objects that become estranged from the norm. Mixing digital images with “objective” reality, the artist wills a crease in the apparent seamlessness of lies captured by the camera. Embracing every genre, trick, or technique in the book, Blalock helps initiate a renewed shift in the materiality and space within the photographic image. This show closes August 18.
- Kiki Smith designed an outdoor fountain for Tyra Banks’ TZONE, to be located at the Lower Eastside Girls Club (LESGC) in New York City. The resource center will also include a commercial training kitchen, screening room, health and wellness center, art studio, planetarium, and rooftop farm. The building is set to open in January 2013 as the permanent home of the LESGC.
- Janine Antoni and several other artists have work on view spanning two boroughs in New York City. Caribbean: Crossroads of the World has over 500 works on display including painting, sculpture, artist books, photography, video, and historical artifacts from Caribbean countries, Europe, and the U.S. Located at El Museo del Barrio (through January 6, 2013), the Queens Museum of Art (also through January 6), and the Studio Museum in Harlem (through October 21), this exhibition concludes over a decade of collaborative research on the Caribbean, its people, nations, and artistic currents.
- Mark Bradford will soon collaborate with choreographer Benjamin Millepied’s LA Dance Project that will make a sneak-peak debut July and August, with performances in the galleries of the Museum of Contemporary Art Los Angeles (MOCA Grand Avenue). Millepied is creating a 30-minute, site-specific duet, Framework, to a narrated soundtrack by Bradford. This performance was inspired by two large Bradford paintings in MOCA’s current exhibition “The Painting Factory: Art After Warhol,” Untitled (2011) and Ghost and Stooges (2011).
- Maya Lin was interviewed by Yale Environment 360 contributor Diane Toomey. In Maya Lin: A Memorial to A Vanishing Natural World the artist talks about the origins of her What is Missing? project, the media techniques she and her collaborators are using to draw attention to the biodiversity crisis, and the actions that give her hope that we can reverse the tide of nature’s destruction.
- Louise Bourgeois‘ Spider 1 is on view in the Grand Gallery on the first floor of the American Museum of Natural History. This work is part of Spiders Alive!, an exhibition that features 42,000 species of spiders from around the world. This exhibition closes December 2.
In this week’s roundup, Doris Salcedo’s rose shroud, several Art21 artists in documenta 13, Do Ho Suh’s Fallen Star, Paul McCarthy’s 30-foot ketchup bottle, and much more.
- Doris Salcedo’s first London show since 2007 is now on view at White Cube. Doris Salcedo: Mason’s Yard includes A Flor de Piel, an enormous shroud made up of thousands of rose petals connected to each other in a suspended state and which may transform during the course of the exhibition. This work was developed as a sculpture that was about the simple but impossible task of making a flower offering to a victim of torture. The exhibition closes June 30.
- Allora & Calzadilla, Ida Applebroog, Mark Dion, William Kentridge and Julie Mehretu are in documenta 13. This exhibition series located in Kassel is dedicated to artistic research and forms of imagination that explore commitment, matter, things, embodiment, and active living in connection with, yet not subordinated to, theory. The exhibition runs June 6 – September 16.
- Rashid Johnson‘s work is in An Architect’s Dream, a group exhibition in Washington, DC that focuses on the concept of arrangement and presentation as a unifying formal device. Johnson explores the nuanced transformations of black history and culture between his own family’s generations. This work continues his interest in the intellectuals and creative provocateurs of African American history.
- Jeff Koons kicked off Studio in a School’s Visual Arts Appreciation Week. He visited a second-grade class at PS 112 in NYC. Fred Wilson and Ursula von Rydingsvard also visited classes as part of this program.
In this week’s roundup, Jessica Stockholder’s new Chicago installation buzz, several artists’ works at SFMOMA, Pepón Osorio’s science fiction exploration, Richard Tuttle’s residency at the Getty, Laurie Anderson’s SVA commencement speech, and more.
- Jessica Stockholder‘s Color Jam will soon be completed at the intersection of State & Adams (Chicago). This outdoor installation features splashes of colored vinyl that will flood the streets and sidewalks, resolving in tight formation across the lower facades of neighboring buildings. The official opening is Tuesday June 5th, but if you live in Chicago, you can glimpse the installation action any evening over the next week. Or check out the streaming video feed.
- Richard Tuttle will be the artist in residence at the Getty Research Institute from September 2012 through June 2013. While pursuing his own research projects, the artist will have opportunities to collaborate with curatorial and conservation staff, give presentations, and participate in seminars at the Getty. The GRI will organize related public events as well a variety of lectures and conferences that will include the local academic community. The research theme for this round is color.
- Jenny Holzer has a new solo exhibition at Sprüth Magers (London). Sophisticated Devices explores ways in which Holzer makes narrative a part of visual objects, employing an innovative range of materials and presentations to confront emotions and experiences, politics and conflict. This work includes spray paint canvases, granite benches, LED works, painted signs, and cast plaques. The show is on view through July 28.
- John Baldessari, Vija Celmins, Mary Heilmann, Kerry James Marshall, Robert Ryman, Julie Mehretu and Lari Pittman are featured in Contemporary Painting, 1960 to the Present: Selections from the SFMOMA Collection. In the context of media-based works in contemporary culture, the exhibition at San Francisco Museum of Modern Art showcases the variety of styles and strategies artists have engaged to breathe new life into painting and to explore the medium’s expansive possibilities. The exhibition runs through August 12.
- Pepón Osorio‘s work is in Who More Sci-Fi Than Us, contemporary art from the Caribbean at Kunsthal KAdE (Netherlands). This exhibition features work by a representative selection of contemporary artists from all over the Caribbean. The show focuses on a shared identity, shared history and shared socio-economic conditions: a combination of factors that has produced a certain surreal way of communicating, both in words and images. This work is on view through August 26.
- Louise Bourgeois‘s work is on view for the first time in Korea, at Kukje Gallery (Seoul). Personages showcases fourteen pieces created between the 1940s and the early 1950s that established Bourgeois as one of the most prominent sculptors after World War II. The exhibition closes June 29.
- Mark Bradford‘s With That Ass, They Won’t Look at Your Eyes is on view at the UTEP Rubin Center in El Paso, TX. The show displays Bradford’s largest painting to date, a 40 feet wide mural about the Bill of Rights. The video installation Niagara (2005) will also be on display. This exhibition runs through August 31.
- Laurie Anderson recently addressed faculty, students and their families at the School of Visual Arts 2012 Commencement Exercises. Anderson explained, “The reason I’m an artist is that it’s one of the few things that you can do in this world in which you are totally free – absolutely no one tells you what you can do and what you can’t do.”
- Bruce Nauman’s seminal work Days is coming to the Institute of Contemporary Arts (London). This is a sound installation which presents a continuous stream of voices reciting the days of the week in random order. Fourteen flat panel speakers will be installed in the lower gallery, one voice emanating from each pair of speakers as the visitor passes between them. The exhibition will run June 19 – September 16.
In this week’s roundup Martin Puryear has new sculpture, James Turrell unveils a new Skyspace, Mark Bradford, Glenn Ligon and Julie Mehretu explore contemporary painting, and more.
- Martin Puryear: New Sculpture is on view at the McKee Gallery (NYC). This is the first exhibition of Martin Puryear’s work since his retrospective at The Museum of Modern Art (NYC) in 2007. In the current show some works are supported on wheels, some resemble relics, traverse the history of time, or spiral upwards towards unknown mysteries. The exhibition closes June 29.
- James Turrell‘s latest Skyspace is featured in CultureMap Houston, who interviewed the artist before the formal dedication at Rice University last week. The outdoor installation is encased within a large mound and topped with a elevated flat roof containing a large square window. Inside the space observers will see the Houston sky with new eyes when they peer through the ceiling as an interior lighting display changes colors for an otherworldly optical effect.
- Mark Bradford, Glenn Ligon, and Julie Mehretu are in The Painting Factory: Abstraction After Warhol at the Museum of Contemporary Art (Los Angeles). The exhibition examines how a painting tradition that was once seen as essentially reductive has now become expansive, bringing popular culture and current technology into its vocabulary. Rather than reducing itself to a narrow definition of the medium, it has re-emerged as an arena where opposing concepts can invigorate each other. This work is on view through August 20. Continue reading »
This week I took a break from my Digital Media doctoral studies at Georgia Tech to see Sanford Biggers’ new work, Codex. Biggers was the first visual art recipient of the Greenfield Prize and his commission was recently installed at the Ringling Museum of Art in Sarasota, FL. I also recently discussed the artist’s Mandala of the B-Bodhisattva II that was on display at Emory University’s Visual Arts Gallery in Atlanta. Biggers merges symbols/codes/objects from the past with contemporary expressions such as hip-hop culture (b-boying). In Codex, he repurposes historical quilts that may have been used on the Underground Railroad as signposts, signaling “stations,” or safe houses. These works re-imagine cultural-historical artifacts of the past using materials of the present to consider possible futures.
“Harriet Tubman was an astronaut, traversing the south to the north by navigating the stars.” – Sanford Biggers
Some scholars argue that African slave artists and craftspeople used quilts much like NASA scientists use star charts. A star chart is a map of the night sky and Underground Railroad Conductor Harriet Tubman may have used one of these charts or quilts to lead dozens of slaves to freedom using the North Star as a guide. Accordingly, Biggers’ use of slave quilts as source material for his art makes reference to Tubman and the secret routes she traveled. One can imagine Tubman creating a model of the sky in her mind or seeking signs along the way, whereas Biggers re-uses quilts – mostly donated by the descendants of slave owners – to connect the past and the present. His quilts provide a base for decorative designs taken from a diverse range of sources. The artist uses spray painted stencils, cloud and wave motifs heavily influenced by the Edo period in Japanese art, sacred geometry (geometric design), and free-floating and floor-level raw cotton “clouds.”
In this week’s roundup, Ann Hamilton’s La Jolla mural, photography by Collier Schorr and Carrie Mae Weems, and more.
- Ann Hamilton‘s mural, the sixth and final work in the first phase of the Murals of La Jolla project (spearheaded by the La Jolla Community Foundation), is scheduled to be installed this week. The Murals of La Jolla (San Diego, CA) seeks to promote dialogue and connection among residents as well as to enhance the beauty and aesthetic character of the community. More information regarding the Hamilton mural is forthcoming on the La Jolla website.
- Collier Schorr‘s photos are featured in Composed: Identity, Politics, Sex, an exhibition at The Jewish Museum (NYC). The show features seven photo-based contemporary artists. Using conventional forms of photography, including portraiture, photojournalism, and online profile pictures, the artists illuminate the complex identities of a wide range of characters, emphasizing stereotypes, in order to obscure individual differences. The show closes June 30.
- Carrie Mae Weems is in An Orchestrated Vision: The Theater of Contemporary Photography at the St. Louis Art Museum in Missouri. On view will be over 40 works from an international group of artists including Weems. Seen together, the works reveal the remarkable potential of the photographic medium in contemporary artistic practice. This exhibition is on view through May 13.
- Cai Guo-Qiang‘s Sky Ladder exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art Los Angeles featured a massive explosion of rockets and other fireworks, titled Mystery Circle. Sky Ladder is open at MOCA LA through July 30 and includes three gunpowder paintings, a crop circle installation, and videos of the various detonations. Viewers can also see the scorch marks from the explosion event on the side of the building. MOCA shot video of the event from many angles, and composed a video that combines these views:
- Excavations: The Prints of Julie Mehretu at the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center (Poughkeepsie, NY) will display twenty of Julie Mehretu’s prints that highlight the progression of her personal language of lines and marks. This exhibition showcases Mehretu’s decade-long engagement with printmaking, where the discipline of printing (and thinking) in multiple layers informs her work in all media. The show is open through June 17.
In this week’s roundup, a Catherine Sullivan collaboration in Chicago, Mark Dion is in the record, Marina Abramović and Eleanor Antin perform identity, Cai Guo-Qiang and Hiroshi Sugimoto blur the line between art and commerce, and more.
- Catherine Sullivan and Company’s Inaugurals is now on view at the Logan Center (Chicago). The two works in this exhibition, The Last Days of British Honduras and Ice Floes of Franz Joseph Land, were filmed in Chicago and in locations that opened themselves to creative interpretation. These works feature Catherine Sullivan in collaboration with other artists. This exhibition is on view through April 22.
- Mark Dion and several other artists are featured in Miami Art Museum’s The Record: Contemporary Art and Vinyl, a group show that digs into the relationship between vinyl culture and contemporary art. Through sculpture, installation, drawing, painting, photography, sound work, video and performance, this exhibition combines contemporary art with outsider art, audio with visual, and fine art with popular culture. The show closes June 10.
- Mark Dion is also profiled in the March 30, 2012 issue of the New York Times’ Style Magazine from this past weekend.
- Judy Pfaff‘s work was selected for Tandem Press: 25 Years of Printmaking at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Created to foster research, collaboration, experimentation and innovation in the field of printmaking, Tandem Press produces museum-quality fine art prints by nationally recognized artists. The exhibition will run until May 11.
- Allan McCollum and Laurie Simmons have work in Blondeau Fine Art Services’ (Geneva) Last Exit: Pictures. The show explores the rivalry between photography and painting, as well as appropriationist theories which were fiercely debated at the time. The title is a reference to a Thomas Lawson work, which was released in 1981, advocating the importance of painting in the emergence of this practice. This work is on view through April 21.
If Print/Out: 20 Years in Print is any indication, those in the business of print criticism, scholarship, curatorial work, and production will soon be the rarest of breeds. In his highly anticipated survey of the state of the medium, recently-minted Chief Curator of Prints and Illustrated Books Christophe Cherix posits the end of printmaking’s singular identity, announcing a future in which prints “will simply be called ‘art.’” (Print/Out: 20 Years in Print [New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 2012], 27). With these words, he predicts the integration of printmaking into contemporary art practice – a future in which the medium’s essential “reproducibility, capacity for distribution, and … collaborative nature” (ibid.) serves the aims of artists of any ilk (even those who would shun the idea of making prints) while the traditional approach to printmaking as a specialized art form produced in limited editions under the wing of a professional workshop, will fade in importance.
Though Cherix states that the exhibition “embraces the versatile, global, and even muddled nature of contemporary art in the last two decades” (ibid., 15) it in fact presents a fairly unilateral view, privileging conceptual work and unconventional uses of materials. Due to the fact that most of the works are deeply steeped in ideas, a considerable investment of time and contemplation is required of visitors (reading the catalogue essay is mandatory to arrive at a meaningful level of understanding). For example, the first objects to greet the eye are four altered screenprints by Martin Kippenberger titled Inhalt auf Reisen (Content on Tour) (1992), part of a handful of interrelated projects in various formats created in the late 1980s and early 1990s through which the artist questioned the notion of appropriation – following the full trajectory of this work requires an advanced level of mental gymnastics. Depending on one’s proclivity, this can be either thrilling or tiresome; critic Ian Volner of Capital New York, for example, hails the exhibition’s ability to “dilate our sense of print’s potential on and off the page.” This may indeed be the case if one invests the effort required, but even then, there are omissions and questions – when thinking of artists who have stretched the meaning and uses of printmaking in recent years, Richard Tuttle and Nancy Spero come to mind, as do Swoon and Nicola López, but none of these artists, nor any others working in this vein, are represented.