Tyler Coburn
Since 2007
Works in Los Angeles, California United States of America

BIO
Tyler Coburn is an artist and writer based in New York.

A Must See: <br>Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis



Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis' current program of exhibitions offers a stellar example of the dynamic curatorial tactics for which the museum has become known. Alongside "Aïda Ruilova: The Singles 1999 - Now," the first U.S. solo museum show of the New York artist's compulsive, viscerally demanding video loops, the Contemporary presents Berkeley-based artist Lutz Bacher's Spill, one in a three-part project that includes the publication of SMOKE (Gets in Your Eyes) and My Secret Life, a solo exhibition at P.S.1 scheduled for 2009. While the P.S.1 exhibition promises to be a more conventional survey of the artist's 40-year career, Spill is anything but ordinary. Bacher centers the show around eclectic, site-specific installation Our Beloved Revolutionary Sweetheart, which features a grouping of life-size Star Trek characters; shattered guitar debris; intersecting, curved ramps; and a multi-channel video of a line-drawing traveling, in anthropomorphic fashion, over a monochromatic landscape. An old Budweiser sign and beer cases draw the exhibition's second space into conversation with St. Louis (Anheuser-Busch's headquarters), motion sensors in the museum courtyard trigger a sound installation, and displays of Bacher's earlier works are periodically supplemented or removed. Considering the diverse quality of the artist's output, which has always relied on appropriation strategies and "deliberately migrates between methods, styles, and attitudes," the piecemeal, shape-shifting nature of Spill seems on point. As if to supplement the exhibition's provisional ethos, the Contemporary's Front Room will concurrently mount a series of shows ranging from one day to a few weeks in length, often by younger artists and collectives indebted to Bacher's practice. Reena Spaulings, Claire Fontaine and Dexter Sinister will all take a turn. - Tyler Coburn


Image: Lutz Bacher, Spill, 2007, black and white photograph with unknown substance, 50 ...

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Decoy Strategies



"Decoy Nest," Australian artist Sally Smart's second solo exhibition at New York's Postmasters, takes its title and conceptual angle from a strategy, employed by birds, to divert attention from their primary nests. As the artist writes in the show's press release, the "masking, camouflage and metamorphosis" implied by this strategy became starting-points for her own creative practice. Smart fills the gallery with wall installations of trees and human figures, collaged from bits of fabric prints, painted canvas and photographs. An anthropomorphically scaled work, appropriately titled Stick Figure (old one) (2008), borrows an arm, boot and head of hair from a photograph of a man; substitutes various representations of branches for legs, waist and torso; and positions three painted, canvas circles as shoulders and head. Phantom (limb) Tree (2008) further pushes Smart's concatenations of bodily and natural elements, as an assembled, vertical tree trunk sprouts both branches and human limbs. Evidently, the tree here and elsewhere serves not only as a strong visual foundation for Smart's collages, but also as a locus for the artist's broader concerns, including "the tree house, family tree, tree of life and the tree of knowledge" and the tree "as a symbolic stand-in for nature." These obvious symbols could easily derail many an artistic practice, but Smart's confident and inventive handling of materials and imagery makes them feel fresh. - Tyler Coburn


Image: Sally Smart, Phantom (limb) Tree, 2008

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A Tasty Mixture:<br> J&L's "Videos and Vodka"



Available this month, "Videos and Vodka," the second DVD anthology from J&L Video, comprises selections from a video salon artist Jacob Dyrenforth and curator Eva Respini ran out of their Brooklyn loft from 2004-2006. A strong sense of community binds the works, owing in part to the fact that Dyrenforth received his MFA from Columbia alongside many of the featured artists, including Ohad Meromi, Guy Ben-Ner and Lisi Raskin, as well as to the number of emerging, New York-based artists in the program. In an essay accompanying the anthology, Dyrenforth and Respini foreground these facts, describing their decision to create Video Salon as arising, in part, from a need to provide their friends and the broader public with "non-traditional viewing spaces," in the style of the "collectives, collaboratives and artist-run spaces" established in New York in the 1970s. While the 1990s saw the rise of high-production films, videos and moving-image installations from artists like Matthew Barney, Doug Aitken and Jane and Louise Wilson, many younger artists, the curators claim, "are reconnecting to a history that pre-dates the black-boxed multi-channel universe." Several of the works, for example, build whimsical or fantastical scenarios from patently everyday materials and circumstances, like Untitled, Air Guitar (2005), in which Robin Rhode plays and destroys a guitar drawn, sequentially, on a wall; or Ben-Ner's Berkeley's Island (2000) where the artist/father's desire for solitude manifests itself as a Crusoe-esque life on a desert island, comically set in the center of his kitchen. Others present intensively personal or shared narratives, from the deconstructed footage and text of Lisa Oppenheim's Dioptric (2003) - taken from an imaginary scrapbook - to the three-way telephone conversation in John Pilson's Sunday Scenario (2005), where the back-and-forth between baseball aficionados becomes a language unto itself. - Tyler Coburn


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CBS Outdoor Pull Suzanne Opton's "Soldier" Billboards During the Republican National Convention



The Republican National Convention is still a handful of days away, but controversy is already being courted in Minneapolis-St. Paul over CBS Outdoor's decision to cancel its contract with artist Suzanne Opton due to the politically-sensitive nature of her photographs. Working with local organization Forecast Public Art and curator Susan Reynolds, Opton aimed to display several billboards depicting active-duty American soldiers, whom she photographed at Fort Drum, New York in 2004 and 2005. Like Rineke Dijkstra's series of photographs of young soldiers serving in the French Foreign Legion and Israeli Army, Opton's works offer empathetic portraits of her subjects, at a time when American military action in Iraq and Afghanistan elicits increasing national dissent. Her striking, monumental images find their subjects stripped of body armor and military dress and leaning their heads against a table. The photographs are vertically-scaled and cropped to only show each subject's head and neck, a visual decision Opton has suggested lends vulnerability to these unarmed soldiers, but which also, in light of past Al Qaeda videos, carries a far more disturbing undertone. On the project's website -- now the most significant record of the billboards -- Opton accompanies each of the nine photographs with the length of time served, by a given subject, in Iraq and Afghanistan. In a sense, because of the ambivalent mix of emotions these images conjure, Opton's choice to exhibit them in equally ambivalent public spaces seemed very appropriate. Yet that ambiguity, the artist claimed, was precisely the cause of CBS Outdoor's concern. Worry about possible misinterpretation of the images -- and the lack of explicit indication that they were artworks, as opposed to advertisements -- contributed, she said, to the organization's decision to discontinue her contract. If nothing else, Opton's proposal will serve as an ...

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Over the Long Haul



There never seems to be an ideal time to write about Longplayer. The thousand-year long musical composition, conceived by Jem Finer, has been playing for the past eight years and two-hundred and thirty-one days in the lighthouse at Trinity Buoy Wharf, London (as well as via Internet stream and at various listening posts throughout the world) and at the conclusion of its first iteration, on December 31st 2999, is scheduled to begin again. While the project continues Finer's concern with "representing and understanding the fluidity and expansiveness of time," it also, on another level, serves as a vehicle to speculate about the trajectories of society and technology in the coming millennium, given that the continuing performance of Longplayer is entirely reliant upon these forces. A computer currently performs the composition, which comprises five transpositions of a piece of source music, played simultaneously and then at various advancements on Tibetan singing bowls, but Finer and The Longplayer Trust (established to oversee the upkeep of the composition) worry about its ongoing reliability, given "how few technologies have remained viable over the last millennium." Possible future alternatives range from a dedicated global radio frequency to "non-electrical, mechanical and organic implementations" of the composition and, most far-fetched, a small, computational device like ones "used in deep space missions," designed to play Longplayer and disseminated in the thousands, thereby preserving the piece by "adopting the biological strategy of survival by excessive multiplication and reproduction." Thankfully, humans have not been entirely ruled out of the equation, and in September 2009, a handful will perform a 1,000-minute section of the composition on six concentric circles of singing bowls. What form Longplayer will take in the centuries thereafter remains to be seen. - Tyler Coburn


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