New Orleans

Mark Steinmetz: South at the Ogden Museum of Southern Art

Mark Steinmetz’s current exhibition at the Ogden Museum of Southern Art has narrative ambition, but also asks difficult questions about the meaning of “straight photography” and its relationship to the documentary tradition. In what sense are documentary photographs social records, deadpan descriptions, or allegorical explications of the artist’s worldview? Are they a series of facile maneuvers, or as critic Garry Badger once claimed, “an existential form of jerking off”?[1] Steinmetz’s photographs confront these questions by burying themselves in a fault line where the unthinking camera and artistic intent seem to meet and blur, and the dramatic poetry of the South struggles to spill over the subjects, spaces, and social tensions laying quietly but assertively within the space of the picture.

Mark Steinmetz. Off I-40, Knoxville, TN. 1993. Silver gelatin print. Image: Courtesy of the Ogden Museum of Southern Art, New Orleans.

Mark Steinmetz. Off I-40, Knoxville, TN, 1993; silver gelatin print. Courtesy of the Ogden Museum of Southern Art, New Orleans.

Steinmetz is a lover of tradition and the interconnected stylistic lineages that make up the 150-year history of photography. His use of black-and-white photography makes visible his investment in the early history of the medium, as does his masterful execution of the silver gelatin process, which, unlike digital color printing, opens the surface of the picture to flaws, textures, aberrations, and the artist’s hand. Emphasis on the purity of details and rich contrasts of lights and darks continues the aesthetic of early 20th-century East Coast Pictorialism, while his penchant for the neglected margins of cities and their inhabitants resonates with the countercultural aesthetic and ethics of the West Coast Photographic Movement of the 1930s. Oscillating between portraits and landscapes, the selection of photographs at the Ogden establishes a rhythm where face and landscape correspond and converse with one another, asking the viewer to notice formal and emotional similarities between nature and man—a curatorial decision that begs association with the aesthetic and intellectual practices of modernist master Alfred Stieglitz. Throughout the galleries, Stieglitz’s emphasis on the interiority of his subjects resonate in Steinmetz’s photographs, as does Stieglitz’s transcendental aesthetic philosophy of “embodied formalism,” where aesthetic harmony depends on the corporeal synchronization between the artist, subject, and nature.[2]

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Los Angeles

The Unmooring of Jibade-Khalil Huffman

Today from our partners at Art Practical, we bring you Anna Martine Whitehead’s consideration of the work of artist Jibade-Khalil Huffman. The author notes, “For Huffman, poetry is a means to shape-shift and mistranslate, reforming meaning by first dissolving it.” This article was originally published on April 16, 2015. 

Jibade-Khalil Huffman. Untitled (Cake), 2015. Archival inkjet print, 8 x 10 in. Courtesy of the Artist.

Jibade-Khalil Huffman. Untitled (Cake), 2015; archival inkjet print, 8 x 10 in. Courtesy of the Artist.

In her pivotal essay “Poetry Is Not a Luxury,” Audre Lorde writes of the “places of possibility within ourselves [which] are dark because they are ancient and hidden.” She demands we consider the radical and formative potential of “poetry as illumination.” For artist Jibade-Khalil Huffman, too, poetry is no luxury; it is a means to disentangle language from ontology, assembling new compositions suggestive of other ways of being. In Huffman’s video and slideshow-based installations, everything is subject to deconstruction—from subtitles to karaoke to slide presentations—making the viewer aware of their agency in forming meaning out of words, light, and composition.

Huffman’s interest in the expansiveness of language extends across mediums and genres, its trajectory following those traced by poets such as Lorde and Claudia Rankine. In fact, Huffman has been collaborating with the latter poet for an upcoming show at Mars Gallery. In Huffman’s poetry, words are collaged into combinations of sentences and delivered to the reader as fragments. In James Brown Is Dead and Other Poems, for example, the passage, “an awkward/silence by/DW Griffith,” is followed by a series of blank pages, an image of the Warner Bros. Pictures logo, and more blank pages. This collage of linguistic snippets and yawning gaps of silence creates a feeling of being perpetually unmoored. The uncertainty opened up by Huffman’s poetry also generates a space for him to address the cognitive dissonances that come with being an artist of color in a predominantly white art world. “In some ways I don’t deal in big subjects… I’m thinking of Race with a capital ‘R’—certainly that stuff slips in. But it’s embedded in a life. And that’s what I’m interested in,” he says. “The main thing is thinking through modes of text that already exist and employing poetry to deal with absurdity. Instead of writing an essay about misreading and how, for example, whenever I see an ‘applause’ sign I always see ‘applesauce’—there’s no word for this misreading. I just wanted to make a piece that shows this.”

Read the full article here.



#Hashtags: Conceptualizing Difference

#institutions #race #conceptualism #access #appropriation

A recent performance at Brown University by conceptual poet Kenneth Goldsmith has resurrected what had seemed to be a long-ago-settled debate. Goldsmith, whose poetic practice is based on appropriation, presented an adaptation of the autopsy report of Ferguson, Missouri, police shooting victim Michael Brown as a poetic reading during the Interrupt 3 arts festival in mid-March. The subsequent commentary has largely taken Goldsmith to task for what many perceive to have been a tasteless and implicitly racist work of art. As collateral damage, many of Goldsmith’s critics have been quick to dismiss the validity of conceptual or appropriation strategies as legitimate art practice, despite such forms having firmly established precedents throughout the past century. Furthermore, some have suggested that conceptualism is a mode of artistic practice that serves to reinforce white supremacy.

Michael Brown graduation photo.

Michael Brown. Graduation photo.

To what degree are these claims valid, and does Goldsmith’s effort have any legitimacy? From an emotional perspective, as a person of color in the United States, it is difficult not to take umbrage at the image of a white man, a published poet and Ivy League academic, appropriating the murdered body of a Black man for the benefit of a largely white audience that may be sympathetic but cannot empathize with the deceased. However, emotion is hardly the most productive filter through which to perceive conceptual art. Deliberately affectless, many conceptual strategies hinge on re-presentation rather than representation, and “treatment” rather than interpretation. Artistically, Goldsmith’s biggest failure is that he violates the tenets of conceptualism that dictate a text be either appropriated whole or subjected to a chance-based rather than choice-based editing process. Goldsmith does neither; instead he cherry-picks sections and replaces clinical terms with more digestible ones. Many of Goldsmith’s critics have called out his decision to end his reading at a description of the murdered Brown’s genitals, truncating the original report in order to close on a salacious detail that evokes memories of lynchings and castrations in the collective racial consciousness.

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Shotgun Reviews

Ann Hirsch: Playground at JOAN

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, Anastasia Tuazon reviews Ann Hirsch’s Playground at JOAN in Los Angeles.

Ann Hirsch. Playground, 2015 (performance still); 65 minutes. Courtesy of JOAN, Los Angeles, . Featuring AnneMarie Wolf and Gene Gallerano. Runtime . Photo: Ruben Diaz.

Ann Hirsch. Playground, 2015 (performance still); live performance; 65:00. Courtesy of JOAN, Los Angeles. Photo: Ruben Diaz.

Ann Hirsch’s Playground, a 65-minute play originally commissioned by Rhizome and performed at the New Museum in 2013, had its second showing at JOAN in Los Angeles on March 28, 2015. Hirsch’s performative and object-based works often explore female subjectivity and sexual power, and Playground draws directly on her experience as a preteen using AOL chat forums in the late ’90s , an online space that enabled her to explore her sexuality at an age when parental monitoring limited her agency.

The play centers on the communication between two characters: “Anni,” a 12-year-old girl (played by AnneMarie Wolf), and “Jobe,” a 27-year-old man (played by Gene Gallerano). With both seated at desks facing the audience, they communicate at first by typing silently onto keyboards, their messages projected onto the wall behind them. They then transition into verbally narrating these messages, and ultimately into interacting with each other physically; this is purely to express what is being communicated online—the two never meet face to face. Hirsch does an admirable job at tackling the problem of how to stage a play about instant messaging that doesn’t feel boring, and she does this by drawing viewers into Anni’s imagination.

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San Francisco

Miriam Böhm: At On at Ratio 3

From our partners at Art Practical, today we bring you a review of Miriam Böhm’s current solo show at Ratio 3 in San Francisco. Author Danica Willard Sachs notes that the work has “a surreal dimensionality, with lines and planes that intersect in unusual ways, suggesting a simultaneous depth and flatness that refuses to resolve neatly into one or the other.” This article was originally published on April 14, 2015.

Miriam Böhm. Equally III, 2015; chromogenic print; 23 x 29 in. Courtesy of the Artist and Ratio 3, San Francisco.

Miriam Böhm. Equally III, 2015; chromogenic print; 23 x 29 in. Courtesy of the Artist and Ratio 3, San Francisco.

The conceptual artist Jan Dibbets made his first Perspective Corrections in 1967, around the same time that he was experimenting with optical illusions in sculpture and painting. When photographing some of his artworks, the artist realized that the viewpoint of the camera could transform the shape of the object, removing the simultaneity of perspectives inherent in viewing a sculpture and fixing it in time and space.1 Dibbets came to make this metamorphosis a focal point of his practice, producing images such as Perspective Correction, My Studio I, 2: Square with 2 Diagonals on Wall (1969) that underscore the ambiguity of depth in the flat plane of the photograph. For At On, her third show at Ratio 3, Miriam Böhm has pushed the limits of her studio-based photography practice in the vein of Dibbets, creating confounding, abstract, minimalist images of intersecting geometric forms and planes. She has also translated her photographs into her first sculptural works, which likewise perplex.

The artist’s first foray into sculpture—the series Mutual (2015)—occupies the rear portion of the main gallery. With pedestals painted white to match the gallery walls, the sculptures appear to hover in midair when viewed from the entrance in the slanting afternoon light. Atop each pedestal perches an object composed of intersecting glass planes framed in dark walnut; photographs of wood grain printed on vinyl are adhered to the surface of the glass. Unlike Dibbets, who looked to photography as a means to eschew the multiple viewing angles demanded by sculpture, Böhm embraces the changing perspectival experience created when one moves around her objects. In Mutual I (2015), the printed vinyl strips form a pair of rhombuses positioned at perpendicular angles across the glass panels. Because the glass panes are clear and we can see through one form to the other—and also because the walnut frame holding the panels matches that of the printed vinyl—the result is a layering of lines that, when viewed head-on, appears flat and two-dimensional, like a drawing. As one moves around the work, however, the rhombuses shape-shift as the angles of intersection change.

Read the full article here.


Fan Mail

Fan Mail: Paul Taylor

At the risk of having his artwork go unrecognized, Paul Taylor creates subtle interventions in land- and cityscapes. His works simultaneously embody and critique the influence of the quotidian. To achieve such interventions, Taylor works with an array of media: film, video, concrete, ink, graphite, plants, and found industrial and construction material.

Paul Taylor. CAUTION, 2011-2012; plywood, steel, paint, hardware, water; 24 x 40 x 29 in. Courtesy of the artist.

Paul Taylor. CAUTION, 2011-2012; plywood, steel, paint, hardware, water; 24 x 40 x 29 in. Courtesy of the Artist.

Much of Taylor’s work appears as though he simply found a perfect organization of elements that create a humorous, striking, and preordained moment. Gate (2011) is part of a larger body of work titled Anonymous Infrastructure, and it portrays (perhaps most succinctly) Taylor’s ability to intervene almost without being noticed. In the midst of a blank, brown empty lot that awaits a commercial or residential development, the artist built a faux security gate, pouring the concrete platform and assembling the structure under the cover of darkness. Gate stayed in the vacant field, relatively untouched, for a week, until an unknown party dismantled it.

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Patryk Stasieczek: Asking For It at FIELD Contemporary

Patryk Stasieczek is a painterly photographer. He is part of a loosely united cadre of artists whose work has been identified as “immaterial”—they’ve abandoned the apparatus of the camera almost entirely, but still use alternative darkroom processes and light-sensitive paper. Stasieczek’s abstract, kaleidoscopic works draw on the experimental legacies of analog photography, but are no less rooted in the digital realm. Accordingly, these are the key elements that emerge in Asking For It, the artist’s latest solo exhibition at FIELD Contemporary.

Patryk Stasieczek. Gestured Interference (13), 2015; UV laminated digital light-jet print on metallic chromogenic paper, mounted on foam; 16 x 20 in.

Patryk Stasieczek. Gestured Interference (13), 2015; UV laminated digital light-jet print on metallic chromogenic paper, mounted on foam; 16 x 20 in.

Psychedelic and transcendent, Asking For It transgresses the traditional boundaries of the photographic medium by rejecting the representational in favor of total abstraction. As a record of their own production, these works emphasize the materiality of analog processes while denying the figurative intentions typical of photography. Conceived by the artist as interventions within stages of image production, they are innovative in a way that resists the banal simplicity of the digital.

In the Gestured Interference (2015) series, which includes multiple iterations, Stasieczek has taken a cellphone camera and smashed it with varying amounts of force against a number of telematic devices (technologies that transmit computerized information across long distances). This physical collision of technologies causes interference in the transmission and reception of a light frequency via the camera’s sensor. Gestured Interference (11), for instance, was achieved by striking a camera phone against a tube monitor while simultaneously taking images of the resulting effects.[1] Like the other works in the exhibition, the colorful lines of Gestured Interference (11) document the moment of the image’s making. The essence behind the image is the physical action, and it points to nothing outside of the technologies that were used for its production.

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