San Francisco

Night Begins the Day: Rethinking Space, Time, and Beauty at the Contemporary Jewish Museum

Today from our partners at Art Practical, we bring you Vanessa Kauffman’s review of Night Begins the Day at the Contemporary Jewish Museum in San Francisco. The author notes, “The many pieces in the exhibition […] do not mimic the sublimity of the universe in its raw state—a view that is impossible to achieve in a practical sense. Instead, these are revelations of the Earth and its ethers as they have been marred, imprinted, and manipulated by human hands.” This article was originally published on July 16, 2015.

Katie Paterson. The Dying Star Letters, 2010–present; ink on paper; dimensions variable; installation view, Mead Gallery, University of Warwick, 2013. Courtesy of the Artist and James Cohan Gallery, New York / Shanghai.

Katie Paterson. The Dying Star Letters, 2010–present; ink on paper; dimensions variable; installation view, Mead Gallery, University of Warwick, 2013. Courtesy of the Artist and James Cohan Gallery, New York/Shanghai.

Night, in most latitudes, is characterized by darkness: a dimming of the sky that is often accompanied by the dimming of the senses, and the mind. But our eyes can and do adjust to this darkness, and as our shadowed surroundings surrender a certain clarity—becoming amorphous in form and color—the world may appear, to us, anew. In Jewish tradition, as noted by Renny Pritikin and Lily Siegel, curators of the Contemporary Jewish Museum’s exhibition Night Begins the Day: Rethinking Space, Time, and Beauty, the sun’s trajectory toward the horizon is a harbinger: Nightfall is the first spark of a new day. The show hinges on this inversion of ingrained timetables and asks us to question our relation to the Earth and its celestial bodies, the murky beauty of our natural (and at times mundane) surroundings, and also our own destruction of those surroundings. The twenty-five contemporary artists, scientists, and others included in the show put forth a remarkable “dusking,” asking viewers to embrace the rich sublimity that is to be discovered in the dark.

Disrupting the notion of any singular moment of creation, the German artist Peter Dreher’s Tag um Tag Guter Tag (Day by Day, Good Day, 1974–ongoing) is a series, to date involving 5,000 artworks, that is continually in the making. Once or twice a week, Dreher paints the same water glass, holding the same amount of water, sitting on the same table beside the same window, in an oil painting of the same dimensions. Time is measured here by an unchanging, quotidian relationship to a single object. Numbered and displayed in a grid, the paintings (and days) are hard to assess individually. And yet each does vary from its neighbor due to the subtle shifts of light Dreher captures in the reflections on the glass. As in nature, sublimity enters and exits this work through the impressive sum of its parts, and microscopically in the infinitesimal gestures that break with what is formulaic and anticipated.

Read the full article here.

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Singapore

After Utopia at the Singapore Art Museum

After Utopia: Revisiting the Ideal in Asian Contemporary Art at the Singapore Art Museum (SAM) explores the dissonance between our innermost longings and the contemporary world we have created. Gunter Grass said, rather gloomily, that melancholy and utopia are heads and tails of the same coin. Imagining perfection, we confront the contradiction between the Arcadia of our imagination and the imperfect realities of our everyday. Featuring eighteen artists and artists’ collectives from across the Asian region, the exhibition was conceived as a four-part narrative. From the potent metaphor of the garden, we move to the city as a “contested site of the utopian ideal.”[1] Discredited utopic ideologies are juxtaposed with the notion that the search for an ideal world is now a psychological inner journey, an entirely individual pursuit.

Ian Woo. We Have Crossed the Lake, 2009, Acrylic on Linen, 194 x 244cm, collection of the artist, image courtesy Singapore Art Museum

Ian Woo. We Have Crossed the Lake, 2009; acrylic on linen; 194 x 244 cm. Courtesy of Singapore Art Museum.

Other Edens presents the garden as a site of desire in the colonial imagination. Singaporean painter Ian Woo’s lyrical, abstract representation of foliage and water represents the solace found in the natural world. A reference to mid-20th-century abstraction is evident, but Woo has invented a powerful and idiosyncratic visual language. Underlying the gestural, calligraphic mark making of We Have Crossed the Lake (2009) is a spare restraint emerging from his deep knowledge of Chinese ink-painting traditions.

Some works reflect the bitter aftermath of totalitarian ideologies. Asian nation-states today—even the behemoth of a post-Mao China—are hostage to the forces of the global market, and old certainties have vanished. Shen Shaomin’s hyper-real embalmed bodies of Communist leaders lie in crystal sepulchres, as if awaiting a call to arms that might reanimate them. Mao lies next to Ho Chi Minh and Fidel, Kim Il-sung and Lenin. Summit (2009) is a G8 meeting of cadavers. The meta-narratives of the 20th century, like these old men, lie in the morgue of history.

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New York

Evan Calder Williams: T-1 at Artists Space

Ice, compromised vision, and colonial geography: These formed the conceptual scaffolding that supported Evan Calder Williams’ live essay, T-1, performed at Artists Space on July 21, 2015.[1] Despite the three subjects’ ostensibly divergent histories, Calder Williams wove them into a complex web that expanded into several narratives that highlighted epiphanic and unexpected connections. The dynamic multimedia event—comprising video, text, and images projected on perpendicular screens, and a narration by Calder Williams—made me resent the limitations of my binocular human vision. From where I sat, I could either blurrily see the two projections with my peripheral vision by aiming my eyes at the gap between the screens, or frantically switch my focus from one screen to the other, continually wishing my eyes could turn like those of a chameleon to 360-degree vision. The multisensory experience made me feel my perception was torn in opposite directions, like the cognitive cacophony of a passionately brainstorming mind.

Evan Calder Williams. T-1, 2015; performed at Artist Space on July 21, 2015.

Evan Calder Williams. T-1 (2015) (video still); two screen projection. Courtesy of the Artist.

To call the performance an essay is both fair and unfair. Or, perhaps more importantly, it questions the history and potential future of a form so familiar to the literate world. If we consider the origin of the word essay, from the late-16th-century essai, meaning a trial or attempt, then T-1 was a live attempt. The spirit of experimentation and uncertainty associated with attempts and trials exemplifies the nature of Calder Williams’ performance; though the presentation was highly considered and intentional, it escaped the safety and finitude of sentences strung together on a page. Instead, T-1 opened itself up to an unexplored method of conveying information, becoming an expedition in search of new visual and sonic languages.

Throughout the performance, plump, white, slightly out-of-focus words faded in and out on the screen to the audience’s left. The transitions happened so slowly, and the window of legibility—when the new phrase was sufficiently visible and the old phrase sufficiently faded—was so brief that it prompted dizziness, as I snapped my head back and forth, trying to follow the unraveling narrative on the left while keeping up with the more rapid narrative on the right. On this right-hand screen, videos and images played in secession or were layered, accompanied by audio clips and Calder Williams’ voice as sonic elements, all punctuated by numbers delineating sections of varying duration.

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San Francisco

Radical Presence: Black Performance in Contemporary Art at YBCA

From our partners at Art Practical, today we bring you a review of Radical Presence: Black Performance in Contemporary Art at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco. Author Brian Karl notes: “The urgent need to collect and re-present this work—not in a static archive but in a living arena—stems from the continuing conditions of marginalization, oppression, and worse that black people have suffered over so many generations, from the Middle Passage to the present moment.” This article was originally published on July 7, 2015.

Senga Nengudi. R.S.V.P., 1975–78; nylon, sand, and mixed media; dimensions variable. Courtesy of the Artist and Thomas Erben Gallery, New York.

Senga Nengudi. R.S.V.P., 1975–78; nylon, sand, and mixed media; dimensions variable. Courtesy of the Artist and Thomas Erben Gallery, New York.

Radical Presence, a survey of African American performance art curated by Valerie Cassel Oliver, has come to San Francisco. The featured works are all distillations and/or documents of performances that have ended up in, or have been adapted for, a gallery setting; an exceptionally robust program of related live performances runs concurrently. The earliest work is Pond (1962) by Fluxus cofounder Benjamin Patterson. The most recent pieces date from 2015, several of them created or re-created for Yerba Buena Center for the Arts’ iteration of the show.

The exhibition presents a substantial and striking set of takes on race in both the art world and society more generally. These are serious matters. That said, many of the artists adopt playful, even lighthearted approaches, often forcing visitor engagement through destabilizing strategies. “Playfulness” thus becomes a tactic akin to that of the tricksters and shamans who perform criticality in so many cultures—either in intense moments of crisis or in a more ongoing fashion. It is also similar to how masters of Zen and jujitsu trip up potentially worthy students as wake-up calls or as lessons to combat placid acceptance of the status quo.

Read the full article here.

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Boston

The James & Audrey Foster Prize at ICA Boston

Until now, the ICA Boston’s Foster Prize has been relatively traditional. It begins with the museum’s announcement of a short list of artists who participate in its biennial. From there, an independent panel of judges selects one winner, who walks away with a cash prize. This year’s Foster Prize is different. The ICA’s Associate Director of Performing Arts, John Andress, and Senior Curator, Jenelle Porter, have chosen four artists and collaborative organizers as the winners of the Foster Prize, lending the institution’s weight to help execute their artistic objectives. The winners of the 2015 Foster Prize are Sandrine Schaefer, Vela Phelan, kijidome (Sean Downey, Carlos Jiménez Cahua, Lucy Kim, and Susan Metrican), and Ricardo De Lima (Another Spectacle).

Sandrine Schaefer. Acclimating to Horizontal Movement (Wandering with the Horizon), 2015; performance. Courtesy of the Artist. Photo: Nisa Ojalvo.

Sandrine Schaefer. Acclimating to Horizontal Movement (Wandering with the Horizon), 2015; performance. Courtesy of the Artist. Photo: Nisa Ojalvo.

The 2015 Foster Prize is not about latent potential, but about creating an actualized reticulation. In this curatorial framework, individual artists aren’t grouped and isolated, or begging to be anatomized. The resulting “exhibition” can be transplanted anywhere and bears fruit: It is a rhizomatic schedule of events that assembles à la carte meals instead of a tasting menu. For art critics, reviewing the exhibition after its preview would’ve been much like reviewing a book after reading one sentence, as almost nothing had happened at that point. All four artists’ projects are ongoing and contradictory at times. The reciprocating schedule is dictated by the terms of the audience. If you’re running late because of family schedule, the pokey slow train, or any other dog-ate-my-homework excuse, you simply miss the exhibition’s event that night. As no one individual could be at all the events, each moment reflects on what was and will be, as an unfolding, multimodal semiotic chain.

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Los Angeles

HA HA! BUSINESS! at Luis De Jesus

Novelist Don DeLillo once quipped, “California deserves whatever it gets. Californians invented the concept of lifestyle. This alone warrants their doom.” This concept is the curatorial mission behind HA HA! BUSINESS!, currently on view at Luis de Jesus, Los Angeles. HA HA! BUSINESS! reprimands what it sees as a jingoistic and self-centered lifestyle—a world filled with social-media fiends who are willing to cut down the next person, or the world around them, for their own gain.

Valerie Blass. La Mèprise (detail), 2015; composite of two porcelain objects, flocking, mirror, marble slab; 70 x 21.5 x 19.25 in. Courtesy of the Artist and Luis De Jesus. Photo: Calder Yates.

Valerie Blass. La Mèprise, 2015 (detail); composite of two porcelain objects, flocking, mirror, marble slab; 70 x 21.5 x 19.25 in. Courtesy of the Artist and Luis De Jesus. Photo: Calder Yates.

Valerie Blass’ sculpture La Méprise (2015) consists of a black porcelain figurine of a cat, positioned atop a bust on a marble shelf in front of a large concave mirror. Blass turns the cat, of thrift-store schlock, onto its back with its face turned up toward the ceiling and legs pointing directly into the gallery. The cat’s tail is distorted through the mirror and appears to be thrusting out toward the viewer, engorged and erect. By tipping the cat onto its back, Blass reveals the gender identity of bland consumerism: a kind of cultural imperialism that paves the way for banal and hollow objects to take over the visual environment. Within this generic cat figurine—one of seemingly millions manufactured and sold in home décor sections of Home Depots all over the world—Blass finds the obscene and sinister neuroticism that undergirds the common object. La Méprise, roughly translated, means “the misconception.”

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Shotgun Reviews

2BENAMED at Naming Gallery in Oakland

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, Takeema Hoffman reviews 2BENAMED at Naming Gallery in Oakland. 

Art Party Collective.  2BENAMED, installation view, 2015;  Courtesy of the Artists and Naming Gallery. Photo: Wilson Linker and Lisa Aurora.

Art Party Collective. 2BENAMED, 2015; installation view. Courtesy of the Artists and Naming Gallery. Photo: Wilson Linker and Lisa Aurora.

2BENAMED, an exhibition currently at Naming Gallery in the heart of downtown Oakland, is an electrifying showcase of diverse artworks from the Art Party Collective. Comprising roughly 20 members aged 15 to 21, the group was formed out of the desire to do something with all the bad-assery, or art, that the close-knit group created.

A key influence in Art Party’s philosophy and aesthetic is Oakland. When asked “What’s so Oakland about the show?” collective member and featured artist Winnie Smith replied, “It’s the action, the pep, the hyph.” The spirit of hyph here, as in the Bay-born hyphy[1] subculture, is strong. In a collaborative piece by Jared Ford and Conor Hickey, Mac Dre’s face beams from the square center of an elaborately painted cross, looking down on the space like a grand cosmic deity. Under Art Party’s control, the gallery is an installation vibrating with the manic electricity that hyphy represents. The walls are blanketed with fluorescent murals and doodles, broken pieces of chocolate-chip cookies, and tagged phrases such as “My girlfriend is starting to bum me out, you can have her.” It’s eye candy, sure enough, but there’s more here than sugar and dye. Just as “going dumb” [2] requires equal parts whim and technique, the work in this show is as effervescent as it is contemplative.

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