London

Pipilotti Rist: Worry Will Vanish and Stay Stamina Stay at Hauser & Wirth

Worry Will Vanish and Stay Stamina Stay, parallel exhibitions by Pipilotti Rist at Hauser & Wirth in London and Somerset, respectively, feature footage generated during Rist’s recent residency at the gallery’s newest location in Somerset between summer 2012 and summer 2013. For material, Rist milks images from the plant life surrounding Durslade Farm, the historic Somerset compound that Hauser & Wirth has converted into gallery spaces, garden, farm, and café. Rist’s videos suggest the confluence of the micro- upon the macroscopic, like overlaid sheets of tracing paper revealing the similarities of the body, the natural world of plants, and the cosmos.

Pipilotti Rist. Worry Will Vanish Horizon, 2014 (video still); audio-video installation (video projection on two walls, carpet, blankets, with music by Heinz Rohrer); dimensions variable. Courtesy of the Artist and Hauser & Wirth London.

Pipilotti Rist. Worry Will Vanish Horizon, 2014 (video still); audio-video installation (video projection on two walls, carpet, blankets, with music by Heinz Rohrer); dimensions variable. Courtesy of the Artist and Hauser & Wirth London.

Both the works Worry Will Vanish Horizon (in London) and Mercy Garden (in Somerset) transform adjacent gallery walls into massive video theaters. In London, visitors remove their shoes before entering and are invited to lie down on soft, white floor pillows while they take in the projections. In Somerset, the invitation for a seated vista is presented in the form of locally produced sheepskin rugs.

In London, Worry Will Vanish Horizon is focused on the somatic experience. The video traces a path through what appears to be the interior of a human body lined with blood veins that morph into the veins on the backs of leaves and mapped constellations in a black sky. The vantage point of lying down lulls the viewer into a hypnotic relationship with the body in the work. Rist is informed here by autogenic training, a psychiatric technique developed by Johannes Heinrich Schultz in 1932 in which the participant views a series of images from a particular physical position in order to induce relaxation. Though this manipulation of the viewer’s body in order to produce emotional response to video is novel, the orchestration of viewing a video about the body’s arrangement in space (referencing both outer space and one’s surroundings) results in an intersection of body, flora, and nebula that comes across as didactic as it is psychedelic. It feels like a throwback to a kind of New Age awareness of one’s place in the universe: an aesthetic that is beautiful but overused, enough to seem devoid—and, indeed, it is not of the void of which it hopes to speak. The work, in its seeming eagerness to relax the viewer, oversimplifies its own ideas.

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San Diego

Collective Restraint: Four Decades of Czech Photography at the Museum of Photographic Arts

Nazi Germany’s annexation of Czechoslovakian territory in 1938 ushered in five decades of nearly uninterrupted occupation and oppression for the central European country. Collective Restraint: Four Decades of Czech Photography at the Museum of Photographic Arts in San Diego features dozens of photographs from just prior to this period through the stormy 1960s. The works on display bear little immediate witness to this unstable period in the region’s history; Czech photographers from the time were often required to avoid overtly political subjects in their art, but the testimony of this history lies just beneath the surface.

Josef Sudek. Untitled, c. 1940-1954; gelatin silver print. Courtesy Jerry D. and Mary K. Gardner.

Josef Sudek. Untitled, c. 1940-1954; gelatin silver print. Courtesy of Jerry D. and Mary K. Gardner.

The photographs in the exhibition are beautiful, often eerie, and sometimes abstract. None seem to point directly to Nazi occupation and Soviet invasion. A turn toward abstract works and formal experimentation, however, represented a means of navigating censors. In this way, abstraction and the seeming lack of subject matter in many works are themselves a documentation of the political history of the time.

Photographer Josef Sudek reacted to the Nazi occupation by withdrawing from public life to the domestic sphere during World War II. One untitled photograph (dated 1940­–1954) presents a clothesline hung between two bare, wintry trees; it sags from the weight of several white garments. The photograph was taken behind a window, safely indoors, and condensation on the glass obscures the view. This pretty yet melancholic image is an indirect reference to the horrors of war and totalitarianism, which directly informed the work.

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New York

The Self-Portraits of Samuel Fosso

From our friends at Guernica, today we bring you a feature on the self-portraits of artist Samuel Fosso. Author Emmanuel Iduma notes, “The self-portraits are intimate for what they allow to be imagined… [T]hese representations of our favorite black heroes ask viewers to think about the use of public images, and how they become objects of worship, and of control.” This article was originally published on November 17, 2014, but you can still catch the exhibition, which runs at the Walther Collection in New York through January 17, 2015.

The artist as Angela Davis from African Spirits, 2008 © Samuel Fosso. Courtesy The Walther Collection and Jean Marc Patras / Galerie

Samuel Fosso. The artist as Angela Davis from African Spirits, 2008. Courtesy of the Walther Collection and Jean Marc Patras/Galerie, © Samuel Fosso.

The self-portraits of Samuel Fosso, a Cameroonian artist, are currently being exhibited at the Walther Collection in New York. Fosso began photographing himself soon after he opened his business, Studio Photo Nationale, in 1975 in Bangui, Central African Republic, at the age of thirteen. By day, he took portraits, passport photos, and wedding photographs for paying customers. By night, he experimented with self-portraiture, examining visual identity through costume, impersonation, and performance.

Entitled Samuel Fosso, the exhibition’s unspoken premise seems to be that the artist is due for a mid-career retrospective. Established by German-American collector Artur Walther, the nonprofit Walther Collection has only been public since 2010. It opened its headquarters in Neu-Ulm, Germany, adding an outpost in New York’s Chelsea district a year later. Walther has focused primarily on collecting contemporary Asian and African photography and video art, particularly around the subject of stereotype and selfhood. This exhibition is the first in the U.S. to combine Fosso’s past and present work in one show, with self-portraits alongside his studio work.

Read the full article here.

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Help Desk

Help Desk: Breaking into Arts Journalism

Help Desk is an arts-advice column that demystifies practices for artists, writers, curators, collectors, patrons, and the general public. Submit your questions anonymously here. All submissions become the property of Daily Serving.

I love writing and I love art. I have been teaching for ten years, and now I am looking to break into journalism and the arts. Should I head back to uni and do a journalism course or attempt all of the competitions possible in order to build a portfolio? Please help.

The Krasnals. Dream Factory, 2008; oil on canvas.

The Krasnals. Dream Factory, 2008; oil on canvas.

Given the costs, it’s difficult to advise anyone except the independently wealthy to go back to school for a post-post-secondary education—even in the UK, where universities can only charge up to £9,000 per year. (In the U.S., of course, annual tuition for a public-school graduate program averages around $30,000.) Of course, you could certainly make an argument for returning to school for the networking, but banking on meeting the “right” people—and impressing them favorably—doesn’t always pay off. Instead, since you’re a teacher and you already know how to design and execute an academic plan, you could DIY an education. If you have discipline and ambition, consider embarking on a self-designed scheme to create a practice as an arts writer.

The basic components of a university arts-journalism curriculum would be classes in art history and theory, assignments in reading and writing, and feedback on your work. You can build these elements on your own, and some will come easier than others. Most accessible are the materials: online classes (some for free), videos from conferences, and podcasts devoted to art history, theory, and visual culture studies. In fact, there’s so much information that you might start to feel like a tiny hiker at the base of the Pyrenees, but don’t get buried in an avalanche of knowledge or your life will be all research and no writing. I suggest that you seek out some syllabi that can guide you toward canonical and/or useful texts—I conducted a basic Google search for “art theory syllabus” and turned up some great results. Find ten syllabi from trustworthy sources and see where they overlap; start with those books and articles. Identify other materials that sound interesting, and make an outline and a schedule. Leave yourself some flexibility to follow up on new leads; if you read an excellent text, check out its bibliography. If you’re working from anthologies and excerpts, it’s usually worth your while to obtain some of the original documents.

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Shotgun Reviews

David Ryan at MCQ Fine Art

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, Dawn-Michelle Baude reviews David Ryan’s current solo show at MCQ Fine Art in Las Vegas.

David Ryan. (Untitled), 2014; Sintra construction with hand painting; 8 3⁄4 x 16 1⁄2 x 1⁄4 in.

David Ryan. Untitled, 2014; Sintra construction with hand painting; 8 3⁄4 x 16 1⁄2 x 1⁄4 in.

David Ryan’s first solo exhibition in Las Vegas pushes into fresh terrain. In the new body of seventeen works on view at MCQ Fine Art, Ryan has reduced scale, from the bright and sassy wall constructions for which he is known to intriguing, intimate works the size of manila envelopes. His hard-edged abstraction has softened, unfurling into delicate, organic planes.

Yet Ryan’s signature moves—the nervy lines, the accreted shapes, the obsession with nesting—are as strong as ever in these painting-and-sculpture combos. In an untitled work from 2014, for example, layers of machine-cut Sintra reproduce a squeegee-and-brush painting in the base stratum—expressionistic work in a vintage palette of aqua, silver, fog blue, white, and crimson. With its gauzy planes, the painting maintains Ryan’s interest in blocking color but opts to superimpose rather than juxtapose. The gestural blotches and lines might have been ripped from Pollock or Gorky, but instead of reading as mid-century gestures, the work has a futuristic appeal.

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From the Archives

From the Archives – Fan Mail: Rachel Debuque

As the new year begins, it’s good to have a look back at what we’ve accomplished. Today we return to where we were exactly 365 days ago to rediscover the work of Rachel Debuque, who mixes a theatrical sensibility with a “discomforting internal logic” to create her installations. This article was originally published on January 3, 2014.

Rachel Debuque. Cacti-Smash (Performance and Installation), 2013; paint, wood moon cacti, gloves, plastic goggles, test tubes, knife, glass bowl, watch glasses plaster cast moon cacti, plaster cast cat sticks, cast plastic cat stick, aluminum, plastic roofing, extension cords, power strip, fake plants; 8’ x 10’ x 8’ feet. Courtesy of the artist.

Rachel Debuque. Cacti-Smash (Performance and Installation), 2013; paint, wood moon cacti, gloves, plastic goggles, test tubes, knife, glass bowl, watch glasses plaster-cast moon cacti, plaster-cast cat sticks, cast-plastic cat stick, aluminum, plastic roofing, extension cords, power strip, fake plants; 8 x 10 x 8 ft. Courtesy of the Artist.

Rachel Debuque works with myriad subjects and forms. In her work, installation, performance, video, and sculpture collide with themes of domesticity, the still life, and the eccentricities of both individual personalities and physical spaces. Through all of this, her oeuvre coheres around a central concern: the visual re-codification and conveyance of memory through spatial sensitivity.

Debuque’s Cacti-Smash (2013) is an installation-based performance that features two swimsuit models, nearly identically dressed, as well as a series of small, color-coordinated cacti and logs. Two colorful and brightly patterned walls and a matching floor frame a space that reads simultaneously as an interior and exterior room. As the two models begin their performance, a looped vocal track plays and then fades out, and the two women don laboratory-style safety goggles and classic yellow rubber gloves. The performance continues as the two cut, smash, and place a cactus in a test tube—this process, repeated with each performance, enacts an alternative yet nonsensical type of housework. With its candy-striped colors, combination of faux and real objects, and deliberately confident choreography, Cacti-Smash reads as a scene borrowed from some music video or commercial studio set, combining incredibly bright colors in attention-grabbing graphic patterns.

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San Francisco

Robert Frank in America at Cantor Arts Center

From our partners at Art Practical, today we bring you a review of a new exhibition of Robert Frank’s photographs at the Cantor Arts Center at Stanford University. Though these photographs are now sixty years old, they are still surprisingly relevant; author Danica Willard Sachs remarks, “Through revealing details, Frank charts the uneasy political geography of a vast country on the verge of change.” This article was originally published on December 18, 2014.

Robert Frank. Detroit, 1955; gelatin silver print, 8 ½ x 13 in. Courtesy of Cantor Arts Center at Stanford University. © Robert Frank.

Robert Frank. Detroit, 1955; gelatin silver print, 8 ½ x 13 in. Courtesy of Cantor Arts Center at Stanford University. © Robert Frank.

Few landmarks in photographic history loom as large as Robert Frank’s The Americans. This seminal book has been so widely exhibited, riffed on, and dissected, it would be easy to assume that the Cantor Arts Center’s current exhibition, Robert Frank in America, does little to expand on the narrative surrounding this body of work. Instead, the exhibition, curated by Peter Galassi, surprises with a host of unfamiliar photographs drawn from the Cantor’s collection paired with some favorites from the original series. The result is a survey that reveals how The Americans was distilled from hundreds of equally captivating photographs to a neat eighty-three.

Swiss photographer Frank was most productive between 1955 and 1956, when a Guggenheim Fellowship allowed him to travel across the country. Aside from the photographs that eventually became part of The Americans, the bulk of Frank’s work from this time has been largely unseen. The Cantor’s exhibition flushes out this period. As Galassi writes in the accompanying catalog, “In all of Frank’s American work there are no natural wonders, no amber waves of grain, no mighty ports, no grand public monuments, no cozy towns or bright lights of Broadway.” Instead, Frank focused on politics, race, religion, Hollywood, and cars—themes that organize the Cantor’s exhibition—creating compositions that highlight the quirks and eccentricities of American culture.

Read the full article here.

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