Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The Good, The B-a-a-a-d & The Ugly

[“Wolf” (2011) by Scooter LaForge, oil on canvas. “San San International Archive #25” & “San San International Archive #26” (2010) by Jonah Freeman, four color screen print on persepex mirror. “Untitled (Armpit)” by Wolfgang Tillmans, C-print. “Deadly Friends (City of Angels)” (2010) by Patrick Lee, graphite on paper. “Sweet Crude” (2011) by John Ensor Parker & Johnny Moreno, video installation. “Untitled” (2010) by Lisa Kirk, makeup on linen. “American Hero Engine” (2003) by Wayne Cole, gouache on board. “Refills” (2010) by Tara Sinn, ink on paper. “Toilet” (2011) by Ryan Schneider, oil on canvas. “The Perfect Dumping Ground” (2011) by Jeffrey Shagwat, C-print.]

Curators Doug McClemont and Billy Miller have corralled a dizzying number of artists for this somewhat stimulating show at Anna Kustera Gallery, which is up through August 12, 2011. Viewer be warned: Nothing is sacred in the precincts of this show.

From his little studio on the Lower East Side, Scooter Laforge conjures his world of pop culture and cartoons. LaForge’s portraits, landscapes, and miscellaneous paintings—a veritable ménage à trois of Pop Art, Abstract Expressionism, and Dutch classicism—convey an in-your-face homoeroticism and meld 1950s story-book techniques, 1970s color pallets, fluffy animals, cartoon characters, and gay pornography into a soupy antithesis of apology. LaForge’s fresh and compelling oeuvre has been viewed in such New York venues as Exit Art, Wooster Projects, and White Columns.

Entered in the September 2010 DUMBO Arts Festival, “Sweet Crude” is a multichannel video installation that visually interprets the quantity of flow from British Petroleum’s Deepwater Horizon oil spill with light and movement. Originally accomplished by creating a volume with projection screens, viewers of B-A-A-A-D will come upon installation segment “Flow Rate”—footage of a projection of light that begins at the floor and moves upward filling the volume. The rate of which the volume fills is real time, calculated by the flow rate of the oil and capacity of the volume. Based on findings of the Flow Rate Technical Group—a group of scientists and engineers from the U.S. government, universities, and research institutions created May 19, 2010 to estimate of the flow of oil in the Deepwater Horizon oil spill—John Ensor Parker and New York filmmaker Johnny Moreno have focused on that body’s use of particle image velocimetry analysis to estimate fluid velocity and flow volume. Parker contacted members of the Flow Rate Technical Group requesting the high-resolution footage only to be denied. The scientists indicated they were not at liberty to release the footage in fear of retribution from BP. However, one member of the group made the decision to release the footage under terms that Parker maintains discretion in not disclosing the source. The whistle-blowing scientist felt it imperative to make the documentation public and bring awareness to the situation’s severity. [Rep. Edward J. Markey (D-MA), chair of the Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming directed BP to provide footage from the site to Congress, which would—in turn—make it public. However, corporately provided footage was a low quality Internet feed.] Highly influenced by the work of Abstract Expressionism’s strategist Robert Motherwell, Parker’s oeuvre is conscious, existential, energetic, fluid, and physical—if not downright archeological and mathematical. Parker’s work has been exhibited in such venues as Cheryl Hazan Gallery (New York), “The Endless Bridge Public Art Video Projection” (Brooklyn and Berlin), SEED Gallery (Brooklyn), Pluto Gallery (Brooklyn), City Arts Factory (Orlando), Gallery Twenty-Four (Berlin), LeMoyne Art Foundation (Tallahassee), and The Fat Gallery (Tallahassee).

Jonah Freeman's creates environments that tend toward the fictive and dystopian—their projected and alienated futures dripping with compelling narrative. Using materials ranging from video to soap bubbles and food coloring, Freeman’s work is improvisational and complex. At Art Basel Miami in 2008, Freeman—in collaboration with Justin Lowe—created “Hello Meth Lab With a View,” a looming and ramshackle installation of a drug lab. His work has been exhibited at Andrew Kreps Gallery (New York), Matthew Marks Gallery (New York), Deitch Projects (New York), Artists Space (New York), MoMA PS1, the Brooklyn Public Library, and Edward Mitterand (Geneva).

Deeply influenced by the work of Gerhard Richter, Adam Helms’ creative animus taps into profound explorations of renegade-tinged subcultures. As with many artists in this show, Helms’ work straddles different media—namely drawing, painting, and sculpture. Lawlessness, violence, banditry, patriotism, militias, oppression, zealotry, intolerance, and other manifestations of “acting badly” are represented by Helms in works that incorporate haunting landscapes, found items, totemic images, and various elements both abstract and figurative. Helm’s work has been exhibited in such venues as: MoMA PS1, Walker Art Center (Minneapolis), Aspen Art Museum, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New Museum of Contemporary Art, Houston Museum of Fine Arts, Museum of Contemporary Art (Tucson), Bertrand Delacroix Gallery (New York), Marianne Boesky Gallery (New York), Bellwether Gallery (New York), Center for Contemporary Art (New Haven), Nicole Klagsbrun Gallery (New York), Barbara Gladstone Gallery (New York), and Mary Boone Gallery (New York).

His figurative oil paintings noted for their engagement with the female form, recent works by Adam Axel largely consist of photographic imagery—depicting subject matter he believes the camera lens best addresses. Utilizing repetition of his chosen subject matter, works of Mattia Biagi are tactile in their expression. While deftly using form to reduce symbolism to its essence, Biagi hotly harnesses his media—allowing viewers access to every textured contour of his coyly reassembled components. Biagi’s work—as is the case in this show—can be trusted to collide with and be integrated into viewer psyches. The work of Lisa Kirk explores vagaries of consumerism and its anesthesia-like affects on those who should know better. Informed by the culture of “reality television,” Kirk’s projects are saturated with symbols implying that something “real” is happening: Her work deploys strategies designed to round up others than the “usual suspects” of the art world. In exploring various cultural “boundaries,” Kirk’s work has been exhibited in such venues as MoMA PS1, Invisible/Exports (New York), Participant (New York), and MOT International (London).

Provocatively, Paul McCarthy’s video-taped performances and multimedia installations take aim at such iconic American bastions—both cherished and hated—as Westerns, Walt Disney, Santa Claus, politicians, and Modern Art. Bombarding the viewer with cascading and fantastic scenarios, caricatures, erotic content, and elements of violence, frivolity, and charm, McCarthy’s work ridicules, lampoons, and provokes societal assumptions and beliefs—and is figurative to the core. High and low culture coalesce in his work, which has been viewed at such institutions as: Wattis Institute for Contemporary Arts (San Francisco), the Whitney Museum of American Art, Stedelijk Museum voor Actuele Kunst (Ghent), Moderna Museet (Stockholm), and Haus der Kunst (Munich).

In Jeffrey Shagawat's lush—and rather pastoral entry—viewers see the dumping ground of alleged “Craig’s List Killer” Philip Haynes Markoff (1986–2010). Known for using “vintage”/”analog” cameras, the artist processes his work non-traditionally—at the same time refusing to enhance it digitally. Shagawat has shown his work in such venues as Scott Eder Gallery (DUMBO), Melt Down (West Hollywood), Unitard (Los Angeles), Produce (Phoenix), Dream Space Gallery (London), and Caf & Diskaire (Lille). His work empathetic to human bedevilments, Wes Lang celebrates and incorporates several pioneering forebears—namely Cy Twombly, Martin Kippenberger, Basil Wolverton, and Philip Guston. Self-help manuals, rock music lyrics, canvases, and tattoos can be found unconsciously in Lang’s stew-like oeuvre. Lang’s work has been exhibited at such venues as: ZieherSmith (New York), Alexander and Bonin (New York) Andrea Rosen Gallery (New York), Dealim Museum (Seoul), Peres Projects (Berlin), and V1 Gallery (Copenhagen).

John Waters became notorious in the early 1970s for his output of “beyond edgy” cult films—and its iconic and compelling ensemble of actors Divine, Mink Stole, Edith Massey, and David Lochary. From “Desperate Living” in 1977, Waters began to cast convicted criminals and other infamous people such as Liz Renay, Patricia Hearst, and Traci Lords. From the original “Hairspray” in 1988 that introduced Ricki Lake, Waters' films began to feature familiar actors and celebrities such as Johnny Depp, Edward Furlong, Melanie Griffith, Chris Isaak, Johnny Knoxville, Martha Plimpton, Christina Ricci, Lili Taylor, Kathleen Turner, Sonny Bono, Pia Zadora, Debbie Harry, Cindy Sherman, Tracey Ullman, and Jerry Stiller.

Conveying a fascination with sculptural characteristics of food (and other everyday objects) Martha Friedman has created transformative works inspired by melons, eggs, pasta, sausage, waffles, and Chinese food. In this endeavor, Friedman uses a variety of constructions including foam, resin, molds, and metal. Her larger body of work—which has been shown in such venues as: Museum of Contemporary Art (Detroit), DeCordova Museum and Sculpture Park (Massachusetts), Socrates Sculpture Park (Long Island City), Contemporary Art Center (Cincinnati), and Wallspace (New York)—references the everyday, banal routine. Approaching sculpture as an act of appropriation, Paul Gabrielli assimilates a number of media—photography, sculpture, video, assemblage, works on paper, etc.—into a comprehensive entity. While fusing his Minimalist and Conceptualist orientations, Gabrielli’s idealized and fabricated works exude an abortive eroticism at once lyrical and paradoxical. A Rema Hort Mann Foundation nominee, Gabrielli’s work has been exhibited at the Cartier Foundation (Paris), The Studio Gallery (New York), and 303 Gallery (New York).

While incorporating the strategy of the Minimalists with his large-scale works and their abstract and serially repeated units, Adam McEwen incorporates elements of such artists as Andy Warhol, Dan Flavin, and Walter de Maria. Simultaneously McEwen’s work is stark, triumphant, theatrical, and melancholy. In his works the viewer finds a useless credit card and other tantalizing manifestations of our “bait-and-switch” and “rob Peter to pay Paul” consumerism. McEwen’s work has been exhibited at such venues as the Whitney Museum of American Art, MoMA PS1, the Julia Stoschek Collection (Düsseldorf), and Nicole Klagsbrun Gallery (New York), Galerie Rodolphe Janssen (Brussels), Art:Concept (Paris), and Jack Hanley Gallery (San Francisco).

Dreamy, elusive, and revealing, the spontaneous work of Karine Laval has taken a cue from such masters as Cartier Bresson and William Eggleston in her expressive use of color. The simplicity and “naiveté” found in her work coalesce with unique perspectives of composition and place to produce powerful—if stark—narratives. Among the venues in which Laval’s work has been exhibited are: the French Cultural Center (Oslo), M+B Gallery (Los Angeles), Nattgalleriet (Norwary), Sorlandet Art Museum (Norway) Palais de Tokyo (Paris), Lodz Festiwal (Poland), Rhubarb-Rhubarb (Birmingham), Les Rencontres d'Arles (France), and L'Oeil en Seyne, (France). Laval’s work has also been shown in such media outlets as The New York Times Magazine, The New Yorker, New York, Newsweek, Le Monde 2, Le Figaro Magazine, Dazed & Confused, Next Level, and Eyemazing.

Writer and critic Luc Sante—a frequent contributor to the New York Review of Books—wrote the brilliant and compelling “Low Life” in 1991 (a book suggested to me by a therapist several years ago). While casting his gaze at film, art, photography, and niche cultural phenomena, Sante—an instructor at Bard College—has received a Grammy, an Infinity Award, a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Whiting Writer’s Award, and a literature award from the American Academy of Arts.

Every subtle movement and physical shift seems to come forward in the layered drawings and paintings of John Monteith with their deft and palpable manipulations of opacity and figure. Monteith has been awarded grants from the Canada Council for the Arts and Toronto Arts Council as well as a Dedalus Fellowship nomination. Monteith has exhibited his work in such venues as The Tate Modern (London), The Kitchen (New York), Elga Wimmer Gallery (New York), DUMBO Art Under the Bridge Festival (Brooklyn), Artlog Loft (Brooklyn), XEXE Gallery (Toronto), The Canadian Art Foundation (Toronto), Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art (Toronto), Galerie Accidentelle (Montreal), and Galerie Stefan Ropke (Cologne).

Best known for his compelling graphite portraits of streetwise, masculine men, Patrick Lee entices the viewer with his oeuvre. Lee’s entry in this show—one of the “Deadly Friends” series—is a most arresting composition in which light and shadow contribute to a poignant “endgame.” In his deconstruction of such concepts as beauty and masculinity, Lee works sparingly, painstakingly, and with sublimated contradictions. Lee’s blue-collar background in Montana was formative in his approach. How do men relate? How do they communicate? How do they behave on an anthropological level? What threatens them or stokes their resentments? These are all questions that Lee finds fascinating—and ultimately find their way into his work.

Meanwhile, Wayne Coe’s work is profoundly inspired by the “commercialization of U.S. history” and consumption of “news” as entertainment and government propaganda. Coe goes to the jugular in taking exception to the larger society’s glorification of war and militarism. Having fond memories of model kits and using them as a jumping off point, some of Coe’s works have posed questions of priority and seemliness in our country that bans cigarette ads for children while emblazoning scenes of terror and war machines. In his “war horror works” Coe underlines how the imaginations of the very young in our society are polluted by the various obscenities of the military-industrial complex. He exposes the viewer to the dehumanizing, sexist, racist, sadistic, and “religious” texts that emblazon Humvee doors in our post-colonial “policing.” Coe’s work has been viewed in such venues as Bert Green Fine Art (Los Angeles), Dirt Gallery (Los Angeles), Gallery 825 (Los Angeles), Santa Monica Museum of Art, Art Murmur Gallery (Los Angeles), Riverside Art Museum, and Mendenhall Sobieski Gallery (Pasadena).

Like Coe, Borruso is intrigued by the heavy doses of violence being fed to the young in this country (much of it in the form of video games). Scavenging flea markets to collect books and myriad ephemera, Matt Borruso transforms these discarded and “lost” comic books, old magazines, advertisements, stills, slides, and medical books into detailed narratives that reveal tragedy and sadness as well as resilience. By recycling and repurposing these “shards,” Borruso gives them a new “life.” He deconstructs these elements and cobbles them together “like Frankenstein’s monster.” Borruso’s works have been exhibited in New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Miami—and on the pages of the Ante Projects Journal, Fucked Up, and Photocopied: Instant Art of the Punk Rock Movement. Particularly influenced by the Color Theory of Josef Albers, Borruso takes many cues from corporate signage, graphic/interior design, and advertising. He is especially interested in how components of those phenomena play themselves out in use of color, psychology, and other factors to snare consumers. Working in oils, Charles Browning’s paintings reference art historical styles, puncture the mythology of Manifest Destiny, and comment on class, race, gender, and power in U.S. history. His work has been viewed in such venues as Nicholas Robinson Gallery (New York), Baer Ridgeway Gallery (San Francisco), Morgan Lehman Gallery (Connecticut), and Schroeder Romero & Shredder Gallery (New York). Notably, Browning teaches art to brain-injured clients at Success Rehabilitation in Quakertown, Pennsylvania.

One can view Elijah Burgher’s artwork on his irascible (yet engaging) blog “Ghost Vomit.” Drawing upon such influences as Austin Osman Spare, William Burroughs, Jean Genet, and Aleister Crowley. Burgher fuses these various muses into mutant and hybrid forms. Various phenomena pulsate in his work—whether doused with malevolence, desire, eroticism, rebellion, or any combination thereof. Burgher glimpses into ritual, the spaces in which it is practiced, and its varying viability. Constituent components of queer sex “magick” are broken down for the viewer in his work—whether in the banality of practice or in approaching its “limits.” Keith Boadwee, a professor at the California College of the Arts, achieved notoriety during the 1990s with such works as “anal targets” and “enema paintings.” Boadwee’s work has been exhibited at the Venice Biennial, New Museum, MoCA (Los Angeles), MoMA PS1, White Columns (New York), Rocksbox (Portland), and Good Children Gallery (New Orleans). A regular contributor to Beautiful/Decay magazine and The Brooklyn Rail, Colleen Asper is co-founder—along with Jennifer Dudley—of a roving series of panel discussions and lectures on a wide range of topics in the arts called Ad Hoc Vox. Asper’s work has been seen in such venues as Deitch Projects (New York), PPOW (New York), Steven Wolf Fine Arts (San Francisco), and on the pages of The New Yorker and TimeOut New York.

Perceptions of past, present, and future co-exist in uneasy stasis in the work of Luke Butler—an oeuvre that not only defies quantification, but also defies boundaries between abstract and figurative work. In his frozen moments, Butler releases contained images that burst forth vividly. This country’s wrenching “culture wars” preoccupy Glen Fogel and inform his work. In fact, tensions of politics, religion, and values are palpable in Fogel’s video footage—output he deftly manipulates with his editing, effects, and spectacle. Fogel’s work has been exhibited in such venues as Artists Space (New York), the Whitney Museum of American Art, The Toronto International Film Festival, MoMA, Lincoln Center, and Galeria Andre Viana (Portugal).

The pioneering Swiss photographer Karlheinz Weinberger (1921-2006) has left a legacy that is included in many public and private collections internationally. Weinberger began doing homoerotic photographs for a gay underground club “Der Kreis,” which published a magazine by the same title—less than a decade after many European gay men ran afoul of Paragraph 175A and found themselves in Gestapo torture chambers. In 1958, he began a cycle of work in which he captured images of youth and their lifestyles, which spanned several generations. Many of his earlier photographs were done in Weinberger’s apartment and the larger Zurich area. While this “amateur” worked in a Siemens warehouse for over three decades, his output bespeaks broad cultural ferment. Another pioneer, American photographer and filmmaker Bob Mizer (1922-1992) often pushed societal boundaries. While his works first appeared in 1942, Mizer truly burst onto the scene in 1947 when he was convicted of unlawful distribution of “obscene material” through the U.S. mail. Indeed Mizer served a nine-month prison sentence for mailing a series of his black-and-white photographs of young bodybuilders wearing “posing straps” (precursors of G-strings). In the harsh societal reaction that occurred after WWII (that temporarily reversed short-lived, wartime advances in treatment accorded women, African-Americans, LGBT people, political progressives, labor unions, and others and attempted to quash “raised expectations” of those groups) the mere suggestion of male nudity was not only frowned upon but illegal. Despite that setback, this pioneer persevered and influenced such artists as Robert Mapplethorpe, David Hockney, and Gore Vidal.

With a dark whimsy and colorful animus, Ryan Schneider fuses bold palettes and quirky subjects in his intriguing works. Intimate and emotional, Schneider’s oil paintings conjure internal and external settings that pop. Whether exuding coziness, absence, or intrigue, his work allows room for existential exploration. While at times his oeuvre is unrefined or awkward, it is compelling at the same time—made all the more so with his reflective inclusion of text. Schneider engages viewers with the immediacy of his language set within currents of intimacy, nostalgia, ambiguity, and exuberance. He portrays moments resulting from his experiences and observations. His work has been exhibited in such venues as: Erika Deak Galeria (Budapest), Artcore (Toronto), V1 Gallery (Copenhagen), Galerie Mikael Andersen (Berlin), Galerie Baer (Dresden), Romo Gallery (Atlanta), Maddox Arts (London), Sweet Home Gallery (New York), and Priska C. Juschka Fine Art (Brooklyn).

The first non-English artist to be awarded the prestigious Turner prize, Wolfgang Tillmans has also been awarded the Kulturpreis der Deutschen Gesellschaft für Photographie (The Culture Prize of the German Society for Photography). Awarded first prize in the competition for the City of Munich’s AIDS Memorial (and subsequently built according to his designs), Tillmans has documented reconstruction efforts in Haiti responding to that country’s devastating earthquake. His work has been exhibited internationally and is part of many important private and institutional collections. Tillmans’ work has been an ongoing and comprehensive investigation of the photographic medium and its limits.

Eric Yahnker’s meticulous and painstaking body of work—including his graphite and colored pencil drawings and process pieces—examines pop culture and politics. Having drawn and directed “Seinimation”—a series of short animated bonus features on DVDs of Seinfeld’s last four seasons—Yahnker has exhibited his work in such venues as Ambach & Rice (Seattle), Kunsthalle Los Angeles, Galerie Jeanroch Dard (Paris), Kim Light Gallery (Los Angeles), Torrance Art Museum, Roberts & Tilton (Culver City), Other Gallery (Shanghai), Western Exhibitions (Chicago), Boxes Gallery (Denmark), Carmichael Gallery (Los Angeles), and Cinders Gallery (Brooklyn), False Front Gallery (Portland), Guerrero Gallery (San Francisco).

Awarded the Aperture Book Prize, Hank Thomas explores representation of the African American male body in visual culture. Thomas’ work has been exhibited in such venues as: MoMA PS1, Jack Shainman Gallery (New York), Galerie Anne De Villepoix (Paris), the Goodman Gallery (Johannesburg), the Studio Museum in Harlem; Yerba Buena Center for the Arts (San Francisco), The Gantt Center (Charlotte), The Bronx Museum, Jamaica Center for Arts and Learning, Artists Space, Leica Gallery (New York), Bronfman Center for Jewish Life at NYU, National Museum of American History (Washington, D.C.), National Portrait Gallery (Washington, D.C.), High Museum (Atlanta), and Museum of Fine Arts (Houston). Thomas has also taught at a number of institutions, including Bard, Yale, Harvard, Princeton, and the Maryland Institute College of Art. Tara Sinn’s work has been shown in such venues as: Lucky Gallery (Brooklyn), Spencer Brownstone Gallery (New York), Art Basel (Miami), Golden Age (Chicago), and MAGASIN Centre National d'art Contemporain (Grenoble)

Curator Doug McClemont is a writer and critic and the New York correspondent for Saatchi Online's magazine. He has contributed essays to several monographs on contemporary art, and his writing appears in publications from ARTNews to Publisher’s Weekly. As the former editor-in-chief of the infamous “leather” magazine HONCHO, he has been the subject of profiles in Time Out New York and Frieze. Meanwhile, the other curator of “B-A-A-A-D”—Billy Miller—is an artist, writer, and independent publisher. Miller’s work has been viewed in such venues as Deitch Projects (New York), MoMA PS 1, Kunstverein München, D’Amelia Terras (New York), and Yerba Buena Center for the Arts. He has curated shows and events at Exile (Berlin), The Jersey City Museum, and The Center for Book Arts while his writing has appeared in publications such as VICE, INDEX, K48, WON Magazine, and BUTT. Furthermore, Miller is the editor and publisher of a number of independent publications including When Johnny Comes Marching Home Again, No Milk Today, and Straight To Hell: The Manhattan Review of Unnatural Acts.

B-B-B-BAD: An Exhibition With Attitudes
Curated by Doug McClemont & Billy Miller
Through August 12, 2011
520 West 21st Street NYC 10011


Robyn Perry said...

Highly educational. Thank you for missing footnotes.

Coe said...

Educational and interesting, thanks for the missing footnotes.

Coe said...

Enjoyably educational, thanks for the missing footnotes