by Nike Desis
Bear with me here, the Unmonumental show is really unmonumental.
Assemblage is the key theme to the sculpture part of the Unmonumental show and truly the work is fragmented. According to the program assemblage “emphasizes the juxtaposition of elements for symbolic or suggestive effect.” Instead, what gets represented is a bunch of junky sculpture that appropriated a lot of everyday objects to minimal suggestive and tired symbolic effect.
“Rather than enduring and inarguable, they [the sculpture work] are conversational and provisional.” Yes, that’s more like it: ‘conversational’ implies inconclusive conceptual exercises and ‘provisional’ is in this case an excuse for some visually inconclusive work. No, I’m not joking! Real crap. Piece by piece. I’m not blaming each artist because we all pile up our empty egg cartons and yogurt containers and make an after-dinner sculpture. But most of us don’t have a chance to critically display it.
Perhaps these artists have a whole series buttons glued onto mattresses back in their studios or galleries. Guess what, I don’t care if they have a whole country full of button covered mattresses, because that is really not going to legitimize the one I see here. Hey, let’s play two similarly boring YouTube videos next to each other and call it an unmonumental video collage! It sure is an interesting coincidence found on the vast space that is YouTube. But these observations are something to show and tell with your roomies after lunch and make for really boring art.
By Unmonumental object, I think the also they meant unmarket. Outside of the art market is totally cool and brave (right?) But the unmarket genre is also a potentially dangerous crap trap.
Just off the top of my head I can think of a bunch of unmarket sculptures from recent Philadelphia gallery shows that are 100 times more worthwhile.
Like J.L.Makary’s sound and video piece at the Nexus new members show (just up last month).
Or Mike Stifle’s bottles of bubbling foam that both holds and changes its form at FLUXspace (up now).
How about the woman from VCU who made a wall out of clay on the wall at the Grey Space in front of the Ice Box (just up last month).
And Joe DiGiuseppe’s well contructed and interactive piece where you can dance on buttons and make light at the Esther Klein Gallery at the Science Center (up now).
Oh, and Martha Savory’s and Daniel Petraitis’s wall of nik naks from their studios (all for sale) at Little Berlin a while back.
All of these sculpture/ object/ things have elements of assemblage, appropriation, being ‘new’ and otherwise fit the New Museum’s unmonumental show concept as they’ve described it in their literature AND, more importantly, these works aren’t boring to look at or think about.
Back at the New Museum, in addition to the unmonumnetal object there were three other parts, billed as separate curatorial aspects: the sound, the collage, the video/ internet. Sound I have nothing to say about. The collage was acceptable, even exciting. The video was great and awful and I could chat a whole other entry on what I saw on New Museum’s screens.
I think my aversion to the work was just that I was particularly surprised to see it in NY, in whatever hip neighborhood I was in, and in a contemporary art focused place called the New Museum. But surprise aside, if Philly’s scene had that space, that budget, the show title, between us all, we could have put a real monumental Unmonumental show with conceptual integrity as well as exciting unmarket sculpture because as I see it, exciting unmarket sculpture is what the Philly scene happens to do well. Please respond.
[Nike Desis is currently in the midst of publishing "Crayon Couture",an adult-themed activity book chock full of connect- the -dot satire, both written and illustrated by the artist. Desis is also an artist living and working in Philadelphia]
Bookmark to Del.icio.us
Monday, March 31, 2008
by Nike Desis
Monday, March 17, 2008
by Henry Hughes
While Black Hole by Nadia Hironaka and Matthew Suid primarily presents a feast of high definition images and a strange narrative evocative of David Lynch, it’s most interesting accomplishment is within it’s presentation: the void.
Upon walking into the dark room and viewing the video, it’s a quick linear thought that links the title to the image of a hole in a wall sucking in dust particles. This, you think, is the black hole. But when you sit on the bench, 7 feet away from the screen, and the video fades to black, another black hole emerges. Rather than the standard rectangle of projector “black”, which often brings us back to the reality of being in a darkened theater or room, we are presented with an ominous grey cloud, a void floating in a space that is both just in front of us and completely foreign and distant.
James Turrell offers us this same phenomenon in pieces such as Catso, Red (1967), or A Frontal Passage (pictured right), where light becomes a dimension, a plane which we are not sure how to process. With Black Hole, this void becomes an entryway into what follows. We are put into a realm that is unknown to us, which makes everything else in it believable as a reality. It suspends the thought that Black Hole is a video: it becomes another set of eyes rather than a window. This notion is also enforced with some rather dream-like imagery (a bird flapping helplessly in space, which may or may not be a computer generated image), and at points deconstructed (moments when the blur of the frame is disrupted into a hard edge by bright light).
It is interesting to think of how the piece would be altered when viewed on a monitor; when the frame is reestablished and it’s objectivity takes a higher position. The same feeling and question came to mind after seeing Michal Rovner’s Fields of Fire at Pace Wildenstein in New York a few years ago, in which the reality of the room was lost due to the nature of the presentation (there were no bright colors in the video, causing the room to be especially dark). Like Black Hole, it all came down to that sublime moment of being lost in the act of viewing. This moment is all too often lost within video, where the focus is primarily on filmmaking or an action being performed, rather than an experience.
[Henry Hughes is an artist who occasionally lives and works in Philadelphia. Black Hole is on view at Vox Populi through March 30th]
Bookmark to Del.icio.us
Sunday, March 16, 2008
Austin Lee, a local Philadelphia area artist, has just unleashed Artvid.net, a website that showcases video art. The site includes Philadelphia artist DJ Yardsale, as well as Robert T. Pannell, Wreck N Salvage, Robert Judge, as well as Lee himself. Consider it YouTube with a bit more class and art-friendly potential.
Artvid is on the lookout for other video artists interested in showing their videos, so be sure to contact Austin if you're interested. Otherwise, sit back, relax, and enjoy the Flash.
Bookmark to Del.icio.us
Friday, March 7, 2008
By Paul DeMuro
Notations/William Kentridge: Tapestries at the Philadelphia Museum of Art
William Kentridge ‘Seeing Double’ at Marian Goodman Gallery, NYC
The Puppet Show at the Institute of Contemporary Art, Philadelphia
Kentridge’s films always manage to remain intriguing, and often create a desire in the viewer to become educated in the politics of Kentridge’s content, which most often had to do with the socio-political turmoil of the South African apartheid, which lasted from 1948 until 1994. If looking at the abundant amount of work on display between Philadelphia and New York is any indication of the artist’s current direction, Kentridge seems to have moved away from his usual terrain of making gritty, unusual animated films where the imagery is derived through the act of drawing, assembling, erasing, and redrawing; a process that makes realist Ashcan school drawing exciting by making it come alive in clouds of charcoal dust and lines and smudges of worn and ripped subsurface. In their static form, as well as in the form of stereoscopic, etching, bronze sculpture, tapestry, table leg, and cylindered animation (am I forgetting something?), they don’t quite transcend what the more straightforward film is able. For this and other reasons, the work shown at both the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the ICA at the University of Pennsylvania, and at the Marian Goodman Gallery is somewhat of a disappointment. It is a case of putting to many pots on the boiler.
Kentridge is an artist who has a sincere and devoted sensitivity to issues surrounding atrocity, oppression, and it's relation to both the miasma he personally experienced and its relation to the global world. He deals with these aspects of the world with an admirable tact and even humanism, refreshing sentiment in contrast to contemporary art, but less specifically to a larger culture that, without question or challenge, promotes things like the latest Rambo blockbuster. However, in the work displayed at the PMA, primarily consisting of a large grouping of European styled tapestry, whatever messages, thoughts, ideas, and feelings that were once evoked by Kentridge’s films have become obscured and muddy behind the layers of reference in this particular work.
One tapestry, I surmise as part of the same series as the work at the PMA, was also up at the Marion Goodman Gallery in midtown New York. Rows of bronze sculptures, walls of etchings and drawings, along with the animated drawings projected from above to animate around a reflective cylinder, a large mirror used to view two drawings, and stereoscopic binoculars with the function to make the drawings appear 3-d, I had the thought that I was in a William Kentridge curio shop, a thought that became sad when I realized that the emphasis was more on the “shop” than on the “curio.” Thinking of this, I related the installation to the experience based flagship stores (the Disney Store, the Trump Store, etc.) that line the nearby 5th Avenue. I never thought of Kentridge as a branded artist before I saw all of this. What is it in the style of tapestry, or table leg, that informs the content of the work? This is a mystery to me.
Despite all of this, Kentridge’s production with the Handspring Puppet Company, a video of a play titled Ubu and the Truth Commission, shown at the ICA as part of the otherwise weak “Puppet Show” should take best in show. This is because in this production the puppets function as theater props, which makes it more traditional than other work. However, in the cluster of puppets that mean little to the artist’s that made them, Kentridge’s play stands out. He knows exactly what a puppet is, and doesn’t try anything too convoluted when using them. At the same time, the work is not evoking the clichéd, juxtaposed subversive, as other artists obsess over the making of the puppet as cute-thing-as-creepy-thing.
[Paul DeMuro is an artist living and working in Philadelphia. Notations/William Kentridge: Tapestries at the Philadelphia Museum of Art runs through April 6th.]
Bookmark to Del.icio.us