Archive for July, 2009

Mmm Bop!

Saturday, July 18th, 2009

Hansonians
Hansonians

I stood behind Erik Hanson to hear what he was saying at the opening of his solo show, From the Morning, at Horton Gallery:

(The title comes from a Nick Drake song, but I’m too busy listening to Nirvana’s Bleach re-issue to know anything about melancholic Songwriters who tragically gave up on life before 30.)

No, you guys just don't have the ass for it
No, you crackers just don't have the Ass for it

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He said, “I was a punk rock DJ, but there were a few disco songs that I liked.  It wasn’t cool to listen to disco, but I did – just a few songs – so this was my ‘coming-out’ piece,” he said, pointing at a dreamy drawing tattooed with handwritten titles of disco hits.

Macho, macho man
Macho, macho man

In his show last year at Eleven Rivington, only a few blocks away, Erik did a salon-style show of disheveled, coded, stripe paintings bearing lyrics of the song played while he painted.  Each painting done in one sitting, which is sort of, supposedly how Luc Tuymans works, too.

Ethan Shoshan (l) and Erik Hanson (r)
Ethan Shoshan (l) and Erik Hanson (r)

The new show still gets filed under Pop/Rock music, but also reaches back ten years and branches out to include two clever sculptures, one in the clouds and one from the earth; a batch of whirly paintings like eccentric vinyl, twee thumbprints magnified, or folk galaxies; a grid of tiny photos; and a towering wall of monoprints that made the iPhone camera go spastic when trying to focus on Erik and friend Ethan Shoshan, who told me about the T-shirts he produced for the MIX festival.  My favorite is My Shameful Taste, described as “a grouping of realistically-sculpted birch logs topped with graphite drawings of the LP labels of the artist’s ‘guilty pleasures,’ which were hidden from peers as a Boy Scout but ultimately became emblematic in the formation of his sexual identity.”

At the opening, Erik presided over a crowd of followers and described the Monday-night show at Santos Party House of living, loving legend Vaginal P. Davis and morbid, spiteful Tony Clifton:

“Most of the crowd left after two or three minutes of his singing,” Erik says of the Andy Kaufman-crafted persona whose “career” outlived its creator.

But for Erik, most of the crowd remained for much longer than a few minutes, happily absorbing his Selections.  Congratulations, Erik!

That reminds me that I forgot to post photos of Vaginal P. Davis at the Participant, Inc opening a week or two ago, just days after Frank Liu unplugged the tragically short-lived Horton/Liu co-writing credit!  My insider tells me that Frank Liu swiped some artwork as he stormed out of the gallery.  That all seems incomprehensible, because who could fight with Sean Horton?  Since working at Volume Gallery (now Freight + Volume), then helping to pioneer the LES gallery scene, Sean has always seemed to me  a warm and hard-working artist-turned-dealer with innovative taste in outsider-ish queer art.  But then what do I know?

(l-r) Vagina P. Davis, Billy Miller, pretty brunette
(l-r) Vaginal P. Davis, Billy Miller, pretty brunette

Anyway, back to Vag: I was gonna save these photos for the next Stuart Sherman post, but they aren’t getting any younger!

VPD is tall, dark, and handsome; and also famous, prolific, and hilarious!  A complete package.

Even dogs can’t keep their eyes off of Vaginal P. Davis, and she works blondes into a frenzy!

Doug & Dog McClemont, with St. Theresa ecstatic in background

All Eyes En Men

Friday, July 17th, 2009

Smiling Through: Nicole Eisenman,
Smiling Through: Nicole Eisenman,

If Nicole Eisenman spends so much time at beer gardens and dinner parties, then when does she reserve the peace and quiet studio time needed to toil over these moody, mysterious, playful, unsettling, and hilarious pictures?  Her palette seems uncaged, but the handling is not reckless.  Even when she dispenses oozy snakes of buttery paint to enhance (or corrupt) the placid surface, she is still restricted to roped-off zones of canvas, like a rowdy child penned in a playground.

Beer Garden with Ash, 2009
Beer Garden with Ash, 2009

How does she cultivate that rambunctious style, as jarring and enviable as an early bloomer, while simultaneously revealing a quiet admiration of art history – and pulling it off so effortlessly?  She swipes historical styles and movements while poking them and shooting rubber bands their way.

The Triumph of Poverty, 2009 (detail)
The Triumph of Poverty, 2009 (detail)

Bruegel imbroglio
Bruegel imbroglio

But these are love taps.  She knows that by giving history a wedgie, she preserves history by stirring it; it’s like pinching to prove wakefulness.

svablogeisenmanbed
NE: Night Studio, 2009

Courbet,
Courbet,

Speaking of love: these paintings’ titles, settings, and likenesses tell us how much of this work is based in autobiography and personal life.

Beer Garden with Ulrike and Celeste, 2009 (detail)
Hello Nurse: Beer Garden with Ulrike and Celeste, 2009 (detail)

But first: Tim Davis once identified Nicole as “our Daumier.”  Just as 19th-century French painters haunted the Paris cafes to sip absinthe, Nicole’s contemporaries hang out at Williamsburg bars for a few rounds of frothy beer.  She captures the shifting congregation like the creeping timelapse of an Impressionist landscape.  The surrounding crowd dissolves into monochrome figures, passing shadows, huddled groups, cameos of mask-like visages, and detailed likenesses in varying degrees of pertinence.  Nicole intimates the din and density of a crowded patio, instead of settling for an indexical panorama of one.

Beer Garden with Ash, 2009
Beer Garden with Ash, 2009

So one assumes that the “rendered” faces in the crowd are candid portraits of close friends and family, given that many of the paintings’ titles are on a first-name basis with their subjects.  For example, Beer Garden with Ulrike and Celeste probably stars artists Celeste Dupuy-Spencer and Ulrike Mueller, the latter an editor of the lesbian journal and collective LTTR.

Jörg Immendorff, Cafe Deutschland IV
Jörg Immendorff, Cafe Deutschland IV

There’s even an arresting gaze from a glowing stud.  Thumbing his Blackberry, he isn’t that guy obliviously hunched over his device while everyone else is talking and laughing together; instead, his piercing blue eyes shoot laser beams across the gallery and rivet us in place as we cross by.  (I hope they will soon zap the noisy gallery attendant behind the counter.  I mean, I’m trying to concentrate here!)

Get a room, blue guy
Get a room, blue guy

So what gives with all the weird sex?  Sometimes a Cigar is Just a Cigar, but those bottles are so…erect.  And abundant.  Just look at the silhouette guy having a Green Door moment.  I’m not the first to point out that many people stroke, peel, and clutch their beer bottle when sexually frustrated.  So what do painters do?

Or are you just happy to see me?
Or are you just happy to see me?

The Triumph of Poverty is a phallocentric dystopia, as flummoxed by renegade potency as Uganda. First, there’s the sad-looking salesman, leaning against the car, his pockets emptied and inverted.  His right-hand pocket aligns with his crotch and hangs like a deflated balloon or post-Bunnicula drained squash.  And then how about this blind lemon-colored man leading a chain of sightless peasants?  Obviously, his arse is turned forward (or backward), but his eye socket seems to be a peculiarly puckered orifice.

Two-faced
Two-faced

There’s something wrong with the men here, and I can’t deny the ways the painting reminded me of the foresaken decade we lost to the straight-shootin’ Bush administration.

Frederic Remington,
Frederic Remington,

The women, on the other hand, are mightily functional.  There’s even a distribution of labor among these independent matriarchs.  Compare the study for Winter Solstice 2012 Dinner Party with the finished version.

(l-r)
(l-r)

(r-l)
(r-l)

In Nicole Eisenman’s world, a woman needs a man like Julia Fish needs a bicycle.

But I think Nicole just needs her books, her beer, and her buddies.

Leo Koenig's butt?

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Nu MUSEO

Thursday, July 16th, 2009
KS: I’m struck by your commitment to rendering blood on the print exactly the way blood would spurt, or in the case of the vinyl floor piece, as if a body has been dragged across it. And in fact, a body will be literally dragged across it.
That’s Katie Sonnenborn talking to RObert Lazzarini in the new issue of MUSEO about his new bloodstained wallpaper prints.  The prints are the result of Lazzarini’s visual arts fellowship at the Neiman Center for Print Studies at Columbia University.  “The deathly object is something that I think about quite a lot,” he says.  Katie asks him about this preoccupation, but Lazzarini seems more interested in formal issues.  That’s fine, for now.  It is interesting to hear him explain the decisions behind his current show at the Aldrich Museum.
We also get great interviews with Shana Moulton, and with Roxy Paine, whose giant aluminum environmental sculptures must have a great tan after laying out in Madison Square Park, and then migrating to the roof at the Met.
And the great innovation of the new MUSEO is a site-specific project curated by the marvelous Timothy Hull, artist and egyptologist, and MUSEO honcho David Shapiro.  From the curators:
“For this project, artists were asked to create “screen captures” of images using their desk-top as a substrate. It is reasonable to assume that many artists have multiple folders, images, screen wallpapers and open windows on their desktop at any given time. These ephemera of the desktop can either be functional, aesthetic, or both- constantly changing and shifting in meaning and intent as well as position. The screen capture (screen cap) is a tableau of a particular moment in time- on a very private medium: the personal computer. The purpose of this project is to either gain insight into the private, ad-hoc composition of a desktop or to push the boundaries of the discursive arrangement of images and other digital ephemera on the desktop as composed specifically by the artist.”
Fifteen artists submitted screenshots of their computers.  We get behind the scenes to see layers of windows, desktop backgrounds, google search results, and dazzling Photoshop abstractions.
Are they photographs?  But there is no object for light to sculpt.  Collage?  They are layered, but “collage” is etymologically obligated to pasting or gluing, neither of which happened here.  Maybe performance?  Process?  I like Devon Costello’s ersatz Kandinskys, Robert Melee’s couch potato, and Jimmy Joe Roche’s multimedia terrordome.

Robert Longo, The Ascension (for Glenn Branca album), 1981
Robert Longo, The Ascension (for Glenn Branca album), 1981

KS: I’m struck by your commitment to rendering blood on the print exactly the way blood would spurt, or in the case of the vinyl floor piece, as if a body has been dragged across it. And in fact, a body will be literally dragged across it.

Robert Lazzarini, blood on wallpaper (blue gingham), 2008
Robert Lazzarini, blood on wallpaper (blue gingham), 2008

That’s Katie Sonnenborn talking to Robert Lazzarini in the new issue of MUSEO about his new bloodstained wallpaper prints.  He made them during his visual arts fellowship at the Neiman Center for Print Studies at Columbia University.

“The deathly object is something that I think about quite a lot,” he says.  Katie asks him about this preoccupation, but Lazzarini seems more interested in formal issues.  That’s fine, for now.  It is interesting to hear him explain the decisions behind his recent exhibition at the Aldrich Museum, called Guns and Knives.

We also get great interviews with Shana Moulton, and with Roxy Paine, whose giant aluminum environmental sculptures must have a great tan after laying out in Madison Square Park, and then migrating to the roof at the Met.  Check out Maelstrom.

And the great innovation of the new MUSEO is a site-specific project for the MUSEO website.  Open Apple Shift 3 is curated by the marvelous Timothy Hull, artist and egyptologist, and MUSEO honcho David Shapiro.  From the curators:

“For this project, artists were asked to create “screen captures” of images using their desk-top as a substrate. It is reasonable to assume that many artists have multiple folders, images, screen wallpapers and open windows on their desktop at any given time. These ephemera of the desktop can either be functional, aesthetic, or both- constantly changing and shifting in meaning and intent as well as position. The screen capture (screen cap) is a tableau of a particular moment in time- on a very private medium: the personal computer. The purpose of this project is to either gain insight into the private, ad-hoc composition of a desktop or to push the boundaries of the discursive arrangement of images and other digital ephemera on the desktop as composed specifically by the artist.”

Screen capture by Robert Melee
Screen capture by Robert Melee

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Fifteen artists submitted screenshots of their computers.  We get behind the scenes to see layers of windows, desktop backgrounds, google search results, and dazzling Photoshop abstractions.

Screen capture by Ben Weiner
Screen capture by Ben Weiner

Are they photographs?  But there is no object for light to sculpt.  Collage?  They are layered, but “collage” is etymologically obligated to pasting or gluing, neither of which happened here.  Maybe performance?  Process?  I like Devon Costello’s ersatz Kandinskys, Robert Melee’s couch potato, and Jimmy Joe Roche’s multimedia terrordome.

KITT to the rescue
KITT to the rescue

Spectacool

Monday, July 13th, 2009

“Performance is for me related to the very literal use of the term. You have to perform an act to give form to an intent. That relates to what I do very strongly.” -Stuart Sherman

Stuart Sherman at 80WSE Gallery
Stuart Sherman at 80WSE Gallery

Beginningless Thought/Endless Seeing: The Works of Stuart Sherman is a comprehensive archive and survey of the late artist’s videos, poems, collages, drawings, stage performances, and signature “spectacles.”

Stuart Sherman at 80WSE Gallery
Stuart Sherman at 80WSE Gallery

Curators John Hagan, Yolanda Hawkins, and John Matturri present the prolific Stuart Sherman as a disciplined, studious artist with philosophical leanings.  He worked every day and followed a natural logic that guided him from writing, to drawing, to performance, and to video.  He appears as an earnest collaborator and sensitive reader, and ascetic in the ways he subsumes himself to his conceptual goals.  Paradoxically, by suppressing his performative persona, he reveals a more permanent personality.

Though he earned his merit badges in the avant-garde scene around Charles Ludlam, the influence on Stuart Sherman from the Conceptual Art undertakings preceding him is apparent.  His performances and videos feature repeated tasks, verbal instructions, minimal inflection, and geometric trajectories.  “I find that in art in general, whatever the discipline, there’s too often a fascination with the material aspects of the medium, the sensuous properties of the medium with too little attention to the ideas that form the material.”  Right!  And like many other conceptual artists working before him, Stuart Sherman relentlessly interrogates written language in his ink drawings and found photo collages, many of which diagram the alphabet and select words that are incidentally loaded with pathos: “DRAMA,” “SCREAM.”

Most of the drawings look schematic, like tic-tac-toe games, semaphore messages, or dance instructions.  He described them as “ideographic” and it’s tempting to identify figures among the dots and dashes.  For example, we start to see in many drawings a large X topped with an O, which seems to correspond to the man/men noted in their respective titles.  We also spot recurrent rings that signify the sun, and menacing zigzag lines, often red, that signal agitation or chaos, as in Orgy.

svablogstuartsherman5
Stuart Sherman, Sunergy Pregnant with Chair

Beyond linguistic knob-twiddling, Stuart Sherman dissects and disperses the body and senses into his environment.  In the videos, staccato editing and rebus-like montages establish analogies between his body parts and inanimate objects.   Eating, in his words, “demonstrated most patently…the conversion of a physical act into language.”  It also projects his face and open mouth onto the facades of a series of restaurants and diners.  His “punctuating mouth” claps shut like a clapboard slate.  In Portrait of Benedicte Pesle, the artist stands in a telephone booth, only to be replaced by a stack of white pillows.  Baseball/TV stars a television-headed effigy, and in Theater Piece, he alternates between himself and a 2D cutout of his body – both strategies would appear later in his work.  Finally, Discovery of the Phonograph establishes the transitive mechanics between field of vision, a spinning record, and bodily movement.

Chairs recur in Stuart Sherman’s imagery.  As a poet, he loved word play and puns.  I wonder if the Dr. Frankenstein in him recrafted the chair to stand in for him.  One drawing mingles “chair” and “man” into the sequence “Chair Manned,” “Man Chaired,” until they amalgamate as “Chair Man/Man Chair.” Is it a coincidence that “Chair Man” sounds a lot like “Sherman?”  Like Marcel Duchamp and “Marchand du Sel?”

svablogstuartsherman6
Cooler than Kosuth

Maybe we’ll find more clues in Nothing Up My Sleeve, the group show that just opened at Participant, Inc, which I hope to cover next week…

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Friday, July 10th, 2009
Artist epicenter
Talent shows
Magazines
Journals
Collaborations
Life of the party
Self-portrait
Documentary
Claude Cahun
“Under this mask, another mask. I will never finish removing all these faces.” –Claude Cahun
Activist, publisher, photographer, video artist, performer, organizer, muse, stylist, artist epicenter, model: K8 Hardy has worn many hats.  And wigs and unitards.
Fittingly, her show at Reena Spaulings Fine Art includes about 30 photos of herself in some kind of drag. The photos are self-portraits, in theory: the artist has turned the camera toward herself and made conscious decisions about how her image will be captured.
Except that from beginning to end, we lose a sense of her “self” in the freedom march of potential other “selves,” which we know can’t really be authentic “selves” because they are temporary, fleeting masquerades – each just the interim between the others – and not the steady core that we elevate as the “real self.”  Will the real K8 Hardy please stand up?
No.
But there’s this platform in the middle of the gallery.  You can stand there for all to see.
So maybe they are more like “documentary.”  After all, the acquisition of vintage, thrift, and obscure garments – enough to dress the Halloween Parade – is a lifelong, unrelenting compulsion.  To pose in her clothes is not just about working a look; it’s about  the clothes indexing the ever-expanding collection; it’s about pointing to a decade-long hunting trip by sharing its prizes.
But if you want to be materialistic, maybe you could say that they are still-life photos.  After all, the garments are arranged into outfits, which implies calculation, coordination, and set-up; and not a random sampling of her closet.
“invent her own position as subject and elaborate her own set of images – different from the image of the exposed female body, yet as empowering as that image is…for her male colleagues.”
Proudly carrying the flag of feminist heritage, K8 wrestles with the volatile, indeterminate conditions of gender and identity.  In many of the photos, gender is debatable, or even incidental.  Instead, we get tangled in the layers of culturally coded clothing.  “What is that trying to say?” might precede “Who is that person?”  Just like seeing somebody in a Star Trek spacesuit or Ninja ghi.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BKvjZUAPve4

“Under this mask, another mask. I will never finish removing all these faces.” –Claude Cahun

K8 Hardy at Reena Spaulings
Disheveled, shelved: K8 Hardy at Reena Spaulings

Activist, publisher, photographer, video artist, performer, organizer, muse, stylist, artist epicenter, mud wrestler, concert promoter, model: K8 Hardy has worn many hats.  And wigs and unitards.

Fittingly, her show at Reena Spaulings Fine Art refers to her autobiographical past and her conceptual current in its title: To All the G#%$! I’ve Loved Before.

Her first solo show in NYC, and closing tomorrow, the show includes sculptures, publication, and primarily, about 30 photos of herself in some kind of drag.

K8 or Dye
K8 or Dye

The photos are documentary/ self-portraits, in theory:

“Documentary,” in that the acquisition of vintage, thrift, and obscure garments – enough to dress the Halloween Parade – is a lifelong, unrelenting compulsion, so costumed K8 is not just about working a look; it’s about indexing a decade-long hunting trip by sharing its ever-expanding chest of prizes.

“Self-portrait,” in that the artist has turned the camera toward herself and made conscious decisions about how her image will be captured.

Except that from beginning to end, we lose a sense of her “self” in the freedom march of potential other “selves,” which we know are anything but that, because they are temporary, fleeting masquerades – each just the interim between the others – and not the immobile core that we try to excavate as the “real self.”  In fact, some photoes keep you on your four toes by substituting another model in lieu of K8.  Does K8 matter?  Will the real K8 Hardy please stand up?

Flashback from Jonah Freeman & Justin Lowe

No, she refuses.

But there’s this platform in the middle of the gallery.  You can stand up high for all to see!  Please hurry; the show ends tomorrow!

Jack Pierson,
Jack Pierson,

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Rosalind Krauss invokes Susan Suleiman while writing about Claude Cahun, who could be K8’s great-grandma in art lineage. (Cindy Sherman could be her Mom and Leigh Bowery her other Mom.)  Suleiman called for a pioneering woman artist who would:

“invent her own position as subject and elaborate her own set of images – different from the image of the exposed female body, yet as empowering as that image is, with its endless potential for manipulation, disarticulation, and rearticulation, fantasizing and projection, for her male colleagues.”

Maybe that’s who the stage is for, which K8 has installed in the gallery?  “We are not sure if or how it will be used,” cautions her press release.

Proto-K8, Claude Cahun
Proto-K8, Claude Cahun

Of course, Claude Cahun went further by changing her name to that of an imaginary Jewish man, despite the rampant anti-semitism soiling France.  Kate’s name is less ethnic and more adjective.  To follow Cahun, she would need to take on a fearsome, alarming, or unsettling name.  K8 Hussein.  Or K8 Bush.

Still, she proudly bears the pageant sash of feminist heritage, because K8 screams “Vive la résistance” as she wrestles with the volatile, indeterminate conditions of gender and identity.  In many of the photos, gender is debatable, or even incidental.  Instead, we get tangled in the layers of culturally coded clothing.  “What is that trying to say?” might precede “Who is that person?”  Something weird happens when “the look” smothers its wearer.  Essence precedes existence.

Gerhard Richter, Onkel Rudi, 1965
Gerhard Richter, Onkel Rudi, 1965

But then K8 the author leaps into the spotlight with her subjective ray-0-gram interventions of sunglasses, a lace bra, and a defiant middle finger.  K8 reminds us that while actor, crew, and location all coalesce into a cast of androgynous, flamboyant extras, the artist is still the director.

Dan Graham, Figurative, 1965
Ray O' Gram: Dan Graham, Figurative, 1965