Melbourne

Who’s Afraid of Colour? at the National Gallery of Victoria

In Who’s Afraid of Colour?, likely the largest exhibition ever of its kind, the National Gallery of Victoria (NGV) Australia is acknowledging and actively working to correct the institutional erasure of Australian Indigenous art, “the world’s longest continuing art tradition,” which has endured for some 40,000 years. The exhibition includes 200 artworks by 118 artists, all of whom are Australian Indigenous women. Since the beginning of the continent’s colonization, Indigenous peoples’ artworks have been denied their rightful place within the Australian art scene. Sentiments finally began to change in the 1960s, after centuries, but Indigenous women were still steadily excluded. The NGV itself is guilty of mounting a survey of over 300 Indigenous artworks in 1981 and not crediting a single female artist.[1]

Who’s Afraid of Colour?, National Gallery of Victoria, 2016-2017; installation view. Courtesy of The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Melbourne. Photo: Wayne Taylor.

Who’s Afraid of Colour?, National Gallery of Victoria, 2016-2017; installation view. Courtesy of the Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Melbourne. Photo: Wayne Taylor.

Nevertheless, Australian Indigenous women artists have worked hard to earn their growing recognition, marked by a number of significant milestones including Emily Kam Kngwarray, Yvonne Koolmatrie, and Judy Watson representing Australia at the Venice Biennale in 1997; the first sale for over $1,000,000 at auction of Kngwarray’s Earth’s Creation in 2007; and this year, the selection of Tracey Moffatt to represent Australia in the first Indigenous woman’s solo exhibition at the Venice Biennale.

The large-scale exhibition at the NGV presents the full spectrum of contemporary Australian Indigenous art. Numerous woven baskets, necklaces, ceramics, and string bags—objects that might be considered craft in other contexts—are all included, and rightfully so, since craft and utilitarian works are defined as art objects in the Indigenous art discourse. Across most Indigenous cultures, the act of making art objects and paintings using traditional methods is a way to enter into Dreamtime, a nonlinear, expansive dimension of space and time wherein the landscape, objects, animals, and human beings were once created, and where all ancestors and events continue to exist throughout time. Howard Morphy describes how across Indigenous cultures, “Art established a line of connection with the foundational events and enabled people to maintain contact with the spiritual dimension of existence… [Art] keeps the past alive and maintains its relevance to the present.”[4]

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San Francisco

In Memoriam: Leigh Markopoulos

Today we honor the life and work of Leigh Markopoulos (1968–2017): art critic, curator, instructor, and friend and contributor to Daily Serving and our sister publication Art Practical. It is an understatement to say that Leigh was admired; she was loved in the way that only great mentors and friends are loved—fiercely, and without reservation. What follows are brief remembrances of a few of her former students and colleagues who are connected to our publications; without a doubt, this represents only a small sample of the many lives Leigh touched, but we hope it provides some sense of her enormous contributions to the community. We offer our sincere sympathies to all who mourn her loss. 

Leigh Markopoulos. Image courtesy of Peta Rake.

Leigh Markopoulos. Image courtesy of Peta Rake.

Ashley Stull Meyers:

At the too-old age of twenty-two I cried after an exhibition planning meeting. This one had gone worse than most, which is saying something in a small, opinion-filled conference room with thirteen other curators. I exited barely containing hot tears of frustration, doubt, and insecurity. But I didn’t get ten steps without feeling a hand on my back, pushing me across the hall with a force that was equal parts gentle and comedic. “Don’t you DARE!” she said. Leigh’s voice always had the hypnotizing effect of someone a little older, a little cooler, a little closer to what I was floundering to become. I’d felt that way about her since my graduate school interview, and now I’ll feel that way about her forever.

All my life I’ve wanted to be a curator, but I can’t say I truly knew what that was before Leigh. Her grace and academic rigor have been the model for many, but more so were her strength, humor, and commanding presence. She made me laugh that day in her tiny office across the hall. From her keen observation of both my practice and my person, she reordered the way I would come to work. Every exhibition I construct will have her temper, and whatever small marks I make will be in her likeness.

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Hashtags

#Hashtags: The Build Up

#art #community #development #displacement #gentrification #Los Angeles

What is required for art and social justice to coexist within the development of a city? In February, the activist collective known as Boyle Heights Alliance Against Artwashing and Displacement (BHAAAD) made headlines for their picket of gallery 356 S. Mission Road, which occurred during a political organizing meeting called by a group of Los Angeles artists. And earlier in March, Boyle Heights nonprofit art gallery PSSST, which had been the primary target of anti-gentrification protests from BHAAAD, announced their impending closure. BHAAAD has been ardent in their opposition to “artwashing,” which they define as “the role of culture in gentrification,” and both PSSST and BHAAAD cite the protests as part of the reason for the closure. But BHAAAD’s victory is a Pyrrhic one so long as luxury developers and blue-chip art galleries continue to drive the development agenda in downtown LA and the LA River. With respect to priorities such as affordable rent and community investment, what would victory against the galleries mean for the coalition?

Defend Boyle Heights protest against PSSST and artwashing by galleries, May 13, 2016. Images courtesy of Boyle Heights Alliance Against Artwashing and Displacement.

Defend Boyle Heights protest against PSSST and artwashing by galleries, May 13, 2016. Courtesy of Boyle Heights Alliance Against Artwashing and Displacement.

Though catch-all terms such as “gentrification” and “artwashing” tend to frame the argument in simplified terms, the reality is more complicated. PSSST’s founders—Cal Arts MFAs, queer and trans-identified—opened the gallery’s doors in spring 2016 in a space donated by a developer with investments in the neighborhood. East Third Street is mostly industrial, with minimal residential housing, but the neighborhood as a whole is mixed. Historically, Boyle Heights has been an ethnically diverse enclave for Jewish communities in the mid-20th century and Latinx communities in recent decades. PSSST was offered as a site “to create and maintain an artistic community founded on the principle of artists supporting artists” and to focus on “underrepresented artists—women, people of color, LGBTQ-identified.” But according to a statement on the BHAAAD website, “One of the red flags about PSSST was the deep contradiction between the language used to promote the space, and the actual impact that such a space can have on the housing market and on the life of a very low-income community living in constant resistance against displacement.” The contrast between PSSST, housed in a donated and newly outfitted space, and the maintenance failures, rent hikes, and legally questionable evictions that threaten local residents was stark.

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Interviews

Kameelah Rasheed: Who Will Survive in America?

Today, from our friends at Guernica, we bring you a conversation between artist Kameelah Rasheed and author Imani Roach. They talk about the “stutters” and footnotes of history, archiving as art, visibility, and Rasheed’s project How to Suffer Politely (And Other Etiquette). This article was originally published on March 6, 2017.

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Perhaps, while strolling down the sidewalks of New York City, or scanning your Instagram feed, you’ve encountered a thick crop of black block letters set against a neon yellow background that read “Lower the Pitch of Your Suffering,” or “Tell Your Struggle With Triumphant Humor.” If so, you have already been privy to the terse power of Kameelah Janan Rasheed’s art. If you have ever kept a stack of ticket stubs or love letters in a shoebox under your bed, or taken a deep dive into the old issues of Ebony magazine beside your grandmother’s coffee table, then you are also acquainted with the ritualistic source of that power. While Rasheed’s creative process manifests in diverse ways—from slick text-based posters and superimposed projections of Black family photographs to installations comprising hundreds of pieces of ephemera—her interest in mining, complicating, and resurfacing historical narratives persists.

In addition to her various ongoing solo projects, Rasheed recently joined with more than 100 of her peers under the banner of Black Women Artists for Black Lives Matter. This group, originally convened by artist Simone Leigh in conjunction with her 2016 show at the New Museum, has already mounted an impressive slate of performances, workshops, installations, and ritual happenings, all in support of Black life, health, and collective joy. And it is just getting started. As Rasheed, who serves as the group’s official archivist, explains, “We’re really imagining this as a movement of multiple chapters. We are thinking about horizontal organization, honoring people’s capacities, and how every person plays a part in the process.”

Read the full article here.

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Shotgun Reviews

Hammer Projects: Kevin Beasley at the Hammer Museum

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, Colony Little reviews Hammer Projects: Kevin Beasley at the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles.

Chair of the Ministers of Defense, 2016; installation view, Hammer Projects: Kevin Beasley, 2017. Courtesy of the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles. Photo: Brian Forrest. Chair of the Ministers of Defense, 2016; installation view, Hammer Projects: Kevin Beasley, 2017. Courtesy of the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles. Photo: Brian Forrest.

Chair of the Ministers of Defense, 2016; installation view, Hammer Projects: Kevin Beasley, 2017. Courtesy of the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles. Photo: Brian Forrest.

A large black curtain impedes the entrance of Kevin Beasley’s installation at the Hammer Museum. Surveying the theatrics of the curtain’s placement, I was caught between fear and anticipation for what lay behind it. Inside, an empty wicker peacock chair is surrounded by dozens of hovering, colorful cast-resin ghosts. With a spotlight on the chair and an orange-hued window shrouded in cast-iron bars, the scene is imposing. The installation, Chair of the Ministers of Defense (2016), is a staging of one of the Black Panther Party’s most iconic photographs taken in 1967. While the photo is not on view in the gallery, viewers who remember it will likely imagine Huey P. Newton sitting in this chair wearing the infamous tilted black beret and leather jacket and holding a spear and a shotgun in each hand. The installation’s wall text reveals another reference to a monument of divine authority, the Vatican’s gilded Throne of St. Peter (c. 1647–1653) by Bernini. The Panthers’ photo and the Throne of St. Peter are two distinct frames of reference for engaging with Beasley’s work, both evoking strong connotations of power. It was the Panthers’ connection that immediately registered for me.  

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Fan Mail

Fan Mail: Brian Cooper

There is something quite sordid about Brian Cooper’s sculptural installations. The tufted forms in sickly mustard yellows and dark browns seem to ooze over walls, drip down plinths, and pool on aging carpets. As heavy, spreading masses and playful renditions on the theme of corporeality, they are like tactile manifestations of the slow, creeping wave of nausea that comes when one has overstayed an afterparty. However, the installations are not so much commentaries on decadence as they are explorations of pleasure in baseness, visceral depictions of decadent sensation—that ambivalent state between enjoying excess and feeling its negative effects.

Brian Cooper. Meltdown, 2003; wood, upholstery, wall paper, synthetic stuffing, staples, zip ties, chicken wire, covered buttons; 20 x 14 x 14 feet. Courtesy of the Artist.

Brian Cooper. Meltdown, 2003 (front view); wood, upholstery, wall paper, synthetic stuffing, staples, zip ties, chicken wire, covered buttons; 20 x 14 x 14 ft. Courtesy of the Artist.

What’s so enjoyable about Cooper’s upholstered creations is that they are strangely gratifying while being vaguely repulsive. A viewer may experience a desire to lie upon the bulbous mass of Meltdown (2003) while very much wanting to avoid stepping in it. Julia Kristeva’s theory of the abject comes to mind here, in which a subject viscerally rejects that which threatens the sense of symbolic order. This can be manifested in a disgust generated by the presence of vomit or clumps of hair; the disgust itself reasserts the symbolic order between self and other, but the object of the disgust maintains the power of a disruptive force. Cooper’s installations, suggesting a disco-era debauchery, don’t quite reach this point, but they iterate an abjection more closely tied to a sense of consumerist degradation—and are perhaps more poignant for the millennial population.
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Mexico City

Xochiquetzal: Erotismo y Procreación at ArtSpace México

In Georges Bataille’s eroticism, there is little or no place to theorize about feminine transgression. The feminine is absent in his work. Women, for Bataille, occupy the place of God, a promise of connection with the universe. The only problem is that God is dead. Thus, Bataille’s eroticism only shows us a structure for masculine transgressive pleasure that instrumentalizes feminine bodies in order for masculine subjects to experience fleeting glimpses of spiritual continuity through their beloved objects of desire. Bataille’s eroticism is fraught with the irony of this crucial absence and lack. Rürrü Mipanochia’s recent exhibition, Xochiquetzal: Erotismo y Procreación, at ArtSpace México, exploits this lack in order to explore a transgressive feminine pleasure within the very specific cultural and historical context of contemporary Mexico.

Rürrü Mipanochia. Xolotl-pie hecho de bola and Muerte-Xolotl, 2016; acrylic, stylographs, and magic markers on paper; 88 x 75.5 cm and 76 x 120 cm. Courtesy of the artist and Artspace México. Photo: Jorge Gomez del Campo.

Rürrü Mipanochia. Xolotl-pie hecho de bola and Muerte-Xolotl, 2016; acrylic, stylographs, and magic markers on paper; 88 x 75.5 cm and 76 x 120 cm. Courtesy of the artist and Artspace México. Photo: Jorge Gomez del Campo.

The exterior of the gallery features a mural of hybridized animal and human figures in pornographic poses, alongside snakes, birds, and flowers. The partially clothed figures suggest contemporary girly fashions, as well as iconography from pre-Hispanic, Mesoamerican cultures. Mipanochia furthers this jarring mash-up by using bright neon colors and simplified geometric shapes, which together create a playful and irreverent effect. The work actively plays with transgressions of every sort, conflating old and new, human and animal, man and woman, divine and profane.

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