The love affair between art and popular film continued last week at Canada, the highbrow/lowbrow gallery nestled in an unassuming office building in the badlands between the lower east side and Chinatown. “Action Adventure,” a group show organized by Michael Williams, Melissa Brown and Josh Kline, gathers a group of artists making video/film work that relates to the methods and ideas employed in traditional narrative cinema. The gallery is set up like a movie theater with seats in a dark room and popcorn at the snack table. The press release mentioned something about coming in out of the heat and enjoying the air-conditioned room to watch videos. Maybe on a normal day, but at the opening the AC was no match for the crowds and with all the fanning and sweating in the audience it was like a scene from a 1910 moviehouse.
Shana Moulton showed a funny video from her “Whispering Pines” series that parodies and embraces new age culture. The video climaxes in a glorious rave scene scored by a house version of “Sail Away.” Moulton’s cleverness and restraint keep her work from sinking into absolute kitsch. Rachel Mason showed a video of herself clad in the garb of a superhero climbing a brick wall on the exterior of a four or five story building that is or isn’t real. I couldn’t tell. I heard a rumor that she was kicked out of school for the piece, which makes me think she actually climbed the wall. It’s kind of amazing because with one false step it could have become a snuff film.
Trevor Shimizu, (who has a great project made witha Service-Works grant here, showed a taut, smart digital essay presenting a futurist manifesto backed by lasers and electronic music. Ryan Trecartin, who was a big whoop at the Whitney Biennial with his “discovered on Friendster” story, showed a video that as sort of about Internet dating but mostly just wacky characters gabbing away in funny voices. It was compelling but sort of annoying. I guess that’s his thing though.
There was a languid and funny Scott Reeder piece, photographer Tanyth Berkeley’s foray into video starring creepy clowns, and a bunch of others that I was too hot to stay and watch. I get the impression though that this younger generation of artists has a much different reaction to popular cinema than their predecessors. Instead of appropriating its production values (like Rodney Graham or Stan Douglas) these artists skip back a generation to the 1970s when you used whatever was on hand and let the process show.
Swarm Gallery, Oakland: Mayumi Hamanaka is showing wall reliefs of layered paper and pins at Swarm Gallery, Oakland through July 23. The pins trace the outlines of dead bodies and topography in aerial military photographs. The extreme tipping of the ground plane/picture plane makes it appear that one is looking down at something from a huge distance, at the same time that they come floating out. Given the subject, the effect is of the spirit.
Boontling Gallery, Oakland: At Boontling Gallery in Oakland, Josh Keyes is showing small surrealist, constructivist paintings and drawings, cubed imaginings of a suburban/wilderness transit village. The vision is elaborated, sustained, ironic and mournful at once. Through July 30.
Bloom Screen Printing, Oakland: Christopher Loomis is in the windows here. In the spring, he had a show at Ego Park around the corner. Balsawood surrealist constructions that could be tools, buildings, furniture, furnishings. Coming out of Martin Puryear, these might be models for larger work.
8th Street Performance Space: Emily Hay flew in from Los Angeles to play at 8th Street Performance Space, Oakland with local cellist Bob Marsh and on electronics, Marcos Fernandes. Hay brought her flutes and experimental vocalizing to make sounds referring to nature and the unnatural. Blowing in from Philadelphia, same place, same night, Elliot Levin, tenor sax, teamed with Weasel Walter, Damon Smith and Scott Looney to scream out into a dark, improvisatory night.
The Yerba Buena Center began programming around “big ideas” two years ago, and for viewers who follow YBCA exhibitions closely enough to follow the curatorial train of thought, the approach is beginning to pay dividends. For example, Cosmic Wonder, which opened last night, debuts the 2006-07 season theme “Deeply Personal.” Highlighting personal work promises thought-provoking “compare and contrast” with the many artist collectives shown in 2005-06 as part of the “Future Shock” theme. The artists in Cosmic Wonder attempt to depict or induce altered states of mind the homage to the psychedelic ‘60s is overt. My pick for best of show is Doug Aitken’s New Opposition II (2001), which cleaves the mind from normality most economically.
Image: New Opposition II (2001), Doug Aitken
Coming to town: Jens Hoffmann, previously director of exhibitions at the ICA in London and editor of The Next Documenta Should Be Curated by an Artist has been appointed director of the CCA Wattis Institute. He succeeds Ralph Rugoff, who left to assume directorship of London’s Hayward Gallery in May.
Ekow Eshun, director of London’s ICA, thinks so. Read why as a group of five imaginative thinkers assembled by The Guardian offers thoughts on how technology is changing art.
At the Pacific Film Archives, Berkeley, a series of films about music and musicians continues Wednesdays through July. Last week, Step Across the Border played to a largely artist/musician audience. The film, with cinematography by Oscar Salgado, follows improv musician/composer and local resident Fred Frith collecting sounds and making music around the world. The film, grainy, stark black & white, made this a visual as well as aural experience. Frith was heard in person this spring at 21 Grand Gallery, Oakland. Next up in the series: A Tickle in the Heart.
RIGO 23 is showing large, graphic paintings on unstretched canvas at Gallery Paule Anglim. As with Jenny Holzer’s show at Cheim & Read, this is a tough show in a commercial space. The last time I saw work as hard hitting from RIGO was more than ten years ago at Richmond Art Center when he did a large painting installation on the subject of an imprisoned Black Panther, Geronimo Pratt. Pratt was later released. At Anglim, three major pieces are messages in Korean, Farsi and Russian on painted color fields. They are beautiful but will be unreadable to most of us in the gallery. Inscrutable to our mindset, unless we learn more, whereupon, we will have to reconsider our point of view. Each of the encoded paintings is a verbal assault by one of our “enemy’s” leaders on our governmental leaders or public policies. If one owned one of these paintings, it would be a constant visual reminder of another perspective on the world . Through through July 22.
Young artists in Chelsea and Brooklyn told me to see Jenny Holzer’s exhibition in June. Holzer filled all three rooms of the Cheim & Read gallery with declassified, sometimes heavily censored, documents from American military and intelligence agencies. Holzer turned the much enlarged documents into silkscreen paintings, sometimes very large, sometimes multipaneled, in stark black against white, mild blues, blood red against a tarnished field. Subjects were the Iraq and Afghan wars, prison abuse, court martials and covert operations. Memorably, along with the documents detailing American soldiers’ abuse of Iraqi prisoners, Holzer presented a painting of a letter from the father of a court martialed American soldier, pleading for his son. Not only has Holzer dragged these documents out from the dark, but she has forced us to look at them in a public and well-lit space where we can look at each other looking. The paintings were sometimes difficult to read, their beauty shocking. When I was at the gallery on a Friday evening, there were a lot of very silent people there, reading paintings.
at the Jewish Museum, NYC: In this well-focused, beautifully installed and lit exhibition of mostly late work, it becomes clear how influential the work of this major Post-Minimal artist continues to be. The work here brings to mind the work of Richard Tuttle and Matthew Barney. Working with fragile, luminous materials that evoke a sense of our body and its mortality, Hesse breathed the tragic absurd into Minimalism’s rational grid. Using innovative materials and processes: casting fiberglass, coating wire, string, or rope with fiberglass or latex, and painting with latex on cheesecloth, she made drawing and painting fully three dimensional. This may be the last chance to see the work of this Post-Minimal artist whose work speaks directly to our humanity through its trembling line and luminous fields. Curated by Fred Wasserman and Elisabeth Sussman and installed in the intimate space of the Jewish Museum’s first floor gallery, the exhibition includes the great Untitled drawing from l967, Accretion, Sans II, Aught (from Berkeley), a test piece for Contingent, Connection and her great last piece, Untitled (Rope Piece), l970. Check it out if you can…through September 17.
Is this a breakthrough or a doomed idea? asks the BBC.