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Sympathy and the Devil

Tea and Morphine: Women in Paris, 1880-1914, Hammer Museum, January 25, - May 18, 2014 — An inventively curated exhibition of late 19th and early 20th century works on paper by fin de siecle artists, culled from the recent acquisition of the Elisabeth Dean Collection, Tea and Morphine achieves its effects by couplings and contrasts. This is show of ‘ands,’ (the emphasis of the title above is my own interpolation). Public and private are displayed in radical contrast. Public is a woman outside the home, here looking at an exhibition through her lorgnette, contriving her costume so that the ruffles of her hat are echoed by her neckpiece, a woman who is to be seen, and who is also seeing. This is the Belle Epoque teetering on the cusp … [Read more...]

Mike Kelley’s Abjection

“When I was young the art world was where you went to be a failure. It was a chosen profession, and you chose to be a failure.” – Mike Kelley, 2004 2013’s exhibition calendar for the major museums in New York City brought a seemingly unprecedented invasion of West Coast artists to our attention. The onslaught included important figureheads like Paul McCarthy, who took over the Park Avenue Armory in his Disney-inspired, pornographic video installation WS, James Turrell, who transformed the Guggenheim Museum into a sublimely colorful skyspace, Robert Irwin, who exhibited one of his classic light paintings at the Whitney and Chris Burden, whose brilliantly lunatic work was tamed and repurposed in the New Museum’s halfheartedly edgy … [Read more...]

The Shack of Film

On the Occasion of ‘Agnès Varda in Californialand’, LACMA November 3, 2013 – June 22, 2014 — ‘Grand Dame of the French New Wave’ ‘Grandmother of the New Wave’ ‘Mother of the French New Wave movement’ !#&?! This is what happens to the woman artist at a certain age — She no longer is. She represents. Not herself. But what she has supposedly brought into being. Her progeny. I mean. Really! Varda’s no grandmother, she’s no great lady . . . She’s alive and well at Agnès in Californialand, an installation in which she is all ages. In the opening texts displayed on the walls of this first U.S. museum presentation of her artwork, Agnès Varda calls this little building in the center of one’s view, … [Read more...]

Station to Station

Makers—In this life there are takers and there are makers. We’re here to celebrate the makers—the unsung heroes who make things with their hands — Levis Strauss Olaf Breuning, Smoke Bomb Performance, the setup and aftermath. Described as a nomadic “happening,” Station to Station, the brainchild of the L.A. based, multimedia artist Doug Aitken, is a richly compelling idea that consists of a collective of artists, musicians and performers traveling through the United States by train. In various cities across the country—Chicago, Pittsburg, Winslow, Minneapolis, New York City, Los Angeles—the group of traveling creatives disembark, team up with local artists, and together orchestrate a night of food, music, art and performance. Station to … [Read more...]

On Fragmentation

A Response to Geoffrey Farmer, The Surgeon and the Photographer, Curve Gallery, Barbican — Geoffrey Farmer's recent exhibition at the Barbican's Curve, The Surgeon and the Photographer, is nothing short of a visual cacophony. Following Barbican's previous installation based exhibitions of Random International's Rain Room and Celeste Boursier-Mougenot's guitar-playing sparrows, both whose effect places the viewer within a totality of experience, Farmer's expansive collage-scape achieves a new way to immerse us by breaking the aggregate of perception and environment. The foremost challenge of the exhibition regards the nature of focus itself, its profuse content contradicting our preconceived visual, focal sensibilities. The Surgeon and … [Read more...]

Aten Reign

James Turrell's Illuminated Vision, Guggenheim NYC, June 21–September 25, 2013 — James Turrell is arguably the most sublime manipulator of light and space the contemporary art world has ever known. This is an important and impressive summer for the 70-year-old artist, as retrospectives open simultaneously in L.A., Houston and New York City. His massive installation at the Guggenheim entitled Aten Reign (2013), promises to be the east coast’s summer blockbuster. It is the artist’s first solo museum exhibition in New York since the Whitney career retropective in 1980. An artist born into a Quaker family in Pasadena, California in the 1940s, Turrell belongs to a generation of west coast artists who were fascinated with light, and who … [Read more...]

Testament and Spectacle

George Catlin, American Indian Portraits National Portrait Gallery, London, March 7-June 23, 2013 — George Catlin, American Indian Portraits, recently on view The National Portrait Gallery, London, features a compact selection that while modest in numbers sought to present an expansive new overview for these remarkable works. While familiar to those in the United States where Catlin's 'Indian Gallery' is housed at the Smithsonian, these forthright portraits have not been seen in the UK since the 1840's. The Pennsylvanian born Catlin (1796-1872) was the premier chronicler of the fast disappearing Native American people in his time producing over 500 paintings of extraordinary depth. The showcase at the NPG achieved an inordinate … [Read more...]

Canvas and Sash – A Meet at the Met

Impressionism, Fashion, and Modernity, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Feb 26-May 27, 2013  — At first glance Impressionism, Fashion, and Modernity, on view at the MET through May 27th, looks less interesting than it actually is. Just in case a large-scale exhibition of great Impressionist paintings doesn’t pander enough to the tastes of the general art going public, this exhibition pairs Impressionist painting with the actual gowns and accessories worn by their sitters. What could possibly be more appealing than a show that brings together the great lifestyle portraitists of the late 19th century and the bourgeoning reputation of modern Parisian fashion? While it sounds like a vacuous blockbuster, Impressionism, Fashion, and Modernity … [Read more...]

Conceptual Threads

ANN HAMILTON: the event of a thread, Park Avenue Armory, Dec. 5, 2012 -Jan. 6, 2013 I will always remember Ann Hamilton as the keynote speaker at my graduation many years ago. Like most professors, from the vantage point of a student, she seemed larger than life. I remember listening to her intently, waiting to be inspired, until I realized that she wasn’t talking to us but around us, and she was discussing the idea of graduation rather than our graduation. She approached her speech in the same manner that she approaches her artwork: conceptually, not personally. Though it wasn’t the inspired imparting of wisdom I’d hoped it would be, it provided useful insight into the thought process of a smart, complex and obtuse … [Read more...]

The Murder of Crows

Janet Cardiff & George Bures Miller: Drifting Off — Art historians, professors, and artists alike all say that the average amount of time a person spends viewing a work of art is about 10 seconds; I’ve since learned that this is a generous estimate. While I never find art to be particularly boring, even when I don’t like it visually, I vividly remember the first time I was expected to enjoy being bored by art. It was in a color photography class, I was seventeen, and the movie up for discussion was Baraka. Made in 1992, Baraka is a beautiful, non-narrative film by Ron Fricke. It is an arty flick that tries to capture the essence of humanity in an hour and thirty-six minutes of exquisite, time-lapse filmmaking. About half way … [Read more...]