Interviews

The New Endurance of Linda Mary Montano, Part 1

Today from our partner site Art Practical, we bring you an excerpt of Patricia Maloney‘s conversation with artist Linda Montano, who says, “I am most authentic when I am performing. I am really one hundred percent there. I can’t say that about any other aspect of my life.” This interview was originally published on January 19, 2015.

Linda Mary Montano with Tehching Hsieh. Art/Life: One Year Performance 1983–1984 (Rope Piece), 1983-1984 (still); performance documentation. Courtesy of the Artist.

Linda Mary Montano with Tehching Hsieh. Art/Life: One Year Performance 1983–1984 (Rope Piece), 1983-1984 (still); performance documentation. Courtesy of the Artist.

Linda Mary Montano, born in 1942, is a seminal figure in the field of feminist performance art. She came to prominence in the 1960s and is best known for performances of long duration that require tremendous endurance on the part of the artist. Some performances have lasted as long as fourteen years; others have required her to be bound and blindfolded, and to undergo hours of physical exertion. Her most significant contribution to the field of performance art, however, is the incredible empathy she conveys to her audience. Hers is a practice of affirmation, meditation, and empowerment.

Patricia Maloney: How would you define the correspondence between performance as a spiritual practice and as a feminist practice?

Linda Montano: It took a lot of therapy and a lot of prayer and a lot of spiritual counseling to understand that question. It’s really asking the inner child to heal and to have permission to dialogue with both brains. As a performance artist, I get to play in the right brain without critique. But as the feminist woman–priest Catholic performance artist, there is incredible suffering to pull that inner child out of her position and out of that jail of the past into the dignity of both brains.

PM: Do you think that is why you created some of these early performances, like Handcuff (1973), or Art/Life: One Year Performance 1983–1984 (Rope Piece), in which you are tethered to other individuals? They were, in a sense, keeping you in that jail, was it not?

LM: Well, in both cases, it was with men. It’s almost like seducing the teacher, you know? I’m sharing the power with the patriarchy in both those pieces. Tom [Marioni] was the king of the conceptual art scene here in San Francisco, and Tehching Hsieh was the reigning guru of endurance. They’re about sharing the power but also could be seen as rubbing up against the power. I now see them as both. But it takes a great deal of healing in order to see it as both and not just the slave of the patriarchy, or as the object or accouterment of the male.

Read the full article here.

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New York

Playing with Fire: Political Interventions, Dissident Acts, and Mischievous Actions at El Museo del Barrio

Declarations of dissent can manifest in many ways. Playing with Fire: Political Interventions, Dissident Acts, and Mischievous Actions, currently on view at El Museo del Barrio, surveys a range of Latin American and Caribbean artists who through their art practices have voiced their dissent from oppressive cultural forces. The curator, Nicolás Dumit Estévez, frames these artistic impulses as foundational to the history and spirit of El Museo del Barrio. Indeed the 1969 founding of the museum by Raphael Montañez Ortiz was itself an act of noncompliance with the mainstream art world, which at the time was largely unmotivated or unwilling to exhibit the work of Latino artists. El Museo is an institution, much like the Studio Museum in Harlem and the Leslie Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art, that was formed to provide a platform for artists whose work and/or identity excluded them from opportunities in more established, heteronormative, and Eurocentric art venues.

Adonis Flores. Visionario, 2003; digital print; 36 x 24 in. Courtesy of Ben Rodriguez-Cubenas.

Adonis Flores. Visionario, 2003; digital print; 36 x 24 in. Courtesy of Ben Rodriguez-Cubenas.

Estévez’s framework proves fruitful, producing a show whose works span four decades, nearly mirroring the lifetime of El Museo. Themes of social irreverence, activism, and testimony connect works from different times and origins, without diluting the cultural specificity of each artist and intention. Undeniably, one of the exhibition’s great strengths is its underlying critique of conflating diverse Latino experiences and personhood in the United States; it accomplishes this without solidifying such tropes through reiteration.

Many works deploy dark humor to tackle overt political content. Visionario, a photograph by Adonis Flores, portrays a man in a trench, dressed in a camouflage uniform and holding two toilet-paper rolls to his eyes like binoculars. As there are few other signifiers in the image beyond the central figure, the piece can be read as satire of a militarized perspective that operates throughout the globe. Given Flores’s background as an artist born and working in Cuba, the photograph makes a more precise reference to Fidel Castro’s trademark uniform and parodies his professed vision for his people. Jessica Kairé also addresses symbols of combat through a disarming levity with her sculpture CONFORT Tropical Hand Grenade (Special Edition). The work’s plush fabric in vivid yellows, pinks, and greens recalls a stuffed toy, a commentary on the war zones that define the childhood of thousands all over the world. When read through the lens of Kairé’s Guatemalan descent, the work conjures the brutal history of the country’s civil war, a conflict catalyzed by a coup d’état funded and armed by the United States government, which led to the disappearance of tens of thousands of Guatemalan people, many of them children.

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Dallas

Loris Gréaud: The Unplayed Notes Museum at Dallas Contemporary

From our friends at Glasstire, today we bring you Christina Rees’ review of Loris Gréaud’s current solo exhibition at Dallas Contemporary. Rees describes the choreographed destruction of the work and characterizes the show as “a partial and contrived ruin,” noting that neither the artist nor the visitors seem invested. This article was originally published on January 19, 2015. 

Loris.

Loris Gréaud. The Unplayed Notes Museum, 2015; installation view, Dallas Contemporary, Dallas.

I suppose in the event of a chemical attack or nuclear apocalypse, a crowd of Dallas Contemporary patrons would be as good company as any to be stuck with. They are certainly relaxed, orderly, and polite.

I found this out on Saturday night at the Contemporary. Halfway through the opening for the long-anticipated Loris Gréaud show, a group of actors disguised as party-goers walked into the building and began pulling works off the walls and flinging them to the ground, and kicking over plaster sculptures. Another group of actors disguised as security guards immediately began to wrangle the half-bemused, half-blithe crowd toward the exits. Lights flashed, a few sirens sounded. People kind of good-naturedly lumbered out.

On the way, a few dozen hands shot up holding cell phones set to “photo” or “video,” but not as many as I would have expected under the circumstances. No one tried to get around security to join in the destruction, just as no one tried to intervene. Though few people in attendance knew what was meant to go down, you’d think that everyone there had all seen it before, like a rerun of a classic episode of Seinfeld or something.

Read the full article here.

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London

Walead Beshty: A Partial Disassembling of an Invention Without a Future at Barbican Center

In 1979 at the Whitney Museum of American Art, American avant-garde filmmaker Hollis Frampton gave a lecture devoted to the origins of film and the utility of defunct technologies. Toward the end, Frampton paused to vaguely describe a work of art composed of the accumulating detritus, by-products, and disparate actions piling up in his studio, which he called A Partial Disassembling of an Invention Without a Future: Helter-Skelter and Random Notes in Which the Pulleys and Cogwheels Are Lying at Random All Over the Workbench. Despite Frampton’s decision to name and then publically announce his piece, it is a work that was nonetheless never made and never begun—a work that hangs in the air of the filmmaker’s oeuvre: absurd, poetic, unrealized. That is, until Walead Beshty (a self-confessed fan of Frampton’s work) decided to breathe new life into the filmmaker’s project for his recent commission for the Barbican Center’s Curve Gallery by appropriating the title and promise of the unfulfilled piece.

1.Walead Beshty. A Partial Disassembling of an Invention Without a Future: Helter-Skelter and Random Notes in Which the Pulleys and Cogwheels Are Lying Around at Random All Over the Workbench. 2013-2014. The Curve Gallery, Barbican Centre, London, UK. Photo: Alexei Tylevich.

Walead Beshty. A Partial Disassembling of an Invention Without a Future: Helter-Skelter and Random Notes in Which the Pulleys and Cogwheels Are Lying Around at Random All Over the Workbench; 2013-2014. The Curve Gallery, Barbican Centre, London, UK. Photo: Alexei Tylevich.

Made of over 12,000 cyanotype prints and photograms carefully placed and pinned to the undulating curve of the gallery wall, the work documents fourteen months in the material and relational life of Beshty’s Los Angeles studio.[1] Thus, every item used, broken, or exhausted in the process of the work’s creation found its way into the work, either as the material matter of the installation itself or as the object photographed. As a representation of an artist’s practice, the work finds a way to acknowledge and render visible the aesthetic compost that is often kept out of sight when objects are placed within the clean white walls of an exhibition space. For Beshty, it is this waste that signals the work of the “work of art”—the constellation of decisions, actions, labor, institutional interventions, and mistakes that inform how objects and projects manifest themselves in dialogue with the world around them.

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Shotgun Reviews

Living with Endangered Languages in the Technological Age at Root Division 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, Nancy Garcia reviews Living with Endangered Languages in the Technological Age at Root Division in San Francisco.

Tessie Barrera Scharaga. Nahua-Pipil, the Forbidden Language of El Salvador, 2014; Mixed media installation,  10 x 7 x 11 ft.

Tessie Barrera-Scharaga. Nahua-Pipil, the Forbidden Language of El Salvador, 2014; mixed-media installation;
10 x 7 x 11 ft.

In Living with Endangered Languages in the Technological Age, curated by Hanna Regev at Root Division Gallery, thirty artists respond to a global crisis: One language becomes extinct every two weeks when its last speaker dies.

The works in the exhibition cover six continents and consider languages such as old Macedonian, Tati (Iran), Mayan (Mexico), Nahuat Pipil (El Salvador), Sindhi (India), and even notes used in Gregorian chant. Regev, who is developing a reputation for uniting cutting-edge technology and art, also encouraged artists to examine less-commonplace categories such as artificial and computer languages. This elevates what could be a UNESCO cliché into an innovative, dense show that is also interactive—works have a QR code under the wall texts so the viewer can hear the language on their mobile devices.

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San Francisco

Keith Haring: The Political Line at the de Young Museum

From our partners at Art Practical, today we bring you Kara Q. Smith’s review of Keith Haring: The Political Line at the de Young Museum in San Francisco. Smith notes that the exhibition “…offers the chance not only to appreciate the artist’s work and iconic imagery from multiple perspectives (albeit sometimes dizzying at this scale), but most importantly the chance to bring new context to the work.” This article was originally published on January 20, 2015.

Keith Haring. A Pile of Crowns for Jean-Michel Basquiat, 1988; acrylic on canvas; 120 x 120 x 120 in. Courtesy of de Young Museum San Francisco. Collection of the Keith Haring Foundation. © 2014, Keith Haring Foundation.

Keith Haring. A Pile of Crowns for Jean-Michel Basquiat, 1988; acrylic on canvas; 120 x 120 x 120 in. Courtesy of de Young Museum San Francisco. Collection of the Keith Haring Foundation. © 2014, Keith Haring Foundation.

Keith Haring: The Political Line is a packed survey of work by the late artist—Haring passed away in 1990 from AIDS-related complications—organized by guest curator Dieter Buchhart and the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco’s founding curator of photography and chief administrative curator, Julian Cox. The over 100 works in the exhibitions are grouped around political issues such as “Mass Media and Technology” and “Capitalism and Consumption,” pulling the viewer through the exhibition and broadly situating each packed room of works. Included, too, are various ephemera, Polaroid photographs, and drawings extracted from New York subway stations that historicize and contextualize Haring’s practice and motives, adding to the monumentality of the exhibition and demonstrating just how prolific and seemingly indefatigable Haring was in his thirty-one years of life.

Read the full article here.

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Fan Mail

Fan Mail: Celeste Fichter

A close-up shot of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson’s face, Prince Charles atop his horse playing polo, and Dom DeLuise in drag pouring wine: What do these three things have in common? Nothing really, except that images of them, as well as many other well-known people, places, products, and tropes, appear in the uniquely humorous and witty compositions of artist Celeste Fichter.

Celeste Fichter. Spanglish Series: Dom DeLuise (where’s Louise?), 2011; inkjet print; 8 x 10 inches. Courtesy of the artist.

Celeste Fichter. Spanglish Series: Dom DeLuise (Where’s Louise?), 2011; inkjet print; 8 x 10 in. Courtesy of the Artist.

In her three serial projects Sign Language (2010–present), Spanglish (2011), and Significant Others (2009–2010), Fichter incorporates a wide range of materials and subjects to “investigate the relationship between verbal and visual language, and explore the distance between meaning and representation.” While each series has a different focus, Fichter’s methods and approach are similar, as she incorporates drawing, collage, photography, video, sculpture, and installation into all three.

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