Mexico City

Gloria Carrasco: Prófugos del Metate at the Museo de Arte Popular

Even if viewers know a little about the cultural and culinary history of Mexico, Gloria Carrasco’s exhibition at the Museo de Arte Popular in Mexico City might appear to be a show dedicated to the phallus. The gallery is filled with dozens of variations on the same object—a long, tapered shape made in a multitude of materials from textiles to ceramics and colors from earthy browns to bright pinks. The pieces are painted, gilded, bandaged, appliquéd, tied, chained, shackled, or skewered. Some hang from the ceiling while others are propped against the wall. It’s a delightful and funny first impression.

Gloria Carrasco. Entre Fusiles y Metlapiles, 2014; ceramic; 160cm x 180cm x 40cm. Courtesy of the artist and Museo de Arte Popular, Mexico D.F. Photo: Jorge Gomez del Campo.

Gloria Carrasco. Entre Fusiles y Metlapiles, 2014; ceramic; 160 x 180 x 40 cm. Courtesy of the Artist and Museo de Arte Popular, Mexico D.F. Photo: Jorge Gomez del Campo.

These phalli are actually metlapiles, cylindrical-shaped stones used to grind maize on a metate (grindstone). Also called mano del metate (metate’s hand), the metlapil figures prominently (along with the metate) in Mexican art and culture; they are a nostalgic image of pre-conquest Mexico, as well as a symbol of women’s work and domesticity. But Carrasco’s show, Prófugos del Metate (Fugitives from the Metate), breaks this cliché open. The artist clearly enjoys exploiting the humorous contradiction of an object that simultaneously suggests the masculine and the feminine. In one work in particular, Mine Is Bigger than Yours (2014), the metlapil is explicitly presented as both an erect phallus and a symbol of feminist empowerment.

In another work, various large-scale metlapiles on a bed of stones lean against a wall. The artist clearly wants to play with what they might signify; the title, Entre Fusiles y Metlapiles (Between Rifles and Metlapiles) (2014), situates the viewer within a hermeneutic field that engages many possible meanings simultaneously; the artist, having created something that looks suspiciously like a bunch of cigars in an ashtray, seems to be winking at the viewer, saying that sometimes a cigar isn’t just a cigar.

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From the Archives

From the Archives – Women’s Work at Smith College Museum of Art

We were delighted to see art-world activists the Guerrilla Girls on the Late Show with Stephen Colbert to promote their exhibition at the Walker, which opened last week (on view until December 31, 2016). To round out the historical context of second-wave feminism from which the Guerrilla Girls emerged, today we bring you Lia Wilson’s review of Women’s Work: Feminist Art From the Collection at Smith College Museum of Art. This article was originally published on October 29, 2015.  

Carolee Schneeman. Eye Body #1, 1963–79; gelatin-silver print with hand coloring and scratching; 14 in x 11 1/2 in. Courtesy of Smith College Art Museum, purchased with the Judith Plesser Targan, class of 1953, Fund.

Carolee Schneeman. Eye Body #1, 1963–79; gelatin-silver print with hand coloring and scratching; 14 in x 11 1/2 in. Courtesy of Smith College Art Museum, purchased with the Judith Plesser Targan Class of 1953 Fund.

The exhibition Women’s Work is constructed within a historical frame. All of the included artists are introduced as individuals prominent in second-wave feminism, defined as a past era from the 1960s through the 1980s, a period with a beginning and an end. It cannot be denied that a great deal has changed in both feminist thought and social mores since then. Third-wave feminism called out the exclusions embedded in the second wave’s goals, and more nuanced and inclusive definitions of gender and sexual identity are now written into law and protected. In a 2015 interview, Gloria Steinem, a figurehead of the second wave, explained why she changed her mind about marriage. “I didn’t change, marriage changed. We spent thirty years in the United States changing the marriage laws. If I had married when I was supposed to get married, I would have lost my name, my legal residence, my credit rating, many of my civil rights. That’s not true anymore. It’s possible now to make an equal marriage.”[1] With this kind of concrete change, one might expect feminist art from forty or fifty years ago to feel somewhat dated, like throwbacks to an earlier moment in a righteous narrative of progress. The work in Women’s Work is anything but that.

The exhibition groups the artworks within five themes of second-wave feminism: “Challenging Institutions and Canonical Traditions in Art,” “The Body,” “‘Women’s Work,’” “Gender and Performativity,” and “Race and Ethnicity.” Much of the work doesn’t fit cleanly into just one theme, a testament to the many dimensions of the artists’ motives and an illustration that oppression occurs on multiple, concurrent fronts. Inequity can run rampant at home, at work, and in the art world simultaneously. Such is the nature of patriarchy.

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Boston

Bringing Art Into Being: Drawing Redefined at deCordova

From our friends at Big Red & Shiny in Massachusetts, today we bring you a review of the exhibition Drawing Redefined at deCordova Museum. Author Shana Dumont Garr says of the exhibition, “The works by these five artists were arranged to consider an expanded definition of drawing engaging process, materials, and time. This premise arms viewers with a consistent framework to engage with the work, at times leading to more questions.” This article was originally published on January 11, 2016.

Installation view, ‘Drawing Redefined: Roni Horn, Esther Kläs, Joëlle Tuerlinckx, Richard Tuttle, and Jorinde Voigt,’ deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum, Lincoln, MA, Photograph by Clements Photography and Design, Boston.

Drawing Redefined, installation view, deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum, Lincoln, MA. Photo: Clements Photography and Design, Boston.

Drawing Redefined, on view at deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum through March 20, 2016, is an entrancing show, with a presentation that is at once spare and sumptuous. All the works on view spring from a drawing practice, although they are also rooted in a sculptural tradition. Throughout the show, the audience is prompted to consider process as conceptual content—a prioritization that may lead one to think about the origins of the categories of art-making, and whether this categorization is in fact helpful. The five exhibiting artists, Roni Horn, Esther Kläs, Joelle Tuerlinckx, Richard Tuttle, and Jorinde Voigt, did not create the pieces chosen for the exhibition as preparation for other work, but rather as a means of understanding and progressing in their chosen (and wide-ranging) media. As a satisfying extension of this premise, each artist carries forth their drawing discipline in distinctive ways.

A host of multi-directional angles open the exhibition with works by Richard Tuttle, Roni Horn, and Joelle Turlinckx. They each occupy different zones of space within the gallery, with Tuttle’s mixed-media constructs occupying the lower quadrant of the wall and the adjacent patch of the floor, Horn’s large-scale framed collages dominating the walls, and Turlinckx’s pieces standing on the floor. Tuttle’s Flower meets viewers first and is initially jarring in its simplicity. The light-pink painted-wood relief rests on the floor like tiles positioned in a four-square. In an exhibition whose title asks us to consider the boundaries of drawing, Tuttle uses negative space as a form of mark-making; the absences between each piece of wood create borders that enable the four pieces to become a single object. Another of his works, Looking for the Map 11 (2013–14), leans against the wall, like a lopsided wooden pitchfork dressed in dashing swathes of fabric. From further away, across the gallery, an even more appealing view of Looking for the Map 11 comes from just beyond a floor arrangement, Volume d’Air, by Turlinckx.

Read the full article here.

 

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Fan Mail

Fan Mail: Darren Reid

Darren Reid’s journey into his current painting practice could be described as fortuitous. Four years ago, the self-taught artist found himself in a sad predicament. He needed to either put his dog to sleep or commit to giving her a shot of insulin every eight hours. In choosing the latter, Reid found his life transformed into a restrictive cycle of caretaking that meant he was at home often, so he took up painting. Now the artist’s work is collected by a number of galleries and private collectors.

Darren Reid. North Mill, 2012; acrylic on canvas; 23.6 x 23.6 in. Courtesy of the Artist.

Darren Reid. North Mill, 2012; acrylic on canvas; 23.6 x 23.6 in. Courtesy of the Artist.

North Mill (2012) is a rendition of the view outside his house at the time he began to paint. Prior to his artistic practice, works of old painting masters such as Caravaggio, Canaletto, and Holbein held an allure for Reid. “The skill required to render something so perfectly in paint always fascinated me,” Reid explains. Referencing Holbein’s The Ambassadors (1533) as an example of work that inspired a love for intricate craftsmanship, Reid is also drawn to the genre for its documentary value, especially in this post-photography age.

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Boston

Marilyn Arsem: 100 Ways to Consider Time at MFA Boston

I visited the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston on the 68th day of Marilyn Arsem’s 100-day-long performance exhibition, 100 Ways to Consider Time. The premise behind Arsem’s exhibition (which exists, it seems, as one piece or work) is that the artist will be on-site, situated in a gallery inside the museum, for each of the 100 days of the show. As the museum is open seven days a week, that means that Arsem will be there seven days a week as well. The gallery that she occupies is a small square inside of the contemporary wing, with works from the museum’s contemporary collection—objects and paintings by artists like Kehinde Wiley, Sheila Hicks, Andy Warhol, El Anatsui, and Josiah McElheny—paving the way to Arsem’s doorway. The interior of Arsem’s modest space is sparse. She is sitting at a small, squarish table more or less in the open center of the room. There are two chairs, and Arsem sits on one. A patient, speckled rock sits atop a folded black felt blanket on the other. One other piece of furniture—a modern-looking lamp—graces the minimalist room.

Marilyn Arsem: 100 Ways to Consider Time at the Museum of Fine Arts Boston, performance still. Image Courtesy the artist and the Museum of Fine Arts Boston.

Marilyn Arsem: 100 Ways to Consider Time; performance still, Museum of Fine Arts Boston. Courtesy of the Artist and the Museum of Fine Arts Boston.

On the day of my visit, Arsem was reading aloud to a dozen or so visitors—who shuffled and circulated as new onlookers joined and veteran audience members left—from Adrian Bardon’s A Brief History of the Philosophy of Time. The book is something of a summary of ideas about time and its measurement, from Heraclitus to Einstein. During the period that I shared Arsem’s space, she progressed from the discovery of the speed of light to Einstein’s theory of relativity. The book, perched upon her small table, was joined by a matte black metal water bottle, a black notebook, and black glasses case. Arsem herself was dressed from head to toe in black as well, reading haltingly about our “inertial frames” and the “relativity of simultaneity.”

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Stockholm

Powerful Babies at the Spritmuseum

Keith Haring’s creative impact was influential, and he broadly changed the model of what it means to be an artist. Today that model is not just coopted, it’s a memetic standard. But the curious thing about a successful meme is that when its impression becomes ubiquitous, the origin is often forgotten. Curators Bill Arning and Rick Herron grapple with this dilemma and attempt to bridge the gap between Haring’s work and legacy with the exhibition Powerful Babies: Keith Haring’s Impact on Artists Today at the Spritmuseum in Stockholm.

Powerful Babies: Keith Haring’s Impact on Artists Today, installation view, Spritmuseum, Stockholm. Courtesy of the Artists and Spritmuseum. Photo: A. Rompel.

Powerful Babies: Keith Haring’s Impact on Artists Today, installation view, Spritmuseum, Stockholm. (clockwise from bottom left) Joakim Ojanen. Sensitive Artist, 2015; ceramic sculpture; 26 x 12.6 x 7.9 in. (66 x 32 x 20 cm). Courtesy of the Artist and Galleri Thomassen, Gothenburg. Raul de Nieves. It’s My Party and I’ll Cry If I Want To, 2013; mixed media; 46.1 x 25.9 in. (117 x 66 cm). Courtesy of the Artist and LOYAL, Stockholm. Misaki Kawai. Smash Master, 2010; acrylic on canvas; 36 x 48 in. (91.4 x 122 cm); Courtesy of the Artist and LOYAL, Stockholm. Steven Evans. Dancing Was Our Pagan Rite (for K.H.), 2015; paint and vinyl lettering on wall; dimensions variable. Courtesy of the Artist. Photo: A. Rompel.

In his essay for the exhibition catalog, Arning makes two often-missed but brilliant points. First, to judge any one of Haring’s pieces as a discrete object is to miss the point, because the art object is a statement of its time. Haring’s work encapsulates a specific time in NYC’s youth-art-clubbing-activist-gay culture, and to fully appreciate it, one must consider the totality of that scene, in which art extended beyond the object and mixed with the realm of the everyday. (In addition to his paintings, Haring put his iconic line drawings on T-shirts, buttons, posters, billboards, and in magazines; in 1986, he opened the Pop Shop, a commercial venture that sold his images as everyday, affordable items.) Second, Arning points out that Haring’s oeuvre is easily contextualized in our present age of of Relational Aesthetics, which makes it difficult to comprehend the prejudice against the work during Haring’s life. Arning and Herron took the totality of Haring’s history, narrative, and methods, and used them as a framework for selecting the twenty-two artists in this exhibition.

Haring’s legacy is present in two ways: the literal and the memetic. The literal handles the ways in which artists have continued Haring’s strategy of physical expression, be that on a painting or a T-shirt. The memetic deals with the ways in which artists have absorbed and then pushed beyond Haring’s relational view of life-as-art-as-life. Powerful Babies focuses on the literal aspect, as it’s the more obvious of the two. However, some of the strongest works in the show take Haring’s relational strategy and fold it onto itself.

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Mexico City

Daniela Libertad: Empujo Puertas que Debería Jalar, Jalo Puertas que Debería Empujar at MARSO

In her solo show at MARSO, Empujo Puertas que Debería Jalar, Jalo Puertas que Debería Empujar [I Push Doors I Should Pull, I Pull Doors I Should Push], Mexican artist Daniela Libertad presents her latest works of sculptures, drawings, videos, objects, and photography. Libertad’s practice has been characterized by her explorations of space and material through relations, rituals, and repetitions. In her exhibition, every piece is anchored in these investigations with an almost imperceptible flow. The works establish a strong yet veiled connection between the association and transformation of their essence and functions, while underlining the limits and tensions of bodies and language.

Daniela Libertad. Diagrama 46 [Diagram 46], 2015; graphite on paper. Courtesy of MARSO.

Daniela Libertad. Diagrama 46 [Diagram 46], 2015; graphite on paper. Courtesy of MARSO.

Diagrama [Diagram] (2015), a series of twelve drawings, sets this initial dialogue around the placement of space with the exhibition’s recurring elements of monochromatic dimensions, perspectives and shadows in search of interconnected paths, and the brief and everyday, which are given importance. Made with graphite on paper, Libertad’s drawings evoke constructive geometries within a devoted process. The intensity of lines varies as the artist generates a deck of spatial possibilities. Whereas this universe seems calculated, firm, and steady, two adjacent photographs stand as counterweight, portraying natural elements in ephemeral circumstances. As its title remarks, Rama, Sombra [Branch, Shadow] (2015) captures a curvy tree branch that is balanced on the ground. Thanks to the branch’s arched position, the shadow projected against the pavement completes an oval. The photograph emphasizes the dichotomy between the present and the missing—an ambiguous feeling that lingers throughout the show.

Through the obsessive repetition of patterns and structures, Libertad confronts negative and positive space in a series of 196 drawings, Formas y Espacio [Shapes and Space] (2015). Pinned directly onto the gallery walls, the drawings are organized into pairs; contour line drawings of geometric compositions are paired with their counterparts, which reproduce the same shapes but with spaces filled in. The graphite is applied with such strength and intensity that it turns the paper into a thick, reflective surface. These layers bring a new focus on materiality by giving them volume.

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