Everything that matters happens in an office these days. To survive in today’s world, one can’t help but burn with curiosity about why some rise to the top while others gets stuck at the bottom box of the organizational chart. The Office, Mad Men or The Devil Wears Prada all hit this nerve with verve. But what’s been missing for me is that spunkier imagery and wilder narrative that video art can get away with. Cao Fei fills this void in spades with her 2002 video “Rabid Dogs” on view till Sunday at the Asia Society.
To keep it real, a reality TV show about visual artists vying to be “at the top” is way too corporate to earn serious street cred in the art world. Nevertheless, I attended multiple shoots last fall of this BRAVO project to see how it was all going to play out and to get to know the contestants personally. Here are some observations.
After a decade epitomized by airbrushed photographs that cast the face as a smooth, even and perfect plane of color, these artists are rebelling with wickedly raw and vibrantly colored skin. It was a welcome surprise … Matisse is back from the dead and training artists at an underground tattoo parlor in Bushwick.
What made the 2010 Bushwick Open Studios so phenomenal was the chance to stomp through hundreds of studios and draw connections. I was surprised by how various artists who have probably never met each other are all re-envisioning the Old Masters with a playful and lighthearted streak.
Daniel Larkin goes looking for pterodactyls in some recent art exhibitions. He writes: “Some artists have discovered that this flying reptile have some real cross-over potential. At first, this sounds like an awfully kitschy idea, but when this airborne creature is refracted, distilled, and boiled down into a raw winged shape, it really sings rather than squawks.”
Repetition in art can be so juicy … when it’s done right. But second-rate minimalism has so deeply traumatized all us with its dull monotony and draining sense of sameness. Indeed, the fear that your favorite professor heard or saw you yawning after the 18th Judd slide in that dark lecture room binds us all together. But there is another facet of repetition that minimalism’s fierce rejection of ornament and narrative has left un-explored. The show closing tomorrow at Nurture Art, titled Eternal Return, reveals a more vivacious take on recurring forms.
Jesse Chapman’s painting of the struggle to stick a contact into an eye, “The Lens” (2009), strikes me as an apt allegory for recent painting. It is one of the gems from Exit Art’s shinning survey of contemporary painting, NEW MIRRORS: Painting in a Transparent World, that is set to close this weekend.
Much like this uncomfortable morning ritual, painting is caught in an awkward moment. Like the nearsighted allegory looking in the mirror, it is keenly self-aware of its need for a new way of seeing and a new lens through which to gaze. With scowling lips, it begrudgingly prepares for the many vain attempts it takes on a rough morning (or try a rough decade) to get that lens in properly.
The mandala, one of Himalayan Buddhism’s most ubiquitous symbols, is created as an artistic aid for meditation but there may be other motivations as to why Tibetan art doesn’t get the attention it deserves, namely China.
If you take art too seriously then this show isn’t for you but if you like pleasure maybe you should head to the new Bowery and bring a cone.
It has been 20 years since the fall of the Berlin Wall and the popularized images of people cheering and celebrating in front of the greatest symbol of the Cold Wall tells only part of the story, says Daniel Larkin. The day after was filled with more anxiety than recent media narratives would have you believe.
Daniel Larkin reflects on Brent Owens’s solo show Gnastic Pursuits, which took place earlier this fall at the English Kills Art Gallery in Brooklyn. Describing his work, Larkin writes, “Owens likewise takes the rich tradition of wood carving and melds it with that millennial taste for biting wit and quirks of fate.”