Shotgun Reviews

YOGAFLOGOGO at Southern Exposure

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, Shelley Carr reviews YOGAFLOGOGO at Southern Exposure in San Francisco, California. 

Sylvie Nelson as The Outer Limit of Your Body, YOGAFLOGOGO; live performance at Southern Exposure, February 21, 2015. Courtesy of the Artist and Southern Exposure. Photo: Matt Shapiro.

Sylvie Nelson as The Outer Limit of Your Body, YOGAFLOGOGO; live performance at Southern Exposure, February 21, 2015. Courtesy of the Artist and Southern Exposure. Photo: Matt Shapiro.

Neon colored tape, fanny packs and leotards, animated speaking hairballs, and videos of aerobic booty shaking—there was a lot going on at Southern Exposure on Saturday, February 21. In YOGAFLOGOGO, a performance organized by artist Olivia Mole, a trio of actors carried out a series of actions in an attempt to perform the synergy between the loss of individuality as young women nearing adulthood and an absurdist take on the dumbing-down of pop consumer culture.

The latest iteration by Mole—part of three two-week process-based performance and video projects—is set in a cartoonish space divided by plastic barriers, large stones, a TV set, and a yellow couch. Three projections positioned high on the walls offer humorous asides and a clunky, animated endoscopy set to lurid sound effects.

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San Francisco

Bill Owens: Suburbanites and Socialites at Mills College Art Museum

Today from our partners at Art Practical, we bring you Maria Porges’ review of Bill Owens: Suburbanites and Socialites at Mills College Art Museum. The author notes, “When I think about the tidal wave of changes that were moving through the political and sociocultural landscape at that time, there is something both tender and awful about the reality Owens captured. It is a reality we are fortunate to have a record of, as imaginary as it now seems.” This article was originally published on February 19, 2015.

Bill Owens. Untitled [Baton Practice], ca. 1973. Gelatin silver print, 7 7/8 x 10 in. Gift of Marion Brenner and Robert Harshorn Shimshak. Courtesy of Mills College Art Museum, Oakland.

Bill Owens. Untitled (Baton Practice), ca. 1973; gelatin silver print; 7 7/8 x 10 in. Gift of Marion Brenner and Robert Harshorn Shimshak. Courtesy of Mills College Art Museum, Oakland.

Three girls carrying batons parade across hideous houndstooth wall-to-wall carpeting. They look focused on their practice; a fourth girl, dejected or maybe just bored, sits in the background by a wall of trophies (awards for twirling, possibly?). This black-and-white photograph from 1973 is one of thirty-three featured in Suburbanites and Socialites, a small but compelling research-driven exhibition at the Mills College Art Museum. The photographs—recently donated by Robert Harshorn Shimshak and Marion Brenner—were selected from Suburbia, Owens’s 1973 landmark book of images and text, later followed by Our Kind of People (1975), Working—I do it for the Money (1977), and, decades later, Leisure (2004).

In the early 1970s, when Owens took these pictures in and around Livermore, California, few photographers had shown an interest in portraying life within the vast sprawl of housing developments that would become home to sixty million Americans in the decades after World War Two. Having discovered photography during a stint in the Peace Corps, Owens took a job in 1968 as staff photographer for The Independent, a small newspaper in Livermore. Going out on up to six assignments a day made it easy to get to know the people, places, and events of the community Owens was documenting. Along the way, he became one of the most important chroniclers of his time, known for images so memorable that they have become part of our unconscious template for how suburbia should look.

Read the full article here.


Fan Mail

Fan Mail: Jason Engelund

Photographer Jason Engelund is distinctly aware of the conceptual and metaphorical capacities of landscape. Engelund works with a single series of photographs at a time to capture one motif, location, technique, or compositional strategy from various positions. However, these discrete bodies of work resonate with one another as part of a long-term vision—an ongoing project, or more aptly a study of photographic mechanisms and the ways they mark and demarcate landscape.

Jason Engelund. Drawing with the Sun & Sea 60, 2015; photograph; 34 x 44 inches. Courtesy of the artist.

Jason Engelund. Drawing with the Sun & Sea 60, 2015; photograph; 34 x 44 in. Courtesy of the Artist.

Drawing with the Sun & Sea 60 (2015) is part of Engelund’s 2015 series Meta-Landscapes & Visual Ambient Drones, which depicts a succession of landscapes. For these images, Engelund experiments with intervening in the images—marking the negatives and overlaying frames—before they are developed, and he often does so on-site in direct response to the presence of the landscape itself. The stylistic visual qualities of the subject matter, such as a mountain emerging from an ocean, have been reversed through the artist’s experiments with exposure time; dark and light have switched to make the landscape look snow-covered and unreal, with an ethereal black circle emerging from the center of the frame.

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Rodrigo Valenzuela: Future Ruins at the Frye Art Museum

Future Ruins, Rodrigo Valenzuela’s exhibition at the Frye Art Museum, is indeed monumental, incorporating a range of media including print, sculpture, video, and sound. The exhibition does not present a quiet, post-apocalyptic landscape that fetishizes decay; rather, Valenzuela addresses divisions of labor and the nature of work, making these complex issues manifest through the specter of the 21st-century economic landscape. And though it is discordant at times, the installation requires sensory friction to make its point.

Rodrigo Valenzuela. Still from Maria TV, 2014. Digital video with audio. Courtesy of the artist.

Rodrigo Valenzuela. Maria TV, 2014 (still); digital video with audio. Courtesy of the Artist.

It is the artist’s firsthand experience as an undocumented worker that lends dimension to his creative practice and vehemence to his politics. Valenzuela emigrated from Chile to the U.S. by way of Montreal in 2005, and for three years, he picked up odd jobs through labor agencies and by waiting on the street, bouncing from Boston to Olympia before finally settling in Seattle in 2006. “Minorities often get invisible jobs,” he remarked in a 2014 interview. “When you get to your office, school, or restaurant, look around. Look at the trash and the bathrooms. If you don’t see anything, then that is a well-done, invisible job, often executed by disposable people.”

Valenzuela’s vision of the future is a close examination of the present. The exhibition is organized in three sections, and each of the varied components operates similarly to a stage, serving up satire to make way for speculation. The visit begins in a darkened room where two short videos, Maria TV (2014) and Diamond Box (2012), are shown on a loop. It is here that we are introduced to the laborers whose contributions to the mechanisms of daily life are undeniably crucial yet remain invisible.

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San Francisco

Some Parallels in Textiles and Composition

Today from our partners at Art Practical we bring you Rebecca Gates’ fascinating examination of the nexus of sound and textile processes. Be sure to spend some time with this piece—perhaps with headphones on—to really grasp the points at which these seven artists find inspiration. This piece was originally published on February 26, 2015.

A sweater pulled overhead, brushing the ears, both muffling sounds and creating a gentle cacophony. The highly rhythmic rattle of a textile mill in operation, any time from the height of the Industrial Revolution to the present. The meditative tempo—to and fro, clicks and clacks—of a loom beater in motion.

When one considers the relationship of sound to textiles, one’s focus can shift scales, from the sound of fabric moving over skin to wearable sound-producing technology; from the unruly knit of an artificial fur Deadcat windscreen damping the impact of wind on a microphone to the simple fabric covering a loudspeaker emitting sounds at great volume.

Ever present, sound has only in the last century been framed in terms of art and its vocabulary, its sensory and expository qualities explored and incorporated in contemporary art works and theory. As the discipline of sound art develops and becomes more common, artists, including those working in textiles, are exploring ways to relate to and collaborate with sound.

Read the full article here.



Ding Yi: Ivory Black at ShanghArt

“Grids punctured with crosses in varying patterns” is perhaps the best—and admittedly, the most simplistic—way of summing up Ding Yi’s oeuvre. Ivory Black at the ShanghArt gallery is his latest iteration of these basic, severely geometric forms, in varying shades of blue, black, and white hues, distinguished only by date and serial number. Like an astronomer’s chart of the night sky, Ding’s gridded, ordered forms lend a semblance of artificial order to infinite black space as the plus and X marks pulse and shimmer with subtly placed colored accents on a dark background. Yet they offer no central focal point that draws the eye; it just isn’t possible to look at the flattened layers of vivid colors and patterns and pick out a distinguishing mark to begin a detailed examination of the canvas. Without a visual anchor, viewers can only drift within the spaces in which grid and cross intermingle, uncomfortably caught between two- and three-dimensional spaces where boundaries between pictorial depth and surface flatness begin to get fuzzy.

Ding Yi. Appearance of Crosses-12, 2013; acrylic on canvas; 120 cm x 140 cm. Photo: Courtesy of the Artist and ShanghArt gallery Singapore.

Ding Yi. Appearance of Crosses-12, 2013; acrylic on canvas; 120 x 140 cm. Courtesy of the Artist and ShanghArt Gallery Singapore.

The masterful, intricate complexity of the Appearance of Crosses (2014) series is impressive and unsurprising; after all, Ding’s unswerving commitment to rational abstraction began nearly thirty years ago, in the years of socio-political upheaval following China’s Cultural Revolution (1966–76). Like many artists of that time, Ding’s earliest venture into abstraction was a personal act of rebellion against the earthy tones and glib smoothness of Russian socialist realism, a figurative style that had heavily influenced the propagandistic art of the revolution. Looking instead to the Post-Impressionists, the Abstract Expressionists, and the De Stijl movement, Ding painted Taboo (1986) out of a limited palette of muted tones and bold, long brushstrokes depicting a dynamic combination of marks, its anxious, forceful energy seeming to mirror the turmoil of state and self in the aftermath of the revolution. Just two years later, he had created the first of his so-called “cross paintings,” a template of abstraction that he would follow for the next three decades as the contemporary Chinese art world made its own great leap forward.

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From the Archives

From the Archives – Help Desk: Pressure to Review

Today’s Help Desk column contains some advice that bears repeating: There’s more than one way to support your art-making friends. This article was originally published on August 19, 2013. You can submit your question to Help Desk anonymously here. All submissions become the property of Daily Serving.

I’m a new arts administrator, and I live in [a mid-size city]. Through my four years of art school here and my job, I know many artists who live in this city. I started writing art reviews last year, and all of a sudden I’m feeling pressure to write about my friends’ work. It’s not like they are asking me directly, but hints have been dropped. I have no problem reviewing work that I think is good, but the problem is that there are some people who I like very much, but I don’t think their work is that great. How do I get out of reviewing the work that I don’t like without losing my friends?

Ken Price. Liquid Rock, 2004; Acrylic and ink on paper; 17 3⁄4 x 13 7/8 in. Courtesy Matthew Marks Gallery

Ken Price. Liquid Rock, 2004; acrylic and ink on paper; 17 3⁄4 x 13 7/8 in. Courtesy of Matthew Marks Gallery

This is a sticky situation indeed. You want to write about the artwork that you enjoy, but you also want to support the people you love; unfortunately, sometimes there’s not much overlap between these two groups in the big Venn Diagram of Life. Let’s review some of the ways you can negotiate this minefield without blowing up your friendships.

First, there’s the “it’s out of my hands” tactic, which is my personal favorite because someone else gets to play Bad Cop. If you’re publishing reviews, you ought to see if there’s an editorial policy already in place at the blog/newspaper/magazine(s) with whom you are working. The policy will spell out what you’re allowed to write about and what you’re not, and if you haven’t been presented with one yet, it can’t hurt to ask. Many editorial policies state that a writer cannot review the work of an artist with whom she has a personal relationship. Admittedly, this kind of thing is a double-edged sword: It removes all responsibility for not being able to review friends’ bad exhibitions, but it also eliminates the possibility of reviewing friends’ work that is good. The important thing is that your hands are tied; in either case, all you have to do is shrug and say, “It’s too bad I can’t write about this show.” End of story.

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