New York

Evan Calder Williams: T-1 at Artists Space

Ice, compromised vision, and colonial geography: These formed the conceptual scaffolding that supported Evan Calder Williams’ live essay, T-1, performed at Artists Space on July 21, 2015.[1] Despite the three subjects’ ostensibly divergent histories, Calder Williams wove them into a complex web that expanded into several narratives that highlighted epiphanic and unexpected connections. The dynamic multimedia event—comprising video, text, and images projected on perpendicular screens, and a narration by Calder Williams—made me resent the limitations of my binocular human vision. From where I sat, I could either blurrily see the two projections with my peripheral vision by aiming my eyes at the gap between the screens, or frantically switch my focus from one screen to the other, continually wishing my eyes could turn like those of a chameleon to 360-degree vision. The multisensory experience made me feel my perception was torn in opposite directions, like the cognitive cacophony of a passionately brainstorming mind.

Evan Calder Williams. T-1, 2015; performed at Artist Space on July 21, 2015.

Evan Calder Williams. T-1 (2015) (video still); two screen projection. Courtesy of the Artist.

To call the performance an essay is both fair and unfair. Or, perhaps more importantly, it questions the history and potential future of a form so familiar to the literate world. If we consider the origin of the word essay, from the late-16th-century essai, meaning a trial or attempt, then T-1 was a live attempt. The spirit of experimentation and uncertainty associated with attempts and trials exemplifies the nature of Calder Williams’ performance; though the presentation was highly considered and intentional, it escaped the safety and finitude of sentences strung together on a page. Instead, T-1 opened itself up to an unexplored method of conveying information, becoming an expedition in search of new visual and sonic languages.

Throughout the performance, plump, white, slightly out-of-focus words faded in and out on the screen to the audience’s left. The transitions happened so slowly, and the window of legibility—when the new phrase was sufficiently visible and the old phrase sufficiently faded—was so brief that it prompted dizziness, as I snapped my head back and forth, trying to follow the unraveling narrative on the left while keeping up with the more rapid narrative on the right. On this right-hand screen, videos and images played in secession or were layered, accompanied by audio clips and Calder Williams’ voice as sonic elements, all punctuated by numbers delineating sections of varying duration.

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San Francisco

Radical Presence: Black Performance in Contemporary Art at YBCA

From our partners at Art Practical, today we bring you a review of Radical Presence: Black Performance in Contemporary Art at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco. Author Brian Karl notes: “The urgent need to collect and re-present this work—not in a static archive but in a living arena—stems from the continuing conditions of marginalization, oppression, and worse that black people have suffered over so many generations, from the Middle Passage to the present moment.” This article was originally published on July 7, 2015.

Senga Nengudi. R.S.V.P., 1975–78; nylon, sand, and mixed media; dimensions variable. Courtesy of the Artist and Thomas Erben Gallery, New York.

Senga Nengudi. R.S.V.P., 1975–78; nylon, sand, and mixed media; dimensions variable. Courtesy of the Artist and Thomas Erben Gallery, New York.

Radical Presence, a survey of African American performance art curated by Valerie Cassel Oliver, has come to San Francisco. The featured works are all distillations and/or documents of performances that have ended up in, or have been adapted for, a gallery setting; an exceptionally robust program of related live performances runs concurrently. The earliest work is Pond (1962) by Fluxus cofounder Benjamin Patterson. The most recent pieces date from 2015, several of them created or re-created for Yerba Buena Center for the Arts’ iteration of the show.

The exhibition presents a substantial and striking set of takes on race in both the art world and society more generally. These are serious matters. That said, many of the artists adopt playful, even lighthearted approaches, often forcing visitor engagement through destabilizing strategies. “Playfulness” thus becomes a tactic akin to that of the tricksters and shamans who perform criticality in so many cultures—either in intense moments of crisis or in a more ongoing fashion. It is also similar to how masters of Zen and jujitsu trip up potentially worthy students as wake-up calls or as lessons to combat placid acceptance of the status quo.

Read the full article here.

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Boston

The James & Audrey Foster Prize at ICA Boston

Until now, the ICA Boston’s Foster Prize has been relatively traditional. It begins with the museum’s announcement of a short list of artists who participate in its biennial. From there, an independent panel of judges selects one winner, who walks away with a cash prize. This year’s Foster Prize is different. The ICA’s Associate Director of Performing Arts, John Andress, and Senior Curator, Jenelle Porter, have chosen four artists and collaborative organizers as the winners of the Foster Prize, lending the institution’s weight to help execute their artistic objectives. The winners of the 2015 Foster Prize are Sandrine Schaefer, Vela Phelan, kijidome (Sean Downey, Carlos Jiménez Cahua, Lucy Kim, and Susan Metrican), and Ricardo De Lima (Another Spectacle).

Sandrine Schaefer. Acclimating to Horizontal Movement (Wandering with the Horizon), 2015; performance. Courtesy of the Artist. Photo: Nisa Ojalvo.

Sandrine Schaefer. Acclimating to Horizontal Movement (Wandering with the Horizon), 2015; performance. Courtesy of the Artist. Photo: Nisa Ojalvo.

The 2015 Foster Prize is not about latent potential, but about creating an actualized reticulation. In this curatorial framework, individual artists aren’t grouped and isolated, or begging to be anatomized. The resulting “exhibition” can be transplanted anywhere and bears fruit: It is a rhizomatic schedule of events that assembles à la carte meals instead of a tasting menu. For art critics, reviewing the exhibition after its preview would’ve been much like reviewing a book after reading one sentence, as almost nothing had happened at that point. All four artists’ projects are ongoing and contradictory at times. The reciprocating schedule is dictated by the terms of the audience. If you’re running late because of family schedule, the pokey slow train, or any other dog-ate-my-homework excuse, you simply miss the exhibition’s event that night. As no one individual could be at all the events, each moment reflects on what was and will be, as an unfolding, multimodal semiotic chain.

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Los Angeles

HA HA! BUSINESS! at Luis De Jesus

Novelist Don DeLillo once quipped, “California deserves whatever it gets. Californians invented the concept of lifestyle. This alone warrants their doom.” This concept is the curatorial mission behind HA HA! BUSINESS!, currently on view at Luis de Jesus, Los Angeles. HA HA! BUSINESS! reprimands what it sees as a jingoistic and self-centered lifestyle—a world filled with social-media fiends who are willing to cut down the next person, or the world around them, for their own gain.

Valerie Blass. La Mèprise (detail), 2015; composite of two porcelain objects, flocking, mirror, marble slab; 70 x 21.5 x 19.25 in. Courtesy of the Artist and Luis De Jesus. Photo: Calder Yates.

Valerie Blass. La Mèprise, 2015 (detail); composite of two porcelain objects, flocking, mirror, marble slab; 70 x 21.5 x 19.25 in. Courtesy of the Artist and Luis De Jesus. Photo: Calder Yates.

Valerie Blass’ sculpture La Méprise (2015) consists of a black porcelain figurine of a cat, positioned atop a bust on a marble shelf in front of a large concave mirror. Blass turns the cat, of thrift-store schlock, onto its back with its face turned up toward the ceiling and legs pointing directly into the gallery. The cat’s tail is distorted through the mirror and appears to be thrusting out toward the viewer, engorged and erect. By tipping the cat onto its back, Blass reveals the gender identity of bland consumerism: a kind of cultural imperialism that paves the way for banal and hollow objects to take over the visual environment. Within this generic cat figurine—one of seemingly millions manufactured and sold in home décor sections of Home Depots all over the world—Blass finds the obscene and sinister neuroticism that undergirds the common object. La Méprise, roughly translated, means “the misconception.”

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Shotgun Reviews

2BENAMED at Naming Gallery in Oakland

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, Takeema Hoffman reviews 2BENAMED at Naming Gallery in Oakland. 

Art Party Collective.  2BENAMED, installation view, 2015;  Courtesy of the Artists and Naming Gallery. Photo: Wilson Linker and Lisa Aurora.

Art Party Collective. 2BENAMED, 2015; installation view. Courtesy of the Artists and Naming Gallery. Photo: Wilson Linker and Lisa Aurora.

2BENAMED, an exhibition currently at Naming Gallery in the heart of downtown Oakland, is an electrifying showcase of diverse artworks from the Art Party Collective. Comprising roughly 20 members aged 15 to 21, the group was formed out of the desire to do something with all the bad-assery, or art, that the close-knit group created.

A key influence in Art Party’s philosophy and aesthetic is Oakland. When asked “What’s so Oakland about the show?” collective member and featured artist Winnie Smith replied, “It’s the action, the pep, the hyph.” The spirit of hyph here, as in the Bay-born hyphy[1] subculture, is strong. In a collaborative piece by Jared Ford and Conor Hickey, Mac Dre’s face beams from the square center of an elaborately painted cross, looking down on the space like a grand cosmic deity. Under Art Party’s control, the gallery is an installation vibrating with the manic electricity that hyphy represents. The walls are blanketed with fluorescent murals and doodles, broken pieces of chocolate-chip cookies, and tagged phrases such as “My girlfriend is starting to bum me out, you can have her.” It’s eye candy, sure enough, but there’s more here than sugar and dye. Just as “going dumb” [2] requires equal parts whim and technique, the work in this show is as effervescent as it is contemplative.

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San Francisco

Do It & Do It (Archive) at the Napa Valley Museum

Today from our partners at Art Practical, we bring you Glen Helfand‘s review of Do It & Do It (Archive), a survey of relational aesthetics now on view at the Napa Valley Museum. The author notes that this iteration of the exhibition “…seems a bit more community-minded, offering an entertaining and edifying entry to conceptualism for locals and adventurous, well-heeled visitors who have a little time to kill before their dinner reservation at the French Laundry.” This article was originally published on July 14, 2015.

Alison Knowles. Homage to Each Red Thing, 1996. Photo: Glen Helfand.

Alison Knowles. Homage to Each Red Thing, 1996. Photo: Glen Helfand.

The kicky collage video presented at the beginning of this Hans Ulrich Obrist-curated, Independent Curators International-distributed exhibition is a condensed introduction to relational aesthetics. But it also makes an intriguing boast: Do It is the longest touring art exhibition, ever. For twenty years, in various variable forms, this cleverly packaged survey of instructional art has been appearing in museums and galleries around the globe. It’s hard to resist placing it in the framework of other world-record-holding cultural artifacts such as, say, long-running Broadway musicals (Cats! Phantom! Les Mis!). But the exhibition’s endurance raises built-in questions about its premise: Do once-challenging conceptual, interactive projects grow stale or more democratic the longer they float through culture?

For those who haven’t encountered the exhibition (its last local appearance was at the Palo Alto Cultural Center back in 1997), the premise and process are self-generating. The presenting institution chooses 25 classic and more recent instructional works from the 250 provided in the exhibition publication—in a sense “branding” these works as Do It pieces—and creates them onsite with locally sourced materials and makers. It’s an economical way for small museums to have major names on their walls, as well as a means to engage audiences in a more direct way through creation of the works on view.

Read the full article here.

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Fan Mail

Fan Mail: John Tierney

John Tierney’s paintings have a distinct relationship to cinema. Hollywood, California, and the greater Los Angeles area are awash in a rich and intense light that seems to linger over everything with an endless glow, a light as potent as the dreams and realities of fame and stardom promised by the movie companies that populate the city. For a representational painter such as Tierney, the kind of light and environment that Los Angeles offers is irresistible. Tierney’s paintings all exude a deft and consistent touch that creates flattened yet realistic planes, and a seemingly airbrushed texture that mirrors the textures of the objects depicted.

John Tierney. Elvis is on the Building, Palm Springs, 2013; oil on canvas; 20 x 16 inches. Courtesy of the artist.

John Tierney. Elvis Is on the Building, Palm Springs, 2013; oil on canvas; 20 x 16 in. Courtesy of the Artist.

Tierney’s paintings capture the capacities and fallacies of images to both concretize and mystify. These mystifiers are not problematic for Tierney, merely interesting and somewhat opportune. The artist explains: “Edward Hopper once referred to grasping the ‘surprise and accidents of nature.’ While my position is, in this sense, congruent with his, I am also interested in grasping the surprise and accidents of photographs—light and shade, movement, the deportment of people. In short, engaging with the serendipity inherent in a photographic image.” Elvis Aaron Presley is a potent symbol of the draw of stardom, and of the power of Hollywood and the music industry to create near-mythological figures out of ordinary people. In Elvis Is on the Building, Palm Springs (2013), Tierney pairs a mural-size image of Elvis in profile, instantly recognizable, with a group of palm trees in hyperrealistic detail growing just behind a house with a roof covered in Spanish ceramic tiles. As Elvis stares back through the picture plane, viewers are reminded that the man the world knew was forged in Memphis and in Hollywood—iconic towns known for producing iconic figures.

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