Saturday, January 26, 2008

Iván Navarro

From my review of New Yorker Iván Navarro’s show at the Tufts University Art Gallery:
“Flashlight: I’m not from here, I’m not from there” (2006) is a large black wheelbarrow covered with lit blue fluorescent bulbs (à la Dan Flavin); “Homeless Lamp: The Juice Sucker” (2005) is a bulky white shopping cart covered with lit white fluorescent bulbs. On their own they’re magnetic (the bright lights attract your eyes but prevent you from seeing them clearly) but inert. They come alive in videos in which men wander city streets or deserted railroad tracks and break into street lamps to steal electricity or siphon gas from a car to fuel a generator to power the sculptures’ lights. They become melancholy meditations on homelessness and poverty, on power and powerlessness.
Read the rest here.

“Iván Navarro,” Tufts University Art Gallery, 40R Talbot Ave., Medford, Jan. 17 to March 30, 2008.

Pictured: “Homeless Lamp: The Juice Sucker” (2005).

“Branded” at Tufts

From my review of “Branded and On Display” at Tufts University Art Gallery:
One of the laws of the art world is that once you have three exhibitions on the same theme, you can certify it as a trend. So I’d like to declare that art about consumerism is one of the æsthetic trends of our young millennium.

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about a pair of shows on this theme: “Cornucopia” (at Montserrat College of Art through February 2) and “Ad/Agency” (at Boston University’s Photographic Resource Center through January 27). Now Tufts University Art Gallery has opened “Branded and on Display,” a fun, bright, 22-artist exhibition organized by the University of Illinois’s Krannert Art Museum that addresses how we’re inundated with marketing and addicted to shopping, and how this state of affairs infects everything in our lives.

The artists of “Branded” are both troubled by and enamored of this phenomenon. (I can’t help wondering whether the artistic focus on business isn’t related to mixed feelings of exuberance and anxiety about how the art world itself has been awash in money in recent years.) Their primary tactic is to replicate aspects of advertising, corporate logos, and the retail experience and reflect them back at us.
Read the rest here.

“Branded and On Display,” Tufts University Art Gallery, 40R Talbot Ave., Medford, Jan. 17 to March 30, 2008.

Pictured: Hank Willis Thomas’ photo “Branded Head,” 2003.

Raymond Loewy

From my review of “Raymond Loewy: Designs for a Consumer Culture” at the National Heritage Museum in Lexington:
Loewy (1893-1986) was born in France, immigrated to New York in 1919, and found success as an advertising illustrator before he became, in the late 1920s, one of the pioneers of the field of industrial design. These men were generally consultants who dreamed up the look and shape of things and left it to manufacturers' engineers to figure out how to make the stuff work. Loewy argued that good design could improve anything, even, say, dentists' chairs. "Why not suffer in comfort?" he quipped.
Read the rest here.

“Raymond Loewy: Designs for a Consumer Culture,” National Heritage Museum, 33 Marrett Road, Lexington, Oct. 13, 2007, to March 23, 2008.

Pictured: Model of Pennsylvania Railroad GG-1 electric locomotive styled by Loewy’s firm; china Loewy’s firm designed for the German firm Rosenthal in the 1950s.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Check it out: Tape Art at 5 Traverse

Some of the gang behind “The Apartment at the Mall” are hanging out at Providence’s 5 Traverse Gallery through Feb. 15 creating their “Tape Art Artaquarium.” Take a peek at their webcam here. The opening reception is from 5 to 8 p.m. Friday, Jan. 25.

“Tape Art Artaquarium,” 5 Traverse Gallery, 5 Traverse St., Providence, Jan. 14 to Feb. 15, 2008.

New media links?

We’ve added a list of links titled “New media investigations” down there somewhere in the sidebar at right. These are websites or blogs that provide regular information, news even, about new media art internationally. The list includes Rhizome, The Second Life Herald, ASCI, Eyebeam’s reBlog and E-Flux. But we’re looking for additional new media sites to add. So are there any particularly good ones out there that, you, dear reader, would recommend?

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Flarf sculpture?

I’ve been trying to think of a term to describe the recent trend in sculpture featuring seemingly random, non sequitur assemblages made from repurposed industrial materials (industrial foam is a favorite) and junk, often with the parts retaining their original identities.

It’s the sort of stuff featured in Scottish artist Jim Lambie’s untitled installation at Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts (pictured here). And Jessalyn Haggenjos’ work at Boston’s Rhys Gallery in November and December. And Providence artist Dean Snyder’s show at Providence’s Wheeler Gallery last spring. And the “Unmonumental” exhibit at New York’s New Museum through March 30.

The New Museum aptly (at least according to the catalogue; I’ve not seen the show) describes its show – and this sort of sculpture – as
fragmented forms, torn pictures and clashing sounds. Investigating the nature of collage in contemporary art practices, “Unmonumental” also describes the present as an age of crumbling symbols and broken icons.
As I wrote of this type of sculpture in my review of Lambie’s MFA installation (he’s included in “Unmonumental” as well):
There are clear antecedents in dada and Robert Rauschenberg. And it has echoes of sampling in music. But what this new process most resembles is a style of poetry that’s developed in the past decade or so: flarf. A goofy non sequitur avant-garde poetry that favors typos and other ways of being “wrong,” flarf is often built from collaged Google search results and Internet chat-room texts (and so distills something elemental of our era). The technique is sometimes called “Google sculpting.”
That might be an apt description of this sort of actual sculpture as well.

(Thanks to my poet pal James Cook for pointing me in this direction.)


“RSVPmfa: Jim Lambie,” Museum of Fine Arts, 465 Huntington Ave, Boston, November 2007 to May 25, 2008.

Pictured: Jim Lambie’s MFA installation.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Huey, Copeland, Grider at Allston Skirt

From my review of “Strangefolks” at Allston Skirt:
An ill wind blows through Elizabeth Huey’s 2008 painting “There’s a Boarded Bird Chirping Way Past Two” (pictured above), part of a three-person exhibit of narrative paintings titled “Strangefolks” at the Allston Skirt Gallery.

Three children lope down what appears to be a muddy path through a campus of institutional-type buildings. One child rides piggyback on another. The third kid, who seems to be wearing a muzzle mask, holds reins attached to one of the other’s pants. Behind them, the windows of a building are alight with ominous fluorescent energy, Renaissance-style angels collect smoke from a chimney into what might be a flaming crown, fluorescent rays explode out from another building, and little figures dash about in apparent terror. The black-brown sky seems to have melted, or maybe it’s the Northern Lights. A pair of transparent men watch the action from the foreground. And in the muddy rusty autumnal scrub at left, a fox, who could have been imagined by Richard Scarry, sits on a log and a smiling rabbit lies in brambles.

As in a nightmare, the individual pieces have an evident order, and here and there they connect up to particular worries, but they never resolve into an overall message. Some have compared Huey’s mysterious narratives to those of “outsider” artist Henry Darger. Perhaps it’s illuminating to know that Huey, who lives in New York, has said that in her youth she spent time in a psychiatric institution, or that she used to worship as a Southern Baptist. Or maybe not. Either way, the portents look bad.

“Strangefolks” radiates an abject anxiety that is the national mood these days. We’ve had a pretty crappy millennium so far: September 11, wars in Afghanistan and Iraq (the latter hits its fifth anniversary in March), torture carried out in our name, a steady thumping of terrorist attacks abroad, Hurricane Katrina, global warming, and lately the mortgage crisis and threats of a looming economic recession. All this gloom and doom has burrowed down deep into our common dreams, mutated, and burbled back up in art as disconcerting symbols and off-kilter apocalyptic allegories.

Goth gloom is, of course, entertaining no matter the occasion, and at this particular juncture it feels apt and meaningful as well. But what makes “Strangefolks” an extra thrill is all the big, fresh, juicy painting going on here.
Read the rest here.

“Strangefolks: John Copeland, Logan Grider, Elizabeth Huey,” Allston Skirt Gallery, 65 Thayer St., Boston, Jan. 4 to Feb. 16, 2008.

Pictured from top to bottom: Elizabeth Huey, “There’s a Boarded Bird Chirping Way Past Two,” 2008; John Copeland, “Your Eyes Are So Peaceful, but Your Hands Want More,” 2007; and Logan Grider, “Media Coverage,” 2007.

Langdon Graves

From my review of Langdon Graves at LaMontagne Gallery:
This month, LaMontagne Gallery moved out of an outpost on Melcher Street, near the Institute of Contemporary Art, where it opened last May, and reopened with a two-person show in a second-floor loft in South Boston, a block south of the Distillery.

New Yorker Langdon Graves’s selection of drawings and sculptures turns a back room into an evil doctor’s office or an alien lab. One sculpture, “Monstrae #6” (2007) is a pink flashlight-like thing with a cord coming off the handle that has a pink thorn point at the end. It seems like a threatening medical probe. Another, “Heirloom” (2007), looks like a giant vinyl tissue box, or maybe a sink or an altar, sitting atop a hairy post, with a vacuum hose running from the base of the post to the side of the box. Hanging off the wall above is a soft yellow cone-shaped thing that resembles an operating-room lamp. Graves’s mix of vinyl and fur, holes and rods, gives the pieces a memorably discomforting sexual tone. They feel like David Lynch crossed with Claes Oldenburg, with strong echoes of Matthew Barney.
Read the rest here.

“Langdon Graves: Preparations," LaMontagne Gallery, 555 East 2nd St., South Boston, Jan. 5 to Feb. 8, 2008.

Pictured: “Heirloom,” 2007, with a couple drawings.

Natasha Bowdoin, Alexander DeMaria

From my review of Natasha Bowdoin and Alexander DeMaria at Julie Chae:
Julie Chae Gallery, which opened on Harrison Avenue this fall, presents two promising artists who make dazzling low-relief constructions of cut paper. Bostonian Alexander DeMaria’s lacy paper filigrees are technically refined to an amazing degree, but his bad-ass skulls and peacock plumage motifs don’t hold me. Bostonian Natasha Bowdoin (who’s temporarily based in New Jersey) creates large cut-out wall pieces that often resemble fallen leaves swirling in the wind. One, "I Am the Sun in the Morning; I Am a Dog at Night" (2007), looks like an apparition of a Chinese dragon spinning out from the wall. The pieces are covered with words and phrases — “No one seems to know,” “girl,” “you and me in a seat,” “blue” — that read like overheard conversations or snatches of Internet chatter but don’t add up to much. Both artists have obvious talent, but they seem not to have found something substantial to yoke it to yet.
“Alexander DeMaria and Natasha Bowdoin: Myths and Fables,” Julie Chae Gallery, 450 Harrison Ave., Boston, Dec. 15, 2007, to Jan. 26, 2008.

Pictured from top to bottom: Natasha Bowdoin, “Octopus Words,” 2007, with “Water Fable,” 2007; Alexander DeMaria, “Revealing the Monster,” 2007.