Friday, September 18, 2009

Where you will find me these days

Hi, everyone. Just a quick update on my activities as of late. I'm still alive and kicking, and have been concentrating majorly on my 70/30 Project, the day job and my Facebook profile, where I regularly post juicy art snippets, videos, photos and whatnot for the past 6 months or so. Request me, Olympia Lambert, as your friend, and you can see more of my activities. I have just been named a finalist in the Warhol Foundation Arts Writers workshop as well. So cross your fingers for me on this one.

Until then, as previously mentioned, this blog is closed until further notice. If you are wishing to employ my services, please contact me at to discuss my rates for catalogue essays and/or reviews. Thanks!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

FINALLY! Mark your calendars! A date has been set!!!!!!!!!!

Okay, thank you, 303 Gallery. I've been ridiculously anxious for what seems like a lifetime of waiting for Ms. Inka Essenhigh's return to the NY stage. Unfortunately, it's taken FOUR YEARS +++ to get her back with a solo show, but I'll forgive you this once. As they say, good things come to those who wait. I'm not going to post any images because she's a represented artist of 303, which has a well-noted Nazi copyright policy, but I can send you to this here link.

Below are the show details!

Inka Essenhigh
January 23 - February 20, 2010
547 W 21 Street
Inka Essenhigh has had one person exhibitions at Salamanca Cuidad de Cultura Fundación Municipal, in Salamanca, Spain, 2005, at Sint- Luks Galerie, Brussels, Belgium 2004, The Museum of Contemporary Art, Miami, FL and the Fruitmarket Gallery in Edinburgh, Scotland both in 2003. Essenhigh has been included in exhibitions internationally including at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, ZKM / Museum Für Neue kunst, Karlsruhe, Germany, the Royal Academy of Arts, Burlington Gardens, London, The Contemporary Arts Museum, Houston, TX, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, CA, Kunstmuseum Wolfsberg. This will be Essenhigh's third exhibition at 303 Gallery.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Oh, so THAT's what happened to that thing...


(image of poor Lady Liberty from flatbushnelson on Flickr)

Long story short, I'm a 6.5 year resident of Ditmas Park, one of the more recently annointed "it" neighborhoods of Brooklyn. Since 2004, a tiny, fairly dirty coffeehouse named Vox Pop has had a tattered Statue of Liberty replica out front. The previous owner tried to run the place into the ground with questionable business practices (amassing a ton of healthcode violations and fines) then cut his losses and ran, leaving the poor new manager to deal with his mess. In the end, it all turned out okay, because just like in "It's a Wonderful Life," concerned residents decided to cough up their hard earned money to pay the fines, reopen the place, and stake a claim in ownership.

Then several weeks ago, someone stole the statue from the sidewalk. Not too surprising, if you ask me. Its right arm was literally being held together by duct tape when last I checked. There is such a thing as industrial solvent, soder and paint to repair artwork properly (i.e., duct tape is not fairly archival material, per se). So much like the lawn gnomes held hostage who have ransom videos sent back to their owners, the thieves of the statue decided to post their "statement" on You Tube and a shitstorm has ensued.

Truthfully, I really don't care much about this story, which appears to be nothing more than mere vandalism and 15 minutes of fame for the perpetrators. As an art lover, I'm much more interested in the artistic merits of the video, which are dubious at best. To say not a lot of thought went into this piece would be the understatement of the year. I can't tell if their goal is to make a statement against U.S. interventionism overseas, or against Vox Pop itself-- i.e., "Die hippie scum." Truthfully it seems much more a punk-ass attempt at bringing back horrible memories of the slaughter of Daniel Pearl. From the crap-ass audio and pitifully poor lighting, to the sabotaging of poor Liberty's face from the blunt end of a baseball bat, this experience for me was the equivalent of watching an early episode of "Saved By the Bell," before A.C. Slater was a cast member. Like, seriously, what was the point? "We don't want your freedom?" Yeah? Well, I don't want to see your video, nor drink your victim's coffee either. It's almost as if you can sense the perpetrator just learned in Film 101 about subliminal frames and is so excited, he can't wait to share. Note to creator-- it's been done before-- and a hell of a lot better. (see the famed "The Exorcist" demon face as my example)


According to the Daily News, this is a huge deal, so check it out. In the meantime, as you can probably tell, I really don't care for the much lauded Vox Pop. Their coffee has a bitter battery acid taste, with no nutty undertones; they got rid of the best tea they ever had (a fantastic strawberry green); shut down their awesome summer BBQ guy; and continuously tout how environmentally conscious they are, yet blast two air conditioners with the door open on an open mic night where it was literally 60 degrees outside. Upon me asking the counterperson to turn down the air on the frozen solid 9 customers in the room, I was told, "It gets hot in here with all the customers." Ha. Liberty be damned.

For FB'ers, here's the link, because the video won't show up in the blog import. Enjoy.


Saturday, June 27, 2009

Dana Schutz foretold human history


(Editorial note-- Above is the correct image of Dana Schutz's "The Autopsy of Michael Jackson." Below is the work entitled "Presentation."


 "The Autopsy of Michael Jackson." As much as I have been a Schutz detractor over the years, this piece is spot-on accurate. Anyone care to guess how much it's went up in value in the past 48 hours? My own guestimate would be at least into the $2 million range.


Saturday, May 30, 2009

Fallen angel: Laurel Nakadate at Leslie Tonkonow Projects

Laurel Nakadate simply does not know her own power, for if she did, she'd certainly have mercy on the damned souls that populate her provocative works on display at Leslie Tonkonow Projects. Known primarily as one of the "hottest" female artists working today, Nakadate is an example of pure physical perfection-- an ideal feminine specimen-- but she turns our aged notions of feminine beauty on its head by also being sly as a fox, and naughty as a misbehaving two-year-old.

Throughout Fever Dreams at the Crystal Motel, you can almost feel bedbugs crawling up your neck as you watch the Yale-educated artist and her various cohorts laying belly-up on mattresses long ago needing disposal. In one clip, Nakadate writhes on the hardwood floor, possessed. The squalor of the cheap motel envelops you as a pitiously haggard gentleman monotonously intones for Satan to release her captive soul. "Go away evil spirits. Leave her body. Leave! Leave! She's a good girl." Good girl? Hmm. I wouldn't go that far.

Nakadate is a good girl by no means. No, here is a woman who knows what she wants, when she wants it, how she wants it, how much she wants it, and she's going to get it NOW. This reviewer loves this quality in her. Nakadate is literally the most powerful female artist out there working today. But at the same time my heart goes out to the various sad sacks she seems to gravitate to (i.e., prey on). For Nakadate is more like a lionness on the hunt for sweet game. What's terrific about the artist's body of work is the powerful role reversal. In Nakadate's world, there are no male predators following innocent young lasses into dark alleyways, for the artist herself is a far more terrifying concept than any anonymous thug.

In one of the best scenes from Little Exorcisms, Nakadate directs the camera to repeatedly zoom in on a drifter filling up at the pump. We're in some corner of Nowheresville, nary a soul around. He smiles creepily in as come-hither way as he can conjure, thereupon playing a charade with the camera. Casting his line as if he were a fisherman reeling in his catch, he giggles uncontrollably. But the joke's on him as his genetic flaws are bared for the whole world to see-- a gaping hole where his front teeth should be, with vicious fang-like overgrowth of a jaw too inbred to be able to hold this bone structure. Maybe in his next lifetime he'd be able to catch a lady like Ms. Nakadate, but it's highly doubtful. Though I believe the artist in the past has mentioned her relationships with these cast of characters are harmless, I'm not so sure. In this case, I must ask if reverse gender victimization is excusable if they don't realize their part in it. Becoming self-aware is not necessarily in the cards for each of us, and for those that do not have that ability, kid gloves may be a necessity.

In another video, a bikini-clad Nakadate dances provocatively in the desert to the strums of Bruce Springsteen. Evoking Tawny Kitaen and her legendary Whitesnake poses, the artist becomes her own video vixen-- her serpentine motions thrill, electrify and captivate. Much like a young woman experiencing the joy of her sexuality for the first time, she directly confronts the viewer with raw attraction in its most basic form. The Id of Ms. Nakadate knows no bounds, and this is a powerful concept.

In a far funnier vignette, Nakadate rides in a train car looking out the window at the barren rural landscape. Suddenly, up comes her tank top as she flashes her breasts to an audience of no one. At first it's funny, and then upon subsequent views, I found it a great study in vanity and cock tease 101. It's certainly one of the funniest tongue-in-cheek narratives of the "look at my tits" culture that plagues today's young women, who seem to only know their value from Girls Gone Wild, or reality tv porn stars.

Fever Dreams at the Crystal Motel will be on view all the way until July 24th. There's simply no excuse for missing it this summer.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Badass mamas, toads eating icy cones, sexification, and the disconnect that connects us all-- visiting with Rafael Perez

In the past three years I've often tried to think about what makes or breaks an artist for me. Is it their ability, personality, message-- or is it something more? With my recent Brooklyn studio visit with Rafael Perez, I think I've finally figured it out. What stands him out from other artists is the way his works dig deeply into my very soul, bringing out long-forgotten childhood memories, and things I love, as well as fear.

When I first saw his animal watercolor series, I might have let out a squeal of delight. To me, there's nothing better or more entertaining than anthropomorphization. But these aren't hybrids or genetic experiments, as is the de rigouer, but instead, they're playing dress-up as characters-- kind of like people in your everyday lives. This series brought back memories of when I was little at my dresser, putting on the clip-on earrings of my greatgrandmother, and holding my well-worn copy of "The Wind in the Willows," or "The Animals of Farthing Wood."

In Perez's case, his inspiration came from a love of the "Frog and Toad" series-- books I had unfortunately been unfamiliar with until now. Nothing makes me more thrilled than when I'm looking at Perez's portly toad licking away at his icy cone, in full-on '80s hued wifebeater (minus pants). And of course we ALL know animals never need to wear pants, right? Take a look at Kermit-- he was naked all the time, except for that collar. Here, Mr. Toad looks like he's watched one too many Jane Fonda workout videotapes, and decided to cheat while no one was looking.

Mr. Chameleon totally killed me as well. Could anything be more appropriate in comparison than the cranky old guy at the assisted living center asking for his third helping of Salisbury steak of the day-- (the nurses told him he could only have two). Being human has its perks sometimes-- in the fact that we can imagine what the creatures of our world would be like if given human attributes. But in the case of Perez's creatures, they hold on to their animal instincts a bit more. On top of it all, if you don't find this off the cute-o-meter chart, then you're just a plain ol' meanie.

Perez honed his skills at the Graduate School of Figurative Art in New York City, at the New York Academy. The school is well known for the rigorous technical ability of its graduates, as well as its emphasis on anatomy of the figure, but sometimes it's also known for the stuffiness it places on its students, almost enveloping them with a fear of taking risks. Perez has left that completely behind, and brings a dark humor into his works, as well as appreciation of the body that can sometimes border on quiet observation of the female form, or the blatantly sexual.

In his new collaboration with artist Amanda Barr, you should probably shield the eyes of the young, because it's about as in your face as possible. Here Perez completes the watercolor landscapes, and Barr the cartoony figures in the foreground. Breasts appear as dripping ice cream cones, penises and crotches sit at ready, all while people frolick in their garden of earthly delights. It's a nice analysis of sexual debauchery, as well as delicious humor kept throughout. The beauty of this work is in the freedom it allots itself to throw caution to the wind and celebrate the joy of flesh and human circumstance.

Perez is also known for his Dangerous Women series, with last summer's similarly named group show at DFN Gallery I reviewed on ArtCat. Hot mamas with hunting rifles and flack jackets congregate, standing tall and aloof, awaiting their kill. Long before Sarah Palin came to the forefront, Perez had already begun this series of works. But throughout the series there's a sense of disconnect or vagueness to the eyes of the women. They look fairly disinterested, as if they have bigger fish to fry, but at the same time are desiring someone to come in and rescue them as well. Of course these ladies are the same types who'd eat you alive if you chose to do so, so I'll just leave it as that. They're nice to look at, but you might not necessarilly want to know them on too intimate a level.

Finally, Perez is now collaborating with the poet Sierra Nelson on a series of illustrations for an upcoming project. I'm especially fond of the work Merboy, which seems to convey to the viewer its isolation, and freakishness-- struggling to come to terms with his being an outcast, but hopeful nonetheless for what may come his way. I'll leave you with Ms. Nelson's words.

Your Affinity is with a Blind Beggar with Mismated Feet

Come dine with me now, baby merman –
Hail from your dusty dive and drink
Deep with thine eyes our desolate sea.
Sideshow specimen chained to the ceiling,
Stop overseeing this tawdry human fate –
You were born for more than fortunes for a quarter.
Bone grin, dry scale, no you can’t have pearl eyes –
Yes, she’s forgotten you, laughs one-eyed Jolly Jack.

Tremble in cobwebs, Ye Olde Curiousitie,
Above the 10 cents (U.S. Coins Only)
Girl in a Bathtub Peepshow Girl Méchanique.
They hauled you in half-afraid, half-strangled,
Mermonster gasping at the bottom of the boat.
There was a high soft wail before the gurgle and pained grin.
Now your dry tears make a lucky souvenir.
Yes, she’s forgotten you, laughs one-eyed Jolly Jack.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Musings update

(Above, Rafael Perez gets him some morning Joe. Mr. Budgie, you make me feel better already!)

Since all the other bloggers are talking about their lack of posts, so will I. Yes, I've been sick this past week as well, and taking care of things I really need to take care of, including something to do with SVA and getting ahead in life by no longer writing reviews for free. So rather than hold a fundraiser to ask for your hard earned cash and start flame wars like some of the other blogs have done, I'm just going to get my stuff together on that end and still write here on the Musings more SELECTIVELY when I feel the need.

In the meantime, posts to come...

1. Spotlight on Rafael Perez-- SO worth getting to know. Get ready for some seriously cool stuff. Cute animals and plenty of nekkid chicks, oh, my!

2. The something nothingness of Henning Bohl (heeelp, I'm peeeeeeling away) at Casey Kaplan.

3. Studio visit with Mia "RockMyWorld" Pearlman.

Muse away, my pretties.


Tuesday, April 14, 2009

When you've changed, but the artist has stayed the same

Having spent ten years of my life in Boston-- the last six of which I regularly attended the Fort Point Channel Artist Open Studios-- it was deja vu when I noticed Virgil de Voldaire is currently showing one of my all-time Beantown favorites, David Palmer. But this story unfortunately does not have a happy ending.

Palmer is an artist best described as being at the top of his game for that time and place (the late-'90s, Fort Point being the new "it" artist loft neighborhood in transition.) He would gesso giant canvases soft as silk, with a ground so smooth you'd think they were touched by gods instead of human hands. The key to Palmer's work is a giant swoosh of blue paint made from a single brushstroke. To some they may appear to be the perfect wave, but to me they're more likely akin to the abstracted biomorphics of Carroll Dunham.

So how has Palmer changed in the past decade? Unfortunately, not much, if at all. Sure you can take the "If it ain't broke, don't fix it" attitude, but this time, I'm woefully disappointed. Palmer's 27-inch brush must be losing its bristles faster than Trump's hairpiece right about now.

Now I'm all for artists finding a niche, achieving financial freedom, as well as establishing a dedicated collector base. But when there's no risks whatsoever taken for over a decade, I sadly must say, "Keep chasing that wave, Dave. Keep chasing that wave."

Palmer's solo exhibition runs through May 16th. If you've never seen the artist's work before, I encourage you to check it out. If you are familiar with it, skip it.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Artist of the day - Mia Pearlman

(above, Whorl, 2008, paper, india ink, monofilament, 24 x 36 x 8)

It's been a while since I did the Musings' Artist of the Day feature, but given the continued gloom and cold we've been entrenched in here in the Northeast, I've been thinking fondly of the work of Mia Pearlman. Pearlman is like the kid you always envied in elementary school-- you know the one who'd be able to make the most intricate paper snowflakes ever that put your little concentric diamonds and hearts to shame. Pearlman's complex paper vortices spin voraciously, appearing to engulf their viewer all while showcasing their fragile structure. An artist to keep your eye on in 2009. This author hopes to one day curate a show with Pearlman, Michelle Manley, Christopher Saunders and Michael Paul Miller and title it End of the World Road.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Now that I've seen it in person, Koh's work is best part of the Boone show

Last week ArtCat published my one-on-one email interview with Terence Koh. In it, Koh was his ever-loquacious self, but there was something different about him. Perhaps it's the new era in which we now find ourselves, but Koh came across as humbled, and perhaps a bit fearful of what may come next. With the inclusion of his 21-foot long urinal in the KKK (Kelley, Koh and Koons) show curated by Javier Peres at Mary Boone, he might just be the first successful Humpty Dumpty of the art world. He can take a heavy beating, cracks showing on the surface, but then put himself back together in a stronger new formation.

I love the feeling of reinvention, and strength shown here. Koh's answers to many of my questions showed a vulnerability I certainly did not expect and am quite grateful for. But truthfully, in terms of art with meaning, Koh is doing a great job in this show compared to the more whimsical objects de arte of Koons and Kelley. Of course there will be R. Mutt comparisons, but I don't necessarily see that. Dig deeper and what you'll find is a replica of an upscale Chelsea nightclub bathroom fixture, exposing its damaged goods for all to see, much like its many patrons. The pristine white surface shatters before us with every crevice in spider-vein-like detail. The fissures seem to be more a commentary on what we take with us-- experience-- each crack symbolizing a piece of us gradually wearing away.

Kelley and Koons, on the other hand, seem to be channeling Paul McCarthy's butt plugs and 1950s kitsch more than anything with their new works. As always, Koons works with the hyper shine of stainless steel-- this time serving as the bartender friend in the corner making us the best mojito your money can buy, if Frisch's Big Boy was your waiter.

Kelley, below, conjures up images of the Ice Queen's castle in Narnia, or far more likely the offerings of a Lower East Side sex shop. The show runs through May 16th at Boone. It's definitely worth checking out.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Experimenting with the cam

A blogger's camera is their lifeline. And it's funny that every single one of us seems to have the Canon Powershot Digital Elph in many different editions. So enjoy my forray into vlogging.

Without further ado, here's Tony Oursler at Metro Pictures and Celeste Boursier-Mougenot at Paula Cooper Gallery.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

PA-POW! with Rosemarie Fiore

Rosemarie Fiore really needs to be an artist at P.P.O.W. Gallery. Now why would I suggest her amazing Pyrotechnics: Firework Drawings exhibition be held at P.P.O.W. instead of Priska Juschka? Well, because this blogger eternally pronounces P.P.O.W. as "PA-POW!" No, really. I do. And what better exhibition to ever be held at PA-POW!! than this. But unfortunately, that monaker stands for the names of the owners as abbreviations. So instead, the equally hard to pronounce Priska Juschka has a real firecracker on their hands here. (Yeah, I so totally just went there.)

Fiore's luxurious saturations are brilliant in color, form, and design-- letting the residue of the 'works bleed into their paper's surfaces. It's basically similar to the method used by Cai Guo Qiang, if he actually appreciated the use of non-sepia toned color in art. Fiore has it all over him and other explosive-based artists in that she has a true appreciation of the emotions that color can convey to a viewer, as well as continuously highlights the intricate patterns made by chance, when born by fuel and fuse.

Just make sure if you go to the opening tomorrow night to leave your matches and lighters at the door. We don't want the fire department to shut this one down. The show runs through May 16th.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Sticks and stones and bones and words all hurt equally when Jenny Holzer's at the helm

(staring into the belly of the beast-- Jenny Holzer addresses disinformation and the press, advertising and 24/7 media domination all amidst the rapid dissemination of our ever shrinking attention span like a wrecking ball in Protect Protect)

Protect Protect, currently on view at the Whitney is a tour de force of Jenny Holzer's painstakingly selected societal challenges from the past 30 years, spotlighting the artist's communication through the written word, which brings forth both a visceral and gut-wrenching reaction. Above is a selection of female human bones from her Lustmord series, which deal with the terrors of war brought on by the human catastrophe in the former Yugoslavia. Around each bone is clipped a metallic strip engraved in detail of how its victim was raped, tortured and murdered. To say this is a hard work to walk past is the understatement of the year, but in all honesty, this was truly one of the most difficult exhibitions of my entire life. I am a longtime Holzer supporter, and to me, she ultimately possesses a mastery over how words affect each of us, and how as a society we tend to never quite learn from history unless continuously confronted head-on.

Holzer's LED readouts are some of the most eye-poppingly gorgeous structures you will ever see. I loved reading the warning at the front of the Whitney for people who suffer from seizure disorders not to enter. No kidding. Seeing the show at night was jarring for a multitude of reasons, not the least of which was my own stepping into Holzer's past analogies via the visual eye candy of a Blade Runner future. For herein lies some truly astonishing works which will make your head spin if not from the neon colors, but from the rapid vertigo that will envelop you. In fact, some of the structures appear as if they were turbine-like engines more common in power or water plants. For here the LED readouts not only push our inner emotional buttons, but are the cogs feeding the machine that encompasses us all, much like fuel to the fire.

Holzer never lets us forget there's always more beneath the surface than what we are initially led to believe. From government-issued maps of the Iraqi invasion (with sections detailing to the soldiers the oil-rich areas), to her Redaction paintings which are copies of formerly classified documentation, we see how precarious the First Amendment came to being (and still is) a forgotten notion of a Utopian system of government. Can we simply block out the past, like the blackened fingerprints here show? The artist seems to ask, "If a tree falls in the woods and no one hears it, did it ever really fall?" Holzer is showing us the uncensored version, the big reveal being the many who have tried to rewrite history and thankfully failed. But even so, it is a battle still to be fought, and Holzer is not holding back, but waist-deep in the trenches.

Protect Protect runs through May 31st. Make sure to put it on your calendar. It's well worth your visit.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Gallipolis Storm

(Christopher Davison, Gallipolis Storm, Flashe, ink wash, Micron, gouache, Pitt pen on paper, 20 x 20)

blogpix closes Saturday. It's worth a final look. Get thee to Platform stat!

Friday, March 20, 2009

Definitely not in Kansas anymore, Michelle Manley rates an F5 on the Musings meter.

(above, Michelle Manley, Heightened Alert I, acrylic on board, 30 x 30)

Recently I had the opportunity to meet up with artist Michelle Manley at her Lower East Side studio. I've been intrigued by her work for a while, after she first came to my attention last fall. To me her paintings not only conjure up the horrors of natural disaster scenarios, but at their core lies a comprehensive understanding of the futility of the ongoing battle of man vs. nature.

Can it be that lightning only strikes once? In this case, highly unlikely, because Manley electrifies with each new work unveiled. Above is Dynamo. With the juxtaposition of brilliant blue sky set against an unwitting pastoral landscape, the viewer is left unsettled, as if staring at a scene that hasn't quite yet taken place, but is familiar nonetheless. The golden bolt of light flashing down upon the tree line has a subtle purple halo, which catches the eye with popping color, as well as serves a reminder of what might come after the storm-- from darkness, into light.

Manley has a deft approach to her paintings. Starting with dramatic images she finds of weather anomalies -- ones perhaps taken by the Stormchasers themselves-- she then tweaks them to just a little bit skewed. The artist utilizes Photoshop to create scenes of a vastly disjointed nature. Where once laid a river, or farmland under the funnel clouds, now lies a two-lane country road, which seems to not want to know what's further down the journey. Take a closer look at the shaky painted line of the road's shoulder.

Manley also utilizes a heightened alert color-coding in honor of the famed Homeland Security Advisory System. Looking into the sinnous outlines of the cloud formations, subtle touches of reds, oranges, and magentas stir amongst greys and charcoals, adding fuel to the fire. Red seems to refer to an F5; orange, F4; pastel pink maybe an F2. Vortexes shift to and fro throughout Manley's works, targeting their innocent victims with a haphazard motion that spares none in its path. Roadways that weren't there before suddenly appear, then disappear, into the belly of the beast. The work at left above seems not to be made from the heavens above, but the bowels of hell; its gaping mouth gobbling up everything in its path.

In Severance, Manley imagines three tiny barns set upon virgin farmland that have ingeniously been given their own twister of liking. As they say, "A chicken in every pot." In Manley's case, for every unsuspecting Dorothy there will be a 2x4 to impail. I enjoyed this scene immensely because it reminds me of the marshland and horse farms north of Boston in Newburyport. The twisters seem to be a focal reference point to the day of final judgment-- punishing the Brahmins for the sins of their Puritanical past.

Manley's work can currently be seen through April 8th in a group show celebrating women's history at Soho Creative NY at 73 Warren Street in Tribeca. Click here for directions.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Volta's major wattage

Fernando Mastrangelo dilligently proves a point here with his cocaine sculpture, Felix, at Rhys/Mendes of Los Angeles, CA. Showing the migrant farmer in plaintive pose-- shoulders hunched, bandana covering his sunburned face, all while working in a field producing a crop that he may never fully grasp its ramifications. The parched earth, or mirrors in this case, echo the days of Studio 54, and the stiletto-clad Hoovers his cultivation will eventually supply. Mastrangelo doesn't necessarily make Felix out to be a victim, though. Though he has no back story, he is working dillgently for the task at hand. Through this discipline, will Felix break free from the chains that bind him, or are the benefits of his industry many to be had? It's fascinating to think of the various storyline trajectories.

Cute Overload has a term for the type of thing you're seeing above -- Reedonk!! I mean, seriously-- my heart is soaring... just soaring... with Sterling Allen's whimsical (redonkulous) toy assemblage creatures on display at Austin, TX's Art Palace. Yes, that is indeed a squash you're seeing with outstretched arms?... feet?, as well as a rally-cry potato head with baby doll arm held aloft in Spud Power pose. My favorite inclusion by far was the old lady wig on the Skeletor mask, and the Rizzo the Muppet-like rat crawling up the background. Who said art can't be fun and inventive at the same time? Bringing out the inner '80s kid in me never felt so good.

On a far more serious note, Rina Catelnuovo photos at Andrea Meislin Gallery were dramatically touching forays into the personalized effects of the conflict in the Middle East. The Hasidic inner sanctum meeting above is a beautiful look into a subculture that's rarely exposed to the outside world. The car bomb photo above shocks us with the carnage that takes place almost daily. Catelnuovu does a terrific job at bringing us directly into the stories that Americans so normally disregard on the daily news. Now, if Catelnuovo can hold the attention span a bit longer than an art fair, her work will be a true success.

Lush tropical vines, flora and fauna inhabit the mindscapes of Andy Harper at One in the Other of London. Like becoming lost in a magical botanical garden, Harper's brushstrokes are immaculate. The rich colors flow into each other seemlessly, and set a mood of rebirth and renewal. Some portions of the pieces do remind me of Alexis Rockman's earlier series, but it's more visual trickery than ecological statement. I also think Harper's oeuvre is far more likely an embracement of the flesh, while bearing an uncanny similarity to certain feminine body parts if laid out in Rorschach format. Harper's paintings were a joy for me to discover, since so very little traditional painting is on display throughout the fairs.

Next up, Eugenio Merino at ADN Galeria of Barcelona. The Dalai Lama here looks like he just came out of the Stallone school of acting, while Shrub Jr. looks more akin to discovering enlightenment than the Mahatma himself. Juxtaposing such hilarious interpretations of a bizarro world run amock sent me into fits of giggles. The lifelike nature of the works again reminded me of the astounding realism of Ron Mueck, but in Merino's case, the message is not in the craftsmanship. For the true meaning of these works lies in the very definition of what is a man of peace, or god of war. To each and every one of us it can be a different thing. Definitely one to watch in the coming years.

Regina Jose Galindo made me cry. Really. I've never been more moved by a piece of art in recent memory. Promoteogalleri de Ida Pisani took the biggest risk ever by her inclusion. Taking performance art to new levels, Galindo's repetitive violent submersion in a vat of water is a graphic visual of waterboarding as means of torture. Only true hearts of stone could watch this and not get that in each one of us there is humanity and worth, no matter the political leanings, or actions of a selective few. Galindo's powerful statement here pretty much closed down all other artists from here on out to me in terms of what they're willing to do for their message to be heard loud and clear, with no static. Beautiful and raw, Galindo's booth is still making me think eight days later.

Last, but far from least, Boru O'Brien O'Connell's photographic exploration into male middle age, and the loss of masculinity itself at Boston's La Montagne Gallery. O'Connell's works sweat out palpable pools of Cialis and Rogaine advertisements, as well as PSAs on prostate health, if they were financed by well-meaning members of the PGA. Too often than not, we overlook as a society the "now what" that comes from men gradually losing control over the prowess they once thought was a given. Take the soap bar, for instance. What once was merely a means of getting clean now serves as a reminder to its owner as to the loss of his youth on a daily basis. I hope to see more of O'Connell's brilliant works again soon. He just may well be the new Cindy Sherman of his generation, dipping into the unplumbed well of the past-their-prime male specimen.