San Francisco

Women in Performance: Rigorous Ecstasy – Language & Performance, Part I

Today from our friends at Art Practical, we bring you the first installment of the new column “Women in Performance,” which kicks off with an interview between author Jarrett Earnest and artist Carolee Schneemann. To quote from the column’s introduction: “Impelled by painting, Schneemann has plumbed the history of images, embodiment, and language since the 1950s, creating pioneering performances, films, installations, sculptures, and drawings. This two-part interview focuses on her relationship with writing, drawing, teaching, and the evolving nature of performance today.” This part of the interview was originally published on September 15, 2013.

Carolee Schneemann. Correspondence Course (triptych), 1980/1983, self-shot silver prints mounted on silk-screened text; 30 x 20 inches. Courtesy of the Artist and PPOW Gallery, New York. © Carolee Schneemann.

Carolee Schneemann. Correspondence Course (triptych), 1980/1983; self-shot silver prints mounted on silk-screened text; 30 x 20 in. Courtesy of the Artist and PPOW Gallery, New York. © Carolee Schneemann.

Jarrett Earnest: One thing that has been important for the deeper understanding of your work has been the publication of your letters and writing. When did you start writing, and how do you see it in relation to your visual art?

Carolee Schneemann: I wish I could grasp the writing. When I write, I cannot remember what I wrote. Writing is so difficult; it’s like a terrible kind of sculpture. But I was writing from the time I was a kid. I had Bruderhof neighbors who had a little printing press, and one year for Christmas, they printed a book of my poems—probably about cats, water, and birds. I was nine or ten. In school I was always writing; when I had a good teacher, they were respectful of it.

JE: The great thing about the publication of your letters is that it shows how important fiery missives are as part of your work: “This is not how you talk about my work. That is not what I was doing.” You are allowing people to have their own ideas; you are just insisting that they properly understand what’s actually going on. That means getting the words right.

CS: It is especially difficult the more these enclosing terminologies establish themselves as irrefutable. You can’t even talk about what you do unless you go through this nightmare of linguistic intervention. I’m doing a lot of writing now about these deformations of language—for instance, references to studio process as “practice.” I wrote an enraged letter once saying: “Dentists have to practice. Ballerinas practice. Visionary artists do not practice! We enable. We enact. We realize.” Also, we do not have ‘careers.’ What language-devils have evolved to substitute “unpacking” for “research”? I have a whole list of hateful language problems. I received a beautiful but bewildering essay this week from an English graduate student comparing Woolf’s The Waves and my Fuses (1965). It kept referring to the “film plate.” What? The sausage and eggs on a plate? It uses this expression over and over. I didn’t know what it was, so I wrote to her: “You are in the same coven—the moldering den of academics—destroying our ability to think straight with these deformed expressions!” I was very harsh, and she wrote back and said: “I’m only 22, and I’m at Oxford, and I don’t have anyone with imagination here, but I believe I’m a good thinker.” Bless her heart! She’s a very good thinker, and I can’t wait to meet her.

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Fan Mail

Fan Mail: Lisa Wicka

At the heart of Lisa Wicka’s artwork is a set of keenly nuanced spatial and visual adaptations. Her work transforms motifs, compositions, and ideas—human figures, abstract shapes, and reinterpretations of physical and perceived spaces—into unified bodies. Her small canvases, combine-like sculptures, and large-scale installations all mark their spaces of display with striking gravity.

Lisa Wicka. Construction of Self (detail), 2013; House paint, vintage wallpaper, laminate flooring, wood and chalk line; two interior spaces: 5 x 7 x 15 feet and 4 x 5 x 6 feet. Courtesy of the artist.

Lisa Wicka. Construction of Self (detail), 2013; house paint, vintage wallpaper, laminate flooring, wood, and chalk line; two interior spaces: 5 x 7 x 15 ft. and 4 x 5 x 6 ft. Courtesy of the Artist.

Most arresting is Wicka’s ability to create compositions that profoundly alter visual perception; she disrupts and disorients visual expectations while simultaneously building new patterns of seeing through careful layering and juxtaposition of physical material—wood, paper, canvas, windows—with geometric shapes, hard grid-like lines, and rich swatches of saturated color. In her installation Construction of Self (2013), Wicka transformed two vacant interior spaces into vibrant, immersive compositions that she describes as, “Remnants of vintage wallpaper, colors, and the architectural elements of this building (that) reminded me of my past spaces, in particular my childhood home.”

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New York

Nick Cave: Made by Whites for Whites, at Jack Shainman Gallery

In Made by Whites for Whites, Nick Cave’s new show at Jack Shainman Gallery, the artist continues to exhibit works characteristic of his making process, in which the reclamation of found objects functions as a catalyst. “It’s always the object that provides me the impulse,” he said in a recent talk at the gallery. “It’s always one thing that sort of sets it up. It has to have a pulse. It also has to have multiple reads, that I can sort of turn it upside-down.” In this case, Cave is working directly with a collection of racially charged historical artifacts that he came across at flea markets.

Nick Cave. Golden Boy, 2014. Mixed media including concrete garden ornament, vintage high chair, dildo, and holiday candles. © Nick Cave. Photo by James Prinz Photography. Courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York

Nick Cave. Golden Boy, 2014; mixed media including concrete garden ornament, vintage high chair, dildo, and holiday candles. © Nick Cave. Photo by James Prinz Photography. Courtesy of the Artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York.

Among them are a spittoon shaped like a black man’s head, a golliwog-costumed mannequin, a Topsy-Turvy doll that allowed children to flip between a black servant boy and his white counterpart, and several sculptures of small black slave boys. Each object owes its “pulse” in part to its loaded history and uneasy presence in contemporary space. At the core of this series is a kind of reconciliation with these relics’ very existence. How can they be shown in public life without behaving like painful reiterations of a violent and oppressive history? How can they be destroyed or hidden when they are an important societal record that should not be forgotten?

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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.

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Charleston

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 »

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