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Posted inArt

Looking Beyond Pollock’s Drip Paintings

Abstract Expressionist New York shines a bright and bold light on Jackson Pollock. Although the selection on view is obviously not as extensive as MoMA’s major retrospective in 1998-99, the show is still a rare and precious opportunity to see many of Pollock’s paintings under one roof.

His paintings are often crudely divided into two categories. On the hand, there are the mighty drip paintings — where splatters and splotches of paint dance across the picture plane. Then, there is everything else.

Posted inArt

How Do You Show Performance Art? Ana Mendieta vs Marina Abramović

We’re approaching a pivotal point in the progress of performance art in which the once rogue medium is becoming canonized, institutionalized and historicized. If the epic Marina Abramović retrospective at MoMA, The Artist is Present, wasn’t enough to convince you that the early group of performance artists are becoming anointed saints, the recent retrospective at Galerie Lelong of the late Ana Mendieta is another step forward. Yet the two exhibitions present parallel methods of exhibiting historical performance art, the first focused on recreating performances, the second on exhibiting artifacts. I see the latter Mendieta exhibition, Documentation and Artwork, 1972 – 1985, as the far more succesful.

Posted inArt

Hundreds Attend Wojnarowicz Censorship Protest in Manhattan

Today, approximately 400-500 protesters gathered on the steps of the Metropolitan Museum to take part in a rally demanding that the Smithsonian return the censored video by artist David Wojnarowicz, “A Fire In My Belly,” to the National Portrait Gallery’s Hide/Seek: Difference and Desire in American Portraiture.

Organized by Art+, a New York-based group organizing direct action against the censorship of Wojnarowicz’s video, the march began in the middle of Museum Mile and marched uptown along Fifth Avenue until the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum, which is a Manhattan-based Smithsonian institution.

Posted inArt

Thinking About the Origins of Street Art, Part 2

If the first traces of public visual expressions in the modern period didn’t have much of an artistic will, they definitively helped develop what urban art is today. They used a visual language that other artists picked up on as effective and unorthodox ways of communicating their message to society, without the need of established art circles or more formalized practices. But now I wanted to point out some early artists who feel more closer to our notion of what a street artist is. Individuals who were or still are consciously creating art work for the street.

Posted inArt

Thinking About the Origins of Street Art, Part 1

Setting a time and a place for the birth of street or urban art is always a tricky question, as one could argue that its history is as old as humanity. Besides, it’s not that easy to find documentation about the development of street art and graffiti before the 1980s because of the way technology has transformed the way we study the past. Any episode before the advent of the internet or digital cameras isn’t as easy to track down, particularly in regards to underground scenes. Sure there’s the library but only academics, writers, and intellectuals tend to venture into the hallowed halls of learning to spend a whole day (or days) researching. Here are some precedents you may not know about.

Posted inArt

Painting Real Fiction: Christopher K. Ho at Winkleman

Regional Painting (2010), at Winkleman Gallery, is not a remarkable presentation; the casual viewer could be excused for thinking it is just another painting show. Twelve paintings on linen, each twelve by sixteen inches, beautifully framed in walnut, greatly varied in technique and style, are hung equidistant around the gallery. Some are intentionally amateur, others unexpectedly virtuosic, all preserve some part of the clear-primed linen. There is an antique quality to some, taking their cue from early 20th C. abstraction, others are more contemporary and even a little slick. They are Christopher K. Ho’s legitimate attempt at earnest painting, but also represent a much larger system of conceptual artworks.

Posted inArt

Interpreting Blu’s Whitewashed Mural, Part 1

There has been so much talk about Blu’s commissioned mural but few people are talking about the work itself and what it could mean. As a critic who has been looking at a great deal of street art for years, I want to weigh in on the topic. Some art critics have been dismissive of the work and thought it callous, while some writers and online commenters are of the opinion that it’s not much to look at.

Most of these people have a limited knowledge of street art and the criteria that is often used to judge it and its meaning, interest, etc. That’s not to discount their judgments, since I think it’s important that people weigh in on the debate regardless of their perspective, and art is culturally valuable when it generates discussion. Blu’s work often probes responses of all kinds. The artist doesn’t seem to differentiate between the positive and the negative responses in a way you might think, and in his 2009 Barcelona video he included the voices of people who disparage his work as an important part of the record. So, who is Blu?

Posted inArt

Drawings of Portraits of Osama Bin Laden at Pierogi

Filling an entire gallery with the repeated face of Osama Bin Laden might sound like a bit of Warholian task for an artist interested in interrogating politics: an international criminal turned celebrity. But James Esber’s exhibition You, Me and Everybody Else at Pierogi in Williamsburg actually aims to do exactly the opposite. By repeating Osama’s image so many times, Esber seeks to remove the political content from the image, simplifying into just a visual work of art. The real trick? The Osama portraits aren’t even drawn by the artist. By asking artists and non-artists alike to copy his original portrait, Esber blurs the line between subject and meaning.

Posted inArt

Deitch’s Blunder

Blu is a street artist. One of the points of being a street artist is freedom to express yourself publicly, without rules. Once a museum commissions a street artist to paint a mural on an outdoor wall does it then become public art and institutional? I think so.

And I don’t blame Blu for taking a museum commission to create his art. But I do blame MOCA heavily for not nurturing the project. Had MOCA been responsible to Blu and gone through some basic research prior to approval, this probably would have never happened. Once a museum commissions a street artist for a mural, that mural becomes institutionalized. So public art rules should then apply. This means initial drawings, site approval, a budget, insurance, and a curator/project manager who sees to producing the artist’s vision. In this case, it might have meant, oh … looking across the parking lot to the giant monument sitting RIGHT THERE.