New York

Zero: Countdown to Tomorrow at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum

In Düsseldorf, West Germany, amid the tumultuous aftermath of the Second World War, two German artists—Heinz Mack and Otto Piene—founded Group Zero in 1957. Later joined by fellow German artist Günther Uecker in 1961, the three sought to reinvent art in the postwar era and create a vision toward a transformed future through myriad artistic forms: performance, painting, sculpture, exhibition, publication, film, and installation. In the years following 1961, Group Zero rapidly spiraled outward to encompass a remarkable network of international collaborators including the likes of Lucio Fontana, Yayoi Kusama, Yves Klein, Piero Manzoni, Jesús Rafael Soto, Jean Tinguely, and Herman de Vries.

Illustration from ZERO 3, July 1961, design by Heinz Mack. Courtesy Heinz Mack.

Illustration from ZERO 3, July 1961, design by Heinz Mack. Courtesy of Heinz Mack.

Zero: Countdown to Tomorrow, 1950s–60s, currently on view at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York (and two others, opening in 2015 at the Martin-Gropius-Bau in Berlin and the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam), is the conclusion of a three-year research project undertaken by the Guggenheim, Stedelijk, and the Zero Foundation in Düsseldorf. Due in part to the exhaustive research efforts of the Guggenheim, Stedelijk, and Zero Foundation, Group Zero’s extensive network, and the ambitious material, social, and conceptual scope of their vision, the Guggenheim iteration of the exhibition is vast and informative.

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New York

Do Ho Suh: Rubbing/Loving at Lehmann Maupin

Do Ho Suh’s Rubbing/Loving Project: 348 West 22nd Street, Apt. A, New York NY 10011, is a personal project of love and memory, but in the end it denies the viewer the access to the artist’s interiority that it seems to promise. Currently on display at the Chelsea outpost of Lehmann Maupin, the work records the artist’s former New York apartment through a series of painstakingly executed rubbings. By covering every surface of his apartment with sheets of tracing paper and rubbing it with blue colored pencil, Suh and his team meticulously documented the various textures and patterns of the floors, walls, and built-in appliances. The entire process is chronicled in a short film on the series, also on display in the gallery.

Do Ho Suh. Rubbing/Loving Project, 348 West 22nd Street, Apt. A, New York, NY 10011, 2013-14; installation view, Drawings, 2014. Courtesy of the artist and Lehmann Maupin, New York and Hong Kong. Photo: Elisabeth Bernstein.

Do Ho Suh. Rubbing/Loving Project, 348 West 22nd Street, Apt. A, New York, NY 10011, 2013-14; installation view, Drawings, 2014. Courtesy of the Artist and Lehmann Maupin, New York and Hong Kong. Photo: Elisabeth Bernstein.

The installation within the gallery space represents the original layout of the apartment; the floor rubbing is set on a plinth in the middle of the room, and the deconstructed rubbings of walls and appliances are tacked up on their corresponding walls by hundreds of red-tipped pins. The only element that conjures its true three-dimensionality is the rubbing of an exterior-facing wall. Recording two windows and an air conditioner, these drawings are mounted on the back of a plaster cast of the building’s exterior. Blocking the gallery’s entrance, this white monolith provides a point of transition from the colorful three-dimensional world outside the gallery to the flat, monochrome installation inside.

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In ___ We Trust: Art and Money at the Columbus Museum of Art

Curator Tyler Cann’s In ___We Trust: Art and Money is a fresh and imaginative approach to exhibition making. The title definitively removes higher moral or spiritual motives—so often claimed in art making—from the framework of the exhibit, and it seems especially fitting that Andy Warhol, a lover of all things material and monetized, opens the show. Hanging on the first wall are three works: the print One Dollar Bills (1962), the drawing Five Dollar Bill (1962), and a project by Komar and Melamid called Souls Project: Andy Warhol (1979), in which Warhol sells his soul to the duo for zero dollars. Though these objects feel a bit thin as historical context, they operate alongside the title wall to underscore the interdependence between contemporary art and money.

Claire Fontaine. This Neon Sign Was Made By..., 2009; Back-painted neon, 6400k glass, cables, fixtures and transformers; 19 11/16 x 118 1/8 in. Courtesy of the artist and Metro Pictures, New York. Photo: Erin Fletcher

Claire Fontaine. This Neon Sign Was Made By…, 2009; back-painted neon, 6400k glass, cables, fixtures and transformers; 19 11/16 x 118 1/8 in. Courtesy of the Artist and Metro Pictures, New York. Photo: Erin Fletcher.

As a whole, the exhibition doesn’t seek to be subversive in its mode of delivery or to propose solutions to the underlying tensions that are activated. However, several of the works use activist tactics, or use their cultural position as art to create commentary on ethics. A tone of doubt and mistrust toward the international banking system is set by Superflex’s Bankrupt Banks (2008–present). Seventeen oversize panels list the names of all the banks, as on a mass grave, that collapsed due to the financial crisis. Between each panel is a banner (thirteen in total) of an iconic image that was part of a bank’s branding, meant to build trust but now stripped of a name and institutional affiliation to back up the promise. These line the halls outside of the galleries like tapestries, and visitors pass them as they enter and exit. In Insertions Into Ideological Circuits 2: Banknote Project (1970/2014), Cildo Miereles uses currency for its ability to circulate stamped messages and questions that would be censored in everyday speech by a dictatorship.

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Los Angeles

Hammer Projects: N. Dash at The Hammer Museum

N. Dash’s solo exhibit at the Hammer Museum begins with a series of Duratrans transparencies displaying magnified wreaths of frayed fabric in architectural light boxes. Her work, which faces the open and airy courtyard of the Los Angeles museum, was presented in conjunction with the Mandala of Compassion for two weeks, a live exhibit in which Tibetan Buddhist monks constructed a sacred mandala using colored sands and methods passed down over two millennia. It’s a lovely coincidence that Mandala of Compassion and N. Dash’s work were featured around the same time: They converged harmoniously in their emphasis on creative process, organic materials, and the ultimate impermanence of matter.

N. Dash. Untitled, 2014 (detail); gelatin silver print. Courtesy of the Artist. Photo: The Hammer Museum.

N. Dash. Hammer Projects: N. Dash, 2014; installation view, Los Angeles. Courtesy of the Artist. Photo: N. Dash.

Dash’s floor-to-ceiling light boxes illuminate the pale wreaths of fibers floating in a cool, aqueous light that ripples almost undetectably. These suspended fibers were deconstructed by her hands over many hours in her daily routine, and she began photographing the twists of fabric in 2002 to make a physical record of her creative energy.

The documentation of her process through physical objects continues upstairs in the vault gallery with silver gelatin prints of various worked fabrics, each a testament and witness to the invisible but powerful reality of creative energy. These prints are featured beside her larger works made of adobe, indigo, jute, oil, graphite, wood, linen, and string, some of which are stapled directly into the museum wall in order to show each individual work’s journey through different spaces. Dash is particularly interested in “wear,” the accumulation of texture of an object as it passes through different spaces.

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From the Archives

From the Archives – #Hashtags: Divide//Conquer: Artists Confront the Gentrification of Urban Space

Today from the archives we bring you a look back at Anuradha Vikram’s assessment of gentrification, power, and artistic protest. She notes, “The great tragedy of gentrification—which its proponents appear not to recognize—is that groups that are displaced can never be reunited in another, more affordable location.” This article was originally published on October 21, 2013.

Mail Order Brides/M.O.B. (Jenifer Wofford, Reanne Estrada, Eliza Barrios). Manananggoogle, 2013. Multimedia installation including website and photographs. Commissioned by the San Jose Museum of Art with support from The James Irvine Foundation and MetLife Foundation.

Mail Order Brides/M.O.B. (Jenifer Wofford, Reanne Estrada, Eliza Barrios). Manananggoogle, 2013. Multimedia installation including website and photographs. Commissioned by the San Jose Museum of Art with support from The James Irvine Foundation and MetLife Foundation.

#gentrification #displacement #race #class #technology #industry #neo-colonialism

To understand why artists are compelled to participate in these struggles, first consider how gentrification occurs. An area subject to prolonged neglect is often the only affordable location for recent immigrants, the working poor, and other marginalized groups to reside. Their presence fosters further civic neglect, as these are groups with minimal political clout who remain invisible to many politicians and business leaders. Many artists of note have emerged from within these ostracized communities, informed by their vernacular traditions, and inspired to create positive images and messages to counter the symptoms of neglect. In recent history, these have included founders of graffiti art, mural art, performance art, and interventionist art movements that have transformed mainstream art discourse. Other artists move into these areas because they too have limited means, and find not only cheap rents but a sense of safety in community to guard against the hardships of urban poverty. Eventually, the energizing force of artistic creation helps to revive these atrophied regions despite the lack of civic or capital investment, at which point developers take notice and begin to snatch up the remaining inexpensive or abandoned properties. Those newly renovated properties are marketed to the professional class with the vibrant local culture as a major selling point. As upscale residents move in, the creators whose works helped create interest in these areas often find themselves priced out along with their less affluent neighbors.

Any conversation among artists these days is bound to turn to the question of gentrification—the process of urban renewal by private developers that ultimately displaces poor residents in favor of the upwardly mobile. Modernism in art has always accompanied displacement of poor citizens from city centers, from the time of the Impressionists when Georges-Eugène Haussmann refashioned Paris, to the remaking of Manhattan as a banker’s playground under committed arts philanthropist Michael Bloomberg. As the present-day wealth gap spreads and assets are increasingly concentrated in the hands of the wealthiest Americans, artists and activists find themselves on the front lines of a battle to preserve the characteristics of ethnic and bohemian neighborhoods nationwide from the homogenizing forces of corporate culture.

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Shotgun Reviews

Ehren Tool: One Death Is a Tragedy at Pro Arts 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, Amanda N. Simons reviews Ehren Tool’s solo exhibition One Death Is a Tragedy at Pro Arts Gallery in Oakland, California.

Ehren Tool’s cup-throwing demonstration; Frank Ogawa Plaza, Saturday, Oct. 11, 2014; Pro Arts Gallery, Oakland, California. Courtesy of the Artist and Pro Arts Gallery. Photo: Amanda N. Simons.

Ehren Tool’s cup-throwing demonstration; Frank Ogawa Plaza, Saturday, Oct. 11, 2014; Pro Arts Gallery, Oakland, California. Courtesy of the Artist and Pro Arts Gallery. Photo: Amanda N. Simons.

Ehren Tool’s 2 x 2 Solos exhibition, One Death Is a Tragedy at Pro Arts Gallery, is about cups. This series of innumerable, hand-thrown ceramic cups is intricately decorated with low-relief stamps, muted colors, and image transfers that deliver liberal criticism of the American war machine, bank bailouts, and police gun violence. Simple, charged, and effective, these carefully handcrafted pieces hold their own as aesthetically pleasing objects of anti-propaganda. However, each Saturday during the exhibition, the artist offers an additional layer to the work—himself as an interactive interface for demonstration and conversation, and ultimately, as a means to unexpectedly take home a piece of art without the burden of monetary exchange.

During his last public appearance, without signage or advertizing, Tool was seated at a manual potter’s wheel in Oakland’s Frank Ogawa Plaza, making more cups. Despite the afternoon heat, he sat in the shadow of a small canopy tent in a long-sleeve shirt, jeans, and heavy work boots. Layers of quickly drying gray mud coated, cracked, and flaked from his skin and clothes as he kicked the wheel, pushing and pulling clay forms in an enthralling rhythm. Cup after cup covered the surfaces around him. Tool’s intermittent audience consisted mostly of passersby: a mother with two small children, an Oakland police officer on a bike, a man on his way to the bank, a man collecting cans. Some asked questions, and others just watched as Tool made polite conversation, and when prompted, also shared his resolute but genuine viewpoints on the personal costs of military service. At the end of the conversation, Tool invited the stranger to go into the gallery and choose a cup from the exhibition to take home: a simple gesture, and an invitation that prompts a new perspective. The question of ownership prompts the viewer to reevaluate the worth of the objects, consider their use value, and also to honor just one out of the overwhelming number of cups displayed.

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San Francisco

Everything is Intertwined: Jay Kinney’s Gnosis Magazine

On Wednesday, the forty-eight-year-old San Francisco Bay Guardian announced that it would shut its doors, effective immediately. A report on the Bay Area blog SFist quotes SFBG publisher Glenn Zuehls as saying, “Unfortunately, [...] the obstacles for a profitable Bay Guardian are too great to overcome.” This, despite the SFBG’s wide popularity and the vast wealth that exists in the region

The circumstances of this terminus are echoed in an interview between Art Papers‘ Editor/Artistic Director Victoria Camblin and Jay Kinney, the founder of the journal Gnosis, which operated in San Francisco from 1985 to 1999. In the excerpt below, the two discuss spirituality, technology, and alternative publishing. This article was originally published in the Sept/Oct 2014 issue of Art Papers.

left to right: Bijou Funnies #1 (Fall 1968), illustration Jay Lynch; page from Bijou Funnies #1 (Fall 1968) [all images courtesy Jay Kinney]

Left to right: Bijou Funnies #1 (Fall 1968), illustration by Jay Lynch;
page from Bijou Funnies #1 (Fall 1968). Images courtesy Jay Kinney.

Gnosis was a print quarterly devoted to Western esotericism. It closed 15 years ago, around the time of Silicon Valley’s first dot-com boom. Here, Jay Kinney, the journal’s founder, speaks about Gnosis’ genesis, its contributions to the field of occult and spiritual studies, and its relationship to technology. Gnosis was a special-interest magazine conceived in northern California alongside the first Macintosh computers and laser printers; among many other things, it is an example of a seldom discussed shared history between alternative press and the development of the technologies that have been seen both to enable and to undermine it. [...]

Victoria Camblin: I have this theory that society’s interest in esoterica spikes during periods of technological progress. In the late 19th century you had an Industrial Revolution, and you also had a resurgence of occult societies, the tarot came back, the mysteries of Ancient Egypt were all the rage. Now, with the tech industry boom, you have dot-commers going to healing ceremonies, and so on. I can’t help but think of the paths of the Whole Earth team: one direction gave us Wired, and the other, Gnosis, as though technology and inner traditions came out of the margins together.

Jay Kinney: Gnosis was certainly a continuation of the underground media in the 60s and early 70s, when you had cultural permission to make untraditional or alternative publications, and the sense that there might well be enough of an audience so you could get by. Underground newspapers were also made feasible by the fact that you had web offset presses starting to become available all over the country. If the printers weren’t totally freaked out by the content, then you had relatively cheap means to publish a weekly newspaper. So the underground press really benefited from that technological development.

VC: Did that impact the format, too?

JK: I more or less based the first issues of Gnosis on Weirdo magazine, which was published by Last Gasp [an underground comix publisher] and had been edited for several years by R. Crumb. I basically used the same page size, the same cover stock and interior paper, and we could gang up color covers in the same press run: Gnosiscould do a cover run with an issue of Weirdo or some other Last Gasp publication. So my involvement with underground comix made it possible to fit Gnosis into an arrangement with the printer where we only had to pay for half or a quarter of the color cover run. In terms of industrial or cultural changes, the first issue of Gnosis coincided with the year Aldus introduced the PageMaker page-makeup software, which we used to do one or two of the articles in the very first issue of Gnosis. We were one of the first magazines on newsstands to have desktop-published layouts.

VC: That’s incredible for an independent special-interest magazine. Were these alternative publications at the technological forefront just because of your proximity to the tech industry in California?

JK: Well, Stewart Brand had the idea of jumping on the bandwagon with PCs and Macs, which were just starting in 1984. He got in tight with the PR firm that was promoting the very first Macintosh, so I had the opportunity through Whole Earth to get one of the first 128K Macs at a discount—though it was still something like $3,500 bucks—to get the first Apple laser printer, and a beta version of PageMaker that had been provided to Whole Earth to try out and review in anticipation of its imminent release. I was the one who ended up learning PageMaker and doing a sort of trial run on it for a section of The Whole Earth Software Catalog, which came together around that time. I have to say, the beta version of PageMaker that I was working with was maddening. It would crash every two minutes, I would have to save constantly or I would lose my work—and I was saving to floppy discs!

Read the full interview here.