Monday, January 30, 2012

Can I have some art with my sliders?

Robert Boyd

I went to a birthday party last night at Natachee's, a kind of greasy funky concept restaurant near the Continental Club and Sig's Lagoon. And at one point in the evening, I had to take a leak. I walked into the men's bathroom and say this hanging on the wall next to the urinal:

The Art Guys, Study for an M-1 Tank Lawn Sprinkler from 101 of the World's Greatest Sculpture Proposals, graphite, pastel, colored pencil, copper pipe, wood, metal tape, collage on paper, 35" x 52", 2009

That cracked me up. Over at Goode's Armadillo Palace, where everything is decorated with an antique Western/Texas theme, there is a print in the men's restroom of a naked woman holding a poker hand. It's old (or at least designed to look old) and therefore not particularly prurient. But it's a obviously a piece of art for men to see, with two manly sins in one image. Stuart Davis painted a mural for the Radio City Music Hall men's lounge called Men Without Women, which included images of sailing, horse racing, a cigar, a barber shop, etc.

The Art Guys go for the manly here--a giant war machine, a nude pin-up figure holding a rifle, and lawn care. It is perfect for a men's room, a post-modern update of the poker-playing saloon girl or Men Without Women.

The Art Guys, Credit Where Credit is Due, credit cards, business forms, 35 framed objects, 11.25" x 13.5" each, 1997-1998

This is hanging on the wall just outside the restrooms. The Art Guys responded to every credit card solicitation they received in 1997. These were all the credit cards they received. I'm going to assume they cancelled them before displaying them, because the credit card numbers are all real and visible. In any case, they still might be tempting to a not-too-bright thief.

Of course, what appeals about this is the mindless repetition of responding to every solicitation. It seems like an inherently absurd act--but no more absurd than sending out all those solicitations. You get these in the mail constantly and you don't even really think about them as you throw them away. The Art Guys make you think about them by carrying them to a logical extreme.

I asked if there was an Art Guys piece in the ladies' restroom. Alas. no.


Thursday, January 26, 2012

This Weird Place between Pixels

by Dean Liscum

Two realities that inform This Weird Place, which was curated by Sebastian Forray, are the tension between abstraction and figuration and the digital marketplace of images that is Flickr.

In his gallery talk at the Cecil Horton Gallery at Lawndale, Forray chose not to discuss the theme that unites the artists and their works, but the virtual space in which they can be found, Flickr. This virtual meeting space allows artists to mix and mingle ideas without sharing a physical space. This new reality (new in the history of art making) is integral to the show because three of them: Lane Hagood, Alika Herreshoff, and Cody Ledvina are from Houston and three of them: Lee Piechocki, Anthony Record, and Eric Shaw, are not.

Sebastian Forray and Cody Ledvina discuss This Weird Place at Lawndale

The blurb on the exhibition website provides more insight into each of the six artists works.
Anthony Record’s images are wrung from the awkward pixels of primitive computer drawing programs, and re-rendered with fastidious care into paintings and needlepoint rugs, which both counter and exalt their origins. Both Eric Shaw and Cody Ledvina work impulsively, in an elemental and pseudo-psychedelic re-examining of the familiar figure through rhythmic amalgamation and deconstruction. Lee Piechocki and Alika Herreshoff’s work serves as a counterbalance, meditative and responsive to the inherent concerns of painting, color, and line (and hinting at, rather than blatant in relation to figuration and intent). Lane Hagood’s approach is scholarly, and rooted in cavernous literary reference which leads to work that both contradicts and acknowledges the post-modern paradox of inescapability from quotation and never-ending intellectual reiteration.
The works that caught my eye and what I immediately felt was...

De Stijl meets De Koonig in a dark alley.

If I Call You And You Pick Up It Will Kill You
Acrylic on canvas
Anthony Record

I imagine Francis Bacon painting dolphins and snowmen until he had an "aw-fuck-it" moment and went all heavy on the brush work.

Lights Out Still Life with Dolphin Posters
oil, acrylic, enamel on panel
Lee Piechocki

I'm pretty sure I spent way too much time playing this video game in the late 80s and at one point the figure in the middle told me to get a degree in liberal arts...

3 Abstract
Gouache on paper
Eric Shaw
 ...and after playing said video game for 18 hours straight, I decided to rearrange my room to reflect my psyche.

Art for Sebastian's Show at Lawndale in Houston...Let's Get Drinks After the Show
Mixed Media
Cody Ledvina
For reasons that I can't even begin to explain, this one reminds me of a lewd send up of Brancusi's "The Kiss".
In the the Fold
Acrylic on canvas
Alika Herreshoff
However, the truly "weird place" in this exhibition may not be the familiar field between figuration and abstraction through which many artists have traipsed, but rather the virtual space in which they collaborated.

Get Flickr with it.


Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Geoff Hippenstiel at Devin Borden

by Robert Boyd

When I first walked into Devin Borden Gallery and saw Geoff Hippenstiel's large new canvases, the first thing I noticed was the gold and silver paint. This sparkly metallic paint calls attention to itself, in part because it's not something you see often on paintings like these--large, painterly abstractions. And to be sure, I read them as abstractions at first. And as usual, I took a lot of photos.

Geoff Hippenstiel, untitled, oil paint on canvas, 2011

It was when I looked at my photos that I realized that these were landscapes--highly abstracted landscapes. There was something about the gold and silver that distracted me from reaching this obvious conclusion. And it isn't a surprise--Hippenstiel has often skated between abstraction and representation. And his use of thick impasto, to my eye, disguises the representation that exists in the work. The impasto on these works is very thick indeed.

Geoff Hippenstiel, untitled (detail), oil paint on canvas, 2011

In fact, on opening night, you could still smell the not-quite-dried oil paint.

Geoff Hippenstiel, untitled, oil paint on canvas, 2011

Geoff Hippenstiel, untitled (detail), oil paint on canvas, 2011

So in the presence of the paintings, you see the gold, the silver, the impasto. That's what catches your eye first. And if you lived with them for a while, you'd see the hill. A small hill, with a more-or-less flat top. Not quite a mesa but similar. You don't see hills in Houston. But they seem familiar.

Geoff Hippenstiel, untitled, oil paint on canvas, 2011

I briefly lived in the Simi Valley, which is a suburban area just north of Los Angeles. It is surrounded by hills like these (except that none of the ones I saw were silver, but we'll allow Hippenstiel some creative license). I used to hike in them. They are all along the coast in Southern California. Hippensteil was born in Santa Monica, so maybe these paintings are memories of those Southern California hills.

Geoff Hippenstiel, untitled, oil paint on canvas, 2011

It seems that once the form was fixed in his mind, he gave himself permission to play with it. Hence a silver hill. Hence a mirror-image hill above.

Another interesting feature of this work is the use of oil-based spray paint. He uses silver and gold spray paints which more or less match the silver and gold paints from a tube. He will take an area painted green with a thick, textured impasto and spray over it in silver. The spray paint coats the green with an thin but opaque layer of metallic color. It is a way for him to retain the almost sculptural form of the pain while changing its color. So you can view it as just a tool he uses. But given the prominence of graffiti art in the art world now, I wonder if that influenced his decision to use spray paint.


Monday, January 23, 2012

Links Links Links Links Links Links

by Robert Boyd

Glasstire has moved their troops into key positions in Southern California, as seen in this map

The Empire expands, part 1: Glasstire has started up a Southern California edition. So far it looks just like the Texas edition, except for the map. On the Glasstire Texas map, each little marker represents a whole city, if not a vast region within Texas. On the Southern California map, many of the markers represent a different region of Los Angeles--Santa Monica/Venice, Culver City, West Hollywood/Midtown, Downtown, and LA Other. (I know Santa Monica, Culver City and West Hollywood are separate municipalities, but they're separate in the sense that Bellaire or Piney Point are separate from Houston.) The last three regions listed are Santa Barbara, Orange County and San Diego. (I guess Bakersfield is too far north or too blue collar to qualify.) Now this expansion is risky--many in SoCal might resent the intrusion of a bunch of Texans and fight back! Likewise, if the Glasstire folks take their eyes off their capital city, they might lose it to some amateur upstart like The Great God Pan is Dead.

The Empire expands, part 2: Glasstire reports that Rice is going to get a new art center. Art has risen and fallen at Rice since the 60s, when it became its own department. Its history is too involved to relate here. Sewell Hall was built to house the department, and it had two additional "temporary" buildings way over on the Southeast side of campus (which was quite isolated back then). The temporary buildings were the Rice Media Center, which housed the movie theater (one of the best theaters in Houston, in my opinion) and various facilities for photographers and film-makers. Next to it was the Rice Museum, which was a little like the CAMH--a non-collecting museum showing contemporary art. The department was small and was combined with art history. The art department was eventually spun off from Art History to become Visual and Dramatic Arts. Art History grew--now it offers a Phd. But VADA has stagnated. (And the Rice Museum no longer exists.) But this might change with a new facility--with more studio space and more exhibitions space, Rice might be able to offer an MFA program (I have mixed feelings about that) and perhaps more curation-oriented classes. [Glasstire]

Sidney Nolan (a member of the Boyd family by marriage), Ned Kelly, 1946

I might not have an empire, but at least I have a dynasty. There is a family that since 1851 has produced and/or intermarried with many of Australia's leading artists. Personally, I've never heard of any of these various Boyds, but let's face it,  Australia has not historically been an center of the art-world. Still, the country has produced a few great artists, including Sidney Nolan, who married Mary Boyd, herself a painter and part of the Boyd family. OK, there is so much that is weird about this. First of all, that there could even be a multi-generational group of artists in the first place, one that starts in 1851 and still exists with practicing artists/descendants today. Artistic talent occasionally goes from one generation to the next, but we're talking six generations. Second, even though I was born in Australia (really), I have no connection at all with the Australian Boyd dynasty. There is a book about the family called The Boyds: A Family Biography. Would it be too weird if I got a copy of this book?

The new paradigm for self-published comics. This excellent Kickstarter campaign reminds me of how the world of comics has changed. With distribution more difficult than ever (especially for art comics), more self-publishers are turning to Kickstarter to pre-fund their comics. I believe the idea behind Kickstarter was initially philanthropic. But for cartoonists, it has become in some ways an elaborate preordering system. With Suspect Device 2, if you "donate" $13 dollars, you get a copy of the finished comic, post-paid. Self-publishers have always dealt with middlemen--distributors, wholesalers,retailers--who take big chunks of the sales revenue. Kickstarter is another middleman, but the toll they charge is quite modest (approximately 8%).

Forrest Bess, title and date unknown

Forrest Bess, cancer fighter. Forrest Bess is in the news a lot lately. The latest news is that a bunch of his paintings are being offered for sale by Christie's to benefit MD Anderson. The Art Market Monitor article has an error, though. Bess had a show at the Houston Museum of Fines Arts in 1951 (they say his first museum shows were in 1981). I've heard there will be a Bess solo exhibit at the Menil next year, but I don't know any of the details. [Art Market Monitor]


Sunday, January 22, 2012

T.J. Hunt Explores the Landscape, Discovering Nothing

by Robert Boyd

T.J. Hunt, Breaking Ground, piles of dirt taken from various privately owned sites, 2012

T.J. Hunt's unfortunate artist's statement for her installation, Breaking Ground, reads, in its entirety:
My work is concerned with artistic identity and utility, investigating what it means to self-identify as an artist in the current age of ever-expanding artistic pluralism. By placing my work in dialogue with canonical artworks of the not-so-distant past, I attempt to examine my own position in an art historical lineage, often through absurd or overly literal gestures. For Breaking Ground, the physical landscape serves alternately as subject and as backdrop for these gestures, which become a vehicle for exploring ideas of ownership and appropriation.
I thought she was going to miss out using the word "explore" but she came through at the end. Whew! It's not exactly "I do not seek--I find!," is it? Let me paraphrase it. "I do art about art in order to call myself an artist. This art you are reading about now is all that, and in addition to that it expresses ideas about private property and stealing."

Private property is indeed something worth thinking about. In fact, it has been on mankind's mind as a serious subject for thought since at least the 17th century when John Locke wrote his theories of property. Since then, private property has been the subject of major works by Adam Smith, Pierre Proudhon, Karl Marx, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Hernando De Soto, and many others. These thinkers are all quite profound. Given a universe of means to express their thoughts on the subject of private property, they all chose the same medium--prose.

The thing is, visual art is not a good way to think about (i.e., "explore") philosophical or political issues. This may not be an especially popular thing for an art critic to express. And in saying this, I'm not suggesting that artists shouldn't try. But subtle ideas don't lend themselves to images. (Other kinds of subtlety can be expressed by art quite well--feelings, moods, inherently visual ideas, etc.) That's why so much art that tries to deal with complex philosophical or political ideas ends up being extremely text heavy--with wall-texts or websites or artists statements, etc., carrying the conceptual load. But as far as I've concerned, when an artist depends on supplementary text like that, he's given up the game. He's conceded that text says what he wants to say better than image.

Indeed, to express her extremely vague, ambiguous and simplistic ideas about private property, T.J. Hunt has resorted to words (this is, I assume, the literalness she speaks of). But, one has to ask, is she in favor or private property? Opposed to it? Did she steal this dirt? Or did she ask permission? These are basic questions, but her supplies no answer, and more important doesn't delve into the questions themselves and their implications.

Now maybe I am putting too much of a burden on Hunt--asking her work to stand in for all political/philosophical installations. I think some artists are much much cleverer that T.J. Hunt, particularly those that implicate the viewer in their work. Hans Haacke, for example. But I see way too much work like Hunt's. For example, Andrei Molodkin's Crude at the Station Museum. What was pleasurable about Crude was seeing this contraption of pumps and transparent pipes and vessels pumping oil around in a circle. But like Breaking Ground, Crude had one simplistic idea to express, and even then it depended on wall texts to express it. (Perhaps it works as propaganda, which depends of a lack of subtlety to be successful.)

I discussed this work with a friend, and she scolded me. She said that better works of this nature could do the job better--that I couldn't condemn an entire artistic practice based on this one work, but that what I was seeing was a bad representative of that kind of artwork. If so, I look forward to seeing the piece of visual art of this sort that doesn't require a significant prose component in order to express a nuanced argument. Until then, I will continue to depend on writers to explain complex philosophical and political issues to me, and allow visual art to fulfill other important functions in my life.

Breaking Ground Y
T.J. Hunt, Breaking Ground "Y" from the lawn of Lawndale. 2112

Breaking Ground will be visible at Lawndale Art Center through February 25.


Friday, January 20, 2012

Space Age Bachelor Pad Art by Edward Lane McCartney

by Robert Boyd

There is something oddly nostalgic about Edward Lane McCartney's new exhibit, "Shift," at Goldesberry Gallery. When you see a piece like this:

Folio Chromatique #7
Edward Lane McCartney, Folio Chromatique #7, paper, paperback books, 2011 imagine it in a stylish 60s flat. This is space age bachelor pad art, and there's Martin Denny and Esquival on the stereo. Given that the work is inspired by Op artist Carlos Cruz-Diez, it seems like the sixties is the right period. The Folios Chromatiques are made of old paperback books with intensely colored paper glued into the pages.

Folio Chromatique #2
Edward Lane McCartney, Folio Chromatique #2, paper, paperback book, 2011

Folio Chromatique #1
Edward Lane McCartney, Folio Chromatique #1, paper, paperback book, 2011

Folio Chromatique #6
Edward Lane McCartney, Folio Chromatique #6, paper, paperback book, 2011

 When I say they look like decorations for a space age bachelor pad, what I'm also saying is that they look decorative. And there's nothing wrong with this. I tend to think the same thing about Carlos Cruz-Diez's work. It does, however, represent a shift in McCartney's work, which has for the last few years been quite political--with pieces dealing with America's wars, Don't Ask--Don't Tell, AIDS, the Catholic Church's pedophilia scandal and more.

So is there any continuity between this work and his previous work? Yes. McCartney here as before takes an extremely humble object (in this case, paperback books) and through his incredible craftsmanship, turns it into something beautiful and witty. In the past, he's accomplished this with plastic army men, band-aids, fishing lures and plastic champagne glasses.  McCartney is a trained jeweler and (I think) a silver-smith. By taking those skills and the patience needed to use them, and applying them to humble and even ridiculous materials, he has created a signature approach that this current show is very much a part of.

In addition to the Folios Chromatiques, this show includes a lot of McCartney's typically witty jewelry--in this case, earrings and bracelets made with overlapping pieces of clear plastic printed with parallel lines. They create moire patterns, which again references the Op art of the sixties.

Edward Lane McCartney's alter to Craftism

In addition to "Shift," McCartney and Cat Coombs reprised their Kenmore installation/performance, "Craftism." Again, McCartney does his magic of transforming the mundane--this time with a mini-fridge.


Thursday, January 19, 2012

Road Trip: San Antonio

by Robert Boyd

This is intended to be the first of a new ongoing feature. Since I got new wheels, I thought I might take a few day trips and overnight trips to see art outside the Houston city limits. So after seeing an article, "Donna Simon's Seeing Art San Antonio Tours," on Glasstire, I decided to sign up for a tour. The big attraction was that it included a studio visit. I can figure out how to get to San Antonio's museums and galleries on my own--but seeing an artist's studio in another city was something I needed some entrée to accomplish. So to take this tour, I had to be on the road by 6:30 am on a Saturday. Seeing Art San Antonio is a small operation run by Donna Simon. I was definitely the youngest person on the tour, and most of the other tour goers were repeat customers. (A tour costs $35 for an individual.) We met at 10 am in front of a modest house up near Fort Sam Houston. This was the studio of Mira Hnatyshyn (pronounced NAT-uh-shin, more or less).

Bus StopMira Hnatyshyn, Bus Stop,oil on canvas and mixed media

The house is weird. You walk in and there's her art everywhere--which is pretty typical--but after a while, you start to realize that she works in every room. I wondered how she could live there. And she told us--she doesn't live there. This entire house (which was quite modest, mind you) is her studio. She lives somewhere else. As a studio, it feels very strange. The ceiling is low and the rooms are small--it seems like a tough place to be creating the large scale works she creates. And, indeed, many the works on the wall were crammed floor-to-ceiling.

She works on unstretched canvas in oil. At first, I thought she was painting on unprimed canvas--a lot of her oil is highly thinned and watery. But she explained that she put down clear gesso, so the canvas was protected. Because it was unstretched, the canvases sometimes had folds in them, which she exploited to add a sculptural quality--which she amplifies by adding three-dimensional objects. For example, see the potato-like objects on the floor in front of Bus Stop. They are part of the installation.

She gave us souvenirs before we left--photocopies of drawings she had made of Putin and Medyedev. They were apparently left over from an installation she had done.

Mira Hnatyshyn
Mira Hnatyshyn, Medvedyev and Putin

Our next stop was Blue Star Contemporary Art Center. Simon told us the story of its origin. According to her, back in 1985, the San Antonio Art Museum was working on an exhibit of local San Antonio contemporary artists. However, at the last moment, the curator was fired and the show cancelled. Enraged, the artists located an unused industrial building and hung the show there. That was the start of the Blue Star art center which has become a large, multi-building complex, housing galleries, studios, performance spaces, etc. And now far from being a big "fuck you" to the establishment it started as, it is the establishment. It has 10 $50,000+ contributors (including a couple of multinational corporations), 11 $25,000 to $49,999 contributors, and so on. That's what happens to rebel art spaces if they last long enough.

Blue Star Contemporary Art Center

The main gallery had a show by English sculptor Phillip King. His brightly colored geometric sculptures made me think of Anthony Caro crossed with Al Held, maybe with a dash of George Sugarman. He studied with Caro, so that makes sense.

Phillip King, Darwin 1, painted stainless steel, 2011

Phillip King, Yellow Beam, painted steel, 2011

Phillip King, Pink Bottom, painted foam PVC, painted aluminum, 2011

I like this last one especially. In addition to having a witty title, Pink Bottom seems to be a response if not a rebuke to Donald Judd's metal boxes. The addition of a tilt, of curves, of paint, of pink--all of these seem to say, "Donald, it would have been OK to live a little." You can see King's work at Blue Star Contemporary through February 12.

This was the end of the official tour. Simon has one more tour scheduled for January and two in February. I, however, had a little time before I had to drive back to Houston. I had lunch at the Blue Star Brewing Company then checked out some of the other residents of the complex. The first place I visited was Joan Grona Contemporary Art. Among the work I saw there were these paintings by Jason Willome.

Jason Willome, Visible Inclusions in an Obscure Plane, acrylic, rayon flocking, canvas, 2011

Jason Willome, A Suspicious Milieu, acrylic, rayon flocking, canvas, 2011

The pink bits that look a little like shewed bubblegum are actually little bits of nylon glued to the canvas. What I like is how these weird surface additions to the canvas interact with the picture. Willome is acting as if they are floating on the picture plane, and that the images behind them are affected by them. The nylon bits appear to cast shadows on the figures. The physical reality of these bits of fluff works with the illusion of the painted image. I can think of a couple of other examples of this--Charles Wilson Peale's Staircase Group, in which the first stair in the picture is real, and Max Ernst's Two Children are Frightened by a Nightingale, where the little house and fence are real and attached to the front of the painting. I'm sure there are many other examples.

In a group of buildings behind the Blue Star Contemporary Art Center is the University of Texas-San Antonio's satellite space. Having a satellite space in the Blue Star art complex strikes me as a damn good idea--it really puts the work of its students and curators in front of the art public. It would be as if Rice or UH rented a small exhibition space in the Independent Arts Collaborative building on in the Hive, whenever they get built.

The current show (through January 22), Land Portrait by the Culture Laboratory Collective, was a bit bloodless. But I did like the tiny photographs, collectively called Exit Strategy, by Loren Erdrich. They depict a tall ladder rising out of a field, sometimes with a girl in a dress at the top of the ladder.

Loren Erdrich, Exit Strategy, photos and magnifying glasses

Loren Erdrich, Exit Strategy, photos and magnifying glasses

Loren Erdrich, Exit Strategy, photos and magnifying glasses

The images are nice and big here on the blog, but in the gallery, they were tiny--so tiny that the artist put a magnifying glass under each pair of images to help the viewer see them. The images are a bit surreal to begin with--by making these landscapes (and skyscapes) so tiny, another level of oddness is added.


This is the bus-stop outside the complex. It is also right on the river, so you can bike or walk to it. Even cooler, there is a city "bike share" station there. The Blue Star art complex is well-worth a visit, especially on a nice day when you can also bike or walk along the river.


Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Wayne White is Embarrassed by Beauty

Another lazy post outsourced to someone else's YouTube video. But damn, this looks like a fun movie, don't it? You'll be able to see it in Austin at SXSW, apparently.


Mark Flood's Latest Affirmation (possibly NSFW)

To celebrate my opposition to SOPA and PIPA, I'm posting this video by Mark Flood without asking for permission first. Enjoy!

(If you happen to be in Berlin, you can see his current show at Peres Projects through March 10.)


Monday, January 16, 2012

Links from the Heart

by Robert Boyd

Michael Bise and Adrian Page
Michael Bise and Adrian Page

Gave him a transplant for a brand new start. This certainly is good news! Houston artist and writer Michael Bise, who has been waiting for a heart transplant for a while now, got a new heart on January 12. (And while the operation is done, I'm sure he'd still like a donation to help pay for it.) I suspect the recovery time from such an operation is not brief, but I hope he can soon restart the comic strip he was drawing about his experience as a transplant patient, Life on the List. What I fear is that he may have gotten the heart of a saintly, empathic person, and that it will prevent him from writing the brutally honest art reviews that Houston sorely needs. [Glasstire]

3G International
Electroboutique (Alexei Shulgin and Aristarkh Chernyshev), 3G International

All Power to the  Texters! I liked 3G International by the Russian team Electroboutique for two reasons. First, I found it a witty appropriation of Vladimir Tatlin's Monument to the Third International (it seems to be a popular icon to recreate these days--see Ai Weiwei's version). Second, this is part of an art exhibit in a science museum! This seems like a natural combination--the Houston Museum of Natural Science sometimes shows art; maybe they can bring this exhibit here. [Rhizome]

Simpsons in a museum
The Simpsons encounter Picasso--over and over

The Simpsons do art history. Someone with way way too much time on her hands compiled a list of 100 art historical references from The Simpsons. [Complex]

Rothko Cookies
Mimi O Chun, Mark Rothko tribute cookies

They should serve these at the Rothko Chapel. They might make the whole experience a little less gloomy. [Aesthetics of Joy]


Sunday, January 15, 2012

Neva Mikulicz at Anya Tish

by Robert Boyd

Neva Mikulicz combines drawing and video in a very witty way. Her drawings depict scenes that are ordinary, even banal. The video may or may not offer an ironic comment on the drawing, but what takes the viewer by surprise is the way Mikulicz combines the two media.

Neva Mikulicz, Those Naughty Neighbors, prismacolor pencil on Pastelboard, 1 minute video loop, DVD player, 2011

In this piece Those Naughty Neighbors, the drawn part is a kitchen scene, perhaps from the 50s or 60s. Husband wears his hair in a flattop style and the fixtures look new but old-fashioned. A scene of domestic life in a particular moment in our history. But through the window, we see a video that appears to be a stag reel of some sort. It seems to have a similar vintage as the drawn scene, but is somewhat naughty (R-rated in today's terms). The contrast, between the wholesome domestic scene and stag video, is easy irony. It must have seemed exciting and fresh when Richard Hamilton did it in 1956 with Just what is it that makes today's homes so different, so appealing?, but it is pretty old hat now. But what I like about this piece is the combination of video and drawing, which I found humorous and delightful.

Most of the pieces were like this--a small video screen is embedded into a drawing. And on opening night, it seemed as if several of the videos weren't working, which was a bummer--but it does give me an excuse to revisit the show.

There were also pieces where the video was projected onto the drawing. These seemed to be more about fooling the eye, which they did very well.

Neva Mikulicz, The Hottest Babe, prosmacolor pencil on pastelboard, 1 min 40 sec video loop, 2011

When the video fades away, the viewer is initially surprised by the integration of the drawing and the video image. But I think what we have is this carefree image--the brilliant blue water, the girl on the beach, the changing sand-drawings (a martini glass, the words "Get Lost"), that changes into something more pensive. The drawing without the video is grey, the girl is no longer looking out over a blue ocean at the horizon, but is now starring into an indistinct grey space, as if she were watching a fog bank come in.

Again, this combination of video and drawing is more likely to strike one as clever and humorous than profound. I enjoyed it and plan to take a second look when I get the opportunity.This exhibit is up at Anya Tish Gallery through February 11.


Thursday, January 12, 2012

Post-Industrial Pagan Megaliths

by Robert Boyd

At night, you come across this semi-circle of glowing objects. The light from them, especially in the cool winter air, makes you think of Christmas decorations, and their verticality makes you think of Christmas trees. This group of sculptures is collectively called Constructed Chaos and was built by James Ciosek.

Constructed Chaos sculpture group
James Ciosek, from left to right: The Boat, found corrugated tin and bamboo, cement; Agriculture, found corrugated tin patterned with buckshot, deer slugs, .38, .22 and .223 pistol and rifle rounds, found corrugated fiberglass, fluorescent lights, cement; Sex, found corrugated tin patterned with buckshot, deer slugs, .38, .22 and .223 pistol and rifle rounds, found corrugated fiberglass, fluorescent lights with pink lenses, cement; Entropy or infinity, found corrugated tin patterned with buckshot, deer slugs, .38, .22 and .223 pistol and rifle rounds, found corrugated fiberglass, fluorescent lights with purple lenses, cement, all from 2011

Ciosek found the corrugated tin and fiberglass on the streets of Houston after hurricane Ike. He states that by recycling these materials, he is monumentalizing "destruction as a necessary and integral component of growth/creation/regeneration.  The concept of destruction is referred to by the disordered areas of the material.  Broken outer layers reveal a complete and/or luminous center- a serial movement or growth.  The idea of creation is represented through the phallus and yoni composition.   Reclaiming hurricane debris to use in sculpture is a cycle of regeneration in and of itself. Compositionally, Constructed Chaos is based on the number three, which represents the completeness and interdependence of seemingly opposing forces in the cycle of creation, destruction, recreation."

Monumentalizing cycles has been one of the major activities of humanity for thousands of years. Looking at this half-circle of pillar-shaped sculptures makes one think of Stonehenge. The cycles are different, though. Stonehenge was about the year, and the cycles that were so important to agricultural man. For us, the cycle of building, destruction, recycling and building happens at its own pace. But even so, building a monument to this process seems apt--a modern man making a monument to a cycle that is important to us now, just as the makers of Stonehenge were making a monument to the cycle that was most important to them.

Constructed Chaos sculpture group
James Ciosek, from left to right: Sex, found corrugated tin patterned with buckshot, deer slugs, .38, .22 and .223 pistol and rifle rounds, found corrugated fiberglass, fluorescent lights with pink lenses, cement; Entropy or infinity, found corrugated tin patterned with buckshot, deer slugs, .38, .22 and .223 pistol and rifle rounds, found corrugated fiberglass, fluorescent lights with purple lenses, cement; The Fossil Record found corrugated tin patterned with buckshot, deer slugs, .38, .22 and .223 pistol and rifle rounds, found corrugated fiberglass, fluorescent lights with amber lenses, cement; The Insanctity of the Species found corrugated tin patterned with a paintball gun then cut out with a plasma torch, fluorescent lights with blue lenses, cement; all from 2011

Constructed Chaos sculpture group
James Ciosek, from left to right: The Fossil Record found corrugated tin patterned with buckshot, deer slugs, .38, .22 and .223 pistol and rifle rounds, found corrugated fiberglass, fluorescent lights with amber lenses, cement, 2011; The Insanctity of the Species found corrugated tin patterned with a paintball gun then cut out with a plasma torch, fluorescent lights with blue lenses, cement, 2011; Crone Mother Lava, found corrugated tin patterned with buckshot, deer slugs, .38, .22 and .223 pistol and rifle rounds, found corrugated fiberglass, fluorescent lights with red lenses, cement;, 2010; Peeling Reed found corrugated tin and fiberglass, steel, fluorescent lights, 2008; Man Made Disaster,  found corrugated tin patterned with buckshot,steel, 2009

Coming across these at night is a pretty magical experience. The were a bit tricky to photograph, and I have toconfess my photos make them look a little like the UFOs in Close Encounters of the Third Kind. In person, they are a lot less "glowy." But the lights and their height (between 11 and 12 feet) create an impressive experience. In addition to circular megaliths, it also made me think of sacred groves. In short, there is a kind of pre-literate feeling, from a time before science when everything was magic. At the same time, the materials give the work a post-apocalyptic feel. Of course, these two things--post-apocalyptic fictions and pre-literate magic places are related. Some science fiction writers use post-apocalyptic settings to imagine worlds that have returned to a neolithic, pre-scientific state (see, for example, Earth Abides.)

The sculpture group will be up through April 3 and is located in a lot next to Redbud Gallery, which is hosting it.