New York

I Dropped the Lemon Tart at Lisa Cooley

Though failure has an unfavorable definition, interpretations of the word fluctuate dramatically between negative and positive connotations, depending on whom you ask. While some people may consider failure as something to avoid at all costs, others recognize—and even welcome—the possibilities that arise when something does not go exactly as planned. The seventeen artists in I Dropped the Lemon Tart at Lisa Cooley examine the many faces of failure, resulting in works that range from cheeky to cynical.

Jenny Holzer. SURVIVAL SERIES: IF YOU AREN'T POLITICAL YOUR PERSONAL LIFE SHOULD BE EXEMPLARY, 1998; cast bronze; 5.1 x 10 in. © Jenny Holzer. Courtesy Artist Rights Society (ARS), Cheim & Read, New York, and Lisa Cooley, New York.

Jenny Holzer. SURVIVAL SERIES: IF YOU AREN’T POLITICAL YOUR PERSONAL LIFE SHOULD BE EXEMPLARY, 1998; cast bronze; 5.1 x 10 in. © Jenny Holzer. Courtesy ofArtist Rights Society (ARS), Cheim & Read, New York, and Lisa Cooley, New York.

The title of the show comes from an anecdote about the Italian chef Massimo Bottura and his sous-chef Takahiko Kondo, who, in one fateful moment, dropped a lemon tart as it was leaving the kitchen to be served. While the terrified Kondo recalls wanting to end his life then and there, Bottura saw in the wrecked dessert a chance for innovation. The tart inspired Bottura to create the now-famous dish (named “Oops, I Dropped the Lemon Tart”), in which the components are scattered across a plate, intentionally disarrayed. In an interview about the event, Kondo reflects that, “in life, to move forward, you learn from mistakes.”[1]

The lessons we are supposed to learn from our mistakes are not always as recognizable as Kondo’s, and the failures in this exhibition aren’t always easily spotted. The press release explains that the show is not meant to celebrate failure but rather to highlight the ways in which it permeates all aspects of being. Taking this statement as a directive, I found myself determining each work a failure or not based on what I would like to believe was informed judgment but was probably more intuition. My examination quickly became tangled, with contradictory trains of thought: If I deem a work a failure, then is it a success within the parameters of the exhibition? Conversely, if a work did not seem enough of a failure, then would it be a success? Can an artwork ever be an absolute failure or success? Needless to say, instead of defining the works on a scale ranging from failure to success, considering the show in this way revealed the arbitrary characteristics by which we qualify something as a failure or not.

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Los Angeles

Hammer Projects: Mary Reid Kelley at Hammer Museum

Now on view at Hammer Museum, Mary Reid Kelley’s videos are a collision of drawing, performance, and wordplay that clatter against Greek mythology to produce a visually spare, lexically rich cycle. Working with videographer Patrick Kelley, the artist has produced three black-and-white videos that follow the story of the half-woman, half-bull Minotaur, her lust-crazed mother Pasiphae, and her helpless sister Ariadne through boldly drawn landscapes. A complex weave of alienation and irreverence burlesques the original stories to create a spectacle that is equal parts tragedy and farce.

Mary Reid Kelley with Patrick Kelley. Priapus Agonistes, 2013 (video still). Single-channel HD video, black and white, sound; 15:09 min. Courtesy of the Artists; Susanne Vielmetter Los Angeles Projects; Fredericks & Freiser Gallery, New York; and Pilar Corrias, London.

Mary Reid Kelley with Patrick Kelley. Priapus Agonistes, 2013 (video still); single-channel HD video, black and white, sound; 15:09. Courtesy of the Artists; Susanne Vielmetter Los Angeles Projects; Fredericks & Freiser Gallery, New York; and Pilar Corrias, London.

The ancient tales are spiked with contemporary elements, and crisis is contrasted with absurd humor. The first video, Priapus Agonistes (2013), sets the drama in a small-town gymnasium, where the outcome of a volleyball game will determine the next sacrifice to the Minotaur. The cocksure Priapus (“the one-eyed Prince of Athens”) swaggers onto the court and wins handily, but as he mocks Ariadne and Pasiphae, the camera pans down to the labyrinth underneath, where the Minotaur paces—hunting not for victims, but for a bathroom. With her hands pressed to her crotch, she trots along the gray cinderblock corridors covered in graffiti left by her victims. “I hate Crete!” reads one missive; another foreshadows her fate: “Murderer! Your end is near, bitch.”

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VeniceHashtags

#Hashtags: Heart of Darkness

#imperialism #appropriation #representation #environment #postcolonialism #revolution

Throughout the 56th Venice Biennale, one finds national pavilions that have taken up the postcolonial mantle of Okwui Enwezor’s central exhibition within the contours of their own relationships to imperialist histories. Among the most successful of these are Vincent Meessen’s Belgian pavilion, Personne et les Autres, and Fiona Hall’s Australian pavilion, Wrong Way Time. Both pavilions consider how the definition of nationalism has expanded in the past twenty years to include representations of communities formerly excluded, while using that newfound inclusion to reinforce rather than reexamine the power structures that historically promoted exclusion. In short, they consider—and in some ways demonstrate—how cultural appropriation has developed as a nationalist strategy in an increasingly post-national world.

Vincent Meessen. One.Two.Three, 2015. Video. Courtesy of the artist and Normal, Brussels © Vincent Meessen. Belgian Pavilion, 56th Venice Biennale.

Vincent Meessen. One.Two.Three, 2015; video. Courtesy of the Artist and Normal, Brussels. © Vincent Meessen. Belgian Pavilion, 56th Venice Biennale.

At the Belgian pavilion, Meessen and curator Katerina Gregos have invited nine other international artists to contribute works that question the European origins of Modernism in the context of global trade and conquest. The artists—Mathieu Kleyebe Abonnenc, Sammy Baloji, James Beckett, Elisabetta Benassi, Patrick Bernier & Olive Martin, Tamar Guimarães & Kasper Akhøj, Maryam Jafri, and Adam Pendleton—represent Africa, Latin America, South Asia, the United States, and Western Europe. Historically, Belgium was the first nation to open a pavilion in the Giardini at Venice, financed by the regime of King Leopold II with funds gained through brutal colonial oppression in the Congo. Today, Belgium is the seat of the European Union, and a country that struggles to reconcile its two distinct linguistic and cultural populations (Dutch-speaking Flemish and French-speaking Wallonians) with an influx of economic and political migrants from Europe, the Middle East, and North Africa. Inspired by these contexts, the exhibition reflects the manner in which the International Style of art and architecture, developed in the 20th century, succeeded and failed in its ideal of fostering utopian conditions around the globe during the era of postcolonial liberation.

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Shotgun Reviews

Science in Surrealism at Gallery Wendi Norris

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, Sienna Freeman reviews Science in Surrealism at Gallery Wendi Norris in San Francisco. 

Kurt Seligmann. Moonscape, 1959; oil on canvas; 48 x 36 in. Courtesy of the Artist and Gallery Wendi Norris, San Francisco.

Kurt Seligmann. Moonscape, 1959; oil on canvas; 48 x 36 in. Courtesy of the Artist and Gallery Wendi Norris, San Francisco.

Gallery Wendi Norris’ current exhibition, Science in Surrealism, showcases 20 historic works from private collections and created by Surrealist icons such as Victor Brauner, Max Ernst, Marcel Jean, Roberto Matta, Gordon Onslow Ford, Wolfgang Paalen, Kurt Seligmann, Yves Tanguy, and František Janoušek. While classic Surrealist tropes from a psychoanalytic perspective are surely present, the exhibit attempts to cast a new critical light on these objects. Science in Surrealism considers the movement’s engagement with the early-20th-century development of modern physics, specifically in relation to quantum mechanics and Einstein’s theory of relativity.

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San Francisco

Van Gogh on Demand: China and the Readymade

Today from our partners at Art Practical, we bring you an excerpt from their Printed Matters column, a review of Winnie Won Yin Wong’s book Van Gogh on Demand: China and the Readymade. The review’s author, Jing Cao, makes note of the ramifications of Wong’s analysis: “In order to welcome ‘Chinese art’ into the global contemporary, the struggles within Chinese society for artistic legitimacy and the on-the-ground complexities of various modes of artistic production are smoothed over and swept away. Thankfully, [the] book avoids such flattening along with any hint of its attendant range of potentially patronizing affects: self-righteousness, pity, guilt, or outrage.” This article was originally published on June 11, 2015.

How to Paint van Gogh’s “Sunflowers.” Photos of Zhao Xiaoyong and apprentice, eight states of two van Gogh Sunflowers, oil on canvas, 20 × 24 in., 28 Oct.–6 Nov. 2008. Photos: Winnie Wong.

How to Paint van Gogh’s “Sunflowers.” Photos of Zhao Xiaoyong and apprentice, eight states of two van Gogh Sunflowers, oil on canvas; 20 × 24 in.; Oct. 28–Nov. 6, 2008. Photos: Winnie Wong.

Winnie Won Yin Wong’s book Van Gogh on Demand: China and the Readymade opens on 100 Chinese painters seated behind easels, each making a separate reproduction of Ilya Repin’s 19th-century masterpiece Portrait of the Art Critic Vladimir Stasov. This spectacle is the Dafen Painting Competition, sponsored by the local government to promote the city of Dafen as “the world’s largest production center for handmade oil paintings.” The prize is ahukou, or documentation to become a legal resident of the neighboring city of Shenzhen, with all of the legal, economic, and cultural privileges that such residency would imply.

Dafen is a suburb of Shenzhen, a sprawling metropolis just across the strait from Hong Kong. Its local economy is driven by international demand for hand-painted reproductions of Western oil paintings, and more recently, contemporary Chinese works. These works are sold to big-box retailers such as Wal-Mart and Target, who use them to sell picture frames, and to informal networks of vendors, who pass them off as their own works in flea markets or outside of museums.

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Fan Mail

Fan Mail: Zahra Nazari

Follow the white line back into the middle ground; it outlines a blue-gray pathway that comes to the front of the picture plane. The pathway entreats viewers to step into the architecture of Zahra Nazari’s surreal composition Landscape #14 (2013). Along the way, columns and a house abut the path, and as the line winds backward and diminishes, the horizontal pathway merges with a wall. Beyond the house, the picture plane rapidly becomes refracted and angular, with planes of white, gray, and brown that are juxtaposed to create an imaginary space, one that is perhaps still forming.

Zahra Nazari. Landscape #14, 2013; acrylic on canvas; 190 x 83 inches. Courtesy of the artist.

Zahra Nazari. Landscape #14, 2013; acrylic on canvas; 190 x 83 inches. Courtesy of the artist.

Nazari’s paintings blend contemporary architecture and ancient archaeological sites and artifacts into rhythmic compositions that bend the eye; the compositions are sites beyond definition. In Landscape #14 and Cityscape Remix (2012), Nazari creates spaces that are absorbing in a way akin to the experience of looking at a mountain or a hill out over a valley—the object in the distance always appears closer, more detailed, and somehow flatter than it actually is. Nazari merges the fore-, middle, and background of her paintings with a mixture of abstract and identifiable motifs in swirling colors, planes, and lines—the same way the human eye does when flattening large objects and landscapes.

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San Francisco

Jason Kalogiros: The Measure, The Weight, The Ground, The Scale at CAPITAL

 Today from our partners at Art Practical, we bring you a review of Jason Kalogiros’ current solo show at Capital in San Francisco. Author Danica Willard Sachs notes, “[T]he artist employs the methodology of photography to interrogate the discrete boundaries between media.” This article was originally published on July 2, 2015.

Jason Kalogiros. Untitled (Drawing), 2015; unique gelatin silver photograph; 24 x 20 in. Courtesy of the Artist and Capital, San Francisco.

Jason Kalogiros. Untitled (Drawing), 2015; unique gelatin silver photograph; 24 x 20 in. Courtesy of the Artist and Capital, San Francisco.

The process of making a photograph bears striking resemblance to the process of making a bronze sculpture. Just as a photograph begins with a negative, bronze sculptures begin with a clay model, sometimes followed by a plaster cast, and are eventually cast in bronze to produce the final result. Clay models can be replicated endlessly into plaster casts (and eventually bronze sculptures) in the same way that multiple photographs can be generated from a single negative. Jason Kalogiros’ artworks in The Measure, The Weight, The Ground, The Scale, on view at Capital, bring to light the inherent reproducibility shared between this mode of sculpture and photography, in turn raising questions about the supposed autonomy of the art object.

The exhibition features three very similar photographs—all of the same 24-by-20-inch size, with the same composition—interspersed with five small bronze sculptures hung on the walls in between. Kalogiros’ process begins with a simple drawing. Using a T-square, he forms an irregular grid in black ink across the surface of white paper—a nod to minimalism further amplified by the exhibition’s unifying black-and-white palette. Next, Kalogiros photographs his drawings head-on, creating an additional level of mediation. At first glance, Untitled (Drawing) (2015) and the two other photographs in the show pass as drawings. Close examination, however, reveals a uniformity of the black line, and a lack of a trace indentation left on the paper by a pen, signaling to the viewer that these are in fact photographs.

Read the full article here.

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