review Archives - PSEUDO EMPIRE
On 28, Dec 2013 | In exhibitions | By marywp
The Metropolitan Museum of Art
November 20, 2013–March 9, 2014
Joel A. Rosenthal, now know by his pseudonym/initials, JAR, has been honored with an exhibition the Metropolitan Museum of Art this winter. The exhibition opened without much fanfare, as a project of the museum’s Modern and Contemporary department, under the leadership of curator Jane Adlin. Read more…
On 27, Sep 2013 | In exhibitions | By marywp
Plaster Surrogates Colored and Organized by Andrea Zittel
September 6- October 5, 2013
Petzel Gallery, New York
On 21, Sep 2013 | In Uncategorized | By marywp
In 1971 John Baldessari swore he would “not make any more boring art,” stating in his trademark dry wit the unprofessed goal for “contemporary art” since at least, the mid-nineteenth century. Unfortunately, most of the art being produced today fails here, erring in its very eagerness to be “cutting edge.” Although art has been perennially recycling end-game anxieties since the existential crisis of the post-war years, perhaps never before has art (or life) been so directionless. Our response to having reached this a zenith-less end is not one of existential despair, but disinterested, futile whining.
As opposed to working towards solutions or finding an expression of this wall, the second decade of the new millennium has developed an increasingly debilitating case of nostalgia.[i] New Museum curator Lauren Conrad articulated the question of how to move forward “when we are all so obsessed with the past.”[ii] Our nostalgia for time past is evident in our eagerness to historicize periods still in the living memory of our college students—The New Museum’s NYC 1993: Experimental Jet Set, Trash and No Star being a case in point. This exhibition did more than separate that moment of heightened political awareness in art, when art made headlines around NEA battles and identity politics, and created a marked awareness the changes in the art world within twenty years.[iii] Art makes news now not for its social relevance but rather in instances of orchestrated spectacle, the Los Angeles County Museum’s transportation of Michael Heizer’s Levitated Mass over 105 miles of urban boulevards and the encyclopedic 51st Venice Biennale come to mind.
The reality is, that in the past decade there has been little in art, in contemporary culture to historicize, to recognize has being important in the grand scheme of history without directly appropriating art of the past.[iv] Conversations can only occur through historical metaphor, we require this veil of history to legitimize issues and images.[v] This obsession with the past acts as a guise for a shameful reality. In the very face of rapidly advancing technologies and the potential for the realization of social goals, we have come to terms with the realities of repeated failure.[vi] Since the mid-1990’s the ideals of artist activism have been de-constructed and re-visited for a non-utopian world, but since 2008, this “f-word” is no longer suggested or re-considered, it is a harsh and inescapable reality.
Failure in 2013 is perhaps most apparent in our failure to define ourselves, to create a narrative, support a cause, or certainly succeed in bringing it to fruition. Part of the problem lies in the fact that the interface for excessing art has consistently broken down from a critical forum to a vacuous cave of spectacle. Curator Paco Barragán has articulated how the art fair has replaced the exhibition, or more recently the biennale, as the venue through which contemporary art enters public discourse. Yet in the face of a near-universal expression of ennui towards the increasingly over-the-top fairs which keep artists, gallerists and curators hoping from one expensive international economic center to another, a new model has yet to serious challenge this model.[vii] Exhibitions, have, overall, remained happily buried in the past. Reasons for this are two-fold; one, the exhibition relies in large part on the institution as its host. The art institution, especially the most traditional form of the museum, has resisted revising the practice of exhibition production, display and subject matter. By repeating a tested formula, the museum of modern and contemporary art repeatedly limits itself to art that can operate within these constraints, the result being art that is increasingly historical in nature. Artists whose work has received critical and public attention in the past decade have done so almost entirely without being featured in a major museum exhibition (other than a biennial) or having been granted a solo show. Abraham Cruzvillegas, Maurizio Cattelan, Ai Wei Wei comply with the expectation of larger, more shocking projects only available for the week-long run of an art fair. This accepted temporality is far removed from the attitude with which artists in the 1970s approached their work with natural materials; Land artists world wide saw in the geological features potential for experimentation beyond the traditionally defined media of, for example, painting or sculpture, in addition to providing a space where one could work unhindered by the expectation of a saleable object.[viii] We should not be surprised that the earthworks’ ancestors at biennials and art fairs act as sites of spectacle, drawing the hovering crowds ever closer to the gallerists’ stalls.
It is not only Land Art that has manifested into a parody of its original potential. In an opinion piece published on Hyperallergic.com, artist and writer Thomas Micchell mused on a recent example of Maya Lin sculpture revealed more about her inability to live up to her introductory success than an evolved practice.[ix] Any potential for art to activate significant change has been institutionally recognized as a fantasy, deconstructed and historicized as an erred judgment of times past. In the last decade, artists approach activism half-heartedly, Olafur Eliasson’s Waste of Your Time (2013), a dramatic installation at MoMA PS1 consists of blocks of 800-year-old glacial ice, cut from a Greenland ice floe and maintained in a frigid gallery in the converted schoolhouse. As Ken Johnson suggested, in his review of the exhibition in the New York Times, the significant resources expended to maintain the piece over the duration of a muggy New York summer undermine any of its power as a well-versed reminder of earth’s fragility. Eliasson’s title suggests an awareness of his action’s futility, and likewise society’s doomed attempts to intervene into global climate change.[x] Comparatively, Paul Kos’ installation of a 25-block of ice in The Sound of Ice Melting in the State of Mind exhibition concurrently at the Bronx Museum of Art, underscored the temporality of the medium, in keeping with the impermanent, bare-bones original exhibitions of west-coast conceptual artists in the early 1970s.[xi] Decades before the national discourse on global warming, Kos’ work has stood the proverbial test of time even in the face of its ticking time clock—the work can only exist as long as the ice is in the state of melting.[xii] Eliasson’s work refuses an honest personal experience—like much of the work being produced by the top artists who define the significant practices of the past decade, its drama and scale comes at the cost of distancing the viewer/visitor. The spectacle replaces that cognitive moment of realization. Preserved potentially for months, years, or even centuries or millennia (if we are to take the glacier’s age as in indicator of its resilience) in its frigid tomb, the work bespeaks not to the fragility and ephemerality of our planet but rather repeats an all-too familiar scenario—the specimen of nature preserved and displayed by humankind, and the unchanging constancy of our present condition.
On 01, Sep 2013 | In exhibitions | By marywp
Reading the Space: Contemporary Australian Drawing #4 is the fourth in a series of exhibitions in Australia, the UK and finally in New York as a result of an initiative developed by curator Dr. Irene Barberis, who developed the project as an aspect of her “international studio practice.”[i] The exhibition that recently closed at the Studio School in New York, in collaboration with Melbourne’s Global Centere for Drawing, an alternative exhibition space founded by Barberis on the writings of Conceptual draftsman Sol Le Wittt, is loosely grouped into three chapters, or themes: “Reading the Space: ‘Other’ Meanings”; “All Writing is Drawing”; and “The Space of Writing, What is That?”[ii]
The eighty-eight Australian artists in the exhibition benefit from remaining by and large unknowns to the New York art world, allowing the drawings themselves, and Barberis’s thesis to come across more powerfully than the result of an exhibition turned name spotting game. At the Studio School, the installation holds DIY-charm, the drawings are unframed, attached with clips along a pair of delicate red twine sightlines along the upper third of the gallery walls in the small adjoining galleries at the Studio School (the building was the original home of the Whitney Museum of American Art).
The sheer variety of the works on paper in the exhibition provide an immediate visual confirmation of Barberis’ thesis—that the verb as well as the noun of drawing is far more expansive than what we have been conditioned to assume. Watercolor sketches, painterly architectural renderings, collages, faux press ads figure studies, appropriation and the written word; there is little left unexplored by the artists, who all worked independently on their contributions before mailing them by Australian post to the curator. Rather than suggesting an overly broad thesis or the lack of editing ability, the very scope of the work supports Barberis’s concept of a process-based “space of drawing” that expands the medium’s potential past the resultant object. The exhibition itself shifts into a single immersive installation within which one can encounter, separately the multiple heterotopias created by each individual 14 x 10 paper. For example, Jon Cattapan’s Atonal Group Performance (n.d), a colorful mixed media on paper suggests, with his title an aspect of the work beyond the physicality of the drawing. The ability for the drawing to function as a medium for temporal communication, such as performance, or speech is supported by the exhibition’s repeated connections between the act of drawing the that of language. “Reading the Space: ‘Other’ Meanings” and “All Writing is Drawing” result in an exhibition heavily populated with works the combine image and text, including Andrew Antoniou’s Translation ‘All is Drawing’ (n.d). The collaboration of words an image in this piece, as in dozens of other drawings in the exhibition, supports a diffusion of the two means of communication. By emphasizing the drawing only as a starting point for the exponential concepts expanding from it, the exhibition supports a similarly open, process-based take on writing, so that the articulation of thought through language (writing) is in and of itself a drawing. Helen Geir’s Perspective (n.d), without its nearly fluorescent outlines of could almost belong in a fifteenth-century treatise, is a trope example of single-point perspective, a straight avenue lined on either side by a row of tress. By applying the classical rules of conveying depth on a two-dimensional plane, Geier muses on the fragile divisions between media with the lines “if all writing is drawing, then perspective is the very soul of painting.” By translating drawing from object to place, the medium is expanded from the summation of marks on a paper to a method for communicating meaning and experience. For her, and throughout the exhibition the drawing is a “jumping off point” from the real into the space of writing.
[i] Dr. Irene Barberis quoted on “Irene Barberis” Metasenta http://irenebarberis.com/home.html (accessed August 24, 2013).
[ii] The second two titles are derived from two essays by French theorists Serge Tisseron and Michael Butor. See M. Butor and N. Guynn, “Bricolage: An Interview With Michel Butor” Yale French Studies no. 84 (1994): 17-26; Serge Tisseron All Writing is Drawing: The Spatial Development of the Manuscript in Yale French Studies 84 (1994): 29-42.