Mexico City

Erick Beltrán, interviewed by Rodrigo Ortiz Monasterio

Today we bring you a video of artist Erick Beltrán at the Museo Tamayo in Mexico City, discussing his work Atlas Eidolon, a sculpture that addresses the question of memory, or “what lives in our heads and how things appear in the world.” This video was produced by our friends at Kadist Art Foundation.



Yaakov Israel: The Quest for the Man on the White Donkey at the Halsey Institute for Contemporary Art

In 1981, John Baldessari said, “Probably one of the worst things to happen to photography is that cameras have viewfinders…” but artist Yaakov Israel would certainly disagree.[1] Israel’s photographs in The Quest for the Man on the White Donkey at the Halsey Institute for Contemporary Art in Charleston, South Carolina, are carefully constructed. Israeli-born and -based, Israel relishes the serendipitous encounters he’s had while exploring the geography and people of his native land, and this show is a case in point: As he was packing up his equipment after a long day in the desert looking for subjects for his photographs, Israel was approached by an elderly man riding a white donkey. He convinced the man to sit for a portrait, quickly assembled his equipment, and captured the image The Man on the White Donkey, HaBiqah (2006). Intrigued by this chance occurrence—it uncannily invokes the Orthodox Jewish tradition of the messiah arriving at the end of days on a white donkey—Israel then used it as the titular inspiration for this series, a body of work rife with chance findings and encounters in the Israeli landscape.

Yaakov Israel. Abandoned Water Park, Dead Sea, 2010; c-print. Courtesy the artist and the Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art, Charleston, South Carolina.

Yaakov Israel. Abandoned Water Park, Dead Sea, 2010; C-print. Courtesy of the Artist and the Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art, Charleston, South Carolina.

Composed of forty-two photographs of various sizes, the exhibition offers a glimpse of Israel’s inquiry into his native land. The documentary-style photographs demonstrate his curious mind and portray the noteworthy people and places that the artist has encountered in his travels. The work captures unique moments, such as a man praying on the trunk of his car at a gas station in Breslav Hasid Praying, Petrol Station, HaBiqah (2011), or an eerily empty view of the usually crowded Ein Gedi spa on the Dead Sea in Sunshades, Ein Gedi (2011). A wide variety of portraits are mixed in, ranging from a peculiarly staged photograph of two police officers on a highway, Police, HaBiqah (2011), to a candid glimpse of two men waiting for a ride to work in Riad and Mahmoud, Almog Crossroad (2010).

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From the Archives

From the Archives – The Culture of the Copy

Today from the archives, we bring you an early #Hashtags column on images, photography, and the movement from two dimensions to three. Though this post was originally published on January 24, 2012, the distinction between “real” and “unreal” continue to be germane to both contemporary art and everyday culture.

Jerry McMillan. Wrinkle Bag, 1965; black-and-white photographic bag construction with shelf and Plexiglas cover; 12.75 x 11.75 x 7 in.

“Cameras are the antidote and the disease, a means of appropriating reality and of making it obsolete.” —Susan Sontag

In her 1977 essay, “The Image-World,” Susan Sontag wrote that the practice of photographyand the overabundance of images that come along with itleave us desensitized to the “real” world. Despite the fact that photographs are considered traces of their subject, we typically see photographs as independent, material objectsseparate from their original subjects and somehow more palatable. They even occupy a specific moment of time, different from our own, turning the present into the past and the past into the present.

But Sontag was writing about the role of the photograph as she knew it, which never included sculpture or photographs functioning not just as traces of objects but as actual simulations, or three-dimensional copies. The last year has seen a rise in artists working with photography in sculpture, with more than a few of these artists choosing to juxtapose “real” objects with their 2- or 3-dimensional photographic copies. Is there a difference between images functioning like this in the world and “the image-world” that Sontag describes? Or are they one and the same?

Ironically, even as Sontag was puzzling over “The Image-World” and the rest of the essays that would become On Photography, searching to delineate a niche in the fine-art world for photography, curator Peter Bunnell took an even larger step. In 1970, Bunnell launched “Photography into Sculpture” at the Museum of Modern Art, “the first comprehensive survey of photographically formed images used in a sculptural or fully dimensional manner.”

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Rhonda Holberton: YOU BECAUSE FREE INSTANTLY NEW at Pro Arts Gallery

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, Amanda N. Simons reviews Rhonda Holberton: YOU BECAUSE FREE INSTANTLY NEW at Pro Arts Gallery in Oakland, California.

Rhonda Holberton. YOU BECAUSE FREE INSTANTLY NEW, 2014; installation view; Pro Arts Gallery, Oakland, California. Courtesy of the Artist and Pro Arts Gallery.

Rhonda Holberton. YOU BECAUSE FREE INSTANTLY NEW, 2014; installation view; Pro Arts Gallery, Oakland, California. Courtesy of the Artist and Pro Arts Gallery.

Pro Arts Gallery in downtown Oakland is currently host to YOU BECAUSE FREE INSTANTLY NEW, a 2 x 2 Solos exhibition of work by Rhonda Holberton, curated by FICTILIS.[1]Mere footsteps from the former epicenter of Occupy Oakland’s nightly clashes with police, Holberton’s work serves as a critical commentary and an eerie reminder of the (sometimes camouflaged) structures of authority that govern civilian life. The exhibition is a series of visual iterations on military technology, consumer culture, and concealment, in the form of textiles, video and sound installations, computer-aided sculpture, and product design.

All the Actors Have Withdrawn (2014) is a digital video projected onto a frosted acrylic panel placed upright on a pedestal. The video depicts a gray-toned, three-dimensional rendering of what appears to be three nude female figures melding into a single conjoined form. Arms, elbows, and fists protrude outward at various angles in combat-like stances. The image rotates upon a central point to reveal a 360-degree view of this grainy, broken, and disintegrating form frozen in space. While the pedestal, figurative form, and rotation at first call reference to classical bronze sculpture, the momentum of the rotation suggests a deeper intent that challenges classical conventions. With less emphasis placed upon the aesthetics of the object, All the Actors Have Withdrawn depicts, rather, a violent conflict carefully paused at an opportune moment. Read More »


From the Archives

From the Archives – Curating Activism: An Interview with Julio César Morales

Today from our archives we bring you an interview with Julio César Morales, curator of the Arizona State University Art Museum in Tempe. Morales says, “I am working to develop the largest Latin American video archive in the U.S., housed in the city most threatening to Latinos in the U.S. This juxtaposition reflects the ongoing struggles between the U.S. and Mexico and their parasitic need for each other.” This interview was originally published on April 8, 2013.

Julio César Morales. Undocumented Interventions #1, 2011; watercolor and ink on paper; 32.5 x 24.5 in.

Julio César Morales is an artist, curator, and educator who recently left the San Francisco Bay Area to become curator at the Arizona State University Art Museum in Tempe. Morales was an adjunct curator at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts from 2008–12, where he created PAUSE: Practice and Exchange, a series of solo exhibitions by artists including Allan de Souza, Euan Macdonald, and Gina Osterloh. He is a co-founder of San Francisco’s Queen’s Nails Projects.

Anuradha Vikram: Do you think that art can influence public opinion and public policy? Is this a legitimate goal for artists to have?

Julio César Morales: Yes, I do! At the risk of sounding too utopian, there are and have been some amazing projects that have had an impact at various levels of civic engagement. Look at an artist such as Suzanne Lacy, who for the last 30 years has created a wide range of projects that, at their core, are about social change and changing public policy. Her 1977 project, Three Weeks in May,  had a forceful political imperative—to bring hidden experiences of rape to public attention—and her 1999 Oakland-based project, Code 33, was a three-year project to reduce police hostility toward youth, provide youth with a set of skills to participate in their communities, and generate a more profound understanding of youth needs. This project led to the development of youth training for the police department. Now anyone entering the police has to take the training created by Lacy and her collaborators, including myself.

Another example is the Tijuana-based Torolab, led by Raúl Cárdenas, which serves as a collective workshop and laboratory, identifying situations or phenomena of interest for research, with a focus on lifestyles and “quality of life.” One recent project, COMA, traced the physiological changes of a Mexican person in their everyday relation to food. The project culminated in creating a type of bread containing all the nutrients absent in a typical Mexican diet, according to the Mexican national health census. This new food product was launched in Puebla, with the support of the city, and is now helping to combat diabetes and malnutrition.

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The Artist as Player in “Girls” & “The Golden Girls”

From our partners at Art Practical, today we bring you an excerpt from an essay on artistic personae by Jim Gaylord. This article was commissioned by guest editor Jonn Herschend as part of Issue 5.5, Slapstick and the Sublime, and originally published on July 10, 2014.

Jesse Peretz. "Bad Friend," Girls, 2013 (film still); 00:30:00. Courtesy of HBO.

Jesse Peretz. “Bad Friend,” Girls, 2013 (film still); 00:30:00. Courtesy of HBO.

[...] Helping to keep the artist/heartbreaker stereotype alive today is the character of Booth Jonathan (Jorma Taccone) from the HBO series Girls (2013). The creation of writer/actor/director Lena Dunham (daughter of artists Carroll Dunham and Laurie Simmons), it’s fair to assume—given the show’s exaggerated yet realistic tone—that he is based on people Ms. Dunham has actually known in the New York art world. Booth is the kind of cocky, womanizing hipster who sleeps with his dealer and hates the High Line.

His persona is nothing new, bringing to mind Adam Coleman Howard’s “Stash” in Slaves of New York or Steve Buscemi’s role as Gregory Stark in New York Stories, both coincidentally from 1989. These bad-boy art stars exploit their successes to get what they want from others, usually with little consequence. Indeed, in Girls, Booth’s allure is often proportional to his misogynistic behavior. Even after locking the starstruck Marnie (Allison Williams) inside one of his video sculptures against her will, she later praises him for his talent and then has creepy sex with him. “I’m a man,” he tells her, “and I know how to do things.”

It isn’t long before Marnie believes Booth is her boyfriend, but she is actually falling in love with what he represents to her. Having been fired from her gallery job and turned down for another, she is struggling with her own identity. Booth’s “aura” as an artist is clearly attractive to Marnie; perhaps she sees him as a window back into that world, and a way to enter its higher echelons.

Like actors, artists have public personas, which their audiences can mistake for the genuine, private self. Many have intentionally exaggerated their eccentricities to attract attention, such as the outwardly flamboyant Salvador Dalí. In the case of Girls, the Booth who Marnie sees (as opposed to whom we see) is largely a projection from her own imagination. When it later becomes clear that he was just using her, Booth evades any responsibility by throwing a tantrum about how “no one even knows me” and “everyone just uses me for what I represent to them.” These protests elicit little sympathy since, no doubt, there’s likely another admirer willing to be the next victim of his abuse in line behind Marnie.

Read the full article here.


New York

Roger Hiorns at Luhring Augustine

Roger Hiorns’ current solo exhibition at Luhring Augustine—the British artist’s first in New York City—presents viewers with two inscrutable situations: In one, a quantity of gray powder has been deposited, apparently by hand, over a large, rectangular area occupying the better part of the main gallery; in another, a nude male model loiters about a massive, faceted stone object and a low table, the surface of which is a flat-screen TV monitor displaying video content by the Wall Street Journal. The model occasionally uses each for a bench, making use of a panel on the table’s frame that seems to be intended as a seat.

Roger Hiorns; Untitled (Security Object), 2013; cast stone; and Untitled (Surface 2), 2014; Steel, flat screen and youth; © Roger Hiorns; Courtesy of the artist and Luhring Augustine, New York.

Roger Hiorns; Untitled (Security Object), 2013; cast stone; and Untitled (Surface 2), 2014; steel, flat screen, and youth; © Roger Hiorns; Courtesy of the Artist and Luhring Augustine, New York.

I consciously use the term “situation” because, in the first gallery, the dematerialization of the object is, as we will see, the crux of the work, and in the second gallery, the presence of the live model activates a highly theatrical mise en scène, in which it would be awkward to contemplate the “props” as art objects in their own right. This is in contrast to the third gallery in the exhibition, which presents a group of works, all “Untitled” (as the others in the exhibition are), that look something like the plastic bowels of a moped. Strung from the ceiling and rigged up to a compressor, they slowly extrude foam in scatological coils. This surreal aggregation, grotesquely anthropomorphic yet somehow serene, makes itself available for perceptual exploration in a way that the other installations do not.

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