San Francisco

Pablo de Ocampo on Chris Marker, Alain Resnais and Duncan Campbell

Today from our friends at Kadist Art Foundation, we bring you a talk by Pablo de Ocampo after a recent double-feature screening at their site in San Francisco. De Ocampo, Exhibitions Curator at Western Front in Vancouver, BC, discusses Chris Marker and Alain Resnais’ 1953 film, Les Statues Meurent Aussi (Statues Also Die) (1953) and Duncan Campbell’s Turner Prize-winning film It for Others (2013). 

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Interviews

Street Fighting Man

Today from our friends at REORIENT, we bring you an excerpt from Joobin Bekhrad‘s interview with artist and curator Ali Ettehad, who says, “I strongly believe that at a time—especially in the Middle East—when art is, for the most part, commercially-driven, performance art is powerful in its ability to help artists retain their independence and integrity.” This article was originally published on June 2, 2015.

Nikoo Tarkhani.

Ali Ettehad. A Requiem for Libricide, n.d.

Joobin Bekhrad: Unlike other forms of art in Iran—e.g. visual art, cinema, music, etc.—performance art has a relatively shorter history. What were the origins of performance art in Iran, and why do you think it has received little attention in comparison to other art forms?

Ali Ettehad: You of course have to remember that performance art, vis-à-vis other artistic mediums, is new all around the world in general; that’s why it’s taken much longer for it to be recognised in Iran, and for Iranian performance art to receive outside attention. The short history and newness of performance art aside, however, I do agree with you. As a medium, it has often been neglected, and has not received due attention. Performance art was seen for the first time in Iran in the 70s, and took shape on the fringes of the Shiraz-Persepolis Festival of Arts (earlier performances may have existed, but there are no known historical records of them), although following the Revolution in 1979, it became largely forgotten. Activity picked up again after 2000, however, and in the early years of the 21st century, much interest was shown in contemporary artistic mediums. Beginning in 2005, there was a surge of investment in the domestic art market (particularly from abroad), and Iranian art began to perform particularly well in Middle Eastern art auctions.

It was because of developments like these that non-commercial and non-sellable mediums such as performance art were once again pushed to the fringe. Taking into consideration the fact that the local art scene is dominated by private galleries (as opposed to state-run institutions or galleries receiving support from local municipalities) that are commercially-oriented, mediums such as performance art have never had the chance to be the centre of attention; and, even if performances are structured so that artists do not incur any costs (which is rarely the case), they still have to undergo a tortuous process in order to find suitable venues, especially in a country like Iran where it is forbidden to perform in most public spaces.

Read the full interview here.

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Providence

Hao Ni: Ghost Hit Wall at Yellow Peril Gallery

To enter Hao Ni’s exhibition Ghost Hit Wall, currently on view at Yellow Peril Gallery in Providence, Rhode Island, is to step into a space where the familiar becomes strange and the strange becomes eerily, disconcertingly familiar. Bracingly present yet vaguely surreal, the works—ranging from painting and sculpture to video and mixed-media installation—are installed as a cohesive whole. Yet, as this incisive exhibition makes clear, cohesion often masks a deep, disquieting sense of disjunction.

Hao Ni. cig tower, 2015; ash, ashtray, cigarettes, acrylic paint, wood; dimensions variable. Courtesy of the Artist.

Hao Ni. Cig Tower, 2015; ash, ashtray, cigarettes, acrylic paint, wood; dimensions variable. Courtesy of the Artist.

Both across and within Ni’s works, past and present, finitude and immortality collide and collude; material accretions invoke layers of time, and perceptions of physical wholeness and visual cohesion shift and splinter. In the work Cig Tower (2015), one encounters a single, sculpted form that quickly dissolves into constituent parts: cigarettes, ashtrays, acrylic paint, wood. As the viewer visually deconstructs the piece, the original function of any given element—its once-defining feature, its essential raison d’être—is displaced by connotations and associations, and material meaning yields to an ambiguous being-ness.

The title Ghost Hit Wall is derived from a Mandarin Chinese expression for getting lost, and to walk among the works on view is to feel increasingly adrift within the confines of a fragmented, digressive story. One is in the midst of—what? A scene, a site, perhaps, of some happening whose precise nature is unknowable yet vaguely otherworldly and decidedly dark. Thus, in a corner of the first room, we encounter the work Njoy the Patron Saint of E Cigarettes (2015). Faceless, shapeless, and seated on a wooden chair, this foreboding figure is essentially a cascade of black fabric, its “head” wearing a crown of faux electronic cigarettes. To its left are installed two BMW E90 headlights, whose beams illuminate wafting clouds of smoke.

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San Francisco

Portraits and Other Likenesses from SFMOMA at the Museum of the African Diaspora

“…In reimagining traditions of portraiture, the artists featured not only reinsert black subjects into the pictorial frame, they also redefine these creative traditions as inherently mutable and, as such, capable of representing complex subjectivities that exist beyond the boundaries of race, gender, sexuality, and class.” From our partners at Art Practical, today we bring you Anton Stuebner’s review of Portraits and Other Likenesses from SFMOMA. This article was originally published on June 23, 2015.

Mickalene Thomas. Sista Sista Lady Blue, 2007; chromogenic print; 40 3/8 x 48 1/2 in. Collection of SFMOMA; gift of Campari USA. © Mickalene Thomas/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Photo: Katherine Du Tiel.

Mickalene Thomas. Sista Sista Lady Blue, 2007; chromogenic print; 40 3/8 x 48 1/2 in. Collection of SFMOMA; gift of Campari USA. © Mickalene Thomas/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Photo: Katherine Du Tiel.

Now on view at the Museum of the African Diaspora (MoAD), Portraits and Other Likenesses from SFMOMA asks its audience to consider: What is a portrait? This may seem like a straightforward question, an inquiry more related to the particularities of style and form than to complex historical narratives. But as the thirty-six artists whose work is included in the exhibition reveal, portraiture bears its own troubled relationship to genealogies of violence and erasure that excluded nonwhite bodies from representation in Western art. By asking their audience to consider what “makes” a portrait, the show’s curators Lizzetta LeFalle-Collins and Caitlin Haskell provoke far more trenchant questions about race and subjectivity. How do you define your identity when your physical likeness has been culturally othered? And how do you engage with representational traditions that have historically denied people of color?

The forty-eight works featured in Portraits and Other Likenesses fill the top two floors of MoAD’s galleries and represent a wide range of media, from painting and photography to installation and performance-based sculpture. Many of the works are by African American artists and engage volatile histories of racial violence in the United States. Kara Walker’s bi-paneled charcoal and pastel drawing Daylights (After M.B.) (2011), for instance, depicts a man on safari next to a Josephine Baker–like dancer in a torn skirt as part of a dense visual narrative documenting the exoticization of people of African descent in American and European popular culture during the early 1920s. Kenyan-born sculptor Wangechi Mutu’s mezzanine installation High Chair and Strange Fruit (2005), by comparison, uses less readily charged objects (a spilled and upturned bottle of red wine, a child’s wooden high chair) to create potent metaphors about bodily violence that transcend specific nationalized histories.

Read the full article here.

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Seattle

Leo Saul Berk: Structure and Ornament at Frye Art Museum

Can architecture transform lives? Can it transform us? These questions lay the foundation for Structure and Ornament, a solo exhibition of work by Seattle-based artist Leo Saul Berk, on view at Frye Art Museum. Presented in a meandering array of multimedia sculpture, site-specific installation, and video with sound, Berk’s ongoing series is a reflection on his childhood home in Aurora, Illinois—a site formative to his personal and artistic growth.

Leo Saul Berk. <i>Structure and Ornament</i>, 2014; plywood and acrylic; 120 x 213 x 59 in. Courtesy of the Artist. Photo: Mark Woods.

Leo Saul Berk. Structure and Ornament, 2014; plywood and acrylic; 120 x 213 x 59 in. Courtesy of the Artist. Photo: Mark Woods.

In the winter of 1980, seven-year-old Berk and his family moved into the Ford House, created by visionary midwestern architect Bruce Goff. Designed in 1947, the house is characterized by its massive central dome, flanked by two semicircular bedroom wings. Today, it stands as an unapologetic icon of midcentury modernist design influenced by organic architecture and neo-futurist promise. Steel Quonset ribs, painted a Golden Gate orange, conjoin a curved coal and glass wall to define the exterior of the home. Inside, Navy surplus ropes, herringbone wood inlay, and glass domes from World War II fighter jets come together in a resplendent array of material texture. Like many of his contemporaries, Goff’s architectural style celebrates the traditions of handcraft alongside the ideals of technology and industry. The Ford House is the product of its age—a tangible expression of imagination and architectural experiment. The structure ignited Berk throughout his childhood, and thirty-five years later, it continues to confound and inspire.

Like a beacon, the Ford House drew Berk home. In 2011, the artist returned to Aurora and was brought to tears when its current owner led him through the familiar sights and smells of the rooms he was once so intimately attached to. Drawing upon his personal memory as well as the architectural history of the house, Berk was led to develop a body of work that would become Structure and Ornament. A selection of sculptures in the exhibition are Berk’s realizations of decorative ambitions for the Ford that never came to be. Specular Reflections (2015), a set of large floating marbles in the museum’s reflecting pool, and Wind Jangle (2015), a suspended ornamental screen of aluminum chimes, are both site-specific installations that hearken to the embellishments of a midcentury corporate campus, rather than a domestic home (think of Eero Saarinen’s GM Tech Center with decorative metalwork by Harry Bertoia). Perfectly situated in the entrance of the Frye Art Museum, these works establish a distinctly retro spirit—the disintegration of past into present—that dissipates throughout the show.

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New York

Tseng Kwong Chi at Grey Art Gallery

Tseng Kwong Chi: Performing for the Camera is the first major retrospective on the artist, co-organized by the Chrysler Gallery and NYU’s Grey Art Gallery. Bringing Tseng’s body of work to the fore is an important and overdue project; his career was regularly eclipsed by his friends, whose trajectories characterized the 1980s New York City art market boom, most notably Jean-Michel Basquiat and Keith Haring. Performing for the Camera not only reveals Tseng’s mastery in deploying humor and farce to explore intersections of global politics and personal identity, it also reminds us that the most revealing critiques of American culture often do not come from within.

Tseng Kwong Chi. New York, New York (World Trade Center), 1979, from the East Meets West series; Gelatin silver print, printed 2014; 36 x 36 in. Courtesy of Muna Tseng Dance Projects, Inc., New York

Tseng Kwong Chi. New York, New York (World Trade Center), 1979, from the East Meets West series; gelatin silver print, printed 2014; 36 x 36 in. Courtesy of Muna Tseng Dance Projects, Inc., New York

Tseng was born in Hong Kong in 1950. His father had served in the Nationalist army in the war against China’s Communist revolutionaries and later fled to escape the new regime. When Tseng was a teenager, his family immigrated to Canada. He went on to complete his art education in Paris and then moved to New York City in 1978.[1] This international upbringing no doubt informed the project for which the artist is probably best known, East Meets West (1979–1984), later called the Expeditionary Series. In all of the self-portraits that compose this series, Tseng photographs himself standing in front of major landmarks in the Western world, including Niagara Falls, Mount Rushmore, the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, the Eiffel Tower, the Brooklyn Bridge, Disneyland, and the World Trade Towers.

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Shotgun Reviews

Ryan Wallace: LD50 at Romer Young Gallery

Shotgun Reviews are an open forum where we invite the international art community to contribute timely, short-format responses to an exhibition or event. If you are interested in submitting a Shotgun Review, please click this link for more information. In this Shotgun Review, Forrest McGarvey reviews Ryan Wallace: LD50 at Romer Young Gallery in San Francisco. 

Ryan Wallace. LD50, 2015; installation view. Courtesy of the Artist and Romer Young Gallery, San Francisco.

Ryan Wallace. LD50, 2015; installation view. Courtesy of the Artist and Romer Young Gallery, San Francisco.

In his first solo show at Romer Young Gallery, New York artist Ryan Wallace has filled the space with junk. Wallace has accumulated a hoard of construction materials­—Hydrocal, plaster, Plexiglas, lead, enamel, tape, and more—into his new sculptures, paintings, and a site-specific installation for LD50. Swinging freely yet comfortably between the poles of chaos and order, composed and unintentional, Wallace’s process seems intuitive. Yet the repetition of the materials betrays their grungy disposition to present a tight body of work that forfeits the chaotic in favor of a more structured approach.

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