Archive for August, 2013

Being and Lightness

Thursday, August 15th, 2013
Public Art Fund, "Lightness of Being," City Hall Park

City Hall Park is enlivened by the Public Art Fund’s Lightness of Being, a group exhibition of sculpture and performance by international artists.  Spanning a range of materials and degrees of interactivity, the show offers clever details to sharp-eyed enthusiasts and garish obviousness casual viewers.

Evan Holloway, "Willendorf Wheel," 2013

Evan Holloway’s Willendorf Wheel, 2013 is discreetly insulated by foliage and awash in dappled sunlight.  At a glance, it appears to be a bronze, textured hoop.  But step onto the grass and find a chain of copies of Venus of Willendorf, the 25,000-year old fertility icon.  Venus cascades the exterior of the hoop in two “columns.”  In one, her circumnavigation eternally returns head first; in the other, she orbits feet first – as if in a breech position.  (But which way is north?  And is this how we’ll feel in Elon Musk’s future?)  On the interior, we see the internal hollows of Venus, ready to be filled by chocolate, latex, or substances of wishful thinking.

Evan Holloway, "Willendorf Wheel," 2013
Sarah Lucas, "Florian and Kevin," 2013

Sarah Lucas’ Florian and Kevin, 2013 are two magnified and cast seasonal vegetables stretched out on the grass like limbs or other appendages at rest.  “Like benches made for giants,” says Public Art Fund.  Actually, benches are low on my list of mental associations, as supported by Sarah Lucas’ bigger and longer repertoire.  But I will admire how the sculptures seem to point toward the nearby Greenmarket.

Olaf Breuning, "The Humans," 2007

A motley crew of cartoonish aliens rings the circular tablet at the southern end of the park.  Wide-eyed, rigid, and indisputably frowning, the morphologically humanoids of Olaf Breuning’s The Humans appear to be conflicted about their appearance.  With appendages of mythological, political, sartorial, and architectural significance, they could represent “the ages of man.”

Inside Daniel Buren's "Suncatcher," 2013

Suncatcher, a walk-in “pavilion of light” by Daniel Buren, is a structure, platform, and lens that transforms daylight into a kaleidoscopic array of color.  It offers dimensions of interactivity: alight on the platform for a polychrome bath, then gaze upward for a retina-parsing view of the Woolworth Building or Frank Gehry’s 8 Spruce Street.  It’s a great piece even for uninitiated viewers who happen by this high-traffic site.  (It also reminds me of a work by Peter Coffin a few years ago at Deitch Projects.)

Daniel Buren, "Suncatcher," 2013
Franz West, "Untitled," 2012

Lightness of Being unburdens itself of the “Unbearable” part of the title it swipes from Milan Kundera.  Likewise, chief curator Nicholas Baume has selected works that exhale “whimsy and visual invention…in contrast to the more formal traditions of historic statuary and fountains.”  Indeed, the show feels snappy and clever, with the efforts of production concealed.  In that sense, it probably is a refuge from reality.

James Angus, "John Deere Model D," 2013

Franz West, "Untitled," 2012
Daniel Buren, "Suncatcher," 2013


He, She, It

Friday, August 2nd, 2013

“In place of a hermeneutics,” wrote Susan Sontag, “We need an erotics of art.”  Sontag’s revolutionary demand against heady criticism, written 50 years ago, might be sated by Hair and Skin at Derek Eller Gallery, a group show curated by gallery director Isaac Lyles.

This invigorating show provides a robust sample – often grotesque – of diverse sexual circuits encompassing individuals, objects, couples, and combinations therein.  And presiding over a grouping of much more recent work are two of the greatest proto-perverts, Louise Bourgeois and Hans Bellmer (whose photos here got him kicked out of Nazi Germany).

Aura Rosenberg at Derek Eller Gallery

Aura Rosenberg’s Capricorn (Suzanne and Gary) captures a print of two artists who pressed onto black velvet their painted white bodies conjoined in a sexual position.  This particular work is part of a series that Aura Rosenberg developed from a classic black-light poster, The Afronomical Ways.

Polish artist Aneta Grzeszykowska, on the other hand, uses video to plunge deep within – or at least a knuckle deep – to index the holes of her body.  Intermittently, she arranges some of her “choice” parts into a grid, like a menu, from which she can select one to feature.  In one amusing scene, the breasts begin to drift and collide in Brownian motion.

Brownian Breasts: Aneta Grzeszykowska at Derek Eller

Aneta Grzeszykowska is no stranger to images of dismemberment.  Her chilling 2007 video, Black, had a parental advisory when it screened in A Disagreeable Object at Sculpture Center last year.  Both videos, which remind me of Mika Rottenberg’s photos in Jew York, bear a relevance to Lacan’s “mirror stage,” making her work especially compelling in Hair and Skin, a show that considers a different mirror: the mirror neuron.

Isaac Lyles writes, “Mirror neurons, found in the human brain, are the subject of recent research on ‘physical empathy,’ the ability to physically respond to, for example, someone breaking their leg or a couple having sex. The brain actually simulates the experience of what it sees. In other words: ‘What I see, I feel.’”

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He continues, “The work is visceral, it connects to our phenomenal consciousness, speaks to corporeal experience, and the unruliness of desire. The centrality of the body, the means of communicating its vicissitudes, and the effects (physical, emotional) of this communication are the subject of Hair and Skin.

David Dupuis at Derek Eller Gallery

The latter paragraph finds a model in a gorgeous drawing by steadfast draftsman David Dupuis.  Two fit men embrace in a limb-trading bundle.  Modulations of blue colored pencil render muscle and tension, but they also add the illusion of a subcutaneous glow.  Bare white pockets – a shoulder blade, a hip, a hand, ears – transport to paper the experience of sensual saturation, where space and time might dissolve, taking physical boundaries with them.

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Meanwhile, estrangement and effacement are the signals I caught from Daniel Gordon’s dexterous set-up/photo/collage works.  They seem funny when compared to the grave qualities of the haunting drawings by Chloe Piene and Lionel Maunz, or Maunz’ abject and coffin-shaped sculpture made from things we shed, but that might just be from the nip-and-tuck agility of their facture.

Daniel Gordon at Derek Eller Gallery

Hair and Skin makes a strong argument for visceral, boldily-oriented art that calls to and responds to our basic drives.  It’s a tight show that would be easy to expand.  After all, what could be important in art than sex and death?  What better means is there, beyond the body?  And if I am thinking about this show, rather than running from it (or toward it), have I missed an erotic experience?