Jan 172020
 

It’s the last week to see Robert Longo’s eight hyperreal charcoal drawings from his “Destroyer Cycle” at Metro Pictures.

From the press release-

The title (of the exhibition) Fugitive Images refers to the transitory appearance and displacement of impactful media images from across the globe. Longo believes it is morally imperative to secure their permanence.

Longo’s drawing of Jamal Khashoggi is central to the exhibition, which includes works depicting a range of world events from disparate locations. The journalist is shown disappearing into a field of static that recalls a television with poor reception, struggling to maintain the picture. In stark contrast to the evanescent portrait of the murdered journalist is a deeply humane drawing of a mass of migrants on a grueling journey from Central America. The work focuses on the faces and personal effects of the individual men, women, and children, who appear desperate and exhausted. Another drawing that shares the main gallery counters this sympathetic sentiment, showing a choreographed military parade of North Korean soldiers in an exaggerated, highly athletic, mechanized goose step commonly associated with dictatorial regimes and blind obedience.

The reference images that are the basis of Longo’s drawings are generally extensively altered and merged. His drawing of a Jewish cemetery in France crudely vandalized by Neo-Nazis is an exception. Longo maintains the legibility of the tombstones despite the spray-painted swastikas, which fail to obscure the engraved epitaphs of the people buried there––a widow, a religious man who lived a long life, and an honest hardworking man who died on Shabbat.

The exhibition ends with a moment of optimism, determination, and progress. Longo’s drawing of Congress during President Trump’s second State of the Union Address immortalizes the female representatives and lawmakers who chose to wear white in solidarity with the suffragette movement by portraying them as a blurred beacon of light within a sea of darkness.

This exhibition closes 1/18/20.

Jan 172020
 

Closing on 1/18/20 at Gladstone Gallery in Chelsea is Ugo Rondinone’s thanx 4 nothing, a multi-channel video installation that pays tribute to the artist’s late husband, the poet and performance artist, John Giorno.

From the press release-

Rondinone reconstructs the gallery into a black box theater, creating an immersive environment through the use of black-and-white film, minimalist score, and the rhythmic intonations of Giorno’s own voice. This exhibition is a prismatic paean to the poet, raconteur, muse, cultural icon, and New York fixture.

Curator Ralph Rugoff said of the work on the occasion of its installation at Hayward Gallery in 2016:

“In elegantly spectacular fashion, Ugo Rondinone’s 20-screen video installation, “thanx 4 nothing “(2015), presents the American poet John Giorno reciting – though ‘performing’ might be a better word – the titular poem. Written on his seventieth birthday in 2006, and framed as an extended and wide-ranging expression of gratitude to ‘everyone for everything,’ Giorno’s poetic monologue looks back over his life with frank insight and humour, reflecting on loves and losses, friends and enemies, sex and drugs, depression and spiritual acceptance. As presented by Rondinone, whose work inventively interlaces the rhythms of his images with those of the poet’s speech, it is also a dizzying meditation on duality.”

It’s a great poem and a wonderful visual. Surrounded by the poet himself on all four walls of the gallery, you are completely immersed in his reading.

If you are curious about the poem itself, below is a video of Giorno reading it for his 75th Birthday Tour at the Words Aloud 8 Spoken Word Festival at the Durham Art Gallery in Durham, Canada, in 2011.

 

Jan 162020
 

Drink More, 1964 by Ushio Shinohara (left piece) and Untitled, 1980s by Nobuaki Kojima (sculpture on right)

Souvenir, 1964, by Jasper Johns

Shadow of a Hanger, 1971 by Jiro Takamatsu

Japan is America at Fergus McCaffrey gallery in Chelsea “explores the complex artistic networks that informed avant-garde art in Japan and America between 1952 and 1985. Starting with the well-documented emergence of “American-Style Painting” that ran parallel to the Americanization of Japan in the 1950s, Japan Is America endeavors to illustrate the path and conditions from Japanese surrender in 1945 to that country’s putative cultural take-over of the United States some forty years later”.

Artists in the show include: Yuji Agematsu, Ruth Asawa, James Lee Byars, John Cage, Joe Goode, Sam Francis, Marcia Hafif, Noriyuki Haraguchi, Tatsuo Ikeda, Shigeo Ishii, Ishiuchi Miyako, Jasper Johns, Alison Knowles, Nobuaki Kojima, Tomio Miki, Sadamasa Motonaga, Hiroshi Nakamura, Natsuyuki Nakanishi, Senga Nengudi, Yoko Ono, Ken Price, Robert Rauschenberg, Ed Ruscha, Richard Serra, Ushio Shinohara, Fujiko Shiraga, Kazuo Shiraga, Jiro Takamatsu, Anne Truitt, and Toshio Yoshida.

This exhibition closes 1/18/20.

Jan 162020
 

Sexy Robot_Floating, 2019 by Hajime Sorayama

Tokyo Pop Underground curated by Tokyo gallerist Shinji Nanzuka and currently at Jeffrey Deitch gallery in Los Angeles “explores the complex history of Japanese contemporary art from the 1960s to the present through the works of seventeen artists who emerged from pop and underground culture”.

From the press release-

Shinji Nanzuka explains that “originally in Japan, most of what is referred to as art are practical items, developed together and in integration with popular culture.” He cites examples from calligraphy to folding screens, paintings on sliding paper doors, lacquerware, netsuke, and the Ukiyo-e prints that served as posters and commercial portraits. He also mentions art historian Naoyuki Kinoshita’s study of intricately realistic handicrafts such as iki-ningyou, life-like dolls that were made for exhibitory performances. Nanzuka’s mission in this exhibition is to present contemporary artistic commentaries on this Japanese artistic heritage.

Deviating from the mainstream current of “art for art’s sake” when he opened his Tokyo gallery in 2005, Nanzuka decided to focus on artists whose works at the time were not considered to be art. Artists like Keiichi Tanaami, Harumi Yamaguchi, and Hajime Sorayama, whose works are now celebrated in the international art world, were looked down upon as producers of commercial and popular art. Nanzuka saw them as prime exponents of the idiosyncratic nature of Japan’s culture and history.

Another reason that Tanaami, Yamaguchi, Sorayama, and Toshio Saeki did not receive recognition until recently is the radical intensity of their practice. The expressions of sex and violence in their work are statements of anti-authority and anti-uniformity. The aggressive portraits of women painted by Harumi Yamaguchi show her engagement with the women’s liberation movement of the 1970s. Sorayama’s sexualized robots predict a dystopian future.

There are strong links between the underground Japanese culture from which many of these artists emerged and the American graffiti and skateboard subcultures that were embraced by Japanese youth. Haroshi, one of the younger artists in the show, constructs his works entirely from wood sliced from skateboards donated by friends and professional skateboarders to compose a collective portrait of his enlarged, international community.

The artists in Tokyo Pop Underground reflect the strains in contemporary Japanese culture as it rebuilt itself after the ruins of war and confronts numerous natural disasters. Their work reflects what Nanzuka describes as “the crazy cross-cultural exchange” between the West, the East, and the Far East, shaping a new international artistic language.

This exhibition closes 1/18/20.

Jan 102020
 

Gagosian is currently showing artist Richard Serra’s work at two of their locations. Above are works from Serra’s Rounds series and fill the entire West 24th Street location (closing 1/11/20), and in the 21st Street space is his Reverse Curve sculpture (closing 2/1/20).

Jan 102020
 

sweater man, 2017

Sand and Ice, 2017-19

Currently at Klowden Mann is Alexandra Wiesenfeld’s exhibition They found ritual and order but couldn’t see the real (year 3008), her fifth solo exhibition at the gallery.

From the press release-

The show features a series of large-scale oil paintings on canvas in which Wiesenfeld imagines a heightened future Earth–long after the climate has tipped–with few humans and very little evidence remaining of our time dominating the planet.  The works are non-narrative: abstracted landscapes formed in vivid colors, offering the state of mind and eye of a future on the other side of our current strategy of dominance at all costs, and its consequences…

Wiesenfeld’s new works are visual representations of a time past the context of the structures humanity has built, and the vast resources we have mined and violence we have justified to sustain them. In her statement, Wiesenfeld writes, “Painting these invented landscapes is as much about climate grief, escapism into a sci-fi world as an act of devotion to the beauty of the natural world, even if no longer viable for us. They are about the human need for myth-making when facing landscape alone.”

Wiesenfeld forms the paintings through layers of color without a referent; made from imagination and impulse, there are often many stories of imagery and tone under the final painting.  Several of the paintings include grids of colored dots that disappear and reappear on the surface, under and over forms that feel like rocks, flesh, plant life we have never seen. The dots often appear as a partially-formed system of analysis–visual schematics through which to understand land that is no longer familiar…

This show closes 1/11/20.

Jan 092020
 

Blum & Poe in Los Angeles is currently showing two very different exhibitions. In the main gallery is a selected survey of work by Harvey Quaytman spanning three decades.

From the press release-

Harvey Quaytman (b. 1937, Rockaway, NY; d. 2002, New York, NY) came of age in the downtown art scene of 1960s New York, living and working in SoHo studios first on Grand Street and later at 231 Bowery, where he would remain through the late ’90s. Long considered an artist’s artist, the painter enjoyed a close-knit and vibrant artistic and social milieu, over the years sharing studio addresses with Brice Marden, Ron Gorchov, and James Rosenquist, among others. Quaytman’s emerging career as a young painter began in the heyday of Ab Ex with a marked allegiance to Gorky and de Kooning. This approach was slowly shed as the decade unfolded, as his work began to lean towards sculpture—compositions with curvilinear shaped canvases and rectilinear U-shaped bases that inhabited a newfound objecthood. This was followed by a forty-year engagement with geometric abstraction, his approach to painting in contradistinction to the prevailing trends of the era—first with Pop Art and later Neo Expressionism. Despite painting being declared “dead” by Minimalist and Conceptual artists of the time, Quaytman maintained a commitment to the medium and to his vision throughout, helping to shape an alternate trajectory for American painting.

The artist’s work in the ‘70s developed into shield-like forms that balance on curved platforms, conjuring a motion that would result in a critic calling them “rocking rectangles”—the body of work later known simply as “rocker” paintings. These eccentrically shaped works were hand-crafted (he would steam and bend the wooden stretchers himself), and inherently related to movement—inspired by Islamic calligraphy, rocking chairs, and the flight patterns of airplanes and birds. His experiments with shape continued in the late ‘70s, and through the manipulation of geometric intersections and overlapping forms that all the while imply motion, a unique group of paintings resembling anchors or pendulums emerged. In the 1980s, Quaytman began his cruciform paintings, investigations of the cross shape not as emblem but as two meeting vectors; Constructivist, perpendicular geometric compositions that focused on the reduced palette of black, white, red, rusted iron, and metallic gold. While these paintings represented a stark departure from his previous work, Quaytman continued to pursue visual movement as he conjured an interplay of symmetry and asymmetry.

Many of the works become even more intriguing up close.  His use of different materials to achieve varying tones and textures makes them come alive.

The press release discusses a bit about his process in creating them-

As his paintings evolved in form and shape, variously touching upon Abstract Expressionism, Minimalism, Process Art, and Constructivism, Quaytman simultaneously developed a rigorous practice of experimentation with pigment. He was interested in the history, alchemy, and chromatic effects of color, seeking out unique tonalities at specialty stores at home and abroad, becoming a master of color and texture. He skillfully poured paint, spreading Rhoplex over canvas with broad wallpaper brushes after dusting it with pure pigment that settled in thick, unpredictable strata. He later flecked canvas with glass or iron filings and used additives such as marble dust in paint he always mixed himself. On this subject, he said: “It is very important to me to be reminded that I am not an alchemist but a man engaged in coded, layered conversation with my fellow man on what I hope to be (on another) level than words or music.”

On the second floor are Matt Johnson’s delightful sculptures whose familiar materials seem to defy gravity as they balance on each other in the compositions.

From the press release

In an ever-expanding practice in search of the peculiar and the sublime, Johnson elevates the mundane to the exceptional. With a new body of work in carved and polychromed wood sculpture, Johnson depicts configurations of raw industrial materials from cinder block, brick, rebar, to traffic cones—permutations of information composed according to gravity, balance, and primitive instinct. A crude horse, a procession of block figures, cantilevered props, and fragile towers make reference to the concept of knowledge with small gestures—a lighter, a match book, a lightbulb, an atlas, and a monograph on Matisse. The doweled joints of glue and/or epoxy between bricks, blocks, and bars exist here not to defy gravity but to freeze balance and preserve delicate moments of experimental groupings. Like a still life, these works are organized information, like subatomic particles, atoms and elements, molecules and compounds, glued by gravity, and magnetic polarity, surfing in a sea of electrical conductivity.

Both of these exhibitions close 1/11/20.

 

 

Jan 042020
 

A Chinese Dream by Wang Jin

First Class by Xu Bing

First Class (detail)

Closing 1/5/20 is The Allure of Matter: Material Art from China at LACMA.

From their website-

Since the 1980s, Chinese contemporary artists have cultivated intimate relationships with their materials, establishing a framework of interpretation revolving around materiality. Their media range from the commonplace to the unconventional, the natural to the synthetic, the elemental to the composite: from plastic, water, and wood, to hair, tobacco, and Coca-Cola. Artists continue to explore and develop this creative mode, with some devoting decades of their practice to experiments with a single material. The Allure of Matter: Material Art from China brings together works from the past four decades in which conscious material choice has become a symbol of the artists’ expression, representing this unique trend throughout recent history. Some of the most influential Chinese contemporary artists today are featured in this exhibition, including Xu Bing, Cai Guo-Qiang, Lin Tianmiao, and Ai Weiwei.

There are a lot of impressive pieces in the show, including Xu Bing’s First Class, pictured above. Inspired by a photograph of a tiger-skin rug in a colonial home in Shanghai, it was created using cigarettes, also considered a luxury item by many. 

Also pictured are Wang Jin’s imperial robes/theatrical costumes that were created using PVC and fishing wire- replacing the traditional silk material. According to the wall description, the title Chinese Dream “alludes to the commercialization of tradition”. Held up by thick metal chains, they are also much heavier than the originals they copy.

Jan 032020
 

Closing 1/5/20  at Hauser & Wirth’s Los Angeles location is Charles Gaines’ exhibition Palm Trees and Other Works. This exhibition will debut new works from his signature Gridworks series.

Using photographs of native trees from Palm Canyon near Palm Springs, Gaines selectively layers paint on acrylic sheets atop black and white photographs of corresponding landscapes with trees. Following this process, each tree is assigned a distinctive color and a numbered grid that reflects the positive space of the tree in the original photographic image.

The exhibition also includes new watercolor work and Manifesto 3– which takes Martin Luther King, Jr.’s speech given at the University of Newcastle upon Tyne (1967) and James Baldwin’s essay Princes and Powers (1957) and using a rule-based system to convert letters from the text into their equivalent musical notes creating a musical score.

From Hauser & Wirth’s website-

Reflecting on his personal history, Gaines observed that ‘one thing that made me different from other conceptual artists is that I was not shying away from language or meaning or content’ – a truth perhaps best exemplified by ‘Manifestos 3’ (2018). This work functions as a systematic transliteration of revolutionary manifestos into musical notation. The installation is comprised of two parts: a single channel video monitor that scrolls the manifesto texts, and two large graphite drawings of the music scores that were produced by the translation. Each text scrolls in succession on a monitor while a recording of the music produced by Gaines’s system plays. Created by way of a rule-based system, Gaines transcribes letters ‘A – H’ from the text into their equivalent musical notes. The use of the letter ‘H’ represents the code used in early Baroque tradition for B-flat. All other letters and spaces between words are noted as rests or silent beats. While the resulting composition does sound intentional, it is controlled only by the preconceived notation system that follows the compositional structure of language. This produces the fluidity that the audience hears.

The two political texts transcribed in ‘Manifestos 3’ are Martin Luther King, Jr.’s speech given at the University of Newcastle upon Tyne (1967), wherein King nominates racism, poverty, and war as the three most urgent problems of the contemporary world, and James Baldwin’s essay ‘Princes and Powers’ (1957) which describes the dominating power of cultural control. These two manifestos are systematically translated into the above described musical notations as written and arranged for piano by Gaines and edited by John Eagle.

This series not only takes social justice and politics on as its subject, but also as it may critique our understanding of the relationship of the practice of art and politics. By converting these powerful and poignant texts into music, Gaines unites the rational, mathematical, and lyrical structures of music with the irrationality of violence, racial tensions, and social injustice. The predetermined process developed by Gaines widens the distance between concepts and their interpretation, effectively removing the artist’s subjectivity while empowering the viewer’s. The combination of the elegiac music with the stirring words of the scrolling manifestos creates an unexpected conflict for the viewer; it is within this dissonance that the indelible truths of Gaines’s work are revealed.