Cenotaphs.[ 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 ]
Content is only as good as its container.
“This isn’t just a place to live, it’s a lifestyle.”
—Promo for season 1 of The Real Housewives of Orange County
Few places in contemporary America have done a better job branding life than Orange County, California. The region just south of Los Angeles has become synonymous with a certain So-Cal vision of ageless, botoxed affluence, thanks to television shows like The Real Housewives of Orange County (the inaugural series), 2000s teen drama The O.C., and MTV reality spinoff Laguna Beach.
Orange County’s character, both televised and real (it’s one of California’s only Republican strongholds), makes it an unusual setting for a museum with internationally recognized contemporary art programming. Yet, since 1977, the year the Newport Harbor Museum (as it was then known) moved to its current building, the Orange County Museum of Art (OCMA) has been mounting exhibitions that are sharp and sometimes risky. The museum gave daredevil Chris Burden his first survey in 1988 and promoted the early work of artists like Catherine Opie. It launched the California Biennial, now the California-Pacific Triennial, a showcase of Pacific Rim art, and plays host to traveling exhibitions like Alien She, the ode to Riot Grrrl currently on view. The museum has also been quick to poke fun at the irony of its location, co-commissioning Kutluğ Ataman’s video piece Paradise (2006), an exploration of the reality TV-spurred mythos of Orange County as nouveau paradise.[ Read More ]
Landscape, video, and the Anthropocene.
In one static shot, Lukas Marxt’s Reign of Silence (2013) observes a motorboat swirl in circles on the Arctic sea as concentric circles of ripples spread outward. While it lasts only a moment, the central theme that occupies Marxt is made visible: dialogue between human and geological existence. As he journeys to the far corners of the earth, the Austrian artist lets so-called “deep time”—the unimaginably vast timescale that describes geological processes—intersect with what humans consider to be “real time.”
Amsterdam’s biannual Sonic Acts Festival—now in its sixteenth incarnation—is built around such encounters. After all, we are in the age of the Anthropocene, an epoch when human activities have a fundamental impact on the global ecosystem. For four days from February 26 to March 1, 2015, Sonic Acts addressed these concerns with an ambitious program of performances, audio-visual installations, an academic conference, and an outdoor sound installation. Invited by this festival, Lukas Marxt gave a presentation on High Tide (2013) and Captive Horizon (2014), two of his video works, from among many recent projects, and those upon which the following conversation focuses.
Based in Belgium, Lukas Marxt has works currently on view at two exhibitions—“Landscape in Motion: Cinematic Visions of an Uncertain Tomorrow” at Kunsthaus Graz and “Perception of Landscape Today” at KIT in Düsseldorf.[ Read More ]
The personal and the political, accompanied by a few drinks.
Public Movement is a research and action body spearheaded by Dana Yahalomi. The Israel-based group investigates the creation of national, social, and political identities through public choreographies and the way they are performed in public space. The group, usually in uniform, began by reenacting commemorative ceremonies, formal exercises from the youth scouts, or emergency procedures (life saving exercises, such as rescue from a pile of debris) in public space, in order to illustrate the choreography of collective civilian life and how it is ingrained in the cultural fabric. Not shying away from conflict, Public Movement tailors its works—or actions, as they call them—to specific social and geographic contexts, creating temporary zones of discomfort, arenas in which viewers are meant to feel ill at ease and react to a catalyst.
Public Movement came to international attention with their participation in the 2012 New Museum Triennial that showcased SALONS: Birthright Palestine?, a series of performative public debates staged as congressional sessions, summit meetings, visioning sessions, diplomatic consultations, secret gatherings, and demonstrations. The salons focused on Birthright Israel, the sponsored trips to Israel for Jewish youth, as a model through which to explore Israel’s relationship to the American Jewish diaspora and the right of return, and, by extension, to consider Palestinian diaspora and nationhood by asking what a Birthright Palestine could be. Similar tactics of choreographed public debates were deployed for Rebranding European Muslims at the 7th Berlin Biennial, and at the Steirischer Herbst festival, in Austria, for which marketing firms pitched campaigns to improve the public image of Muslims in Europe.
I met Yahalomi at a Tel Aviv bar and got her a little drunk while probing about her service in the Israeli army as a psychological profiler; her reorganization of Public Movement, after the co-founder of the group left; the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel; and her recent and upcoming projects.[ Read More ]
Masculinity, melodrama, and the Black Lodge.
David Lynch: The Unified Field, curated by Robert Cozzolino and on view this past winter at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, showcased approximately ninety works, mostly paintings and drawings, ranging from the filmmaker's student days at PAFA to the present. As the first major museum exhibition of Lynch’s work, it gives us an incredible opportunity to consider the breadth of the artist’s contribution to a variety of art historical discourses.
Filmmaker and multimedia artist Coleen Fitzgibbon and critic William J. Simmons visited The Unified Field to discuss issues of medium specificity, historical influence, gender, violence, and artistic responsibility. The conversation left them with more questions than answers—a sign, to be sure, of a provocative exhibition.[ Read More ]
From September 2 through October 26, 2014, Mira Friedlaender was in residency at Recess in SoHo. Friedlaender’s mother, the artist Bilge Civelekoglu Friedlaender, was born in Turkey in 1934 and died there in 2000. She spent the majority of her life, however, working in Boston and Philadelphia. After her death, her daughter was left with a storage unit in Philadelphia, full of work, supplies, notebooks, and other ephemera from Civelekoglu Friedlaender’s thirty-year career. Friedlaender moved the contents of the storage unit to Brooklyn, where she lives, but did not open them until she transported the storage unit to Recess—filling almost the entirety of the storefront residency’s space with boxes—and undertook the excavation of her mother’s storage as her own conceptual piece, Half of What’s There, examining what it means to make, to inherit, and to own art.
A month after the boxes had been sorted, their contents documented, repacked, and returned to their ten-by-ten-foot home in Downtown Brooklyn, Friedlaender and I met inside the storage unit to discuss the public processing she had just performed.[ Read More ]
BOMB’s Oral History Project documents the life stories of New York City’s African American artists.
Download this Oral History as a PDF, EPUB, or MOBI file for your ereader.
Calvin Reid Where did I first meet you? It seems like I knew you and then I didn’t know you and then I did know you. Were you at the Studio Museum in Harlem?
Terry Adkins I think we may have met at Howard University in printmaking somehow, or we vibed next to each other. I went to Fisk and I came to Howard to take a summer course with Winston Kennedy.
CR Yeah. That was my printmaking teacher.
TA So we had that in common. And when we both came to New York City around ’82—
CR I got here ’81. I remember the exact date. June 7, 1981.
TA That is how I knew you.
CR And you were originally from DC.
TA So we have that in common.
CR Well hey, you know, I have always liked your work. I wrote something when you had pieces at the Whitney’s Phillip Morris annex. That must have been in the ’90s sometime.[ Read More ]
Data masks and the technological other.
Over the past few years, there has been a flood of news and art responding to surveillance technologies. Artists like Zach Blas, Simone C. Niquille, and Adam Harvey have made powerful works reacting to, and protesting, the growing use of biometric technologies as a dehumanizing means of classification and pacification. As Edward Snowden has revealed, these technologies aren't science fiction, and they are no longer relegated to test labs. Rather, they are actively being used on an increasingly larger section of society, criminal or otherwise. Snowden presents a dilemma for us as critical readers: What are we to do with all of this information; what can we change? When confronted by the enormity of the police state, and the advanced technologies at play, one can't help but feel powerless.
Sterling Crispin, with his latest body of work, Data-masks provides a refreshing new means of considering the surveillance state. These masks are algorithmically formed using biometric facial recognition software. By reverse engineering facial recognition and detection algorithms Crispin was able to make 3-D printed masks and photographs that illustrate the way in which the machines might visually understand our faces. The resulting pixelated ghosts are what a computer imagines a human to look like.[ Read More ]
Sex objects, dead zones, and trace fossils.
Mary, this is ostensibly an interview. I am a curator. You are an artist. We work together on many things. Sometimes we work on exhibitions or commissioned artwork, but more often (more productively?) we argue about ideas—risk, pedagogy, radicalism, what it means to be feminists working in the art world or working against the art world. I'm asking you to write with me about some of this interstitial intellectual work as it relates to four of your projects. This thinking together—about the work and about the reading that runs like a current underneath everything you do and I do—is foundational to ethical collaboration. I do not only ask questions. You do not really answer me. This is a mockery of an interview, but it is an honest attempt to make thinking with one another appear.[ Read More ]
Working with, and through, conflict.
Basma Alsharif’s work implores us to experience beyond the delineations of place, language, story, image, and the political, showing us that a place is not local, language slips, stories can’t be told, images lie, and that we’re humans beyond our politics. Her mode of working and exhibiting is multifarious, operating between installation and cinema, and incorporating a variety of mediums. The following conversation focuses predominantly on her newest projects, a selection of which were exhibited in the solo show Doppelganging at Galerie Imane Farès in Paris this past spring. The moving image works in the show, Deep Sleep, Girls Only, and The Story of Milk and Honey, exist in various forms: as a self-contained work for cinema, as a film installation loop, and as part of a larger scale installation that included photographs, drawings, and texts. The entire exhibition was set within an astro-turfed environment with a soundtrack that filled the gallery with birdsong, the sound of thunderstorms, and a backwards rendition of Jeanette singing Porque Te Vas. Doppelganging also took the form of a performance lecture that included Alsharif’s newest work to date O, Persecuted and was presented in May at the Berlin Documentary Forum.[ Read More ]
I met Allison Katz for the first time in her London studio in January 2014. At the time of my visit she was a month away from an exhibition at Piper Keys, in which she was showing a series of portraits collectively titled “Adele,” after their sitter. Katz told me that she had known Adele for a long time, and had begun painting her when they both lived in New York. A number of the portraits were tacked up on her studio walls, each painted in oils on leather hides. Adele appeared on the leather in a variety of guises: in some as a barely there monochrome, more apparition than body; elsewhere sonorous, fully formed features stared out accusingly, as if I had interrupted some modern luminary in a moment of intense privacy.[ Read More ]
Photography, poultry, and the question of objectness.
Artists challenge our understanding of things and our feeling for them. Like magicians, artists make the unseen visible. Unlike magicians—I want to say beyond magicians—they also take what is known and make it appear new. Artists are magicians plus.
Jean Pagliuso has found her magic wand. At one end are the two essential elements of a photograph: paper and emulsion. At the other end is a chicken. What she does with this wand is preposterous and unexpected—and well beyond magic.[ Read More ]
On getting it.
I was introduced to Jules Gimbrone’s work a few days after I moved back to Los Angeles at the end of last year. Jules had curated Fault Lines, an evening of sound performance at Human Resources LA in Chinatown. The program encouraged composers, mainly from CalArts, where Gimbrone was studying composition at the time, to create time-based work that resembled the temporal scales of tectonic plates. Sitting there quietly, listening to those textured and oftentimes jarring compositions, I was overwhelmed by the uncompromised sounds. I also had the feeling that we would work together in the coming months.
Our first collaboration took place this past summer at Fahrenheit where I curated the project Cover, Junk, Strike, with work by Gimbrone, alongside artists Corey Fogel and Rosalind Nashashibi. Gimbrone’s rehearsal process gave us the chance to discuss her practice further and to form a friendship that sustains an ongoing dialog about art as a critical tool, Los Angeles as one of our many common denominators, and how one chooses to participate in today’s creative economy.[ Read More ]
"Politics are always there, it’s inescapable. If you’re going to be a really good artist, it’s got to be there, because it is there."
For over four decades, sculptor and performance artist Maren Hassinger, has created powerful images that refer to nature as a complex, psychological space for political and personal transformation. Early pieces resembled stark groves of bare trees; wire rope forms twisted and bent from the heat of her welding torch. Lately her materials have included the underfoot and overlooked: trash, leaves, boxes, and piles of newspaper. Dance and movement are seminal to her work, and from her earliest pieces on, the viewer must circumnavigate and interpret the space, whether it’s a freeway overpass, a pink path, or a crowded, small room.
Maren Hassinger…Dreaming, a retrospective of her works, opens this spring at the Spelman College Museum of Fine Art in Atlanta, “the only museum in the nation emphasizing art by and about women of the African Diaspora,” as the statement on the institution’s website reads.
A native of Los Angeles, Hassinger’s work was included the traveling 2011 exhibition Now Dig This! Art and Black Los Angeles 1960–1980, and in Radical Presence: Black Performance in Contemporary Art in 2012. A residency at the Studio Museum in Harlem brought her to New York City in 1983, and she’s been in the Northeast since, where she raised her two children. Her daughter, Ava Hassinger is also an artist, and the two work collaboratively under the name “Matriarch.” Hassinger and I met in her apartment on Malcolm X Boulevard, in Manhattan.[ Read More ]
The origins of nostalgia and some theoretical foundations of photography.
I was first introduced to Sara Cwynar’s work while studying at Goldsmiths in London. My research explored the construct of what I call “social shrines”—creative manifestations wherein artists make use of and document everyday actions as a means of commenting on and elevating socio-cultural practices. My own creative and academic practice both revolve around an investigation of how ritual manifests itself in the spaces of the everyday. How can the banal be beatific? In what way have ideas of worship been redressed by modern American culture? How does ritual manifest in spaces ordinarily designed as secular? Cwynar’s work speaks to these questions by toying with camp popular visual tropes in a deft manipulation that presents a topography of North American consumption and cultural experience. Continuing in a long line of female assemblage artists, ranging from Vadis Turner to Amalia Mesa-Bains, in combining objects Cwynar offers an elevation of the familiar to that of the fantastic, desirous relics of the ordinary that reignite one’s appreciation of daily objects. In addition to beginning her MFA in photography at Yale University this fall, Cwynar recently published two books, Kitsch Encyclopedia (Blonde Art Books, 2014) and Pictures of Pictures (Printed Matter, 2014). My co-interviewer, Ashley McNelis, was first introduced to Cwynar’s work through these publications. We both sat down with the artist to learn more about what makes her encyclopedic kitsch stick. —Legacy Russell.[ Read More ]
On race, representation, and inspiration.
Toyin Odutola is a master of treading softly while issuing a powerful statement. Her conceptually direct images carry with them dense political undercurrents, yet never neglect the fundamentals of form and craft. While the formal concerns of mark-making and portraiture are in the foreground of her renderings, the ideological foundation on which Odutola works separates her from other artists. The images she creates speak about blackness—African blackness, American blackness, and the blackness of the 20th century color field—compounding these issues of race and history with those of gender. Having recently relocated her studio, the artist discusses her new locale, the evolution of her practice, and the few things that will never change.[ Read More ]
Artistic development, near-death experiences, and the power of persistence.
Melvin Van Peebles is truly a renaissance man. While he is perhaps best known for the groundbreaking film Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song (1971), it’s only a small part of his oeuvre. He’s published books and stories, released a record prefiguring spoken word and rap, reimagined Sweetback as an opera, and is currently working on two theatrical productions. A grounding place for Van Peebles through it all over the years has been painting, and last December he participated in a group exhibition at Merton Simpson in New York’s Chelsea gallery district. Van Peebles is a small, slight man, who is terribly modest. I met with him a few weeks ago at his studio, and his friends and colleagues spoke highly of his honesty, generosity, and tenaciousness. He charmed us with his directness and authenticity. In his modesty, he avoided most of my questions about trying to get to the core of how he makes time for it all, but I did gain some insight into how exactly it is he came to be not only self-made, but also self-determined.[ Read More ]