Topsy Turvy Tales

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Kate Gilmore's work defies the American expression "Never let them see you sweat." Instead, she puts struggle at center stage in her performance-based video works. Masquerading as hyperfeminine in heels, frilly dresses, and copious makeup, the New York-based artist (currently living in Italy as the recipient of a Rome Prize) constructs and faces off against elaborate obstacles, ultimately making a statement about the struggles faced by women. Interestingly, however, Gilmore has made her own bed, in each of these scenarios--but refuse to lay in them. Instead, she displays equal parts strength and humility as she attempts to ascend the mountains of junk she builds, or to navigate the otherwise precarious, emotionally-marked spaces of her own design. Gilmore will be showing recent and new works in two upcoming solo shows, both opening January 31st, at San Antonio's Artpace and Madrid's Maisterra Valbuena, respectively. In each of these works, the artist continues to flesh-out questions about the relationship between fame, talent, and emotional satisfaction. In 2005 she kept her chin up in With Open Arms, a video in which a dolled-up Gilmore bowed graciously to a tomato-throwing audience. In the more recent Baby, Belong to Me (2006/07), we see the artist's foot, wrapped in a ballerina slipper and suspended by a noose which one of her hands works to untie. In the background are stenciled hearts, bleeding paint at their nadirs. The addition of a song from the musical Fame creates a narrative about an emerging artist struggling to reconcile the desire for love and success. Like so many of her works, this piece is a perfectly concise visual representation of what it means to feel upside-down in this topsy turvy world. - Marisa Olson

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We Interrupt Your Program at Mills College

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Organized by independent curator Marcia Tanner for the Art Museum at Mills College, "We Interrupt Your Program" presents fourteen artists whose video and new media works seek to disrupt systems of power. The exhibition, which opened January 16, 2008, follows shortly after what some have called "the year of the woman" for its multiple, rigorous historical exhibitions on feminist art, such as "Global Feminisms" at the Brooklyn Museum of Art and "WACK! Art and the Feminist Revolution" at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles. While "We Interrupt Your Program" shows work by women only, it presents feminism at its most expansive and best: as a critical lens through which to connect to other social categories, such as nationality, class and religion. And, where iconic "year of the woman" shows focused on historical work, "We Interrupt Your Program" is a look at some of the leading lights in a new generation of feminist artists. The idea of home is a theme amongst several of the works. For instance, in Body Double (2006) San-Francisco-based artist Stephanie Syjuco presents a video triptych that features three Vietnam-era films, Platoon, Apocalypse Now and Hamburger Hill, whose soundtracks have been silenced and images of combat footage razed, leaving only a fragmented landscape and a heavily mediated picture of home and loss. Speaking to the increasing use of documents in art (see "Archive Fever" at the International Center of Photography), the Recovery Channels (1998-2005) by Nina Katchadourian invites viewers to watch fourteen-plus hours of footage from discarded video-tapes the artist retrieved from the streets of New York between 1998 and 2005. The abandoned tapes contain imagery from TV shows, soap operas and news broadcasts, much of which would be unforgettable to people tapped into mass media culture during those years. Recovered but not forgotten, the tapes ...

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Women in Uniform

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Deborah Oropallo is among a generation of artists trained in painting and printmaking who are now migrating their practice to digital media. The San Francisco-based artist does, however, continue to draw on the aesthetics and visual language of painting and the tactile metaphor of layering in her work, which often involves the use of found digital material. Of this process, she has said, "I use the computer as the tool, but painting is the language of deliberation that is running through my head..." In her newest series, Guise, the artist plucked images from websites featuring photos of women in fetish clothing. Honing-in on period costumes, Oropallo noticed that the photos tended to follow the conventions of traditional portraiture, while putting the female subjects in the stance of powerful men. Guise features over thirty prints in which these images are overlapped--a unique rhetorical maneuver. On the one hand, the layering underscores the overwhelming similarity among poses, while on the other hand it emphasizes difference. By accumulating these images, Oropallo actually deconstructs the variables of each guise. The cacophony of overlapping elements suddenly makes each image out of place, enabling the artist to contribute to the longstanding tradition of photographic portraits establishing a relationship between costume and identity, while bringing desire and power to the discussion. The series is on view at San Francisco's Gallery 16 through February 15. - Marisa Olson



Image: Deborah Oropallo, George, 2007

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Make Way on the Dance Floor

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San Francisco is a city with a rich legacy of blending live performance and experiments with technology. For the last eight years, the Women on the Way festival has been a part of that tradition. Organized by the aptly-named Footloose organization, whose emphasis is on emerging and established women artists, the festival celebrates dance as a form of collaborative expression within a community and has adventurously embraced new media as a component of these expressions. The WOW festival is an annual highlight of those efforts, and this year it will bring to San Francisco an ensemble of talented artists. Throughout the month of January, sound artist Sean Clute and choreographer Pauline Jennings's dance company, Double Vision, is presenting two interactive performances, "Cycle" and "Three Canons and Mise en Scenes". On January 18, Laetitia Sonami and Les Stuck will present an intermedia performance entitled The Appearance of Silence, (The Invention of Perspective). Stuck is a sound and video artist who has collaborated with a number of notable performers and Sonami is a multi-talented composer, dancer, choreographer, and installation artist. Their project refers to the ways in which perspectivalism, as an invented way of seeing, is thrown off by new technologies that arguably flatten our depth of field. The piece will use the body's relation to a series of abstract sounds to tell the story of fidelity in vision and music. At center stage will be Sonami's famous "lady glove," a midi-studded black lycra glove whose sensors respond to movement with sound, creating a dynamic push/pull relationship between the dancer and her score. Video and sound excerpts on Sonami's website chart the evolution of these experiments in her work. - Marisa Olson

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