“In societies where modern conditions of production prevail, all of life presents itself as an immense accumulation of spectacles. Everything that was directly lived has moved away into a representation.” —Guy Debord (1931-1994)
In the spring of 2011, the UK-based interventionist art duo known as Benrik launched Situationist, an iPhone app influenced by the mid-century avant-garde movement of the same name. Designed to “make your everyday life more thrilling and unpredictable,” the app used geolocation technology to alert members to each other’s proximity and encourage them to interact in random situations. Curiosity got the best of me; I could not help but pull out my phone and investigate this orchestration of spontaneity. For better or worse, Situationist had already come and gone. It turns out that Apple banned the app due to unauthorized use of its location services. According to the app’s creators, this action was a “capitalist suppression of a post-Marxist subversive use of their fetishistic technology.” Even so, the buzz generated by the software remains, as demonstrated by its inclusion in MoMA’s recent exhibition Talk to Me: Design and the Communication between People and Objects.
I am thus left to my own devices when interacting with strangers. Happily. Truth be told, life is unpredictable enough these days as it is. Yet the novelty of the app inspired more serious inquiry into the historical aims of the Situationist International movement and how those ideas might be increasingly relevant in the context of modern day society and contemporary art practice. The ideal of constructing situations and creating experimental encounters is especially relevant to current art trends. While site-specific practice staked its claim as a serious player in the art world decades ago, there is an interesting shift with the proliferation of biennials happening around the globe and an increased sense of displacement for artists. Emphasis on experience as a state of flux is on the forefront for many negotiating the cultural realities of late capitalism. Considering the search for meaningful engagement in a society that feels increasingly fragmented, certain aspects of Situationist theory are more topical than ever.
In this week’s roundup Eleanor Antin reads from her memoir, Judy Pfaff presents her work, Cai Guo-Qiang to appear at the NY Public Library, Rashid Johnson explores new typologies and more.
- Eleanor Antin will be “taking over” Art21′s Twitter account on Friday, October 26 at 2:00 p.m. EST. Through posts of 140 characters or less, the artist will ”read” stanzas of a story from her memoir, Conversations with Stalin, before embarking on four New York-based performances (see below). The artist encourages audience participation throughout, and will respond to questions submitted by audience members following the live Twitter “reading.” The event will take place from 2:00–3:00 p.m. EST on Twitter. Follow along with@Art21 and the hashtag #AntinCWS, ask questions, and see what else Eleanor Antin has to say.
- Eleanor Antin will also present a four-part series of readings from Conversations with Stalin, about growing up in Cold War–era New York in a dysfunctional family of first-generation Jewish immigrants. Readings will take place at these locations: October 28, 2:30pm, The Jewish Museum; October 30, 7pm, Columbia University School of the Arts; November 1, 7pm, Brooklyn Museum; and November 2, 6:30pm, Whitney Museum of American Art.
- Judy Pfaff is showing her work at Ameringer McEnery Yohe (NYC). This exhibition highlights the artist’s use of steel, glass, florescent lights, found objects, root systems of trees, paper and other materials. Her work is “ordered in the way that nature is ordered, without boundaries.” This show is on view through November 10.
- Cai Guo-Qiang will participate in a discussion and book signing for Cai Guo-Qiang: Ladder to the Sky at the New York Public Library. The book features a rich sampling of Cai’s diverse oeuvre, from never-before-published early works to new works commissioned for a major exhibition at The Museum of Contemporary Art. This event will take place October 30, 6pm–8pm. This event is free and open to the public.
- Rashid Johnson presents new work at the David Kordansky Gallery (Los Angeles). Coup d’état, Johnson’s second solo exhibition at the gallery, features new works in a variety of materials, in which wood, mirrored tile and wax are used as grounds for a series of mark-making strategies; as well as a series of floor-based works that use rugs as supports for further gestures. Among these are several works that represent new typologies for the artist. The show closes November 10.
Bricolage is a French word, with no direct equivalent in English. It connotes the process of finding out how to make things work, not from standard rules or methods but from messing around with whatever materials are on hand. This term suggests a sense of improvisation and tinkering that transforms the context and meaning of these objects, such as in works created by Sarah Sze. This is an important concept in contemporary art production and entrepreneurship. Michael Rush notes postmodern aesthetics discourse regarding how recent social-economic changes produce particular structures of feeling or cultural logics that are reflected in new art forms. Postmodernism also implies that we’ve run out of things to say. I think that we need to cast a much broader net to capture the spirit of the moment we’re in now; and expand definitions to capture innovative ideas such as the free use of digital images, objects and information. Holland Wilde writes that a bricoleur produces a “pieced-together set of representations that is fitted to the specifics of a complex situation…(it) is pragmatic, strategic and self-reflexive.” This blog post highlights artists and works as part of evolving creative practices that explore the spatial, social and cultural (technovernacular) dimensions of the material and virtual in a variety of ways.
I was invited to write a piece about Colliding Complexities_Extreme feats of the New York_New Aesthetic currently at view at Storefront Bushwick that features New York artists whose works navigate complex methods of production in the physical and digital realms. Their re-deployment of the New Aesthetic has as its core theme the “utilization of technological tools to augment our view of the contemporary world.” The New Aesthetic is understood as New Media without the “Media,” and, according to Bruce Sterling, concerns itself with “an explosion of the digital into the physical.” The art in Colliding Complexities exemplifies this concept from the perspective of “digital native” artists Pedro Barbeito, [dNASAb], Cliff Evans, Carla Gannis, Shane Hope, Michael Rees, John F. Simon Jr, Vargas-Suarez Universal, Oliver Warden and Marius Watz (who was recently interviewed for the Art21 Blog). Sterling writes that artists are “frontiersmen” of the “NEW” in their decision to adopt the tools of the “NOW,” to encourage further discourse and collaboration in the delineation of what constitutes the New Aesthetic in contemporary art.
In this week’s roundup Sarah Sze to be honored, Robert Adams depicts seabirds, Hiroshi Sugimoto with Mark Rothko, Mike Kelley’s plush sculptures are on display, and more.
- Sarah Sze will be honored by the American Federation of Arts (AFA) on October 24, 2012, at the Metropolitan Club (NYC). This will take place at AFA’s 2012 Gala & Cultural Leadership Award event. This AFA award is presented annually to artists, museum leaders, and philanthropists in recognition of their outstanding contributions to the art and museum community. Sze will be introduced by Klaus Biesenbach, Director of MoMA PS1 and a Chief Curator at Large at the Museum of Modern Art.
- Robert Adams: On Any Given Day in Spring & Light Balances is now on view at Matthew Marks Gallery (NYC). Light Balances refers to a group of photographs made between 2005 and 2011 in a protected forest around the Columbia River estuary near the town of Astoria, Oregon where Robert Adams has lived since 1997. The 30 photographs in the show depict flocks of seabirds on the North Beach Peninsula in Washington State. The exhibition runs through November 3. You can view a video walkthrough of the exhibition here.
- Carrie Mae Weems‘s new book is featured at Time LightBox. Carrie Mae Weems: Three Decades of Photography and Video highlights over 200 of the artist’s most important works. Accompanying essays by leading scholars explore Weems’s interest in folklore, her focus on the spoken and written word, the performative aspect of her constructed tableaux, and her expressions of black beauty. The book will be released on October 3. A retrospective exhibition is also on view at the Frist Center in Nashville through January 13, 2013.
- Hiroshi Sugimoto‘s photographs will be juxtaposed with Mark Rothko paintings to inaugurate the Pace Gallery’s new London location. Rothko/Sugimoto: Dark Paintings and Seascapes aims to explore the philosophical kinship between the artists and their quest to explore space and emotion through a limited color range. The exhibition will run October 4 – November 17.
- Josiah McElheny and Rodney Graham have work on view at the Donald Young Gallery (Chicago) as part of the series In the Spirit of Walser. McElheny presents two works based on a short story by Robert Walser, A Painterʼs Life (1916), both of which recall McElheny’s work on mirrors and more recently his exploration of the potential of color. The show closes November 1.
- Mike Kelley‘s Deodorized Central Mass with Satellites will soon be on display at the Perry Rubenstein Gallery (Los Angeles). This marks the first time the work has been presented in a museum or gallery since 1999, as well as its first-ever fully realized exhibition in the United States. The installation consists of a thirteen-part hanging plush sculpture, surrounded by slick geometric wall reliefs which fill the room with a subtle chemical pine scent. The exhibition will run November 2 – December 15.
Our latest Exclusive video short is now live! Click to watch “Sarah Sze: Improvisation” on Art21. org.
Filmed in 2010 at the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art in Nice, France, Sarah Sze discusses the importance of improvisation and spontaneity during her installation process. Originally shown at her New York City gallery, Sze altered “The Uncountables (Encyclopedia),” (2010) for its reinstallation in France by incorporating locally found items. Sze’s use of improvisation allows for viewers to trace her decision making process as they explore and investigate the artwork.
Sarah Sze is featured in the Season 6 (2012) episode “Balance” 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: Susan Sollins. Field Producer: Agnes Jammal. Camera: Miguel Sanchez Martin. Sound: Roger Phenix. Editor: Morgan Riles & Mark Sutton. Artwork Courtesy: Sarah Sze & Tanya Bonakdar Gallery. Special Thanks: Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Nice. Theme Music: Peter Foley.
In each of our new season 6 episodes, not to mention throughout the entire Art21 series, there are superb quotes to share with students, colleagues and friends as kickstarters for discussions, assignments- even as a way to challenge assumptions we make in our work as artists and educators. This week I want to highlight a few quotes from the Balance episode and reflect on some of what each quote can inspire or teach, even across disciplines. During the summer I will then revisit the “Kickstarters” posts to focus on other quotes from the remaining episodes.
I don’t think of myself as being a landscape painter. In the popular envisioning of that term, a landscape consists of a painting with a field and a pond and a tree and a mountain in the distance, etc. It’s a sort of recipe thing. I hope very much that my paintings don’t look like recipe paintings, that I’ve gone to other places and seen something different. – Rackstraw Downes
What I like most about this quote is that Downes reminds us that he goes to “other” places for inspiration, which is essentially what we ask of our students on a regular basis. He makes clear that he has seen “something different” and wants to share this vision. He also gets to remove the box that a description like “landscape painter” may very well put him in. As teachers, we want our students to look beyond the obvious and at details in order to make sense of the complexity that comes with seeing a bigger picture. We want them to cultivate an individuality that steers clear of most labels.
I like setting up problems for the viewer and that viewer isn’t someone detached from me. I’m the viewer. I’m the first viewer. – Robert Mangold
The power of using this quote by Robert Mangold comes from re-visioning who the “viewer” actually is. If the artist is the first viewer then the effect a work has on the artist can inform how to shape the work for others to experience. Mangold also emphasizes “setting up” problems and intentionally giving himself something to figure out in order to learn something new. Think about how different some assignments would be if we simply asked, “So what kind of problem are you setting up for yourself here?”
My whole body of work has this kind of flexible, mutable quality. It has the rawness of a studio, or the rawness of a laboratory where things could happen, where things could fall apart. – Sarah Sze
As Sarah Sze discusses her work, she spotlights how many artists today are making art that is elastic in some way. But she is also talking about taking risks, which we emphasize is a big part of learning in all disciplines. Taking a chance where in fact things CAN fall apart simultaneously holds the promise of, “What can we learn if it doesn’t?”
Until next week…
“I am for art that unfolds like a map, that you can squeeze, like your sweeties arm, or kiss, like a pet dog. Which expands and squeaks, like an accordion, which you can spill your dinner on, like an old tablecloth.”
-Claes Oldenburg, from “I am For an Art”
I have just traveled from Michigan to New York to San Diego, a task worthy of some sort of honorable mention, or a cold beer on the finish line at least; both of which I have received informally. After the end of year flurry at Cranbrook Academy of Art, my husband and a friend of ours packed our studios and cars, and headed east at 3:00 am. Call us crazy, but we wanted to make it to a friends’ first solo show in the Lower East Side the next night at 6:00 pm. With our map unfolded in front of us (via Google), and the darkness of the Detroit sky around us, we headed East. I have transcribed here notes from the road, where art and life somehow spilled together; sites, sounds, galleries, and landscape equally enticing our active minds. From the concrete jungle of New York, to the open skies of the desert, both art galleries and roadside attractions seemed to fufill the same visual longing for us travelers.
We arrived to the Marc Straus Gallery in New York after a full day of driving, where we were greeted by cold PBRs and a slew of Cranbrook alums; some of which I had literally seen days earlier at school. The artist, Martha Myskos, filled the upstairs gallery with an impressive grouping of disparate sculptural moments that all seemed to work together as a unified installation. Seeing a fellow Cranbrookian taking on a show of this scope was an encouraging and enriching experience.
In this week’s roundup, Cai Guo-Qiang plans a close encounter, several artists’ works are best in show at AICA, Jenny Holzer and Kiki Smith are in Fashion Moda, Glenn Ligon’s work is reviewed, and much more.
- Cai Guo-Qiang is planning to have a close encounter of the third kind at MOCA’s Geffen Contemporary. For the site-specific Mystery Circle: Explosion Event for the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles the artist will set off three stages of explosions to kick-off a show that will continue on a theme he’s been long exploring: the possibility of life in outer space. This event will take place on April 7.
- Sarah Sze, Ursula von Rydingsvard, Lari Pittman, and Ai Weiwei and Glenn Ligon (upcoming Season 6 artists) will receive awards from the Art Critics’ Association (AICA). Sze’s Still Life with Landscape (Model for a Habitat) and Ai’s Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads won Best Project in a Public Space. Ursula von Rydingsvard: Sculpture 1991-2009 won Best Show in a Non-Profit Gallery or Space. Lari Pittman: New Paintings and Orangerie won Best Show in a Commercial Gallery Nationally. Glenn Ligon: AMERICA won Best Monographic Museum Show in New York. Awards will be presented at a ceremony at the Asia Society in NYC on April 2.
- Jenny Holzer and Kiki Smith among several other artists have work on view at the Neuberger Museum of Art of Purchase College (NY). The Fashion Moda Stores, 1982, Selections from Documenta 7 is an exhibition of approximately thirty small sculptures, wearable art, and ephemera that were made in multiples and sold in the Fashion Moda “stores” at Documenta 7, the modern and contemporary art exhibition held periodically in Kassel, Germany. The exhibition will be on view through May 6, 2012.
- William Kentridge: Five Themes explores the key themes of William Kentridge’s career from the 80s until today and is on view at the Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI). The show includes the artist’s direction of The Magic Flute and the animated films he developed for a 2010 production of Dmitri Shostakovich’s The Nose at the Metropolitan Opera in New York. There are 60 works on display ranging from animations, drawings and prints to theatre models, sculptures and books. This exhibition closes May 27. Continue reading »
In this week’s roundup, Sarah Sze finds a home for everyday objects, several artists’ work at Whitney Biennial 2012, Cindy Sherman’s MoMA retrospective and more.
- Sarah Sze, featured in the upcoming Season 6 of Art in the Twenty-First Century and chosen for Venice Biennale 2013, currently has work at Mudam Luxembourg (Luxembourg). Fixed Points Finding a Home is a site-specific installation for which the artists utilizes everyday objects such as tea bags, water bottles, light bulbs, and electric fans. Mudam invited Sze to make a new installation for their Pavilion and her work is on view through September 16. The following video has been posted online.
- Charles Atlas, LaToya Ruby Frazier, Mike Kelley and several other artists have work on display at the Whitney Biennial 2012, which is dedicated to Kelley (1954-2012). This is the first Whitney Biennial in which nearly a full floor of the Museum has been given over to a changing season of performances, events, and residencies. In the following video Frazier discusses her work in the exhibition, focusing on her self-portraits in the Homebody Series (2010). This work is on view through May 27.
- Cindy Sherman has a landmark retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art (NYC) that includes more than 170 photographs tracing the artist’s career from the mid 1970s to the present. In conjunction with the show, the artist has selected films from MoMA’s collection, which will be screened in MoMA’s theaters during the course of the exhibition. This work is on view until June 11.
- Do-Ho Suh‘s “giant tornado of piggybacked men” is currently on view at the Academic Instructional Center at Western Washington University (Bellingham, WA). Cause & Effect is a vast ceiling installation made up of densely hung strands connected to thousands of colorful figures stacked atop one another. The work “metaphorically places the individual within an intricate web of destiny and fate.”
- Robert Adams, Robert Bechtle and Ewan Gibbs have an exhibition at the Timothy Taylor Gallery (London). This exhibition highlights works that create deeply personal yet iconic images of America. Photography is at the core of the exhibition – although Adams is the only photographer – and Adams’s selected works include a series of 1970s black and white photographs that document developing urbanization in Denver, CO. The show closes March 24.
- Richard Tuttle‘s and several other artists’ works are on display at the Parasol Unit Foundation for Contemporary Art (London). Lines of Thought explores the work of fifteen contemporary artists who either use line in creative and challenging ways or in whose finished work line has become a prominent element. Tuttle’s works evolve out of a radical reduction of this visual element. The exhibition runs until May 13.
- Shahzia Sikander represents the contemporary part of Gifts of the Sultan: The Arts of Giving at the Islamic Courts at the Museum of Islamic Art (Doha, Qatar). This traveling international exhibition explores Islamic art through the universal tradition of gift-giving. Sikander was invited to create work that draws inspiration from her own cultural tradition and to produce new work interpreting the theme of Gifts of the Sultan. This exhibition makes its third appearance March 19 – June 2.
In this week’s roundup, Charles Atlas projects videos with numbers and grids, Rashid Johnson is honored, Sarah Sze to represent the U.S. at the 2013 Venice Biennale, Mike Kelley is honored in LA, Maya Lin re-creates nature, Jessica Stockholder will create a Chicago color jam, a Barry McGee cocktail drink in Miami (!), and more.
- Charles Atlas has a new exhibition at Luhring Augustine Project Space in the Bushwick neighborhood of Brooklyn. The Illusion of Democracy features video installations and projections that combine mathematical and diagrammatic images with art historical precedents to create moving vistas of floating numbers and grids. This work is on view until May 20. A user-generated video posted online documents the show:
- Mark Bradford is at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art through June 17 and at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts through May 27. This is Bradford‘s first major museum survey of paintings, sculptures, and multimedia works to be presented on the West Coast. The selection of works captures the development of the artist’s sensibility, from modest-sized canvases to monumental public projects, and from purely formal investigations of material to engagement with sociopolitical questions.
- Rashid Johnson had been named a winner of the 2012 David C. Driskell prize by the High Museum of Art in Atlanta. The prize is annually presented to an artist who is “in the beginning or middle of his or her career whose work makes an original and important contribution to the field of African-American art or art history. Continue reading »