San Francisco

Misako Inaoka: Fractured Fauna at Johansson Projects

Our partners at Art Practical are celebrating their sixth annual Shotgun! issue, so today we bring you Monica Westin’s review of Misako Inaoka: Fractured Fauna at Johansson Projects. This article was originally published on September 25, 2014.

Misako Inaoka. Bird Man, 2014; mixed media; 19 x 20 x 10 in. Courtesy of the Artist and Johansson Projects, Oakland.

Misako Inaoka. Bird Man, 2014; mixed media; 19 x 20 x 10 in. Courtesy of the Artist and Johansson Projects, Oakland.

Misako Inaoka’s menagerie of upholstered animal sculptures, exquisite quasi-taxidermy, and delicate collage works is immediately alluring. It only becomes clear after spending time with the objects that their beguiling quality critiques our own desires for a benign version of nature, made safe and decorative for our aesthetic consumption. Even when not using the direct, visual language of taxidermy, the show evokes feelings of suspended animation and unnaturalness.

The most striking work is a set of anthropomorphic, almost life-size animal sculptures covered in upholstery, sequins, and other heavily wrought textures. Depicting wildlife such as bears and deer, the figures bow or stand in graceful gestures, and the contrast between form and texture is visually interesting enough to delay a visitor’s reaction, just long enough to be seduced by their elegant design. Only after a double take does the curve of a neck connected to a form on the ground give rise to a quiet kind of horror: the animals are horribly disfigured, leaning beautifully against the gallery floors because they lack front legs, and oversized barnacles or smooth fabric stumps appear where their heads should be. The most disturbing are sculptural hybrids, like a headless bear teetering on piano legs, and uncanny kinetic sculptures, like an automaton bird struggling endlessly in the mouth of a carved wooden cat.

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New York

Philippe Decrauzat: Pour Tout Diviser at Elizabeth Dee

Elizabeth Dee presents Pour Tout Diviser, an exhibition of work by Swiss artist Philippe Decrauzat, as “a two-sided exhibition in three acts.” The first and second apparently occurred in Madrid and Paris, so New Yorkers experience the show’s conclusion. (There is no indication at the Chelsea gallery of what the European displays were like.) Without speculating as to what exactly makes the exhibition “two-sided,” the notion of a spatio-temporally divided exhibition itself puts a critic in an awkward position. One hesitates to pass judgment on a fragment; at the same time, one cannot but wonder if the exhibition is being presented as such for this very reason: to evade rigorous criticism. The approach here will be to give Decrauzat the benefit of the doubt on this point and progress through Act Three with a nonetheless critical eye.

Philippe Decrauzat. Installation shot of "Pour Tout Diviser." Courtesy the Artist and Elizabeth Dee, New York. Photograph by Etienne Frossard.

Philippe Decrauzat. Pour Tout Diviser; installation view. Courtesy of the Artist and Elizabeth Dee, New York. Photograph by Etienne Frossard.

The exhibition consists of fourteen paintings of various widths, featuring vibrating moiré patterns in magenta and cyan. They are mounted on seven freshly erected, freestanding walls—one canvas per side—that exactly match the widths of the paintings they support. These horizontal dimensions, it turns out, derive from the fenestration pattern of the gallery’s façade, which alternates between brick and glass in seven corresponding sections. The optically entrancing rhythm of overlapping lines on Decrauzat’s canvases mirrors both the distribution of new walls in the gallery’s interior and the artist’s sensitivity to the sequence of verticals fronting the gallery’s existing architectural space. Meanwhile, in an adjacent gallery, a silent 16mm film further inflects this mode of perceptual engagement. In it, double-exposed footage of a spinning object (described only as “a scientific object of light wave research”) yields an abstract and hypnotic interplay of light and shadow.

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Los Angeles

Alex Becerra: Las Putas Problematicas at ltd los angeles

Alex Becerra recently made his solo debut at ltd los angeles gallery with eleven icing-thick paintings that would fit nicely in the company of Werner Büttner, Philip Guston, or Willem de Kooning. Immense quantities of paint are brushed, squeezed, and caked together to form images that are as much mark and material as they are figure and object. Each piece offers itself up to the viewer like a freshly roasted pig, and the skin of the outrageously thick dried paint only serves to elevate the supple flesh beneath. The complexity of the work belies the artist’s mere twenty-five years of existence and his recent graduation from the Otis College of Art and Design.

Alex Becerra. Brookstone Woman, 2014; oil on canvas; 72 x 63 in. Courtesy of the Artist and ltd los angeles.

Alex Becerra. Brookstone Woman, 2014; oil on canvas; 72 x 63 in. Courtesy of the Artist and ltd los angeles.

In an obvious homage to The Greeting (2003; a collaborative painting between Albert Oehlen and Jonathan Meese), Strictly for the CADDY Lovers (2014) depicts a female figure naked from the waist down and standing on a mirror. As unceremonious as her pose may be, the painting does not come off as pornographic in nature—the work functions as a moment of self-discovery and the newfound awareness such a realization creates. This piece is also an image strongly rooted in the language of drawing, and it actively addresses its relationship with paint as a physical material and an ideological tool.

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Wichita

Bruce Conner: Somebody Else’s Prints at the Ulrich Museum of Art

Sympathetic magic—the use of a surrogate object to magically influence the person or circumstance it represents—has long been one of my favorite subjects. The Ulrich Museum of Art’s current exhibition, Bruce Conner: Somebody Else’s Prints, is an impressive collection of prints, etchings, and lithographs, a number of which Conner attributed to pseudonyms. The show inventively chronicles the artist’s use of surrogate figures for a variety of political and conceptual gains. In the exhibition are works produced during his brief time as a student at Wichita State University[1], and also during his initial years in the Bay Area at Magnolia Editions, Kaiser Graphics, and Collectors Press. The result is a mix of fine art and commercially printed work that cheekily micromanages art-historical expectation.

Bruce Conner, Bombhead, 2002. Pigmented inkjet print on paper, 32 x 25 in. Courtesy Magnolia Editions, Oakland, CA. © 2014 Conner Family Trust, San Francisco / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Bruce Conner. Bombhead, 2002; pigmented inkjet print on paper; 32 x 25 in. Courtesy of Magnolia Editions, Oakland, CA. © 2014 Conner Family Trust, San Francisco / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.

Conservators and historians have always been fascinated by matters of provenance, from potentially inauthentic signatures like the one on Rembrandt’s Self Portrait as a Young Man to underlays of handprints in Jackson Pollock paintings. Bruce Conner, consistently aware of these issues, used pseudonyms and editions to manipulate his place in that system. Conner’s style of sympathetic magic makes a metaphorical voodoo doll of artist-attributed prnts, ultimately inflicting pain on those who trade on the conventional practice of the lower-right-hand corner signature. His refusal to be “marketed” under his own name effectively stuck a pin of uncertainty in the value of his works as salable commodities. Curator Jodi Throckmorton focuses this show on Conner’s many dalliances with markers of authenticity and compiles them into one of the most comprehensive retrospectives to take place outside the Bay Area.

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From the Archives

From the Archives – #Hashtags: Georgia Sagri is otherwise occupied

Three years ago this week, Occupy protests had spread to over 851 cities in 82 countries. Today from our archives we bring you a look back at Carol Cheh’s consideration of Georgia Sagri’s practice in relation to the Occupy movement. Cheh reminds us: “The real point of Occupy, after all, was to occupy oneself and one’s own actions, to keep seeking ways out of the status quo, and to find solidarity in community, in momentary interactions, and in history.” This article was originally published on May 6, 2013.

GEORGIA SAGRI, "Working the no work/Travaillez je ne travaille pas/Δουλεύοντας τη μη δουλειά," Whitney Biennial 2012, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York. Courtesy of the artist and Melas Papadopoulos, Athens. Copyright Georgia Sagri. Photo: Paula Court

Georgia Sagri. Working the no work/Travaillez je ne travaille pas/Δουλεύοντας τη μη δουλειά, 2012; performance at the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York. Courtesy of the Artist and Melas Papadopoulos, Athens. Copyright Georgia Sagri. Photo: Paula Court.

In the prelude to his book The Triumph of Anti-Art, Thomas McEvilley held up the Greek philosopher Diogenes of Sinope, founder of the School of Cynics, as a prototypical conceptual and performance artist who strove to break down the barriers separating philosophy and life. Through numerous absurdist gestures and lifestyle choices, passed down to us as fragmentary anecdotes (such as the one that has him giving an entire public speech in the form of laughter), Diogenes performed his philosophy daily in an effort to “[reverse] all familiar values” and “[lay] bare a dimension of hidden possibilities which he thought might constitute personal freedom.” According to legend, Diogenes even lived inside of a large jar in the Athenian marketplace and ate onions and figs that he picked himself.

The Greek-born artist Georgia Sagri—an early participant in the Occupy Wall Street movement who was cited by Time magazine as playing an influential role in shaping its philosophy—often mentions Diogenes when discussing her own work. “He represented a rupture of the academy, of the official language of thought,” she reflected in a recent phone interview I conducted with her. “To him, there was no inside or outside—he simply lived everywhere. And the Cynics didn’t just talk, they activated their philosophy. This territory of thought was abandoned in favor of the dominant rational discourse of Plato and Aristotle, whose dialectic we still live with today.”

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Shotgun Reviews

Mungo Thomson: Wall, Window, or Bar Signs at Kadist Art Foundation

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, Melissa Miller reviews Mungo Thomson’s Wall, Window, or Bar Signs at Kadist Art Foundation in San Francisco.

Mungo Thomson. My Name as Written by Bruce Nauman, 2014; neon, 60 x 120 in. Courtesy of the Artist and the Kadist Art Foundation, San Francisco. Photo by Jeff Warrin.

Mungo Thomson. My Name as Written by Bruce Nauman, 2014; neon, 60 x 120 in. Courtesy of the Artist and the Kadist Art Foundation, San Francisco. Photo by Jeff Warrin.

In Mungo Thomson’s solo exhibition at Kadist Art Foundation, Wall, Window, or Bar Signs, the gallery is filled with neon works that appropriate the form of Bruce Nauman’s spiraling neon text piece, The True Artist Helps the World by Revealing Mystic Truths (Window or Wall Sign) from 1967. Aided by the hypnotic spiral and glowing neon form, Thomson utilizes phrases from twelve-step programs and self-help literature to re-create the spiritual undertones present in Nauman’s work. Though at first glance the works seem to stem exclusively from an obsession with Nauman, a neon piecetucked away in the back room of the gallery ruptures the three-room homage.

Completed in handwritten script, the neon work My Name as Written by Bruce Nauman (2014) is challenging to read, and only after referring to the title sheet do the words become clear: “Thank you Mungo Bruce Nauman.” The inclusion of Nauman’s autograph—received by Thomson at a book-signing event in New York and later transferred into neon—adds to the ongoing conversation about authorship and consent already present in the exhibition. But the work’s scrawl-like effect is similar to Tracey Emin’s neon works and further complicates the circle of appropriation. Emin’s neons are created from love letters or sketches, infusing the cool, conceptual medium with sentimental content. The handwritten letters in Thomson’s neon piece not only highlight the artist’s affection for Nauman, continuing with this idea of the sentimental in Emin’s work, but also instigate a larger narrative around art-historical lineage made evident through appropriation.

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San Francisco

Pablo Guardiola: Maintenance Yard at Romer Young Gallery

Today from our sister publication Art Practical, we bring you a review of Pablo Guardiola’s Maintenance Yard at Romer Young Gallery in San Francisco. Author Genevieve Quick notes, “Guardiola positions history as an active investigatory process rather than a passive reiteration of fact.” This article was originally published on September 25, 2014.

Pablo Guardiola. Sharks 1, 2014; digital C-print, 10 x 15 in. Courtesy of Romer Young Gallery, San Francisco.

Pablo Guardiola. Sharks 1, 2014; digital C-print; 10 x 15 in. Courtesy of Romer Young Gallery, San Francisco.

Having lived in San Francisco and currently residing in San Juan, in his native Puerto Rico, Pablo Guardiola fuses the histories of the two locations in his exhibition Maintenance Yard. Both coastal areas have a legacy of European and American seafaring expansion, and Guardiola uses markers of this history to explore cultural and nautical imperialism. While many of Guardiola’s references may not be readily apparent, patient and curious viewers will find in his juxtapositions of imagery provocative questions about how we understand and organize meaning.

Guardiola’s photo collage Drake (2013) references Sir Francis Drake (1540–1596), a global explorer and exploiter who circumnavigated the globe for the British empire. The British honor Drake with a monument in Plymouth, U.K., and his legacy as the first European explorer in Northern California is memorialized in Marin County’s Sir Francis Drake Boulevard and Drakes Bay. (Contrastingly, some Puerto Ricans denounce Drake for his leading role in the British attack on San Juan in 1595.) In Guardiola’s photograph of Drake’s U.K. monument, the figure stands heroically with one hand resting on the globe while a sword hangs from his hip. Behind this image, Guardiola has placed a photograph of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake that depicts several gentlemen observing the city against a smoke-filled sky. With Drake’s monument perched on a pillar and the earthquake photographed from above, Guardiola creates a perspectival relationship between the discovery of the Bay Area and San Francisco’s momentary destruction.

Read the full article here.

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