The Matrix Is Everywhere

14 May

I go for the tactical photo op in Neon Box Head, a 2008 piece made of neon and mirrors by trippy installation duo Assume Vivid Astro Focus that’s in “Never Ever Ever Land,” a group show at Anna Kustera gallery. It’s one of a number of immersive installations in New York right now, including Ernesto Neto at Bonakdar, Hélio Oiticica at Lelong, Lucio Fontana at Gagosian, and, most spectacularly, Cloud City, Tomás Saraceno’s constellation of large, interconnected modules, opening this week on the roof of the Met.

This proves that it’s more important than ever to wear flat, comfortable shoes when you’re looking at art (unless you’re actually working in gallery, in which case black pumps are OK). The Met offers even stricter guidelines for potential climbers of Cloud City: besides warning that no one with leather soles will be admitted, it advises women to consider wearing pants, given the transparent nature of the artist’s massive modules.

Off With Their Heads!

5 May

Two heads from 1979: Left, “David Ortiz (Laughing).” Right, “Robert,” a portrait of Ahearn’s longtime collaborator Rigoberto Torres.

Amidst the flurry at the Frieze Art Fair there is art being made. If you walk by the stand for John Ahearn‘s South Bronx Hall of Fame (part of the Frieze Projects curated by Cecilia Alemani), you might come upon the artist with his hands deep in wet, mushy plaster, crafting life casts of friends and assorted patrons. On the walls are some of the portraits Ahearn and lontime collaborator Rigoberto Torres made in 1979 and originally showed at Fashion Moda, in the Bronx. During the run of the fair (which ends Monday), the team is accepting new portrait commissions, for $3,000 a pop–giving collectors a chance to truly be a head of their time.

Darnell strikes a post with John, who holds his cast of Darnell’s head.

Darnell, also an artist, displays his own work.

A Real Nose for News

30 Apr

Robin and Bobbin

Another day in the life of an art journalist. On a visit to the studio of William Wegman, who was previewing his upcoming show at Bowdoin College Museum of Art, I communed with one of of his weimaraners, Bobbin.

The show, “Hello Nature,” features Wegman’s famous, hilarious, and profound photo and videos of his charismatic canines, as well as works in a variety of other media–all of them inspired by the state of Maine, where he has long spent his summers.

Break a leg! Bobbin and Wegman rehearse for Karole Armitage's upcoming dance performance.

Bobbin also practiced his moves for “Werk!: The Armitage Gone Variety Show,” the five-day extravaganza starting Wednesday at the Abrons Arts Center on the Lower East Side. For the series, choreographer Karole Armitage collaborated with a number of artists including Wegman, Katy Perry cover boy Will Cotton, and shape-shifting performer Kalup Linzy. And we saw some of Wegman’s new postcard paintings that will be in his show opening May 7 at Sperone Westwater.

Looks like I was barking up the right tree!

The Answer Is Blowing in the Wind

26 Apr

Image from Neil Goldberg’s single-channel video installation ”Wind Tunnel,” 2012.

We all know what it’s like to run for the subway doors, only to watch them close and the train pull away, but it took the particular sensibility of Neil Goldberg to turn the experience into an art piece. One of his photo series shows New Yorkers doing just that; another records people choosing salad-bar offerings. “Subway Trapezoids“ shows the piece of sky you see when you ascend the stairs. These and more, including a video of a wind gust moving through people’s hair at the Bedford Avenue stop on the L Train, are in “Stories the City Tells Itself: The Video Art and Photography of Neil Goldberg,” the first contemporary-video show at the venerable Museum of the City of New York. To help the artist explain how he transforms seemingly meaningless moments into profound and comical artworks, the museum turned to Maira Kalman, whose delight and empathy for the objects of daily life was so beautifully showcased in her recent Jewish Museum exhibition. Tonight, they will both appear in a conversation at the Museum of the City of New York, hosted by Queens Museum director Tom Finkelpearl. The subject is how they make art out of the everyday. Go for the talk—but get there early for treats from Brooklyn’s Blue Marble Ice Cream.

Your Face Here?

24 Apr

Photo: Tim Schreier


JR, the peripatetic French artist spreading goodwill and enormous posters around the globe, moves through Little Italy with his InsideOut project. Operating in the juncture where participatory art meets social media, the TED Prize-winner asks people to send him black-and-white photographic portraits—which he transforms into posters and sends back to their communities, where the images are posted in public settings, and then documented in online archives.
Created by JR, his partner, Marc Azoulay, and their team, this portrait, part of the Lakota Tribute series, hovers over the intersection of Mulberry and Prince Streets in downtown Manhattan. Check out the way their Ben-Day-like dots play off the bubble letters below— setting up a comic-book showdown between street art and graffiti, perhaps.

Quick on the Draw

20 Apr

Nibor takes her turn at Sol LeWitt's "Wall Drawing 797." Photo by Mista Oh!

“The first drafter has a black marker and makes an irregular horizontal line near the top of the wall. Then the second drafter tries to copy it (without touching it) using a red marker. The third drafter does the same, using a yellow marker. The fourth drafter does the same using a blue marker. Then the second drafter followed by the third and fourth copies the last line drawn until the bottom of the wall is reached”

So read the instructions for Sol LeWitt’s Drawing 797– which was first realized by students at Amherst College in 1995, is  included in the artist’s massive drawing retrospective at MASS MoCA, and recently appeared at the benefit for the Public Art Fund.

Having written lately on the conceptual-art pioneer’s radiant geometry (from a Jewish angle!), I was thrilled to participate in this brief incarnation of the participatory “copy-line” drawing–though I found it a challenge to comply with the instructions. But that’s all part of the process.

Let’s Go Met!

13 Apr

Stephanie, Moise J., Alicia, Sarah, Edwina, a random guy, Taz, Mark, Sabrina, Crystal, Ja Lisa, Nibor, and Chris emerge from the Egyptian galleries

I’ll always remember how proud I felt bounding up the steps of the Metropolitan Museum of Art during the summer of ’82, where, as a recent Yale art-history graduate, I’d landed a coveted summer internship. In addition to helping in the education department, I sat at the front desk and also gave tours of the collection, discoursing on everything from Dogon sculpture to Jackson Pollock. Though I return to the Met often, to cover interesting shows and trends, or simply to enjoy the art, it was a special moment for me when I entered through a modest doorway on the lower level last Thursday and made my way to the group visits department, where my lecturer’s badge was waiting.

Rectified museum map by Mark

Soon enough our ARTnews interns and Galeristas Adolescentes, helmed by Mista Oh!, made their way there too, and we talked for a bit about what an encyclopedic museum is and how to use the Met (and its website) for inspiration, information, and more. And then we were off for our day of looking and sketching, winding our way through the Egyptian Wing, into the Engelhard Court, along a multicultural array of arms and armor, and past Europe’s decorative arts before emerging in Central Park for frisbee and lunch, which was delivered to the museum’s steps (great idea Mista Oh!–and thanks Retna!). We spent the afternoon wandering through the arts of Africa, Oceania, and the Americas, where we made some more great drawings. Along the way we talked about things like primitivism, Orientalism, the language of color (and, in the case of our early-bird interns, institutional critique, courtesy Andrea Fraser, upstairs). Everyone had a great time and learned a lot–and I learned that I need to be more modest in my ambitions as a tour guide. Next time we’ll tackle the second floor.

Click here to see a clip of the day’s activities!

How Logo Can You Go

9 Apr

Over the course of her career the fearless and provocative Cuban artist Tania Bruguera has staged performances tweaking the Castro government, commenting on drug policy in Columbia, threatening to kill herself via Russian roulette in Venice, and plenty more. Her latest project, though, is her most ambitious, and potentially her most influential. A year ago, under the sponsorship of the Queens Museum and the public-art nonprofit Creative Time, she founded an organization called Immigrant Movement International, setting herself up in a storefront in Corona, Queens and moving in with immigrants nearby.

At first locals didn’t know what to make of the fiercely energetic newcomer, but eventually the center’s wide array of services—from legal help to language and art classes—transformed her headquarters, right near the 111th Street stop on the 7 train, into a busy hub. Tonight, for example, Immigrant Movement International will host a free immigration clinic sponsored by the City Bar Justice Center. Visitors can speak privately with an immigration attorney about matters including visas, Cuban immigration and family reunification—in Spanish, English, or Mandarin.

Along the way her team created a ribbon logo to advocate for their mission, coining the slogan “Immigrant Respect” to avoid the political aspects of the immigration issue and highlight its human side. They chose brown and blue to represent the entry points of immigrants who travel to a new country, over land or sea.

Immigrant Movement—which has been so successful that Bruguera’s sponsors recently pledged to help keep it going for four more years— is part of a larger global trend, as creators like Ai Weiwei and Vik Muniz develop new strategies to connect art-making with activism. Can artists change the world? Maybe that’s not the question—yet. Can they help? Stop over in Corona and find out.

We’re in the Monet!

6 Apr

Nibor and Kembra Pfahler of the band The Voluptuous Horror of Karen Black strike a pose in her new collaboration with artist E.V. Day, a recreation of the gardens that Claude Monet built at Giverny at The Hole, a gallery on Bowery. The exhibition was organized to showcase the photos that Day, an-artist-in-residence at the gardens, shot of Pfahler amidst the paths, the pond, and and plantings–the water lilies, wisteria, and willows–that the Impressionist designed to serve as models for his famous landscapes.

The artists have transformed the gallery space into a faux Giverny, with pebbled paths meandering along a mix of real and fake trees and flowers, modeled on the same aromatic and chromatic mixture selected by Monet. In the center is a copy of Giverny’s Japanese bridge (itself a copy of the original, which was destroyed), arching over real water adorned with fake water lilies. The only thing missing is frogs.

Foxx News

5 Apr

“T.P. Reign Bow (Detail),” 2012, wood, blue tarp, brass grommets, zippers, human hair, taxidermy fox. Courtesy Lehmann Maupin.

Nari Ward knows his rights, and he’s not afraid to evoke them. In his new show at Lehmann Maupin’s Christie Street venue, “Liberty and Orders,” the Jamaica-born artist reflects on his recent naturalization as a U.S. citizen. He sets the tone with Homeland Sweet Homeland, an assemblage including a megaphone, feathers, chains, and silver spoons, on which he has stitched a first-person version of the Miranda Rights: “I do not wish to answer any questions without speaking to an attorney,” the work declares.

The theme continues with a “We the People” inscribed on a wall with multicolored shoelaces, an eight-foot high scale (of justice?) made of old clothes and blankets, and T.P. Reign Bow, a tactical platform police tower wrapped in bright-blue tarp, embellished with brass grommets and bedecked with pants-zippers and hair. (It emits red surveillance lasers.) Surveying it all is a fox with a bushy black Afro tail, standing at attention. The taxidermied creature, at once witness and trickster, was intended as a stand-in for intellectual and activist Cornel West, Ward says. But he was glad when it turned out to be comedian Redd Foxx too!


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