Houston

Deborah Roberts: One and Many at Art Palace

From our friends at Glasstire, today we bring you a review of Deborah Roberts’ current solo show at Art Palace in Houston, Texas. Author Betsy Huete notes, “To make political work without literally telling the viewer how he should think or feel is a tall order, yet Roberts pulls it off masterfully by intertwining the personal with the ideological. She infuses her work with subtle yet powerful empathy that is just as ferocious as it is vulnerable.” This article was originally published on November 29, 2014.

Deborah Roberts. Untitled No. 33, n.d.; Mixed media on paper, 14 x 17 in.

Deborah Roberts. Untitled No. 33, n.d.; mixed media on paper, 14 x 17 in.

With the exception of one misstep, One and Many, Deborah Roberts’ current solo show at Art Palace, is raw, painful, beautiful, grotesque, vulnerable, and vicious. The first line of her handout quotes James A. Baldwin: “People are trapped in history and history is trapped in them.” Roberts carries on her shoulders the Post-Black ideologies that she grapples with. Through paint, collage, and sculpture, she is locating herself within three histories she has inherited—of being black, of being a woman, and of being an artist working within the largely white, chauvinistic modernist vocabulary of photocollage and abstract painting.

The most compelling of several fourteen- by eleven-inch collages is Untitled No. 33. A black woman’s face appears halfway down the paper, a face that has been crudely sliced off at the neck and forehead. Roberts cracks open the woman’s skull, exposing the private thoughts residing in her head without her permission, and it shows. The woman stares at us head-on, her eyes emanating a complex mixture of defiance, sadness, and disgust. Three lab monkeys with red-tipped party hats pop out of her head, screaming. Roberts has replaced the woman’s body with a blind contour drawing in pencil. With disproportionate shoulders and fumbling cleavage, the body Roberts has given her is drawn in a way that is curiously investigative and abject. The pencil drawing may at first seem hurried and dismissive, but it is as important as the monkeys, which are visually more pronounced. The woman’s face and screaming monkeys blare anger at full volume, but the quiet body replenishes the work with a kind of self-deprecation and uncertainty. It’s the anchor that keeps it multi-dimensional, and prevents it from becoming overly didactic.

Read the full article here.

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Shotgun Reviews

Amber Cowan: Second-Life Glass at the Museum of Craft and Design

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, Sienna Freeman reviews Amber Cowan: Second-Life Glass at the Museum of Craft and Design in San Francisco.

Amber Cowan. Gray 80, 2014; flame-worked glass; 64 x 28 x 4 in. Courtesy of the Artist and Museum of Craft and Design. Photo: Amber Cowan.

Amber Cowan. Gray 80, 2014; flame-worked glass; 64 x 28 x 4 in. Courtesy of the Artist and Museum of Craft and Design. Photo: Amber Cowan.

Upon entering the Museum of Craft and Design’s current exhibition, Amber Cowan: Second-Life Glass, I was immediately struck by a sense of growth or gestation. Cowan’s complex sculptures seemed to bloom before me in a rapid, viral expansion of objects. It was as if each intricate blown, sculpted, or flameworked element had sprung from an internal living source, linked together beneath the surface by a hidden rhizome-like mass.

Cowan’s source material is heavy with past narratives of American cultural consumption and factory production. Made of American pressed glass from the late 1950s to the mid-1980s and industrial cullet (scrap glass intended for recycling) acquired at thrift shops, flea markets, or collected from cullet dumps, each of her works are repurposed.[i] Prior to the 1960s, American glass pieces were typically produced in an industrial factory, until the invention of a portable and inexpensive furnace allowed artists to melt and blow glass in independent studios.[ii] Produced by some of the best-known (but now closed) American glass factories, the glass and cullet Cowan uses literally and figuratively represents the remains of this industrial history. Her works can be viewed as reincarnated objects born from colors and chemical compositions of glass likely never to be produced again.

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San Francisco

Ai Weiwei: @ Large at Alcatraz

Today from our partners at Art Practical, we bring you Heidi Rabben’s assessment of @Large: Ai Weiwei on Alcatraz. Rabben writes, “…certainly, awareness and exposure counts for something, but whether or not these quantitative measurements will effectively impact or change any thinking about human rights is uncertain, and is therefore also a missed opportunity.” This article was originally published on November 24, 2014.

Ai Wei Wei. With Wind, 2014; installation detail, New Industries Building, Alcatraz. Courtesy of FOR-SITE Foundation. Photo: Jan Stürmann.

Ai Weiwei. With Wind, 2014; installation detail, New Industries Building, Alcatraz. Courtesy of FOR-SITE Foundation. Photo: Jan Stürmann.

This text is likely neither the first nor the last thing you will read about @Large: Ai Weiwei on Alcatraz. Substantial coverage began far in advance of the insurgent artist’s opening in late September, and the hype has continued steadily since. So it is not without reservation that I contribute another drop in the bucket. But for a project that professes to be predicated entirely on freedom—of thought and of speech in particular—the vast majority of the @Large analysis is, at best, cautiously complimentary, and, at worst, reductive and descriptive. A number of factors may be contributing to this reserved reception, including the scale and budget of the project, the number of volunteers and assistants who assembled and help maintain it, the exhibition’s lengthy duration, and the nuance of its touristic setting. A section of the project website is even dedicated to these statistics, stressing the impressiveness of the undertaking. While surely significant, these elements overwhelmingly eclipse criticism about the artworks themselves. And beyond the stats looms an implicit hesitation about evaluating such socially conscious intentions, or perhaps further, of critiquing an artist–activist–celebrity like Ai Weiwei—a figure who, ironically, professes to invite and value serious critique. So in the spirit of one of the exhibition’s taglines, “Liberty is about our rights to question everything—Ai Weiwei” (which literally appears on the commemorative luggage tag), this review will question some of the core works and motivations in @Large.

Read the full article here.

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Los Angeles

LA Department of Cultural Affairs Arts Development Fee Temporary Intervention!

Today we bring you Machine Project’s video documentation of LA Department of Cultural Affairs Arts Development Fee Temporary Intervention!, a day-long series of performances conducted on or near the sidewalk in front of 11750 W. Olympic Boulevard in West Los Angeles. Machine Project describes the lineup as including, “synchronized group walking, improvised music, turkey blessings, professional sign twirlers, dance, experimental burden carrying, and non-traditional use of projectors.” The events documented here took place on November 23, 2013.

 

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Happy Thanksgiving!

Today we raise a glass to our excellent writers, who send us reports from around the world on the most thought-provoking exhibitions; to our editors and copy editor, who make us look clean and sharp; and to our 2014 sponsors, who keep the lights on at Daily Serving.

Of course, we’d be nothing without our readers. Thank you for joining us here every day for the best in contemporary art and criticism! Happy Thanksgiving!

Gianni Colombo. Installation view of Ambienti, n.d. Photo: Greene Naftali Gallery.

Gianni Colombo. Ambienti, n.d.; installation view. Photo: Greene Naftali, New York.

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Fan Mail

Fan Mail: Dene Leigh

Dene Leigh paints, constructs, combines, and assembles his work using traditional and old-master techniques to confront the neurological conditions of human memory. With a mixture of found and trompe l’oeil representations of objects, Leigh creates works that push the boundaries of collage, painting, assemblage, and installation.

Dene Leigh. Identify (someone or something) from having encountered before, 2014; oil on linen; 51 x 62 inches. Courtesy of the artist.

Dene Leigh. Identify (Someone or Something) From Having Encountered Before, 2014; oil on linen; 51 x 62 inches. Courtesy of the artist.

Many of Leigh’s works deal specifically with the neuropsychological disorder called agnosia, which struck Leigh’s grandfather late in life after a stroke. Under the conditions of agnosia, the afflicted subject can see and hear normally but has difficulty identifying formerly familiar objects, people, sounds, and places—or is entirely unable to do so. It is common for someone with agnosia to not recognize the faces of people they know.

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Los Angeles

Landscape City at Center for the Arts Eagle Rock

A crowd gathered under the rafters and art-deco chandeliers of the Eagle Rock Center for the Arts, and the fifteen-piece Aaron Olson Ensemble began with the low strum of a bass guitar, continued into a bright piano melody that later became the distorted sound of a nightmare, and finally moved into a powerful brassy conclusion without ever losing its warm aural undercurrents. Aaron M. Olson’s eight-minute score for Allison Schulnik’s stop-motion animation EAGER (2014) achieved the kind of joyful melancholy implicit in being a living creature on this earth—and delineated the existing emotional landscape. I am compelled to talk about music in this review because the inclusion of this live accompaniment to Schulnik’s floral film was indicative of the kind of poetry inherent in Landscape City. The work in this show investigates the psychological and emotional relationship between humans and their landscape—specifically that of Southern California—and how that construct is undergoing a rapid revision as we move into an uncertain future. 

Jennifer Juniper Stratford. Still from Program Vista, 2014, video projection. Courtesy of the Artist. Photo by the author.

Jennifer Juniper Stratford. Program Vista, 2014 (still); video projection. Courtesy of the Artist. Photo by the author.

Allison Schulnik’s EAGER is a jumble of grotesque and beautiful scenes that begins with a dance of skeletal female figures who communicate with their long, stringy hair, since their faces are absent. They come in contact with a gauzy, blue-stained witch and a comically sad clown–horse with an erect, red, swinging dick. Then one woman unzips the others’ stomachs to wear them like backpacks through a wild and carnivorous forest of flowers and trees reminiscent of the garden of live flowers from Alice in Wonderland. The influence of choreographer Pina Bausch is apparent, but so too the terrifying early psychedelic cartoons of the 1930s. What this lavish animation encompasses makes words feel ineffective, but any attempt would have to include life, death, rebirth, sex, competition, nature, self-expression, female empowerment, and reproductive power—thanks to all of the rotting, deformed, and beautifully hand-sculpted figures. Schulnik even places herself in the work in a photographic stop-motion sequence, wearing a costume that resembles the blue clay witch. This is the first animation for which the artist has commissioned accompanying music; in the past, she used existing music from artists. Schulnik says that working with Olson was her first collaboration, and the creative agency this allowed is evident in the film.

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