Archive for May, 2010

Entropy Cacophony

Saturday, May 29th, 2010
The Whitney Museum generously stayed open for three days in a row last week, though only at the expense of trimming down Michael Asher’s plan to keep it open for a week.  Supposedly, the Museum didn’t have the resources to support such a marathon, though it also announced last week that it would relocate downtown.  Curiously, that spotlight-swimping announcement came just days after MoMA PS1 opened Greater New York 2010.
Another artist, Zefrey Throwell, shared Asher’s ambition to use the entire Museum.  And though the Biennial curators didn’t invite Zafrey for this year’s edition, someone more permanent at the Museum did.
Zefrey summoned, then directed 75 friends and acquaintances through a multi-tiered blitzkrieg of 25 simultaneous actions scattered throughout the entire Museum premises.  The men’s bathroom in the basement, down the hall from the Museum Shop and Sandwiched, was a rockin’ with two people having “real” animal, noisy sex in a stall.
The elevator was vacated by the overwhelming odor, which began to smell sulfurous, resulting in a very temporary bomb scare.
A nude woman walked down the stairwell, a live-action Duchamp; while a nude man walked through the galleries accompanied by a fully-clothed friend.
On the third floor, a young woman on crutches tripped over her friend’s foot, leading to shouting, pushing and shoving, wrestling, and then heroic guards: “Break it up, ladies!”  Meanwhile, an earnest lover’s quarrel escalated until the girl began chasing the boy past the Pae White tapestry and around the Thomas Houseago colossus.
Outside, a giant paper airplane battle sent folded Folded Fighting Falcons into the sculpture garden.  And on the fifth floor, two lovers spooned on the floor in front of the Mike Kelley.
In the most confrontational performance, a clumsy visitor spilled his hot coffee on another visitor, who was clutching a newborn baby in her arms.  The woman began to scream that her baby was burned and permanently disfigured.  The man panicked and spilled the rest of the cup down his white shirt and khakis pants.  The guards swarmed, cried, “What are you doing, bringing coffee into the museum?”  The man pleaded, “What is she doing, bringing a baby into the museum?”
In the most physical performance, Zefrey himself snuck in a counterfeit Charles Ray painting – a “floppy flower,” as he calls it – and stuck it to the wall.  Then he yanked it down and bolted.  A woman alterted the guards: “He’s stealing the artwork!”  The guards chased, but at their slow pace, Zefrey found himself alone when he made it downstairs.  Still, the commotion caught the attention of a vigilant tourist, who sprang into action, and tackled Zefrey.  The guards pounced after that – and ripped up the artwork, limb from limb.
Gary Carrion-Murayari was in the galleries giving a personal curator’s tour to a wealthy couple when the quarreling lovers raced by.  Spotting him, and not yet “in the know,” I asked if this was a performance.  “Not one that’s authorized,” he sighed.
And after five minutes, it was over.
The burned baby was really a doll.  The sulfurous smell, just fart spray.  The stop-thief woman: Zefrey’s mother.  The nudity was real, and so was the bathroom sex.  Those f*ckers were forcibly ejected (and photographed).
Epilogue: Afterward, the performers met at Central Park and “had some beers.”  Zefrey got his hair and beard cut, and then returned to the Museum, undetected, and struck up conversation with a guard who, an hour earlier, had pinned Zefrey to the floor.  “It’s been a hell of a day,” he sighed.
Coincidence: a recent mission by Improv Everywhere sent performers dressed as Ghostbusters into the NY Public Library.  Ghostbusters footage – and vehicle – feature prominently in the Bruce High Quality Foundation’s “I Like America, America Likes Me.”

Lisa Kirk, "Whitney Cake," 2004

The Whitney Museum generously stayed open for three days in a row last week, though only at the expense of trimming down Michael Asher’s plan to keep it open for a week.  Understandably, the Museum didn’t have the resources to support such a marathon, though it did announce last week its imminent, multimillion-dollar migration.  Curiously, that spotlight-swiping announcement surfaced just two days after MoMA PS1 opened Greater New York 2010.

Sharing Asher’s ambition to use the entire Museum is Zefrey Throwell, a NYC-based artist “investigating honest communication, in all its varied plumage.”  And though curators Francesco Bonami and Gary Carrion-Murayari didn’t invite Zefrey for this Biennial, someone “higher up” at the Museum did.  The Whitney insider from on high “thought I should be in the Biennial,” says Zefrey.

Performer with Pae White's "Smoke Knows," 2009 (image: Zefrey Throwell)

And so he was, at least for five minutes.  Zefrey summoned, then directed, 75 friends and fellows through a multi-tiered blitzkrieg of 25 simultaneous actions scattered throughout the entire Museum premises.  The super-scene was called Entropy Symphony.  No bystander saw it coming, but nearly all got a piece of it.

Band of Outsiders, 1964

The scene downstairs: Several party poopers, no pun intended, reported to guards that the men’s bathroom in the basement was a rockin’ with a heterosexual couple having noisy sex in a stall – within earshot of the Museum Shop and Sandwiched, the temporary cafe.

If this stall's a' rockin.... (IMAGE: Zefrey Throwell)

Meanwhile, the elevator belched malodorous fumes, which began to smell sulfurous, resulting in a very temporary bomb scare, quickly downgraded to “stink bomb” status.

In the stairwell – the only alternative to the elevator – a nude woman sauntered down, a live-action Duchamp; and a nude man strolled through the galleries accompanied by a fully-clothed friend.

Duchamp (l), Mel Ramos (r)

Spooners and Nude at Mike Kelley (image: Zefrey Throwell)

On the third floor, just outside the Kate Gilmore struggle, a young woman on crutches tripped and fell over her friend’s foot.  “You did it on purpose,” she shrieked!  Mutual blame escalated to shouting, shoving, wrestling, and then valorous guards: “Break it up, ladies!”

image: Zefrey Throwell

Meanwhile, an earnest lovers’ quarrel around the corner hit its zenith when the girl began chasing the boy past the Pae White tapestry and around Thomas Houseago’s colossal Baby. And downstairs, a gang fought over a frozen chicken found on the floor near the Robert Grosvenor sculpture.

"Fowl Play" (image: Zefrey Throwell)

Outside, a giant paper airplane battle sent folded Fighting Falcons into the sculpture garden.  And on the fifth floor, two sweethearts (a recent Columbia MFA and his girl) spooned on the floor, admiring Mike Kelley’s More Love Hours Than Can Ever Be Repaid and The Wages of Sin.

In the most confrontational performance, a clumsy visitor spilled his hot coffee on a woman clutching a newborn baby in her arms.  The woman wailed that her baby was burned and permanently disfigured.  Catastrophe! The man panicked and dumped the rest of the cup down his white shirt and khakis pants.  Guards swarmed, crying, “What are you doing, bringing coffee into the museum?”

The man pleaded, “What is she doing, bringing a baby into the museum?”

Thomas Houseago, "Baby," 2009-10

And in the most athletic performance, Zefrey himself snuck in a counterfeit Charles Ray painting – a “floppy flower,” as he calls it – and stuck it to the wall.  Then he yanked it down and bolted.

Run LOL Run! (image: Zefrey Throwell)

-A woman alerted the guards: “He’s stealing the artwork!”  They chased, but at their slow pace, Zefrey easily escaped downstairs – until the commotion caught the attention of a vigilant witness, who sprang into action and tackled Zefrey.  The guards pounced after that – and ripped up the artwork, pistil from stamen.

image: Zefrey Throwell

Gary Carrion-Murayari was in the third-floor galleries giving an intimate Curator’s Tour to a wealthy couple when the quarreling lovers raced by.  Spotting him, and not yet in the know, I asked him if this was a performance.  “Not one that’s authorized,” he mumbled.

And after five minutes, it was over.

BUSTED! Zefrey Throwell, red-handed (image: the Artist)

The burned baby was really a doll.  The sulfurous smell? Just fart spray.  The Stop-Thief woman: Zefrey’s mother, visiting for the weekend.  All just props and actors.  -But the nudity was real, as was the bathroom sex: those f*ckers were forcibly ejected (and photographed).

Epilogue: Afterward, the performers met at Central Park and “had some beers.”  Zefrey got his hair and beard cut, and then returned to the Museum, undetected, and struck up conversation with a guard who, an hour earlier, had pinned Zefrey to the floor.  “It’s been a hell of a day,” the guard sighed.

"Don't You Recognize Me?" (image: the artist)

Lipstick and a Pig

Tuesday, May 11th, 2010
Nate Lowman/Karla Black reads like a battle of the sexes.  Is it a lover’s quarrel?  Not really, because it feels too general.  Karla Black’s installation asserts its femininity – hear it roar.  Nate Lowman seems to be coming to terms with outmoded male rage.  No more misogyny, misanthropy, and misfiring.
Karla Black blankets the cold gallery floor with solvent femininity, without veering toward the Maternal.  Platonic Solids includes powder paint and cosmetics material, parted in some places to reveal whimsical drawings of geometric shapes, both flat and dimensional.  Its unprotected edges appear to be vulnerable, though the bright pigment is formidable enough to establish boundaries.
Above this scatter sculpture is …. a staggered grid of painted paper.  The contiguous body hangs limply and bears sheets individually  painted and undelicately bound together.  Most sheets seem to have passively drifted through pastel-colored fog, but a few pop out in bright red.  Is there a periodicity to these?  They appear random, but women artists using intermittent reds makes me think of menstruation.  “I don’t trust nothin’ that bleeds for seven days and don’t die.”  Speaking of, the whole piece is brutally, traumatically penetrated by a structural steel beam, which pins the piece like a butterfly specimen.
Meanwhile, Nate Lowman dances around Karla Black’s territory, melodramatically bidding “Happy Trails” to the priapic monopoly of art history, most specifically in High Modernism.  In “Anger Management Trilogy #2,” he revises Willem de Kooning’s violent Marilyn Monroe with a pathetic, infantile gesture too weak to even fill the canvas – like throwing a shoe down a hallway.  Next to it is “Snowman,” alkyd on canvas, whose subject pessimistically – but accurately – shares his fate via a caption that would make Gillian Wearing curdle.  To remind the viewer that the image is only a frozen moment in parabolic dissolution might correspond to the analytic interpretation that a Pollock is a record of gravity – or at least, “action.”  And his untimely death?
The sculpture “Broken Zip” fits perfectly into the show, foiling the steel probe overhead with a disintegrating erection that refers to Barnett Newman “zip” paintings, as well as his great “Broken Obelisk.”  A row of vintage gas pump veneers, rusted and decrepit, reminds me of Edward Hopper imagery, and maybe takes on the provincial heritage of American art history, now buried by globalization and the looming peak oil armageddon.  The trompe l’oeil in the middle chromatically coordinates with Black’s green.
Finally, his “For JJ” (like vah-jay-jay?) consummates in the back hallway with her “Division Isn’t,” which would collapse like a fainting wife and crumble to the floor, were it not suspended by tiny strings.  If the steel probe overhead is any indication, we’re seeing the result of a Lowman’s barbaric insertion, a crime whose only clue is a newspaper clipping about middle-aged riflemen.  Notably, the testicles are turned backward: for most men, the left hangs lower.  That is not the case here, so we must assume that we are sneaking a peek from behind.

... and in this corner ...
... and in this corner ...

Karla Black/Nate Lowman reads like a battle of the sexes.  Is it a lover’s quarrel?  Not really, because it feels too general.  Karla Black’s installation asserts its femininity – hear it roar.  Nate Lowman seems to be coming to terms with outmoded male rage.  No more misogyny, misanthropy, and misfiring.

The Scottish Karla Black blankets the cold gallery floor with solvent femininity, without veering toward The Maternal.  Platonic Solids includes powder paint and cosmetics material, parted in some places to reveal whimsical drawings of geometric shapes, both flat and dimensional.  Its passive expanse and unprotected edges appear to be vulnerable, though the bright pigment is formidable enough to establish boundaries and ward off trespassers.

No doubt, her work has feminine qualities.  Can that claim be derogatory?  What about “girly?”  But thank heavens for girls!  Can’t live without ’em.

The girly nature, and the pastel palette, remind me of Lily van der Stokker’s murals and installations.  Her lowercase cursive text and cartoony, buoyant fields of color are distinctly preteen feminine.

Lily van der Stokker
Lily van der Stokker

Above this scatter sculpture is Don’t Detach, Adapt, a staggered grid of painted paper.  The contiguous body hangs limply and bears sheets individually  painted and undelicately bound together.  Most sheets seem to have passively drifted through pastel-colored fog, but a few pop out in bright red.  Is there a periodicity to these?  They appear random, but women artists using intermittent reds makes me think of menstruation.  “I don’t trust nothin’ that bleeds for seven days and don’t die.”  Speaking of, the whole piece is brutally, traumatically penetrated by a structural steel beam, which gores the piece like a pin through a butterfly specimen.

Mary Heilmann, Rosebud, 1983
Mary Heilmann, Rosebud, 1983

Meanwhile, Nate Lowman dances around Karla Black’s territory, melodramatically bidding “Happy Trails” to the priapic monopoly of art history, most specifically in High Modernism.

Versus
Lipstick on a Pig

In Anger Management Trilogy #2, he revises Willem de Kooning’s violent Marilyn Monroe with a pathetic, infantile gesture too weak to even fill the canvas – like throwing a shoe down a hallway.  Next to it is Snowman, alkyd on canvas, whose subject pessimistically – but accurately – shares his fate via a caption that would make Gillian Wearing curdle.  To remind the viewer that the image is only a frozen moment in parabolic dissolution might correspond to the analytic interpretation that a Pollock is a record of gravity – or at least, “action.”  And his untimely death?

After Gillian Wearing
After Gillian Wearing

The lean Broken Zip fits perfectly into the show, foiling the steel probe overhead with a disintegrating erection that refers to Barnett Newman “zip” paintings, as well as his great Broken Obelisk.  A row of vintage gas pump veneers, rusted and decrepit, reminds me of Edward Hopper imagery, and maybe takes on the provincial heritage of American art history, now buried by globalization and the looming peak oil armageddon.  The trompe l’oeil in the middle chromatically coordinates with Black’s green.

Oh, snap!
Oh, snap!

Green with (penis) envy
Green with envy

Finally, his For JJ (like vah-jay-jay?) consummates in the back hallway with her Division Isn’t, which would collapse like a fainting wife and crumble to the floor, were it not suspended by tiny strings.  If the steel probe overhead is any indication, we’re seeing the result of a Lowman’s barbaric insertion, a crime whose only clue is a newspaper clipping about middle-aged riflemen.

Jasper Johns, Painting with Two Balls, 1960
Or is it the other "JJ?" (Jasper Johns, Painting with Two Balls, 1960)

Notably, the testicles are turned backward: for most men, the left hangs lower.  That is not the case here, so we must assume that we are sneaking a peek from behind.  They are also blue: coitus interruptus among us!

Wham Bam Thank You Ma'am
Wham Bam, thank you, Ma'am.  Ma'am?

I guess that’s why they call it the blues?