Daily Postings
art : review

The Arcades: Contemporary Art & Walter Benjamin

by Claire Barliant

Benjamin as hollow window dressing

Walter Benjamin—the much-loved German philosopher who committed suicide rather than risk death by Nazis—entrusted his final, unfinished manuscript to Georges Bataille, who hid it in the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris, where it was discovered after the war. That manuscript was both paean to and pillory of modernity. Fascinated with the soaring metal-and-glass pedestrian passageways in Paris, which were lined with shops and teeming with patrons, Benjamin considered these arcades the ultimate symbol of industrial capitalism, where it was most obvious that the real fuel keeping the factories running was insatiable consumption. The three-volume opus known as The Arcades Project inspired the bravely experimental, occasionally brilliant, but often frustrating group exhibition "The Arcades: Contemporary Art and Walter Benjamin."

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art : oral history

James Little

by LeRonn P. Brooks

James Little has worked nearly half a century at mastering the craft of painting. While our conversation here delves into his painterly "alchemy"—he mixes all his own paints and uses beeswax as varnish—it also documents a life in painting. Born into a family of artisans with high expectations in a segregated Memphis, the artist learned the value of hard work, creativity, and persistence. His experimentation with the transformative properties of his materials reflects these emphases, and his search for excellence mirrors the work ethic of the community that raised him. This is to say that memory has its textures and its colors—their own connotative ends; Little's paintings demonstrate a quest for the perfection of craft, but do not covet certainty despite the precision with which they are ordered. His paintings are guided by intuitive responses to form, color, and feeling. This approach is not overly calculated, though its complexity may suggest so. His expression is personal—visceral exchanges between memory and its hues, between emotion and the logistics of its use, between logic's place in the fog of the human heart, and the ways that rationale can be envisioned as painterly "surface." Here, to speak solely of order is to imply, in some way, process, but this implication does not necessarily suggest the course of a method as the ends of his labor's purpose. Little's "purpose" cannot be narrowly defined by his methods nor is it all a simple matter of procedure.The imagination has its own speculative ends and its interchanges with the world are, in Little's paintings, as vibrant and curiously bedecked as any prism thread with light. What follows is a conversation about artistic vision, practice, and the importance of perseverance. It is a document concerned with valuing painting as of form of experiential evidence, and the imagination as a vivid context for human worth, history's propositions, and a life's purpose. 

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art : interview

Postcommodity

by Rob Goyanes

"Moving bodies generate this system. They create, supposedly, some justification to play this market out."

The US-Mexico border, like most borders, is mostly conceptual: a space more often imagined than physically there. The artists that comprise Postcommodity are indigenous to lands that used to belong to Mexico, and to many peoples before that—Raven Chacon, from Fort Defiance, Arizona, raised on a Navajo reservation; Kade L. Twist, a Cherokee raised in Bakersfield, California; and Cristóbal Martínez, a Mestizo born in Santa Fe, New Mexico. In two recent works, Postcommodity explores the border as a poetic complex, a militarized marketplace of state and non-state activity—a place to administer and to trespass.

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art : review

Baseera Khan's iamuslima

by Terence Trouillot

Exploring Muslim femininity through the politics of love

At a time when draconian measures are being implemented to deny Muslims entrance into the US and white mansplaining increasingly has the audacity to criticize and define the cultural identity of Muslim women (e.g., Bill Maher, who on his HBO show Real Time, supported the meme "A woman should be… whatever the fuck she wants," then lambasted those who dress in burqas), it's no wonder that Muslimas feel unfairly portrayed and scrutinized by conservatives and liberals alike. As author and activist Samila Ali solemnly points out, "the only women it seems permissible to judge and even ridicule today are Muslim women."

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art : review

Fred Eversley’s Black, White, Grey

by Claire Barliant

Cosmic Objects

Art writers and curators often do somersaults to avoid talking about "energy" or any other New Age-y terms that may arise when writing about the California-based Light and Space movement. Light and Space has much in common with its East Coast cousin, Minimalism: stark, geometric forms made from industrial materials like luminous plastic, often polished to high-gloss effect. But while Minimalist artists resolutely rejected any possibility of illusion during the '60s and '70s, Light and Space artists had a more relaxed relationship to the oddities of perception. Still, curators steer the focus toward the production of these works rather than delve into any potential mystical or cosmic associations. And I get it—the manufacture of these works is intriguing, since sculptures by John McCracken or Larry Bell look less like things made by human hands than monolithic alien spacecraft of the like seen in sci-fi movies such as Kubrick's 2001 and, more recently, Denis Villeneuve's Arrival.

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art : review

Alice Neel's Uptown

by Zack Hatfield

Portraits of Harlem before gentrification

Critics often talk about the humanity of Alice Neel's paintings—or maybe they talk about how often critics talk about it. The word snugly adheres itself to the late artist's work like skin, as though humanism could not be found, one way or another, in every portrait of a human. In reality, some of Neel's most recognizable pictures are well known because they express a kind of loving cruelty—the humiliating yet awed portrayal of Warhol and his corseted stomach, or her nude self-portrait that scandalized so many upon its debut. But this bluntness—the occasional lazy eye, unfeasible proportions, or slightly morbid hues—lends her art its mysterious compassion as well as a sentimentality that shirks excessive or unearned emotion. Neel sought to depict life in all its forms, but more remarkably, her loyalty was to what—or whom—she believed we ought to see.

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art : review

Frayed at the Edges

by Paula Kupfer

Border crossings in recent photobooks by Adam Golfer, John Radcliffe Studio, and Paul Turounet

Any border, whether defined by some geographic obstacle or imposed by decree, involves a negotiation of what lies on either side. On a purely physical level, such boundaries invite our consideration of the conditions for crossing. But even walls of concrete and razor wire serve as stand-ins for less tangible, more complicated barriers: those of history and politics, ideological constructs of time and space. Three recent photobooks—Adam Golfer's A House Without a Roof, John Radcliffe Studio's Foreigner, and Paul Turounet's Estamos Buscando A (We are looking for)—tackle the difficulty of transnational journeys and the burden shouldered by those who embark upon them.  

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art : review

Vikky Alexander's 1981–1983

by Wendy Vogel

Women, objects of desire and artifice

In the years leading up to 1984, Canadian artist Vikky Alexander's confrontational works probed how the post-feminist backlash turned the hope of women's liberation into Orwellian freedom-as-slavery. This focused presentation of Alexander's work at Downs & Ross—the merger of two Lower East Side galleries formerly known as Tomorrow and Hester—includes seven framed, photo-based pieces from the early '80s. Alexander's compositions enlarge, repeat, and syntagmatically reshuffle advertising imagery of women in order to reveal its complexity and strangeness. In the pictures Alexander appropriates, the female beauty ideal on offer is the one favored in the '80s, the period of our current president's real-estate heyday: coiffed hair, unnatural makeup, big jewelry, spiked heels. It's an exaggerated version of femininity that promises a circulation of value between the symbolic capital of images, sex appeal, and economic capital—provided, of course, that one can afford to buy in.

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art : portfolio

Portfolio

by Dan Herschlein

The body as a sentence to be scrambled

The first artwork of Dan Herschlein's I saw was a 2013 performance, titled Driver's Bedroom, at the no-longer-extant Violet's Cafe (run by artists Violet Dennison, Graham Hamilton, and Scott Keightley). It was located in Gowanus and felt more like an office than a gallery. It had a drop-tile ceiling, linoleum floors, and fluorescent lighting—all completely unmodified, allowing for each show staged there to have a sense of existing in a real place, with some unknown history, much like a revolving room in Mike Nelson's 2007 A Psychic Vacuum.

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art : review

Steve McQueen's Ashes

by Claire Barliant

Life and death juxtaposed

It's a testimony to Steve McQueen's vast narrative and image-making powers that Ashes, his 2015 video installation, is not ridden with clichés. The story it tells is true but has the proportions of myth: a young, strikingly handsome young man dies after falling prey to nefarious forces.

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art : portfolio

Dream Study (Hibernation)

by Kamil Franko

It was October, and autumn was at its highest. I found myself in Croatia, in Zagreb, near the mountain of Sjleme for two months, and there I began filming Hibernation. In the early stages it was merely an exercise in studying movement and space with myself serving as subject. I filmed, collected material, and dissected it on a daily basis. As the days carried on, an intuitive narration emerged. Stories began evolving spontaneously in a flux of separate events, happenings, and disconnected locations. My understanding of linear time suddenly took a different shape and it helped me begin thinking about the logic of dreams. They make us experience dimensions beyond reality, bending in various ways and signifying something fundamental. Dreams are time.

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art : portfolio

Connecting the Polka Dots

by Ted Kerr

AIDS in plain sight

I always thought polka dots were synonymous with HIV/AIDS—just as the red ribbon, the pink triangle, and President Reagan all are—until I was at a dinner party with a gaggle of artsy AIDS-aware types. When I said as much I was met with blank stares, leading me to consider how I came to such a conclusion.

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art : portfolio
art : review

Isamu Noguchi: Self-Interned, 1942

by Zack Hatfield

How willful captivity shaped a sculptor's practice.

In a world of walls, Isamu Noguchi carved thresholds. Portals, gates, voids, and totems perforate the work of the late Japanese-American sculptor. Ostensibly, these works seem bereft of historicity or urgency, objects and surfaces that simply revel in their own form. Yet it would be a mistake to unmoor Noguchi's art from its political and personal context, through which they often become, despite their tranquilities, laden with histories of systemic violence and afflicted selfhood. A new retrospective at the Noguchi Museum, titled Self-Interned, 1942: Noguchi in Poston War Relocation Center revolves around the artist's decision to voluntarily enter Poston, Arizona's Japanese-American internment camp in 1942, where he would stay for seven months in an effort to enhance camp conditions through design. The sculptures displayed span over forty years, and obliquely illuminate Noguchi's confinement in a country that still today contends not only with presidential promises of mass deportation and registries, but also with increasingly relevant questions about how creative labor can embrace activism in a society rife with empty symbolic gestures.

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art : interview

Carl D'Alvia

by Laurie Simmons

"Statuary. Please explain."

I met Carl D'Alvia in the spring of 2005 at the American Academy in Rome, where he was sharing a vast rooftop studio with his wife, the painter Jackie Saccocio. I visited their studio often and became aware of Carl's patient and painstakingly slow process of making sculpture. He seemed right at home in the land of Bernini, Michelangelo, and Borromini. I've been a follower and a fan ever since and caught up with him on a chilly day last March in his Connecticut studio.

Laurie Simmons I love your work, but sometimes I find myself staring at it and thinking you've been making the same sculpture over and over again, for how many years?

Carl D'Alvia Well, I sort of started around 1999 in terms of this body of work—my mature body of work, let's say—so yes, it's been 16–17 years.

LS If I were summarizing your work for a Martian, somebody who knew nothing—

CD A dumb Martian.

LS (laughter) A Martian who's not interested in art, I would say that this guy Carl takes different shapes—some like animals, some of them vegetable or minerals—and renders mostly hair and fur, moving to feathers, on the surfaces of all these shapes.

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art : oral history

Peter Bradley

by Steve Cannon Quincy Troupe Cannon Hersey

Peter Bradley is fast: fast-talking, fast-thinking, fast-living. So fast, in fact, that so many of us are still trying to keep up with him today. Brimming with a certain velocity and vigor that has brought him around the world and back, all the while keeping a great sense of class and determination, Peter Bradley reached a level of success in the New York City art scene of the '70s and '80s that is like no other. The bearer of many hats (art dealer, curator, painter, sculptor, musician, teacher), Peter's story is one worth knowing, full of great anecdotes and historical narratives that reveal a picture of the past that is otherwise still unknown to many scholars and historians. From his time as associate director at Perls Gallery on Madison Avenue to curating the seminal exhibition, The De Luxe Show, 1971 in Houston, Texas to his time spent making sculptures in South Africa during the apartheid in the '80s to touring with jazz musician Art Blakey, Peter has proceeded through life with irresistible swag and toughness that is both infectious and, at times, overwhelming—never looking back, always moving forward. For this edition of BOMB's Oral History Project, Peter invited three longtime friends and colleagues to interview him: poet Steve Cannon, poet and writer Quincy Troupe, and artist Cannon Hersey. Focusing on different periods of his life and career, each interview delves deep into the world of Peter Bradley; one full of mystery, grit, and color.

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art : interview

Ivy Nicholson

by Conrad Ventur

"One white lie gave me a ten-year career in modeling."

I met Ivy Nicholson by chance in Tompkins Square Park in 2006. Recognizing her from afar, I summoned her my way, "Pose for a picture with my 'zine'?" She stood there holding a copy of my USELESS magazine. Click. Then she was on her way, and I moved to London. It wasn't for another few years before I found a reason to call her. It was the release of Andy Warhol's catalogue raisonné by Calle Angell—a catalogue of Warhol's epic 16mm film portrait series—that opened my world to the Superstars. I was living in London when it was released, but the thought of redoing Warhol's screen tests percolated in my thoughts. With such a detailed resource at my fingertips I was able to research all the names, find out who was still alive, and begin the process of reaching out. When I moved back to New York in 2009 I called Factory photographer Billy Name and asked if we could try redoing a screen test together. Later I videotaped Bibbe Hansen, and then in 2010 I videotaped Jonas Mekas, Ivy Nicholson and her daughter Penelope Palmer (who Warhol filmed when she was only a few months old), Ultra Violet, Mary Woronov, Taylor Mead, and many others. Videotaping Ivy and Penelope led to four years of photographing the two of them—as well as Penelope's twin brother Gunther—in and around their apartment in Staten Island, up until Ivy and Gunther moved temporarily to Kentucky and then onward to LA in 2014.

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art : interview

Daido Moriyama

by Bree Zucker

"The street is always interesting because any world of images I construct is promptly dismissed once I go outside."

Japanese photographer Daido Moriyama has garnered near-cult fascination since his images began to infiltrate the American consciousness in the late 1990s. At that time, his work rode to prominence on the wave of discovery surrounding Japanese photography—especially for book enthusiasts, who championed the strangely beautiful amalgam of poetic anti-hero and street snapshot genius in Moriyama's urban wanderings. His photo-essay memoirs of post-war Japan, Memories of a Stray Dog, were finally translated into English by Nazraeli Press in 2004, cementing his seizure of hearts worldwide as its carefully crafted texts met their match in light and shadow. Moriyama's work, passionate, personal, melancholic, bound by an obsession with memory, has since taken over—so much so, that he is now called the father of street photography.

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art : review

See & Be Seen

by Maika Pollack

On David Salle's How to See

Since his dynamite assessment of last year's "Forever Now" show at MoMA—which in many ways struck me as better and more thoughtful than the exhibition itself, particularly in its ability to map current trends in painting onto styles of contemporary fiction—I have been a fan of David Salle's writing on art.

So, naturally, I took notice when he published a whole book of criticism. Most of its pieces were originally written for Town & Country, The Paris Review, ArtNews, or Interview. (There are also several pieces concerning John Baldessai, Salle's professor at CalArts, that have not previously been published.) How to See seems pitched for a general audience, or perhaps an audience of art students: "The idea for this book is to write about contemporary art in the language artists use when they talk among themselves," Salle says in his introduction. By "artists" Salle means painters, since the art he writes about in this book is almost overwhelmingly all painting—and good painting too, from Amy Sillman to Francis Picabia to Albert Ohlen.

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art : comment

Dispatch from Standing Rock #4

by Ati Maier

Brooklyn-based artist Ati Maier is currently in North Dakota, where she has joined the Standing Rock Sioux in their demonstrations against the Dakota Access Pipeline. This fourth installment features images and audio captured just after the Army Corps of Engineers’ announcement that it will not approve an easement to allow the pipeline to cross under the Missouri River.

While the news has been heralded as a victory for the thousands gathered at the Oceti Sakowin encampment, many water protectors have underscored the fact that their fight is far from over. Eric, a veteran who has been at Standing Rock since early November, provides commentary, vowing to stay until all pipeline equipment has been removed. Spiritual leader Coyote, meanwhile, remarks on the importance of indigenous prayer practices and respect for natural resources so often regarded as mere commodities.

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art : review

Sondra Perry’s Resident Evil

by Terence Trouillot

Black memes, black bodies.

How do artists, black artists in particular, respond creatively and critically to the viral images of black death in the media without falling prey to sensationalism? Or, simply put: How do artists take inspiration from such abject imagery without coming off as trite?

Presently, there's an ongoing trend among artists to not only take the Black Lives Matter movement as subject matter, but also to repurpose media footage of black suffering in the hopes of gleaning new meaning through their own permutations. Carrie Mae Weems's Grace Notes: Reflections for Now (2016), Arthur Jafa's Love is the Message, the Message is Death (2016)—currently showing at Gavin Brown Enterprise in Harlem—and even Julie Mehretu's Conjured Parts (Eye), Ferguson (2016) are all cogent examples of artists culling images from the media and recasting or reinterpreting them to create spaces of introspection and empowerment.

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art : comment

Dispatch from Standing Rock #3

by Ati Maier

Brooklyn-based artist Ati Maier is currently in North Dakota, where she has joined the Standing Rock Sioux in their demonstrations against the Dakota Access Pipeline. This past Sunday, the Army Corps of Engineers announced that it will not approve an easement to allow the pipeline to cross under the Missouri River—a major step forward for the thousands of tribal leaders, veterans, and other water protectors who have gathered at the Oceti Sakowin encampment over the past several months.

This third installment features images and interviews made on December 3, before the Army's announcement the next afternoon. Artist Cannupa Hanska Luger, an enrolled member of the Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara tribes who was born in the Standing Rock area but now lives in New Mexico, speaks about the mirror shields he designed and distributed to water protectors on the front lines. With the organizing help of Rory Wakemup of All My Relations Arts in Minneapolis, 500 mirror shields were distributed throughout the camp, culminating in a performance, portions of which are presented here.

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art : review

The Artificial Life

by Andrea Kleine

Odyssey Works has an audience of one—and a book for the rest of us.

Looking at a stranger's Facebook or Instagram feed, you often develop an affinity for the person. You feel you know them. You might actually be "friends" without ever meeting. These incorporeal pals might make you feel good. They might influence your decisions. They might even change your life. Or you might, someday, be introduced and excitedly blurt out, "We're friends online!" You might feel awkward or bashful afterward, then interact with them less often as a result, wishing to go back to not knowing them, to connecting only with an idea of who they might be.

I thought these things as I read Odyssey Works' eponymous book (Princeton Architectural Press, 2016). The quasi theater company/immersive art experience collective, primarily instigated by Abraham Burickson and Ayden Leroux, creates "odysseys" for one audience member by infiltrating their lives, threading an artificial narrative through reality so intrinsically that the participant/subject/observer might not be aware their journey has begun until the Jungian synchronicities take over. Their family may be in on it. Their best friends might be double agents. Out of this elaborate undertaking, Odyssey Works seeks to provide a shifting of perception, a sort of psychological rapid detox, an infusion of wonder. Their goal is to create art that can have the deepest affect on people, and to accomplish this they have reduced their audience size to a single soul.

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