St. Louis

Know Yourself at the Luminary

Currently at the Luminary, Know Yourself is a group exhibition that features the artists Conrad Bakker, Chris Bradley, Marianne Laury, Eva and Franco Mattes, Edra Soto, and Julia Weist. The exhibition shares its title with a Drake song in which the rapper looks back on his life, claiming his authenticity and lineage among other artists. He expounds, “I’ve always been me, I guess I know myself,” and hopes that the “fakes get exposed.” After its release, Drake was infamously accused of hiring a ghostwriter. Taking inspiration from this ironic scandal, Know Yourself presents a group of artists who explore the instability of authenticity and ownership within the present sphere of economic production and consumption. The works approach the concept of authenticity from multiple points, leveraging commonplace objects to question the authorship of forms and ideas.

Conrad Bakker. The Crystal Land, 2014 (detail); Oil on carved wood panels; 24 ft. x 20 in. Courtesy of The Luminary.

Conrad Bakker. The Crystal Land, 2014 (detail); oil on carved wood panels; 24 ft. x 20 in. Courtesy of the Luminary.

In front, a multitude of postcard-size images cover the gallery windows in an ordered gestalt. This installation, Julia Weist’s Parbunkells Image Archive (Composition for Inside and Outside) (2015–2016), documents a body of work that started when Weist was commissioned to turn a vacant billboard in New York into a public artwork. Her concept was simple: In black Apple Garamond font on a white ground, she presented the 17th-century English term parbunkellsThe billboard looked more like a sleek advertisement for a new product than an archaic, forgotten word (at the time of Weist’s encounter with the term, there were no Google search results for parbunkells). After the unveiling, the word quickly went viral. Its original meaning—“coming together through the binding of two ropes”—shifted as the public began inventing new definitions and merchandising the word, resulting in a massive body of work, not made by the artist, but instigated by Weist through her choice and placement of a word. The images at the Luminary are culled from these appropriations. Occasional photos containing the word, including some of the original billboard, are peppered throughout otherwise unconnected, mundane imagery.

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Ludmiła Popiel at Fundacja Arton

Curators of contemporary Polish art have a somewhat paradoxical responsibility: to present the most up-to-the-moment work that is in the process of developing a history, while attempting to also excavate and frame the history of artworks produced during the last seventy years. As Poland expands its participation in the global contemporary art scene, it must also find a way to present the critical art-historical lineage that has lead to current developments. Now on view at Fundacja Arton in Warsaw, Ludmiła Popiel is an example of a practice that continues to have an impact on generations of artists.

Ludmiła Popiel, 2015; installation view, Fundacje Arton, warsaw. Courtesy of Fundacja Arton. Photo: Jagna Lewandowska.

Ludmiła Popiel; installation view, Fundacje Arton, Warsaw, 2015. Courtesy of Fundacja Arton. Photo: Jagna Lewandowska.

Popiel first explored movement in flat space, and later took her ideas off of the canvas and into the world. A facile, first-glance categorization of the work presented here is Op Art, and the larger pieces in this exhibition do take their cues from that genre. Six paintings, including diptychs and triptychs, are hung salon-style in the space. Mainly executed in black and off-white, the bold strokes swirl toward the center of each rectangle, defying the eye where the lines meet. Space and flux were especially important to the artist, and she soon began making works that pushed the conceptual boundaries beyond optical illusions. The deceptively simple six-paneled Wykres Linii Horyzontu­ – Pejzaz Obiektywny [Graph Lines Horizon  Objective Landscape] (1973), which unexpectedly provides a pop of color in the gallery, can be seen as the link between Popiel’s two-dimensional considerations of space and her later conceptual works. Created in response to the horizon of a physical landscape, the artist composed it using a string to gauge and then mark the line at which land meets air, filling in the lower segments with bright blue oil paint.

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Los Angeles

Kota Ezawa: Gardner Museum Revisited at Christopher Grimes Gallery

In 2013, Kota Ezawa once gave a presentation at the California College of the Arts about a man in Japan. As he explained it, Ezawa saw a man talking on CNN, with the name of “Kota Ezawa” printed in the bumper graphic at the bottom of the screen. This onscreen Ezawa was a scientist, and as Ezawa watched the interview, he became intrigued. The name Kota Ezawa is so uncommon that after the interview, the artist decided to travel halfway across the world to meet this other Ezawa, living somewhere in Japan, to investigate their intriguingly dissimilar paths of life. Ezawa’s investigation of his namesake mirrors his artistic process: He isolates and studies discreet visual units—in this case, his name—so that the larger significance of each individual element can emerge.

Kota Ezawa. Double Tape, 2015; two-channel video, black and white, silent; 5;41. Courtesy of the artist and Christopher Grimes Gallery.

Kota Ezawa. Double Tape, 2015; two-channel black-and-white video, silent; 05:41. Courtesy of the Artist and Christopher Grimes Gallery.

In his new body of work, Gardner Museum Revisited, now on display at Christopher Grimes Gallery, Ezawa focuses on the largest property crime in U.S. history: the theft of thirteen works of art from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston. On March 18, 1990, two men dressed as police officers entered the Gardner Museum. They gagged and tied up the security guards on duty, and stole sculptures, sketches, and paintings by Rembrandt and Degas among others, taking with them one of the only thirty-six Vermeer paintings in existence. The robbers and their half-billion dollars’ worth of loot were never found.

Ezawa uses his characteristic style—digital animation and illustration—in his presentation of the theft. Upon entering the exhibition, two small TV monitors show a digitally animated version of the Gardner Museum’s closed-circuit video on loop. In the piece, titled Double Tape (2015), one animation shows a museum guard peacefully meandering around his desk, thumbing through a newspaper, while the other shows a car pulling up into a dark alleyway.

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New York

Setting Out at Apexart

In Setting Out (an exhibition selected as part of apexart’s Unsolicited Proposal Program), the guest curators Shona Kitchen, Aly Ogasian, and Jennifer Dalton Vincent showcase works that reframe or enact the vocabularies, tools, and approaches of explorers and scientists. With many intriguing works on display, the most interesting render the Earth strange by observing it with fresh eyes, analogous to the wonder of seeing distant planets and places. As the artists fuse the structure and utility of science with their imaginative objectives and tools, they probe the way we understand place.

Claudia O’Steen. Arc of Visibility, 2015; video, binocular/projector stands, Yellowheart, cedar, glass, rocks collected over time from 41°29’40.72”N, 71°8’8.10”W, sandbags containing sand from same coordinates, video projections, stainless steel, glass reflectors, aluminum, mirrored Plexiglas, compass level; dimensions variable. Courtesy of the Artist and apexart, New York.

Claudia O’Steen. Arc of Visibility, 2015; video, binocular/projector stands, Yellowheart, cedar, glass, rocks collected over time from 41°29’40.72”N, 71°8’8.10”W, sandbags containing sand from same coordinates, video projections, stainless steel, glass reflectors, aluminum, mirrored Plexiglas, compass level; dimensions variable. Courtesy of the Artist and apexart, New York.

Claudia O’Steen’s video and sculpture, Arc of Invisibility (2015), sit amid a table filled with the curators’ and exhibition designer’s vinyl text—identifying topics of inquiry like dissemination, evidence, and illusion—and objects related to the artists’ projects, like maps, a stereopticon, and more. O’Steen partially bypasses the table’s clutter by projecting her video on the floor while her homespun, wooden surveyor transit sits on top. Transits, typically consisting of a telescope with a crosshair, measure the relational distance and angle of objects for construction, landscaping, and geography. O’Steen’s transit differs from conventional ones by producing two images that are split along a vertical axis, one of which is upside-down. In O’Steen’s video, shot at South Shore Beach, Rhode Island (indicated as 41˚29’40.72″N, 71˚8’8.10″W), she walks toward the Atlantic Ocean, holding her transit. While the artist attempts to hold it level with the horizon line, her wobbly split-screen and partially upside-down imagery of the ocean are disorienting. Fashioned almost like a twin-lens reflex camera (with two openings, mirrors, and an eyepiece on the top), O’Steen’s transit combines the acts of looking outward toward the horizon and downward to the ground, such that her video shows the ocean along with beach pebbles and occasionally her feet in the background. With her quasi-scientific approach and tool, O’Steen’s project embraces futility and disorientation to envision the way we comprehend place.

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The 8th Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art

Postcolonial narratives of dispossession, survival, and reclamation dominate the 8th Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art (APT) at the Queensland Art Gallery/Gallery of Modern Art, making the exhibition part melancholy lament and part anthem of triumph. Works by artists of different traditions speak of cultural practices transformed in response to external forces, yet they preserve important narratives of identity. From the revival of Mongolian zurag painting in Ulaanbaatar to the reinvention of miniature painting in Lahore, to challenges of colonialist narratives in Polynesia and Anida Yoeu Ali’s street performance in Phnom Penh, the works selected for this iteration of the APT ask viewers to reconsider the way in which contemporary art emerges from cultures steeped in tradition.


Christian Thompson. Bidjara People, Western Queensland Trinity I (from Polari series), 2014; C-type photograph; 100 x 75 cm. Courtesy of the Queensland Art Gallery|Gallery of Modern Art Foundation.

Showing the work of eighty-three artists from more than thirty countries, the triennial is a barometer of artistic and social change, responding to global forces and the shifting cultural, economic, and political environments of the region. The emphasis of APT 8 is on the performative body: in live actions, immersive installations, video, sculpture, and—a wonderful surprise—the dynamic resurgence of figurative painting. The exhibition reveals boundaries of geography, history, gender, religion, and art practice in constant, fluid motion. Curator Aaron Seeto says, “We understand that while Asia and the Pacific represent quite specific geographies, these terms are also convenient constructions. Within these territories we see great diversity, histories, and attitudes to current global issues.”

The work of indigenous Australian artists speaks of strength and survival in the face of historical oppression and dispossession, and Christian Thompson’s self-portraits are a powerful act of reclamation. Thompson reframes 19th-century ethnographic photographs as symbols of mourning, interwoven with influences from pop culture, cinema, and theater. Gunybi Ganambarr’s distorted burial poles, painted with the intricate cross-hatching of Arnhem Land, are juxtaposed with works in which he used an angle grinder to inscribe traditional patterns into sheets of metal from old water tanks and discarded conveyor belts from the bauxite mines.

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From the Archives

From the Archives – Art in Limbo

On Tuesday, February 9, Utah’s House of Representatives will vote on whether to make Robert Smithson’s iconic land art, Spiral Jetty (1970), the state’s official work of art. If the legislation passes, Utah will become the first state to have an official work of art. Today we bring you Danielle Sommer’s reaction to the state’s initial acquisition of the work from the Dia Foundation. This article was originally published on July 6, 2011.

Robert Smithson. Spiral Jetty, 1970. Image copyright Danielle Sommer.

It’s true. The state of Utah now owns Spiral Jetty. For the last decade, the Dia Foundation has paid Utah’s Department of Natural Resources $250 a year to maintain the 20-year lease on the land surrounding the earthwork. In February, the Dia received and paid its annual invoice, only to have the payment returned in June with a note that the lease had expired—a fact that had somehow escaped everyone’s attention, including the DNR’s. According to an article by Jennifer Dobner of the Associated Press, the oversight may have occurred due to the fact that the DNR’s Sovereign Lands coordinator, Dave Grierson—the man who should have sent Dia a notice about the lease renewal—passed away last year.  Conspiracy theories about drilling aside, the Dia maintains that it has a “collegial” working relationship with the DNR and that they are in the process of renegotiating the lease.  But for the moment, the Jetty belongs to Utah, a fact that has the art community unsettled.

I first visited Spiral Jetty in August 2007, thirty-seven years after Robert Smithson installed it and thirty-four years after his death. I’d heard that the water level was low enough that the jetty was visible again, so I made a point to visit it on my way from Portland, Oregon, to Chicago, Illinois. I’d seen photographs, as well as the film of the construction that Smithson had made with his wife, Nancy Holt, but the physical experience caught me unprepared. Visiting Spiral Jetty in the flesh provides an experience of time unlike any other. Everything seems to halt, even as it remains in motion.

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Connecting Intentionality: The Beginning of Blights Out

From our friends at Pelican Bomb, today we bring you an interview with Blights Out, a New Orleans project that “prioritizes transparency, interdisciplinary collaboration, community involvement, and creativity.” Blights Out is New York–based artist Lisa Sigal, New Orleans artist Carl Joe Williams, and arts activist Imani Jacqueline Brown. Author Rosemary Reyes says, “Blights Out looks to ignite conversations around the rapid economic development in New Orleans by ‘performing architecture’ and developing strategies to create permanently affordable housing.” This conversation took place in December of 2014, and was originally published on January 13, 2016, “offering a moment to reflect on the ways an organization can develop as its community presence grows.”

Blights out began in 2014 during Prospect.3: Notes for Now with Artist Lisa Sigal’s nstallations on houses in New Oreleans’ mid-city neighborhood. Courtesy of the Artist and Blights Out, New Orleans.

Blights Out began in 2014 during Prospect.3: Notes for Now with Artist Lisa Sigal’s installations on houses in New Orleans’ Mid-City neighborhood. Courtesy of the Artist and Blights Out, New Orleans.

Rosemary Reyes: Lisa, I want to start with you, and talk about how your work has used abandoned spaces all over the world as a canvas, and how those experiences translated into Blights Out.

Lisa Sigal: My work responds to architecture as a code for the laws of a place, which brings racial inequalities and other societal inequities to the forefront. I am concerned with addressing these issues without aestheticizing them, which I feel would be unethical. When I was approached by Prospect to submit a proposal for the 2014 iteration, I came down to New Orleans for a week or two. I went around and painted on my easel in front of various housing projects that were being demolished and I would talk to the people who passed by. It was very performative. As a painter, the question is how to have a painting project that has a social component, which is a challenge—how to have a painting project that isn’t contained within the closed systems of the gallery and the market.

I wrote a Creative Capital grant in 2012 that was about envisioning architecture as silent protest. When I received the grant, Blights Out became a great way to enact those ideas. I was struck with thinking about the idea of a house as a page in a book. I had just read Suzan-Lori Parks’ 365 Days/365 Plays and I saw so many of those plays in the houses. She has this uncanny sense of the absurd as it relates to politics, people, and the cycles of history. I met with Parks and, when I suggested using 365 Days for Blights Out, she said, “Take it, girl.” I considered the range of plays and how they should vary from neighborhood to neighborhood.

Read the full article here.