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Black Nationalism, rural Brooklyn, faces, and monoliths.
Bradford Young is obsessed with faces. More specifically, the Louisville-bred, D.C.-based cinematographer behind Pariah, Ain’t Them Bodies Saints, and Mother of George, is determined to render darker skin tones with a quality that does them visual justice. A series of these portraits anchors Bynum Cutler, Young’s elliptical exploration of the evolution of urban landscapes and its demographics, particularly as it relates to Bed-Stuy’s Weeksville settlement. A historic, intentional community, Weeksville was founded by its namesake James Weeks in 1838, not eleven years after the abolition of slavery. An entirely self-sufficient enclave, whose landowners enjoyed their status as registered voters, Weeksville thrived through the early 20th century, until its schools, churches, and various organizations were subsumed by the encroaching cityscape. Rediscovered in 1968 and ushered into preservation, the present-day Weeksville Heritage Center and Creative Time are now probing the site as an early casualty of gentrification with Funk, God, Jazz, and Medicine: Black Radical Brooklyn.
The God proxy among the group, Young set his three-part installation inside the dilapidated nave of the local Bethel Tabernacle AME Church, which also served as the site of Brooklyn’s first racially integrated public school in the 1890s. Bynum Cutler mines the forgotten history of its surroundings through Young’s powerful, monochromatic examination of its halls and congregation, as well as the Weeksville campus and neighborhood at large. During its run from mid-September to October, Black Radical Brooklyn functioned as an essential, multi-faceted conversation starter to address a Bed-Stuy, city, and country in flux. BOMB spoke to Young about the past, present and future of Bynum Cutler, as well as the various subjects it seeks to depict.[ Read More ]
Hidden poetry and repetition.
I first encountered the Berlin-based artist Natalie Czech’s work in 2012 at Ludlow 38 in New York. Her solo exhibition, I have nothing to say. Only to show. urged me to set aside any notion of passive viewership, and while the show’s title seemed to suggest that her photographs were merely to be looked at, they did in fact say something. The images felt like words to be looked at, but also carefully read, in pieces and over time, returned to like one returns to a poem, picks it up, and reads it over again. Opening up the connections between photography and writing in such a way as to eventually obscure their distinction, Czech’s work plays the visual qualities of text off the textual elements in the photographs, activating and crystallizing a mode of perception that both undoes and reconstitutes reading and seeing.
In pieces like A Small Bouquet for Frank O’Hara, for instance, Czech asked several writers to produce a text in response to O’Hara’s calligram “A Small Bouquet,” in which words and lines come together to produce an image corresponding to the poem’s title. These new texts are composed around the original poem, which is highlighted and circled so that its embedded reproduction is detectable amidst the new sentences that make use of O’Hara’s words. In her ongoing series, “Hidden Poems,” and the more recent, “Poems by Repetition,” Czech mines texts from a variety of sources, purposefully seeking or subconsciously finding in them words and fragments, which through a process of selection, repetition, and erasure, coalesce into poems by Gertrude Stein, Robert Creeley, Aram Saroyan, Bruce Andrews, or Tan Lin, to name only a few of the artist’s sources. Sometimes Czech finds poems that reappear in other texts, replicated down to the line break, which feels miraculous. Photography comes after—it seals, within the image, a proposition for one possible reading among many, of one text through another. She’s talked about the poem transpiring through, stuttering itself into existence, into enunciation. But as a whole, Czech’s project is to open up this realm of possibility endlessly, radically suggesting anew the potential coexistence of any and all texts within and amongst each other. This interview took place between May and June 2014 through e-mail correspondence, shortly after the opening of her project Il Pleut at the Palais de Tokyo, in Paris.[ Read More ]
Photography versus filmmaking, twenty-somethings, and New Orleans.
As participants of the international arts biennial, Prospect.3: Notes for Now, headed by artistic director Franklin Sirmans, Sophie T. Lvoff and Garrett Bradley discuss the nature of editing as it differs between still images and moving images, as well as questions on what differentiates art from moviemaking and narrative from documentary forms.
Lvoff is a New Orleans-based artist and curator. Lvoff uses literature as a jumping off point for her photographic-based work. Most recently having investigated the 1961 Walker Percy novel The Moviegoer, Lvoff’s body of color photographs entitled Hell’s Bells/Sulfur/Honey attempts to describe the indescribable in New Orleans through the search for authenticity and light.
After receiving a BFA from NYU and an MFA from Tulane University, her work has been exhibited in museums and galleries nationally & internationally. Her first solo show was at Good Children Gallery in New Orleans in 2013. Her work will be on view at the Contemporary Art Center as part of Prospect.3: Notes for Now opening October 25, 2014. In 2014 through 2015, Lvoff will attend the Ecole du Magasin curatorial training program in Grenoble, France.
Garrett Bradley is a New Orleans based artist working in film and video. Bradley’s work is reflective of the environments in which they are made. Often combining scripted scenarios with an impressionistic formality, the work leans toward the functionality of social juxtaposition and historical reflection as it relates to human conflict and class in America.
Below Dreams, Bradley’s first feature length film, was named the Best Narrative Feature, and Best First Feature in the 2014 TriBeCa Film Festival IndieWire Critics Picks. Bradley was also named Best Director. In additio to the work shown at Prospect 3, Below Dreams will be screening as a part of Festival du Nouveau Cinema Montreal, CPH:MARKET and the New Orleans Film Festival, October 18 and 23 at the historic Joy and Prytania Theater.[ Read More ]
Eternity, ecology, and outer space.
Since the book appeared this past April, Rachel Sussman's The Oldest Living Things in the World project has captured the public imagination; it's about time, ecology, and even our deepest conceptions of eternity and life. Sussman has shifted her focus from—in her own words—“deep time” to “deep space,” which she is currently researching during her tenure at LACMA's Art + Technology Lab. She also opened the first gallery show dedicated to this project at Pioneer Works last week. We talked about scales of time in her work, lichens in outer space, and what happens when a sleeper-bestseller photography book is translated into an exhibition.[ Read More ]
“I never wanted to be a performance artist.”
Clifford Owens will present “A Forum for Performance Art” at the BAM Fisher on Thursday, Oct 16, 2014.
Martha Wilson In college, I minored in art because I was too afraid to declare myself to be an artist. During graduate school in English Literature, I would hang out at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, the art college across the street, because the visiting artists program was bringing in the Conceptual artists of the day from Vito Acconci to Lawrence Weiner, and the students (including my boyfriend) were way cooler. How did you become interested in performance art, Clifford?
Clifford Owens Indeed, I arrived to performance art through photography.[ Read More ]
The process of performance.
Boru O’Brien O’Connell speaks in open-ended sentences which frequently splinter into several different thoughts, reflecting the multimedia artist’s ambivalence toward didactic methods of relaying information and problems with pedagogy more generally.
His performance and film works feel like the artist’s internal dialogues. Since 2010, O’Brien O’Connell has been accumulating a body of looped films, projections made in collaboration with other performance artists, and monologues performed in public places. The performers, who range from the choreographer Miguel Gutierrez, who was included in this year’s Whitney Biennial, to children in the nebulous age range between nine and thirteen, spout chains of thought that often seem grounded only by the surety of the performers themselves. A 2013 piece titled I can only tell you what it does for me, performed by twelve-year-old Izzy Sherman, deftly sums the experience of watching these performances, in which oblique narratives leave the audience members wondering if others in the room understood what just transpired better than they did. Each performance is singularly moving, but you’re left not entirely sure you caught O’Brien O’Connell’s drift.[ Read More ]
Learning to dwell in various landscapes.
Since 1970, New York City–based Charles Simonds has created miniature landscapes with meticulously crafted Dwellings, as he calls them, for an imaginary civilization of Little People, who are migrating through neighborhoods in New York, mainly the Lower East Side, and appear in other cities throughout the world. He is also known for larger-scale sculptures, installations, and videos.
Last year, Simonds gave a “Modern Mondays” talk at the Museum of Modern Art. Veronika Vogler attended the event, which included a Q&A with Stephanie Weber, then Assistant Curator at MoMA, and Christopher Lyon, now the publisher of Lyon Artbooks. An excerpt of their conversation is below, followed by Vogler’s further questions to Simonds about his Dwellings and Floating Cities, as well as recent projects.[ Read More ]
Books as an exhibition space, reprinting archival material, and some thoughts on the current state of art publishing.
Primary Information’s catalog is as broad as it is deep. Over the course of nearly a decade in arts publishing, the duo—curator Miriam Katzeff and artist James Hoff—have produced printed matter and sound work that reach back to the archives of the mid-century avant-gardes and put it in dialogue with a diverse span of current artistic practices. Their work as historical excavators is highly regarded; through their facsimiles, Hoff and Katzeff have brought back into circulation a number of seminal artists’ publications that would have otherwise been left to the exclusive domain of collectors and library rare book rooms, from The Anthology of Concrete Poetry to Aram Saroyan’s Coffee Coffee to the collected issues of Avalanche and Destroy All Monsters Magazine, among many others. Primary Information’s role as publisher of the contemporary is equally crucial, having produced original and boundary-pushing artists’ books by Elad Lassry, Florian Hecker, Lutz Bacher, Sarah Crowner, and others. (Lassry’s On Onions, a strange and encyclopedic montage devoted to the bulb, is one of my personal favorites. The book was named “Artist Book of the Year” by Art in America in 2013.) Add to this a handful of LPs that range from no wave to noise and sound poetry, and you’re looking at a shelf of titles that is more tastefully curated and well-assembled than that of any other publisher working today.[ Read More ]
The dreamlike state of drawing from nature.
I met artist Josh Dorman the second day of my freshman year of high school. His office, a nook in my new drawing classroom, was covered with detailed scientific drawings on stripes of off-white paper. As he led students through elementary drawing exercises, his precision and love of intricacy rendered a simple still life of a pepper into a deeply complex organism. Over the course of the next few years, admiring his drawings as I washed my paintbrushes, I began to better understand the science and further appreciate the imagination of his art. His drawings involve an attention to detail that is obsessive, methodical, and enthralling.
I exalted Dorman’s work from afar, frequently scrolling through the paintings on his website. In my drawing class my first year of college, I chose him for an artist project, in which I used his method to recreate one of his earlier works. This June, walking through the Ryan Lee gallery, I happened to recognize Tower of Babel (2008) from an exhibition of his works that was on view at Spence, my high school. In this painting, he demonstrates his ability to balance intricacies against grand scale, creating an imposing, mountainous form composed of machinery and architecture. When I noticed that the aged, yellow canvas was made of antique maps and piano scrolls, I knew the work had to be Dorman’s. I discovered he had a solo show at the Ryan Lee Gallery scheduled for September, right after I left for school. Luckily enough, Mr. Dorman, now officially Josh to me, welcomed me to his studio, tolerated my numerous questions, and gave me a private showing of his latest works.[ Read More ]
Art history via conversations
I was first introduced to Assaf Evron by a mutual friend at an art fair in Chicago. Shortly thereafter, he and I began a series of studio visits. Our relationship has become an ideal source of material for an essay about the collaborative nature of the relationship between artist and curator, because our discussions revolve around my insistence on visual coherence—what Assaf derisively refers to as "homogeneity"—and his vociferous defense of heterogeneity as an inherent and defining feature of his practice.[ Read More ]
BOMB’s Oral History Project documents the life stories of New York City’s African American artists.
I met with Jeanne Moutoussamy-Ashe in the late afternoon of a mild October day in an office building in mid-town where the Arthur Ashe Learning Center (AALC) is located. This trailblazing photographer and author of Daufuskie Island (1982) and Viewfinders: Black Women Photographers (1993), Daddy and Me (1993), and African Flower: Singing of Angels (2001) was seated at her desk busy with the details of her newest project, the AALC, which focuses on educating, motivating and inspiring youth. She is no stranger to devotion and commitment. These are the principles that she has always employed in every venture of her life from personal to professional. In fact, her astounding purposefulness has created a space where there is no distinction between the two. All of her work is profoundly intimate.[ Read More ]
On influence, feminism, and performance.
One of the lessons I learned from Antin's work is that an artist can make a stage out of anything and step inside of it with the simplest of methods. Her show felt like it offered a possibility: feel free to be a wanderer, create journeys, go on them, and see where they lead you. After wandering through her show, I decided to write to her and ask her some questions. The following is our correspondence.[ Read More ]
Infinite configurations: collection, space, and story.
I met Charlotte Moth in August 2012 in Paris, where she lives and works. She was preparing for an isolated year in the residency of Schloss Solitude in Stuttgart following her first major solo exhibition, at the Centre d’Art Contemporain Genève, which had just closed. We spent the afternoon looking through images of the exhibition, which brought together photographs, sculptures, and films made since the beginning of her Travelogue, a collection of images of exterior and interior architectural spaces without chronological or geographical indicators that evolves via processes of accumulation and deferral. The exhibition also included two works by her frequent collaborators Falke Pisano and Peter Fillingham.[ Read More ]
Life as medium: Physical and conceptual notions of the body, sexuality, and identity.
New Delhi–based artist Mithu Sen makes sculptures, installations, drawings, and texts that critique ideas around desire, sex and sexuality, representation, the body, and what it means to be an Indian woman in contemporary society. Sen feels a deep kinship with the legacy of feminism and often infuses elements like hair and blood from her own body into her art as a way of examining our relationship to the material world. The historical legacy her work carries through its subject matter may be heavy, but she manages to convey the lighter side of the human condition through humor and sharp wit. For her first solo museum exhibition in the United States, Sen created a large-scale installation of false teeth and dental polymer to question the visible and invisible dividing lines among human beings. During her travels to the US, as she worked to finish and install her work at the Broad Museum, Sen shared more with me about her work and practice that spans genres and disciplines.[ Read More ]
An outsider looking in.
For a number of years, Daniel McKewen taught a class at the Queensland University of Technology that functioned as a drop-in critique and discussion session for whoever was around at the time. We almost always ended up talking about film and the media, which for a number of years have formed the content of his video-based work. Last summer, sharing a workshop in the subtropics, we worked side-by-side in a steamy tin shed, doors thrown wide to catch whatever breeze there was. As he obsessively polished a bronze sculpture to mirror-finish, he offered his steady and reasoned advice to whoever came knocking. The advice was usually: Keep doing it. At the 2014 Sydney Biennale and the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art’s NEW14 exhibition McKewen showed video-based work focusing on popular media, cinema, and fan culture, but his newer pieces consist of sculpture and drawing. His work, culled from familiar sources, aims for the jolt of recognition before the quotidian is made strange. We spoke about harvesting laugh tracks, the politics of art funding, and his upcoming show at Milani Gallery in Brisbane, which deals with the global financial crisis.[ Read More ]
Finding meeting points: in preparation for a joint show, two artists talk about materials, process, and presenting their work.
At the onset of this conversation, the artists Laura Aldridge and Lee Maida had never met each other. We shared a couple of short, three-way email exchanges to get the ball rolling, but ultimately this session was a lot like a blind date, a real set up. We initiated the talk, which took place over Skype, because I had invited them to present new work in a two-person exhibition at Andrew Kreps gallery in New York over the summer. While Aldridge is based in Glasgow and Maida in New York, it would be easy enough to apply a synchronistic frame around their practices. Aldridge and Maida’s three-dimensional works show an interest in color, the legacy of images, and the malleable, textured life of material. If left to their own volition, though, I doubt that either artist would initiate a conversation about their work according to the vestiges of materiality. Especially for that reason, I leaned into this potentially troublesome zone. A discussion about material and desire might tease out various distinctions and nuanced similarities regarding the use of ceramics and fabric in each of their work, which include some of the most poignant, anachronistic examples of clay and fabric in a day-glo world.[ Read More ]
BOMB’s Oral History Project documents the life stories of New York City’s African American artists.
Adger Cowans is a renowned fine arts photographer and painter whose works have been shown by The Metropolitan Museum of Art, International Museum of Photography, Museum of Modern Art, The Studio Museum of Harlem, The Cleveland Museum of Art, Harvard Fine Art Museum, Detroit Art Institute, James E. Lewis Museum and numerous other art institutions. His photographs were highlighted in the exhibition, Committed to the Image: Contemporary Black Photographers at the Brooklyn Museum of Art in 2001. Cowans was awarded the Lorenzo il Magnifico alla Carriera in recognition of a Distinguished Career at the 2001 Florence Biennale of Contemporary Art. In 2015, Glitterati, Inc. will be publishing a book of his work.
Cowans attended Ohio University where he received a BFA in photography. He furthered his education at the School of Motion Picture Arts and School of Visual Arts in New York. While serving in the United States Navy, he worked as a photographer before moving to New York, where he later worked with Life magazine photographer, Gordon Parks and fashion photographer, Henri Clarke. The New York Times described Cowans’ work as “Boldly inventive and experimental ... the artist is a craftsman to his fingertips.”
Funded by The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts with The New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council, with additional funding from the Dedalus Foundation and New York Community Trust, as well as A G Foundation and Toni L. Ross.
BOMB’s Oral History Advisory Panel is Sanford Biggers, Thelma Golden, Kellie Jones, Mickalene Thomas, Carrie Mae Weems, Stanley Whitney, and Jack Whitten.[ Read More ]
Ciphers, graffiti hieroglyphs, and lateral communication.
This conversation between Andrew Blackley, Johanna Burton, and Scott Treleaven is the third and final component of Keith Haring: Languages. It supplements an exhibition at the Fales Library and Special Collections (NYU) of 130 never-before-exhibited, understudied artworks and documents held by the Keith Haring Foundation. A conference featuring nine speakers coincided with the exhibition's opening, bringing together figures from across academic and professional disciplines in order to publicly address the lineages available in these text-based materials as adjacent and precedent to the more well-known visual art of Haring’s later career. The text below threads together the major themes from Keith Haring: Languages—historicity, methodology, and the readership of artists’ writings and papers as substantive material and theoretical categories.[ Read More ]