New York

Enrique Martínez Celaya – Empires: Land and Sea at Jack Shainman Gallery

“It’s not a key,” Enrique Martínez Celaya warns of the text Empires: The Writing, which accompanies his first solo exhibition at Jack Shainman, now on view at the gallery’s two venues in Chelsea under the titles Empires: Land and Empires: Sea.[1] I meet Celaya in early September, when we walk through the shows on the eve of the artist’s departure for his home in Los Angeles.

3.Enrique Martinez Celaya. Empires: Land, 2015; installation view, Jack Shainman Gallery, New York. Courtesy of the Artist and Jack Shainman Gallery.

Enrique Martínez Celaya. Empires: Land, 2015; installation view, Jack Shainman Gallery, New York. Courtesy of the Artist and Jack Shainman Gallery.

Empires primarily includes paintings, many monumental in scale, along with a handful of sculptures and works on paper. Some paintings tenderly build shifting surfaces, and others only thinly delineate tentative forms and spaces. A persistent horizon line runs through nearly every image. Celaya’s slim companion volume spans the three months preceding his show; the text originally appeared in the “Journal” section of his website. Though not a key, the text may be a hinge, opening a door toward a mode of reading time through Celaya’s recent body of work. Fittingly, the best of these works leave the door ajar.

“What it seems to be undermines itself,” Celaya begins as we circle the gallery. He is quick to redirect readings of his work that rely on metaphor and allegory. It’s perhaps no surprise; the abundance of boats, sand castles, children, and the occasional unicorn put a simplistic reading within arm’s reach. Familiar with rigid interpretations of these images, Celaya is thoughtful about the conversation he crafts around his work. He places skepticism of the image at the heart of his practice, pointing to the drips and scratches that mar the canvas’s surface as evidence of this acute awareness. “I would never describe my work as figurative work,” he says. It might be more accurate to say that Celaya’s interest in rendering the figure points to the act of rendering, an operation we perform daily as we assemble chaotic experiences into history, memory, and identity. “The images are a point of entry,” he says, “which I hope then disappear.”

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Natasha Nicholson: The Artist in Her Museum at the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art

If the test for the quality of an exhibition is the richness of associations it generates in a viewer, then Natasha Nicholson: The Artist in Her Museum at the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art is a goldmine. The show is installed in the museum as a series of rooms, facsimiles of the artist’s studio: the Thinking Room, Strata (the studio and gallery), the Studiolo (library and Cabinet of Curiosities), and the Bead Room (workshop for jewelry making). I had previously visited the artist’s studio and was interested to see how the intensity of the small spaces might translate into the cool formality of a public institution. It has worked well, although the serpentine journey through Nicholson’s home studio cannot be duplicated by a series of ramps and paths. The exoticism and strangeness is diminished somewhat in a museum setting, where art lovers often encounter the strange, the challenging, and the beautiful. What shines at MMoCA is Nicholson’s exquisite craft, her symbolic vision, and the unerring and jarring conjunctions of her objects.

Natasha Nicholson, Studiolo, installation view, Nicholson studio, 2015. Courtesy of the Artist and Madison Museum of Contemporary Art. Photo: Mike Rebholz.

Natasha Nicholson. Studiolo, 2015; installation view, Nicholson studio. Courtesy of the Artist and Madison Museum of Contemporary Art. Photo: Mike Rebholz.

The imagery and its explication are grounded in Nicholson’s biography, and unsavory events from a remote childhood are given form again and again. The desire to control the past—a child’s frustrated desire to control anything in the world of adults—is reshaped in fantasy. Nicholson’s world is best entered as a dream in toto, with its walls and shelves studded with treasures. In deference to museum protocol, Nicholson created wall labels, with dates and titles for each assemblage. Viewers might search these texts for clues to meaning, but in doing so they would also lose the mystery present when the objects are first seen de novo in the artist’s storefront.

The Studiolo is the most densely packed of the rooms, with the artist’s library, walls of devotional objects, the Cabinet of Curiosities, and two antique clocks that bring audible time (and a heartbeat) to the exhibition space. One wall features a plaster board with an antique three-dimensional instructional model of human organs, ostensibly intended for medical education. It is accompanied on nearby shelves by spinal columns, skulls, and hands. The skeleton is “disarticulated”; each piece is viewed in its separateness, or juxtaposed with an unexpected partner—a painting, a ribbon, a photo. Crucifixes and votive objects, which Nicholson has crafted, heighten the sense of memento mori. Nicholson created the Cabinet of Curiosities for a previous show in 2000 [1], and one might think of it as her own “corpus,” a stand-in for the body in her body of work. Closed, it is an armoire of modest proportions, but with its “arms” open, it reveals astonishing vignettes on every shelf.

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Book of Scores at Disjecta

Cinematic moments are often remembered because of the dramatic musical accompaniment. Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho is forever memorable in part for its menacing theme composed by Bernard Herrmann. Likewise, Star Wars is instantly recognized due to John Williams’ heroic use of trumpets. Book of Scores, on view at Disjecta, is an exhibition that is equally as pointed in its intention. Occupying many forms of sculpture, sound, spatial intervention, and print, the scores in Book of Scores aim for an expanded definition of noise and a freethinking consideration of its many uses.

(From left to right) Ellen Lesperance, Alison O’Daniel, and Helga Fassonaki. Book of Scores, 2015; installation view, Disjecta, Portland, OR. Courtesy of Disjecta. Photo: Worksighted.

The exhibition is the first in a series from Curator-in-Residence (and champion of sound matter) Chiara Giovando. Five artists—Helga Fassonaki, T.R. Kirstein, Ellen Lesperance, Johannes Lund, and Alison O’Daniel—responded with new works inspired by everything from Lawrence Halprin’s RSVP Cycles to Georges Perec’s An Attempt at Exhausting a Place in Paris. Halprin defines scores as “symbolizations of processes that extend over time,” encompassing all things from grocery lists to calendars. Perec’s writing illustrates what it is to score place, space, and the mundane with little to no concern for tedium. Bearing this in mind, Book of Scores is a number of interactive meditations and performances that speak to ephemera as concept as much as consequence.

Johannes Lund’s score, Circles (2015), is the byproduct of organized chaos. The work is accessible in three iterations: a fixed sound installation, a transcribed and printed multiple, and an improvisational performance. The print—free for taking—is visually similar to a cartographic sketch or the inner rings of a tree. A bird’s-eye view of irregular circles quickly reveals itself to be an inlaid series of bar staffs and notes. An inscription reads, in part, “To be played as written disregarding tuning of instrument.” On the exhibition’s opening night, Lund and his Portland collaborators, Allan Wilson and Evan Spacht, performed Circles, embodying a fury of live percussion and horns at varying tempos. Broken drumsticks and improvised breath work enhanced the uncertainty of when—or how—the work would conclude. There was no confirmed bandleader, or an obvious band, for that matter. There were simply three makers united over a collective ideal: that “noise” made with intention is not noise at all. A more tightly composed and recorded version of Circles plays full time from speakers in Lund’s installation.

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Los Angeles

Elad Lassry at David Kordansky Gallery

Elad Lassry’s latest exhibition at David Kordansky commingles two groups of seemingly disparate works: highly wrought wooden sculptures, carved from single slabs of dark walnut, and dated commercial photographs, which have been intervened upon with materials such as acrylic paint, colored wires, and beads. The show attempts to bridge the gap between the two bodies of works by engaging the issue of pictorial representation as an abstraction of depicted objects—a far-reaching pursuit for compositions and techniques that seem fairly simple and straightforward on the surface.

Elad Lassry, 2015; installation view. Courtesy of David Kordansky Gallery. Photo: Fredrik Nilsen.

Elad Lassry, 2015; installation view. Courtesy of David Kordansky Gallery. Photo: Fredrik Nilsen.

The black-and-white images found in Lassry’s series of sculptural photographs are taken from commercial photo shoots. The context of each photograph is deliberately withheld, with ranging subjects that include black fashion models, as depicted in Untitled (Woman B) (2015); a set of water glasses on a tray, and industrial parts, in Untitled (Engine 2) (2015), and scientific studies, as in Untitled (Rattlesnake A) (2015). The works center on a dual and seemingly contradictory assertion that “pictures do not exist until the information within them is framed, captured, and introduced into a new, separate system,” as the exhibition’s printed statement puts it—a claim to an image’s lack of an autonomous ability to convey meaning that Lassry’s addition of color and objects is oxymoronically meant to disrupt.

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From the Archives

From the Archives: “Hello, all-but-forgotten piece of 1970s feminist Earth Art, have you ever seen a transsexual before?”

This week, inundated with news of artists to watch at the Frieze Art Fair, we bring you Jaqueline Clay’s assessment of a group show at the now-closed MacArthur B Arthur Gallery in Oakland, one that included the work of Shana Moulton. Moulton’s work at Frieze this year includes video and sculpture, and her recent exhibitions include Picture Pattern Puzzle Door at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, curated by Ceci Moss. This review was originally published on February 14, 2012.

Show card for “Hybrid Narrative” at MacArthur B Arthur, in Oakland, California, 2012.

Sight, acknowledgment, and shared experience all figure prominently in Hybrid Narrative: Video Mediations of Self and the Imagined Self, currently at Mac Arthur B Arthur in Oakland, CA. Artists Liz Rosenfeld, Chris E. Vargas, Sofia Cordova and Shana Moulton make themselves “seen” though video, film transfer, installation and performance.

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San Francisco

Fourth World: Current Photography from Colombia at SF Camerawork

From our partners at Art Practical, today we bring you John Zarobell’s review of Fourth World: Current Photography from Colombia at SF Camerawork. Zarobell notes that Fourth World follows a survey of contemporary photography from Mexico: “Taken together, these exhibitions make SF Camerawork preeminent in presenting contemporary Latin American photography in the Bay Area. Such a program […] suggests other avenues that SF Camerawork could explore in order to continue to diversify the offerings of global contemporary art in the Bay Area.” This article was originally published on May 26, 2015.

Andres Felipe Orjuela. Luis Aldana Uno de los Antisociales Detenidos en la Mañana de Hoy Cuando Trataba de Huir (Luis Aldana One of the Antisocial Arrested in the Morning While Trying to Escape), 2014; photograph on cotton paper, illuminated with Marshall's pigments. Courtesy of the Artist and SF Camerawork.

Andres Felipe Orjuela. Luis Aldana Uno de los Antisociales Detenidos en la Mañana de Hoy Cuando Trataba de Huir (Luis Aldana One of the Antisocial Arrested in the Morning While Trying to Escape), 2014; photograph on cotton paper, illuminated with Marshall’s pigments. Courtesy of the Artist and SF Camerawork.

SF Camerawork’s current exhibition of contemporary Colombian photography was curated by a pair of Colombian curators, Carolina de Ponce de León (former executive director of Galería de la Raza) and Santiago Rudea Fajardo, an independent curator and critic. Though the exhibition features only four artists, it successfully captures a wide range of topics and approaches in the photographic medium.

Zoraida Diaz and Luz Elena Castro are primarily photojournalists whose straight photography captures the political context of Colombia in the 1980s, as well as more recent images from political protests in Baltimore this spring produced by Diaz. Diaz has a fantastic eye for human expression, unearthing a deeper truth behind protests and political events. Castro is subtler, and her array of images covering revolutionary violence and peace negotiations say much more about the exercise of power than any protest slogan could. Her empathy for her subjects is nowhere sharper than in La Moda Nace Aqui [Fashion is Born Here] (1993), a portrait of a young girl selling toy cars on the street in Leticia, Bogotá in front of a closed boutique with a painted mural on the front of its security shutter. The child is dressed in her Sunday best and she just beams in front of a shabby, awkward mural of a fashionably dressed woman. Her pride makes the viewer forget that this is an image of child labor.

Read the full article here.


Fan Mail

Fan Mail: Victor Solomon

For a year, Victor Solomon apprenticed with stained-glass masters who taught him everything he needed to know about this oft-forgotten craft. Solomon is not a stained-glass artist, and though he doesn’t particularly aspire to be one, an idea took a hold of him and compelled him to take up this traditional medium. Literally Balling is an ongoing project in which the San Francisco-based artist explores the parallels between the world of sports and the world of art, with a subtle side commentary on religious history.

Victor Solomon. We Skrong Then, 2015; glass, mirror, lead, 24K gold-plated high polish steel, wood, Swarovski crystal; 44 in x 40 in x 20 in. Courtesy of the Artist.

Victor Solomon. We Skrong Then, 2015; glass, mirror, lead, 24K gold-plated high-polish steel, wood, Swarovski crystal; 44 x 40 x 20 in. Courtesy of the Artist.

Using the well-known symbol of the basketball hoop and backboard as the centerpiece of this series, Solomon’s interest in stained glass speaks to notions of practical finesse, technical rigor, and excessive opulence. In relocating basketball into the space of contemporary art, the artist seeks to highlight the intense level of discipline required of both players and artists in pursuit of their practice. Within this spectrum of similarities, however, there is also an implicit critique of the extravagance that comes with celebrity culture in both realms, as exemplified by the use of an ostentatious medium such as stained glass.

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