Mar 062020
 

Currently at Galerie Lelong & Co. is Krzysztof Wodiczko: A House Divided…, a projection installation work that explores the diverse political issues in the United States. For this project Wodiczko projects videos of various people from New York’s Staten Island discussing their political views. Their bodies appear superimposed on two large statues of Abraham Lincoln, which face each other in the room.

From the press release-

The exhibition’s title refers to the phrase “A house divided against itself cannot stand” from Abraham Lincoln’s 1858 speech during an unsuccessful run for U.S. Senate, which quoted a passage from the Bible, Matthew (12:22-28). Lincoln borrowed a familiar phrase in order to garner support for the contentious proposition of unifying a rapidly expanding nation teetering on the brink of war. Wodiczko repurposes the statement in a contemporary setting to highlight the partisan contention. In 2019, Wodiczko conducted research of suburban social landscapes in the Tri-State area before choosing Staten Island, a New York City borough that is racially and ethnically diverse yet a simultaneously politically divided geography: north as liberal-leaning and south as conservative-leaning. “Speaking to each other, they explain and exchange their positions and disagreements while expressing their mutual wish for careful and respectful listening to the opposite side,” says Wodiczko.

This exhibition closes 3/7/20 but the artist’s most recent site-specific projection, Monument, is showing in Madison Square Park (starting at dusk) through May 10th.

For Monument, Wodiczko projects “the likenesses and spoken narratives of resettled refugees—who have originated from different parts of the world—onto the Park’s 1881 monument to Admiral David Glasgow Farragut. A looping video projection will bring the monument to life with stories of displacement that illuminate how war, conflict, and political fallout impact individuals globally, encouraging visitors to consider how the history of conflict is memorialized.”

 

Feb 202020
 

Closing 2/22/20 at David Zwirner’s 20th Street location in New York is Stan Douglas’s fascinating video installation Doppelgänger. It is also on view at view at Victoria Miro Gallery in London.

From the press release

Since the late 1980s, Douglas has created films and photographs—and more recently theater productions and other multidisciplinary projects—that investigate the parameters of their mediums. His ongoing inquiry into technology’s role in image-making, and how those mediations infiltrate and shape collective memory, has resulted in works that are at once specific in their historical and cultural references and broadly accessible.

Doppelgänger is set in an alternative present. Displayed on two square-format, translucent screens, each of which can be viewed from both sides, the looped narrative unfolds in side-by-side vignettes that depict events on worlds that are light years apart. When one spacecraft embarks on its journey, another is launched at the same time in a parallel reality. Alice, a solitary astronaut, is teleported to a distant planet, and her double to another. Then, Alice and her ship, the Hermes II, for unknown reasons, return. Alice assumes her mission has failed and she has somehow returned home, but she has, in fact, arrived at a world where everything, from writing to the rotation of the sun, is literally the reverse of what she once knew.

The action on the two screens proceeds alternately in tandem and in parallel, seamlessly moving between two oppositional scenarios of Alice’s reception back on Earth. In one version, Alice is received compassionately and welcomed home, whereas in the other, she is treated as an outlaw or a potential threat. Douglas intentionally heightens the viewer’s feeling of displacement through a continual sense of reversal and mirroring, both in the form and content of his installation. Since the early 1990s, multi-channel video installations have been an integral part of Douglas’s practice, allowing for the simultaneous presentation of multiple, overlapping narratives or vantage points, and with Doppelgänger, he extends his ongoing exploration of both nonlinear narratives and alternate histories: the omnipresent sense of doubling that is built into the structure of the work implicitly suggests the possibility of simultaneous, diverging experiences and realities.

Intercut with quasi-abstract passages of color and light, which nod both to avant-garde cinema as well as the history of space exploration, Doppelgänger presents a nuanced and layered parable that powerfully addresses the slippery notion of objective truth, and the position of the “other” in contemporary society.

 

Feb 202020
 

Mary Jane, 2008

Untitled, 2015

 

1975 (8), 2013

Painting for My Dad, 2011

The “Fitz”, 2015

Black Widow, 2007

Leni Riefenstahl, 2010

Artist Noah Davis’s superb paintings are currently on view at David Zwirner gallery’s two 19th Street locations in New York until 2/22. Although his career was brief, he died in 2015, what he accomplished in his life is admirable.

From the press release

Davis’s body of work encompasses, on the one hand, his lush, sensual, figurative paintings and, on the other, an ambitious institutional project called The Underground Museum, a black-owned-and-operated art space dedicated to the exhibition of museum-quality art in a culturally underserved African American and Latinx neighborhood in Los Angeles. The works on view will highlight both parts of Davis’s oeuvre, featuring more than twenty of his most enduring paintings, as well as models of previous exhibitions curated by Davis at The Underground Museum. The exhibition also includes a “back room,” modeled on the working offices at The Underground Museum, featuring more paintings by Davis, as well as BLKNWS by Davis’s brother Kahlil Joseph; a sculpture by Karon Davis, the artist’s widow; and Shelby George furniture, designed by Davis’s mother Faith Childs-Davis.

Helen Molesworth notes:

Noah Davis (b. Seattle, 1983; d. Ojai, California, 2015) was a figurative painter and cofounder of The Underground Museum (UM) in Los Angeles. Despite his untimely death at the age of thirty-two, Davis’s paintings are a crucial part of the rise of figurative and representational painting in the first two decades of the twenty-first century.

Loneliness and tenderness suffuse his rigorously composed paintings, as do traces of his abiding interest in artists such as Marlene Dumas, Kerry James Marshall, Fairfield Porter, and Luc Tuymans. Davis’s pictures can be slightly deceptive; they are modest in scale yet emotionally ambitious. Using a notably dry paint application and a moody palette of blues, purples, and greens, his work falls into two loose categories: There are scenes from everyday life, such as a portrait of his young son, a soldier returning from war, or a housing project designed by famed modernist architect Paul Williams. And there are paintings that traffic in magical realism, surreal images that depict the world both seen and unseen, where the presence of ancestors, ghosts, and fantasy are everywhere apparent.

Generous, curious, and energetic, Davis founded, along with his wife, the sculptor Karon Davis, The Underground Museum, an artist- and family-run space for art and culture in Los Angeles. The UM began modestly—Noah and Karon worked to join three storefronts in the city’s Arlington Heights neighborhood. Davis’s dream was to exhibit “museum-quality” art in a working-class black and Latino neighborhood. In the early days of The UM, Davis was unable to secure museum loans, so he organized exhibitions of his work alongside that of his friends and family, and word of mouth spread about Davis’s unique curatorial gestures.

In 2014 Davis began organizing exhibitions using works selected from The Museum of Contemporary Art’s collection as his starting point. In the aftermath of Davis’s passing, the team of family and friends he gathered continued his work at The UM, transforming it into one of the liveliest and most important gathering places in Los Angeles for artists, filmmakers, musicians, writers, and activists.

If you are in Los Angeles, The Underground Museum is definitely worth a visit, and if you cannot make it to this exhibition in NYC- a portion of it moves there this March.

Also, Kahlil Joseph’s “BLKNWS” will be shown the Brooklyn Academy of Music in NYC from 3/23-6/21/20.

Jan 302020
 

It’s the last week to see Swoon: Cicada at Jeffrey Deitch’s New York location. This exhibition of Caledonia Dance Curry (aka Swoon)’s work includes a sculptural installation, drawings, and a stop motion film.

From the gallery’s website-

Cicada marks a new development in Swoon’s practice. A celebration of rebirth and transformation, the exhibition at 76 Grand Street features recent films, drawings, and installations in which her personal story becomes more central.

Moving away from her street pasted portraits that encouraged the viewer to imagine a background story, Swoon now creates narratives that draw from her personal history as well as classical mythologies. She is also inspired by the handcrafted quality of silent era and 20th-century folkloric films. In her stop-motion animations, fragments of the subconscious coalesce into subliminal images. Open-ended stories unfold and weave recurring motifs such as birth, divination, trauma, and healing.

Swoon’s stop-motion films emphasize the body’s ability to serve as a vessel carrying memories and traditions. A house, a ship, and human figures split and open to liberate a cast of imaginative and mythological creatures trapped inside. The central figure is the “Tarantula Mother,” a half-human, half-spider allegory that evokes traumatic memories from childhood. Swoon’s response to parts of her family history – and the legacy of her parents’ addiction and substance abuse – has recurred throughout her work. These components inflict a strong element of realism to the films, grounding the otherwise- whimsical atmospheres of Cicada.

In Swoon’s work, the sea often constitutes the physical and metaphorical ground for possible encounters. In Cicada, underwater scenarios become a psychological space for introspection and subconscious explorations. Surrounded by new sculptures and her portrait series, Cicada allows viewers to immerse themselves into Swoon’s world, creating a vivid experience embedded in the present moment.

Swoon’s inner circle of friends is the subject of a new series of drawings included in the exhibition. The intimacy of these portraits recalls the romantic and humane spirit of her earlier street pasted works. A tableaux vivant of performers will accompany the exhibition on the opening night, renewing her interest in the counter culture of collectives and carnivals. Whether presented without permission or realized in a traditional gallery or institutional space, Swoon’s work connects with viewers on an emotional level.

The sculptural work is incredibly intricate and its amazing watching it come to life in the film.

This exhibition closes 2/1/20.

 

Jan 242020
 

Sadie Barnette’s recreation of her father Rodney Barnette’s bar, Eagle Creek Saloon for The New Eagle Creek Saloon at ICA LA is not only beautiful, but it also celebrates an important piece of history.

From the museum’s website-

For her first solo museum presentation in Los Angeles, Oakland-based artist Sadie Barnette (b. 1984) will reimagine the Eagle Creek Saloon, the first black-owned gay bar in San Francisco, established by the artist’s father Rodney Barnette, founder of the Compton, CA chapter of the Black Panther Party. From 1990–93 Barnette’s father operated the bar and offered a safe space for the multiracial LGBTQ community who were marginalized at other social spaces throughout the city at that time.

Barnette engages the aesthetics of Minimalism and Conceptualism through an idiosyncratic use of text, decoration, photographs, and found objects that approach the speculative and otherworldly. Barnette’s recent drawings, sculptures, and installations have incorporated the 500-page FBI surveillance file kept on her father and references to West Coast funk and hip-hop culture to consider the historical and present-day dynamics of race, gender, and politics in the United States. Using materials such as spray paint, crystals, and glitter, she transforms the bureaucratic remnants from a dark chapter in American history into vibrant celebrations of personal, familial, and cultural histories and visual acts of resistance. The New Eagle Creek Saloon is a glittering bar installation that exists somewhere between a monument and an altar, at once archiving the past and providing space for potential actions.

The museum is also showing No Wrong Holes: Thirty Years of Nayland Blake (pictured below).

From the museum’s website-

For over 30 years, artist, educator, and curator Nayland Blake (b. 1960) has been a critical figure in American art, working between sculpture, drawing, performance, and video. No Wrong Holes marks the most comprehensive survey of Blake’s work to date and their first solo institutional presentation in Los Angeles.

Heavily inspired by feminist and queer liberation movements, and subcultures ranging from punk to kink, Blake’s multidisciplinary practice considers the complexities of representation, particularly racial and gender identity; play and eroticism; and the subjective experience of desire, loss, and power. The artist’s sustained meditation on “passing” and duality as a queer, biracial (African American and white) person is grounded in post-minimalist and conceptual approaches made personal through an idiosyncratic array of materials (such as leather, medical equipment, and food) and the tropes of fairy tales and fantasy. Particular focus will be paid to work produced while Blake lived on the West Coast, first in the greater Los Angeles area as a graduate student at CalArts, followed by a decade in San Francisco—years bookended by the advancement of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the 1980s and the “culture wars” of the 1990s.

Feeder 2, 1998

The gingerbread house, pictured above, is one of Blake’s best known works and was created using actual gingerbread. It references the fairy tale Hansel and Gretel as it recreates the house used to lure the children to their potential doom.

From the wall description-

Fairy tale and fantasy are themes to which the artist often returns as a mirror onto society and culture. Further, duality and the act of revealing are critical to Blake’s practice: as a biracial, white-passing, queer, gender non-binary person, Blake’s identity is one that is not obvious and is predicated on existing in two spaces at once. Though initially captivating through its inviting sight and scent, over time, the once-pleasant sensorial experience of Feeder 2, with its cold, empty interior, becomes overwhelming, even nauseating, as it challenges the truth of perception and association.

Both of these exhibitions close 1/26/20.

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 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.

 

Jan 032020
 

Death March, 2012

Death March, 2012 (detail)

Currently at Luis de Jesus Los Angeles is Hugo Crosthwaite’s incredible exhibition, TIJUAS!(Death March, Tijuana Bibles, and Other Legends).

From the press release-

Hugo Crosthwaite has spent much of his adult life working on both sides of the U.S. and Mexico border, observing and documenting the extraordinary ebb and flow of humanity that makes this region one of the most existentially dynamic places on the North American continent. In Tijuas!, Crosthwaite will present selections from several bodies of work that continue his exploration of this ever-evolving culture, among them the Tijuana Bibles, a new series of animated videos and books, recent graphite-and-ink on canvas and panel paintings, new Tijuanerias ink drawings, and Death March, a phenomenal and monumental work that preceded his celebrated performative murals. This will be the first time this work will be presented since it was commissioned in 2010 for Morbid Curiosity: The Richard Harris Collection at the Chicago Cultural Center.

This exhibition closes 1/4/20.

Dec 282019
 

The images above are from Michelle Handelman’s film Irma Vep, The Last Breath, starring Zackary Drucker and the late Flawless Sabrina.

The video installation is based on Musidora, the French silent film actress, and the character she is best known for Irma Vep from the 1915 film Les Vampires directed by Louis Feuillade.

From the exhibition’s caption-

It’s a piece about living in the shadows, criminal anxiety, and the relationship between the artist and her creation, both fictional and real.

Irma Vep and Musidora are played by Zackary Drucker (Transparent) and the late Flawless Sabrina (The Queen), two artists whose identities transgress the border of art and life. Together, they developed a relationship that documents a cultural evolution of gender.

Musidora was an early 20th century feminist who took control of her career, not only acting, but also producing/directing films and theater. She was an artistic force of her time, producing several works by her lover Colette and having many documented affairs with both men and women. After financing dried up for her projects, she lived in relative obscurity until her death in Paris, 1957. In her later years, she worked the ticket booth of the Cinematheque Francaise, where few people ever knew that the woman selling them their movie tickets was France’s beloved vamp of the silver screen.

Irma Vep, The Last Breath takes up motifs from the silent movie such as gazes, affected body language and the figure of the masked woman. It’s shot on a starkly illuminated set that makes space for anxious projections of desire on the void that is Irma Vep- a space between genders, between vamps of the silent era and the contemporary queer- smashing the shiny veneer to reveal dark, subconscious layers of fluid identity.

The film is part of the larger exhibition Idol Worship, a group show curated by Emily Colucci, at Smack Mellon which “celebrates the ongoing cultural, social and political significance of role model adoration as an essential survival strategy”.

The exhibition closes 12/29/19.