Ariodante, Martin C. Herbst, dimensions variable, 2009 at Mike Weiss

Yesterday, I braved the 50 mile/hour wind to check out some galleries and openings in Chelsea. Along with my friend Sharon, we languidly walked along 24th street, weaving in and out of galleries. Two of my favorites are pictured here. Ariodante at Mike Weiss Gallery and Allora & Calzadilla at Gladstone Gallery.
Ariodante, Martin C. Herbst, dimensions variable, 2009 at Mike Weiss

First up was Ariodante, an exhibition by Austrian artist Martin C. Herbst. The work relies on the observation of the viewer and the use of mirrors. In the press release, the gallery mentions the idealism of the Renaissance and how Martin, is taking that idealism to the next level by literally using mirrors to create the illusion of both sides of a face. In beauty research, its been said that people respond more to faces that are closely symmetrical. Babies are known to smile more at these faces. Yet, the images that this artist has created aren’t always “beautiful”. They vary between realities of “beauty” and of, in my opinion, the grotesque. Beyond the perfection of the Renaissance, I am reminded more-so of the application Photo Booth, commonly installed on all Apple computers. In Photo Booth, the user can look into his/her built in iSight camera and using various modes in the application, is able to distort one’s face. There is a function where one can “mirror” and based on the amount of bending or tweaking of movement, a face can become a small hole. And therefore, not a face at all. In the paintings on mirrors of Ariodante, the level of distortion, in regards or in response to the figure that has been applied in paint, seems to me to be the most relevant aspect of the work. In figurative art, one can find a commonality or a comfort when viewing a work and seeing something familiar. In Ariodante, the viewer is actually installed or included within the paintings. This reflection beyond what one may describe as perfection, alters the reality of the art which is now not just two dimensional or three dimensional, but encompassing.
“Perfect Face”, Martin C. Herbst, 2008 at Mike Weiss

Allora & Calzadilla, Stop Repair, Prepare, performance featuring pianist Sun Jun, 2009 at Gladstone Gallery.

Next was a performance at Gladstone Gallery. Art duo, Jennifer Allora and Guillermo Calzadilla have worked together since 1995. For this particular exhibition titled Stop, Repair, Prepare; Variations on Ode to Joe for a Prepared Piano, they have prepared a piano reconfiguring the strings inside, and carving a hole in the center. They have commissioned 6 different performers to stand in the hole and play the Fourth Movement of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, also known as “Ode to Joy”. On this occasion, Chinese pianist Sun Jun took his place in the void, and performed the piece while walking around the gallery. Filling the space with the pure sounds only a piano can generate, Sun Jun, played the keys backwards, the only way one can play the keys from inside the piano. He is in New York on a full scholarship to Julliard and lists a barrage of performances in his bio. In this piece, Allora & Calzadilla not only occupy the interior space of the gallery in an innovative way, but also rearrange the concept of what an exhibition is. The gallery its white walls devoid of anything but whiteness, feels empty until the time specific performance takes place.

Ariodandte at Mike Weiss Gallery is on view until February 21st, as is Stop, Repair, Prepare at Gladstone Gallery.