Shotgun Reviews

Tales of Our Time at the Solomon R. Guggenheim 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, Lux Yuting Bai assesses Tales of Our Time at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum.

Sun Yuan and Peng Yu Can't Help Myself (2016) in Tales of Our Time at the Solomon R. Guggenheim, New York.

Sun Yuan and Peng Yu Can’t Help Myself (2016) in Tales of Our Time at the Solomon R. Guggenheim, New York.

Launched by the Robert H.N. Ho Family Foundation Chinese Art Initiative at the Guggenheim, Tales of Our Time aims to challenge traditional notions of place and history through diverse forms of storytelling. In preparation for the show, curators Xiaoyu Weng and Hou Hanru traveled across China in search of avant-garde artists outside of the mainstream who actively engage with social issues. Eight selected artists from a wide range of backgrounds examine and interrogate social-political realities in contemporary Greater China. Despite the vast differences in media, style, and perspective of the works, the exhibition engages its audience in an effortless flow of narratives like a collection of exhilarating short stories, offering gripping plots, surprising twists, and satisfying climaxes.

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Fan Mail

Fan Mail: Ludovic Duchâteau

Ludovic Duchâteau’s work presents visions of ambivalent technologies, uncannily inert and uncertain in their impotence. His objects are often scattered and sprawled along gallery floors or empty streets as if discarded or depleted. Their forms resemble our technological objects and fantasies, and imagery from science fiction. They look almost like crashed alien probes or satellites, disconnected from their users or power sources, vaguely threatening in their unfamiliarity but pitiable in their vulnerability. It is unclear whether one’s recognition of a prone form is an accurate reading of the object. The effect is a careful negotiation of the space around the objects, a mingling of curiosity and anxiety one might imagine experiencing in encounters with alien technology.

Ludovic Duchâteau. Prepper, 2014; plastic, epoxy, plaster, latex, copper, steel, acrylic; approx. 80 x 80 in. Courtesy of the Artist.

Ludovic Duchâteau. Prepper, 2014; plastic, epoxy, plaster, latex, copper, steel, acrylic; approx. 80 x 80 in. Courtesy of the Artist.

But Duchâteau’s work is a commentary not so much on technology but rather on technological fantasy. As digital and machine technologies become more complex, the objects become harder to interpret by visual analysis alone—who knows what really goes on among all those circuits and cables? In effect, high-tech objects may as well be alien to those who do not recognize their function. Visual interpretation fails to give sufficient information; what’s left is the visceral sensation, a viewer’s physical reaction to the object. If one cannot trust one’s senses to analyze an object or situation, the only recourse is ambivalence, a tension held indefinitely between fear and curiosity, security and danger. Duchâteau’s dejected sci-fi probes are the detritus of uncertain fantasies, a constant vacillation between the threat of technological power, the impotence of technological failure, and the inability to distinguish them.
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Atlanta

Mixed Use by Jess Jones and Gaudi-Juju by Lillian Blades at Swan Coach House Gallery

Dual presentations of artists can often result in hasty hierarchies of “better vs. worse” or “master vs. apprentice.” However, the recent exhibition of Jess Jones’ and Lillian Blades’ work at Atlanta’s Swan Coach House Gallery tosses all that patriarchal competitive comparison out the door by presenting the strength of their individual practices, as well as their shared interest in the history and procedures of craft.[1] With deep investments in the art of quilting, Jones and Blades each find distinctive ways to bring the historical into dialogue with the personal, and the built environment into dialogue with the natural.

Jess Jones. Topoquilt: Peoplestown, 2016; found quilt top (by unknown artist) hand-dyed silk organza; 77 x 64 inches. Image courtesy of the artist and Swan Coach House Gallery (Atlanta, GA).

Jess Jones. Topoquilt: Peoplestown, 2016; found quilt top (by unknown artist), hand-dyed silk organza; 77 x 64 in. Courtesy of the Artist and Swan Coach House Gallery.

Hung on the walls of the galleries like paintings, Jess Jones’ quilts honor the piecemeal nature of the quilting practice as a way to engage with her own personal circumstances as an artist living in a city in flux. Jones scavenges for worn quilt tops—either abandoned or forgotten by their original makers—from thrift shops across the Atlanta metro area, and then operates upon these lost materials, granting them new life when they enter her studio. Fragile, unfinished documents of the original quilter’s intentions, style, and technique, these handmade textiles hold within them a partial history. Embroidered upon the original piecing, Jones’ careful additions expand the possibilities of the quilt’s life while opening up our traditional understanding of the ethics of collaboration across spatio-temporal divides and authorship between individual makers. Working on (and with) these quilts, Jones mines a gap between the initial maker and herself, and between the beginning and the end of an object’s life.

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Los Angeles

Breaking News: Turning the Lens on Mass Media at the Getty Center

Journalism is experiencing a crisis of confidence as of late, with long-running mainstream sources being labeled “fake news,” while extremist propaganda mills are hailed as harbingers of the truth. Although this specific quandary may be unprecedented, the concept that the news should be viewed with a healthy skepticism—considering from where and whom it comes—is nothing new. People living under regimes that lack a free press are often more dubious of the stories coming out of their state-sanctioned newspapers than we are in supposedly liberal democracies. The idea of “fake news” itself supposes that there is a “real news” somewhere, that there is a paper or a broadcast that will provide the truth, as opposed to a spectrum of news sources, each with their own biases and perspectives. Featuring photography and video spanning almost fifty years—from the Vietnam War to the War on Terror—the exhibition Breaking News: Turning the Lens on Mass Media at the Getty Center couldn’t be more timely, showing that artists have been questioning the veracity of “the media” since well before our current outrage over “alternative facts.”

Donald R. Blumberg. Untitled from the series Daily Photographs, 1969–1970, 1969–1970; Gelatin silver print, 16 1/2 X 23 1/2 in. Courtesy of the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles.

Donald R. Blumberg. Untitled from the series Daily Photographs, 1969–1970; gelatin silver print; 16 1/2 x 23 1/2 in. Courtesy of the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles.

Much of the work in the show simply reproduces images from print and televised media, reframing them in subtle but meaningful ways. In the series Daily Photographs 1969–1970, Donald Blumberg photographs newspaper pages, focusing on images related to the Vietnam War while including surrounding text and advertisements. The works reveal the newspaper as a subjective nexus of interrelated information and opinions, instead of as an objective assemblage of discreet facts. His Television Political Mosaics and Television Abstractions (1968–69) are created similarly by photographing evening broadcasts on the television screen. Images of politicians, including Nixon and LBJ, are arranged either in orderly grids or in more chaotic compositions that threaten the intended stability of their original messages. In some works, Blumberg uses darkroom techniques such as solarization to give these familiar faces a more sinister appearance.

Japanese artist Masao Mochizuki also turns his camera towards the television, reproducing images on tightly composed grids in his Television series (1975–76). Mochizuki’s works, however, lack any of Blumberg’s authorial voice. With each frame taken at regularly timed intervals, his composite images do not discriminate between show credits, program drama, or advertisements. The images are all laid out as a constant stream of information and are reproduced at an intimate, miniature scale to draw viewers in, forcing them to actively gaze at content that might otherwise be passively absorbed.

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Odd Jobs

Odd Jobs: Jade Gordon/My Barbarian

Odd Jobs is a column exploring artists’ varied and untraditional career arcs. For this installment, I spoke with Jade Gordon. She earned an MA in Applied Theater from University of Southern California (USC), has taught at California Institute of the Arts (CalArts) and the Stella Adler Academy, and is a co-owner of Wombleton Records. In 2000, with Malik Gaines and Alexandro Segade, she formed My Barbarian, an art collective that uses performance to explore social difficulties, theatricalize historic problems, and imagine ways of being together. My Barbarian has presented its work in many museums—including the Museum of Modern Art; the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art—as well as at two Performa Biennials, two California Biennials, the Biennale de Montréal, and the Whitney Biennial. The collective has received awards from the Foundation for Contemporary Art, Creative Capital, Art Matters, and the City of Los Angeles.

My Barbarian. Double Agency: Episode 2: A Critical Eye, 2015 (video still); HD with sound; 7:30. Courtesy of the Artist and Susanne Vielmetter Projects.

My Barbarian. Double Agency: Episode 2: A Critical Eye, 2015 (video still); HD with sound; 7:30. Courtesy of the Artist and Susanne Vielmetter Projects.

Jade Gordon: Before we started My Barbarian, I was an actress on TV. I was on That 70s Show—not like a series regular, but I did a lot of television, and I did a lot of indie films. I had dropped out of college to be an actress. I had come back from going to school on the East Coast, was auditioning, and doing acting stuff. And around that time, I met Alex and Malik through a mutual friend.

Calder Yates: I hadn’t realized you guys started off as an art band.

JG: For lack of a better word, we were a band, but it was really about access to performance space. We started out performing at little gallery spaces or at people’s houses. But we realized that when you were a band, you get access to a stage, you get paid or get free drinks, an audience is built in, and you have an hour on stage to do whatever you want. You don’t have to produce the event or rent the space like you would with theater.

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Interviews

Curating in an Era of Change: In Conversation With E. Jane

Today from our friends at ARTS.BLACK we bring you the third installment of author Ashley Stull Meyers’ series Curating in an Era of Change.  In this iteration of the work, Meyers interviews conceptual artist E. Jane. They discuss the internet as exhibition space, academia, and navigating the art world—and the world at large—as Black women. E. Jane states, “I think the social media feed has some Utopian possibility inside of art, in that the artist, especially artists whose cultural groups are socially dispossessed, has more agency and access than inside the gallery and can reach more publics that may be afraid or intimidated by traditional art spaces.” This article was originally published in 2016.

E. Jane. Notes on softness, 2016, NewHive site.

E. Jane. Notes on Softness, 2016; NewHive site.

Ashley Stull Meyers: You’ve catalyzed the internet so well in both your work as an artist and in personal efforts to talk about problems in Contemporary Art. Can you talk about the importance of the internet as a platform for you? Is it the best mode for visibility and reach, or is your love for it something else entirely?

E. Jane: In some ways the internet has always been my primary platform for communication. I’ve been on a computer since I was four, and I think I came to consciousness there. I think the internet makes reality feel malleable or shapeable in some way; platforms like newhive are making it easy to express art ideas on the web without needing to code.

ASM: Conceptually, though, is it a large part of your thinking? You’ve housed several projects on Instagram, and hashtags like “#cindygate” and “#notyetdead” have crowdsourced a discourse for the issues you raise in a way that may not be as far-reaching otherwise.

EJ: The internet is a site to think,  and I do think about its role in my work and in our world, but it’s more embedded into my reality than something I think about daily. I think about the internet as a site to make work and the abilities that that space allows, as well as its limitations. Early on in grad school, I had more hope about the internet as a safe space, but the safety there is contingent on so many things—security settings, offline networks, etc.—and so, I’m still searching for that real safe space Black women and femmes can go, while also utilizing the internet as a place to disseminate certain works and ideas rapidly.

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Shotgun Reviews

Japanese Photography from Postwar to Now at SFMOMA

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, Max Blue assesses Japanese Photography from Postwar to Now at SFMOMA.

Tsunehisa Kimura, Americanism, 1982; photomontage; 15 1/4 x 19 1/4 in. (38.74 x 48.9 cm); promised gift of a private collection to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; © Estate of Tsunehisa Kimura

Tsunehisa Kimura. Americanism, 1982; photomontage; 15 1/4 x 19 1/4 in. Promised gift of a private collection to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. © Estate of Tsunehisa Kimura.

When viewing any retrospective of work, patterns emerge. Visiting Japanese Photography from Postwar to Now, it was starkly apparent how entrenched the residual effects of World War II remain in Japanese culture. Indeed, much of the work in the exhibition evoked Americana. Fetish, in the sexual sense, emerged as one noticeable pattern in the exhibition, such as in Kiyoji Ostuji’s Objet, which portrays a faceless, nude woman, her body-as-parts isolated and fetishized, and Nobuyoshi Araki’s series, KaoRi by 20 x 24 Instant Film, which read, on a certain level, as glamorized pinups. What does this fetishization show us about the intersubjective gazes of artists and beholders in postwar Japan?

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