New York

Chris Ofili: Night and Day at the New Museum

Night and Day at the New Museum is the first retrospective of the artist Chris Ofili in the United States. While the show incorporates sculptures and drawings, it unmistakably showcases the artist’s bravery, skill, and reinvention in painting over the past thirty years. The six bodies of work that span three floors are fearlessly distinct; clearly this is an artist who has no interest in repeating himself or sticking to a singular style. What unites all these works, however, is the cohabitation of conceptual rigor and an unwavering commitment to beauty. Each work is accessible and visually engaging to anyone willing to look. Longer contemplation unearths Ofili’s rich and ambivalent meditations on black identity, consciousness, and representation.

Chris Ofili. The Adoration of Captain Shit and the Legend of the Black Stars (Third Version), 1998; oil, acrylic, polyester resin, paper collage, glitter, map pins, and elephant dung on linen; 96 x 72 in. Courtesy of the Artist; David Zwirner, New York/London; and Victoria Miro, London.

Chris Ofili. The Adoration of Captain Shit and the Legend of the Black Stars (Third Version), 1998; oil, acrylic, polyester resin, paper collage, glitter, map pins, and elephant dung on linen; 96 x 72 in. Courtesy of the Artist; David Zwirner, New York/London; and Victoria Miro, London.

One of the artist’s strategies for striking a balance between content and form is to enforce constraints upon his process. Afromuses, a series of over 100 small watercolor portraits of imaginary black individuals, provides one example. From afar, these same-size works on paper look almost identical, rendering the same criteria: the hair, face, neck, and chest of a figure seen frontally or in profile. Within these parameters, however, is tremendous experimentation with color, pattern, and technique. These are quick studies, each done in fifteen to twenty minutes, but they reveal the freedom, improvisation, and inspiration Ofili finds within his self-imposed restrictions.

Read More »

Share

From the Archives

From the Archives – Psychopaper at Piktogram

Today we bring you a look back at a small but remarkable exhibition in Warsaw that sought to expose the psychological effects of martial law in Poland in the 1980s. Though the political, intellectual, and emotional conditions that produced the artwork have a complicated background, author Bean Gilsdorf notes that, “viewers of this work needn’t have all the historical details to know that something is terribly wrong.” This article was originally published on November 20, 2013.

Installation view of Psychopaper at Piktogram Gallery, Warsaw, 2013.

Installation view of Psychopaper at Piktogram Gallery, Warsaw, 2013.

At 6 a.m. on December 13, 1981, General Wojciech Jaruzelski appeared on Polish television to declare martial law in effect throughout the country. Following his edict, for the next two and a half years citizens were stripped of their civil liberties: All borders and airports were closed, public gatherings were banned, independent organizations were declared illegal, and travel between cities required permission.* Curfew was imposed, and postal mail was subject to scrutiny and censorship. In one ABC news broadcast from that day, Peter Jennings quotes Jaruzelski’s televised speech, saying, “Poland has come to the end of its psychological endurance,” but in fact a terrible period of psychological endurance had only just begun.

Psychopaper at Piktogram in Warsaw presents an answer to the question of what must it have been like to live and make art during this period. Scattered over the walls of the gallery space are more than fifty works on paper (and one video) produced by Polish artists during and immediately after the years of martial law. Most of the works have never been exhibited before, and although they share a basic materiality, there is little in the way of unifying style or subject matter. The drawings stand, according to the gallery materials, “as a document to the mental state engendered by an overdose of reality, which was in a chronic state of crisis.”

Read More »

Share

San Francisco

Transformations – Death, Breakage, and the Unexpected

Today from our partners at Art Practical, we bring you a recent installment of “Notes from di Rosa,” a column produced in conjunction with Art Practical’s yearlong residency at the museum. In this edition, author Terri Cohn explores the collection and its legacy. This article was originally published on October 8, 2014.

David Ireland. Angel-Go-Round, 1996; fiberglass, cast concrete figures and motor; 180 x 191 x 191 in. Courtesy of di Rosa collection, Napa. Photo: Israel Valencia.

David Ireland. Angel-Go-Round, 1996; fiberglass, cast concrete figures, and motor; 180 x 191 x 191 in. Courtesy of di Rosa collection, Napa. Photo: Israel Valencia.

Beautiful, bucolic, and quiet, di Rosa stretches out over its 200 acres with obvious and discoverable wonders. Di Rosa’s physical charm and the eccentricities intrinsic to its collection are deeply engaging, and the scope of the grounds and collections make a lasting impression. Yet the opportunity to spend some time at di Rosa this summer provided several unique and thought-provoking experiences.

To his great credit, Rene di Rosa (1919–2010) had a tendency to collect bodies of work by the artists that interested him—notably Beat Generation artists (Bruce Conner, Jay DeFeo, Joan Brown, George Herms, Wallace Berman); Conceptual artists (Paul Kos, David Ireland, Tom Marioni, Lynn Hershman, Jim Melchert); and many of the artists affiliated with the Bay Area Funk movement, including Robert Arneson, William T. Wiley, Roy De Forest, and Robert Hudson. He was also passionate about various mixed-media sculptors, photographers, and printmakers, including David Best, Deborah Butterfield, Viola Frey, Mark Alice Durant, Ray Beldner, and Enrique Chagoya. These “collections within the collection” provide a sense of the breadth and depth of di Rosa’s vision and his expansive interest in California art.

Read the full article here.

Share

From the Archives

From the Archives – #Hashtags: The Squeezing of the Middle Class Gallery

Today from our archives, we bring you an essay that’s ripe for reconsideration. Though San Francisco—like many other cities—has seen the closing of several mid-level galleries in the last few years, recent events have been more hopeful. There are at least two new art spaces in the city, and this weekend more than 3,500 artists and patrons successfully turned their cooperative efforts toward funding The Lab during a live 24-hour telethon. Of course, questions remain: Is the tide changing, or are we simply moving toward new models? Will collectivity save us? At this point there are no clear answers, but we hope this buoyant moment will propel us toward exploring other modes and strategies that can ensure strong support for the arts at a regional level. This article by Anuradha Vikram was originally published on March 10, 2014.

Tracey Snelling. "Mystery Hour," Rena Bransten Gallery, San Francisco, CA, December 19, 2013 - February 1, 2014. Photo credit: John Janca. Courtesy of the artist and Rena Bransten Gallery.

Tracey Snelling. Mystery Hour, December 19, 2013-February 1, 2014; installation view, Rena Bransten Gallery, San Francisco, CA Courtesy of the Artist and Rena Bransten Gallery. Photo: John Janca.

#commerce #place-making #policy #class #gentrification

With their leases recently terminated, the mid-sized galleries at 77 Geary Street in San Francisco are the latest casualties of the massive wealth divide that plagues contemporary American society. Gallerists George Krevsky, Rena Bransten, and Mark Jawgiel were notified that their month-to-month leases would be discontinued to make space for technology company MuleSoft to expand into the building’s second floor. Patricia Sweetow Gallery, located on the mezzanine floor, has not yet received a lease termination but is in the process of looking for a new gallery space. Within the past year, other gallery tenants Togonon and Marx & Zavattero have departed 77 Geary in advance of the anticipated loss of space. Some of the galleries being displaced have been at 77 Geary for decades.

These circumstances, while particularly dramatic, are very much within the scope of experience for many mid-sized American galleries in multiple cities. Chelsea recently saw the departure of Postmasters for lower Manhattan, while Billy Shire Fine Arts is among the mid-sized spaces that have closed after years in L.A.’s Culver City. Meanwhile, the New Yorker recently reported that mega-galleries David Zwirner and Gagosian are doing record business. If the very top of the contemporary art market is thriving, one might ask why it matters that smaller galleries are closing and gallery districts relocating across the country. There are two main reasons why this news should warrant concern. First, mid-sized galleries represent the bulk of artists with gallery representation, for whom record auction prices are out of reach. For these artists, mid-sized galleries make the difference between maintaining a sustainable art career and abandoning creative work for more lucrative pursuits. Without them, artists must take second and third jobs, detracting from the time and energy they need to make their art. Alternative spaces, many of which are also closing, provide regional artists with visibility and community but can offer only minimal financial support. Casting aside the enormous community-building value offered by support for the arts, even the most dry-eyed capitalist ought to appreciate that mid-sized commercial galleries are the link between a community’s individual artists and artisans and a broader market for their goods.

Read More »

Share

Shotgun Reviews

Landscape: The Virtual, The Actual, The Possible? at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts

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, Scott Norton reviews Landscape: The Virtual, The Actual, The Possible? at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco.

Changi, Singapore

Robert Zhao Renhui. Changi, Singapore, Possibly 1970s (from the series As We Walked on Water), 2010–2012; digital photograph. Courtesy of Robert Zhao Renhui and the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts.

For much of art history, seventeenth-century notions of a hierarchy of genres within painting classified landscapes as inferior to history paintings, which were often filled with religious iconography and scenes from mythology. Several centuries later, some contemporary audiences continue to perceive landscapes as prosaic, formulaic, or downright boring. The curators and featured artists of the exhibition Landscape: The Virtual, The Actual, The Possible? suggest that we as a civilization have moved beyond the bounds of this ancient genre, and quite possibly beyond the point of no return as a planet facing a global climate crisis.

The configuration of the gallery is unique. It opens and unfolds like a Chinese scholar’s garden. Liang Shuo’s Fit #9 (2010), a playful assemblage of found toys, tools, and tree branches, seems to crawl down the entrance wall like a garden vine. Like the curated space it inhabits, Liang’s piece is a collection of objects without any seemingly rational relationship existing in forced harmony, inorganic posing as organic. Through our rationalization of its existence, perhaps as commentary on the ubiquity of human-made ephemera now found in nature, Fit #9 becomes a part of the created scenery. Next to the piece, a slender window gives the visitor only a peek of what’s to come ahead. The curved path of the gallery’s hall forms the side of a square encompassing a circle, which is coincidentally a Chinese visual metaphor for heaven and earth, and a motif often present in Chinese gardens.

Read More »

Share

San Francisco

Sarah Oppenheimer at Mills College Art Museum

From our partners at Art Practical, today we bring you Lea Feinstein’s review of Sarah Oppenheimer’s current solo show at Mills College Art Museum. Feinstein notes: “[Oppenheimer] creates immersive experiences for participants, in which literal reflections inspire personal reflection and wondering is a product of wandering. […] But without hours of serious research before seeing the exhibition, it is difficult to parse the scope or significance of her installations from the cryptic fragments on display.” This article was originally published on October 28, 2014.

Sarah Oppenheimer, 2014; installation view, Mills College Art Museum. Courtesy of the Artist and Mills College Art Museum.

Sarah Oppenheimer, 2014; installation view, Mills College Art Museum. Courtesy of the Artist and Mills College Art Museum.

Do your homework before you see this show. Sarah Oppenheimer is a much-heralded artist whose scrupulous work crosses the borders between architecture and sculpture and is grounded in theories of cognitive, linguistic, and psychological sciences, particularly perception. To create her mind-bending work, she has pierced and reconfigured walls, corners, floors, and entryways in galleries, universities, and art museums. Like periscopes and kaleidoscopes, her interventions probe the bodies of buildings and employ transparent and mirrored surfaces to create new and disorienting ways of experiencing familiar spaces.

But none of these aspects are in the current exhibition at the Mills College Art Museum. What is there are Oppenheimer’s sketches, studies, ideas for interventions, and maquettes: carefully milled, drilled, and fabricated samples of glass and aluminum that play a part in recent commissions in New York, Switzerland, and in other locations in the United States and Europe—studio shots, so to speak.

The assembled array of white-painted steel tables with sketches and drawings under glass is tantalizing but not revealing. It offers the initiate only hints of Oppenheimer’s process, her extreme concern with perfection; pieces are milled to within 1/32 inch of her requirements. The titles of her works (33-D, D-33, OE-15) provide few clues except the inclusion of her fabricators’ names and their locations, suggesting she considers them artistic collaborators in this work.

Read the full article here.

Share

Fan Mail

Fan Mail: Laura Moore

From the height of a pedestrian bridge over a railroad track in Toronto, artist Laura Moore saw the remains of a computer monitor gazing screen- or face-up at her from the tracks. The happenstance experience provoked a number of questions about contemporary society’s rapidly changing relationship and progressive entanglement with technology. Mainly the artist wondered: Why was this monitor marched up a steep set of stairs only to be hurled onto the steel rail lines below?

Laura Moore.  One Man's Junk, (ongoing series) 2014; hand carved Indiana Limestone; dimensions variable. Courtesy of Paul Cimoroni.

Laura Moore. One Man’s Junk (ongoing series), 2014; hand-carved Indiana limestone; dimensions variable. Courtesy of Paul Cimoroni.

This question traces the intriguing juxtaposition between the old but still-used technology of the railroad and the swift obsolescence of the computer, that ever-new technological engine of commerce and information. These intertwined concerns reside at the heart of Laura Moore’s stone and wood sculptures, drawings, and photographs. Moore uses largely enduring materials, most often stone, to explore the relationships between technology and landscape, scale and permanence, and monumentality and disposability.

Read More »

Share