Fan Mail

Fan Mail: John Tierney

John Tierney’s paintings have a distinct relationship to cinema. Hollywood, California, and the greater Los Angeles area are awash in a rich and intense light that seems to linger over everything with an endless glow, a light as potent as the dreams and realities of fame and stardom promised by the movie companies that populate the city. For a representational painter such as Tierney, the kind of light and environment that Los Angeles offers is irresistible. Tierney’s paintings all exude a deft and consistent touch that creates flattened yet realistic planes, and a seemingly airbrushed texture that mirrors the textures of the objects depicted.

John Tierney. Elvis is on the Building, Palm Springs, 2013; oil on canvas; 20 x 16 inches. Courtesy of the artist.

John Tierney. Elvis Is on the Building, Palm Springs, 2013; oil on canvas; 20 x 16 in. Courtesy of the Artist.

Tierney’s paintings capture the capacities and fallacies of images to both concretize and mystify. These mystifiers are not problematic for Tierney, merely interesting and somewhat opportune. The artist explains: “Edward Hopper once referred to grasping the ‘surprise and accidents of nature.’ While my position is, in this sense, congruent with his, I am also interested in grasping the surprise and accidents of photographs—light and shade, movement, the deportment of people. In short, engaging with the serendipity inherent in a photographic image.” Elvis Aaron Presley is a potent symbol of the draw of stardom, and of the power of Hollywood and the music industry to create near-mythological figures out of ordinary people. In Elvis Is on the Building, Palm Springs (2013), Tierney pairs a mural-size image of Elvis in profile, instantly recognizable, with a group of palm trees in hyperrealistic detail growing just behind a house with a roof covered in Spanish ceramic tiles. As Elvis stares back through the picture plane, viewers are reminded that the man the world knew was forged in Memphis and in Hollywood—iconic towns known for producing iconic figures.

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New York

Philippe Parreno: H {N)Y P N(Y} OSIS at the Park Avenue Armory

In Philippe Parreno’s current exhibition, H {N)Y P N(Y} OSIS at the Park Avenue Armory, Danny the Street is a sprawling installation based on a DC Comics character who is a sentient stretch of roadway. The character Danny periodically inserts himself into the architecture of different cities, communicating via puffs of manhole smoke. In Parreno’s installation, Danny has inserted himself inside the Armory as a series of flickering theater marquees along an avenue, his blinking lights meticulously synced with a selection of player pianos and hidden electronic instruments that compose a ghostly gamelan.

Philippe Parreno. H {N)Y P N(Y} OSIS, 2015; installation view, Park Avenue Armory, New York. Photo: James Ewing.

Philippe Parreno. H {N)Y P N(Y} OSIS, 2015; installation view, Park Avenue Armory, New York. Photo: James Ewing.

The marquees in Danny the Street are discrete works that have been lent to the exhibition by prestigious collections, and they come together to form a kind of language mechanism. As a visitor walks down the avenue, Parreno’s Danny seems to plead for communication. This naming of individual pieces that together constitute a larger work positions Parreno always as the curator of his own work. This is Parreno’s signature: to mastermind the installation of his exhibition in such a way that its sheer presence becomes the art object. What constitutes the work thus flits around the room, sometimes identifiable in a single piece and sometimes ensconced in the performance of the viewer’s attendance. What’s so marvelous about Danny the Street—both the installation and its source material—is that both things are thus defined by identities that should disqualify their existence. A street is not a person; an experience is not an object. Yet here, they defiantly are.

As I walk down the installation’s “Street” to the “Bleachers,” an enormous rotating platform of scaffolding and risers designed to be a cinema’s seating area, I witness spectators who can’t help but become transformed into part of Parreno’s work. Visitors lounge on the different levels of the risers, silhouetted against the massive video screen at the back of the space. Some stand, some casually lean, some crouch and peer forward. Their poses are so beautiful—these bodies on multiple levels of rotating scaffolds—I think they must be staged.

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New Orleans

Ten Years Gone at the New Orleans Museum of Art

In the aftermath of a catastrophe, memorialization and remembrance are inevitably tied to forms of forgetting. These often take the shape of reactionary modes that proclaim an urgent desire to smooth over the eruptive, unresolved conflicts that shape our collective past and place them into digestible modes of representation.[1] However, for the communities that bear witness to the impact of a disastrous event, forgetting is impossible, as the harsh realities of the event continue to manifest themselves economically, socially, geographically, and spiritually.

Christopher Saucedo. World Trade Center as a Cloud (No. 5). 2011. Linen pulp on cotton paper. 60 x 40 inches. Image courtesy of the artist.

Christopher Saucedo. World Trade Center as a Cloud (No. 5), 2011; linen pulp on cotton paper; 60 x 40 in. Courtesy of the Artist.

The New Orleans Museum of Art’s current exhibition Ten Years Gone—timed to coincide with the tenth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina—draws attention to the phenomenological fabric of disaster by making powerful connections between the messy temporal structures that animate traumatic events, cycles of life, and art itself. Despite strong aesthetic and contextual differences between the six artists chosen for the exhibition, curator Russell Lord has woven together a polyphonic conversation that explores disaster as a way to understand tragedy as something forever in the process of becoming. Here, time oscillates between the roles of organizing principle, conceptual conceit, and metaphor for the untidy “unfinished-ness” that often marks complex events, as the potency and infallibility of art to fully re-present the past is explored with vigor.

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Seattle

CONSTRUCT\S at the Wing Luke Museum

CONSTRUCT\S: Installations by Asian Pacific American Women Artists at the Wing Luke Museum is a journey into the lives and minds of six artists who employ a range of media and creative tactics to explore sociocultural identity, familial history, and locality. The exhibition does not claim to be a comprehensive survey of “Asian Pacific American art.” Rather, it provides an array of entry points into a textured conversation, opening up meaningful dialogue on subjectivity and ethnicity through idiosyncratic impressions, experiences, and ideas. CONSTRUCT\S intends for each of the five artworks to be experienced as autonomous, immersive installations. Provocative and emotionally steeped, the pieces read as portraits, revealing the ways in which each artist navigates and makes space for herself in the world.

Lynne Yamamoto. Whither House, 2015; installation; dimensions variable. Courtesy of the Wing Luke Museum. Photo: Toryan Dixon.

Lynne Yamamoto. Whither House, 2015; installation; dimensions variable. Courtesy of the Wing Luke Museum. Photo: Toryan Dixon.

Lynne Yamamoto’s Whither House (2015) is a towering, ghostly white apparition that aggressively bisects the gallery from floor to ceiling. The piece is a monument to the makeshift housing used by Japanese American farmers of the early 20th century. Despite systematic evictions from the land, Japanese Americans cultivated a social and cultural life proving that settlement can be born out of itinerancy. The tent-like dwelling symbolizes the profound impact of this group of immigrants—and their internment—on the history of U.S. agriculture. Circling Yamamoto’s structure, one will find no doorway—no way in. Viewers are relegated to the exterior of the piece, left to marvel at the ripples in the garment-like walls as they levitate just inches above the floor. A looming specter, Whither House honors ephemerality, and the motivation for a community to establish itself in the wake of being disowned.

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Help Desk

Help Desk: Selling Out

Help Desk is an arts-advice column that demystifies practices for artists, writers, curators, collectors, patrons, and the general public. Submit your questions anonymously here. All submissions become the property of Daily Serving.

I am a painter who rarely makes any money directly from my work. Recently a design firm approached me about a project that involves artists painting on small refrigerators from which energy drinks will be sold. There will be a gallery exhibition of these fridges before they are distributed to various retail outlets in major cities around the country. The pay is pretty good, though not what I would ideally get for a painting of that size, and the designer assured me that there would be a lot of exposure for my work as each artist’s name and website will be on their fridge. I don’t buy this particular energy drink so I’m a little uncomfortable with the implication that I endorse the product, but I would really like to get some money for my painting and I like the idea of national exposure for my work. I’m also afraid that I will be “selling out” and this will cause me to be judged negatively by my peers. Will I be committing an ethical transgression if I participate in this promotion? Will I be judged harshly? Is there some thing I am missing that makes this project qualitatively different from the old Absolut Vodka ads that featured fine artists?

Installation view: Tony Conrad. Two Degrees of Separation, Kunsthalle Wien 2014, Photo: Stephan Wyckoff: Grommet Horn, ca. 1970, Replik 2014, Courtesy the artist and Galerie Buchholz, Berlin/Cologne

Installation view: Tony Conrad. Two Degrees of Separation, Kunsthalle Wien, 2014, Photo: Stephan Wyckoff: Grommet Horn, ca. 1970, Replik 2014. Courtesy of the Artist and Galerie Buchholz.

Let me start by saying that notions of selling out or being judged harshly should have no bearing on your decision. Instead, let’s ask a different question, one that’s lurking under the surface of the ones you’ve written: What kind of artist do you want to be? Because the answer to this question is also the answer to every other opportunity that will ever come your way, whether it’s pitched to you by an ad man hawking sports drinks or the Guggenheim Bilbao.

And you can answer the question—What kind of artist do you want to be?—by asking yourself some other questions: What’s most important to you? What do you think art is for? Who are your art heroes? Do you want to paint because it frees your soul and keeps you sane? Do you want to make work in service of other agendas? Imagine your paintings on a fridge or a T-shirt or a cellphone cover—how would that make you feel?

Whatever the answers to these questions are, you must own them. Don’t worry about what anyone else might think. If you decide that artistic freedom is really important to you, then you probably won’t feel comfortable working within the confines of an advertising campaign. If you decide that it would be fun to collaborate with designers and advertisers, then do it. When your peers judge you—and I guarantee they will, because their answers to these questions would be different, and because the art world is, at every level, filled with snobs—you can just chuckle gently to yourself while strolling to the bank to deposit another check. There is no right or wrong way to go about being an artist, and no matter which path you choose, someone will undoubtedly have the opinion that you chose poorly. Screw ’em.

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Shotgun Reviews

Synecdoche at Jessica Silverman 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, Hana Metzger reviews Synecdoche at Jessica Silverman Gallery in San Francisco. 

Tony Lewis. Automatic, 2015; Pencil, graphite powder and tape on paper; 83 3/4 x 71 1/2 in. Courtesy of the Artist; Shane Campbell Gallery, Chicago; Massimo De Carlo, London/Milan, and Jessica Silverman Gallery, San Francisco.

Tony Lewis. Automatic, 2015; Pencil, graphite powder, and tape on paper; 83 3/4 x 71 1/2 in. Courtesy of the Artist; Shane Campbell Gallery, Chicago; Massimo De Carlo, London/Milan; and Jessica Silverman Gallery, San Francisco.

Synecdoche, an exhibition at Jessica Silverman Gallery featuring twelve works by five artists, borrows its title from rhetoric, with each work to be read as a smaller piece of a larger narrative or theme. A trope that is easily defined verbally (examples include “all hands on deck” or “the meeting was full of suits”), synecdoche is more cerebral when applied to visual art.

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Toronto

Lorna Mills and Her Subversive GIF Art

From our friends at Canadian Art, today we bring you a feature on the Toronto-based artist Lorna Mills. Author Simon Lewsen (@SimonLewsen) notes, “The intensity of Mills’ art is rooted not just in the proliferation of images but also in their strange choreography.” This article was originally published on July 1, 2015.

Lorna Mills. Abrupt Diplomat (still from GIF), 2015. Courtesy of Transfer Gallery.

Lorna Mills. Abrupt Diplomat (still from GIF), 2015. Courtesy of Transfer Gallery.

In the fall of 2014, Lorna Mills, the Toronto-based net artist, was exhibiting at Dubai’s Zayed University and struggling to appease the censors. She couldn’t show work with images of masturbation, women humping blowup dolphins, or men sticking their dicks into trumpet bells—hefty restrictions for an artist like Mills. One of her pieces featured an image of John Lennon and Yoko Ono during their 1969 bed-in. The official at Zayed hemmed and hawed—“They’re fully dressed, but they are in bed”—and eventually accepted the work on the grounds that the characters are married.

Mills’ art is exuberantly raunchy, but so is much of the internet. Her medium—the graphic interchange format, or GIF, a lightweight digital motion-picture technology—is about as old as the World Wide Web itself. She sources the footage for her hyperactive collages from user-moderated forums like Reddit, troll caves like 4chan, humor sites featuring bloopers from porn films (called pornfails), and oddball Russian domains that are teeming with nasty internet detritus. “Russian sites are really bad, by which I mean really good,” says Mills. Her collages feature grainy images of humans and animals, all of them moving (read: breathing, gesticulating, fucking) in jerky, repetitive motions. She disseminates her work mostly through electronic platforms, including Google Plus, social-networking application Ello, and Digital Media Tree, an eclectic blog operated by New York programmer Jim Bassett.

Read the full article here.

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