Friday, July 16, 2010

Riding on the Back of a Pig into a Pool of Mud

"Defrosted: a life of Walt Disney" opens June 29 at Postmasters

A few days before the start of the New York art world's summer lull, Postmasters opened a stellar group exhibition forcing vacationers awake. A conceptually taut revisionist riff on the life of Walt Disney, the show is organized by Adam Cvijanovic and David Humphrey, and features 14 additional artists. Summer in the city beckons most galleries to throw group shows, but this one, planned for 2 years, has thrown down the gauntlet.

Right: David Humphrey and featured artist Inka Essenhigh.

The entire main gallery is covered with a wall painting by Cvijanovic, with figurative parts painted by Humphrey, and additional canvases by Humphrey playfully hung throughout. By the entrance of the gallery, a timeline of Disney's life creates a comical leitmotif that throws the otherwise fantastical show into sharp relief, the kind of truth that our current reality-TV modernity finds prickly and illusive at best. Related works by artists both known and Ebay-anonymous hang on a scaffold recreating Magic Mountain, itself based on the Matterhorn.

Left: artist Nika Sarabi.

Right: detail of Nika Sarabi's work.

The crowded opening emphasized the room-filling expanse lushly imagined by Cvijanovic. An artist who makes painting seem as easy as brushing one's teeth, Cvijanovic continues to push his style into a modern reinvention of history painting. Humphrey's cartoony tendencies are also a perfect fit for this thematic exhibition. In cohesive yet distinctive styles, both artists re-imagine a workshop ideal, even asking Nika Sarabi, an artist familiar with graffiti, to add detail to an abandonned spaceship from Disneyworld's Tomorrowland.

Left: "Addio", Eva and Franco Mattes, aka, hung on pedestal.

In the back room, several works were supposed to represent Walt Disney's crypt, and indeed it was a quiet somber room, with a video and giant Mickey sculpture. A truly ambitious undertaking, the entire exhibition concerned itself not just with the reinvention of biography and the collaborative process, but also the physical challenge of having imagery taking over the room. The exhibit placed the viewer in a warped Einsteinian time/space dimension, which particularly was pronounced during the packed opening. And yet as viewers looked up at the walls, they were brought back into the objecthood and subjectivity of each individual artist placing their work on the pedestal cum Matterhorn. A heady and yet perfectly summer-themed exhibit indeed--catch it before it closes on August 6!

Left: Paula Wilson, "After All", mixed media on wood, on pedestal.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Freedom Sparks in Montreal

"Freedom's Discontents: Resistance, Subversion, and Survival"

A triumverate of curators--Irys Schenker, myself and gallery director Bettina Forget put together a video exhibition at Montreal's Visual Voice Gallery. The show is up only through July 17, but viewable online at Visual Voice Gallery. My selections and essay (reprinted below) are viewable at LightCube Video.

The response to the Freedom Sparks open call for videos has been overwhelming, and has garnered submissions from all over the world. This is indeed the beauty behind a show such as this: curators from New York have looked at videos from Brussels, Japan, and Arizona, among others, and the works will be viewed in a gallery in Montreal. This process has informed the interpretation of the concept of freedom, and provided a range of reactions - personal, national, or abstracted, and with these examples we can glimpse the expanse of our world.

Biying Zhang abstracts black and white footage of the Pan Asian Games in China with abrasive editing and sound, into a reflection on the calamity and destruction behind the facade of governmental control. In a place where freedom has a nuanced history, a propaganda machine aims to portray a happy and modernized China, which the artist counteracts with his pointed video.

Elise Rasmussen similarly delves into local history: the disappearance of native culture in Newfoundland. Her poignant, meditative approach, combined with bilateral framing, gives a nuanced viscerally-felt evocation of place. In a free society, without overt warfare or pursuit of genocide, an ethnic group nonetheless slowly is eradicated. What can freedom mean when a groups survival itself is so tenuous?

Tobias Rosenberger investigates another disappearance: of landscape and its inhabitants, an erasure brought about by the results of commercial freedom. A development, the height of material choice, brings about a sudden death, and Rosenberger shows us the end result of deadening conformity.

Daniel Stitts provides a personal and hauntingly beautiful nugget of personal and sexual freedom. Motifs of hiding, disappearance, and even the use of recorded voice all create layers of obstruction to personal liberty. Simone Patterson's fun brightly-colored piece subverts her underlying themes of feminity submerged in domesticity, vanity, and modern womens forced juggling of roles. And finally, Robby Rackleff's humorous lecture, toying with the ease of home-made video fakery, posits freedom as something that each generation fears and resents.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Cuchifritos: bootie-licious

Left: The entrance of Cuchifritos Gallery, Installation view: "Collected:Working Space 10". Courtesy of the artists and Cuchifritos Gallery/project space. Photo: Scott Taylor.

On yet another sweltering NYC day, while gallery-hopping through the Lower East Side, I decided to stop by Essex Market, a wonderful locavore outpost that reinvents a neighborhood paradigm from the turn of the century into a thriving food-based marketplace. Luckily for me, I wandered into the cozy corner space of Cuchifritos Gallery, just as the opening for its new exhibit "Collected:Working Space 10" began.

Right: Crocheted floor, by Olek.

Curated by Erin Riley-Lopez, the exhibit features work of the artists in the Lower East Side Rotating Studio Program, housed nearby. The show managed within a confoundingly small space to be a testament to the high caliber of the artists, as well as the range of conceptual work within. Although the works were in video, painting, sculpture and performance, the idea of mark-making outside the boundaries of conventional drawing was profoundly felt.

For instance, Chris Yormick used Connect Four checkers to create a blunt facial pattern, and Natsu's red filament-and-bead web took over a corner of the space. Echoing its organic/cosmic patterning was Olek's camouflage-meets-sportswear carpet, which covered the entire floor. The one actual drawing used marks to extend beyond the paper: Blane de St.Criox's "Gitmo: abandonned camp x-ray" pushed past political authority by using barbed wire's thwarted beauty as mark to suggest freedom's grand schemes unravelled.

Left: pile of used booties.

The artist Olek sat by the entrance offering slippers to all entrants, pantomiming as her mouth was embroidered shut. Her crocheted carpet effectively thrust mark-making into the three-dimensional realm, and labeled each guest as participant. The gallery was taken over by the mark, and within its womb-like space, a sea of pink and purple, each foot trod carefully on the art, each leg yet another mark, extending upward.

Right: Olek, at right, silently waiting to proffer slippers.