An Exercize in the Strength of Imagination: The Endless and Mobile Beautiful Collapsible Labyrinth

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Image by the Flux Factory

The Endless and Mobile Beautiful Collapsible Labyrinth is a Willy Wonka factory of delights, substituting artwork for candy. In the industrial belly of the Flux Factory, this exhibition produces an edgy,  and times, dark, sense of pure imagination. The curation completely revitalizes the conceptual possibilities of how an exhibition can be inventively manifested.

The walls of the gallery are constructed in twists and turns of a labyrinth. However, they also move. The viewers are invited to slide the walls side to side, open and close them like doors, or swing them back and forth on their axis. This violates a boundary of comfort for how viewers usually interact with art. However, many of the works have been specifically created to stretch and contort between two walls such as one made out of an accordion of vibrant strings stretching and slumping as its environment alternated. Some are actually meant to be crushed and broken by the moving walls like the line of fragile bird’s nests which hold delicate eggs growing human teeth.

The execution of the many and varying surfaces imaginatively makes a home for a variety of artistic media. Screens picturing crawling beehives may be peered upon through ragged tears in the wall, a clothing rack of flesh-like jackets may be worn to fit the fashion of the scene, and a solitary paint-soaked nude performance piece quietly carries on in a partially-hidden nook. All the while, the space itself perpetually morphs in the hands of the new exhibition designers—the audience.

The EMBCL is a funneling of inspiration from Alice in Wonderland and David Bowie’s Labyrinth into an art exhibition. It dismantles and challenges the preconceived notions of even the most experimental art displays. It turns the viewer into a participant or, perhaps even further, to a conductor of the space. This imaginative approach is an example of how to shatter the confines of traditional exhibition making and generate an original means to benefit art in its presentation and make the viewer a partner in the process of experiencing art.

Link to event and artists included in exhibition: http://www.fluxfactory.org/upcoming/labyrinth/

Here’s a photo of me modeling the flesh jacket Dressing Room by Kelly Johnston :IMG_0790

(kellyjohnston.weebly.com)

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Arte Povera: A Wealth of Work from Marisa Merz

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Image from the Met Breuer

The major retrospective of Marisa Merz: The Sky is a Great Space, on view at the Met Breuer, shines a spotlight on a prominent female artist in modernist art history at a time when it is especially vital. Merz was known for being the only female member of the Arte Povera movement in Italy during the 1960s and 70s. She was also married to another successful artist participating in the same movement, Mario Merz. Arte Povera translates to “Poor Art.” Its focus was to reject the affluence of upper-class Italian society and focus on “poor,” industrial materials such as metals, fibers, and natural materials.

Merz’s works play on the idea of “feminine” materials versus hard, industrial materials, often associated with “man’s work.” For example, she uses the process of knitting, primarily assumed as a female domestic hobby, but works with copper wire, a material associated with a stereotypical male occupation. In her piece, Living Sculpture (1966), the massive, hanging sculpture made of aluminum is draped from the ceiling in billowy puffs and trailing tails, as if it were made of bundles of cotton and strands of fabric. This is an excellent example of her mastery between soft versus hard, domestic versus industrial, and feminine versus masculine.

Through her application of the principles of Arte Povera, Merz reclaims the hard, industrial materials for the feminine perspective. She demonstrates that domestic practices aren’t inherently feminine, and concepts of skills and labor are not to be solely associated with the masculine. She asserts that all materials and approaches are genderless. At a time when women’s rights hang once again in palpable precarity, Marisa Merz is a timely exhibition to bring to the public, reminding us of how strong female role models of the past persevered through their own male-dominated worlds.

Marisa Merz: The Sky is a Great Space
Met Breuer
January 24–May 7, 2017

I felt compelled to see this show, not only because it’s fascinating, but also because I wrote a preview for it a couple months ago before I even had the chance to view it. So now, I wrote a retrospective review. To see how the two compare visit the article in Artspeak:
http://www.artspeak.nyc/home/2017/1/25/marisa-merz

 

Sour, Sweet, Bitter, Spicy —Stimulating an Appetite for Culture and Art

 

mocaImage from the Museum of Chinese in America Facebook

 

Upon entering into the exhibition, Sour, Sweet, Bitter, Spicy: Stories of Chinese Food and Identity in America, and gazing upon the expansive twenty-foot table, I immediately thought, “Judy Chicago, The Dinner Party.” The exhibition addresses the theme of how food is an important thread woven into the complex development of identity and culture in immigration. The curator created an environment that reflected the concept, stepping away from the traditional white-cube model in order to facilitate a physical experience and conversation around a dinner table. 

This exhibition spans two galleries in the Museum of Chinese in America. The museum is focused on history and culture more so than art. However, the curator holds a background in art making and curating and was keen to keep art present in this project. Two ceramics artists were hired to create pieces that reflected the cuisine referenced at each place setting. The place settings themselves are spaced at precise intervals, each presenting a booklet where a plate may be. The booklets contain stores of a particular chef including their immigration experience, their approach to cooking, and how the two intertwine. These stories are aided by three screens projecting a video interview and slideshows of a chef giving a verbal account of their stories projects along the walls.
Sour, Sweet, Bitter, Spicy bridges the intention between historical and artistic presentation to tell its story, or rather, many stories. Rooted in an artistic predecessor, the platform of presentation affords a participatory experience for the viewer. The ceramic pieces complement the culinary stories and demonstrate the intentional integration of art into a historical-based institution. Although conceptually similar to The Dinner Party, it stimulates more of an appetite that its inspiration through its tantalizing culinary imagery.

Sour, Sweet, Bitter, Spicy: Stories of Chinese Food and Identity in America
Museum of Chinese in America
Thu, Oct 6, 2016Sun, Sep 10, 2017

 

Immerse Yourself in the Himalayan Wind: Sacred Spaces at the Rubin Museum

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Sacred Spaces is an enchanting, tranquil experience at the Rubin Museum. This exhibition wraps the entirety of the fourth floor. It includes a shrine room with an adjoining gallery for supplemental materials, sound installation, record room, and video installation. The works were commissioned by the museum. They focus on the mission to support art of the Himalayas, which is where the artists traveled to in creating their pieces. The theme of wind has been implemented into each of the works which carries the viewer onward through each installation.

Sacred Spaces keeps consistent with the museum’s atmosphere as a whole. Walls facing the open areas of the central staircase are a dark gray, similar to the tones of other floors. This creates a feeling as if one is inside a dimly-lit temple. Through the use of the dark atmosphere, the visual aspects can be highlighted, focusing one’s attention selectively. Also, the visitor is more prone to be transported into a meditative state by the sound installations as the sense of hearing is called forward.

The shrine room is a replica of a Tibetan Buddhist temple. Sounds of bells and Eastern string instruments play with a hum of wisping through the track. A low, wooden ceiling has been constructed to fit the scene and activates the nose with its wood scent. One is lead to an adjacent gallery by its mustard yellow paint, where wall text explains the nuances of the display. A touch screen is implemented to allow one to select areas of the shrine to zoom in and read more about the objects.

Within the next gallery, four speakers stand evenly spaced on either side of the room. Bean bags are placed down the center for the visitor to relax and be transported by the sound installation. The lights are extremely dim to allow for meditation as one hears the music within the Himalayan wind. Within the next gallery, three pedestals stand with record players atop them which play wind-inspired sound pieces. The viewer is invited to listen through headsets and flip the records while viewing artworks that have been created by wind blowing ink across a page.

The last room plays two videos of mirroring content, where a kaleidoscope image of wind-blown prayer flags waves across the screen. Seating is placed along the opposite wall with headphones so one may listen to the sound art of the wind that is causing the movement of the flags.

Sacred Spaces creates a soothing, yet intriguing, experience. It fits seamlessly into the scheme of the museum as a whole. The curatorial decisions carry the viewer to a meditative state through the dim lighting, comfortable seating environments, and the consistency of the wind sounds. The viewer is engaged by participating in the atmosphere of the shrine room, meditating in the comfort of the seating, and being the disc jockey of their own record station. This exhibition transports the viewer by capturing the essence of being present at twilight in the Himalayan wind.

Sacred Spaces
The Rubin Museum of Art
November 11, 2016 – June 5, 2017

 

 

“REJOICE! OUR TIMES ARE INTOLERABLE” Jenny Holzer and Political Deja Vu

REJOICE! OUR TIMES ARE INTOLERABLE: Jenny Holzer’s Street Posters, 1977-82 has stirred up mixed reviews since its opening on Friday, January 13th. This unlucky day is fitting for an art exhibition relevant to this unlucky year.

The exhibition lies within the minute Alden Projects space on the Lower East Side. The works featured are square posters in a myriad of colors, all printed on in BOLD ALL CAPS ITALIC font, her signature style. Jenny Holzer is known for the honest social commentary, delivered with a sting, as seen in these works. Upon inspecting the pieces closely, one can notice the yellowing of the edges or crease marks from long ago. However, the words seem as if they were made just this year, in the time since January 20th. Phrases such as, “THE END OF THE U.S.A. ALL YOU RICH FUCKERS SEE THE BEGINNING OF THE END AND TAKE WHAT YOU CAN WHILE YOU CAN,” and, “FEAR IS THE MOST ELEGANT WEAPON. YOUR HANDS ARE NEVER MESSY,” sound as if they are a direct comment on the new administration.

Despite this exhibition’s blatant relevancy, some are questioning if it’s actually effective. Hyperallergic has hailed it as, “Jenny Holzer’s Blowtorch in the Darkness.” On the other hand, the online journal, Filthy Dreams, comments, “Is digging up old pieces of paper by Jenny Holzer to address our ‘unpresidented’ times really all we got? This isn’t the 1970s anymore; that’s just not going to cut it. In fact, I’m embarrassed and bored.” The gallery’s owner, Todd Alden, purposefully created this show from his personal collection of Holzer’s posters to address the new administration after the recent election results. Whether it is the best we can do or not, it seems the more public outlets aiming to subvert the administration, the better.

Vogue has proclaimed for the New York public to, “Get Ready to See Jenny Holzer Take Over Your Instagram Feed.” While at first, this seems counterproductive and shallow, a second thought may help reveal that this is just the millennial version of Holzer’s mission. These posters were created to be plastered all over the city. In the 70s and 80s, that was the ephemeral means of mass communicationwhat Instagram is to the culture of today. So, post your filter-perfect, rant-filled squares and carry on the backhand slap that Jenny Holzer has delivered for timeless uses.

 

REJOICE! OUR TIMES ARE INTOLERABLE: Jenny Holzer’s Street Posters, 1977-82
Alden Projects
January 13 – February 12, 2017

 

Sources:
Micchelli, Thomas. “Jenny Holzer’s Blowtorch in the Darkness.” Hyperallergic. January 28, 2017. Accessed February 07, 2017. http://hyperallergic.com/354443/jenny-holzers-blowtorch-in-the-darkness/.
Colucci, Emily. “Could Camp Be A Tactic Against President Trump?” Filthy Dreams. January 29, 2017. Accessed February 07, 2017. https://filthydreams.wordpress.com/2017/01/29/could-camp-be-a-tactic-against-president-trump/.
Garcia, Patricia. “Jenny Holzer’s Poster Show at Alden Projects Is About to Take Over Your Instagram Feed.” Vogue. January 31, 2017. Accessed February 07, 2017. http://www.vogue.com/article/jenny-holzer-show-rejoice-our-times-are-intolerable.

For Those About to Rock We Salut a Review

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Photo courtesy of the School of Visual Arts

For The Record: The Art of a Song

On a late Friday afternoon, I was rushing to the School of Visual Art’s main building to run an errand for my student account before the building closed for the weekend. I was especially flustered because I had made a goal of visiting the Met immediately afterward to write a review for a class. I entered the building in a huff, throwing off my coat, flashing my ID to the security desk, and whirled around only to be stopped in my tracks. The gallery space that stood before me looked like a vibrant combination of a Williamsburg record store, an infrared Guitar Center, and what I’d imagine Alice Cooper’s basement to look like. It was as if The Hard Rock Cafe had decided to franchise an art gallery.

Immediately in front of me, a six foot tall, neon guitar gleamed an invitation like a box office “Open” sign. Next to it, two guitars leaned against a stack of amps, setting the scene as if this was a theater set. The walls have been painted a fire engine red and Prince purple. One wall was corner-to-corner with show posters, and another, a perfect grid of famous albums from music legends; The Ramones, David Bowie, Nirvana, etc.

Placed along the walls and clustered in the center, sixteen reimagine guitars stood like trophies on metal pedestals, all paired with a classic album, framed to the side. They had been created by students of the 3D Design program at the school. Each student had been given a guitar and then selected a hit album of the past on which to base a reinterpretation of the instrument. The goal was for the artists to express how they felt when listening to a song that particularly spoke to them through the aesthetic remodeling of the object. The results were, ahem, so metal.

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My favorite piece stood front and center. Based on a Kiss album, the guitar was a metaphor for a woman’s silhouette from behind. The body of the instrument was coated in a silky black cloth, the narrow area of the body meant to be a woman’s waist and the strings were the laces of her corset. A plump booty even popped below the bridge of the guitar. Sexy shoulders and arms had been molded from halfway down the neck, painted a striking neon pink. The arms were placed in a sultry slump, one near the shoulder and one on the hip, while the hands pulled the strings of the corset closed. This piece slaps the image of sex, drugs, and rock-and-roll across your face. You can just hear Kiss singing, “Hotter than Hell.”

I mean, you can literally hear Kiss singing, and all the other famous musicians as speakers pump out the chart-toppers to get you in the mood. The next room, in addition to another sixteen artworks, displays three walls of projections of performances and music videos along with the music, throwing you back in time to when they were played live.

For the Record is a wonderland for anyone who has enjoyed basically any music previous to the mid-90s. It takes you down the rabbit hole with the nostalgia of show posters and albums, awes you with the creativity and sometimes, hilarious or poignantly accurate interpretations of the guitars, and has something to offer every fan from the Beach Boys to Salt N Pepa.

My only stumbling point with this exhibition was at first sight; I searched around in delighted bewilderment for the oasis of the standard wall text to explain to me how this conglomerate of rock-and-roll paraphernalia came to be. No explanation was offered. I had to search on my phone to gain insight into the concept. That is undoubtedly due to its size. Being an exhibition held in a college’s lobby and adjacent, the modest gallery does not afford the space to do this exhibition justice. The pieces are placed tightly together, causing me to stifle my curatorial urge to create some breathing room. The show is so enthralling that I want to find it a large home so it can be large and loud for the greater public to experience. However, the slightly cramped nature does lend itself to the feeling of being in a backstage dressing room full of equipment.

I had been so swept up with For the Record. The atmosphere and design of the space were so captivating but still took a backseat to the ingenuity of the artist for their righteous creations. By the time I had finished playing my part of Alice in this Wonderland, all the school offices had closed. I didn’t even bother going to the Met.

 

For the Record: The Art of a Song
School of Visual Arts Gramercy Gallery
Saturday, January 14 – Saturday, January 28

Here is a link to the details I had to find on my phone in the gallery:
http://www.sva.edu/events/events-exhibitions/for-the-record-the-art-of-a-song

I didn’t realize I saw this exhibition on its second to last day. So, I’ve included the photos I took.

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Fearless Female Fiber Artist: Françoise Grossen Selects

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Photo courtesy of the Museum of Art and Design

 

The Museum of Art and Design currently hosts the exhibition Françoise Grossen Selects. The exhibition celebrates the works of Françoise Grossen, a fiber artist who has been producing since the 1960’s. The exhibition consumes two-thirds of the museum’s second floor. The pieces in the show were selected by Grossen from the museum’s permanent collection. The artworks are 75% Grossen’s and 25% of other artists chosen to compliment her creations.

The exhibition aims to give acclaim to the long career of this pioneer of fiber arts. The show succeeds by adeptly complementing the art with the methods of display. Once the elevator doors open, the viewer is instantly met with a wide-open gallery with an array of enticing large-scale works. Two impressively-sized braided works lie on low pedestals at one’s feet. The pedestals are painted the same slate gray as an accent wall, linking those areas together and giving contrast to the light nude colors of the work. The wall text is immediately presented as an easily-recognizable beacon to the viewer. Although it affords enough space to not induce crowding, it is positioned in the center of the space, causing the spectator to make a figure eight when walking through the exhibition.

Until one reads the text, it is not clear the exhibition is a mix of artists. Three large works hang in succession along their own wall and on one adjacent, stands a broad display case of nine more, all from artists other than Grossen. They fit in well with Grossen’s work and add variety but are completely separated. This creates a disjointed juxtaposition that may have been remedied by incorporating the pieces throughout the whole of the exhibition.

In the other direction, one encounters Grossen’s works, all over six feet tall. They are expertly hung by slight, silver rods or wires. Everything is precisely level and very minimal. The methods of hanging disappear behind the presence of the works, making for a seamless viewing experience. The pedestals on the floor have been made to fit the dimensions of the art excellently. The viewer is also engaged in all areas of the space from high to low.

At the end of the exhibition plays a video of an interview with the artist. The sound is loud enough to hear comfortably, but not overpowering as to distract the viewer from interacting with other pieces. A bench sits nearby so one may rest and view the 15-minute, looping video. The bench lies just off center of the space, allowing one to sit in any direction to view the pieces from slightly farther back. This is a helpful tool for prolonged viewing and thoughtful of accessibility for the spectators.

Overall, Françoise Grossen Selects is a successful exhibition at the Museum of Art and Design. The precision of the hang brings out the best in the art displayed. The curators utilized all possible areas of display in an efficient, yet attractive manner. The viewer will seamlessly experience an exemplary fiber art exhibition.

 

Françoise Grossen Selects
Museum of Art and Design
October 18, 2016 to March 15, 2017

 

The world needs more exhibitions about female pioneers in the arts. It is really worth your time to read a biography on her:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fran%C3%A7oise_Grossen

Also, here is a lovely video of Grossen talking about her work: