Elsewhere

From the Archives – Craft is Not Dead

Today we bring you an article from our archives in celebration of The Brooklyn Rail’s most recent issue, which includes essays by contemporary craft luminaries Namita Wiggers and Glenn Adamson. As  notes in her excellent editorial essay, “If the notion of ‘diversity’ suggests the fostering of a variety of expressions on an equal footing, then in the visual arts our scrutiny would have to be directed toward the situation of craft. Despite a more pervasive adoption of craft techniques and materials into the so-called fine arts in contemporary practice, there is a divide between craft/art that is still stubborn. Sometimes cast as ‘heart’ versus ‘intellect,’ or ‘hand’ versus ‘mind,’ or ‘skill’ versus ‘concept,’ these dichotomous oppositions all serve to segregate the different aspects of physical functioning in the creation of art objects that should be considered together. Given the often loaded nuances of these words, and considering how vocabularies are enlisted by various professions, we also have to read issues of class, and at times ethnic culture and gender, into the dialogue around craft.” The article below, Hayley Plack‘s review of the 40 Under 40: Craft Futures exhibition at the Smithsonian’s Renwick Gallery, was originally published on December 13, 2012.

Installation view, 40 Under 40: Craft Futures, Smithsonian American Art Museum and the Renwick Gallery, July 20, 2012–February 3, 2013.

What defines the art of craft? What is the difference between art and craft? 40 Under 40: Craft Futures at Smithsonian’s Renwick Gallery blurred the lines for me, while at the same time helping me to appreciate craft in a new light. There is something about the word “craft” that connotes antiquated techniques that don’t necessarily relate to our contemporary world. This exhibition breathes new life into the art of craft and highlights the contemporary relevance of craftsmanship.

In celebration of the fortieth anniversary of the Renwick Gallery, the exhibition features the work of forty artists born since 1972—the year the Smithsonian Art Museum established its contemporary craft and decorative-arts program. All of the works were created since September 11, 2011, drawing particular attention to the state of contemporary craft and the way it relates to our society. Although we often associate craft with functionality or pure aesthetics, the pieces in this exhibition have more profound stories to tell in much the same way as contemporary art.  The show explores issues of technology, technique, relevance, and even the current economic climate as it relates to craft. Christy Oates fuses traditional woodworking techniques with CAD software technology to make furniture, while Joshua DeMonte creates jewelry using digital fabrication, both examples of how new technologies are changing the nature of craft. Several artists highlight the importance of sustainability, exemplified by Jeff Garner’s sustainable clothing designs and Uhuru’s furniture made from reclaimed materials.

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San Francisco

Sarah Christianson: When the Landscape Is Quiet Again at SF Camerawork

From our partners at Art Practical, today we bring you a review of Sarah Christianson‘s When the Landscape Is Quiet Again: North Dakota’s Oil Boom at SF Camerawork. Author Larissa Archer notes, “Christianson doesn’t try to appeal to emotions with her photographs. They encourage a process by which the viewer mentally forms a bridge between the damning information about the subjects (here, provided by the captions) and the seeming neutrality of the scenes themselves, rendering the personal and ecological tragedies conveyed so much greater than an appeal to sight alone.” This review was originally published on March 19, 2014.

Sarah Christianson. Corn field, Antler, ND, September 2013, 2013. C-print, 20 x 24 in. Courtesy of the artist.

Sarah Christianson. Corn field, Antler, ND, September 2013, 2013. C-print, 20 x 24 in. Courtesy of the artist.

No single photograph in Sarah Christianson’s When the Landscape Is Quiet Again: North Dakota’s Oil Boom gets one’s blood boiling. Her images of her home state—which has, in several booms since the early ’50s, changed from a predominantly agrarian economy to an industrial one based around oil extraction—elicit a slower-burning experience of rage. Rather than focusing on obvious signs of destruction, Christianson’s photographs (paired here with generously informative captions) collectively emphasize the insidiousness of the waste and danger that are often hiding in plain sight.

Read the full article here.

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New York

Sarah Lucas: Nud Nob at Gladstone Gallery

The circulation of images from Sarah Lucas’ Nud Nob, now at Gladstone Gallery, on social media and elsewhere seems bound to be both blessing and curse. On the one hand, shots of enormous concrete penises resting on crushed automobiles, or a series of floor-to-ceiling photographs of a woman consuming a banana, really propagate themselves, which makes for great publicity. But those who encounter these images are perhaps too likely to write off the show as one of cheeky spectacle—of another British punk artist banking on humor instead of substance—when this is not the case.

Sarah Lucas. Chicken Knickers, 2014; Digitally printed wallpaper. Photo: David Regen. Copyright Sarah Lucas. Courtesy Gladstone Gallery, New York and Brussels

Sarah Lucas. Chicken Knickers, 2014; digitally printed wallpaper. Photo: David Regen. Copyright Sarah Lucas. Courtesy Gladstone Gallery, New York and Brussels.

Sure, Lucas’ work is humorous, but to summarize her objects as mere “dirty jokes” is simply wrong. At the gallery, a pattern of viewer behavior quickly becomes obvious: Amusement gives way to discomfort, followed by a quickened shuffle through the remaining rooms and back out the door. The fact that the phallus—a privileged object in artistic representation since antiquity—still has such a powerful effect on people is evidence enough that the subject has not been exhausted; that there are still significances for art to tease out. In the words of Frank T.J. Mackie, “respect the cock.” Lucas seems to winkingly agree. Read More »

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Los Angeles

Ryan Trecartin at LACMA

Considered a prophet of the digital age, video artist Ryan Trecartin transforms contemporary culture’s addiction to the internet and obsession with technological devices into a violently exuberant visual orgy. Watching his work feels like riding a roller coaster into the vertiginous depths of the Web or looking through a kaleidoscope on acid; it is an experience of hysterical nonlinearity, relentless mutation, and extreme visual and verbal cacophony. On March 25, 2014, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) premiered the four newest additions to Trecartin’s adrenalized oeuvre—Junior War (2013), Comma Boat (2013), CENTER JENNY (2013), and Item Falls (2013)—at the Bing Theater. The nature of this viewing experience was particularly well suited to the content and conception of the works themselves; though each piece can stand alone, they are all part of a larger project, connected by repeated thematic and visual tropes and therefore most effectively watched consecutively and without interruption. Trecartin is insistent on the classification of his creations as “movies,” and seeing them on the big screen complements and magnifies their sensory intensity.

Ryan Trecartin. Junior War. 2013 (video still); HD video; 24:08. Courtesy of The New Inquiry, New York.

Ryan Trecartin. Junior War, 2013; video still; HD video; 24:08. Courtesy of The New Inquiry, New York.

The first work, Junior War, consists of repurposed footage shot during the artist’s senior year of high school in Ohio. Inspired by The Blair Witch Project (1999), Trecartin used a Handycam with a night-vision lens to film the euphoric vandalism that occurred during the bacchanalian ritual of Senior-Junior War, which is exactly what it sounds like: classes battling each other in a series of drunken misdemeanors. The footage is edited with Trecartin’s signature freneticism, and as we are jarringly bounced between the greenish frames, an ominous bass line increasingly hints at the approach of an impending catastrophe. But this never materializes, and much of the destruction we witness is either futile (kids repeatedly bang on metal mailboxes that just won’t break) or funny (television sets get thrown out of car windows and shatter on the sidewalk amid the laughter of boisterous, intoxicated perpetrators). The film is a quasi-anthropological investigation into the unleashing of human nature’s animalistic side (destruction as a creative act is a recurrent theme in Trecartin’s work) and how the presence of the camera, right before the era of ubiquitous self-documentation on social-media platforms, affects the behavior of these teenagers.

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San Francisco

Paz Errázuriz/Matrix 251 at the Berkeley Art Museum/Pacific Film Archive

Today from our partner Art Practical, we bring you a review of photographer Paz Errázuriz’s work, on view through tomorrow at the Berkeley Art Museum. Author Danica Willard Sachs notes, “By immersing the viewer in the peripheries of Chilean society, into the brothels and gyms populated by socially isolated men, Errázuriz’s photographs not only put an individual face on oppression, they also highlight a resilience inherent in the human spirit.” This review was originally published on March 3, 2014.

Paz Errázuriz. La Palmera, Santiago, from the series La manzana de Adán, 1982; gelatin silver print, 19 2/3 x 23 ½ in. Courtesy of the Artist and Galeria AFA, Santiago.

Paz Errázuriz. La Palmera, Santiago, from the series La Manzana de Adán, 1982; gelatin silver print; 19 2/3 x 23 ½ in. Courtesy of the Artist and Galeria AFA, Santiago.

In intimate, candid black-and-white photographs, Paz Errázuriz transports the viewer to another place and time: Santiago, Chile, in the mid-1980s. With General Augusto Pinochet’s brutal dictatorship as her backdrop, self-taught photographer Errázuriz set out to document people living largely in secret, on the fringes of Chilean society. Paz Errázuriz/Matrix 251 at the Berkeley Art Museum displays two of the resulting visual essays: La Manzana de Adán (1982-87) and Boxeadores (1987).

La Manzana de Adán documents a community of male transvestites working in underground brothels in Santiago and Talca. Made in collaboration with journalist Claudia Donoso, the resulting photographs were paired with passages relating the personal stories of the men, and gathered into a book published in 1990 after Pinochet’s ouster. The exhibition features thirty of the one hundred photographs that make up the series, appearing alongside excerpts from Donoso’s text.

Read the full article here.

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Fan Mail

Fan Mail: Joe Webb

In Joe Webb’s Stirring Up A Storm (2014), the nearly full moon peers resolutely down like a removed voyeur, while a continent-sized Sunbeam Mixmaster Junior (an electric mixer from the 1950s) stirs Earth’s atmosphere with its twin silver beaters to create massive, hurricane-like weather patterns. From the description alone, issues of global warming and energy crises come to mind; however, the well-crafted humor, imaginative aesthetic, and a subtly wry irreverence in Webb’s collages ensure that his message is successfully communicated.

Joe Webb. Stirring Up A Storm, 2014; collage; 12 ¾” x 8” inches. Image courtesy of the artist.

Joe Webb. Stirring Up a Storm, 2014; collage; 12 ¾ x 8 in. Image courtesy of the Artist.

Webb makes his collages by combining and removing imagery from vintage magazines and printed ephemera. While he describes his working methods as “analogue” and “luddite reaction(s) to working as a graphic artist on computers for many years,” the works strike particularly contemporary notes, both formally and conceptually.

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San Francisco

Wages for Facebook at Kadist Art Foundation

Last Wednesday, Kadist Art Foundation and curator Christina Linden hosted a conversation with artist Laurel Ptak, the author/founder of Wages for Facebook, a manifesto (based on the 1975 manifesto Wages Against Housework) that calls for a reconsideration of what it means to participate in a system of for-profit social exchange. To a packed house, Ptak began her talk by showing slides of publications that have printed information, opinions, and reactions to her project Wages for Facebook; then transitioned the crowd to small-group discussions of four questions regarding Facebook and value; then to a whole-group discussion/Q&A session.

Ptak presents and criticizes Facebook as a business model that accumulates enormous capital based on the activity of unpaid individuals (its users). One participant at the Kadist event noted that the nature of the evening mimicked the very structure it claimed to subvert, and pointed out that the small-group discussions funneled energy and intellectual production (labor) into a format where only a single individual (Ptak) stands to benefit. In this case, the social and intellectual capital accrued by presenting at a prestigious institution such as Kadist stand in for the capital of a financial asset—although one can surmise that future monetary benefits might also be gleaned in the form of awards, residencies, speaker fees, etc. Though the event was certainly thought-provoking and raised interesting questions about the role of  labor and  intellectual property in social media, the inherent contradictions of the project also warrant further discussion. The images below show the different portions of the event, and we encourage our readers to learn more about the project and come to their own conclusions.

Laurel Ptak (left) and Christina Linden (right).

Laurel Ptak (left) and Christina Linden (right).

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