Amir H. Fallah: All Experience Is an Arch at Hap Gallery

Students of metaphysics commonly debate about time and space as an arc—curving and perhaps boomeranging, to ends that are difficult to articulate. Los Angeles–based artist Amir H. Fallah, however, postulates the experience of time and space as something more solid and tangible, akin to a structure engineered for indiscriminate movement back and forth. All Experience Is an Arch at Hap Gallery is an experiential recounting of a familial legacy as it can only be regarded posthumously—as it can be summarized from a sparingly objective distance. In the immersive installation, Fallah repurposes years’ worth of trinkets found at an estate sale in Los Angeles: purchased and treasured, but curiously not precious enough to pass down.

Amir H. Fallah. All Experience is Arch, installation view; Hap Gallery, 2016. Courtesy of the artist and Hap Gallery. Photo: Mario Gallucci.

Amir H. Fallah. All Experience Is Arch; installation view; Hap Gallery, 2016. Courtesy of the Artist and Hap Gallery. Photo: Mario Gallucci.

Fallah undertakes the exhibition in the same spirit as someone who has been charged with crafting a loved one’s eulogy. He delivers a few humanizing jabs to remind us of their fallibility and eccentricities, but by and large, communicates the family’s many memorable and exceptional traits. First Person Shooter Games, the exhibition’s standout painting, dominates the gallery’s main hall. A shrouded female figure is athletically poised to deliver a chest-pass in the direction of her voyeur. She is surrounded by reminders of her youth: golden bells, an impressive quantity of hard-won basketball trophies, and the style of monogrammed initials typically found on the possessions of those aspiring toward sophistication. Two hands, in mid-knit or purl, foreground the scene, indicating that the cloaked subject was as domestically talented as she was at sport. Though her likeness is well hidden, her identity is based on clues gathered about the family’s matriarch.

Clothing, old photographs, and writings from the estate sale provide access to the family, with which Fallah calculatedly decides to obscure or detail throughout the exhibition. The gallery walls are covered, floor to ceiling, in a dark spotted pattern from fabric found throughout the family home. Fallah reproduces many such patterns on small painted panels, never neglecting the billowing, wrinkles, and folds. The paintings are dispersed throughout the installation, tucked around unassuming corners, or hung at exceedingly strange heights. Titled Between the Folds (2015) in serial progression, these works are keen references of cultural connection and perhaps socioeconomic status. The fabrics, decorated in golden honeycombs, birds, and elaborate paisleys, are unknown in their original material and use.

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Cezary Poniatowski: No Center No Edges at Piktogram

Cezary Poniatowski’s recent work at Piktogram Gallery compels viewers to navigate a veritable maze of pop-culture references and anthropological allusions. The exhibition is composed of more than twenty black-and-white acrylic paintings completed in 2015 and 2016, each depicting highly abstract, hybrid figures cavorting in confined, flat spaces reminiscent of comic-book panels. The recurrence of specific forms and motifs in the images creates the strong impression of a discontinuous narrative.

Cesary Poniatowski. No Center No Edges, 2016; installation view at Piktogram Gallery, Warsaw. Courtesy of Piktogram Gallery.

Cezary Poniatowski. No Center No Edges, 2016; installation view, Piktogram Gallery, Warsaw. Courtesy of Piktogram Gallery.

In the largest room, five sizable canvases are hung from chains high on the wall, evoking castle-hall portraits of the aristocracy—but their subject matter is not so exalted. On the far right, a horned figure assumes the stance of a champion, athletically mounting an Olympian plinth; in the middle of the grouping, another muscular figure triumphantly raises his own severed head. These victorious figures counter the impression made by the canvas on the far left, which depicts a minotaur-like character hunched, horns drooping. Inside this being’s rough outline, ten miniature black paintings are portrayed in a salon-style grouping.

The repetition of this bullish hybrid across many of the canvases might tempt viewers to believe that the minotaur is Poniatowski’s proxy, and that the character’s oscillation between elation and misery depicts the state of the artist himself, who must waver between engagement and withdrawal. There’s also a sense that the figure’s machismo is a comedic feint, as in Warner Brothers’ classic cartoon “What’s Opera, Doc?” in which the silhouette of a gargantuan horned monstrosity turns out to be the shadow cast by a diminutive Elmer Fudd in an oversize Viking helmet.

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Edgardo Aragón: Mesoamerica – The Hurricane Effect at Jeu de Paume

In 1527, Olas Magnus drew the Carta Marina, the first detailed account of Nordic geography and the perils plaguing it by land and sea. In the image, life seems threatened mainly by ongoing human conflict and a perpetual battle with weather, but what haunted imaginations for centuries was its depiction of the monsters inhabiting the northern seas. Their presence was a documentary mix of fact and fiction—they represented real animals as sighted and interpreted by fishermen, as well as bad omens relating to the political turbulences of their times.

Edgardo Aragón. Mesoamerica: The Hurricane Effect, 2015 (detail of map); HD video, color, sound; 16'20'' and 10 maps. Coproduction: Jeu de Paume, Paris, Fondation des Arts Graphiques et Plastiques and CAPC Musée d'Art Contemporain de Bordeaux. Courtesy of the Artist and Jeu de Paume.

Edgardo Aragón. Mesoamerica: The Hurricane Effect, 2015 (detail of map); HD video, color, sound; 16:20, with 10 maps. Coproduction: Jeu de Paume, Paris, Fondation des Arts Graphiques et Plastiques and CAPC Musée d’Art Contemporain de Bordeaux. Courtesy of the Artist and Jeu de Paume.

Magnus’ monsters take on a new dimension in Mesoamerica: The Hurricane Effect, Edgardo Aragón’s exhibition of maps, a video, and an accompanying publication at Jeu de Paume in Paris. Aragón takes viewers on a journey that starts with an array of ten maps that illustrate the economic and political forces struggling for control of the region comprising Mexico and Central America known as Mesoamerica. Departing from an 1857 map that, as the artist notes in the publication, “interestingly” includes the totality of the region as part of the United States’ territory, we perceive Mesoamerica as a route for the trafficking of people, drugs, and natural resources.

The sea creatures depicted in the maps of yore are used here to represent the main culprits: drug lords, political parties, and mining companies. Although clearly destructive, the beasts in Olas Magnus’ map remain at bay in the vastness of the cold sea, whereas in Aragón’s interpretation they almost cover entire countries, turning them into vulnerable vessels doomed to sink. Three final maps show us Oaxaca, the small town of Cachimbo in the state of Chiapas, and a route traced in red between the two that hints at the trip developing in the single-channel video projected in an adjacent room.

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#Hashtags: Convergences and Displacements

#Townhouse #Cairo #gentrification #urban #culture #displacement

This past week has left the venerable nonprofit Townhouse Gallery shaken. Though the attempted demolition of its building at 10 Nabrawy Street in Cairo has been halted, the gallery is faced with months of work ahead to secure its future. Operating since 1998, Townhouse is known for drawing international artists and thinkers to Egypt, and nurturing an emerging network of support for Egyptian artists through its library and archive, cultural salons, theater, and nonprofit incubator programs. Their presentation of cutting-edge, often political art in a space that welcomes and serves Egyptians of every class has invited rancor from reactionaries, and over the past week, Townhouse and its neighbors were nearly displaced permanently when local police forcibly evicted them and then threatened to demolish the property after a section had collapsed. The process of securing protection for the 19th-century building in order to list it as a heritage site and proceed with restoration is underway, a process that was only made possible because of widespread community protests against the demolition. Says William Wells, Townhouse’s co-founder and director, “Given that we are in the center of the city and demonstrations have begun again after a two-year absence, we must act quickly.” The convergence of many different social classes in support of preserving the mixed-use building illustrates how the arts can operate as a site for citizenship where such spaces are hard to come by. The threat against Townhouse is a lesson in how liberal development can function as cover for acts of cultural erasure by conservative political interests—a trend observed in cities across the globe.

Townhouse Gallery, 10 Nabrawy Street, Cairo, Egypt, c. 2011. Image courtesy Townhouse Gallery.

Townhouse Gallery, 10 Nabrawy Street, Cairo, Egypt, c. 2011. Courtesy of Townhouse Gallery.

On Wednesday, April 6, a section of the historic building that houses Townhouse partially collapsed. No one was injured, and staff salvaged what equipment and archives they could from the rubble and resolved to rebuild. At 8 a.m. on Saturday, April 9, police arrived and declared the building condemned, but did not produce any documentation supporting that finding. Townhouse is situated within the Mechanics’ district, and the working-class neighbors (who have long defended the space from government censors) turned out in large numbers to stop the demolition. Mido Sadek, a former Townhouse employee, described the scene at the time: “They were supposed to just clear the rubble from the collapsed part of the Townhouse building, but the army [said] they will demolish the remaining three-fourths of the building that is still stable. Some families will sleep on the street tonight.” Residents were able to initiate a government review process that Sunday to list their building as a protected heritage site; however, the police returned on Monday and began to physically dismantle and destroy architectural elements, removing doors and smashing windows and tile, while forcibly vacating the remaining occupied units. Townhouse media and communication officer Karim Moselhi described how, “It was really shocking to see how the laws regarding heritage were completely being disregarded, and on top of that, it was devastating to see the authorities evicting those families and shop owners without notice.” Sadek asked, “Who made this decision without informing the owner or tenants of the building? How was this decided so quickly, and why would it be implemented on a weekend? There are a lot of unanswered questions.” On Wednesday, April 13, in response to continued public pressure, the demolition order was reversed by a specialized delegation of government representatives and engineers. Quite a bit of work is still required to make the building habitable and to restore the damage created by police and by the original collapse. Townhouse has temporarily relocated to its adjacent Factory and Rawabet spaces, and has set up a co-working space for staff and community organizers to complete the architectural and cultural surveys of 10 Nabrawy Street that must be submitted to secure the building’s protection. Meanwhile, the building’s six resident families remain homeless.

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Los Angeles

Eric Yahnker: Noah’s Yacht at Zevitas Marcus

Eric Yahnker’s large-scale colored pencil drawings are often satirical, social, and political in nature. The Los Angeles–based artist, who has worked both for South Park and as a journalist, views himself as a political cartoonist in the often patronizing and self-involved art world. Many of his previous shows have felt like incredible, offbeat, anarchic versions of the very best in political cartoons or Dadaist reinterpretations of popular culture, with titles such as Sticks and Drones and Ebony and Benghazi. Noah’s Yacht at Zevitas Marcus is much more than rebellious tongue-in-cheek. The exhibition winks at establishment politics and inane pop culture as, what Yahnker describes in an interview, “a true visual poem, where the beats, rhythms, and verse reflect individual concepts, but there is a palpable personal introspection that runs current.” The show feels like just that: a great piece of improvisational jazz, with not a note, reference, title, implication, or concept out of place.

Eric Yahnker. Angel in the Outfield, 2015; colored pencil on paper. Courtesy of the Artist and Zevitas Marcus.

Eric Yahnker. Angel in the Outfield, 2015; colored pencil on paper. Courtesy of the Artist and Zevitas Marcus.

Through the exhibition’s title, Noah’s Yacht, Yahnker reimagines Noah’s Ark as a “smaller, ritzier, and more exclusive one, in which the ticket to ride—or ultimately survive—is privilege and wealth.” The first piece in the show, Angel in the Outfield (2015), is a nine-foot-tall drawing of Christ in midair with a catcher’s mitt, about to catch a pop fly. The history of the Christian god is intrinsically tied to the history of white male privilege, spanning from the crusades through colonialism and post-colonialism. Yahnker is, himself, a white American male, and much of this show is his coming to terms with his own privilege and what it means in this vibrant and pivotal political climate.

Caged Birds (2016) is a sculpture made of handcuffs, leg shackles, jewelry, and marijuana pipes.  Hanging from the ceiling, the piece unmistakably alludes to the American justice system and the “War on Drugs” as both inherently broken and racist. It is placed in front of a powerful diptych, Abe Lincorn and Pierced Piety (2015). Abe Lincorn references Rachel Dolezal’s performed blackness, while in Pierced Piety, Donald Trump wears Christianity (and racism) as a style. Both pieces speak to power and privilege in the appropriation of culture for political gain. Together, they serve as brilliant bookends of the Republican Party, which will either implode or explode after this coming election.

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From the Archives

From the Archives – Malick Sidibé

This week at Daily Serving we’re remembering the life and work of photographer Malick Sidibé (1935–2016), whose studio portraiture and candid images of nightlife in Mali during the 1960s and ’70s recorded a powerful time for the recently liberated country. As author Lia Wilson comments in her 2014 review, Sidibé’s photographs “chronicle a flourishing of human hope, ambition, and newfound opportunity” while remaining timeless. This article was originally published on April 17, 2014. 

Malick Sidibe. Courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York

Malick Sidibé. Untitled, 1969/2004; silver gelatin print, hand-painted wooden frame. Courtesy of the Artist and Jack Shainman Gallery.

The photographs of Malick Sidibé remind us how the political content of an image can shift and evolve under the unpredictable influences of time and the arrival of new contexts. Currently on view at Jack Shainman Gallery, Sidibé’s work is a mix of black-and-white portraits and candid shots of local people from his native Bamako, Mali. The artist first began his work in photography by assisting a French colonial photographer and then later opened his own studio, Studio Malick, in 1962 in Bamako. Mali gained liberation from France in 1960, and Sidibé’s photographs taken throughout the ’60s and ’70s document a community of young Bamakois during this postcolonial transition and the subsequent socialist and military regimes.

In a brief documentary directed by Douglas Sloan, Sidibé stated he was most interested in letting people enjoy themselves and in making his subjects happy.[1]  At the time, he didn’t consider his portraiture as art, but rather as a service: providing people with striking, beautiful pictures of themselves. Some of the portraits shown in Jack Shainman are hung in hand-painted, colorful frames made by Checkna Toure, an artisan who had a studio around the corner from Studio Malick. This framing grants its photograph a status of distinct object rather than an endlessly reproducible image, and serves as a reminder that the initial prints were meant as keepsakes and items of proud display by the subjects themselves.

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Freestyle: Interview with Rashaad Newsome

Today, from our friends at Guernica, we bring you curator Laura Blereau in conversation with artist Rashaad Newsome. Newsome says, “I’m playing with gender and roles that are shifting as this elaborate allegory for transformation. The body can change. That’s ultimate emancipation, to just completely change your body, to change your physicality.” This article was originally published on March 17, 2014.

Rashaad Newsome. King of Arms, 2013 (performance still); live procession in City Park, New Orleans. Courtesy of the Artist. Photo: Jena Cumbo.

Rashaad Newsome. King of Arms, 2013 (performance still); live procession in City Park, New Orleans. Courtesy of the Artist. Photo: Jena Cumbo.

Guernica: The kind of art that you create has found a wide international audience, yet its themes are emblematic of the Gulf Coast. How did being raised in New Orleans influence your perspective on art and culture at large?

Rashaad Newsome: When I think about New Orleans as a point of inspiration, I think about growing up in a place where street theater is so readily available all the time. Brass bands are vibrant. Drumming, improvisation. In my work I often use improvisation as a device to compose. For example, it’s a very important component of my performances FIVE and Shade Compositions. In that sense, I think part of my process is connected to the musical traditions of the New Orleans landscape. I’m also influenced by the region’s sense of color, ornament, its interest in pageantry, obviously, and Baroque architecture.

The experience of art can be had strolling from Camp Street to the Bywater, and on that walk one can encounter so much. Maybe someone is playing a trumpet, and then you go a little further and see a mime; then up the block somebody is singing, and another person is painting canvases on the street. Whether it is “good” or not is debatable, but there are a lot of artistic gestures constantly happening around you there. It’s a very accessible art community that way.

Read the full article here.