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KEEP IT IN THE GROUND
From mindful Minimalism to inaction as activism.
In an untidy studio, on the outlines of a whitish square taped to the floor, Bruce Nauman dances. The movements in Dance or Exercise on the Perimeter of a Square (Square Dance), choreographed by Meredith Monk, are simple yet hard to describe. Nauman's left foot repeatedly slaps a corner of the square, then the centerline, after which his right foot slaps the other corner, and in this way he moves himself around all four sides. This film is the earliest work in Enacting Stillness, a sixteen-artist exhibition at The 8th Floor, the Shelley and Donald Rubin Foundation's gallery space in Manhattan. It posits a crucial question: What is stillness? And following naturally: What kind of stillness?[ Read More ]
A body has a degree of hardness as well as a degree of fluidity, or that it is essentially elastic, the elastic force of bodies being the expression of the active compressive force exerted on matter. When a boat reaches a certain speed a wave becomes as hard as a wall of marble.
"You can't tell if they're about leisure or about horror and drowning."
Katherine Bradford paints people flying, floating, and wading in a range of environments, from outer space to sandy beaches. The paintings in her 2016 exhibition Fear of Waves at CANADA were joyful, sad, gritty, and filled with a fear of what circles under the surface.
Bradford and I sat down in her studio and had a conversation about art and how community is necessary to survive as an artist. We discussed her paintings of swimmers and the need for monsters to become part of the narrative.[ Read More ]
The puzzling pathos of sport, apparel, and the everyday.
Since we were pretty freaked by our own adolescent bods, the locker-room showers at my school went un-splashed after PE class. Empty, they reeked of sadness—the cement floor and clanging locker doors coated with stale sweat, the shower stalls forever moist and mildewy, nozzles and knobs poking out from the uniform grid of tiles on the wall.[ Read More ]
De-radicalizing the monochrome.
For some people, the old end-game of black painting still elicits a thrill. I am one of them. The first time I saw a slide of the Russian Suprematists' all-black Last Futurist Exhibition of Paintings 0.10, in a modern art survey course, I was hooked. Here, I thought, was the origin of punk: Art as self-annihilation, as total confrontation, as wiping the slate clean. Of course, artists have deployed black monochromes in the service of various ideas over the years, from political withdrawal to spiritual contemplation, to signifying an evacuation of subjectivity or marginality (many of these themes were explored in Blackness in Abstraction, a group exhibition curated by Adrienne Edwards at Pace Gallery this past summer.) But even the Suprematists' politics weren't without complication. As Russian researchers from the State Tretyakov Gallery discovered last year, Kazimir Malevich's infamous Black Square (1915) contained a racist handwritten inscription under the dark shape: "Battle of negroes in a dark cave." The endless rhetorical permutations of such a "simple" aesthetic gesture as an all-black painting are the stuff that keeps the wheels of art history turning.[ Read More ]
Inaugurating Deitch’s return to SoHo, Head proved to be little more than sexual provocation.
It would be disingenuous of me not to admit that I was initially attracted to Eddie Peake's work because I was attracted to men, and men—naked, muscled, and sometimes aroused—feature prominently in everything Peake does, whether it's painting, performance, or the landing image on his homepage (which currently is a close-up of his big old boner bathed in red light). The fact that he's straight has irked many, some of whom have confronted him and other artists, namely Jordan Wolfson, for exploiting the complexities of lived, queer experience, reducing it to an easy stereotype for personal artistic gain, as if trying to hedge against their own heteronormativity by window dressing it with something "alternative" and "sexy." Moreover, these artists also turn themselves into sex objects (Peake in his photographs, Wolfson in films like Raspberry Poser), directly soliciting the gay male gaze in a weird twist on old-school, painterly machismo. For a lot of queer people, there's all sorts of wrong happening here.[ Read More ]
This is the second in a series of videos in my new piece Motherland, a lighthearted psychodrama about mommy issues and Hillary Clinton. Motherland's story begins here, in three videos released in a serialized format by BOMB over the next few weeks, in a shadow narrative of the upcoming election. Then, after the results are in, we will film the epilogue to this tale of one ambitious mom and her Weimar millennials.[ Read More ]
"Art, for me, comes out of life. It is the peak of life."
Bruce Weber fell for artist Michele Oka Doner before he even knew who she was; a frequent traveler through Miami International Airport, the noted fashion photographer long admired the terrazzo walkway Oka Doner installed in one of the airport’s terminals, A Walk on the Beach (1995-1999), which was inset with cast bronze and mother of pearl. On the occasion of Oka Doner’s expansive survey of works at the Perez Art Museum, How I Caught a Swallow in Mid Air, Oka Doner and Weber chatted on the phone about banyan trees, an artist’s uniform, and their working process.[ Read More ]
"In a failed system new systems have space to grow."
Graduates of the Center for Curatorial Studies at Bard College and director Paul O’Neill speak with artist Nina Canell on the occasion of her recent international exhibitions.
For Nina Canell, sculpture is a condition. Grounded as much in the chance encounter as in close study, her work places material forms and immaterial forces in proximity, whereby each shapes the other, allowing dynamic relations to emerge. The resulting circuits of things and substances, along with their attendant poetic and linguistic associations, prioritize the generative nature of the interruption, glitch, or noisy signal.
Some works, employing thermodynamics and the alchemical, transmute physical forms, like altering the color of a copper rod with heat or solidifying a bag of powdered concrete with percolated vapor. Others physicalize the intangible, locating communication, for example, in a subterranean cable. Evident in each of these approaches is an understanding of matter as process, whereby things remain in a state of flux vulnerable to both internal and external shifts.[ Read More ]
What a brick can do.
I met Rafa Esparza for the first time in the spring of 2015, in Los Angeles, the city where he grew up and still lives.
We met at the Bowtie, an 18-acre lot by the LA River belonging to the California State Parks Service that looks like nothing else I've seen before, definitely not like any park I've been in before. The Bowtie was the former site of a Southern Pacific Railroad train yard and maintenance facility. None of the built structures remain, only sparse concrete foundations, some paved roads surfacing among the weeds, and railroad tracks still engraved on the ground.
It's called the Bowtie because the knot made by the freeways intersecting nearby (the 5 and the 2) looks like a bow tie. The Bowtie is public: one can just raise the skinny steel gate, walk in, and wander around its desert landscape. Desert but not barren. The river, paved in 1938, has been the site of encounters that exceed the confines of certain institutions. Graffiti writers, furtive lovers, youth groups, and different socials gather and have gathered on the edges of that river, more or less (in)visible to the whiter public.
In the summer of 2014 Rafa started a year-long residency at the Bowtie, facilitated by Clockshop Gallery, a multifaceted arts organization that works for the intersection of cultural production, politics, and urban space. Rafa was one of the artists invited by Clockshop to locate their practice in the Bowtie, thinking about the history and specificity of the space and its public character. During this period he had made the Bowtie his studio, or mixed the ongoing concerns that fuel his practice with the sun, the water, and the dirt that preceded him by the river. What can be done with such a mixture? An army of bricks to transform realities.[ Read More ]
For her residency at the New Museum, Leigh looks at the act of healing through the lens of black female caregivers, educators, and intellectuals.
There were needles piercing my lower back, ankle, and wrist while a warming sensation spread all the way to my fingertips. This was just hours after the news of Philando Castile's fatal shooting by a police officer in Falcon Heights, Minnesota permeated the Internet, and only days after the killings of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge and Delrawn Small in Brooklyn. Three black men in three days… gone, killed by cops. The feeling of crushing fear and anger weighed heavy on my mind, and perhaps even more so on my body. It was pure happenstance that I would find myself on a massage table (of all places) and in actual need of soothing and treating a pain that never seems to go away.[ Read More ]
"I'm a multimedia artist. If it’s not in the museums or history books, then where’s my art history?"
For the past three decades Tony Oursler has been known for his videos, installations, and public projections. But he is also a collector of images—mostly photographs, alongside books, posters, and other objects—which together map esoteric practices and collectives that range from 19th-century spiritualism to ufology and the Baader-Meinhof group. A show of works from this collection, Tony Oursler: The Imponderable Archive, will be on view at the Center for Curatorial Studies, Bard College, through October 30, 2016. A feature-length, immersive 5-D film and large-scale installation, Tony Oursler: Imponderable, is now on view at the Museum of Modern Art through January 8, 2017.
Maika Pollack Why is your film called Imponderable? And why is the Bard show called The Imponderable Archive?
Tony Oursler Recently I became fascinated with early science, reading all these books and taking “The Great Courses” series. I kept coming upon this word imponderable—for example, when reading about Newton's idea that gravity was connected to the moon, that it moves the planets around. It was a major breakthrough, yet he couldn't figure out what the medium was, so he called it imponderable. He got the big picture, but he also knew where his knowledge ended. So the imponderable is a recognition of our limitations. It's an old term, but it doesn't go away. Today, the imponderable is always there in physics, and life in general—that mysterious place outside all our preconceptions. It's what's left when your worldview melts away.[ Read More ]
"How can one express the horrific side of what’s going on in our society without it being a spectacle?"
Depictions of trauma can be blunt, oblique, and sometimes even both. In many cases, trauma is simply beyond representation. In two separate, simultaneous exhibitions at Marian Goodman Gallery in Paris, artists Dara Birnbaum and Matt Saunders explored the terrain of such upheaval and strain—be it world conflict, personal illness, rising seas, or inside the image itself.
Birnbaum and Saunders may seem, prima facie, worlds apart. Birnbaum, for over four decades, has been a master of media intervention. Her video Technology/Transformation: Wonder Woman (1978–79) is a cornerstone of avant-garde and feminist canons. Saunders's camera-less photographs and animated films deliberately dissolve media boundaries, creating a space where painting, photography, and film question their own specificity. But at the gallery and in this conversation, which took place May 4, 2016, their pairing felt completely symbiotic.[ Read More ]
Gabriele Beveridge has quite the eye for sad-looking models in posters—the kind of women who hawk things like hair dye and shampoo. Hanging in the sun too long, the women's faces are now dull and not so lustrous. There's often an equally sad-looking, droopy, blown-glass bubble hanging off Beveridge’s picture frames, like a deflated balloon or even a saline breast implant. In Sugar baby, mystic mountain the glass sprouts tentacles of plastic tubing. In other examples, eyes are obscured by feathers or fake bamboo. Either way, beauty is marred, literally and figuratively so.[ Read More ]
“Americans don’t agree on what happened in Orlando, or what should happen now.”
Are we? Or…
America is very concerned with which forms of violence are permissible when. Execution, murder with impunity, homicide, warfare, negligence, and revolution—each holds an important place in our law. In our discourse, we constantly debate the proper distribution of these forms. In our field of representation, we rehearse their efficacies. I’ve seen so many murders on TV.[ Read More ]
"Orlando is a queer AND racial issue AFTER a gun control, Islamophobia, and mental-health issue."
first i would like to acknowledge that i am one of two artists of color who was invited to contribute on a story about the mass shooting of a club full of Queer and Transgender people of color (QTPOC)…
i was traveling while black recently in three different cities, London, Hamburg, and Berlin, when i logged onto social media and realized yet another instance of gun violence had occurred in Amerikkka. normally i scroll endlessly until i’ve scraped together the entire story and subsequent op-ed's that follow to craft a robust and informed post regarding the issue, but this time was different. facebook widget wiggled and cleared.[ Read More ]
American Art lost a unique and vital presence last year, when the painter and master printmaker Eldzier Cortor died on Thanksgiving Day, just months before his 100th birthday. The oral history presented here is synthesized from two interviews permitted by this intensely modest and private man, at the Brooklyn Museum in 2014, and at his Lower East Side home last fall. I was introduced to the work of Eldzier Cortor in 2005, when I saw his arresting Southern Landscape (Southern Flood) in a booth at the Park Avenue Armory. The artist presented two beautiful, young black figures stretched out on a grassy hill, while behind them flood waters sweep through a valley and carry away unmoored, frame houses. The figures appear calm, owing to the artist's having cast their faces according to the forms of African masks. We purchased the picture for the Brooklyn Museum, where it has hung ever since. I called Mr. Cortor at the time. Although he claimed he remembered little about a work he had created sixty years earlier, he subsequently completed a questionnaire with precision, noting his materials ("Gesso panel, Shiva casein paint, Shiva emulsion, Shiva oil paint, Shiva glossy varnish, Damar varnish—glossy finish.") and the location, a site in Kentucky that he had witnessed en route to the Sea Islands off the coast of South Carolina. He wrote, "It was created from my feelings in the face of devastation, and the two figures represent youth with hope." When I asked Mr. Cortor if he would come to the museum to speak, he replied with a polite but categorical "no thank you."[ Read More ]
"We need a new word, because neither 'hate' nor 'terror' will suffice."
Will called me from Missoula on Tuesday to talk. He told me that one of the times he'd gone to see Carol in the theater there he'd been touched to see so many older lesbian couples in attendance. Then it occurred to him that someone could come into the theater and wipe out "a hundred of us at once." He spent the movie wondering what he would do if somebody opened fire.
As the massacre at Pulse began, I was in my living room in California drunkenly discussing the pace of gay progress versus race progress in the United States. I cautioned Chris and our guests, who were thoughtfully commending the swiftness of gains in gay rights and mainstream acceptance of homosexuality. I brought up suicide rates, addiction rates, homelessness rates, assault rates, murder rates, and insidious marginalization—particularly the alienation of queer people from their families.[ Read More ]
“I don't know how to pray so I cry.”
I did not want to begin my email to you like this, but oh no, Orlando. The sinking feeling of opening Facebook to see a friend marked “safe,” signifier of our time. Globe-trotting crises; Orlando, the next peg on the map of violence. Pulse nightclub. No, not another nightclub, too soon after the Bataclan. Then, the sucker punch, a gay nightclub. 50 dead and counting, as many injured. They call it a terrorist attack. Why not a hate crime? It is not immaterial that these bodies were queer and mainly brown. I want hate there in what we call this thing. I update my status: I don't want to pray for the dead or their families. I don't want to thank the police for their courage. I want to pass a fucking law that prohibits the sale of assault weapons.[ Read More ]
"Queerness is a political force powered by anger."
Queerness is an unstoppable force powered by dreams of survival. Queer is a language of freedom from systemic oppression. Queer lives hardened by violence: familial prejudice, bullying at school and work, exhaustively discriminatory institutions. Yet we carve spaces to cope and thrive. We build dissenting forms of living. We construct futures that resist the suffocating norms of the mainstream.[ Read More ]
On June 12, 2016, at just after 2 AM, Omar Mateen entered Orlando's Pulse nightclub—the city’s biggest LGBT club—and opened fire, killing 49 people and wounding 53 others. I, like many, awoke the next morning to loved ones marking themselves “safe” on social media. This is a really unsettling thing. While the massacre—now the nation’s worst—was in Orlando, it could've been Boiler Room or Eastern Bloc here in New York, or anywhere really. You can be shot anywhere, at any time. And as a gay man, the attack feels personal. It's difficult to put words to it.[ Read More ]