Looking back at and consolidating the year in exhibitions is one of the more challenging tasks an art writer faces. Tracking trips to shows throughout the year, and more importantly, the evolution of your feelings about them, is a daunting, sometimes insurmountable task. While in Europe this spring and summer, I was lucky enough to view some of the exhibitions I found more momentous and personally resonant. Starting in Italy with the 54th Venice Biennale, I traveled up to Switzerland through Geneva and Basel, heading next to the UK and landing finally in Berlin. The list below reflects both personal favorites and those that I felt to be important in the confluence of art and technology.
Josephine Pryde, “Embryos and Estate Agents: L’Arte de Vivre” at Chisenhale, London
British artist Josephine Pryde bears the unique ability to successfully navigate both photography and sculpture, two mediums which seem almost diametrically opposed. Up until this year I’d only been familiar with Pryde’s sculptures of half-finished baskets precariously suspended by butcher hooks, shown at Galerie Neu in Berlin last year; as well as her strange, oversized macro photographs of fabric, featured at Reena Spaulings in 2009. For her presentation at Chisenhale, “Embryos and Estate Agents: L’Arte de Vivre,” Pryde presented two sets of photographs. The first takes medical images of fetuses, superimposing them in Photoshop against barren desert landscapes; the second stages stock photography-style portraits of young, alternative-looking women contemplating whether or not they’re pregnant. Beyond Pryde’s fascinating material practice is her confrontation of oft-taboo, extremely personal, female-specific issues generally elided in contemporary art discourse.
Cory Arcangel at the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York / Hamburger Bahnhof, Berlin
Arcangel Fever spread around early spring 2011 as his Whitney retrospective drew near, the artist being asked by a vertiginous number of New York media outlets to grace them with pre-opening press. The show sparked some lukewarm reviews
Jack Strange, “Deep Down”
Tanya Bonakdar through Dec 22
Normally, if one were to ask whether it’s possible to successfully create art by smearing your own blood on a gallery wall, and to evade coming off like a desperate emo teenager, I would respond with an unequivocal “absolutely not.” Blood is one of those materials that you not only want to avoid hanging out with, but also, in an art context, it comes with the most exaggerated eye rolls and “what-the-hell-were-they-thinking”s imaginable. Yet, in his latest exhibition British artist Jack Strange reveals a trick or two to convince us that bloodbathing a white cube, among other head-shakers, may in fact be a right step in considering the art of the present.
Jack Strange’s second solo show at Tanya Bonakdar, “Deep Down,” peregrinates through various media. The show coheres by way of an overarching curiosity for the slippery human consciousness, and the all-too-common instances in which we as people project our image onto dumb objects and animals in order to better understand ourselves. Beginning with the aforementioned over-the-top cloudy smear of his own blood (replete with HA HA HA’s inscribed in pencil), the show meanders through overly slick Neo-Dada assemblages of fruit pits suspended in vitrines fitted with earbuds, to cutesy cross-sectioned vegetables seemingly springing off the wall, and perhaps even less predictably, a curiously dry sound installation that may have well as been made in the 60’s. Strange also dabbles with some “new media,” encasing an iPod Touch in a ceiling-hung plastic bag, which houses another plastic bag filled with water. The works, titled “All Fish,” “All Sharks,” etc., play cartoon aquatic animals on the encased iPods, the animations originally created for an e-card. The e-card animation is then programmed to utter its stream of ...
Michelle Ceja's Wet Code opened earlier this month in Klaus von Nichtssagend's Lower East Side venue, an installation marking the launch of the gallery's new online exhibition space. Initially shown as a browser-based collage of gifs, Quicktime video, MP3s, and HTML, Wet Code also existed as a one-night installation of projections bearing a similar aesthetic. Klausgallery.net will see rotating two-week online exhibitions curated by artist Duncan Malashock, with periodic in-real-life installations by artists in Klaus Gallery proper. "We wanted to accommodate artists whose practices wouldn't ordinarily fit into a physical exhibition space," says Sam Wilson, co-owner of Klaus von Nichtssagend, "Now it's kind of like we have another wall in our space specifically made for this kind of work." Adds fellow co-owner Rob Hult, "It was also a way to satiate a growing curiosity about artists working with the medium. I saw Duncan speak on the history of internet-related art practices at Nurture Art and felt compelled to ask him to work with us on an online project."
Many conversations later brought Klausgallery.net, which developed from a more modest singular art project to a full-blown online exhibition space.
As it stands, the artist line-up may seem like a who's-who in a current internet social sphere to some, building on the web-specific dynamic of building one's practice in tandem with and through a community of peers. Though many included in Malashock's participant list are connected socially via the internet, specifically via Facebook or through the surf club Computers Club, it also ranges widely in geographic location and practice, from established Dutch artists Constant Dullaart and Harm van den Dorpel to more emerging Stateside artists Bea Fremderman, Sara Ludy, and Billy Rennekamp. Presciently, Malashock has chosen many artists whose work successfully navigates ...
Ed Ruscha Things Oriental (2011) - Juliette Bonneviot
It has been said that one can see the best and worst art of the entire world side-by-side in Berlin: due to its liberation from more explicitly market-driven cares, art in Berlin can be seen as simultaneously less competitive and less desperate—in essence, it strains itself less to reach a hungry market. Berlin's excess art becomes, well, excessive, and the practice of finding good work becomes a sport more rigorous than that of New York.
Wealth in Berlin and the art collections it begets articulates itself exceedingly differently than the more overt wealth in western Germany, New York or London. While to some Berlin may be an antidote for a more market-driven art world, to others, the eastern German city may just be overrun with mediocre art, or plain old boring.
This list of artists is just a snapshot of a small part of a diverse but interconnected scene, with affiliated peoples coming from nations such as Norway, the Netherlands, Greece, Iceland, France, Poland, Finland, Switzerland, Canada, the United States, and more. Although this “scene” has warped and changed significantly since I first began spending extended periods of time in Berlin a few years ago, a number of the key players — AIDS 3D, Rafael Rozendaal, Oliver Laric, Aleksandra Domanovic — remain as integral parts. Perhaps the newest phenomenon connecting this group of artists is the new Neukölln bar “Times”, owned and operated by American artists Calla Henkel, Max Pitegoff, and Lindsay Lawson. The three undoubtedly deserve recognition in their own right, not only for bringing a community of expat artists, curators, and writers together from all over the world, but also for their own work.
Over the past few years it's become a widely-held principle that the internet-related art communities of New York and Berlin commingle with each other far more fluently and regularly than either do with that of London. Why, you may ask? Though the answer remains to seen, one could gather that the cost of living in London far surpasses that of Berlin or the more affordable boroughs of New York City, which are clearly more friendly to artists who make no money from their work; or that importantly, the American social networking platforms acting as a catalyst to internet related art communities only recently gained traction in London, though they've been long popular with New Yorkers and ex-pat Berliners. Regardless of these conjectures, this perceived lack of communication with Londoners in such a globalized phenomenon was enough of an impetus to pull me down from a vacation in Glasgow to scope out the city's scene.
Greeting me upon my arrival was the venerable Ben Vickers, a colleague and friend I met on my last trip to London, at his warehouse in Manor House, perhaps the Bushwick equivalent of North London. I'd been in touch with Vickers since he curated an exhibition with some internet art “usual suspects” for a gallery in Peckham—Jon Rafman, Parker Ito, etc. —which, at the time, seemed an anomalous locale for these buzz names. Although I've written previously about Vickers' work with the now-defunct duo Sopping Granite, it feels strange to write about him now. Not only has he become more of a friend than a professional contact, but I wonder how much he would even care that I write about him, or how useful it would be to him, or if he would consider this as a flag in the journey of his burgeoning practice, as most artists likely would. This is all indicative of Vickers' “practice,” if you could call it that...