Curating Contemplation

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The current exhibition at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, "The Third Mind: American Artists Contemplate Asia, 1860-1989" is in many ways a bold take on the "group show" genre. Not focused on a particular era, style or group of artists, Senior Curator for Asian Art Alexandra Munroe has instead created a sweeping show of over 110 artists around an idea as ethereal and subjective as cultural "contemplation." The show's thesis, that "vanguard artists consistently looked toward 'the East' to forge an independent artistic identity that would define the modern age -- and the modern mind -- through a new understanding of existence, nature, and consciousness" certainly seems timely in this era of rampant globalization, but it simultaneously opens the door to a host of debatable issues around cultural appropriation.

The broad scope and variety of art forms covered under this broad thematic umbrella, from paintings of James McNeill Whistler and Mary Cassatt through multimedia works of Tehching Hsieh and Laurie Anderson, creates a compelling alternate to the usually mono-cultural narrative of Art History. For those of us interested particularly in time-based media, it also provides a compelling context through which to view issues such as duration, notation, communication systems, and networking that are so prevalent in time-based forms.

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-colorheXaequo.- (2004) - jimpunk

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This work was created as a response to the open call for Who's Afraid of Blue, Red and Green?, a project sponsored by Creative Time in 2004. Artist Günther Selichar invited participants to submit animations using the colors blue, red and green. Works were then displayed on the "59th Minute: Video Art on the Times Square Astrovision by Panasonic."

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The Dark Ages

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Image: Ben Jones, N.D.A. Mush Robos [Bottom] and N.D.A Drawing Large [Top], 2009

Responding to the unease and restlessness of late 1970s Britain, The Fall wrote a song in 1979 declaring the emergence of a "2nd Dark Age." For the two-minute duration of the song, Mark E. Smith rails against the omnipresent political and social inertia of the time, and the lyrics take specific aim at the short sightedness and staleness of hippie politics and spiritualism, which were so ineffective in the face of rising conservatism: "And the commune crapheads sit and whine, While the commons near my birthplace is now a police college"

Fast forward thirty years, and Ben Jones, in his latest exhibition at Deitch, announces another Dark Age, the "New Dark Age." Building off his solo show "Celebrate the New Dark Age" at AMP in Athens, Greece this past Fall, the galleries at Deitch could equally pass as a playground, meditation chamber or rec room. The pervasive feeling that Jones is merely replicating the same stock themes and imagery as if by rote, however, depletes the exhibition of the organic sense of leisure or contemplation often associated with these spaces. In the main room, a gigantic neon Transformer salutes the visitor, Gumby meditates in the center of three televisions, a video projection of the mesmerizing focal point of Space Wars loops incessantly in a far corner, and, in the front room, ladders reminiscent of Chutes and Ladders abound, clownishly oversized neon versions scale the walls or incessantly repeat in eye-popping wallpaper. The ambiance feels much like a commercial window display comprised of motifs from Jones's 1980s childhood.

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Image: Ben Jones, N.D.A Octagon Video, 2009

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Image: Ben Jones, N.D.A. Robot Sculpture, 2008

Indeed, if there is anything "dark" about ...

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100% Fun

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Claude Closky is a French artist living in Paris. He works in a variety of media, including painting, installation, video, and net art, in a signature style that revolves around the concept of conveying information and the connection between ideas and objects. The artist maintains three personal websites and a YouTube channel, each of which is copious in its offerings and yet mysteriously evasive in synthesizing his practice. What one can tell--almost instantly upon looking at his work--is that Closky has a serious sense of humor. He is best-known for his paintings of pie charts and other graphs but has impressed audiences beyond the art world with public installations like his 100% which tallied percentage points, one at a time, in a series of silkscreened flags, or his collaboration with Adidas and Colette, which looked like he'd taken a Sharpie to a blank white slate to convey the brand by making the simplest marks possible. The latter was a poetic gesture of giving back to the visual language of advertising whose vocabulary his work often critiques. He's by no means the first to do so, but whereas many such bodies of work revolve around autobiography or accounts of commodity fetishism, what is unique to Closky's commentary on this lexicon is his sharp analysis of language itself. Whether through an inversion of the relationship between word and image or the hyper-literal illustration of one-liners, this is Closky's most discernible signature and it is best played-out in his use of the list as a medium. By alphabetizing, counting-down, running odds, and exploring exhaustive variations on various categories of categories, he produces the wittiest possible metacommentary on the bond between form and content. And he is certainly not afraid to give viewers myriad examples of the beauty of saying nothing at all. In this interview, Closky discusses his internet art work and his love of both language and numbers games. - Marisa Olson

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International Klein Blue (Google Monochromes) (2008) - Ryan Barone

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Image: Details from International Klein Blue (Google Monochromes), 2008

From the artist's statement: International Klein Blue (Google Monochromes) is a series of eleven monochromatic works created by conducting web searches for International Klein Blue, a color developed and patented in the 1950s by French artist Yves Klein. Created "as a means of evoking the immateriality and boundlessness of his own particular utopian vision of the world", IKB falls outside of the color gamut of modern computers rendering each digital reproduction inaccurate.

More work by Ryan Barone

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the joy of painting (2008) - Max Kotelchuck and Peter Nowogrodzki

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More work by Max Kotelchuck and Peter Nowogrodzki

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Nan Hoover, 1931-2008

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American artist Nan Hoover passed away last week, in Berlin. She left behind a large body of work that has had a pioneering influence on the fields of performance, video, and photography. In a statement about her photos Hoover says, "I am a painter. Everything I do is seen through the eyes of a painter. I only use brushes from time to time." Buried between the lines of this message is an indication of Hoover's tight relationship to her materials--which varied to include not only new media, live performance and photographic media, but also drawing, installation, and perhaps most significantly, light. If there is one thing that cannot go unsaid about her work it's that Hoover owned the light. Indeed, it proved better, more searing, and more beautiful than paint in her many decades of practice, ultimately "shedding light" on the sublime beauty inherent in objects ranging from otherwise banal domestic interiors to majestic outdoor landscapes. In an art world which has, at various times, sought to polarize beauty and intellectual rigor, Hoover consistently proved that the two could live in harmony. An exhibition of her lens-based work just opened at Mannheim's Sebastian Fath Contemporary Art Gallery. The show was in the works before her passing, but is now a retrospective of sorts--a show developed in conversation with Hoover about what it meant to continue her signature first-person visual experiments in a world increasingly mediated by digital experience. A memorial will be held at Amsterdam's Montevideo Institute for Time-Based Art on June 20th. Meanwhile, an online condolence page has been established for the many who were touched by her work to stay in touch. - Marisa Olson


Image credit: Nan Hoover, "Moving Towards 13 degrees," video room installation, Galerie Ulrike BUschlinger Wiesbaden, 2000. Photo: Horst Ziegenfusz

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Brush-off

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ArtFagCity's Paddy Johnson couldn't have picked a more damning category in which to place British painter Dan Proops--"BoingBoing artist"-- glossing that mega-blog's indiscriminate penchant for tiki-bar kitsch, airbrushed girlies and steampunked everything as merely "art pabulum for readers who can clearly handle more." To be sure, Proops's work does seem unduly suited to geek-pandering, offering quick-glance commentary on medias new and old through easy-to-get juxtapositions: Proops's oil paintings depict familiar art-historical subjects with random parts pixilated (as if censored) or "desktop" images of iconic images, complete with trashcans and folders at their margins. To be fair, one must withhold ultimate judgment until seeing the work in physical form, but even online reproductions suggest that Proops' paintings, evidently bereft of any compelling composition or technique to offset their facile gimmicks, suffer from the dull ache of YBA hangover. If you can't travel to London to see them in Proops's upcoming show Sam's Desktop III, then be sure to catch them sometime in the future, when they will be displayed in the spacious living rooms of Hawaiian-shirted IT dudes with more money than taste. - Ed Halter

Image: Dan Proops, Caravaggio, Censored, 2007

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Tom Moody's OptiDisc at Art Fag City

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Tom Moody, OptiDisc, animated GIF.

Art blog Art Fag City have a fantastic new masthead designed by artist and blogger Tom Moody, pictured above. See below for a description of the work from Art Fag City:

"The piece is meant to be big, dumb, and iconic, a moving, pulsing symbol of both the promise and failure of technology," said Tom Moody of Optidisc during Geeks in the Gallery, a detail of which now resides in my masthead. Aesthetically the gif looks just as Moody describes it, the rings klutzy yet mildly hypnotic; though past this, its life as a meme underscores the artist's excitement and reservations about the web as a medium. Referencing artists such as Kenneth Noland and Jasper Johns, without reiterating color field painting or Minimalism, Optidisc speaks as clearly to a tradition of Fine Art painting, as it does regular surfers looking for something "different" for their myspace page.

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