Stripped Bare

September 12th, 2014

“It’s not another tree, is it?” That was a friend’s response to my excitement over Roxy Paine’s new solo show, Denuded Lens, his first project with Marianne Boesky Gallery.  It looks like a major departure from those signature, arboreal Dendroids, which populated Madison Square Park in 2007.

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Roxy Paine, “Checkpoint,” 2014 at Marianne Boesky Gallery

 

Denuded Lens features four sculptures that look like wooden amalgamations of various machines used in agriculture, manufacturing, and medicine. They all lead up to Checkpoint, a wood, life-sized diorama cast in anamorphic perspective. Checkpoint is a chromatically-restricted and barren TSA checkpoint high on detailing and low on details: an accurate and dutiful representation of a real checkpoint that allows only scarce traces of human traffic.

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Roxy Paine, “Checkpoint,” 2014 (detail) at Marianne Boesky Gallery

Checkpoint recasts those Homeland Security machines, routines, and institutions that confront us so intimately, but in a formal and generic manner. That is, we surrender our privacy (and disbelief) to programs and probings that ostensibly do not discriminate between individuals, who occasionally are randomly selected for further screening. In the eyes of TSA scanners and staffers, there is no “my” in “Don’t touch my junk” – supposedly.

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Like a Chocolate Grinder? Roxy Paine, “Machine of Indeterminacy,” 2014 [detail]

Checkpoint gives viewers the time and space to gaze at these neutered security apparatuses, which look like museum relics of our post-9/11 crackdown mentality.  This might feel empowering to some viewers, who will sense the polychromatic pulse of autonomy as they freely snap photos and then walk away.

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Roxy Paine, “Scrutiny,” 2014

But we can’t get too excited about our empowered gaze. The anamorphic perspective is unsettling and disorienting; we are fooled into sensing a depth of eighty feet where there actually is a depth of only eighteen feet. And I’m sure I’m not the only one who swore that a pane of glass separated me from the diorama!

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Denuded Lens is riveting, but it isn’t unique.  Recently, other artists have overlapped into similar material and thematic territory, even if their intentions were different. For example, In 2012, Tom Friedman exhibited Untitled (video camera), a life-size video camera hand-crafted from wood and paint. In 2011, Lisa Kirk exhibited Untitled (Camera), fabricated through 3D printing. As for the distorted perspective, look at Richard Dupont or many of Robert Lazzarini’s sculptures, especially his iconic Payphone, 2000.

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Camera sculptures by Lisa Kirk (l) and Tom Friedman (r)

Richard Dupont sculptures [Image: Gail Shields-Miller]

There’s also that haunting feeling you get from a Thomas Demand environment, partly driven by the uncanny evacuation of a purposeful space.

 

 

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Hybrid States

August 13th, 2014

Andrew Edlin Gallery features two simultaneous shows, or two related shows, or a show with a prologue.  However you parse PURPLE STATES and Cafe Dancer Pop Up, remember to consider the source.  Sam Gordon, the curator, has explored in his own art the slippery space between art objects and their surroundings.  So it follows that his curated projects would have similarly porous boundaries.

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Sam Gordon, “Cafe Dancer (Collage), No. 2″, 2014

That is, his tromp l’oeil paintings, exhibited at Feature in 2012, dissolved hierarchies between painting materials, such paint and canvas, and personal artifacts, like clothing remnants, studio sweepings, hair, and used matches.  Likewise, these shows at Edlin stitch themselves to each other and carry along the social artifacts supporting them. Moreover, these shows take on the “insider-outsider” binary, employing it to reconsider each category and to synthesize hybrid results.

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Gone Fishin’ at Edlin Gallery

The “insider” part comes from Cafe Dancer Pop Up, for which Sam Gordon collaborates with artists/dancers Jessie Gold and Elizabeth Hart.  Together, they dress up the gallery’s reception area into a Cafe Dancer “satellite” titled Gone Fishin’, which is inspired by Gold’s and Hart’s real-life Cafe Dancer at 96 Orchard Street, a reliable site for performances and exhibitions, and a partner of the NADA art fair.  (See?  Deep inside.)  Works by artists from the Cafe Dancer scene line the long corridor of the gallery, especially artists with significant exposure that includes solo shows, art fairs, and/or residencies.  Some exceptions are Arley Marks and Monique Mouton, artists whose work I haven’t seen, but will follow.

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PURPLE STATES at Andrew Edlin Gallery

The “outsider” part is PURPLE STATES. A serigraph print by Sister Corita Kent literally points visitors “One Way” from the corridor to the main gallery space, where new and older art fuel each other.  Dense zoning and bold layering open up the breadth and potency of individual works.  We see how insider art often shares phylogenetic traits with outsider art, each occasionally passing as the other, and how insider art might be excused of the obsessive and pathological myths of outsider art.  Lest we forget.  Otherwise, a viewer can at least appreciate being steeped among art made by skilled artists who engage with their work through materials just as much as through concept.

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Paul Chan and Henry Darger

Paul Chan’s crisp matrix of girls with penises pairs up with super-outsider Henry Darger’s Flamingo Abbieannian Girlscouts and reminds us that well-established artists like Chan can be indebted to (and just as freaky as) outsiders like Darger, for whom girls weren’t always female.  Elisabeth Kley’s ceramic cage alone would strike me as complex and crafty, but Howard Finster’s apocalypse diorama turns it into a cage or disaster-bound vessel, while her ink filigree scroll maps out as spiraling missiles or black flowers from heaven.  Tenuous landscape unites Brian Adam Douglas’ A Quietus with the hallucinatory facescape watercolor by Agatha Wojciechowsky.

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A cosmic target icon made of thread and paint by Tony Cox accompanies a provocative naturalist motif by Forrest Bess, a “visionary” (which means “outsider”) recently resurrected for the 2012 Whitney Biennial, who earned six shows with Betty Parsons Gallery, the leading AbEx gallery, a historical fact that “demonstrates the extent to which this outsider was also very much an insider.”  Next to it, the guitar-shaped icon by Guo Fengyi reminds me of Bess’ self-administered genital modification, the documents of which he unsuccessfully attempted to exhibit alongside his paintings at Betty Parsons.

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Josh Blackwell’s embroidered plastic bags reanimate remnants, a meaningful process especially next to a pistachio shell painting by Lucky De Bellevue, who is also in the Dancer show, and who pairs well with Thornton Dial.  And the Morton Bartlett bare-legged doll photos, combined with Gina Beavers’ sculptural hand paintings, could spawn a new show about animism (or spanking).  Almost everything in this show is worth mentioning, and the connections are as fluid as observation allows.  But the mystic launch happens in a symmetrical shrine ensemble that includes Brion Gysin, Steve DiBenedetto, Emery Blagdon, Richard Tuttle, an anonymous artist’s Tantric paintings, and drawings from the Korwa people of Uttar Pradesh.  In this corner of the show, automatic writing, ritual, and asceticism join forces with itinerancy and travel – of the body, mind, and soul.

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Disperse!

August 1st, 2014

Covered in plastic sheets, The Hole looks like a construction site or maybe a quarantine zone, which we might need. But look at the airbrushed and spray painted art in the show and you’ll get the reference.  Go With The Flow assembles artists working with sprayed paint, “from aerosol to airbrush” and spanning abstraction, cartooning, and minimalism.

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At The Hole: (l-r) Michael Dotson, Trudy Benson, Greg Bogin, Michael Staniak, Zane Lewis

When I think of airbrush, I imagine boardwalk T-shirts; when I think of spray paint, I imagine graffiti. But a bit more thinking opens up other fronts.  According to the gallery:

“Surrealists explored the nascent technology, Kandinsky, too; and really not too much else went on in sprayed painting besides a 60s L.A. airbrush movement or Jules Olitski until the slick fabrication art of the 90s upsurge in industrial painting techniques. After digital technology made the world of images screenic and pixelated, gradients reappeared in painting as a mainly digital aesthetic with compressors the easiest way to achieve them in painting.  Simultaneous to all this, of course, the 70s and 80s birthed graffiti culture, the single most impactful global image movement, and the world’s cities have been covered in spray ever since.”

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Katsu (l), Adam Henry (r)

So how do we respond to the relative immobility of a technique native to tourist kitsch, industrial manufacturing, and graffiti?  For contrast, just consider the importance of atomization to agriculture, science, war, and leisure.  Crop dusting still treats some of our farmland, the CERN supercollider uncovered the Higgs boson after smashing particles to make sub particles, and the U.S. has just recently destroyed all of Syria’s weaponized chemical gases, hopefully.  The market for atomized e-cigarette sales is surpassing $2 billion, while the industry for atomized fragrances is rising toward $33 billion.  And Richard Kuklinski infamously killed his victims with atomized cyanide.  On many fronts, our present is atomized.

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(l-r) Keltie Ferris, Rosson Crow, Timothy Uriah Steele, Greg Bogin

So for art, why has atomized paint failed to leap to “fine art” from boardwalk T-shirts and automobiles?  Atomized paint mostly remains in the terrain of fabrication, such as powder-coating the surface of a sculpture, and not painting as painting.  A few exceptions come to mind, including the artists in this show.  But after 800 years of Western 2-D painting, the brush still dominates, despite other technological innovations, such as tubed paint, synthetic colors, and reproduction techniques.   Then again, almost all paint originates from pigment, which already is nearly atomized, so maybe there’s your answer: the technology was there from the start.

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Dennis Hoekstra

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