[ Read More ]
Linda Simpson goes to town.
“Oh, obviously my leg sticking out from underneath the tray needs to stay.”
“Narrative is pattern and transformation.” I was standing in front of Alina Tenser’s video, Necklace, as she walked me and a handful of others around “No Entrance, No Exit,” her recent three-person exhibition at The Kitchen, in New York. This piece, installed in the entrance to the gallery, was my introduction to the New York-based artist’s work, which rather than negate access (or departure), complicates and multiplies points of entry, positioning the surface of the image as one of many contiguous and coexisting structures. In her videos, decontextualized objects—which are cast against uniformly-colored backgrounds or patterned, material supports—both initiate changes in shape and activity and are acted upon to transform. Though not always revealed, her body is never far off.
Tenser carries with her an ever expanding repertoire of gestures, including hovering, rolling, gliding, stretching, climbing, balancing, and simply staying still. These gestures, which are at times choreographed and at other times more incidental, have developed in relation to her body, as have the proportions of the performance objects and environments she creates for them. The qualities of these objects determine their use, often going against a prescribed function in favor of affective, aesthetic, and intuitive use. Objects and bodies pass fluidly across planes even as Tenser moves between sculpture, video, and performance, redefining what might constitute, today, new ways to approach the overlapping qualities of these practices.[ Read More ]
Fascinated by how objects can hold symbolic and material value, Rachel Stern finds inspiration in the history of decorative arts and stylistic movements—such as Rococo—believing it’s possible to create beauty from the banal and to make high aesthetics universally accessible. Internalizing these ideas, Stern constructs fantastical image worlds using male muses. Further instigated by her interest in the history of art, visual culture, feminism, queer aesthetics, and beauty, she embraces the complexity of these images and is honest about not fully understanding them.[ Read More ]
“No, it’s not graffiti art. It’s not street art. I’m a bushman cave painter.”
Cape Town-born and Berlin-based multidisciplinary artist Robin Rhode works across visual media to interrogate notions of the city and urban landscapes, the individual, and the cultural collective. Rhode was recently announced as a commissioned artist for Performa 15, the biennial of performance art, taking place in New York November 1–22, 2015. For his commission, which is still in the works, Rhode will reinterpret Schoenberg’s 1909 opera Erwartung and build the set using doors reclaimed from his native South Africa. He currently has two exhibitions on view; “Borne Frieze,” his third solo exhibition at Lehmann Maupin, features new work meant to broaden the possibilities of drawing as a medium. “Drawing Waves” at the Drawing Center, meanwhile, includes stop-motion photographs and a wall drawing done in collaboration with school children. We spoke recently about the new shows and what it means to make art in an increasingly globalized world.[ Read More ]
Boys or Women
“You laugh when boys or women tell their dreams.”
—Cleopatra to Dolabella
Antony and Cleopatra, Act V, Scene II
In a suburb outside of Cologne:
Mary and Gerhard are sitting in Gerhard’s studio, drinking espresso. They’re arguing.
G There’s impulse, and there’s control of impulse.
M But how can you calculate an image in proportions, like milk to coffee?
G It’s a danger to let heroic feelings into an image. You have to discipline the image.
M Those absurd feelings. It’s not so analytical. Even whales mate belly to belly.
G Whales and humans.
M Any chimp can fling paint. What if control is just the cycle of doing something over and again? You reach for the image, and it’s there for you.
G This is why I envy women—the indulgence in madness every twenty-eight days! It’s wonderful, the organization of it.[ Read More ]
“In my work, there’s an awful lot of screaming to be heard.”
Judith Bernstein’s drawings and paintings are inspired by her early introduction to graffiti during her time at Yale School of Art. A vehicle for her outspoken feminist and anti-war activism, her paintings feature expressive line work, raw imagery, and an unflagging sense of humor. She was a participant in many activist organizations, including the Guerrilla Girls and the Art Workers’ Coalition. In the 1970s she was a member of AIR Gallery, the first to be devoted to showing female artists. Recently, Bernstein has exhibited at Mary Boone Gallery, Migros Museum Zurich, Gavin Brown’s Enterprise, The Whitney Museum of American Art, The New Museum, ICA London, Studio Voltaire London, Hauser & Wirth London and Zurich, Karma International Zurich, The Box LA, and MoMA PS1. She is currently preparing for an retrospective at Kunsthalle Stavanger in Norway and a solo exhibition at Mary Boone Gallery in Chelsea; both opening in the new year. Bernstein is also working on a book of her work with Patrick Frey Publications.
On a steamy day in late June, I met Judith in the Chinatown loft where she lives and works. We began by looking through images of older work before moving into her adjacent studio and, over pungent chocolate-flavored coffee, beginning a more intimate conversation regarding touchstones in our own personal feminist histories.[ Read More ]
Matter, mythology, and metaphysical pelts.
Visitors to Mike Nelson’s installation at 303 Gallery, on view earlier this year, had a chance to meet the Gang of Seven, an array of sculptural assemblages made out of debris culled from the Pacific Northwest coastline. To understand the Gang—and to further enhance their aesthetic power—one needs to delve into the mythologies that Nelson has been building over the years. Luckily, he was more than happy to discuss his alternate universe, but reader take warning: it is a strange place indeed.[ Read More ]
“Criminal evidence, not scientific evidence, as gathered from sites of slow crimes in progress.”
For the past decade, Amy Balkin has focused on projects concerning climate change, the public domain, and the commons broadly construed. Her work is characterized by ongoing interventions with national and supranational systems—political, legal, and economic in scope—as is the case with the Public Smog project, her ongoing attempt to create a “clean air park” by buying carbon emissions and then keeping them back from use, and also pushing for the Earth’s atmosphere to be designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site.
In contrast to these explorations that intercede in bureaucratic systems, A People’s Archive of Sinking and Melting, which Balkin has been steadily cultivating along with co-registrars Malte Roloff and Cassie Thornton since 2011, uses a form that is new to the artist. This archive moves transiently between global institutions, often as part of a group exhibition, where it grows with crowdsourced (not curated) items donated from places that risk disappearing because of climate change. The documents in the archive thus operate as a kind of worldwide record of loss.
I first visited the archive back in the spring of 2014 when it was housed at Southern Exposure in San Francisco, and I was struck by the variety of objects, many of which are cheap and ephemeral: a tin can, a bottlecap, a clip. A People’s Archive takes contributions of “anything that happens to be there,” including detritus, as long as it weighs less than half a pound and includes an explanation of how the location is impacted by climate change (sinking, erosion, desertification, rising sea levels, and so forth). As of 2015, the archive includes objects from Antarctica, Australia, Cape Verde, Santiago de Cuba, Germany, Greenland, Venice, Mexico, Nepal, New Orleans, Alaska, New York City, Panama, Peru, Republic of Komi, Russia, California, Senegal, and Tuvalu. It’s currently on view and open for contributions at Kunsthal Aarhus in Denmark.[ Read More ]
North of Paris, west of Texas—Laster’s community-based social sculptures span cultures and continents.
On a hot day in May, Monte Laster and I drove an hour and a half out of Dallas to Castle Rock Mountain, a ranch he had purchased just two weeks prior to serve as the American base for his community engagement platform—the French American Creative Exchange (FACE). I was in town for the first edition of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra’s Soluna International Music and Arts Festival, which commissioned Laster to create a new project based on notions of place, identity, and dislocation. Although he was raised in Fort Worth, Laster has lived in France since 1989, primarily in the disenfranchised banlieue of La Courneuve, a fifteen-minute train ride north of Paris. “I’m 100% Texan and 80% French,” the artist said. Castle Rock was a bit of a homecoming.
When we got to the ranch he gave me a quick tour of the house and grounds, which years of poor upkeep and a recent flood had thoroughly integrated. Then we decided to take a walk. Laster pulled on knee-high snake boots and handed me a pair. There had been a lot of rain, and rattlesnakes would be out. The boots were two sizes too small. My feet didn’t make it past the bend of the ankle. “My father and brother have lived here all their lives,” he told me, “and they won’t go down there without snake boots.” Down there miles of thick brush and cactus scraped together above swampy lowland soil. This interview took place while I was taking my chances.[ Read More ]
Celestial Seasons[ Read More ]
Projection as performance, Godspeed You! Black Emperor, and depicting electromagnetic radiation.
Live presence is not often considered to be a part of cinema, but Karl Lemieux thinks it should be. Using 16mm projectors as his principal tools, the Montreal-based artist employs various tactics to manipulate both the film material and apparatus itself during the act of projection—an approach that results in a distortion of the image. Tapping into the history of expanded cinema, Lemieux sees the moment of projection as the primary site of production. Using multiple projectors, he paints onto film, adjusts the frame rate, and refracts the image by placing glass bowls in front of the lens. While his approach is certainly hands-on, its acceptance of chance means some of the results are out of his hands. His audiences bear witness to cinema in the making.
Lemieux’s live, improvised collaborations with sound artists and musicians testify to his dedication to correspondence: the artists respond to the setting, to the moment, and to each other. Working with Swedish composer and sound artist BJ Nilsen, Lemieux shot footage on the border between Russia and Norway. This would be the basis of their collaborative performance, unearthed, presented at the 2015 Sonic Acts Festival in Amsterdam. As co-founder of Montreal’s Double Negative Collective, Lemieux’s support for collaboration extends beyond his own artistic output. Together with experimental filmmaker Daïchi Saïto, he has established a film lab and network for avant-garde cinema that has become a resounding voice for filmmaking dedicated to independence.
While often abrasive, Lemieux’s cinema also has a generosity that allows for open interpretation and a space for thoughts to meander. In his film Quiet Zone (2015), co-directed by musician David Bryant (Hiss Tracts & Godspeed You! Black Emperor), this delicacy is applied to a documentary subject who has a severe case of electromagnetic sensitivity. While the space that surrounds her is animated by film processing techniques, her voice and features remain untouched. Screening at Sonic Acts, where this year’s theme is “The Geological Imagination” and many works engage with human impact on the Earth, Quiet Zone reminds us of our fragility as individuals under the enormity of change we have brought about.[ Read More ]
Chess, eggs, and dessert.
I scream for when you are happy, I scream for when you are heartbroken. This is how I misread Vienna-based artist Sarah Ortmeyer’s responses to a question on the concept of ritualized happiness that I had asked her during one of our many email exchanges. Of course, the words she wrote were Ice cream not I scream, though the idiomatic childhood rhyme was inescapable in my mind, and my eyes replaced the text with its sound instead—a happy malapropism. We had just discussed the concept of youth, and the mistake seemed fitting. It seemed not unlike something she would write; emotive, oppositional—in that it reflected the same action in two polarizing ways—within the realm of popular reference, and a touch melancholic.
My introduction to Ortmeyer’s work was through her exhibition KISH KUSH at Dvir Gallery, in Tel Aviv, in early 2014. After seeing the documentation online, I began a steady digital communication with Ortmeyer that has continued ever since. The show took on chess as performance—think Duchamp—in an over-the-top installation of life-size photos of female chess champions scattered throughout the gallery in a floor-to-ceiling array resembling centerfolds and pinups. The knights, queens, rooks, and pawns pictured in many of the images of these hottie grandmasters were tossed, strewn, held as props, and staged suggestively. Oversized marble pieces occupied the floor in clusters, sometimes in proximity to the images plastered on the wall, other times in independent huddles in the center of the space. Undermining the idea of strategy was at the center of Ortmeyer’s tactic. The best way to feature the absence of these female chess champions from the history of chess was, in this case, to attack the gendered intellectualism of the game in a way that was so sexualized, so explicitly objectified, that it posed an affront to the myth of male genius so readily performed by modernism.[ Read More ]
Souvenirs, live doves, and storming in with only your dreams.
As part of an ongoing series hosted by Independent Curators International (ICI), I invite artists to discuss their work in an intimate environment. These talks are a continuation of a larger series of conversations and panels I’ve been initiating with artists from around the globe. Here in New York, the talks focus on Israeli art and artists. These particular conversations aim to explore the artists’ work in relation to place and time. While considering their origins and background, these artists react and examine possibilities of reshaping political, religious, and social structures. The series of articles began with the study of Ohad Meromi’s practice and was followed by revisiting Tamar Ettun’s works, as well as proposing a theoretical curatorial vision of the artists’ works as a whole.
This conversation was arranged in conjunction with the launch of Levy’s new artist’s book World Order, which was produced for her 2012 solo show at The Center of Contemporary Arts in Tel Aviv, and in affiliation with Braverman Gallery and Sternthal Books. The talk took place at the ICI Hub on March 14, 2013 and focused on Levy’s fascination with dreams, her interest in the manmade, and her exploration of nature. It starts with a short story of our first encounter.[ Read More ]
“It’s easy to laugh at Y2K now, but what are we laughing at?“
Chen co-founded the Southfirst gallery in Brooklyn in 2001 before launching Kickstarter in 2009 and becoming a TED Fellow. In between, he lived in New Orleans and worked on electronic music. He left Kickstarter in 2014 to focus attention on his art practice, most recently his archival investigation into the cultural and technological phenomenon of Y2K. That project, titled Computers in Crisis, was recently presented as part of the New Museum's First Look program in conjunction with Creative Time Reports and Rhizome.
Chen’s work as an artist, like the technologies it explores, often answers questions in ways that give rise to more questions. So I asked him the ones that seemed most crucial to understanding the ideals and ideas that lie at the locus of it all. We corresponded over email and chatted over a couple coffees at our shared neighborhood watering hole.[ Read More ]
Drawing, the digital, technique.
Leah and I met a number of years ago in New York, possibly at the LMCC Workspace residency, or maybe somewhere before that. I remember her work at the time feeling like vector drawings or very lo-fi computer generated images. I was interested in them in a systems or process way more than in a pictorial way, which seemed to be what the works were asking for. They had a foot in science (they still do), and they read like information. In the time since, we‘ve seen each other periodically but never really had an occasion to talk about the work. Last May, we met up at a two-person show at Fridman Gallery in New York, in which Leah was participating along with Stephen Vitiello. As we walked through the show, I got really excited about the implications of her new work as a model for thinking through a number of contemporary bugbears, particularly regarding our interface with screens and screen-based pictures. As works for the wall, these extremely glossy metallic photographic prints were adroitly challenging basic terms of description. Were they photographs? Or were they screens made more static and material? Leah uses the computer as a drawing tool in the classic sense, as an extension of the hand rendering the spaces of the world, which really resonated with me.[ Read More ]
Care and control of the social and self.
Dena Yago began working primarily in writing, suggesting poetry as a place where relationships between objects and images could be easily mapped, without sacrificing the richness and precision of language. In 2011, she debuted a book of poems alongside an exhibition at Tomorrow Gallery (Then in Toronto; now in New York). The exhibition, titled ESPRIT, consisted of high-resolution scanned images of products associated with self-care, such as fruits, tea, and fish oil capsules. A poem from the book, also titled ESPRIT, describes a body caught within a cycle of self-care and resignation. It begins:
Aporia in love
Aporia in a bouquet of flowers that smell
Do these smell correctly or am I the one that
What am I? Dead meat?[ Read More ]
As aside—I am so dead meat
“Here are some marks, what do they mean?”
I don’t write book reviews very often, and I think it may be the case that the only other comparable in length to my review of Todd Cronan’s Against Affective Formalism: Matisse, Bergson, Modernism may have been on Derrida’s Truth in Painting, back in the seventies. I think this is a very important work, for artists as well as art theorists, and I hope it will be widely and carefully read. Cronan is an associate professor of art history at Emory University, and in addition to Against Affective Formalism, he’s written a book about Matisse for Phaidon, and articles on Brecht, Adorno, Merleau-Ponty, Santayana, Georg Simmel, Paul Scheerbart, Paul Valéry, and Richard Neutra. Brecht and Valéry are especially important to what he has to say, i.e., the political as well as the poetic are simultaneously of concern.
Cronan’s book, in my view, is most important for what he says about Matisse, but its argument also goes far beyond the specifics discussing that particular artist might involve. Cronan has revived the idea of intention, in response—at least in part—to what he shows to be a final, or at least extreme, eruption of what a determined anti-intentionalism can cause. He shows that this has led the most well-known followers of Deleuze—and Deleuze himself, at least in respect to what he has to say directly about art—to see movement and other qualities in Matisse and others to be neither more nor less than an opportunity for missing the point altogether. Philosophers are notorious for skimping on description in order to use what they’ve got to get to what they really care about as quickly as possible, Hegel’s impatience with Kant’s “ratiocination” about the sublime being a notorious example, and T.J. Clark’s lovely description of two paintings by Poussin a monumental and convincing argument against being too eager to take refuge in generalities rather than seeking to fully grasp specifics. This has caused a fuss amongst the eminent about which those who care may have more to say. I am more excited by how, as an alternative to leaving the work as soon as possible, Cronan gives us a thorough treatment of Matisse’s context, large as well as local, and the best approach to what Matisse gets painting to do that I have read. Also, it's by far the best treatment of what difficult art might involve that I’ve seen his generation produce. This is an approach to art—especially but not only to painting—that includes how the work acts in the world. This is how and why it involves Brecht and the political, and questions that follow from, and accompany, those sorts of questions are among the ones that we thought we might pursue here.[ Read More ]
The space of politics.
Formed in 2009 by artists Maayan Amir and Ruti Sela, the Exterritory Project adopts the concept of extraterritoriality, taking it as an opportunity to reimagine the representational, political, and economic systems affected by nationalism. In the first iteration of the project, Amir and Sela projected video works made by Middle Eastern artists onto the white sails of boats navigating through the international waters of the Mediterranean. Since then, their work has taken many forms, including a number of interdisciplinary colloquia in various parts of the world, inviting artists, scholars, and students to explore notions of extraterritoriality. Their most recent video work Image Blockade (2015)—commissioned for the New Museum Triennial, Surround Audience—reacts to an open letter published in September 2014 by anonymous members of the elite Israeli military intelligence unit 8200, denouncing the surveillance practices used to gather information and exert control over Palestinians. Amir and Sela altered filmed interviews with the writers of the open letter that had originally been aired on national news programs and, in partnership with the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel, used MRI technology to capture the neurological responses of 8200 veterans as they watched these interviews, visualizing how bodies self-censor.[ Read More ]
It gives me great honor to present BOMB Magazine’s Oral History of Stanley Whitney. Stanley is a New York based artist born and raised in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania. He studied art at various institutions, including Columbus College of Art and Design, Kansas City Art Institute, and Yale University. He is represented by TEAM Gallery in New York City, Nordenhake Galerie in Berlin, Christine König Galerie in Vienna, and Albert Baronian in Brussels. Stanley spends his time between New York City and Parma, Italy with his wife, the painter Marina Adams.
During the final year of my BFA at Hunter College, I was looking for Afro-American abstract painters. It was my subject of interest at the time. I wanted to know how contemporary Afro-American artists used abstraction and for what functions. Were they talking about identity, race, stereotypes, or politics in their work? After five years of studying art intensively, I arrived at the podium with a handful of names. Stanley Whitney was one of them.[ Read More ]