Tuesday, March 31, 2009

53rd Venice Biennale Press Conference

Press Conference at Italian Cultural Institute in New York

A press conference and celebration concerning the upcoming Venice Biennale occurred yesterday morning at the Italian Cultural Institute with it's director Renato Miracco, along with Paolo Baratta, president of the Biennale, and this year's curator/director Daniel Birnbaum all in attendance. Mr. Baratta and Mr. Birnbaum both commented on the upcoming event, and answered questions from attendees.

Alexandra Peers wrote a great, must-read blog entry covering the event for the New Yorker. 

Here at Art Comments, we attempted to provide minute by minute coverage on Twitter. Artcomments is the user name on twitter.com if you would like to follow our twitter updates concerning contemporary art and related events.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Gallery Review: Michaël Borreman at David Zwirner Gallery

Michaël Borremans Taking Turns
written by peter duhon in new york

Belgium artist, Michaël Borreman's 'Taking Turns,' currently at David Zwirner's gallery in Chelsea, discreetly jettisons conventionally enacted societal codes of identity and challenges social constructs by presenting psychologically paralyzed subjects in a variety of sparse, empty settings.

Solely occupying the first room in the exhibition, is an enormous, 15 feet in height, 35mm film projector showing a loop of 'The Storm.' In this film, three men, black, all wearing white/ivory suits, sit in an empty room that betrays a resemblance to a prison cell. A ghastly holding cell, empty with the exception of the sitting men, who are mysterious, drone like in appearance, and death like in behavior. Where have these men been? Where are they headed? Even the most implicit, gestural suggestion of an answer is withheld from the viewer, instead, there are three black men, dressed in white, sitting in chairs, lacking the apparent desire or strength to even gaze at the each other. After watching for several seconds, the lack of individuality among these men becomes horrifyingly apparent, a Kristevan lost subject without a desire for an object, despite the tailored, bespoke suits, and the ensuing result is a suspension of certainty for the viewer since the engaged beholder of the film suddenly questions oneself that as they watch, they are perhaps participating in the subjugation of the subjected. The subject without an "I", void of desire and stripped of ego, whom in effect, are a signifier of a group that is subjected but the question disturbingly remains for this film: subjected by whom and for what?

The Storm, 2006
35 mm film: 1:07 min. (continuous
loop); color, silent
Large projection

Michaël Borreman doesn't fall into the trap of providing bland, cliche answers but demystifies a construct with his own construct, a construct that demands attentive engagement and he doesn't disappoint. A construct that intrinsically denies pictorial screaming or speaking to gain the attention of the viewer.

The second gallery of the exhibition includes paintings and videos by
Michaël Borremans. One of which is a video titled 'Taking Turns,' bearing the same name as the exhibition. The obvious linkage to surrealism in this work is a witty stroke by Michaël Borremans that allows a discourse of intertexuality among recent sources such as the early 20th century avant-garde practices and even the turn of the century Ford factory worker but also initiates a conversation and comparison within his own show. This particular video is topologically oppositional to the projection film in the other room which was discussed earlier. Instead of the austere black male subjects wearing ivory suits, quietly suffering without any movement, without the dignity of recognizing self and the situational Other, the subjects in this video are female, white, wearing black suits, dead-pannedly interacting with each other by literally turning or being turned by the other that eventually ends in a rather clever trompe-l'oeil that offers a unsuspected climax that perversely discomforts the assumed realities of the viewer regarding the video.

Interestingly enough, by excluding even the slightest hint of orality in the work presented in this exhibition, Mr. Borremans brilliantly creates suspense through a tempered monologic quality that uncanningly exists through a freezing of temporality and displacement of space.

The dominant centrifugal quality of the show is achieved by defamiliarizing (the Russian ostraneniye) established conventions and codes of identity, which situates the work in a mysterious plane between the unconscious and language where subject and beholder alike surrender control.

All of the paintings and the three videos in this exhibition occupy a spatiality where anticipation and suspense are masterfully juxtaposed within a frame, a frame that posits serious questions concerning social practices and processes by ingeniously examining the subject without, and the ritualized subject. An artist and a exhibition not to miss.

Friday, March 20, 2009

India's Art Market and The Global Economy

Don Porcella, a writer for Art Comments, conducted an interview with Meenakshi Thirukode, Independent Curator and Gallery Manager for the Guild Art Gallery and Art Critic for The Hindu (see www.meensonindianart.blogspot.com). Don met Meenakshi at the Armory New York Art Fairs March 2009. Don included two images of an art piece by a contemporary Indian artist from the Guild Art Gallery Booth that Meenakshi represented at the Art Fair.

Don Porcella: Can you please introduce yourself to our readers

Meenakshi Thirukode
: I work as an Independent Curator with two projects coming up - one in NYC and the other in Cochin, India. Im a critic focusing on Contemporary Indian Art for a newspaper back home in India - The Hindu. Im also contributing to an online artjournal - artconcerns.com apart from working on other soon to be launched writing projects! I am based out of NYC and work with The Guild Art Gallery. I moved to NYC from India in 2006 to do my Masters at Christies New York. I work with The South Asian Womens Creative Collective (SAWCC) and am on their Board of Directors.

Don Porcella: What is your role at The Guild Art Gallery

Meenakshi Thirukode
: Besides being the Manager, I am working on some Curatorial projects for the gallery at the moment.

Don Porcella: What can you tell us about India's role in the international global contemporary art market?

Meenakshi Thirukode: Well the attention for Indian Contemporaray Art started and did remain for a long time at the secondary market. A particular work by a well known Modern Painter Tyeb Mehta set an auction record by going for about 1.5 million which had never happened in this market before. So it was a huge deal. And it was bought by an Indian, so the enthusiasm and attention it spurred set the wheels in motion for what happened after that. Economics has a lot to do with how emerging markets work within the art market. India and China were growing economies - there was more disposable income in the hands of a lot of Indians. I mean India is a vast country with a population thats second largest to China but still the country was booming and you had a new player in the art market - The speculator. There was a lot of activity with art funds, and hedge funds. The biggest thing that took place was art being seen and sold/bought as an investment. The thing is that most people saw art as a way to make money which wasn't going to help the market long term - you see the repercussions now to a certain extent. Some artists got too lazy or greedy and markets got inflated. I mean now with the kind of economic situation we see ourselves in emerging markets do feel the pinch. There are some institutions, artists and individuals who didnt take that route. Its good to know there are good people without selfish interests and those are the ones who will survive in the long run. And you work with them and personally I think it is my responsibility to be a part of sustaining and encouraging quality art to be produced and presented to the rest of the world to whatever extent I can. I mean I obviously am attached to the idea of doing something for art from my country. And doing so by saying - Hey Its not a "niche" market. Its just contemporary art from another country thats not america or europe but just as relevant and important to the larger art community.

The mass perception in India is to associate doing well at auctions to being a great artist. Thats because thats what is fed to them by the media and no one seems to do much about it. I dont want to be the one who had an opportunity to do something but didnt. So atleast to whatever extent I can grow as a writer and curator through my experiences I will do it. I know its not easy because its not all black and white you know. Most importantly if Im being given a platform to curate, write then I will work hard on it. I think all that easy quick money made people lazy. You cant do that. Again its not as if there is no quality work or good artists from India. There are some but you cant get into art because you want to make millions or break record prices.

Don Porcella: Who collects artists from India?

Meenakshi Thirukode
: There are some Indian collectors who have been collecting for a very long time. Before the mad frenzy that started from 2001 to a few months ago. Some Western Collectors too. European collectors seem pretty interested in Indian art too - and not just the big names.

Don Porcella: Please share your thoughts on the global art market and how the global recession will enrich the market? I am interested in your thoughts about Asia too. I know US art collectors who are buying Chinese, Japanese, Korean Indian and Middle Eastern Art. I am interested in your views on why this is happening and will it last?

Meenakshi Thirukode
: Its interesting that you already state that the global recession will enrich the art world! I think some people still want to continue to manipulate the market but its really not going to work. More importantly, there are opportunities for doing well curated shows and for artists to concentrate on their art. The speculators arent going to do much in a market like this. So those who have been collecting with a passion and eye for good quality art will still buy. I mean its not like they need to buy the most expensive piece out there. True collectors buy art because they are drawn to the work and will put in their money if they love something. That doesn't change and yes it is a buyers market these days so they could get good deals but their intentions are true if you know what I mean. Its not to create inflated markets. I know young artists who are selling their work to some interesting collectors, I know a collector or two who tell me about wonderful pieces they just bought! so you know the buying is not going to just stop. hopefully its going to be a healthy thing for the Art world and for markets like India.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Armory Week 2009: Volta Art Fair

Volta NY Art Fair Review

written by Nikki Schiro in New York

At a panel discussion titled International Art fairs (moderated by Art Comments last year at the School of Visual Arts in NY), AC's favorite art critic from WSJ, Portfolio Magazine, and Newyorker.com, Alexandra Peers recommended at the end of her lecture that, unless you are a collector or it is your job, you should limit yourself to a few fairs instead of trying to see them all. I urge everyone to add Volta to their bi-annual "must see" selection of art fairs.

Volta was originally founded in the year 2005 in Basel, Switzerland, and coincides annually in June with the behemoth of all contemporary art fairs, ART BASEL. Volta also created a unique type of fair to coincide with the Armory Show here in New York, it premiered here last year with much critical acclaim and positive press from pundits and press alike. The Volta mandate is “to create a tightly-focused, curated event that is a place for discovery and a showcase for current art production.” Their concept of curating and exhibiting exclusive solo projects makes the fair seem more like boutique exhibitions as opposed to traditional trade show booths, which, of course, is the intention.

There is really so much good stuff here, but I am only going to highlight a few. I implore you to go and have a look for yourself before it ends. Here's my personal observations.

Erica Eyres, Rokeby, UK, exhibited pencil drawings and a video piece. Her figures have distorted structural form but entail just enough realism to make them creepy and effective, not to mention they have a sense of humor. The video piece shared similar characteristics. The work drew me in, and I think, was well done.

Troels Carlsen’s Age of Anxiety presentation at V1 gallery, Copenhagen, was a space covered with 2d and 3d fragments of what appeared to be an anthropological lucid dreamland. Evolution, anatomy, and history merge here, in different quirky and seemingly symbolic combinations, often implying fragments of history or a narrative. The colors, surfaces, and loaded/associative imagery lend an old artifact quality to the art works, which seem to be about investigation and discovery. As an engaged viewer in that booth, packed with countless pieces, I was all about discovering each piece, with great delight.

Margarita Cabrera, born in Mexico and moved to the US as a child, creates work that explores identity issues of being Mexican in America. Here, filling Walter Maciel’s space, were clay sculptures of traditional tools of the land from northern Mexico, where her grandfather lives. The monochromatic earth-colored tools were then covered with small clay flowers, butterflies, birds and other symbols from Mexican folk art. The pieces are then glazed with Mexican doll face. There was also a life size tractor that went with this series, but apparently was too large for the space. Previously, Cabrera was working with vinyl and soft materials, in one exhibition she had created a desert plant out of patrol uniforms, using patches as flowers (really amazingly done) and re-created a life sized Hummer which is often used for border patrol, to scout the deserts for people crossing, and ironically, it’s parts are made in Mexico.

Another one of my favorite booths by the Israeli artist Zvika Kantor, curated by Dagmar De Pooter, Belgium. The bottom of a giant plunger extruded from the wall, encases a still life of glossy shrimp and cheese; animated found-object constructions stagger about the space, referencing figurative forms with their names, disposition, and some, personified by their verticality. Strange juxtapositions really beg the viewer to bring his or her own meaning to them. Personally, I realized them as fantastical creatures that at any moment could come to life like a character from the Never Ending Story. I appreciated the details, and that there are hidden treasures to be found if you give one enough time. One such instance Pelican, where the pelican’s made out of pieces of cardboard from pizza/pie containers, it doubles as a human skull from behind. The pieces were larger than life, but, in comparison to other work by Kantor, which is usually gigantic, this work is, relatively, small.

Gordon Cheung’s paintings, over at Adler Gallery, seduced me in for a closer look, with their strange materiality and qualities. Varying transparent layers exposed stock quotes and other elements from the Financial Times, used to create both negative and positive space and form in the paintings. The paintings, of sublime landscapes and severe animal heads, warrant fear and anxiety; an experiential relationship to the instability of the market and what those quotes represent. My first question, in regard to the current financial state and everyone’s hyper-awareness of it: when did he start doing this? Apparently, Mr. Cheung’s been doing this since about 2000. Nonetheless, with the financial crisis on all of our minds, this work couldn’t have seemed more relevant, consequentially, to the times.

At Riccardo Crespi, Milan, the entire booth was utilized to support the complexity and integrity of Lisi Raskin’s work. Raskin’s work often plays with this fear and awe generated from the good, bad and ugly possibilities and actualities of scientific development and technological advancement. Her work, a kin to another trend I’ve been noticing, both lures and insists you come in for a closer look, appearing harmless and fun if only for a moment before the potential of these little sculptures to become animated and destructive freak you out. Here at Volta, she exhibited a selection of constructed sculptures that’s shape and materials associate them to rockets and or explosives. She also showed some drawings that look like scientific/topographical mapping.

I have been seeing a lot of attempts to bring together figurative (realism) and non-representational methods, a trend throughout the fairs and some recent shows. Of most of what I seen, many are just that, attempts, while others manage to find, within their own language, a means to successfully accomplish this. Here at Volta, there are examples of the latter. I thought Patrick Cierpka, at Jarmuschek+Partner, Germany, was successful at doing this. The figurative parts are well integrated into a space created by the non-representational shapes and colors. The paintings were fluid, and the figures, though painted well and distinct, became forms symbolic of people, devoid of any real character, abstract, if you will. Ian Davis’ paintings, at Leslie Tonkonow, were macro views of ordered, tiny figures, sometimes hundreds of them, acting in an environment. From a distance, the paintings become quite abstract, and I thought it was an interesting and fresh way to deal with the figure in painting.

Pesce Khete at The Flat--Massimo Carasi has figured out, I believe, how to create his own voice with an abstract-expressionistic way of working, which is not easy to do these days. His booth also included a hanging pine tree that seemed to be shedding leaves onto a pillow on the floor, creating an obstacle in the space that sort of interacted with an obstructive curtain affront a drawing on the wall. His fleshy figures and interactive plant life seemed visually bound into forms by their marks and color. The figures in space are dynamic and fluid throughout multiple sheets of paper that are jointed together by tape, a significant part of his process. The background, or negative space, is the paper. Expressionism done well looks easy and satisfying to do, and often inspires people to want to pick up a brush and let go, myself included. What Mr. Khete is doing, I think, is not so easy, and I commend him.

Another figurative painter that used paint well, and sometimes abstractly was Christian Curiel from Galerie Baumet Sultana, Paris. His colors were bright, fresh and unusually put together. You seem to think you know what you are looking at when you first approach it as a representational composition, but the colors, paint and form begin to work on you abstractly, and you are sucked in to new discoveries. He has also successfully, in my opinion, merged words into the visual language of his large works on paper.

Nearby at Nicholas Robinson Gallery you’ll find Machiko Edmondson’s paintings, which you must see live to a) appreciate, in full, the experiential quality of her work, and b) to marvel, up close, at the quality of Edmondson’s painting. The photo realistic close up of faces are incredibly mesmerizing, and while, again, you think you know what you are looking at, troublesome uncertainty brews within you. By then it’s too late, you are sucked into Edmondson’s world of desire and obsession. I interviewed Edmondson on Art Comments this week; check it out for some more info on the artist.

Regina Jose Galindo seemed to be investigating torture, by inflicting it upon herself. She documents her tests and the Prometo Gallery, Milan, is exhibiting relics from these projects, as well as stills and a video piece.

Making really small work to bring in the viewer close, I find, in most cases, seems to serve a gimmick more than serve the work itself. An exception to this are the super small, profound, meticulous and nostalgic paintings of Mike Bayne, which brought me in real close and held me there for real long. I wanted one of his houses so bad…I thought about putting it in my pocket and running (they are that small)!

Kaoru Katayama’s video pieces, at T-20 Murcia, Spain, were great; my favorite of the three was Hard Labor. Sterling Allen’s collective installation of colorful constructed creatures, reconditioned out of everything from buttons to wigs and stuffed animals, were awesome (Art Palace). And, in the same kind of creative, constructive light, were the puppets by Heather & Ivan Morison at Danielle Arnaud Contemporary Art, where I got to witness a performance piece/puppet show at 7pm. Charlie White’s captivating photos, prints and video piece, brought together by bubble gum pink wall were also enjoyable.

Rina Castelnuovo’s juxtaposition of war and life is impactful, at Arohea Meislin Gallery. Two of my favorites from the Israeli artist were Kibbutz Nahal Oz, Israel, detailing a bride, in a pristine white wedding dress, colorful bouquet, setting sun, in front of a tank in what looks like a war zone; the other, two boys, maybe Palestinian, running and playing like kids do, in a what looks like a war stripped landscape, one boy with butterfly wings on his back. Miguel Angel Madrigal’s sculptural installations at galleria Enrique Guerrero; Jason Lazarus’ photograph, Looking at the Back of an Ad Reinhardt; Alejandro Diaz’s shrewd humor was much appreciated at The Happy Lion; Paul Hammer’s autobiographical body-psyche paintings at Sammlung Philara, Vicky Wright at Josh Lilley….I feel a little bit like it’s the end of the speech at the academy awards, and the music is playing, but I want to keep going, mentioning more people….

ok, one more…Volta’s special project, [Im]Perfect Articles, Noah Singer and Mike Andrews, has supported the emerging artists they adore by exposing original art work on limited edition T-shirts (editions of 20-50). They are affordable, they support living artists, and they look great! Both Pesce Khete and Troels Carlsen, mentioned above, are exhibiting T-Shirts here, along with many other artists.

For those pieces I have mentioned, along with others I thought were great but didn't get to mention, I have included reference photos in the AC Photo Album for Volta: Pictures of Volta Link.

Go see Volta! It’s worth your time.

Armory Week 2009: Fountain

Fountain Art Fair 2009

Interview with Founder: John Leo of Leo Kesting Gallery

written by Nikki Schiro in New York

NS: Whose idea was it anyway? Tell us a little bit about how Fountain came to be.
JL: In 2005 David Kesting, Lincoln Capla and I went to Miami to check out Art Basel. While there we explored all of the exhibitions and found that there was something lacking. There was no presence of smaller independent galleries. When we returned to New York we immediately started working on a project for the upcoming Armory Show. We found a space and collaborated with McCaig Welles gallery and Front Room for the first Fountain exhibition in 2006.

NS: Why you believe it’s getting so much attention?
JL: Fountain separates itself in that it is more of a collaborative effort than the traditional art fairs. When you visit, the entire exhibition feeld like one big installation. There are only slight separations between the galleries and the spaces are much larger than booth style fairs. Also, fountain stands out as a supporter of young independent galleries.

NS: How do you suspect the New York Fountain will differ from its Miami counterpart this year?
JL: Bigger Faster Stronger. In the last 10 years, over 158 International Art Fairs emerged. Currently, faced witha financial crisis that extends beyond us into global territory, we also find that with reallocation of wealth, art has taken a public hit (hard hit).

NS: What do you speculate will change, regarding International Art Fairs, over the next 10 years to come?
JL: I think that there will be fewer fairs and the large ones like Armory and Art Basel will keep going strong, but there needs to be a return to the gallery. Small galleries are closing every day forced into closure by the fairs. Galleries cannot maintain overhead on their spaces and cannot afford not to do art fairs and miss opportunities to expose their artists to a larger audience. Here in lies the dilemma.

Website: Fountain Art Fair

Friday, March 06, 2009

Armory Week 2009: Photos From Fountain

Photo Gallery: Fountain Art Fair Pictures

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Armory Week 2009: Photos from Scope

Photo Gallery: Scope Art Fair Pictures

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Armory Week 2009: Fountain Art Fair Review

Fountain Art Fair 2009
Art Fair review
written by Nikki Schiro in New York

So, when I was waiting for the never-ending light to cross the west side highway, I took a gander west, and in the distance my destination revealed itself, a bright yellow circus-like tent waving softly in the wind, on it read Fountain. Let me begin with an "I 'heart' fountain". Fountain is a fair that is pro-artists. Perhaps there in lies my bias. Literally built from wall to wall by John Leo and David Kesting of Leo Kesting Gallery, with the help of a few artist friends, this fair is quite unlike any of the others, just from the start. Each of those artists that gave a hand were given access to the downstairs area of the boat/barge, a very charming space, one of them referred to it as the lounge, where they exhibited some of their own work independently (cool!).

What's more, Glow Lab Gallery donated half of their space to the Swoon Boat project fundraising team, who were there today finishing up installing prints and artwork donated to help raise money for their new project, Miss Europe Armada (www.swimmingcities.org, also see www.missrockaway.org)There were nine galleries there, or so. I recommend checking this fair out, just for the freshness of it, the antithesis in some ways of the "art fair" as you know it.

Glow Lab's Beka Goedde had a few works up, layered upon layer of materials that spawned really interesting paintings. She's also got a solo-show opening up at the gallery this weekend. Glow Lab had two walls of works on paper that I enjoyed to looking at, and affordable (a lot of the labels in fountain, I noticed, had prices on them).

One thing that stands out in my mind was 2 little drawings on postcards from the should-have-been-land marked meat packing district staple Florent, a restaurant that closed this year. There were more interesting drawings, but I liked the idea of that postcard acting as a piece of history, with the sketch, a moment, a memory, preserved "just so", in that little frame.

Definition Gallery, from Baltimore, with a great selection of affordable work, was also selling very affordable limited-edition prints of paintings ($75-$100). My favorites from this gallery were the creative, colorful paintings of Chris Ryniak and Dan May. Outstanding.

McCaig Welles's gave their space over to Greg Haberny who transformed it into another world with his very ambitious installation, "The Donkey Party Game". There was so much to look at in there, there was no way I could take it all in and not miss anything…not even if I stayed there for hours. Adding to it, nearing the back end of the barge, was motion from the waves beneath, creating a drunken off-balanced feeling. I recognized Mr. Haberny, after seeing a little clip of him on NY1 repeatedly during the day. We spoke briefly about the boat moving. He chuckled, recalling the installation process on an 8 foot ladder with the boat rocking beneath him (yikes!) Well, it was worth it, Haberny.

At the back end of the boat was Stuart Shepherd Gallery, from New Zealand. Here I had the pleasure of having a really lovely conversation with Mr. Shepherd. Mr. Shepherd's gallery primarily features self-taught artists, but his goal has been to integrate both trained and untrained artists. He is soon to curate a show in Paris doing just that. Mr. Shepherd's compassion for these artists just blew me away. He himself makes an effort to get these self-taught artists recognized by the government so they can be funded, as they have trouble proving they are artists because they lack the kind of track record that comes with school, etc. (Wait, let's pause here for a moment…can you imagine New Zealand! Supporting their artists! Can we get some of that inspiration up in the US? I "heart" New Zealand, baby!) James Robinson, the only trained artist in Stuart Shepherd's lot, exhibited obsessive, diarist collages that I thought were truly terrific.

With a background in social work, Mr. Shepherd discovered Martin Thompson in devastating conditions, privately and obsessively making mind-blowing, intricate drawings and cut outs on graph paper. You wouldn't believe this artist hadn't studied modernism, or was untrained. I believe the Folk Art Museum acquired Mr. Thompson's work, and being the only artist from New Zealand in their collection, New Zealand has come to recognize him as an artist, no doubt. After finding Martin Thompson in the conditions he was in, Mr. Shepherd thought about how many other artists were out there in similar situations, so he began and executed a tremendous project in an effort to find them. Mr. Stuart Shepherd may soon release a book about the artists he found in this project, "Self-Taught and Visionary Art in New Zealand."

At Leo Kesting, I saw lots of cool stuff. My favorites were by artist Jason Douglas Griffin, the bright colorful wall of paintings by artist Brian Leo (also having a solo-show, opening this weekend), one of Ray Sell's pieces with the playboy bunny girls imposed on a group of men, who by association became "playboys." Donna Cleary's black and white figures were gorgeous, touching, and Johnny Fenix's work was quirky and colorful.

At Vagabond Schmarotzer Gallery, I liked one piece by Hiroyuki Nakamura, where the figure had his balls plopped on the table. Nakamura started painting in 2004, I looking forward to seeing his work in 5 more years, if looks this good already! Also, I liked some of the paintings by Andrew Hezuinsy; goppy oil paint abstracted figures set against textiles that he's collected from around the world. These fabrics run off the canvas in an interesting way.

Ad Hoc Art, from Bushwick, hosted a gigantic installation by Peripheral Media Projects. I saw them there today installing, it looked pretty close to completion, and pretty cool.

Downstairs, in the independent artist lounge, I really liked "Steak Knives", a funny figurative painting by Joe Heaps Nelson, and some of the work by Dave Tree and Sergio Coyote.

Next door, on the Boat, Sound Walk premiered Kill The Ego, New York Recordings 1998-2008, a motion painting film by Rostarr, directed by Jim Helton and Ron Patane. The piece was great, loved the whole experience of walking in that boat, discovering the film downstairs, having a seat and watching it in that ambiance. After I watched the film, which, did I mention already (?), was great, I walked up a staircase I hadn't come down, to discover paintings around the boat. There were some lovely little abstract paintings I really, really liked. I also noticed more work by artist Dave Tree that I had seen before, but this environment had given it a new context, and it was exciting to see there. What a spectacular space.

These dealers built the venue with their own hands, donated space to help fund artist's projects, had gone to great lengths to support their artist… Stupendous! I love it! The works here were definitely on the smaller side, more affordable, overall, and the fair itself was defiantly edgier and so very much fun to visit.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Armory Week 2009 Review: Scope Art Fair

Scope Art Fair 2009
Art Fair review
written by Nikki Schiro in New York
There is a bit of pleasure aroused when the little nerd-girl inside is approached by a mean-girl who is suddenly in desperate need for a friend… the same mean-girl that last year had overlooked or shunned me because she'd asserted I wasn't worth her time. That pleasure lasts about a split second before a wave of distressing confusion washes over me, and then a sad moment of realization. Friendly dealers were not the only unsettling indicator that things have changed. I actually saw red dot "sold" stickers (when was the last time I saw those?). There was a noticeable abundance of sexually orientated work, mostly photography and some painting, that wasn't critical enough to warrant being glorified as contemporary art; clearly there for a sale. The work in general was less edgey, smaller, and relatively more affordable than before. Some gallerists overemphasized, in their pitch, that an artist "is selling", while others asked me point blank off the record "how is the fair? Are people selling?" There was a whole lot of bluffing and buffing going on, a lot of effort to create a sense that the art market is prevailing. Oh, how I wish that were true in a terrible way—and I don't blame them for trying, for what is the alternative?
Overall, however, the fair hadn't changed as drastically as I'd imagined it could. I will say, overall, the art itself was stronger last year.
Trends from Fair
Some trends were 3d paintings, figurative-abstraction, and sex.
Of the sexy art, some was interesting, fun and or clever, as opposed to its soft porn counterparts. I liked Chinese artist Liu Yan, at Eli Klein's Booth. Two large works on Xuan and old Chinese book paper, one of which titled The Man World, were interesting to me. Immediately I thought about an artist I went to school with, Tom Sanford, who kind of did something similar, implanting pop culture icons into medieval type compositions. I wondered if Yan's work seemed fresh merely because I am a westerner and less familiar with the formal aspects of older Chinese art. Urban Grünfelder's sculptures and paintings were fun, and some of the art at Jonathan Shorr Gallery was entertaining. Three little paintings detailing a woman being aggressed by men could seem offensive, but to me, I thought they were powerful, sexy, in fact.  
I saw a lot of figurative-abstraction attempts. Sculptural images obstructed dog-like animals, popped up in more than one place.
There were also lots of paintings that attempted to do this. Among the most successful, I found the portraits of Karim Hamid, at dFaulken gallery, to be great. He creates an interesting space in his paintings, and his mixing of abstraction with just enough representation generates specific portraits of themes and individuals, such as what seemed to be a "girls one wild" series and, a painting of Chuck Close, which I liked very much.
An artist called Evol, at Wilde Gallery, made outstanding paintings of buildings using a realistic painting technique on cardboard or tile/architectural piece. These pieces were terrific. The material that he had painted on, combined with the illusionism, really gave the effect of a building surface.
Jang Seunghyo, at Gallery Sun Contemporary had these wild, 3d photo compilations, he uses thousands of his own photos to create them. I have a photo of the figurative piece, but the more abstract work is even stronger. I am excited to see where his work will go.
David B Smith Gallery featured artist Gregory Euclide, whose multi media plexi pieces were truly one of the most unique things I saw there.
I mentioned earlier that prices seemed to be relatively more affordable. One gallery had actually posted a sign (photo in download box), detailing the deflation of Chinese art and this "unique, rare buying opportunity" in large red letters, addressed to collectors. Over at The Shooting Gallery, however, there was a piece by Erik Foss, cardboard and condom compilation of the American flag. The cardboard was an amalgam of homeless beggar signs, the condoms made the stars (photos on the right, in the" downloads" box). I thought the piece was interesting, but almost fell over when I saw it was priced at $20,000.
Worth checking out:
Ryan Wolfe's Branching Systems; Juan Francisco Casas's beautifully rendered pen drawings at Galeria Fernando Pradilla; Yuliya Lamina, at Dam, Stuhltrager & Frants Gallery; The Creative Thrift Shop, Brooklyn, had a fun spoof on American Apparel ads, Carolyn Salas and Adam Parker Smith's collaborative piece at the entry of Lila Freedland booth. Freedland's booth was a great element to the fair; there was a funhouse quality to the whole thing. In the main room, there was a projected light/image performance piece that seemed to be conducting a group of live musicians stationed below it, as if in a pit. In that room were walls full of prints and small works, featuring two from artist Emily Noelle Lambert. The room was very crowded and dim. I'd like to go back and have a second look at the wall work.
One would think such deteriorating economic conditions would have had more of a profound effect on the fairs. To an unsuspecting eye, one might think things aren't nearly as bad as statistics say. Perhaps this is the best sales strategy.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Armory Week 2009: Artist Interview

Volta Art Fair 2009
Interview with Featured Artist: Machiko Edmondson
Nikki Schiro interviews Machiko Edmondson in New York

NS: In one of my all time favorite movies, The Silence of the Lambs, Thomas Harris’ Jame Gumb/Buffalo Bill’s ruthless desire to be a woman has him killing obese women and using their skin to make a woman-suite to wear. The character refers to the victims as “things”, completely devoid of emotion, and becomes obsessed with the idea of metamorphism. In a less criminal way, isn’t there something undoubtedly sociopathic or at least maddening about obsessive desire? How does this relate to your work and or process?
EM: Obsession is never sane, right??? Hahaha. But, being an obsessive person, I'm fascinated with other people and society's obsessions in various forms. I guess there are 2 'strains' of obsessive-ness I bring into my paintings: Obsessive process of hunting for the 'right' image which signifies the 'unattainable desire'. Obsessive process of painting itself to achieve that unattainable 'perfection'.

NS: How separate are you from your art?
EM: Do I not think about 'Art' and 'Art as what I do' every minute of my waking life? Well, almost....

NS: What is your ultimate aspiration as a painter?
EM: Ummmm. Still working that out....

NS: How are you trying to affect people and contemporary discourse with your art?
EM: To question the notion of desire and desirability. And to give them a bit of jitters. ;-) My paintings are a bit like 'decoys' really. Having 'lure' them with iconic yet somewhat cliched images of 'desire'(fashion/music) industry, the viewers may be quite at ease with thinking that they know what they are looking at... But really, this aspirational perfection will soon evaporate giving way to anxiety and obsession that assert these paintings as paintings.

NS: Do you believe art must have a relationship to the rest of the world?
EM: Yes. I don't see how else you can make art... At lease for me, that is.

Where do you locate yourself in the contemporary art world, in an art historical sense?
EM: I appropriate, signify and allude... Also, I'm very much concerned about the semantic spatiality where my work might occupy... So where would that be? I guess I just see myself being in this all embracing /emgulpingsoup of Postmodernism.
Can you tell us a little bit about the work you will be exhibiting at Volta.
EM: At this point, I'm not sure which ones are to be displayed... But they are all works made in the last year ( or 2...) which were made in London studio before my 'big-finally-taken-the-plunge' relocation to NY!

AC: John Baldassari once said that painting was dead. But thankfully, your work lives provocatively outside the realm of death, lurking in a space situated past a post hyper-real. How has that iconic statement by JB informed or opposed your work?
EM: Oh gosh! Our generation of painting students ( (late 80-mid 90') suffered so so much from this 'Painting is dead' statement. You won't believe it now! We all had huge hang-ups! So much so that it was so much harder to be a painter (particularly at places like Goldsmiths MA) and we always felt that we had to justify and legitimize the fact we are using such an antiquated and moribund medium.

For more information regarding the art fair Volta, please visit: http://ny.voltashow.com/.

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