From the Archives

From the Archives – Coco Fusco: Observations of Predation in Humans at the Studio Museum in Harlem

Today, from the archives, we bring you Lia Wilson‘s review of Coco Fusco’s Observations of Predation in Humans, originally performed at the Studio Museum of Harlem in December 2013 for Radical Presence, a survey of performance work by black visual artists. This month, Fusco will be resuming her role as the legendary female chimpanzee psychologist Dr. Zira at Participant Inc., as part of the Performing Franklin Furnace exhibition, which showcases the historical import that Franklin Furnace and its founder Martha Wilson played in fostering avant-garde and activist art practices in New York City. This article was originally published on January 7, 2014.

Coco Fusco.

Coco Fusco. Observations of Predation in Humans: A Lecture by Dr. Zira, Animal Psychologist (study), 2013. Photo: Noah Krell.

Critical distance can be an ambitious aspiration for an artist, particularly if her practice strives to directly engage complex economic, environmental, or social justice issues. How can traditionally partisan discourses be avoided? Can a political viewpoint be communicated without merely contributing to a staunchly divisive cultural dialogue that is easy to tune out? There is no single strategy or formula for this challenge. Coco Fusco’s recent performance at the Studio Museum in Harlem deftly employed science fiction to gain some critical space. Her successful approach afforded her a new viewpoint and a platform—from a whole species away.

For Observations of Predation in Humans (2013), her contribution to the exhibition Radical Presence: Black Performance in Contemporary Art, Fusco revived and fully embodied the character of Dr. Zira, the female chimpanzee animal psychologist from the 1968–71 Planet of the Apes films. With a Skyped-in introduction from Donna Haraway, an esteemed commentator on hominoid interrelations, it was explained that despite the narrative of the third film, Escape from Planet of the Apes, which portrayed the character’s assassination by the U.S. government, Dr. Zira had actually survived and had been in hiding in an isolated cabin in the Midwest for more than twenty years. Over the course of this seclusion, she had been observing human behavior via the Internet and television. It wasn’t until the 2012 Cambridge Declaration, in which brain scientists concluded that non-human animals do have consciousness, that Dr. Zira felt safe enough to resurface as a public intellectual and present her findings on human predation.

Read More »

Share

Toronto

The Disappeared at Gallery 44 Centre for Contemporary Photography

In The Disappeared, artists Tatiana Grigorenko and Zoë Heyn-Jones rewrite history through still and moving images. In the current exhibition at Gallery 44 Centre for Contemporary Photography, Grigorenko and Heyn-Jones negotiate their relationships with their ancestors and origins through altered photographs and Super 8 film. With disarming honesty, they interrogate the ways in which their private memories and personal realities overlap and diverge. This fissure between the real and the imagined is further nuanced through their interventions, as they question the veracity of the photographic image and the camera’s ability to translate an authentic representation of reality.

Tatiana Grigorenko. Swimming, 2014; archival ink-jet print on Hahemühle cotton rag paper and collage; 16.5 x 11.8 in. Courtesy of the Artist and Gallery 44 Centre for Contemporary Photography.

Tatiana Grigorenko. Swimming, 2014; archival ink-jet print on Hahnemühle cotton rag paper and collage; 16 1/2 x 11 4/5 in. Courtesy the Artist and Gallery 44 Centre for Contemporary Photography.

The artists’ processes are foregrounded in this exhibition, as both Grigorenko and Heyn-Jones perform acts of historical revisionism by dealing with materiality and form. Grigorenko modifies images unearthed from her family archive by the use of paint or collage. With clinical accuracy, she excises herself from these relics, carefully covering up the evidence of her existence by replacing herself with blank space. These works are grouped on the gallery wall much in the same way as a family photo collection, and intimacy is evoked by this familiar arrangement. Between the collaged images hang Grigorenko’s school portraits (School Portrait #1#9 [2014]), her youthful face blackened out with paint. The organization of the work allows the viewer to gaze at a girl who is simultaneously coming of age while being denied her full identity.

Read More »

Share

San Francisco

The Return to Reason at Gallery Wendi Norris

Today from our partners at Art Practical, we bring you a review of the current group show at Gallery Wendi Norris in San Francisco. Author Danica Willard Sachs writes: “In a moment when the commonplace assumption is that photographs are digitally manipulated, the exhibition shines in its success at reminding viewers that wonder can still be found in the analog realm of the darkroom, or even in the camera itself.” This article was originally published on February 5, 2015.

Stephen Gill. Talking to Ants, 2009–12; pigment archival paper print, image 40 x 40 in., paper 44 x 44 in., edition of 5 plus 2 AP. Courtesy of the Artist and Gallery Wendi Norris, San Francisco.

Stephen Gill. Talking to Ants, 2009–12; pigment archival paper print, image 40 x 40 in., paper 44 x 44 in., edition of 5 plus 2 AP. Courtesy of the Artist and Gallery Wendi Norris, San Francisco.

The Return to Reason, on view at Gallery Wendi Norris, takes its title from Man Ray’s 1923 film, Le Retour à la Raison. In the three-minute film, Man Ray translates his signature photograms into moving images, making familiar objects like nails and pins anew by placing them directly onto sheets of film. These alternate with shots of a geometric mobile and its shadow, the spinning lights on a carousel, and a slowly revolving woman’s torso. Like Man Ray’s frenetic experiment, the five artists selected by curator Allie Haeusslein for The Return to Reason also manipulate photographic processes to create wondrous explorations of form.

The front gallery of the exhibition features the work of two of these artists, Chloe Sells and Lorenzo Vitturi. Sells creates one-of-a-kind topographic pastel-hued photographs of the Rocky Mountains by layering color and texture on negatives in the darkroom. Four of these are installed together in a pinwheel shape, a kaleidoscope of variations on the stony mountain faces. Across from these is a more visually striking work, Katoyissiksi (2014), which depicts a forested landscape and its reflection immediately below. Unframed and tacked onto the wall, Sells’s image fades into an ombre wash of cyan, magenta, and blue, the literal pigment elements of the chromogenic print.

Read the full article here.

Share

Singapore

Justin Mortimer: Sevastopol at Future Perfect

Annexed by Russia in 1782 during the reign of Catherine the Great, Sevastopol became an important naval base to the Russian Black Sea Fleet only to fall decades later to allied British, French, and Turkish troops during the Crimean War (1853–56) after a long, protracted siege that lasted eleven months. During the existence of the Soviet Union, the famous fortress city was transferred to the Ukrainian Soviet Republic and remained under the control of independent Ukraine after the Soviet collapse in 1991.

Today, it is a federal city within the Crimean Federal District that has recently been the lynchpin of a struggle between Ukraine’s new leaders and those loyal to the Russian Federation. Its current political status as a de facto territory of Russia remains internationally unrecognized after a closed referendum. Often mired in territorial dispute since its founding, Sevastopol has a legacy of enduring conflict and violence.

Justin Mortimer. Nes Ziona, 2014; oil on canvas; 86 3/5 x 63 in. Photo courtesy Future Perfect Asia, Singapore, and the Artist.

It seems fitting that Sevastopol, by British artist Justin Mortimer at Future Perfect gallery, is a series of paintings examining the visual discourse of resistance where key ideas—such as dissent, protest, and the power of the individual against the state—are represented by forms that teeter between the abstract and the concrete. Mortimer’s canvases exhibit a contradictory aesthetic sensibility; they are elegant and painterly but also theatrical and distorted, driven by an unmistakable undercurrent of hostility and anger.

Read More »

Share

From the Archives

From the Archives – Archive State at the Museum of Contemporary Photography, Columbia College

Today from our archives, we bring you a (re)consideration of an exhibition about archives. Author Liz Glass analyzes the work that was on view at the Museum of Contemporary Photography in 2014 and notes, “By re-presenting these events from recent history through […] fragmentary views, the exhibition reaffirms the tension between the body politic and the individual body, while posturing toward a way of writing history that is aggregate, collective, and multi-vocal.” This article was originally published on February 27, 2014.

Akram Zaatari, Dance to the End of Love, 2011; four-channel video installation; 22 mins. Installation view at MUSAC. Courtesy the artist and Sfeir-Semler Gallery, Hamburg/Beirut.

Akram Zaatari. Dance to the End of Love, 2011; four-channel video installation; 22 mins. Installation view at MUSAC. Courtesy of the Artist and Sfeir-Semler Gallery, Hamburg/Beirut.

On view across three levels of the Museum of Contemporary Photography at Columbia College in Chicago, the exhibition Archive State presents five discrete bodies of work developed by six artists. (One of the installations is made by a duo.) Spatially expansive and ideologically packed, each of these five groups of works deserves individual attention. Likewise, the title of the exhibition itself is due some unpacking.

Using the term Archive—one that seems ever more fashionable in the contemporary art milieu—the title calls forth a ready image. We may imagine a dusty or orderly collection of papers, books, ephemera, and photographs, understanding the archive as a contained entity, one of history, knowledge, specialization, and significance; an institutional repository of the past. Archive State yanks the rug out from under this term—and us—quite quickly, however, developing an expanded notion of what “the archive” comprises within our digital culture. Here we find YouTube clips, spliced together into a tonal montage; found photographs, discarded by their originators, but now reclaimed and re-presented; and other anonymous images. The idea of the archive, as expressed through the majority of these projects, becomes nebulous. While our image of ordered knowledge quickly fades, it is replaced with a form of knowing and being that reflects our haphazard, messy, subjective, and contentious present.

Read More »

Share

San Francisco

Jean Conner: Collages at Gallery Paule Anglim

Today from our partners at Art Practical, we bring you a review of Jean Conner’s collages at Gallery Paule Anglim in San Francisco. Catch this show if you can! Author Genevieve Quick calls the artist’s work “strongly provocative” and notes, “[Conner’s] confidence and skill in selection, placement, and juxtaposition… create surprising amounts of visual play, leading to strong formal compositions and intriguing ideas.” This article was originally published on February 5, 2015.

Jean Conner. Untitled (Mother Daughter), 1980; paper collage; 13½ x 9¾ in. Courtesy of the Artist and Gallery Paule Anglim.

Jean Conner. Untitled (Mother Daughter), 1980; paper collage; 13½ x 9¾ in. Courtesy of the Artist and Gallery Paule Anglim.

At Gallery Paule Anglim, Jean Conner presents thirteen meticulously crafted collages created over an almost fifty-year period. While the world has dramatically changed in Conner’s lifetime, much remains the same: Global and spiritual themes remain relevant, as do the banality and mysteriousness of domestic spaces. Assembled from magazine pages, Conner’s collages demonstrate her striking skill in juxtaposing images in both maximalist compositions and quietly restrained works. In bringing together disparate imagery, Conner creates intriguingly enigmatic formal compositions and narratives.

In the late ‘60s and ‘70s, mass-media coverage of the first moonwalk, the Vietnam War, President Nixon’s trip to China, and more brought the world into the homes of the average Americans. Through television and magazines, the world became less distant as Americans witnessed both triumphant and horrific events. Reflective of this social context and subject matter, Conner’s Arrival of the Magi (1971) is a complex and ambitiously scaled collage. As with the biblical story of three wise men traveling with offerings to witness the birth of Jesus, Conner assembles an international range of dancing figures, gift offerings, camels, embellished royalty, religious figures, and peasants in a desert landscape. As a departure from conventional religious imagery, Conner refrains from depicting Jesus. This omission creates space for a more secular reading; magi also have historical and etymological roots in Zoroastrianism, mysticism, astrology, and magic. While the magi are typically depicted piously leaning, gesturing, or looking toward the infant Jesus, Conner uses frontally posed figures, many of which expectantly stare back at the viewer. As mass media allowed Americans to begin looking at the world, this very medium also allowed it to look back at us.

Read the full article here.

Share

Fan Mail

Fan Mail: Willie Stewart

Willie Stewart incorporates a broad range of complex, mundane, strange, and dark subject matter and cultural references into his work. His interests and references include extraterrestrials, biker gangs and punk rock groups, German artist Kurt Schwitters’s Merzbau (1931–33), Mike Kelley’s book The Uncanny, and cult films such as Lloyd Kaufman’s Toxic Avenger (1984).

Willie Stewart. The Love You Withhold is the Pain that You Carry, 2014. Installation view kijidome, Boston, MA. Courtesy of kijidome and the Artist.

Willie Stewart. The Love You Withhold is the Pain that You Carry, 2014. Installation view, kijidome, Boston. Courtesy  kijidome and the Artist.

Stewart’s sculptures, installations, videos, photographs, and photocollages are all individual works, but each piece is often part of a complex and whimsical, yet bizarre, constructed environment that spans multiple rooms and gallery spaces. Each installation feels like a film or theater set.

Stewart’s 2014 exhibition The Love You Withhold is the Pain that You Carry at kijidome (a gallery and project space in Boston) began with the image of a family posing for a portrait, the kind used for a greeting card. In the picture, an infant girl, a boy around five, and a girl of about ten are shown with their father and mother. The father has a thin beard and is wearing a ragged baseball cap over his long straight hair; the mother has a hint of a smile below the frames of her large circular glasses. As a group, they seem to be sincere in their emotions and behaviors; they appear to enact a true image of themselves as individuals and as a family.

Read More »

Share