As usual, there was far too much to look at Art Cologne, and as usual, most of it didn’t rate a second glance. At Tuesday evening’s opening reception you could feel the money oozing through the aisles, but whose pockets it would land in is anyone’s guess, especially with the relatively lackluster goods on display.
A bit of digging found some interesting works, most of them in the special program booths for young artists. Of note here are Sven Kroner’s vertigo-inducing landscapes and rural scenes that seem perfect and perfectly wrong all at once. Stephan Hughes’s photographs of peripheral and edge spaces are beautiful and unsettling, especially one that depicts a family overlooking an English cliff into the sea. And James Sheehan scores points with his postage-size paintings of monumental scenes: aerial views of sports crowds and the Pentagon reduced to less than an inch square.
Don’t believe me? Go have a look for yourself.
For starters, you can’t find a better curated show right now than The Eye Club at Fraenkel. Hung by subject in clusters (eyes, couples, windowfronts, glaring women, etc.), the photos are individually arresting. But as groups they elevate perfectly imperfect snapshots and surreal NASA photos to the work of masters like Lee Friedlander and Diane Arbus. Let’s face it, a great photograph is a great photograph.
Edward Burtynsky’s oversized photos at Robert Koch give us way more detail than we can take in at once. Here he freezes complex scenes of people working in the Three Gorges area along China’s great Yangtze River, helping us notice things we couldn’t otherwise. The images of the dam—the largest concrete structure in the world—are truly awesome, but it’s the general sense of scrambling in Feng Jie #6 that made my shoulders ache in anticipation of the ever-rising water.
Not moved yet? Head next door to Haines and into James Turrell’s sublime created space. The artist recommends 10-12 minutes on the solitary bench to get adjusted to the light. I recommend skipping your sandwich and spending your whole lunch break in there. Sadly, the holograms in the main gallery seem like airport trinkets in comparison.
A few more, quickly: 871 Fine Arts has moved its great art book store to the 2nd floor; Markus Linnenbrink’s dripping technicolor paintings at Patricia Sweetow feel like jazzed LA paintings with meaning; Timothy Cummings once again puts his all (including his face) into a large body of work at Catherine Clark; Ulrike Palmbach’s sewn cow is contentedly grazing in the back room at Steven Wirtz; and across the street at Paule Anglim, John Zurier proves you can still be moved by mostly monochromatic oil paintings. If I had an extra $5K lying around, I’d come back with my checkbook.
All that too serious for you? I won’t even describe the furry fun in store at Marina Vendrell’s show at Lizabeth Oliveria. Suffice to say that if you don’t smile in the presence of remote controlled fur balls, you need a vacation. Maybe art can’t save you after all.
On view as part of Kiasma’s “Night Train” exhibition in Helsinki, Rekula Heli’s “Vyyhti” is a mesmerizing video work that features two women winding and unwinding lengths of yarn in a private ritual. As several balls of yarn bounce on the floor to conclude the winding, the motion switches imperceptibly into reverse and the process begins again. I saw the piece several times through, but even with repeated viewing its essence remained both hypnotizing and hidden.
A few blocks away, the Tennis Palace Art Museum hosts an expansive look at the culture and artifacts of video games (well, mostly the artifacts) in “Game On.” There are lots of new and old geeky toys on view here, and though my sentimental favorite,”Tempest,” isn’t included, there are plenty of surprises to keep you interested. One such surprise is inclusion of video games for the visually impaired. Another is several collections of video game music sorted by composer; after listening to a few of these contributions I felt like advising the authors to keep their day jobs, but of course producing this stuff constitutes their day jobs. Some artworks were scattered throughout the show, but most of these suffered in comparison for their often flat level of interactivity and ankle-deep conceptual depth (video games usually have a dozen or more levels to navigate through, why does so much “media art” struggle to have even one?). A happy exception to this is Andy Best and Merja Puustinen’s “Flu_Ids,” a piece in which various fluids relating to the Baltic region, from seawater to blood, are circulated through a creepy-looking set of pumps and video monitors. Eschewing interactivity altogether and instead proffering an unstable set of relationships between commerce, culture, and identity, the piece reveals more about the notion of a closed loop than any “game over” message ever will.
Rewarding Lives, the trade show-like exhibition of Annie Leibovitz photos currently at Fort Mason, is a few steps over the commercial line. The photos are all fine but I could hardly focus on them with all the Amex content—every subject is not only a proud cardholder but they have donated their actual cards to be exhibited alongside their photos! Wanna be famous like Robin Williams? Dream of spending money like the Cohen brothers? Just apply online. It’s that easy!
Lest you get too cynical, don’t be fooled: the ivy on the giant cascading wall isn’t nearly as fake as it looks. The orb-like tents that house the photos are reusable. And they’ve replaced the regular handsoap in the bathrooms with an eco-friendly alternative. Sorry, but I’m just not buying the love.
Layover in Baltimore. Listen for John Watersesque accents-nothing. Got to get out more.
Gagosian Gallery Serra’s Wake Blindspot Catwalk Vice-Versa. Masterpieces when I saw the original version of his Torqued Spirals at the Dia eight years ago are now ready for the Exploratorium. There were at least 9 tots running back and forth through the 18 foot tall rusty iron mazes including two (2!) strollers with mothers attached. What ever happened to watching Barney?
Richard Prince has fun at http://www.gladstonegallery.com">Barbara Gladstone with his Nurse Paintings honoring “Surfing Nurse”, “Nighttime Nurse”, “Naughty Nurse” etc. all harvested from pulp fiction book covers in ten foot tall canvases. Wholesale misogyny but cheeky nonetheless, completely forgivable. BUT… what is this? The canvases are actually digital prints with painterly paint brushstrokes applied in painterly ways with paint to emphasis that they have paint on them. Much the same way as we see with the works with our local http://www.thomaskinkade.com/magi/servlet/com.asucon.ebiz.home.web.tk.HomeServlet">Thomas Kinkade. Hey if it works for the K man, why not?
Jim Shaw at Metro Pictures was a celebration of his drawings most of which we’ve seen before. Always fun. But it was all overshadowed by his exquisite, obsessive spiragraph ink works, which emerge from their pitch black centers in a centrifugal whirl that stays with you for days. I’m still in rapture.
Layover in Nashville. AGAIN no accents. Talked to everyone but no accents. Doesn’t anyone in America have an accent anymore, except for our Governor?
While the advance word on this year’s edition of the Berlin Artforum was that it would be big step down from previous rounds - numerous local galleries having passed it over for the Freize fair in London and the Cologne fair later this month - the actual event turned out to be more pleasant for its reduced size. Shifted into a smaller set of halls at the Berlin Messe, the show appeared to have a more even quality than in the past and the usual social frenzy was a bit more manageable as well (an average of about 3 must-see events each evening rather than six or seven).
Healthy representations from Australia and Canada also made for an interesting twist this year, with the http://www.hamburgerbahnhof.de">Hamburger Bahnhof hosting “Face Up,” a survey of contemporary Australian art. Despite the reduced space for the show owing to a fire at the museum in July the presentation was good, and Susan Norrie’s “Undertow” looks better than it did earlier this year in twice the space at the Art Gallery of New South Wales. One wonders what the locals will make of Patrica Piccinini’s contribution, however. Her mutating hotrod is far more sunny and weird than anything I have seen here in ages, and looks as wonderful as it is out of place here.
Lawrence Lessig’s impassioned argument for the loosening of copyright controls may have unsettled some of the artists in the audience who have been hanging onto the doctrine of Fair Use like a sinking life raft at sea. But time is short; he estimates we have 5 years to deal with the effects of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act before the right to use found images will be taken away from us by force, ie; hardwired into the equipment. Lessig, the Stanford Law School professor and chair of the Creative Commons project asked us to look beyond our own personal concerns as artists to those of all of the rest of us in our culture who want to create including civilians and young people. He noted that even the public domain is under attack - see his blog posted Aug 29 03 for the story on how you can’t tell Peter Pan your way. The SFMOMA panel discussion last night, CopyArt: The Impact of Copyright on New Media Art, was moderated by Linda Jacobson, chief officer of Glass House Studio, and included the brilliant Jennifer Gonzalez, assistant professor of art history, University of California, Santa Cruz, and Christian Marclay who showed clips of his wonderful digital media projects, for which he admitted he has no clearance.