Archive for September, 2014

Future Feminism

Saturday, September 27th, 2014

Antony Hegarty shares thoughts and observations on Future Feminism at The Hole.

Deep Deep End

Thursday, September 25th, 2014

Deep Deep Pepsi is Anissa Mack’s third solo exhibition at Laurel Gitlen.  A humorous show, it could be called “Lowered Expectations,” sung like a jingle.  Thematically linked to Mack’s previous projects involving county fairs and tokens of Americana, Deep Deep Pepsi is rich in shiny surfaces, embodying cheap gratification and provisional fulfillment (i.e., you take what you can get.)

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Anissa Mack, “Deep Deep Pepsi,” 2014 at Laurel Gitlen

The show mostly comprises objects like readymade mylar balloons, hand silkscreened mirrors, and fabricated cast sculptures, but Mack’s video, Tubs of Fun, lays out the pattern.  In the video, news anchors report on a gullible man who played a carnival game in hopes of winning an X-Box.  Instead, he wins an unwieldy stuffed Rasta’ banana.  He also loses his life savings.  It’s $2,600.  But the joke is on the news viewers who tuned in for useful news information, and instead got suckered into watching a grinning banana.

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Still from Anissa Mack, “Tubs of Fun,” 2014

Bouquets of inflated mylar dolphins fill the main gallery space.  Unlike their mylar kin of the “Happy Birthday!” or “It’s a Boy!” varieties, these dolphins have no porpoise – er, “purpose.”  Perhaps prizes from an unspecified county fair, their appeal will be short-lived against the fickle attention spans of their bearers, or the inevitable deflation that will flatten them before next weekend.

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Anissa Mack, “Peculiar and a Hard Place,” 2014

But the possibilities expand when we consider how the artist has installed an audio recording of dolphin chatter.   Could these balloons here function as a reminder that nature yields no substitutes, no matter how persistently we try to approximate it, and that such attempts are pathetically bound to fail?  Indeed, no living dolphin would mistake these for its peers.  And the installation mocks the fantasy that dolphins could connect with us (in any profound way) – as is often fabled.  It would be as crude as sex with an inflatable doll.

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Anissa Mack, “Deep Deep Pepsi,” 2014

Smashed jack-o-lanterns and cast corn dogs further isolate and freeze our cycles of holidays, festivals, and rituals.  And while every festival should champion a beverage, Mack focuses on the “innovation” of deep fried Pepsi.  This is, aspirationally, an alchemical transubstantiation – a deep fried liquid – but it’s also a concession by its consumers: because why not Coke?

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Inflatable dolphin balloon topiary (found on Pinterest)

Kite Runner

Saturday, September 20th, 2014

Is Jacob Hashimoto’s Skyfarm Fortress at Mary Boone Gallery really a “fortress?” Consisting of fragile wafers made from paper and string, the installation seems too delicate to be a fortress. It sways and shifts whenever the gallery door opens. It seems to breathe. As a fortress, it doesn’t offer defense or even stability.

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Jacob Hashimoto, “Skyfarm Fortress” (2014), at Mary Boone Gallery

But as a commanding presence at a commanding gallery, Skyfarm Fortress conveys grace and play. Its ethereal surfaces invite exploration, like the tactile appeal of a mobile; while its permeable partitions invite immersion, like a walk among cherry blossom trees. But it discourages intrusion through its masterful and delicate grid system. As a fortress, it deters by suggestion.

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Jacob Hashimoto, “Skyfarm Fortress” (2014), at Mary Boone Gallery

Skyfarm Fortress is an intensely visual experience that bridges space, gravity, color, and craft. In this sculptural environment, arguably a landscape, thousands of handmade kites are strung together in vertical chains, some more than 30 feet long. These chains dangle from among the bow trusses overhead and still align along perfect horizontal axes. The translucent paper kites echo the translucent glass facade of the gallery, while their bold patterns thrive in the daylight that shines through the ceiling.

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Jacob Hashimoto, “Skyfarm Fortress” (2014), at Mary Boone Gallery

It is possible to fly a kite indoors, but most people associate kites with outdoor play. To fly a kite is a chance to commune with varieties of wind, and like fishing, it rewards patience and creates time for contemplation.  (Or it can be a competitive sport for adults and kids, in which the winning kite cuts the strings of the loser, which sails away.)

By using the form and language of kites, Skyfarm Fortress brings the outdoors back indoors. This greenhouse aesthetic is enhanced by installation’s response to light and draft.  The suspended matrix behemoth hovers and towers above like an 16-bit airship or abstract Tetris mosaic (or even Space Invaders in three dimensions.) It feels to me like a composed or urban-planned cloud island temporarily docked inside the gallery, soon to launch itself back to the sky. (Take me with you!)

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From Hayao Miyazaki, “Castle in the Sky” (1989)

Stripped Bare

Friday, 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! svablogroxypaine2 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.