After stopping in to Hyperallergic’s local coffee shop one morning, I noticed something interesting in the newsstand next to the Village Voices and L Magazines. I took a closer look. MoMA’s logo? On a newsprint publication? The Museum of Modern Art is refreshing an old form of advertising to get the word out about two print exhibitions — the printed broadsheet. This two-sided newspaper publicizes the museum’s Impressions From South Africa: 1965 to Now and German Expressionism: The Graphic Impulse with an eye-catching combination of information and print reproductions. Even better, the broadsheet presents the exhibition’s prints in their native multiple format.
I never would have imagined stuffy mathematics and playful chance could blend in peaceful harmony, let alone lead to the series of subdued yet provocative drawings on display in James Bills’ current exhibition Golden Parachutes and Tin Handcuffs at Yes Gallery in Greenpoint. Only an artist adept in the language of architectural drafting could manage to successfully transform boring data charts into appealing visualizations of randomly generated numbers produced by the throw of a pair of polyhedral dice.
In addition to a thriving street art practice that includes putting hearts and cute doodle faces on everything from farm silos to city walls, artist Chris Uphues also makes little printed goods. This week, we’re checking out two of Uphues’ zines as well as a selection of day-glo colored hearts printed on stiff cardboard stock. Kind of like a warped version of a kindergarten bulletin board, these little mementos are sweet but not without their creepy side. A zine made up on Uphues’ doodles on paint chip cards, ranging from pink to yellow to green, blue and purple, has more than a few scenes of freaky psychedelia, a softer version of Kenny Scharf’s zaniness.
A towering nude man greets every visitor to Sperone Westwater gallery on the Lower East Side. This ten foot tall figure, also known as “Jim Revisited”, made in 2011, looks so realistic that it stops nearly everyone dead in their tracks upon entering the gallery. The people-watching is great as viewers trade surprised glances and funny comments, all while staring wide open with disbelieving eyes. This is the type of art that boggles the mind; it provokes the question of how the hell the artist pulled it off. Rattling off the list of banal materials — silicone, pigment, hair, aluminum and fabric — does little to capture the convincing illusion that artist Evan Penny conjures, but it does testify to his deft artistic mind that achieves much more than most with these materials.
Walking past Open Space Gallery’s temporary space on Franklin Street I saw several anthropomorphic boxes lined against the walls, their hyper-simplicity too charming to dismiss. I walked inside where, as fortune would have it, artist Raphaela Riepl was manning the show, titled Adorable Steamed Sea Urchin. We spent some time discussing her work and creative process, and then I explored the exhibition’s crew of energetic sculptures. These coy creatures are the results of spontaneous outbursts of creative energy, a haphazard layering of whatever materials are available, laying strewn about her studio.
Bye Bye Kitty!!! Between Heaven and Hell in Japanese Art at Japan Society presents an alternative view of Japanese contemporary art, one separate from that obsession we seem to have with “kawaii” (cute) Japanese art, embodied by the pop culture icon of Hello Kitty, and exemplified in the Superflat work of Takashi Murakami. The artists on display here engage with a different side of Japanese culture, a side more invested in history, medium and prolonged looking. The exhibition is also a rousing, energetic call to action– rethink Japanese contemporary art!
Birdsong is a collective of artists, writers, printmakers and publishers, but it’s also a zine press, and it’s also a cultural moment. You may have noticed editor-in-chief Tommy Pico’s place on the L Magazine’s “Young New Yorkers Who Are Better Than You” feature. Self-consciously confessional, diaristic and young, the pieces and creators that make up the latest two editions of Birdsong the bimonthly zine (numbers 13 and 14) might have a hipster sheen, but what makes them worth reading is their desire to go past the slick surface, an unwillingness to be superficial. Birdsong boasts a solid heart of dedicated writing, drawing and thinking, and it’s this thoughtful center that makes the short zines worth picking up.
I encountered a street work by artist NohJColey in Williamsburg last week. Like all strong street art pieces, it forced me to stop and look closely. The attention to detail, its use of diverse textures and materials and its complex method of storytelling, which is more impressionistic than narrative, made me immediately respond to it, similar to poetry. I stopped to visually measure every inch of the object, a figure with puppet-like arms placed low to the ground in a neglected corner of the city frequented by street artists.
Video art is still in the process of establishing itself. Despite the fact that art has been created through the medium over the course of the past century, it’s still hard to pin down what forms video art can take, and what vocabulary we use to talk about it. At New York University’s 80WSE gallery, a current exhibition entitled By Chance, a Video Show, marshals together video art in its multivalent states, from video-as-installation to video-as-flat surface to video-as-collage. Artists including Alejandro Cesarco, Jason Varone and Nayda Collazo-Llorens explore the different possibilities of video art.
For her second solo exhibition at Klaus von Nichtssagend, Empty is Run About Freely, Bushwick-based sculptor Joy Curtis has created several large sculptures comprised of casts she made of interior moldings and architectural details of 77 Water Street, an unused downtown Manhattan bank building, which the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council employed as studio space during Curtis’ residency in 2009. She has been working with the material collected during this residency almost exclusively for the past year. Speaking to the work on display, Curtis told me, “[As artists] we mine the world for materials, and then we impose a force on that matter. I am interested in showing the evidence of imposing force on matter, and showing the evidence of the passage of time.”
According to Eric Doeringer, the artist-curator of I Like the Art World and the Art World Likes Me, the exhibition’s title—a nod to Joseph Beuys’s 1974 performance “I Like America and America Likes Me”—is meant to convey the “fraught relationship between emerging artists and the art-world establishment,” one marked by a simultaneous desire to criticize the art world’s excesses and to be recognized by it. Art about the institutions of art, both physical and discursive, is hardly a new phenomenon, but unlike Marcel Broodthaers and Hans Haacke, cited by Doeringer as predecessors for the work included in this exhibition, what emerges most clearly here is not “institutional critique” but a sense of anxiety or anger about the artists’ own marginalization and lack of mainstream success.
Scott Kiernan’s canvases want to be underestimated. Their initial impression is bland, but the longer one gazes at these pictures, the weirder and more fascinating they become. At his NURTUREart exhibition Once around the block (twice), Kiernan’s art reveals itself more slowly, doesn’t care if you overlook it, and eventually impresses you by contradicting its first impression.