It seems appropriate to commence upon a reflection of 2013 in art by way of Ragnar Kjartansson’s melancholic sojourn, a site-specific performance which lasted the duration of the 55th Biennale di Venezia and included a ship full of musicians conducting a song composed by the Icelandic rock group Sigur Ros. The piece, titled S.S. Hangover (2013) is another trip into Kjartansson’s performative language. When pried as to the title of the work, the artist responded that the name of the ship and the instrumental piece is in fact reference to an emotional hangover, the type that may arise after conflict or poor decision-making rather than the hangover that many feel the day after New Year’s Eve due to imbibing. Here the audience was along for the ride, even if a bystander and observer stuck on the shore as the ship sailed to and fro carrying the weight of woe in the gentle breeze of its sails.
Next up is Yayoi Kusama with her debut exhibition with David Zwirner gallery titled I Who Have Arrived in Heaven, 2013. The artist who is in her 85th year, spoke candidly on her life, struggles and successes. She also commented on the concept of her own mortality and knowing that her time on earth is coming to an end. Dressed in her own Louis Vuitton print, seated at a low rectangular table in a wheelchair and accompanied by assistants and translators, the artist was straight forward and meditative on a life long-lived and while not easy, ripe with goodness. She spoke on her artwork and artistic practice and her journey through it all with mental illness. At the exhibition, Kusama presented a series of recent paintings, less about her widely used repetitious dots and rather with crudely drawn eyes with long lashes, her mission is to as she said “spread love and peace to the world”, and if she can do that through her paintings she is happy.
“Much of the world is full of suffering, all the more I think of the role of the artist and that the artist can share love and peace and that would be best. So I would like to work more with you together to make that happen, to deliver the joy of art and love and peace to people who are suffering and don’t have the opportunity to enjoy the world of art. I think of these problems at night and sometimes I can’t sleep. but now that I have this opportunity to show these works with you, I am very, very happy.”
Also at David Zwirner was Ad Reinhardt, an exhibition on the 100th anniversary of the artist’s birth and a series of paintings from his “black” series and also rarely exhibited comics. The exhibition and catalogue were organized by Robert Storr who participated in a book signing and walk-through at the gallery and openly discussed Reinhardt’s work, and the correlation between the illustrated comic work and his larger, darker oil paintings. Radio personality and NPR host Leonard Lopate was at the gallery as well and spoke highly of Reinhardt and his experience having him as a professor at Brooklyn College. Born in Buffalo, New York, December 24th, 1913 the artist passed away at the age of 53 in 1967. The “black” paintings, for which the artist is most known, were a reaction against representation and a true study regarding color usage, surface and the test of the viewer and his or her attention and relationship to what they are being presented with. These paintings, made in the 1960s were actually not black, but many colors mapped out and applied using a grid. To be fully appreciated, they require the viewer to stand long enough for the eyes to adjust to the darkness and slowly, shapes will emerge. Sectioned into nine boxes, some forms move forward while other recede into the background. An engaging experience, the more time one spends, the more will be revealed. On the contrary, the comics, made mostly in the late 1940s through the 1950s are much more direct and as comics should be, offer immediate gratification. The satirical humor emerges through the pen and ink drawings and upon closer inspection reveal his own leanings towards Abstract Expressionism.
As we roll into 2014 from 2013, we step forward, eyes on the full moon and howling emitting from our throats. Howling? Yes, artist Mark Gibson whose recent exhibition Alamo Revenant just closed at Fredericks Freiser, has had an ongoing tradition of howling on New Year’s Eve at midnight. After seeing his exhibition, this may not come as a complete surprise. The artist, a recent graduate of the MFA department at the School of Art at Yale University, has been thinking a lot about werewolves and the transformative process accompanied with human fallibility and volatility. The work of his most recent show, oil paintings and mixed media drawings, was subjectively inspired by the battle at the Alamo featuring Davy Crockett. In this reinterpretation, the artist has delved into the dire history of the participants who were in what was then considered to be part of Mexico and present for the battle. Lines were drawn and he visually hints at the lesser-known talked about surrender of Davy Crockett, evident by a bright white slash of paint across the canvas. The form, appearing in several works, is so striking it could either be foreground or background. In a particular grouping of paintings, the artist has paid slight homage to the mastery of Ad Reinhardt in choosing to work with a color palette that references the former artist’s subtle shades of blues and blacks. Rather than focus on form alone, Gibson delves into the role of artist as visual researcher and strives to uncover a particular part of history that is not often discussed. His first solo exhibition with the gallery, Alamo Revenant is a dog-eared page in what will hopefully be a career of exploration.
Another exhibition to make note of which closed in December, 2103, is Doing and Undergoing at Teachers College, Columbia University. Held on the occasion of the 125th year anniversary of the college the exhibition offered an interactive experienced inviting guests to use an iPod and follow a guide directly to each individual artwork in the show and in doing so navigating the path through the hallways and various floors of the historic building. Organized by artist and Teachers College professor Richard Jochum, Doing and Undergoing explored the text by American philosopher John Dewey and his theme of “Art as Experience”. The exhibition was a process whereas physical action resulted in visual engagement with the artworks. To find the works as intended by the curator, the visitor needed to use the guide and follow the lead of a ghost-like child from yore, who walked through the hallways via the palm sized iPod screen. The handheld guide if followed properly, covers territory in the building that not many outsiders (and even students) get to see. One such location was the Thompson Hall, mezzanine which was at one point a gym. The layout and biggest part of the room was a basketball court, now filled with a grid of offices, and the ceiling arches upward and when climbing a secret spiral staircase it is possible to see the remains of what was once a track along the perimeter of the volume of the room. High above the floor level, at one point the space was multipurpose, those who could run laps and look down on other gymnasts playing basketball. It is well-worn from many sprinting feet and even tilts towards the center. It is here where one could find the work of Monika Wuhrer and Caterina Tiazzoldi & Eduardo Benamor Duarte. The first presented hanging punching bags printed with words/sayings one doesn’t expect to find such as,
“Your Presence Leads To Conflict, However there is little reason to think that your absence will lead to peace.”
The Everlast bags hung in still air, while in a back room (inaccessible to guests) is a video of dancers by Tiazzoldi & Benamor Duarte. From the predetermined distance and timeframe of the work, the viewer is lead to believe that a performance or rehearsal is happening just outside of their reach. Due to it’s visual inaccessibility the piece is effective in being several things at once, but most importantly a test of the imagination and what lies beyond.
Following on the heels of action and melancholic residue, is Jason Rhoades, Four Roads, which was on view at the ICA in Philadelphia until December 29th, 2013. The exhibition was the largest solo exhibitions in the U.S. of his work since an untimely death at the age of 41 in 2006. Filling the bi-level galleries a multitude of the artist’s work was installed, in a very precise way, just as the artist had intended. Rhoades sculpture may often look haphazard, but once familiar with his aesthetic, the symbology and resonance to art historical shapes, marks and vocabulary rise to the surface. One of the four major works on view of particular interest was “Sutter’s Mill” (2000). From the museum wall text.
“Stripped down and gleaming, it lays bare everyday meaning of such artistic terms as “construction,” “deconstruction,” and “structuralism.” “Work” also gets a vernacular work out: every Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday two art handlers will take down the sculpture and put it back together like a giant Erector Set.
Two Perfect World (1999, Hamburg) platforms reappear in Sutter’s Mill. Cut to the proportions of the golden mean, the triangles shape a sluice through which a stream of cotton polishing rags run. The entire structure is modeled on John A. Sutter’s famous sawmill where gold was discovered in 1848 just down the road from the farm where the artist grew up and where his family dubbed him Jason the Mason after the little builder pig in Richard Scarry’s Busytown books. Imbued with personal mythology, Rhoade’s Sutter’s Mill conflates California’s legend with the artist’s own.”
Throughout the length of the exhibition, as stated in the above text, art handlers routinely assembled and disassembled the structure. The sculpture itself is in the action and it is only complete this way. One could say the work is constant in that it always has an end and a beginning and at each stage of construction it is what it is intended to be. All art requires a particular amount of engagement and participation from the viewer however, most art, at least sculpture and painting, remains in a singular state outside of it’s relationship to time. Video requires a distinct level of focus specifically depending on the circumferance of the loop needed to return to the starting point, also required by performance which may not occur in a loop but rather only happen once. Sutter’s Mill is a dimensional exploration dominated by the mythology of self and secrecy of suburbia.
Lastly, Emily Noelle Lambert, is an artist who also looks towards the past along with previously made works in order to make new work, merging yesterday’s interests with today. For Curio Logic, which was on view at Lu Magnus until December 22nd, the artist decided to shy away from her more commonly exhibited body of work (paintings and free-standing sculpture) in favor of framed drawings and prints. The works are multilayered and while all on paper, constructed using various media and even collage whereas a section from an old drawing can and has been reconfigured into something new. Each piece is a non-didactic glimpse into the artist’s practice and personal odyssey between abstraction and representation. The narrative ranges from the personal to the obscure and all appears to have emerged from the mind’s eye. She combines sketchbook tears with thought-out purposeful works as easily as graphite and acrylic paint. All the works in the exhibition were made from 2007-2013.
WHAT ETTD IS LOOKING FORWARD TO IN 2014!!
The 2014 Whitney Biennial, on view March 7th-May 25th, 2014
This Biennial will be the last to take place in the Whitney Museum of American Art’s building at 945 Madison Avenue at 75th Street before the Museum moves downtown to its new building in the spring of 2015. This is the 77th in the Museum’s ongoing series of Annuals and Biennials begun in 1932 by Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney. It also features curators from outside the Museum including —Stuart Comer (Chief Curator of Media and Performance Art at MoMA), Anthony Elms (Associate Curator at the Institute of Contemporary Art, Philadelphia), and Michelle Grabner (artist and Professor in the Painting and Drawing Department at the School of the Art Institute, Chicago).
Ragnar Kjartansson: Me, My Mother, My Father, and I, The New Museum, New York, Opening May 7th–JUNE 22, 2014
Curated by Massimiliano Gioni & Margot Norton
Born into a family of actors and theater professionals, Ragnar Kjartansson (b. 1976)
creates works that draw from a varied history of stage traditions, film, music, and literature. His durational performances and video installations explore the boundary between reality and fiction and ideas of myth, cultural history, and identity. This exhibition will be the artist’s first New York museum presentation. At the New Museum, Kjartansson will produce a newly orchestrated performance and video piece entitled Take Me Here by the Dishwasher–Memorial for a Marriage, in which ten guitarists continuously play a live soundtrack for the duration of the exhibition.
Swiss Institute / Contemporary Art
18 Wooster Street
New York, NY 10013
Rashaad Newsome, FIVE, at The Drawing Center, on view March 6th-March 11th, 2014
THE DRAWING CENTER
35 Wooster Street, New York, NY, 10013 • +1 212 219 2166
Sebastian Errazuriz, self titled exhibition at Salon 94 Freemans, on view March 6th-May 3rd, 2014
New York, NY, 10002
Carrie Mae Weems, The Museum Series, Studio Museum in Harlem, New York, January 30th – June 29th, 2014
From the SMH website:
Carrie Mae Weems: The Museum Series comprises selections from the celebrated artist’s ongoing series of self-portraits, where she stands, with her back turned to the camera, in proximity to some of the world’s leading museums and cultural institutions. The resulting images act as ruminations on the collecting and exhibiting practices of these sites.
Since 1978, Weems (b. 1953, Portland, Oregon) has examined the historical complexities of identity, class and social relations through photography and other media, such as video, installation, sound and text. Working in series, her generally black-and-white photographs articulate and reify the African-American experience in particular for broad contemplation. Varying from intimate to sweeping in scale, Weems’s diverse oeuvre reflects the artist’s commitment to revealing inequalities that potentially touch upon all segments of humanity.