Posts archive: March 2004

If this Wall Street Journal art critic had his way, the Whitney Biennial would be transformed. Among his suggestions: make it a road show. What do you think? Send your comments to

- Meredith Tromble [Tuesday, March 30th, 2004]

The first Artes Munde Prize, founded to establish Wales as a leader in supporting contemporary art and worth approximately $75,000, has been awarded to New York artist Xu Bing for an installation made with dust from the September 11 terrorist attack. In the dust was written the Chinese text: “As there is nothing from the first, where does the dust collect itself?” Xu Bing was selected from a “short list” that included Janine Antoni, Lee Bul, Tim Davies, Jacqueline Fraser, Jun Nguyen-Hatsushiba, Michal Rovner, Berni Searle, Fiona Tan, and Kara Walker.

- Meredith Tromble [Tuesday, March 30th, 2004]

As I sat in the SFAI lecture hall this past Thursday, waiting for the Cinematheque program of Gordon Matta-Clark’s films to begin, I was surrounded by a vibrant buzz of conversation. Not only was the place packed, it was packed with people who knew quite a bit about Matta-Clark, judging from the snatches of conversation drifting back to my row. The first film, Tree Dance, was student work, unrecognizable as a “Matta-Clark” except for two things. One was visual—the climactic shot of sun shining through a dancer’s legs was reminiscent of the most famous image of Matta-Clark’s Splitting, a sun-spangled view of a house sawed in half. The other had to do with method — the “tree dance” involved hanging by ropes from a height. A later film documenting Office Baroque showed Matta-Clark drawing on the facade of a building, swaying on a small platform suspended by heavy ropes. By the time of the third film shown, Fresh Kills, Matta-Clark was hitting his stride. Fresh Kills follows the demolition of Matta-Clark’s red truck through its dismemberment by bulldozers to its integration into the weird trash landscape that is the Fresh Kills landfill. The strategy of making art by deletion is clear. The films Bingo and Office Baroque, which followed, documented the architectural carvings for which Matta-Clark is known. It was a satisfying and revealing evening. Even if you missed it, you can get the catalog Cinematheque produced to accompany the films—a steal at $20.00. It’s so hot off the press it doesn’t seem to be listed on their Web site yet, but you can get it. Here’s the link to order their publications.

- Meredith Tromble [Monday, March 29th, 2004]

They were “Time Magzine’s” 1966 “heroes of the year”. More than 40 years later Austria rolls out the red carpet for “Vienna Actionism”. Playing a central role in these celebrations is the Gunter Brus retrospective “Work Orbit” at the Albertina (Vienna), and now at the Neue Galerie in Graz.

From 1964-1970 G. Brus used his own body as a medium for his radical performances. The artist got arrested and had to leave Austria as a consequence of these “actions” (“Viennese Stroll”). He turned to increasingly narrative drawing works in Berlin. In comprehensive painting cycles during the last decades, Gunter Brus reached a rich synthesis of the figural, calligraphic and textual components of his compositions, the iconography and language of which are shaped by fantastical new creations. The exhibition “Work Orbit” stretches across the chronology of works by Gunter Brus and presents early, hitherto unexhibited abstract drawings (around 1958), as well as action studies, photographic and film documents of the actions (1964-1970). In this section the curator Monika Faber screens the most famous films about the performances of Gunter Brus. One of them, officially called “September 20” (1967), has entered avant-garde film history under the well-deserved (but still much too earnest-sounding) title “The Eating, Drinking, Pissing, Shitting Film”. A vast selection of subtle drawings and pastel sheets (since 1971) indicates the stringency of his art works always working with the human body.

The show renders “homage” to the artist in a beautiful exhibition, but the almost too perfect display doesn’t reveal him as a “Provokateur” anymore. Walking through the old baroque rooms where the show takes place, his work takes on a kind of “classicism “. This reminds me of a concern a neighbour in Graz had about G. Brus during the sixties. When she saw him through the open window - colored and naked on the canvas in preparation for one of his despicable performances, she exclaimed: “My God, Mr. Brus, what happened?”

—Walter Kratner, Weiz, Austria

- Cheryl Meeker [Sunday, March 21st, 2004]

I mean, four different spirit mediums bothering the spirit of Yves Klein from here in California, 2004?

This year’s lecture series at SFAI is proving to be intriguing. Chris Kubick and Anne Walsh conducted a leisurely paced slide show/sound presentation which proved to be an effective medium wink  for experiencing their new work, “Archive”, which documents seances co-produced by the artists. The pace of the presentation allowed each of my preconceived barriers to be addressed so that I could appreciate the communications from “Yves”, which were channeled through professional spirit mediums. The sessions were conducted within a variety of museum venues, often in the presence of works by Yves Klein. The communications themselves along with the responses of all of the living involved, including museum staff and the artists, created a sometimes hair raising experiential & experimental space in which it was possible to explore Klein’s work in a new way. Check the website for CDs, quotes from “Yves”, and for other opportunities in the future to experience the art piece that Kubick and Walsh have adroitly set up, sidestepping many minefields, among those, our incredulity.

- Cheryl Meeker [Saturday, March 20th, 2004]

The growing Williamsburg, Brooklyn, gallery community was well represented at the two NY art fairs this past weekend, the Armory Show and the Scope Fair. The Armory Show featured Pierogi, Roebling Hall and Bellwether, all early Williamsburg pioneers, with Pierogi presenting one of the best booths at the fair. Giving a good approximation of the atmosphere of the gallery itself, work was shown salon-style, drawings and paintings with densely worked surfaces densely hung in an ever changing yet somehow still coherent installation. One part of the gallery’s space was made over into a public schoolroom from decades past, complete with school desks, pull-down screen, and maps and other institutional accoutrements on the walls. Screening was a video/film-strip installation by Brian Dewan juxtaposing the artist’s drawings with bits of narration from those “educational” films we were subjected to in early grades, to nostalgic and sometimes hilarious effect. Presided over by Joe Amrhein and Susan Swenson, the vibe was simultaneously more relaxed, more exciting, less pretentious and more fun than practically anything else at the fair.

—Oriane Stender, Brooklyn

- Cheryl Meeker [Wednesday, March 17th, 2004]

Jacques Chartier’s show at LIMN Gallery gives an in-depth look at her painted experiments, which mimic the look of biological tests but are actually closer to alchemical investigations of paint chemistry. Pigments migrate, coagulate or granulate according to the subtleties of their mix with the medium; the process is so fundamental it could be read as a metaphor for any number of things. But mostly these paintings are about being good looking—within the confines of her chosen format, Chartier proves that paint is a very sensual medium. Reproduced above: 10 Samples (2003)

- Meredith Tromble [Tuesday, March 16th, 2004]

Make your wills out now! This is the most fascinating article I’ve read in a while about an artist’s legacy. Cower at the horrifying drama of the estate of Filmmaker/Artist Jack Smith whose body of work collected worth has been estimated somewhere between “millions” and zero (don’t we all know that feeling?...) Written by the thorough and brilliant C. Carr.

- Dale Hoyt [Monday, March 15th, 2004]

Today’s Chronicle has a not one but two features on forward-looking public artists. First up is Jeannene Przyblyski of the Bureau of Urban Secrets, who among other things discusses her very effective undercover disguise . Brian Goggin also gets some sympathetic ink, with Joan Ryan devoting her column to an appreciation of his work.

- Meredith Tromble [Sunday, March 14th, 2004]

Richter knock-offs make critic Jerry Saltz cranky...“These days, much photo-based painting looks the same,” he complains in this Village Voice column.

- Meredith Tromble [Friday, March 12th, 2004]

Scene: bewildered, overwhelmed front desk workers, lobby crowded with irate, highly polished job seekers. Action: some “art” prankster, eager to gain bad-boy notoriety by appropriating (and humiliating) a blue-chip gallery, scams dozens of desparate job-seekers - how hilarious is that!? So-called “Jay Baggins”, perp in question, had posted a job listing on New York’s Craigslist for a Dealer’s Assistant position at said gallery and had all applicants converge at the same time - 2:30 pm. When I entered, the poor front desk worker was proclaiming that one “applicant” had traveled from Ohio for the interview.(!) Maybe they should start teaching ethics in art schools… This pathetic attempt at prankster “art” cost money, and caused disappointment and sorrow, so much so that I debated reporting this incident at all.

- Ella Delaney [Friday, March 12th, 2004]

“Expect to emerge from this year’s Biennial with a seriously transformed sense of how sounds and images can be dovetailed or rent asunder; of sound in space, both social and aural; of the role of performance, live, recorded, or implied and of the capacity of the digital and the virtual for surgical dissections and magnifications of sound,” says Roberta Smith in her preview of the Whitney Biennial. Smith pegs sound art as the significant trend in this round of the Biennial, which opens Thursday. [Free registration required to view story.]

- Meredith Tromble [Tuesday, March 9th, 2004]

A Creation Myth for our times, by Pete Ippel.

- Meredith Tromble [Monday, March 8th, 2004]

A beautiful show opened last night with meticulously crafted new work by Gay Outlaw and Oriane Stender at Gallery Paule Anglim. Outlaw’s sculpture explores form with an outcome that is both organic and mechanistic. Leaving behind pieces made of melting caramel, a new floor sculpture gleams and shimmers with an undulating mirrored surface, opening up a shining new direction in the work. Stender’s work also takes flight with a new approach to her tiny collages of paper currency. These pieces depart from the prior gridlike structures to explore organic, decorative, and lyrical forms, creating an enchanting grouping. Don’t rely on the images on the website to get a read on the work of either artist- they don’t begin to do it justice.

- Cheryl Meeker [Friday, March 5th, 2004]

Catch the closing reception for Alice Cattaneo’s videos and installation, Concrete Particularities, if you can. Those of us who have been fortunate enough to see her deadpan little videos—better you should not know too much about them before experiencing them—want to see more. The closing party is this coming Saturday, 2-5, at Mission 17 Gallery. Mission 17 is part of The Blue Studio, 2111 Mission (at 17th Street) in San Francisco; for more information call (415) 336-2349.

- Meredith Tromble [Thursday, March 4th, 2004]

It was a packed house for video artist Pipilotti Rist’s talk at the San Francisco Art Institute this past Monday evening. Rist, who was in town installing an exhibition at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, showed half-a-dozen works in whole or in part, starting with I’m Not a Girl Who Misses Much. Rist stars in I’m Not a Girl…, as in most of her works, and her discussion of the piece consisted of a four-word statement: “misses….as in lacks.” This simple point effectively illuminated the work; throughout the talk her highly individual relationship with the English language (she’s Swiss, a native German speaker) resulted in off-center insights and amusing moments. As Rist says, she works with the visual, not the verbal, side of the brain. Her talk demonstrated how tangential words are to effective artistic communicaton.

- Meredith Tromble [Wednesday, March 3rd, 2004]

Don’t forget to VOTE today!

- Cheryl Meeker [Tuesday, March 2nd, 2004]

From the editors