JooYoun Paek builds small, object-based responses to urban life, transforming the aches and pains we customarily suffer, at the hands of the metropolis, into novel sites of reflection, social courtesy, and rest. The artist's humorous, insightful approach bespeaks her familiarity with her subject; she was raised in Seoul, Korea, and moved to New York in 2005 to attend NYU's Interactive Telecommunications Program (ITP). Fresh from her recent participation in "Untethered," at Eyebeam, and "Design and the Elastic Mind," at MoMA, JooYoun caught up with me at her LMCC Workspace Residency studio, on the twenty-ninth floor of the Equitable Building in Manhattan's Financial District. - Tyler Coburn
Le Corbusier wrote When the Cathedrals were White: A Journey to the Country of Timid People after his first trip to the United States in 1935. Whether the tome's resoundingly sour tone reflects the architect's failure to secure commissions or his anxiety, as Koolhaas later theorized, at finding in Manhattan the half-brother of "La Ville Radieuse" remains unclear. In any case, Le Corbusier's critique of the puritanical cleanliness he sees as a "national virtue" has provided important insight into the underbelly of the American architecture and "the psychosexual charge of the white wall," a locus of repressed desires given preeminent form in the white cube. Justin Beal's current project at New York's Bortolami smartly delineates these related histories within a broader libidinal economy, inclusive of "design, politics, advertising, language and aesthetics." Five rectangular sculptures, fronted with glass and sided with untreated aluminum, sit as low pedestals or hang flush with the walls, explicitly mimicking the proportions of corporate office windows. Backed with opaque sheets, the glass doesn't offer a view onto any subject, but rather remains flat and affectless, in keeping with the impassive radiance of the surrounding walls. In Beal's previous sculptures, fruit functioned as surrogates for human bodies, their gradual decay offering counterpoints to the Platonic precepts underpinning the sculptures' source architectures. "The mold, the drips, the flies," Beal once wrote, "illustrate the inevitable impossibility of containing a human organism within a structure made of glass and steel and sheetrock." At Bortolami, Beal presents a further degree of removal, introducing glory hole-shaped cuts in the glass, stuffed with dirty cotton rags, and sex toy-like objects, in steel, with what look like plaster casts of oranges on either end. The sheer banality the white cube presently connotes all but hides the way ...
New York artist Sylvan Lionni once characterized himself as a "child of Mondrian and the video arcade," a description that could ring true for many in the current generation of painters intent upon collapsing the abstract/representational divide in a Pop context. Lionni's particular strategy entails the artist producing renderings of mass-produced objects like lottery tickets, stripped of all but their geometric undergarments. These immaculate paintings reveal their conceptual angle in their very making: layer upon layer of acrylic lend their products a thick, hard-edged polish, while also divesting them of authorial marks. This labor-intensive performance of post-industrial manufacture not only draws attention to contemporary conditions of production and consumption, but also illuminates the threshold Lionni's referents cross, when remade as functionless art-objects. As strong as these conceptual foundations may be, "Before the Flood," Lionni's current exhibition at New York's Freight & Volume fails to match past bodies of work. The solar panel is the source of his new paintings, which the artist variably hangs, props against walls and, in the most humorous installation, tilts towards the ceiling, on aluminum bracing, as if they absorb light in the same fashion as their sources (Sun Ra, 2008). Yet the press release is a disservice to their formal elegance, which excerpts Glenn Dixon's muddy "Daylight Saving Time," including the author's claim that "In the wake of the industrial revolution, the production and consumption of energy were driven apart - largely owing to the offense given by production to the eye, ear, or nose." Lionni's referents carry enough resonance to stand without such theoretical girding. - Tyler Coburn
Image: Sylvan Lionni, Sun Ra, 2008
Running through the end of December, "ZEE[RANGE]," at Pittsburgh's Wood Street Galleries, furthers Kurt Hentschlager's inquiry into the facets and limits of multi-sensory perception. The Austrian artist describes the exhibition's central work, ZEE (2008), as a "mind-scape" composed of artificial fog, stroboscopic light and adaptive surround sound. These elements conspire to efface the traditional contours of the exhibition space, replacing them with "a psychedelic architecture of pure light." An accompanying piece, RANGE (2008), makes its world premiere in this exhibition. Building upon Hentschlager's past work with 3D video game software, such as KARMA / cell (2006), RANGE presents a collection of virtual characters, contained in a small space, dividing from and agglutinating into a larger mass. Taken together, Hentschlager's latest works recall FEED (2005-6), a multi-tiered performance, created for the Theater Biennial Venice, first featuring a projection of suspended, virtual characters, followed by "a composition for artificial fog, pulse- and stroboscopic light." These seemingly unrelated modes of production thus work together, staging a condition of unreality characteristic of contemporary life and then immersing the audience in an affective simulation of this condition. But if Hentschlager's uniform, virtual mass betrays a nihilistic take on society, the subsequent dissolution of the audience into a phenomenal field may also suggest other forms of self- and collective constitution to still be possible. - Tyler Coburn
Kurt Hentschlager, ZEE, 2008
"Art + Environment," a three-day conference starting this Thursday at the Nevada Museum of Art, in Reno, assembles artists, scientists, designers, and thinkers to discuss overlaps between nature and culture. Conference Lead Moderator William L. Fox draws parallels between experiments of the 1960s, in which scientists "began crossing disciplines to understand how environments work," and the various ways contemporary practitioners are engaging the "natural, built, and virtual environments in which they work," from sculptors using earth as an artistic material, and architects assuming the role of digital cartographers, to painters and photographers taking agriculture as their subject matter. The vast, unpredictable potential of these current strategies makes Nevada a perfect host, Fox adds, given its own history as both "a playground and a dumping ground": a locus of consumer excess and military secrecy. The conference program features a panel of artists and scientists, including Lita Albuquerque and Chris Drury, who have worked in extreme environments; a conversation with photographer and Burning Man veteran Michael Light on the effect media and art-world attention is having on the gathering; and a talk by the San Jose Museum of Art's Senior Curator JoAnne Northrup on the art of Jennifer Steinkamp, Northrup authored Steinkamp's 2006 monograph and curated a recent touring exhibition of her work. The digital technology and naturalistic content of Steinkamp's immersive, moving-image installations make them a perfect subject of inquiry for this ambitious conference. - Tyler CoburnImage: Michael Light, Barney's Canyon Gold Mine Looking South, Near Bingham Canyon, Utah, 2006