Thursday, May 22, 2014

Shots Fired, Four Dead

Robert Boyd

I saw Keren Cytter's blood-soaked Rose Garden last night at Diverse Works. It was shot at the Rose Garden bar (up off of Airline in the greater Heights area of Houston), a place that Wayne Gilbert characterized as a dive. The cast consists of a combination of local actors and artists, including Emily Peacock, Nick Meriwether, Wayne Gilbert, Otis Ike and Jim Hatchett.

Rose Garden from keren cytter on Vimeo.

There is a strange logic to the story, but mostly it seems absurd. For example, the bar patrons' reaction to the accidental shooting of Emily Peacock is almost total indifference. The music, a combination of of eerie flute and banjo, was perfect--it gave the video a suspense-filled spaghetti Western feel. The non-actors mostly non-acted, to be blunt, but Otis Ike has to be praised for delivering an amazingly creepy erotic phone-sex monologue.

This video is Keren Cytter's contribution to a larger project, Der Stachel des Skorpions ("The Sting of the Scorpion"),which includes contributions by Tobias Zielony, Chicks on Speed, M+M, Julian Rosefeldt andJohn Bock in addition to Cytter. It is a deliberately surrealist project, based on L’Âge d’Or by the divine Luis Buñuel. L’Âge d’Or has been divided into six sections, and each artist films his or her own version of one of the sections. Therefore it is a film version of the Surrealist game of Exquisite Corpse. Cytter has transformed the feast in the mansion into a Texas bar scene.

Diverse Works brings a lot of artists to Houston who work in non-traditional media or else who are not primarily visual artists at all.  Cytter, an Israeli artist, is one of these. She had a performance and exhibit at Diverse Works in 2013. At times, I've resented this direction from Diverse Works. It veers into theater, which I don't feel especially equipped to deal with critically or even as a viewer. (Claire Bishop, I ain't.) Plus, you can often feel in such situations that the art space has parachuted in some artist who is making a tour of the provinces. It risks feeling unconnected to the here and now.

But one thing Rose Garden made me realize is that a lot of the artists that Diverse Works brings in use Houston--its people, its locations, its events--as material. For example, Liz Magic Laser's Tell Me What You Want to Hear, which included a number of local Houston journalists and political strategists (Houstonians one rarely sees in an art space like Diverse Works, it should be noted), and City Council Meeting by Aaron Landsman, Mallory Catlett and Jim Findlay, which featured a number of Houston amateur actors, including an actual Houston city councilman. Tell Me What You Want to Hear, City Council Meeting and Rose Garden each engage Houston in very specific non-superficial ways.  (You might conclude that I am pretty slow on the uptake if I'm only realizing this now. Probably so!)

My worry that out-of-town artists would necessarily have no connection with Houston and its specific situation is therefore totally unwarranted. When you think about it, Diverse Works and the artists it brings to Houston have made a serious effort to integrate their work locally, even though the artists are here only temporarily. Whether this is the specific intention of Diverse Works or an unintended by-product of the artists they choose to bring here (or some combination of the two), I don't know. But I'm glad they do it and I'm glad that I finally noticed it.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

In New York for the Fairs day 2: Frieze

Robert Boyd

Doug Aitken, I Think Very Deeply, 2013, hand-carved foam, acrylic letters and hand silk-screened acrylic, 94 3/4 x 65 1/4 inches

(Day 1--Cutlog, Pulse and Select--is here.)

Frieze again. Lots of complaints this time around--the same galleries showing the same artists, nothing new or exciting. Three Anish Kapoor wall bowls at three different galleries--again. No press pass for The Great God Pan Is Dead. Again. (Fortunately, Pan friend LM had some free passes from PPOW Gallery.) Last year had the giant blow-up balloon dog by Paul McCarthy out front. This year, nothing so spectacular. The art was large and expensive as usual, and there were the usual spate of pieces that hilariously flattered the viewers (and potential buyers), like Doug Aitken's I Think Very Deeply at 303 Gallery.

Jeppe Hein, You Are Perfect As You Are, 2013, powder-coated aluminum, neon tubes, two-way mirror, powder coated steel, transformers, 39 1/3 x 39 1/3 x 4 1/3 inches

Just imagine how insecure you have to be to want to own Jeppe Hein's You Are Perfect As You Are (shown at Johann König). And I thought these collectors were supposed to be "Masters of the Universe"--big deal hedge fund/private equity super-rentiers. Do they need this level of narcissistic affirmation?

Sarah Oppenheimer also used two-way mirrors in her work at the fair, but to more subtle and interesting ends.

Sarah Oppenheimer, P-01 (14), 2014, anodized aluminum and coated glass, 73 ½ x 73 ½ x 19 ½ inches (at PPOW)

Sarah Oppenheimer, P-01 (14), 2014, anodized aluminum and coated glass, 73 ½ x 73 ½ x 19 ½ inches (with me reflected)

This piece is actually a 19 1/2 inch-deep  hole in the wall with a piece of semi-relective glass set in it at an angle. No photograph can do justice to how disorienting it is. PPOW had to build a extra-thick wall for it. This is a piece that belongs in the category of art that requires collectors build a special room for it. A collector has to be really dedicated to own P-01 (14). But it's beautiful, so perhaps it's worth the effort.

Sylvie Fleury, Eternal Wow on Shelves, 2007, shelves, polished stainless steel, sculptures, fiberglass and car paint, 108.27 x 34.65 x 28.74 inches (at Salon 94)

Sylvie Fleury, Eternal Wow on Shelves (detail), 2007, shelves, polished stainless steel, sculptures, fiberglass and car paint, 108.27 x 34.65 x 28.74 inches (Salon 94)

More shiny art, but while Sarah Oppenheimer's art is intellectual, Sylvie Fleury is a comedian. Strangely enough, this is the second piece lampooning Donald Judd this weekend--the first being the Conrad Bakker installation at Pulse.


If I were an art student today, painting would seem old hat. There are just so many other ways to make an image available to artists now that smearing goo around on a canvas just because it's been done a lot in the past seems crazy. But the fact is that as a viewer, I find myself drawn to painting. This weekend I saw lots of paintings that I loved. Just because painting is an obsolete, archaic medium for nostalgists, I refuse to deny myself the simple but exquisite pleasure of looking at a good painting.

Jeff Elrod, #InterZone, 2013, UV ink on Fischer canvas, 84 x 146 inches (at Luhring Augustine)

Of course,  you can use a computer to design your painted image and have it printed on canvas, like Jeff Elrod.

Joan Mitchell, untitled, 1965, oil on canvas, 63 3/4 x 44 3/4 inches (at Cheim & Read)

But Frieze wasn't 100% about the now, as this beautiful Joan Mitchell painting from 1965 attested. 

John Williams, untitled, 2014, oil on canvas, 120 x 192 inches (at Brennan & Griffin)

Some paintings were enormous, like this booth-sized John Williams

Lisa Yuskavage, Sorbet Sky, 2012, oil on linen, 33 x 27.9 inches (at Greengrassi)

And some were quite modest in size (if not subject matter), like this cute li'l Lisa Yuskavage.

Lucas Arruda, sem titulo, 2014, oil on canvas, 30 x 30 cm (at Mendes Wood DM)

A lush scene of a jungle seems a bit of a cliche coming from a Brazilian artist, but Lucas Arruda does it so well that I can forgive him for conforming to an outdated stereotype.

Nathan Carter (at Esther Schipper)

A lot of galleries didn't bother putting informative wall labels, so I don't know what this lovely Nathan Carter painting is called. (At least Esther Schipper named the artist--lots of galleries didn't even go that far.)

Philip Taaffe, Foraminifera, 2014, mixed media on canvas, 51 x 97 inches (at Luhring Augustine)

Philip Taaffe had some intense colors, which I liked.

Robert Janitz at Team Gallery

Robert Janitz, Places of Interest, 2014, oil, wax and flour on linen, 77 x 60 inches

Robert Janitz, Charmin Tubes and Wilted Flowers, 2014, oil, wax and flour on linen, 77 x 60 inches

Robert Janitz basically smeared big transparent brush-strokes of one color on an underpainting of another color. The approach is simple, but I love the results.

George Condo, Grey seated female composition, 1991, oil on canvas, 48 x 48 inches (at Sprüth Magers)

I don't love George Condo's work generally, but I found myself charmed by this Picasso pastiche.

Uwe Kowski at Galerie Eigen + Art

Uwe Kowski at Galerie Eigen + Art

Uwe Kowski at Galerie Eigen + Art

Galerie Eigen + Art was another gallery that didn't provide labels, so I don't know what these three Uwe Kowski paintings are called. But I loved his choppy brushstrokes.

Johannes Kahrs, Untitled (ostia), 2011, oil on canvas, 86 5/8 x 118 1/8 inches (at Luhring Augustine)

This atypical landscape from Johannes Kahrs was a moody, gloomy note in a fair otherwise mostly full of bright colors.

Karl Wirsum, Hi! Water Mark Whaz the Point, 1988, acrylic on canvas (with painted wood frame), 56.625 x 40.625 inches (at Derek Eller Gallery)

Karl Wirsum, on the other hand, never skimps on the bright colors. Derek Eller had a whole booth full of classic Wirsum work. Interestingly, he had a whole booth of Wirsum last year, too--at NADA. I noticed that Lisa Cooley had a booth at Frieze this year (last year she was at NADA, too). I assume this counts as a promotion of sorts. Did Frieze poach them, asking them in effect, "You ready to play with the big boys now?" Or did they approach Frieze?

Karl Wirsum, Great Skates III, 1976, acrylic on board (with painted wood frame), 31 x 25 inches (at Derek Eller Gallery)

However it happened, I was glad to see it because I love Karl Wirsum and have ever since I saw a slide of his work in an art history class in the early 80s. Derek Eller was showing work from various stages of Wirsum's career--it was almost a mini-retrospective. I'm glad his work is being reevaluated--I'd like to see a full-scale museum retrospective.

Karl Wirsum, Great Skates II, 1976, acrylic on board (with painted wood frame), 31 x 25 inches (at Derek Eller Gallery)

Karl Wirsum, (left to right) Mary O'Net, Chris Teen, Nurse Worse, 1972, enamel on wood, fabric, dimensions variable (at Derek Eller Gallery)

One thing that surprised me were the three sculptures that were included. They were like bizarre polychrome store dummies wearing dresses. Did Wirsum design the dresses too?


Yinka Shonibare, MBE, Flower Power Kids (Dueling), 2014, Mannequin, Dutch wax printed cotton textile, leather, fiberglass, and decommissioned antique flint-lock gun,  Overall: 54 3/8 x 106 1/4 x 19 5/8 inches

Wirsum wasn't the only artist dressing up mannequins.  Yinka Shonibare had his trademark colorfully dressed characters at both Stephen Friedman Gallery and James Cohan Gallery. There was quite a bit of that at Frieze--the same artist's work appearing in more than one booth.

Yinka Shonibare, MBE Magic Ladder Kid III, 2013, Mannequin, Dutch wax printed cotton textile, leather, fiberglass, wooden ladder, steel baseplate, globe, Overall: 118 x 48 x 31 1/2 inches

Sculpture is an inherently more versatile medium in paint, at least since the 20th century freed sculptors to use any material they wanted. The problem with sculpture for a collector is that it requires more space than painting. It requires more of a commitment on the part of the collector.

William Kentridge, Bicycle Wheel, 2013-14, wood, steel, brass, aluminum, found objects, 140 x 125 x 253 cm. (at Goodman Gallery)

That said, I doubt that is an issue for the collectors at Frieze. If you can afford $160,000 for William Kentridge's Bicycle Wheel, you can find a place for it.

Georg Baselitz, Zero Ende, 2013, bronze, 37 x 137 x 36 inches (at Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac)

My assumption is that Georg Baselitz's Zero Ende is ultimate destined for a museum. But I admit it tickles me to imagine it in someone's living room. (Attention Great Art in Ugly Rooms!)

Los Carpinteros, Robotica, 2013, wood, metal, Lego bricks, 114 x 59 inches (at Sean Kelly)

Los Carpinteros made their sculpture out of Lego. I saw someone take a brick off, examine it, then put it back.

Sarah Lucas, New Religion (Orange), 2013, 15 1/3 x 21 5/8 x 71 1/4 inches (at Sadie Coles)

If you bought New Religion (Orange) by Sarah Lucas, how long do you think it would take before some drunk party guest gets the brilliant idea to lay down in it and manages to shatter it?

Roman Signer, Hemd (Shirt), 1995, shirt, ventilator, helium, string, dimensions variable (Galerie Martin Janda)

Hemd (Shirt) by Roman Signer belongs to the class of art that requires constant maintenance. Specifically, the owner of this piece must inflate new balloons every few days and tie them to the string. When you buy the art, so you get a lifetime supply of balloons with it? (I assume you have to supply you own helium.)

Jonathan Monk, All Possible Combinations of Eight Legs Kicking (One at a Time), 2013, steel, motor, control unit, cables, fiberglass, textile, each set of legs 43.7 x 13.8 x 22.8 inches (at Galleri Nicolai Wallner)

All Possible Combinations of Eight Legs Kicking (One at a Time) by Jonathan Monk was the first piece that we (me and my two companions at the fair, DC and LM) determined belonged to the class of artworks that if DC were to buy it, his wife would divorce him. But that was too easy--lots of art fell into that category. Obviously a set of eight randomly high-kicking legs wouldn't fly, but DC would never consider buying such a work in the first place. So we narrowed our quest down to art that DC might plausibly be interested in that his buying it would cause Mrs. DC to immediately file for divorce.

Matt Johnson, "Eight" (Lautner Beam / Super String), 2014, mild steel with patina, 43 x 24 x 23 inches (at 303 Gallery)

Now on the other hand, one can almost imagine DC buying a tasteful sculpture like "Eight" (Lautner Beam / Super String) by Matt Johnson. But what puzzled us about this was the material, "mild steel." What is mild steel. Fortunately, Wikipedia comes through: "Mild steel, also known as plain-carbon steel, is the most common form of steel because its price is relatively low while it provides material properties that are acceptable for many applications, more so than iron. Low-carbon steel contains approximately 0.05–0.3% carbon making it malleable and ductile. Mild steel has a relatively low tensile strength, but it is cheap and malleable; surface hardness can be increased through carburizing."

Nicolas Guagnini, Rad Dad, 2014, vitrified glazed ceramics, books, pedestal, 57 x 68 x 14 inches (at Bortolami)

Nicolas Guagnini, Rad Dad (detail), 2014, vitrified glazed ceramics, books, pedestal, 57 x 68 x 14 inches (at Bortolami)

Rad Dad by Nicolas Guagnini was not the first artwork I saw taking off from Richard Prince this trip--Brian Dupont had two Prince-based paintings at Pulse.

Matthew Darbyshire, CAPTCHA (1)--Corporate Cooler, 2014, Multi-well polycarbonate, 69 x 15 x 16 inches (at Herald St.)

Amazingly enough, Matthew Darbyshire's CAPTCHA (1)--Corporate Cooler is the second sculpture of a water cooler I've seen at Frieze. In 2012, Adam McEwen displayed a life size sculpture of a water cooler made of graphite. It will only take one more artist doing this before it becomes a trend.

Harry Dodge, Autotelia, 2012, Broom handles, redwood scraps, wax, blue foam, pourable rigid foam, plastic shopping bags, urethane resin, spray paint, latex paint, urethane alkyd gloass enamel, 69 x 55 x 42 inches (at Wallspace)

As I said, sculpture trumps painting because it can be made of anything. For example, Autotelia by Harry Dodge.

Jeon Joonho, Composition of Poetry, 2014, polished stainless steel cast, mirror, LED light (at Gallery Hyundai)

Or Composition of Poetry by Jeon Joonho (which seemed to have a family relationship to Dodge's sculpture).

Jeon Joonho, Composition of Poetry, 2014, polished stainless steel cast, mirror, LED light (at Gallery Hyundai)

Daniel Arsham, Ash, Glacial Rock, Obsidian, Rose Quartz and Steel Eroded Basketballs, 2014, volcanic ash, glacial rock dust, obsidian fragments, rose quartz fragments, steel fragments, pulverized glass, sand, crushed marble, hydrostone, metal, 43 x 49 x 10 inches (at Galerie Perrotin)

I saw at least two basketball-themed sculptures, including this eerie one by Daniel Arsham.

Ei Arakawa and Henning Bohl, The Day When Soccer Became Money, 2014, styrofoam, fabric, cord, various metal chains, set of five balls, edition of five (at Taka Ishii Gallery)

Ei Arakawa and Henning Bohl, The Day When Soccer Became Money, 2014, styrofoam, fabric, cord, various metal chains, set of five balls, edition of five (at Taka Ishii Gallery)

Soccer also had its sculptural champions with Ei Arakawa and Henning Bohl.

 Maria Nepomuceno at A Gentil Carioca

Maria Nepomuceno at A Gentil Carioca

Maria Nepomuceno's lovely woven rope installation reminded me a lot of Ernesto Neto, which makes a certain amount of sense given than Neto is one of the founders of A Gentil Carioca.

K8 Hardy, rrrookie, 2014, wood, lacquer, cloth, eather, 36 x 60 x 37 (at Karma International)

K8 Hardy is mostly known as a performance artist, but I liked this little chainsaw sculpture.

Nick Cave, Sundsuits, 2014, mixed media including fabric, sequins, shoelaces and bugle beads, 97 x 26 x 20 inches (at Jack Shainman Gallery) and me (photo by DC)

Everyone seems to love Nick Cave's Soundsuits. I remarked that I wished art fairs had cosplayers, and DC suggested that they would wear their own homemade Soundsuits. Would that be considered insulting to the artist or an homage?

Paul McCarthy at Hauser & Wirth

Of course, it wouldn't be Frieze without a giant Paul McCarthy. When art writers complain about "same old same old" at Frieze, it's stuff like this that they're talking about. But the thing is, I love it.


Last year was a big year for photography at Frieze (Thomas Ruff and Andreas Gursky had lots of really big photos). It seemed less so this year.

Carrie Mae Weems, Slow Fade to Black, Set II, 2009-10, inkjet on paper, 13 x 10 1/8 inches each

But at least there was this suite of photos by Carrie Mae Weems. But as I looked at it, I wondered if photos of black performers were chosen to be shown at Frieze by the gallery because they'd be more easily accessible to the overwhelmingly white collectors there.

Beom Kim, Horse Riding Horse (After Eadweard Muybridge), 2008, 24 seconds, single channel video (at Gallery Hyundai)

Video also was not such a big presence. I was highly amused by Horse Riding Horse (After Eadweard Muybridge) by Beom Kim. I can't remember where I stumbled across this gif online, but whoever made it, thank you!

Candice Breitz, The Interview, 2012, dual channel film installation (at Goodman Gallery)

And I liked The Interview by Candice Breitz, featuring Chinedu Ikedieze and Osita Iheme, two of Nollywood's biggest film stars.

But the best video I saw wasn't on display. Goodman Gallery is located in Johannesburg and carries the work of a lot of African contemporary artists. I suspect that the South African market is not quite enough to sustain them and they really depend on international art fairs like Frieze. They had a great photo by Kudzanai Chiurai on display, and LM asked about Chiurai's videos. The gallerist took us into a little storeroom and showed us a mind-blowing video by Chiurai on his computer. I think LM would have been interested in buying it (he did buy a photo at Frieze from another dealer), but the edition had already sold.

Then there were a lot of interesting painting-like objects that weren't exactly paintings.

Damien Hirst, Hollywood, 2013-2014, scalpel blades and Hammerite paint on canvas, 67 1/8 x 107 7/8 inches (at White Cube)

I was kind of shocked by how much I liked Damien Hirst's Hollywood, which is in fact a street map of Hollywood made out of scalpel blades. I assume there is some reference to cosmetic surgery going on. But what appealed to me was the look. The silvery blades against the black background look great--dramatic and dangerous. As a map, it's a bit hard to read--but that's part of the fun. I spent half an hour looking at my photo of it and a satellite map of Hollywood to figure out if I could see my old apartment in Hirst's map. (Alas, no--it is just a little off the left edge.)

Ghada Amer at Massimo Minini

When DC saw this beautiful embroidered work by Ghada Amer, he was surprised by it because he was more familiar with her female nudes. But looking at this piece closely, one realizes that all the embroidered lines are actually partial contours of female bodies. It suddenly goes from abstraction to eroticism when you realize this.

Ghada Amer detail

Another artist who plays with eroticism is Donald Moffett. That play was on full view at his solo exhibit at the CAMH back in 2011-12, and it showed in a subtle way in the three paintings he had at Marianne Boesky. I spoke of objects that were like paintings but not exactly? Moffett's really are paintings. The "fur" in each of the paintings below is somehow simulated using oil-paint.

Donald Moffett, Lot 041214 (magnetic violation), 2014, oil on linen with wood panel support, 21 x 16 1/2 x 2 1/2 inches

Donald Moffett, Lot 022414 (titanium strafe), 2014, oil on linen with wood panel support, 31 x 25 x 2 1/2 inches

Donald Moffett, Lot 051610 (magnetic hole), 2014, oil on linen with wood panel support, 28 1/4 x 20 x 5 1/4 inches

But perhaps the most erotic work that LM, DC and I saw was an off-site installation we saw after leaving Frieze and walking back to Manhattan on the Ward's Island Bridge.

Anonymous, Frankie Rocks Ass, Krylon enamel paint on steel.

But as has been remarked elsewhere, this edition of Frieze seemed more conservative. I'm not criticizing it for that--I liked a lot of the paintings I saw, after all. But last year's Frieze seemed to have more installation art (the big Jack Early installations, for example) and much more political art (which frankly felt a little out of place). One very interesting project Frieze had was a recreation of an installation/happening from from 1971 called Al's Grand Hotel by Allen Ruppersberg. Ruppersberg and Public Fiction created a two-room hotel inside Frieze. Reading about it in the New York Times made me wish I could have stayed there!

I had to settle for the Holiday Inn. But despite that, I enjoyed Frieze. I saw Mark Flood there and he said, "So you're the kind of person who goes to art fairs now?" I guess I am.