Antony Hegarty shares thoughts and observations on Future Feminism at The Hole.
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.)
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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!)
“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.
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.
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.
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.
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! 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.There’s also that haunting feeling you get from a Thomas Demand environment, partly driven by the uncanny evacuation of a purposeful space.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.