Thursday, January 31, 2008

Super Coool

Beep Beep Gallery opened the group show "Nostalgia" Saturday night.

But instead of making the opening I was a little drunk on Earl Grey Martinis (They sound cooler than they actually taste) and standing in a bowling alley pondering life's bigger questions: Is it worth waiting two hours for a bowling lane to open up? No. Who knew bowling was such a popular sport these days? Not me. What's next, roller skating?

But as my Roller-derby fanatic friend would say, roller skating is where it's at.

"Conscious Crew vs. Public Offenders" Joy Phrasavath

And thus we return to my childhood. Peewee Herman break dancing with the smurfs! It's almost too much to handle. It's seems fitting for the ME generation to have a show reveling in our own childhoods, rehashing the heyday of boom boxes and making portraits of He-Man (and Skeletor).

"We're Squared: Love and Peace. Let's Roll Again." Joy Phrasavath

While the show is packed with witty art and many quality works, I was left wanting a counter balance to the light-hearted content of the show. Maybe I am just being a downer since the show is meant to be a fun play off of the childhood toys and personalities we grew up with during the 80's but a few works examining the implications of that consumer driven culture and particular icons would have made it a more well rounded group exhibition.

"Scare-bear" by Jason Kochis, Acrylic on wood

This is the sinister Scare-bear telling me to get over it.

There was a good variety of materials being experimented with, like BLINK's layered aerosol painted plexi-glass piece "Huxtable." From what I hear he (they, it) will have a show with Beep Beep in the not-too-distant future.

And Kerry Boles felt on wool pieces, like "The First Tape My Dad Bought Me," were a big hit.

One of the sharpest pieces in the show was John Tindel's "Megatron," a very cool multi-paneled silver leaf and aerosol painting of an automatic rifle (although I think I would lose the little megatron icon cube). This paintings is an exception to the carefree, somewhat static, personality of the exhibition. While glamorizing a weapon in the same sleek fashion as a GI Joe cartoon and breaking it down into fun removable parts like a Transformer, the fact that a gun is so emblematic of 80's kiddie entertainment and can surface under the titled of "Nostalgia" is both thought provoking and dead on. (And priced at only $450 this piece is a $teal.)

I also really liked Katie Ridley's drawing on paper "Boom Box and Tape." The piece pegged the Nostalgia theme without becoming trite or too obvious. Instead the drawing imbibes it's own quirky character and I think it may have wanted to come home with me. For only $400 - it's such a deal and I feel like I'm hosting the Price Is Right right now. Anyone interested in beefing up their art collection ought to pay Beep Beep a visit.

"Alaways" by Squanto, Mixed Media

And I couldn't really get over this one either. Something about an "I heart Trolls" T-shirt with matching earrings, bracelets, socks, etc kept me chuckling all the walk home. I felt like I once knew a girl like this on the elementary school playground, her name was Bridget, and she described in gory detail all of the horror movies my parents wouldn't allow me to see. I wonder what she did with all of her trolls or her extensive slap bracelet collection for that matter.

"Nostalgia" is up at Beep Beep till February 17th 2008. Definitely check it out and buy yourself some ahhht (or records or zines).

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Landslides Never Looked So Good

"Doxology" 2007 Oil on wood

Saturday morning I went to hear NYC painter Leslie Wayne give a talk about her new show "No Going Back" which opened a Solomon Projects the previous night.

"Doxology" detail

During my first look at the paintings, I couldn't get past the incredible manipulation of materials, the luscious tactile quality of the paintings, and assumed this artists was a sculptor exploring the possibilities of building up oil paint three dimensionally.

"One Big Love #11" 2007 Oil on wood

Luckily I went to the artists talk because I was only seeing the tip of the iceberg (or the crumbling antarctic as it were).

Nancy Solomon (right) introduced the very friendly Wayne, who was full of insight into the process and concepts of her paintings, giving an excellent walk-through of the show.

"Unseasonable" 2007 Oil on wood

And Wayne is not a sculptor, but a painter very interested in the mighty gesture of abstract expressionism along with the tradition of landscape painting and environmental issues. I think if someone told me this description I would have envisioned the most mundane, overly done, hotel lobby adorning, paintings - which is exactly what Wayne's paintings are not. They are the perfect balance between the stretching of the paint medium and the capturing of beauty and anxiety surrounding the state of our environment.

"Unseasonable" Detail

Check out this building up of paint. Just looking at it makes my hands twitch like they are covered in a marshmellowy goo. Wayne's paintings take up to a year to create, slowly adding layers of oil paint and then scraping them down the panel surface as they dry.

"Exquisite Corpse" 2006 Oil on wood

What is so great about these paintings is that Wayne manages to use process and material to generate a sensory response in the viewer to this illusion of terrain, using the physicality of paint to accentuate the subject matter of the work. In "Exquisite Corpse" Wayne described the bunched paint at the bottom as "detritus on the ocean floor."

"Kind of Blue" 2006 Oil on wood

In "Kind of Blue" Wayne references Elizabeth Murray's "Kind of Blue" (which was her first shaped canvas painting.)

"Kind of Blue" detail

Wayne sees the layers as a "history" of her own work, many pieces of the rumpled paint were actually discarded from other paintings and saved, some up to fifteen years, before being collaged into a new painting. This layering could also be read as a geological plug or core sample, showing the layers and history of the planet.

"Before the Quake" 2006 Oil on wood

Wayne said she wanted to approach landscapes "head on," creating "temporal imagery - Not images of landscapes but actual landscapes. Being in nature instead of looking at nature. Making time stand still." And through her use of color and composition hints at a devastated, melting, toxic land that is still sublimely beautiful.

"Before the Quake" Detail

Look at the crazy layers.

"Before the Quake" Detail

I could photograph these all day.

"Before the Quake" Detail

It's like a geological survey of a painting. Like if you could have a excavation site on the surface of a Dekooning, this may be what you dig up, if you're lucky.

Ferrydoon was in attendance as well. We got into a interesting discussion about artist statements (which I had just been thinking about having gone to John Otte's opening the night before where he had chosen not to write one) and to what level artist should be held accountable for what they say/write about their work. Ferrydoon doesn't like the idea of people (critics) using the statement as a way to invalidate the art or deem it unsuccessful. Perhaps the artist is simply bad at explaining themselves and the art should be left to do the talking. Something to chew on...

I declare this show a must-see! Give your eyes a treat. You've got until February 29th, 2008.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Gilded Splinters

Friday night was the opening of "Seen - Unseen": paintings and sculptures by John Otte from 1982-2007 at whitespace gallery.

"Untitled (Luncheon on the Grass)" 1990 Silkscreen on paper

The show is a solid grouping of abstract works, each an investigation into materials, ranging from rare woods to painting, collaging, and printing. Otte's work is often a response to art history, an evaluation or reference to past influences - experiments on the two-dimensional surface.

"Untitled (Nerve Net)" 2007 Latex, ink, metallic spray paint on panel

Otte, who has also spent a considerable amount of time as a DJ, is greatly influenced by music and refers to this show and particular pieces as "remixes."

Shana Robbins was dueling Iphone pictures with Jody and another guy whose name I can't remember.

This is Shana's bulldog. What a great shot. This makes me think I may need an Iphone in order to start showing off pictures of my new pup.

What's Jody got on his phone? Sick!

"Untitled (Brazilian Monument)" 2006 Texas ebony and cocobolo rare wood

Back to the art, as this blog is suddenly in danger of becoming trashy, Otte's included two sculptures in the show that were a continuation of his approach to the two-dimensional work. The sculptures were bold, simple gestures, again emphasizing the mark of the artist.

The highlight of the show for me was "Untitled (I Walk on Gilded Splinters - Je suis un grand Zombie remix)." Made in 2006, this piece seems to be a culmination of many ideas circulating throughout previous works. It typifies Otte's "remixing" of different elements, bringing a three-dimensional collage quality to the work, with an air of the "glorified object", seemingly sporadic mark-making, and deconstruction of the traditional frame. The surface panel alludes to New Orleans and the Southern Gothic.

And there is literally a splinter gilded in gold and nestled into some red Georgia dirt.

As a professional installer of art by day, Otte is very interested in the way artwork is shown within a space and there is no better gallery to interact with spatially than whitespace. Otte painted the revolving wall of the gallery to give the effect of wood paneling and angled out the second painting to alter the perspective. Walking through the show it's apparent Otte was as or more interested in how the show hung together than in any individual piece (with the possible exception of "Gilded Splinter").

Another example is this grouping of paintings and drawings ranging from '82-'07. The subtle displacement of the drawing in the top left corner hints at Otte's consideration of every detail in the show.

"Untitled (Thru the Blue)" 1986 Gouache on wood veneer

"Thru the Blue" was a great little piece in the grouping. Otte painted on the surface of an old cigar box top, inspired by the groove cut into the corner of the lid used to open the box. Otte painted circles of the same diameter to create the composition.

"Untitled (Garden State)" 1988 Silkscreen and ink on newsprint

Both because this show is covering almost three decades worth of Otte's work and because Otte's paintings are so conceptually laden while appearing deceptively simple, I think this show is easy prey for misinterpretation.

"Portrait of Tom Ze" 2004 Mixed media

And it doesn't exactly help the situation that Otte has a general dislike for artists statements and therefore did not write one to accompany this show. This does not mean Otte has nothing to say about his work however, on the contrary a simple question quickly leads Otte into an indepth and thoughtful explanation (or even better a debate) covering art history, NYC in the 60's, music, and politics. The layers of meaning in Otte's work suddenly become coherent and the viewer is left to reevaluate the way in which all of the work is interpreted. I say all of this to emphasize the fact that Otte's artist talk at whitespace on Feb 16th is a requirement for anyone interested in this show.

Later into the night Otte threw a Christmas tree onto the bonfire outside and the blaze went well over six feet. It seemed the most appropriate adios to the holidays.

The reflection made this guy look like he was on fire. If only he knew.

John Otte had the Mardi Gras spirit.

The show is up at whitespace through February 23rd 2008 with an artist talk Saturday February 16th at 1pm. Check it out!

It was decided to top the night off with some dessert. Christopher and I walked over to the new pastry place in our neighborhood, Chocolate Pink Cafe, to give it a try. Not bad at all. The cafe is fueled by a pastry chef with a fancy resume and stays hoppin well into the night.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Clutching His Fan of Spoons

Hanyun passed along to me the this NYT article about Karl Lagerfeld's newest antics at Chanel Couture in Paris, along with this pic:

Getting beyond my initial disgust at fashion's constant pilfering of art and Lagerfeld's obliviousness to the fact that Chanel jackets will never ever be on the same level of importance or cultural influence as Chinese dictatorship, I proceeded to read the review. Only to be left wondering why there is no mention of Sui Jiangua and the fact that this tragic fashion runway installation is an altered copy of Jianguo's sculpture "Legacy Mantle."? (see below)

Or maybe the artist gave Chanel permission but the NYT reviewer did not feel the need to mention the collaboration? All Horyn had to say about the giant jacket was this:

Undeniably, the 75-foot model of the Chanel jacket that Karl Lagerfeld erected in the Grand Palais for the spring haute couture show on Tuesday smacks of kitsch. It would be a huckster’s dream dome. There are days when you think the world is almost at that point where you could picture such a monstrosity in place of the Arc de Triomphe or the pyramids in Egypt — and nobody would mind. Great! SHOP!

Indeed she has missed the larger point. I just hope that Jiangua had nothing to do with this bad bad bad idea. Cindy Sherman for Marc Jacobs, Murakami and Louis Vuitton, enough already!

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Alienus Scientia

Kiang Gallery has got a whole new vibe this month with Pandra William's series of sculptures entitled "Munusculi Tantilli, Very Small Gifts." Instead of the gallery's more typical showing technologically savvy works of social commentary or formalism, this show returns to a more primal naturalism.

"Auspicium Brieseum"

William's sculptures of stoneware, terrasigillata (?), engobe (?), and encaustic are forms derived from studying "plant/fungi interactions" and "planktonic organisms." The titles are a mixture of Latin and English with incorrect syntax and spelling in order to, much like with the sculptures, create something entirely unique while referencing science.

"Dehisco Origio"

There is a definite squirmy sort of sexuality to the work. Like tadpoles or sperm, the sculptures hint at the life force of reproduction and growth. The sculptures appear to be in mid-motion on the wall - frozen in a caress or rare permittance to the guarded insides.

"Curallium Enatarum"

These are the creatures you would find under the lens of a microscope examining the fluids found in the Atlantic Station "pond" or somewhere along the banks of the Chattahoochee (south of the city).

"Tinabeau Coruscarens"

This reminds me of one summer when I was a kid on vacation along the South Carolina coast and all of these sea slugs started washing up on the shore or while swimming one would lazily float by. They were bizarre little things, looking much like the sculpture above except greenish/yellow instead of purple. My cousin and I spent the week catching them, examining them, giving them names, pretty sure we were discovering some new species. I've never seen them on the coast of SC since then - maybe they were diverted along the wrong channel for a season - global warming no doubt.

"Orb Istringere"

The layout of the gallery for the show was well done and gave the larger sculptures the needed breathing room. The sterility of the white space added to the sense of being in a laboratory. I almost wish this aspect had been played up, perhaps using laboratory tables instead of pedestals and enclosing "specimens" in glass cases.

Probably my only misgiving with the sculptures is the surface texture. Williams is using stoneware, and while the coloring is done flawlessly, the texture is left mat and rough. For creatures such as these, they ought to be slick and wet, dripping and slippery. This lack of glistening surface prevented me from having that desire to touch the sculptures or to react with the disgusted curiosity the sculptures were surely meant to inspire.

"Epithalamium Spineum"

There was a lot of attention to detail in the design of the organisms. They are eerily believable and I left the show wondering about William's intention. They seem to be a meditation on life forms; evolution, reproduction, survival through symbiotic relationships and adaptation, possibly even extinction as all of these sculptures give the sense of vulnerability, threatening to shrivel up beyond their suspended motion.
I was reminded of Atlanta sculptors Caroline Smith and Julia Hill who also use organic forms, derived in some way from existing life forms, but in both of their works there is more of a focus on integrating the sculptures into the surrounding environment and in abstracting the forms for a wider interpretation by the viewer. Williams by contrast seems more focused on fully realizing (through detailing and illustrating) specific creatures from her own mind.

"Pervagus Nubigena"

Paired with William's work is a show of paintings by Laura Bell titled "Morphosis."

Detail "Rhodella #10" Acrylic on Panel 2007

It makes sense to pairs these two as Bell's paintings are light hearted ventures into a strange world of blooming, spiraling, and draping plant-like forms. Like Williams, Bell is also inspired by microscopic organisms and cellular structure.

"Hydrilla #11" Acrylic on Panel 2007

Detail "Hydrilla #11" Acrylic on Panel 2007

There is an interesting comparison between these paintings and those by Jiha Moon currently at Saltworks Gallery. Both artists use extreme detail and create strange environments of morphing lines moving the viewer's eye through the space of ever changing depth. But
Bell keeps a tighter control over her medium and does to use the spontaneity of materials to help direct her work or create forms. While Moon's paintings give the sense of exploding outward, Bell's paintings seem to slink inwards, tightening their coils.
Detail "Salvinia #1" Acrylic on Panel 2007

Moon's work is also more culturally based, examining the East and West, while Bell writes about her work that "this rampant growth could recall the enchanted, yet sinister world of a child's fairy tale, the strange and unsettling beauty of deep-sea life, or the mutation of a cellular structure by a virus or disease."

Detail "Hydrilla #10" Acrylic on Panel 2007

Both shows are up at Kiang Gallery until February 23rd 2008. Check 'em out.