Friday, July 31, 2009
Thursday, July 30, 2009
On the Hour: Artist-Curated Film Screening at CANADA Gallery
This week, New York's CANADA Gallery hosts a screening series of works curated by video and film artists chosen by the gallery. Each of the nine artists have been given a one-hour timeslot for their presentation. The elements of each artist's presentation range from humorous, scatalogical examinations of the body (Brooklyn-based film artist Darren Floyd's presentation, screening Friday, is titled "Face or Ass?") to philosophy (queer theory- and feminist-informed artist Cecilia Dougherty's contributions, shot with a Coolpix digital still camera, include "bits borrowed from Martin Heidegger and others"), and inevitably, their overlap. Here, we speak to three of the curators about their programming choices:
Paolo Pedercini, Welcome to the Desert of the Real, 2009. Courtesy the artist and CANADA New York.
The artists featured in TIT's (Friday 7:30) fall into two categories:
Those whose videos document both public and private body-driven performances which exclude spoken word, Lenka Chudlová, Torsten Zenas Burns, Nao Bustamante, Kenyatta Forbes, Dara Greenwald, Jennifer Locke and Lilly McElroy, and video artists whose work suggests or speaks to/for a body that is absent or mute: Paula Cronan, Diane Bonder, Kenyatta Forbes, Aimee Worms Hirshberg, kara lynch and Paolo Pedercini. CANADA invited me to curate freeform so I chose to create a program that explores some questions/ assumptions that are foundational to my own video practice. I had recently seen and loved Lenka Chudlová's "as fast and for as long as possible" projected onto the wall across an alley from my studio in Massachusetts. I started with that and began to build an interplay between the body-driven and disembodied works. I drew on some of my favorite film and video artists (Paula Cronan and Diane Bonder) and found others through conversations with other curators and friends. The work that I found/chose absolutely influenced the direction of the program.
There's a Machinima filmed with America's Army, the recruiting game produced by the Department of Defense, a naked zombie performance from the halls of the WTC's 91st floor, a feminist response/ode to Bruce Nauman seminal, an episode from Kara Lynch's speculative retrofuture project, and an archival night vision video doc of a classic performance from Nao Bustamante. What holds it together for me is the opportunity to experience and consider the impact of "the body" without voice and voice/perspective without a body.
My ongoing video series that relates to this program is "Flights of Fancy," a series of fictional biographies, sound-driven conversational narratives textured by videotracks from the subject's super 8 archive.
Black Dice, Kokomo, 2007. Courtesy the artists and CANADA New York.
When CANADA asked me to curate a video screening as part of their summer series I knew I wanted it to be a fun, colorful and subversive show. I came across the quote from William S. Burroughs where he says: "When you cut into the present the future leaks out." I thought this would be the perfect theme.
I'm featuring my own work, as well as works by Takeshi Murata, Black Dice, Jacob Ciocci of Paper Rad, Shana Moulton, PFFR, Jimmy Joe Roche, Sophia Peer, Joe Quinn, Ray Roy, Roboshithead, Robby Rackleff and Showbeast.
Takeshi Murata, Black Dice, Jacob Ciocci and Shana Moulton are established artists whose work I admire and like. PFFR made Wonder Showzen, which was a great, fucked-up television show. The other artists are friends of mine whose work is similarly psychedelic and/or absurd. Roboshithead was the best public access show in New York City. Sophia Peer is a video artist currently working on a project for Bermuda (the father of M.I.A's baby). Joe Quinn is the smartest and scariest person I've ever met, and he's studying to become a mathematician. Jimmy Joe Roche, Ray Roy, Robby Rackleff and Showbeast are all part of the Wham City art collective in Baltimore, of which Dan Deacon is also a part. I have this theory that Japanese pop culture is really insane because Japan is the only country that's ever been nuclear bombed. To me all of the videos in this show represent what I imagine mainstream television will be like after the apocalypse.
When Sarah Braman and Phil Grauer expressed an interest in showing my film "When How To Live Was Undecided" at CANADA, we talked about putting together a little screening. I realized that I had an opportunity not only to show my film, but to screen it along side works by filmmakers that I admire. I asked my friend Zefrey Throwell to co-curate. Since my own film is essentially an act of motion portraiture, I wanted to contextualize it with other films that use collaborative portraiture to tell stories. Zefrey's videos are the results of irreverent and boundry testing performances. Together, we decided on the theme of "Face and Ass."
The "Face" portion of the show is four films that attempt different kinds of characterization through motion portraiture. The artists are Jem Cohen, Marie Losier, Naomi Uman and myself. I invited the filmmaker Marie Losier. whose films I saw at a recent Flaherty Seminar screening at Anthology Film Archives. She is well known for her 16mm portraits of the Kuchar brothers and a recent collaboration with Guy Maddin. I saw Naomi Uman's recent film Kalendar at the Migrating Forms Film Festival. I struck up a professional friendship with her on Facebook because I liked her film so much. Naomi now lives and works in the Ukraine, where she has made five films. Zefrey recommended Jem Cohen (jemcohenfilms.com) to round out "Face." Jem has made numerous documentary and portrait films, including the Fugazi film, Instrument and Benjamin Smoke.
The "Ass" portion of the show is four performance videos curated by Zefrey. The artists are LoVid, Rashaad Newsome, Hugh Walton and Zefrey.
LoVid is the interdisciplinary artist duo of Tali Hinkis and Kyle Lapidus. Their work includes live video installations, sculptures, digital prints, patchworks, media projects, performances, and video recordings. I became aware of their work after a recent performance at MoMA. Hugh Walton is a video and performance artist who uses his body as a communicating device. Darren turned me on to his work. Rashaad Newsomeis an amazing conductor and artist, transversing mediums from performance to dance to collage and video. I first became aware of his work after seeing a large scale performance at The Kitchen.
As for our own upcoming projects, I will be at Cornell University in 2009-2010 as Artist-In-Residence to work on a series of supernatural self-portraits. Zefrey just finished a project at the Venice Biennale and is preparing for a large performance piece utilizing a public fountain in midtown as an impromtu Olympic swimming pool.
July 30: 7 PM Liz Wendelbo "Cold Cinema"; 8:30 PM Allen Cordell "Pulsating Sunglasses"
July 31: 7 PM EE Miller "TITS"; 8:30 PM Darren Floyd "Face or Ass?"
August 1: 7 PM Ben Coonley and James Fotopoulos "Coonley/Fotopoulos"; 8:30 PM Cecilia Dougherty and David Kalal "Signal to Noise"
CANADA Gallery is located at 55 Chrystie Street, New Yor
Tuesday, July 28, 2009
Merce Cunningham Dies at the Age of 90
In a diary entry written in April 2000 (published in Other Animals, a book of drawings and journals), choreographer Merce Cunningham considered the scheduling of two dances ("Summerspace," 1958, and "Interscape," 2000) to be performed together at the Kennedy Space Center a day later. Skeptical of the juxtaposition of two pieces created 42 years apart, Cunningham asked of himself, and of his development: "Will they look that way? Am I growing old with wisdom or just foolishness?" He was 81 years old at the time. Surviving New York School Expressionism, Minimalism, Pop and every important other artistic movement made in the Twentieth Century, the choreographer's often difficult, always experimental investigations of human movement, answered his own question.
Cunningham passed away at his home on Sunday night at the age of 90. Born in 1919 in Centralia, Washington, he had been for almost three-quarters of a centiry, a modern master of dance in America and internationally. Cunningham began his formal career in dance in the late ‘30s, studying at the Cornish School in Seattle under Bonnie Bird. It was there he met composer John Cage, the school's chief accompanist and musical director. The two formed a long personal and creative union that would push each man's practice toward works that tested the conventional realms of music and dance, in both an art and music context. Cage created scores that threw the tenets of classical composition out the window in favor of Minimalist pieces that embraced dissonance. Cunningham's choreography took this dissonance as fact; he asked the human body to react to Cage's scores on its own terms, without the crutches of narration, strictly interpreted male/female roles, or naturalistic set design.
Prior to forming his own dance company, Cunningham spent five years as a soloist in the Martha Graham Dance Company, alongside Erick Hawkins. Concurrently, in 1943, Cunningham began to perform with Cage around the country in collaborative dance and music performances. In 1953, as a teacher-in-residence at Black Mountain College, Cunningham formed the Merce Cunningham Dance Company, with dancers including Paul Taylor and Viola Farber. It was also at Black Mountain that Cunningham met the artist Robert Rauschenberg, who would become another long-term collaborator, and serve as the company's resident designer from 1954 to 1964.
Cage and Rauschenberg remained Cunningham's collaborators until their passings in 1992 and 2008, respectively. Cunningham also found younger collaborators in all realms of avant-garde practice, from designer Rei Kawakubo to experimental rock band Sonic Youth. This forward-looking momentum remains even now, according to a statement made by Judith Fishman, the Chairman of the Cunningham Dance Foundation, an organization devoted to sustaining and furthering Cunningham's studio, repertory, company, archives and educational outreach:
We have lost a great man and a great artist, but we celebrate his extraordinary life, his art, and the dancers and the artists with whom he worked. To honor Merce, we plan to carry on our efforts to share and preserve his legacy, so that audiences of today and generations of tomorrow may witness the work of this legendary artist.
Friday, July 24, 2009
Watermill Preview: "Hell"
As a visual artist, playwright and director, among many other titles, Robert Wilson is best known for his recalculations of some of art's dustier forms, among them opera, theater and, most recently, portraiture. (Brad Pitt and Isabelle Huppert are some recent subjects of his high definition video art "still lifes.") In 1992, Wilson re-invented the center, possibly the most staid of art instittutions, by founding the Watermill Center in Southampton, devoted to providing international artists with a home to create works that are freed from the confines of studio and (to an extent) finance. Hence the Watermill's sixth Summer Benefit, held this Saturday at the Center, is a combination auction, performance art event, exhibition and charity gala.
The center's summer program offers residencies to between four and six international artists to create site-specific installations, each of which get their first public viewing at the gala benefit. 2009 artist-in-residence Sue de Beer created a work, "Ring of Trees," that uses a ritualistic circle of lighted branches to reinterpret the "magic circles" that served as meeting places in Puritan colonies. This summer's auction, presided over by Simon de Pury, also features work from de Beer, along with pieces by artists including Mika Rottenberg, Elizabeth Peyton, and Barnaby Furnas, among many others. A work by the late artist Dash Snow was scheduled for auction, but has since been pulledm citing sensitivity for the artist's family.
Each year, the benefit is defined by a theme that encapsulates the feeling of the works presented by the artists-in-residence. Last year's theme, according to Watermill's Creative Director Jörn Weisbrodt, "was derived from a large indoor installation by artist Jonathan Meese, titled ‘Marlene Dietrich in Dr. No's Ludovico Clinic.'" The installation featured Meese at his most brilliantly maniacal, and provided the general mood for the summer's gala: "decadent glamour from an era that we had all heard about, but not experienced."
So pushing the boundaries of debauchery is hardly a problem at Watermill. But the center does have its limits. "One year we had a car sponsor, and they provided us with a nice luxury car to display on the property during the benefit," recalls Weisbrodt. "We wound up having to pull a couple out of the car-they were making out in it. Good thing they had paid for full-price tickets." For those who choose to remain attired, this year's theme—"Inferno"—extends all the way to the gala's dress code, which is "flaming." "Hopefully, the audience will all be dressed up as visitors to hell," says Weisbrodt. And if Hell is the Hamptons, this particular corner of it is bound to be far more enjoyable than most.
Friday, July 17, 2009
Jiri Kovanda: Prague Summer
By AIMEE WALLESTON 07/17/2009 03:33 PM
Though he's one of the most famous Czech artists and a leading figure on the second generation of Czech Actionist artists, Jiri Kovanda has been overlooked in the United States for the past 30 years. Maybe it's because the artists with whom he is most often compared—the Vienna Actionists in Europe, American Conceptualists Chris Burden and Vito Acconci—are burned into the collective psyche for producing ‘70s-era art at its most explosively macho. Kovanda's practice has always been relatively gentle, and romantic: The "actions" he's staged and documented include kissing through glass and scratching away graffiti hearts with his fingernails. Kovanda's practice is all sotto voce. It's about finding importance in simple, day-to-day, transitory gestures.
A mid-career retrospective generally involves two galleries honoring an artist concurrently: Right now, New York is getting a chance to experience the work of Kovanda at three locations. The main exhibition, 1, 2, 3, is a joint solo show at two Chelsea galleries: Andrew Kreps and Wallspace. The second exhibition, at Ludlow 38, is a two-person show with fellow Eastern Bloc artist Július Koller. The pieces on view at Andrew Kreps were produced from the mid-1970s to the early 1990s; the art at Wallspace was created in the past two years.
The exhibition at Andrew Kreps leads with black-and-white photographic documentation of actions Kovanda performed in the 1970s-many of which are so visually inconclusive that it's hard to see exactly what method or manner of action took place. The most indecisive images (which, significantly, are often snapshots of people or interiors) are the least explained of all the works-they are given no titles or explanatory text to guide the viewer. These works are followed with charming, quixotic drawings and collage Kovanda made in 1977, just prior to, or in conjunction with, the timing of many of the actions.
The show at Wallspace features a slew of commercially-produced household objects (ketchup bottles, bricks, flashlights), re-contextualized as Conceptual artworks. "Untitled (Equilibrium)" 2007 Is visible from the gallery entrance: it's a tantalizing bag of what appears to be Pepto Bismol-colored candies dangling from the end of a string. The string, secured in loops in the walls at various intervals, winds its way around the circumference of the gallery's two rooms. Dangling from the other end of the string is a hammer. As an exploration of the aesthetics of physics, the piece delights with its sincerity. The viewer is left once again left to recalculate the effects of simplicity on a culture devoted to higher and higher degrees of complication.
Andrew Kreps Gallery is located at 522 West 22 St, New York. Wallspace is located at 619 West 27 Street. Ludlow38 is located at 38 Ludlow Street, New York.
Thursday, July 16, 2009
Look Back in Anger
By AIMEE WALLESTON 07/16/2009 04:24 PM
Legendary occult filmmaker Kenneth Anger predicted that he would die on Halloween, 2008. For once, luckily, he got it wrong, and this summer could be interpreted as a life-affirming celebration of the octogenarian artist's half-century of creative output. A retrospective of the artist's films is on view at PS1 through September 14, and this weekend, Anthology Film Archives screening six of his newer films, the subjects of which span from Aleister Crowley to surfing. "Elliott's Suicide," the most poignant inclusion in the selection, is a stream-of-consciousness portrait of the filmmaker's late friend, singer/songwriter Elliott Smith. Anger uses Smith's songs to complement shaky, irresolute digital footage (Smith's Rose Parade accompanies images of a parade), evoking a feeling that the film isn't precisely complete. In that sense, it serves as a perfect memorial to the artist whose suicide in 2003 was an aberrational moment of ugliness triumphing over beauty.
"Mouse Heaven," which was included in the 2006 Whitney Biennial, is Anger at his most brilliantly obsessive. The film comprises footage of vintage Mickey Mouse paraphernalia, which the filmmaker activates to mimic the motion of cartoons. The work recalls a mash-up of macho aficionado culture Anger glorified in an earlier film, "Kustom Kar Kommandos," and Anger's brilliant film industry assassination tome, "Hollywood Babylon" (with which the artist opened the floodgates for Us Weekly celebrity vampirism). After watching "Mouse Heaven," one is left to wonder: is Mickey Mouse just another pagan demon in short shorts? It's precisely this level of rigorous cultural critique that has always underscored Anger's artistic genius. As a filmmaker, Anger never stands in the way of a glittering good time. Yet, as a barometer of society's devotion to the superficial, his on-screen artifice and glamour serve as an indulgent, but uncompromisingly astute moral mirror. (LEFT: A STILL FROM MY SURFING LUCIFER)
New Films by Anger will screen on July 18 and 19 at 7:30pm. Anthology Film Archives is located at 32 2nd Avenue, New York.
By AIMEE WALLESTON 07/15/2009 12:21 PM
Photo courtesy of Su Barber
Since 2003, annual art publication North Drive Press has walked the line between a collectible art object and a curated publication available as an editioned set. It's an unbound book set that in five issues has increasingly revolved around the series of artist-produced multiples included, says founder and artist Matt Keegan, "When the project started, the first issue had mostly straight reproductions of artworks, in addition to interviews and even some poetry. There was about a half-dozen multiples. But it was clear from the beginning there was so much possibility for the multiples."
Co-founded by Keegan (whose conceptual, text-based practice often borders on book-dom) and Lizzy Lee, the bulk of the journal complements comprises interviews between artists. Last issue featured a conversation between kindred conceptual photographers Eileen Quinlan and Liz Deschenes, among others), which the journal also publishes online. Following the premier issue, the NDP multiples took a turn for the increasingly irreverent, according to Keegan. "People do very tailored projects for us. Adam Putnam did a temporary tattoo, and David Kennedy Cutler produced handmade soaps in the shape of Antartica." NDP's fifth and final issue, co-edited by Sadie Laska, is in production, but the market for portfolios of multiples by emerging artists is, well, not quite recession-proof. Tonight, a fundraiser is being held at White Columns to support the production of NDP # 5. Editions of artworks (by Jakob Kolding, Aurel Schmidt, and Marthe Friedman, among many others) commissioned by the journal will be sold at a silent auction. Tickets to the event are priced between $25 and $250.
The North Drive Press Benefit is from 7–10 PM. White Columns is located at 320 W. 13th St, new York.
Wednesday, July 15, 2009
Play Outside: Woods and West Navigate New York
This summer, the Public Art Fund is presenting two charming public art pieces by well-known European artists. Spanning from City Hall to Central Park, the two works, by Richard Woods and Franz West respectively, tread a fine line between childlike delight and. Each welcomes viewers with a warm smile that belies deeper, less facile artistic inquiries.
At New York's City Hall Park, wall and door and roof, by the British-born Woods, features the artist's signature naïve motif, a cartoon-like interpretation of red brick, printed across the facades of two security booths and into the hall itself where it forms a trompe l'oeil replica of one of the building's exterior doors. Though it looks like something out of a Keystone Cops film, Woods' piece is in fact a play on an English architectural trope. Says Woods: "The ‘British Red Brick' motif in architecture is synonymous with mass production private housing. I liked the idea of imposing this highly democratic vernacular on a public building that is a civic symbol of democracy."
The door is slightly more sedate. Its black-and-white printed graphic reads as symbolic representation by way of Alice in Wonderland; it is a door as a "door" -- more of an idea than an entryway. Both the booths and the door read as fractured fairytales: They invite one to question the nature of the building they open up. Both display a distinct element of kitch, a recurring theme in Woods' conceptual practice. "The motivations that underpin the works I make are varied, but kitsch is an area which consistently interests me, as it is a constantly moving territory. Socially imposed notions of good taste or bad taste are in constant flux, and these slippages fascinate me. The DIY method of my art making is purposefully meant to evoke the associations of ‘dutifully' applying and extra coat of paint to make things better. The optimism of such an action is at the heart of the work."
Uptown, in Central Park, one finds another ostensible stab at optimism in a new sculpture, The Ego and the Id, by Viennese artist Franz West. West has long been creating works -- he calls them "Pass-stücke" or "Adaptives" -- that only become art the moment the viewer physically connects with them. This demand for interaction feels more like a friendly invitation, though the Freudian implications found in the desire to touch the taboo seem to remain a constant point of entry for West. Says the artist, on his impetus for creating interactive works: "Normally an artwork is subject[ed] to the order of the fetish; [it is] an object comparable to Marx´s [theory of] goods. It is filtered by bans, which arise from common codices. I never understood [why] this would make sense, apart from [art's] function as [an object] for the market."
Found at the Doris C. Freedman Plaza in Central Park, West's new 20-foot high public sculpture (which officially opens July 15th) is a brightly colored, looping abstraction. It acts as both a sculpture and a settee, with enormous, malformed appendages that appear to have been constructed with a motherlode of previously chewed Fruit Stripe gum (one loop is colored in the artist's oft-used bubblegum pink; the other is multihued). If that description serves as an enticement for tout New York to drop anchor, well then: All the better. According to West, "New York is a very vital place. I identify myself with anyone and with anybody. I would like to sit down on the work myself, maybe out of a preserved adolescent attitude, which seems to flow slowly into a dementia senilis now."
Monday, July 13, 2009
Costume Change | Jimmy PaulBy AIMEE WALLESTON
Currently on view at On Stellar Rays gallery, the group exhibition “Lover” (through July 26) serves as an examination of different types of love: it’s a hello kiss for new lovers and a swan song for love lost. There are works by Marilyn Minter, Robert Melee and Karen Heagle, who painted an arousing portrait of the actress Charlotte Rampling. But a lesser-known personality hangs nearby. It’s a 1990 photograph of the drag queen Jimmy Paulette in New York shot by Nan Goldin. Today Madame Paulette is known as Jimmy Paul and is a A-list hairstylist working with big-name photographers like Steven Klein and Steven Meisel. Here, The Moment speak with Jimmy Paul about his days in front of the camera.
How did you hook up with Nan Goldin?
I met Jack Pierson when I first moved to New York and was going to school to learn to do hair. He photographed me, and he was also friendly with Nan — they were both part of the Boston crowd. She photographed me later on.
The images Nan Goldin made of you are so iconic (an image of Jimmy Paul as Jimmy Paulette is featured on the cover “The Other Side,” her book on drag queens and transsexuals). It’s hard to believe they were all made in one day.
It was Gay Pride Weekend, 1990, I believe. I wasn’t doing drag so much then, because I was concentrating on doing hair and getting out of the nightclub world. But Nan had said to me, “I heard you used to do drag, I wished I would have been able to photograph you. If you ever do it, will you let me know?” So Lady Bunny asked me to be on her float in the Pride parade, and I told Nan, “I’m going to do drag, if you want to come photograph me and Tabboo!” I had been doing Nan’s hair at the time, so she asked if she could come and get ready with us. I did her hair, and she took pictures of us when we were getting ready. Then we all went on the float, including Nan.
And how did you do Nan’s hair that day?
Nan loves to give attention, and she loves to get attention. I was very into French twists at the time, so I did a big, curly, piled-up twist. Nan has beautiful hair, and it was always fun to do.
Is there any art that’s inspiring you right now?
I love Billy Sullivan, who’s a friend of mine and just had an amazing show up at Nicole Klagsbrun gallery.
And any hair trends inspiring you this summer?
I love the way girls look in New York right now. Clean, nonchalant, easy. And I keep hearing talk about the ‘90s look coming back. I love grunge.
And how do you feel the contemporary drag queens are measuring up, stylewise, to the high standards you set?
On Gay Pride Day I saw a lot of phenomenal Latin and black kids. It seemed like a continuation of [Jennie Livingston’s 1990 documentary] “Paris Is Burning,” which was really thrilling and inspiring. And of course Lady Bunny is one of my all-time faves. She’s just brilliant in every aspect.