Saturday, December 11, 2010

Darri Lorenzen 90 Minutes from where you are now & Wilhelm Sasnal the Swineherd (2008) at Villa Reykjavík by craniv boyd

Darri Lorenzen 90 Minutes from where you are now &

Wilhelm Sasnal the Swineherd (2008) at Villa Reykjavik at Háskólabío, Við Hagatorg Reykjavík. July 13, 2010. 


This is long overdue, I saw the premier of both of these works over the summer in Háskólabío (college Cinema) Iceland, during the Villa Reykjavík Arts Festival 2010. Organized and the Brainchild of the following arts professionals from Poland:  Raster / Stowarzyszenie Integracji Kultury, Warsaw Concept: Łukasz Gorczyca & Michał Kaczyńsk. I saw many exhibitions during that festival, and heard super loud performances taking place in the bay of Reykjavík, but this is what I personally found most memorable, a screening at a movie theatre in Vesturbær. It showcased the work of Icelandic yet Berlin based artist Darri Lorenzen, and Polish Wilhelm Sasnal. Viewing both works one after the other proved to me that the artists approach to the cinema is drastically different from that of a commercial director, and refreshingly so. In these times of Icelandic financial crisis it is good to see quality art house "films" for free at the local movie theatre at Hagatorg in Vesturbær.


Darri's work Titled 90 Minutes from where you are now, was screened first that evening. This title calls to mind other titles of other artwork such as the Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of the Living, or You Me and Everyone we Know, or I Want To Spend the Rest of My Life Everywhere, with Everyone, One to One, Always, Forever, Now. Its title to me suggests more affinity for that which is current, than the minimalist canon because it is not "Untitled (cinema work #1)" or "Op. # 95" Like a composition of late classical early romantic music. Sometimes I find that the titling of a work draws an imaginary line between the artist who made the work and titled it, and whatever art or philosophical traditions they wish to affiliate themselves with.


Darri Lorenzen's video piece that was screened in mid July is a cinema file and a work of art that plays with the expectations of viewing. That is supposed to occur when people attending a movie are in a movie theatre. It is aggressively minimal, yet not with out a touch of irony putting it firmly in a 21st century art canon. Seasoned Swedish video artists who were also participating in the same arts festival but at a different venue walked in during the middle of the loop, which is projected on a full-sized movie screen, were both shocked and confused asking repeatedly "what is this?" or "what am I seeing?" the answer was at times not much, a piece about perception that was for several minutes a minuscule white dot trembling in a vast field of black. Ominous sounds shook the theatre as the solo white speck leapt into action, the color of the screen shifted from black to some kind of grey, to blue. This work assaulted the senses and provided bewildered spectators with a rare moment to reflect, why do we not see cinema for its non-narrative potential? I got the impression that people seated in the theatre were seeing this kind of minimal work there in Iceland for the first time, however many were there for the festival, not to see the latest Tom Cruise action comedy, (usual fare at Háskólabío) so in a way Mr. Lorenzen was preaching to the converted, that being the current art initiated. It would be a sight to see this work shown to the gangs of teenagers who are the regular denizens of Háskólabío view this, what would their reaction be if this came on in the middle of or at the start of a commercial picture? Would a kind of pandemonium ensue like the fabled premiere of Stravinsky's Rite of Spring a century ago in Paris? One can only speculate. I was thrilled to see such a stark artwork in the movie theatre context. Darri Lorenzen could mail the MoMA a copy of 90 Minutes from where you are now; after all they are one of many modern museums with a film collection and a Cinema in the Basement for screening purposes that is if they haven't purchased one of the edition already.


 Après intermission there was the screening of Wilhelm Sasnal's first film Swineherd 2008, a co-production between Sasnal and his Zurich Gallery Hauser &Wirth. He is Polish born and a known painter, fairly young and seasoned having had paintings sold at record prices in the secondary art market at both dueling auction houses Christies and Sotheby's in the chic evening sales. I was flipping through a catalogue of polish contemporary art edited by artist Piotor Ulansky and Sasnal is represented there with a relational aesthetics cannon piece, ordinary Polish people gathering together to pose in a group photograph forming the letter A. "A" as in anarchy or perhaps I am mistaken. What I saw then was a highly nostalgic film, shot on Black and white 16 or super 16mm, it transported viewers to the countryside of Poland in a time that was for all intensive purposes fairly timeless. After seeing German release Die Wiesse Band 2010 also filmed in retro black and white style Sasnal's Swineherd looked kind of familiar. Both films seemed to depict petty brutality and cruelty sometimes found in rural villages. Sasnal's narrative was rougher and more open ended, it seemed to be at home in the great eras of Italian Realism in the 50's or New Wave it had something of early Polanski student film like Nóż w wodzie (knife in water), the power relationships and the downright meanness that characters in Polanski films are capable of. Sasnal's modest proposition included a self-conscious critique of the medium of film at one point seemingly out of nowhere in particular; SUDDENLY a group of male polish youths find novel ways of destroying a 16 mm camera. There is the punk rock destructive passage in this film then we return to Sasnal's strange timeless pastoral on the Polish countryside. 

Exiting the cinema fairly late in the evening about 10:00 P.M. or 10:30, and it was still bright out, typical Iceland in July. by craniv boyd©

Monday, November 29, 2010

Exit Through the Gift Shop a Banksy Film Now in theaters in Berlin, Germany. by craniv boyd

Exit through the gift shop a Banksy Film 2010 now in theaters in Berlin, Germany.



"I have got nothing to do now not now never, I am never doing anything now…"


French Los Angeles second hand clothier turned documentairian turned super appropriation/ street artist Thierry Guetta  utters these words as a promise, a show of good faith, and pledge to the Anonymous English Street artist Banksy on his first professional visit to Los Angeles. This fortuitous start of a relationship is recounted By Banksy himself and the Frenchman some where in the middle of Banksy's New film and foray into documentary film making titled "Exit through the Gift shop" currently in theatres in Berlin.


One almost expects this opus(now nominated for best documentary for the Oscars 2011) with the subtitle 'a Banksy Film' to be blatant self-promotion in the form of time based media. Rather it serves as blatant self-promotion thinly cloaked as a survey film of the heavy hitters of the so called street art movement, and the story of a lesser known street artist and character extraordinaire Thierry Guetta.  Banksy following in the tradition the YBA's set forth in 1988 with their exhibition titled Freeze, is now master purveyor of that recent British export known as shock art. His work is about sensation and sensationalism, it speaks in hit rates and is part, flirtation with criminality, part marketing and public relations savvy and part recycling of art ideas of the last century. 


The work that catapulted Banksy to media attention is a reworking of a 30 + year old art as rebellion piece by Iranian bad boy artist turned art advisor turned Gallery owner/art dealer Tony Shafrazi. He spray-painted the words "KILL LIES ALL" in red enamel on Picasso's 1938 masterpiece Guernica then installed in New York's Museum of Modern Art in a work made in 1974, predates the boom of the graffiti movement. Shafrazi tipped off the New York Times and other local newspapers before he committed this infamous act of vandalism on modern art. Poetically later in his second or third life as art dealer, Tony Shafrazi was the main mainstream gallerist to champion the artists of the Graffiti movement and those big names of the 1980's whose work has something to do with Graffiti Haring, Basquiat  and Sharf. He historically mounted the Warhol Basquiat collaborative exhibition at his gallery when both still lived.


Banksy's version was to leave a framed original of one of his own paintings in the Tate collection complete with a wall caption. He camouflaged his own work into the work of the establishment, doing what many British artists dream of: having their work installed in the Tate. Perhaps his act was more generous, leaving one of his own works behind rather than being an angry young man, defacing the work of a prior generation. Or in these days of heightened security and terror alerts defacing million dollar artworks in public collection in the name of "art" is a very risky proposition potentially very legally damaging. Banksy is able some how to appear like he is doing something altogether radical new and unheard of by inserting his work in the museum, how ever this radical stance morphs into a calculated pose when Banksy anonymous British street artist remembers to have a friend shadow him in the Tate with a video camera as he places the work on a wall. A great PR move by an international artist of mystery. More on this later...


The Identity of artist Banksy is not publicly known. Banksy's debut at the start of the film is a view of the artist in a black hooded sweatshirt in a darkened claustrophobic chaotic space some forsaken corner of the artists rambling studio. He speaks to us with a voice that has been cloaked and distorted in post production, his face obscured and pixellated as if he were in the witness protection program and recounting his days in the employ of a notorious mobster. These are the familiar sings that are present in his portrayal these are code for or reinforce his renegade stature. Not only are they emblematic in this way, they are symbolic for the fact that Banksy who ever he is possesses the wherewithal to preserve the secret of his own identity.


Narrator Banksy steers the audience immediately on a false goose chase telling them that the film they are about to watch is about some one else a character far more interesting than himself.  Cut to sunny Los Angeles California where the spectator is introduced to Thierry Guetta, a Frenchman who sells used clothing dubbing it Vintage. He is the pioneer of the vintage clothing retail business, buying old clothing in bulk for a song cleaning it an displaying it in a chic environ and marking each item up for his trouble of finding it and determining that its still trendy or original Mr. Guetta is a highly creative person, he emits creativity in his flair for categorizing classifying and labeling that which society overlooks, old clothing, and displays the Midas touch turning loads of other peoples garbage into a more than modest livelihood for a family. 


This in itself is amusing but it is merely the back story of Thierry Guetta. Enter the consumer video camera. The French family man in California becomes obsessed with documenting everything. He is reliving the "I am machine eye" moment of Soviet filmmaker Dziga Vertov had back in the 1920's with his Kino Pravda "cinema of the Truth" but right now in the time of late capitalism. His recording is a compulsion with out focus or pretension, he is an autodidact or outsider video artist in the truest scene, for he did not attend art school and he has no knowledge of his compatriot and also obsessive videographer Michel Auder, who created a similar selfportriat documentary titled The Feature 2008, out of the unscripted footage he shot of his own life for years.  Mr. Guetta's video output is one initiated without some future goal of an art project or product. It is a cathartic endeavour of obsessive scope where he exorcises the demons of his childhood in adult life with the aid of consumer video cameras and hundreds if not thousands of videotapes.


Then one summer after years of obsessive video recording Thierry Guetta meets a cousin of his on holiday in France, his cousin happens to be known as Space Invader, an active member in a burgeoning yet still under the radar movement known as street art. Guetta Becomes enthralled by the process of going out late at night to do illegal acts of installing street art in public places, he finds a locus a what to record and document, and he becomes hooked trying to meet follow and record as many street artists as he can.


Street art as it is called is by in large Graffiti by art school alumni. Street artists are not teenagers from the inner city. They are not tagging per say like Taki 183 Who Norman Mailer wrote about In his 1973 classic The faith of Graffiti, the Ur graffiti tagger in New York City. Taki 183 was writing his name and the street he came from over and over where ever he could sparking a brief proto graffiti craze in NYC.  Street Art is not about "bombing" the act of spray-painting on the side of a subway train car or side of a highly visible urban billboard. It seems that Street artists are more mutually supportive of each other than Graffittists are. Street artists are not destroying the work of other street artists, nor are they writing the word "Toy" over the work of another street artist in an effort to create some kind of a territorial feud.


Art on the street, it is not limited to spray paint on whatever and bound as some kind of a pillar in the hip hop sub culture movement, rather its practitioners tend to be a little bit older, a bit more international, more obsessive and aware of the documentation of their ephemeral creations and re investigate more arcane and unpopular methods of art creation, that of the mosaic, the stencil, the placard, the silhouette and intricately cut paper. Many work of street artists is an extension of the punk subculture pop art and most are a deliberate display of a facility with elements of drawing and graphic design. An imaginary street artist manifesto might read something like this "I am an artisan who is rouge and sharing my super crafted art objects with the plebeians who never attend contemporary art exhibitions. I the crafts person elect to insert my work on the street illegally because it its cool and democratic and I am addicted to a cheap thrill, also because I am re framing the discourse of the art being made today. I choose to fly my works out in the public first instead of waiting for some conservative gallery representation to expose, discover and validate my art practice, in other words I am D.I.Y. and short circuiting the system"


One of the first Street artist that Thierry Guetta documented after retuning to Los Angeles from the fate-full summer Holiday in France was the then cult hero street artist "Obey" or Shepard Fairey. The documentation began when the Frenchman with his video camera found Shepard and wife Amanda busy at work in a Kinko's copy-shop in L.A.  Xeroxing and cutting out large "obey" Placards that Mr. Fairy developed from a photograph of the late wrestler turned actor Andre the Giant and the word 'Obey'. This first meeting showing the artist hard at work on his knees years before his auction sales, museum retrospective at the Boston museum of modern art and the Iconic Obama Hope Poster that Mr. Fairy made from an 'appropriated' associated press photograph in 2008 which to this day is the reason behind a lawsuit on the artist. Mr. Guetta Then began a friendship with this artist that cast him in the double role of Videographer and lookout.


Much of the rest of the film elucidates how the Frenchman evolved from a video camera obsessed individual to a street artist appropriationist and copycat himself. Yet is also functions as a strong propaganda for Banksy, in that the Frenchman is unable to find Banksy and film the mythical and mysterious Banksy at work when every other street artist has made themselves available to him. The propaganda machine continues with a mini retrospective in video form of the highlights of Banksy. A work at the famous wall in Gaza a stunning collision of media savvy, preparation and poetic illustrations, images of children breaking through the wall or transversing the barrier in some other way i.e. the girl in a dress holding balloons. Banksy it seems is the first artist to mount a one-person exhibition in less than an hour under gunpoint.  There is a studio visit where Banksy shows the Frenchman and his video camera the making of a steel un-commissioned public sculpture, his spacious duplex workplace digs some where in London and the hidden illicit treasures of one million pounds sterling that Banksy and his team forged with the likeness of the late lady Diana instead of the queen of England on the Banknote. Banksy explains that he could go to jail for ten years for forging that money and that is why he likes to keep it hidden in boxes in a closet on the second floor of his studio, so he can occasionally show it to his friends with video cameras who say they are making documentaries about the street art movement.


I wont spoil the ending of the film that I might add is shot on video contributing to the prevalent do-it-yourself aesthetic. Its ending is almost moralistic, as if this documentary is a cautionary tale of just what the powers of addiction, obsession misguided creativity, marketing, hype, money, a staff of art school educated freelancers in Los Angeles can do. It poses the question what makes an artist original or good or an artist at all. Exit Through the Gift Shop shows what lengths some self styled artists are willing to go to in this results driven era. One were sales and market success and selling in mega high volume at ones debut exhibition are the instruments by which one measures ones self. It also parodies and puns market success, and the tiered dilemma of copy cat artists who are able to make it big and sell a lot of work really fast. Yes it puns this phenomena but I feel it offers not critique thereof, it remains another heroic saga in a myth which fetischizes fame and recognition, eclipsing the art objects. But the objects of Street Art highly crafted and strategically placed are ephemeral objects designed primarily as propaganda with transgressive content. Adverts where the product is one not readily consumed. Most passerby who see a Banksy work in public can only afford to buy his catalogue: Banksy "Wall and Piece", the same is true for an artist like Shepard Fairey. I find street art works to be categorically subverted advertisements, that function in my mind primarily for either promotion of the individual artist or the creative process in general. by craniv boyd ©    

Friday, November 19, 2010

John Baldessari Pure Beauty The Metropolitan Museum of Art October 20 2010- January 9, 2011. by craniv boyd

John Baldessari Pure Beauty The Metropolitan Museum of Art October 20 2010- January 9, 2011.


Recent observers of current art ask themselves, is the art of today, that of the 21st century Beautiful? Beauty in a world of post studio art creation, shock art, monumental multi-channeled video installation and John Baldessari is a charged word. We find ourselves in a time when Picasso's D'amouselles  de Avignon is a masterpiece over 100 years of age, the cubist rebel who challenged conceptions of aesthetics, is  accepted by in large as a forceful agent of change a genius in modern art, beauty then in 1906 must have been an altogether different beast. The past decades have brought us busts made of frozen blood, sculptures made from recycled American cars, an earth filled apartment in Soho Manhattan, and a slew of blank and monochrome canvass with serious knife wounds in the middle of them. What is beauty today and what is pure beauty? An implied question posed by the Title of this retrospective of an artist born at a time when Picasso himself was still a single young adult. John Baldessari, a Californian, whose artistic output begins at a time when the recycled car guy was getting started and continues in varied forms until today.


The Metropolitan's survey is that of 50 years of artistic activity by a single artist, the first major New York presentation of Baldessari's development in over 20 years.  It is a multi-chambered display of one hundred and twenty art works created since 1962. The Show begins before museum spectators even know it has with two super big commissions for the museum's domed entrance hall, The 27 foot wide printed on canvass "Brain/Cloud" and "Palm Tree/ Seascape". It is large profile work with a very high "hit-rate" every museum visitor to the Metropolitan Museum on 5Th avenue in New York City between October 20Th of this year and approximately mid January of 2011 shall see two "paintings" by artist John Baldessari whether they want to or not, regardless if they venture up to the modern wing to view his retrospective or not.


 John Baldessari's artworks straddle various media and genres from painting, to photography to video and film to appropriation. Baldessari's influence as a professor is undeniable and this exhibition can read as a how to guide on the production of late capitalistic art works. Exerting his pedagogical influence on students who became known and hyped in the bull market 1980's American art market, i.e. David Salle, and beyond however, less concretely on as the press release describes them  "succeeding generations" of: Cindy Sherman and Barbara Kruger. Baldessari's facet wealthy oeuvre almost pleads to the young artist/art student in a sunny California voice 'pick one of these studies I have done and stick with it your whole career, you to can become a current artist of note!'


What I mean by this is, simply put there are connections between for example, Baldessari's black and white text paintings of Clement Greenberg quotes, and artist Christopher Wool's paintings  "Helter Skelter" or "Riot" images where black bold face text is arranged on a white ground. The argument goes, take one of many subjects casually introduced by the residing west coast modern master, simplify it, enlarge the scale toughen it up a little bit, and work with only that for years and show it on the east perhaps more cynical and jaded coast. But that is only speculation, and there are considerably more issues at play in the work of an artist like Wool. 


It is as if Baldessari wrote the lexicon of what pure beauty is and can be in current art. He is the author of seminal vintage video works from 1971 where he is doing things and chanting " I am making art" and in a later piece he is reciting the promise "I will not make anymore boring art" Now with the odd mix of: 1.the proliferation of digital video recording devices, 2. the existence of Internet video dissemination sites like vimeo or YouTube, 3. Social-networking sites that verge on becoming alternate reality, and 4. The rapidly approaching Baldessari centennial in 2031. Somebody could and should organize a 100 years birthday video card for John Baldessari involving a recreation or reenactment of these two 1971 classics created uploaded shared and sent by artist and art enthusiasts the world over!


When I was in New York I could only regretfully visit this exhibition once, excuses and more excuses, what I saw as I progressed through the halls was the narrative arch of the making of a truly influential artist and art educator.


His humble beginnings in a series of paintings, presentable, quizzical yet slightly derivative versions of pop art in medium format, towards an artistic crisis of; is painting relevant anymore? In art and art history referential Text paintings from quoted material, onward to a bevy of small scale photo installations made in the late 60's early 70's occasionally featuring documentation of the artist himself performing an obscure hermetic purposeless act like waving at boats in the bay area (zeitgeist? German artist Anselm Kiefer made similar photographically based work at the same time albeit of himself, giving the Hitler salute in various historically charged locations in Europe) Video works that define and document the panic, confusion and desperation associated with the endeavor of creating original art work in our increasingly stratified society, then if that was not enough diagrams and charts of how to make a great Hollywood Movie that function as portraiture of the formulaic American entertainment industry, moving on to enlarged appropriated images of fallen men from older black and white Hollywood films and stock photographs of dead soldiers,  possible inspiration for an artist like Robert Longo's "Men in cities" Series, then subsequent varied paneled framed photo appropriations of increasingly larger size that are playful in the 80's the return to pop with the combination of similar photo appropriations and discreet shapes of bright solid color , a brief rekindling with the romance of the text-based art piece in a new form now in bright contrasting op-art colors with the same black frames as the photo appropriations, explorations of similar appropriated images with unconventional format shapes i.e. the trapezoid or triangle and, finally the Hero's return to his humble beginnings in art in bombastic scale with the earlier mentioned 27 foot wide special commission that looks surprisingly similar to the artists stark pop like paintings in the first hall of the retrospective.


Some one very close to me recently hinted that Baldessari's influence on the art being made today is global. They said that in the 1990's many works in the Swedish art academies had a palpable Baldessarian twist to them. That seeing Baldessari Pure Beauty at the metropolitan museum of art was crucial to the understanding of many works made in Scandinavia at the turn of the millennium. A 2004 Video Work of Icelandic artist Erling Klingenberg titled Create, Create could be observed through the lens of a more aggressive perverted desperate or delusional version of Baldessari's 1971 classic "I am Making art" but that might be too simple to build a bridge between two different artists of different nations, generations whatever. Yet to ignore it one would almost have to believe that an artist and their ideas must live in isolation on a desert island to express something with an original voice.


Baldessari it appears has developed a strong grammar of current trends and thematics for much art being produced today, his vision is visible in the works of many today. Is the beauty therein pure?  Or is the schizophrenic, multiple personality – esque, quality of his creations to date, the attribute that makes him as an artist and art educator a wellspring of inspiration, the real object of beauty in this survey? A brand of laid back investigation of broad topics hallmarks of a true horizontal thinker. by craniv boyd ©

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Enrique Martinez Celaya: The Crossing at Saint John the Divine Cathedral. by craniv boyd

Enrique Martinez Celaya: The Crossing at Saint John the Divine Cathedral.


We are here now for a religious experience. Today we are seeing four large paintings leaning against stonewalls of an unfinished cathedral. It is current art in a house of worship. It is figurative work that speaks to stages of life. The non-commercial setting hearkens back to a time before the death of god or the birth of the museum, a time when the huddled masses experienced art and religion as intertwined. 


The Crossing at St. John the Divine is a cycle of monumental paintings created for the space of the nave by artist Enrique Martinez Celaya. It is part of a series of works from an open invitation of the church to artists and curators living and working today to make art in dialogue with the architecture of the Cathedral or the scriptures of the religion.


The paintings are oriented vertically they rest close to the floor and reach up leaning back against the walls. They are four metaphorical depictions of stations in human existence: a path in a winter forest, a young man embracing a horse, and empty boat on a body of water and an injured child walking in summer time with the aid of crutches. Frailty and susceptibility in childhood, perhaps, or intimacy in young adulthood, a vessel for shared journey in middle age and a cold lonely path in old age. These are my interpretations of these current allegories.


The style of panting is a short departure from realism, a type of representation at home in a cartoon. Celaya's painting manner is at once naive, almost casual yet confident. He is bold and ambitious in his choice of format, that of the extra large. His subjects in this series are stark, spartan, they inhabit a lonely world of extremes and contrasts. A wounded child walking in a lush green garden, the young man and white horse embrace on a flat marshy plane with no man made structures in sight. The boat is the sole vessel in the body of water in the painting, it takes center stage an ersatz for the viewer themselves or a person. The path in the winter forest is this isolation of the boat taken further, loneliness grown older. Is it the path one walks late in life?


 These paintings are like movements with very little action. The are of  stationary happenings, or times of reflection. Celaya's paintings present choices. I see them as symbolic forks in the road, junctures the points in life where one makes a decision: to recover or not, to step on the boat or stay on the banks of the lake, to stay with the white horse or leave it and to walk down that winter path or not. They turn the viewers reflection of the painting back inwards on the viewer. In that they play with the narrative, yes characters are present but the story arch if one it to be divined is loose at best. In that respect these paintings have more in common with pop songs than a romance novel. They let the listener create the story and mold it to their lives rather than explain a discreet fiction to the reader. by craniv boyd©

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Katrín Sigurðardóttir at the Met. Metropolitan Museum New York. by craniv boyd

Katrín Sigurðardóttir at the Met. Metropolitan Museum New York.


"What do you think of Alice in wonderland at the Metropolitan?"  A distinguished professor in art history recently asked me. I could not say as is often the case when viewing art works and art installations in person. Being in front of new and unfamiliar artwork can sometimes remove my urge to describe and categorize it. After a week my mind returns to the mezzanine exhibition space at the Metropolitan Museum in New York, a small project space type viewing area between the two floors of the modern wing. Recent artists to exhibit there are Bill Viola, Tony Oursler and Neo Rauch, bankable artists with proven track records at major museums, now in the space we have the Icelandic, yet New York Based Katrín Sigurðardottir who is at a different stage of her art career making a dramatic installation that is partly baroque and partly site-specific at the same time.


The work consists of two sculptures one closed room, and one folding screen-like structure that looks as if walls in a room were dancing themselves apart in a fun house mirror. The closed room is a scale model, a slightly shrunken version, of a 17th century boudoir of a Parisian apartment. The Real boudoir is housed on a lower floor in a different department of the Metropolitan. The model is of a hexagonal room and most walls have one-way mirrors. The lighting of the interior is such that it produces the affect of being able to peer into the room and simultaneously obstructs the viewer from seeing their own reflection. One walks around the closed system attempting to see oneself in a mirror inside, but is frustrated and unsettled by seeing a room with no entry and mirrors that reflect themselves and the empty room they are in, into infinity. The lighting has a greenish cast to it, the hexagonal boudoir is recreated in mono-chrome white. It is a pristine space, a display that one can never enter, a stage where the furnishings and decor are the sole actors.


The complementary piece to this installation is the folding screen like surreal space. It completes this binary of opposites, it is "open" to "closed" across the hall. This sculpture takes the motif of the same room and folds it in on its self, the walls or wall segments rather are skewed into fun house perspective. They progress in a loose spiral from normal ceiling height to half a foot in height. There are a number of portals or arches one can walk through and under in this study of the shrinking space. One is slightly disoriented walking around and in this sculpture. It is inviting. This work of Katrín's photographs well. Depending on where one places the camera, you get an image that shows a room with an improbable space. This carnival aspect makes this part of the whole piece the more visitor friendly and less confrontational of the two.




Did the artist depart from the hexagonal room because of personal affinity with the Stuðlaberg, often six sided columnar basalt rocks, commonly found in Iceland?


Is the closed space of a beautiful interior a metaphor for the island nation of Iceland, for its beautiful landscape and relative isolation?


Or is the unraveling space a stand in for Iceland's tumultuous economic state, a baroque room with a riotously Topsy-turfy perspective, a room that shrinks as it dissolves? by craniv boyd ©

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Nordens U-land? 
- Isländsk konst i kristid by craniv boyd

Nordens U-land? 
- Isländsk konst i kristid Erla S. Haraldsdóttir, The Icelandic Love Corporation, Ragnar Kjartansson, Hildur Margarétardóttir, Bjargey Ólafsdóttir, Ingvar Högni Ragnarsson, Rúrí, Magnús Sigurdarson, Hreinn J. Stephensen, Pétur Thomsen curated by Jonatan Habib Engqvist at Färgfabriken Norr Östersund


There is a big wooden red structure on a hill in the north of Sweden. The military has long since moved on from here leaving their training halls vacant in this hamlet near the ski resort Åre. Inhabitants of Östersund needed to find something to do with the buildings the army left behind. A European Union funded temporary Konsthall was the solution that created "Färgfabriken Norr".


This is the last exhibition that will take place in the space called Färgfabriken Norr, the exhibition hall will continue depending on external funding factors under another aegis (yet to be determined) the euro funded project turns its focus to a Scandinavian country that has yet to join the EU, Iceland. A freshly independent nation and a newly bankrupt nation in an exhibition titled, "Nordic 3rd World? Icelandic Art in times of crisis" curated by Swedish curator, Jonathan Habib Engqvist, who lived in Iceland for some years and is fluent in Icelandic.


It is a group exhibition with 12 participating Icelandic artists that calls into question recurrent themes found in contemporary Icelandic art. Ideas of pure nature, environmental change, post colonial inferiority complexes, corrupt politics and greed that lead to the crash in Iceland and of course the brand of paganism and superstition the Icelanders are so well known for the belief in trolls and gnomes.


The work of artists Hreinn J. Stephensen, and Magnus Sigurdarson, recreate natural Icelandic phenomena via installation art. Hreinn´s black box sculpture has a shallow pool of black liquid at it´s center. A sound recording of a television interview with former Icelandic prime minister Gier Haarde on BBC has been manipulated so that humans can not hear what he is saying rather they feel it when close enough to the black box, the sound waves shake the black liquid on the top surface making an eruption like a bonsai version of a volcano or geyser. "Storm" by Magnus takes its departure point from landscape painting. It is two tons of salt blown by two industrial strength fans in a cubic vitrine. Any one who has lived through a winter in Iceland immediately recognizes this kind of weather.


Erla S. Haraldsdottir touches on environmental change and global warming in her animation Reynisdrangar where a palm tree sprouts up on a beach near Vik in southern Iceland and a tropical pelican flys by. An oil painting of a wave accompanies this HD video emphasizing that the beautiful landscape does pose a real threat to mankind.


A Danish colonizer whips a terrorized Icelandic peasant into submission shouting slurs like "satans Icelander" and "devil" this video work where Ragnar Kjartanson poses as the oppressed Icelander deals with the history of power and oppression between Denmark and Iceland. Iceland gained its independence from the Danish crown in 1944.


Photographic documentation of the construction of the controversial aluminum plant Kárahnjúkavirkjun are what Petur Thomsen contributes to the group exhibition. His photographs were taken from a place that was under strict press blackout, many could not document or report on this, the result of a corrupt form of censorship.


Paganism crops up in the works of Hildur Margarétardóttir and Icelandic Love Corporation. Hildur made a paper machee replica of a severed horse head, a modern version of an old Viking curse. She used it in the recent pot and pan revolution that took place in the wake of the bankruptcy in Iceland. Icelandic love Corporation performed a synthesis of their previous performances from the time of the upswing in the economy in Iceland. It is a ritual that involves them building a structure up and tearing it down, making paper money and burning it right away in a trash can fire, shaking hands with the devil and drinking a toast.


Art in times of crisis, is a lively exhibition that presents several positions in the Icelandic art community. the former military training hall of Färgfabriken Norr is able to house these large works from a small country exceptionally well. by craniv boyd ©

Friday, October 29, 2010

Modernautställningen 2010 Moderna Museet Stockholm. by craniv boyd

Modernautställningen 2010 Moderna Museet Stockholm.

There is a sound it is loud and confrontational, it is clearly noise and very disorienting. The noise is coming from black speakers attached to columns under the awning at the entrance of the Moderna Museet in Stockholm, the noise cannot simply be random but must be art, art participating in the Moderna Exhibition this fall.


This is the second time the Moderna exhibition is taking place. It is a Swedish exhibition about the Swedish art scene. Its intention to take recent developments in the galleries and present the art works and artists who are active in the Swedish scene to a larger public, the public of  a major national modern museum, the Moderna Museet in Stockholm.


The show is a presentation of the works of over two dozen artists of either Swedish decent or active in Sweden. And is occupies the halls and white cube of the Moderna.


All works are presented in the best capacity the best lighting the best hanging the best spacing, one wall one artist, roughly three artists per room.  A healthy diverse mix of art beyond art movements, token pieces of minimalism, abstract expressionism, video work, new media installations, interactive sculpture, cartoon painting, and of course political with relational aesthetic execution. It makes for very heady fare, and indicates dominant trend of the art world today is not to have a dominant trend.


I see a brushy painting of something that looks like a chocolate bar and i remember it. I turn to the catalogue of the exhibition and the description of the Artist reads „Victor Kopp paints chocolate." Nice and simple.


I see a political looking installation work in the hallway and i turn to the catalogue and it says "Fia Backtröm´s art oscillates between different discourses  relating to politics, authorship and the capacity of images to generate meaning." That's kind of simple too.


I take a walk into a box like structure that looks like a small Stockholm apartment and I turn to the catalogue and it says „All Axel Lieber´s works originate in ordinary objects such as cardboard boxes, clothes or furniture." Perhaps that is simple as well.


An Israeli new media artist once told me art that people could understand quickly without having to see in person first became successful. Works that people could understand quickly. I find that many of the works in the Moderna exhibition could be described in one sentence. Artist x paints y. or Artist w´s work straddles the discourse of x,y and z.


Is the art in this show there because the artists are making works that are easy to label? In turn are the viewers and public able to understand the work without really seeing it? That is hard to say.


The show feels dry, and very few pieces stand out. Should art be simple and convenient like shopping for the genre of pop music you like in a shopping mall or should it be a sublime uncomfortable experience one that evokes a kind of panic or fear? by craniv boyd ©

Friday, October 1, 2010

Willem de Rooij Intolerance Neue Nationalgalerie Staatliche Museen zu Berlin by craniv boyd

Willem de Rooij Intolerance Neue Nationalgalerie Staatliche Museen zu Berlin


The main floor of Mies van de Rohe´s iconic museum building in former West Berlin, is darkened. The shades are drawn over the floor to ceiling window walls and in the hush that frequently resides in dimly lit spaces stands a wide grey rectangular monolith.


This temporary structure occupies the middle of the green stone floor. From the distance of the front entrance one cant be quite sure just what this box is doing there, its function remains partially obscured by a collapsing mobile wall behind the admissions desk. Proceed past this and it is clear at once, the purpose behind this large grey volume.


 29 objects are mounted on, or housed in vitrines in this structure, it is a work called "Intolerance" the orchestrator of this arrangement is Dutch artist Willem de Rooij who has organized an exhibition that draws on the public collections of several prominent museums worldwide to bring together the 17th century bird paintings of Dutch painter Melchoir d´Hondecoeter, (1636-1695). De Rooij juxtaposes these paintings with mantels and helmets made from the feathers of hundreds exotic birds. These objects Hawaiian in origin come to the Neue National Galerie by way of loan agreements with several ethnographic and natural history museums the world over. 


"At a time in which the cultural climate is increasingly subordinated to private interests, `Intolerance´ reflects on the relevance and use of public collections."


The works in the exhibition with extends itself in a three volumed catalogue with essays by various contributing theorists including Mr. de Rooij , photographic documentation of the installation on view in the Neue National Galerie, a catalogue resoné of both the Dutch painter d´Hondecoeter, a catalogue resoné of all bird gods; bird feather capes and bird feather helmets known to date.


Seeing paintings of fighting birds fighting chickens and exotic birds is strange especially for an exhibition of contemporary art. I suppose it is a new kind of institutional critique that is supported vehemently by the institutions. What art institutions are more institutional than the Metropolitan museum in New York  city , the Hermitage in St. Petersburg, and of course the Neue National Galerie in Berlin?

However novel the collision of 17th century Dutch painting and Hawaiian religious cultural artifacts from back in the day, the premise of the show and the quiet effect that the museum gets when the shades are down adds up for a rather dry, cerebral experience. I cannot locate private interests in this nor does it make such a convincing argument for new uses and "relevance" of public collections. It would be unfair not to acknowledge that the coming together of this art one could not see together normally because of conceptual and geographical distances from one another is a rare and precious experience. by craniv boyd ©

Pawel Althamer Jacek Taszakowski mezalia at NEUGERIEMSCHNEIDERBERLIN by craniv boyd

Pawel Althamer Jacek Taszakowski mezalia at NEUGERIEMSCHNEIDERBERLIN


Refreshment sometimes comes in the form of seeing the unexpected in an art gallery. Diarahmas for an animated film objects that had their former life as a film prop or set. That but not only that is what Pawel Althamer offers in his recent exhibition titled mezalia at Neugeriemscheider Berlin.


Walking into the space one observes three large fragments of an alternate reality on stilts. One is part of a semi urban landscape with a bridge and two cartoon like youths with heads too big for their bodies playing at the side of a lake. Across from them stares a figure of an adult man from inside an apartment room, is he yearning for days gone by from his empty room with the detritus of the artists life, past exhibition catalogues on the floor, half eaten freedom fries on the table next to a broken mobile telephone. Newspaper obituaries scattered on the floor.


Which brings us back to the third fragmentary object a model of a modernist Warsaw apartment complex Ala Keizlawski´s classic film for polish television the Decalouge.


Together these fragments work like a series of  "cuts", Establishing view of the apartment house from a distance cut to medium shot of the artist looking despondently from his apartment window flashback to an idyllic moment in the artist´s past, a time when things were simpler, playing with a friend on the banks of a lake. That is one of many possible readings of Pawel Althamer´s installation.


The character of the miniature models of lakeside, room, and high-rise dwelling is friendly innocent and childlike in nature, it is the character present in many films made for children.  


One appreciates the attention to detail in the meticulously crafted miniature replicas of the artists catalogues on the floor of the miniature artist apartment. Those same catalogues appear on a shelf near the front office. Looking there one can appreciate the diversity of Mr. Althamers work, a series of educative collaborations with children were the subject of a one person exhibition at the Fridericianum in Kassel, another small book documents another project that was a collaboration with three African men who had become longtime residents of Poland. It brings awareness to the cultural and discriminatory issues these men face living in Poland. Seeing these one gets a sense that Pawel Althamer is an artist that gives back, to the community and to younger generations, an artist that goes further. by craniv boyd ©    

80*81 by craniv boyd

George Diez & Christopher Roth
Joseph, Ali, Ronald, Maggy, Andy, Phil und die anderen at ESTHER SCHIPPER


The founders of Google started their company with the question "What does the world want to know?" Similarly artists George Diez and Christopher Roth began the work for this current exhibition at Esther Schipper with a question they characterize as "simple". It is: What Happened 1980, 1981 this is the reference point and mission objective stated in the press release that reads like an enthusiastic artist statement or a hardball interview where the interviewees dominate the session.


I begin with the press release for this exhibition because it was crucial for my understanding of what I was seeing. I walked into a large empty white cube with the characters 80*81 ominously and cryptically hovering high on the far wall in the Helvetica or some such modernist classic san serif typeface; directly under a modest stack of unopened cardboard boxes with descriptions on the side of the contents of said boxes. A delivery from the commercial lithographer? The Inventory of a new DIY magazine boutique? On top of each of the stacks of boxes are casually displayed exemplars of the contents of the boxes, booklets, books, brochures, ephemera designed in a style that screams Postmodern, I.E. but not limited to, heavy usage of appropriated photographs, asymmetrical spreads + layout of type and pages of content and endpapers in places where you don't quite expect them.


As I flipped through the books/magazines I was distracted by the sound of two vintage Kodak Ektachrome diapositive projectors on boxes on the floor, side by side; The periodic sound of their slide carousels clicking into position and dropping the next image into place in front of the light bulb. This stereo projection method reminded me faintly of Andy Warhol´s 1965 classic avant-garde epic film "The Chelsea Girls". However the dated looking images below eye level that appeared on the north wall of this white cube, looked like they came from the 1980´s. Slowly giving meaning to the cryptic numerals in black on the adjacent wall. Slide of prominent people like John McEnroe and Björn Borg, not as they appear today but as they did all those years ago when they took a publicity portrait back to back holding ancient 17th century pistols. Or Ronald Reagan, or Mohamed Ali or yes, Andy Warhol, Masters of the universe from 30 years ago making a come back.


Turing around I saw books in a row on the floor, as they would be on a bookshelf, among them Andy Warhol´s diaries, several tomes from the 80´s that seemed part of the source material Mr. Diez and Mr. Roth culled from in their 80´s nostalgic appropriation project. Near these books I vaguely remember seeing a disorganized desk with a (surprise) current iMac, something about this struck me as uninviting and I did not approach the desk.


In the north exhibition room of Esther Schipper was a set up of a grid of television monitors not flat screens whose antique appearance was reinforced by the content on the screens a seemingly chaotic mix of German television programming from the 1980s.


I was getting the picture by the time I read the press release for this, and form it I learned that it was an artist duo behind this work and that they started with a simple question that lead them to a world journey, a series of exhibitions, interviews and post modern graphic designey looking books that explore the past in the format of a rehash of the Situationalist International "derive" and a global exploration of psycogeographies. by craniv boyd ©

Renata Lucas & Dor Guez Al-Lydd Curated by Susanne Pfeffer at KW Institute for Contemporary Art by craniv boyd

Renata Lucas & Dor Guez Al-Lydd Curated by Susanne Pfeffer at KW Institute for Contemporary Art


Something is amiss. Can you see it? If you are like me the answer is no. It is the larger half of a sculpture by the artist Renata Lucas titled "Cabeça e cauda de cavalo" and it comes as an intervention into the urban fabric of Berlin in the form of a circle incised in the side walk at the entrance of KW on August Straße. How can you miss a circle that has been cut into the street entrance of a contemporary art space? Simple every thing has been preserved on the circle and shifted 7 degrees to the east, as if the street were a turntable, the curb and pavement of the pedestrian walkway is split.

Inside the main gallery on the ground floor this intervention is echoed by a smaller circle cut on the ground of the back end of KW. This circle is a moving disc that visitors can shift at their own risk and at most two people at a time. By placing ones hands to the wall and walking forwards slowly close the edge of the half circle visible on the floor of the exhibition space the polished concrete floor begins to spin revealing a half circle of green grass. Keep walking and the grass half circle disappears again returning to the half with polished concrete.


These two minimal gestures are a stark statement for a one person show at KW, the work strikes me as a kind of participatory Gordon Matta Clark, 1970´s minimalism meets amusement park.


On the upper floors the works of Dor Guez AL-Lydd are to be seen. They are heavy on identity politics and perhaps politics and people period. They show old family and portrait photographs reformatted, enlarged and given the sexy title of "Scanograms". The subjects of the clearly vintage photographs are of a minority population of Christian Arabs living in Israel. All works are presented and framed impeccably and I am positive who ever originally took these photographs would be proud of their impersonal display aesthetic. Yet I wonder if the original photographer would readily grasp the fact that the pictures they took one day early last century have now in 2010 been elevated to the status of fine art, by way of Dor Guez AL-Lydd and their process of "Manipulated Readymades". This process invokes artist Marcel Duchamp inventor of readymades the maverick who placed a urinal on a pedestal back in the day in 1917, singed it "R. Mutt" and gave birth to installation art as we know it today. Duchamp trickster as he was, was highly selective of what he proclaimed a ready made to be over the course of his career, his readymades tended to be the scarce industrially manufactured mass-produced three dimensional objects the like of bicycle wheel, snow shovel, and iron bottle rack. It is unlikely whether he would find a box of photographs a dead relative took long ago reformat the majority of the contents with a computer and pronounce the 13 matted and framed behind glass results all readymades. But that is just another can of worms.


There are several documentary type video works in the exhibition that introduce living members of the Arab Christian minority currently residing in Israel to the viewer. The videos make known issues of prejudice and history that the interviewees face. by craniv boyd ©

Tim Eitel Message to home at Galerie EIGEN+ART Berlin by craniv boyd

Tim Eitel Message to home at Galerie EIGEN+ART Berlin


The paintings are in dull colors, decidedly so. It is a statement and break with the past, with the artists familiar range, for Tim Eitel at his current show at the Berlin outpost of the Galerie EIGEN+ART it is a step in a new direction for a painter who became known for his bright colored landscapes and multi figured museum interiors.


The galerie press release informs us that the Tim Eitel has recently moved to Paris, his works contain no immediatley reacognizeable or obvious Parisian theame, for they are by and large depictions of people one to three at a time engaging in normal activities.


A small painting shows a balding young man. Closed eyes, his head leaning downwards perhaps he is meditating. Another dark skillfully painted picture at first glace appears to be a black square with a white stripe on the right side of the painting. Spending time with it reveals a plainly clothed figure in white from the shadows, holding a video camera that obscures their face. 


For me a central work in the exhibition is the same painting depicted on the exhibition card. It is of three young Caucasian males seated on the banks of a body of water on a fog-covered day. The men could be some of the scores of unemployed drink and drug obsessed that sit in the parks of Berlin all day. These figures are captivating because here is a representation in painting, a medium that historically glorified the existing power structure, of men who are ordinary and doing nothing special at all. by craniv boyd ©

FischGrätinMelkStand curated by John Bock at the Temporäre Kunsthalle Berlin by craniv boyd

“Visitors to the show are invited to embark on their own voyage of discovery.” claimes the press release. It is a dystopic Disney land for adults. It is visitor friendly. Sculpture the would look at home in the fluxus era, installtions in spaces where garbage (ie: Condomwrappers) figure as a key element, video projections beamed on walls, video displays on televisions, architectural models, architectural renderings on paper framed behind glass and fashion items commingle in compartments in a multi-level scaffold structure that is 11 meters high complete with ladders, stairs, bridges and a balcony. John Bock has assembled a group of 61 artists to create and populate a big work for the final exhibition at Temporäre Kunsthalle Berlin that is a Gesamtkunstwerk that looks like a childs´ tree-house fortress on steroids.

The compartments have clever names such as “Sexy Socks” and “Mutter Tod mit Peperoni” and tend to juxtapose two to three artists in each room. The room titled “Virus Meadow” has music and music notation from 20th century composers the likes of Edgar Varese and Iannis Xenakis. The room called “Module II” has pristine white Architectural models by John Hejduk in plexiglass vitrines on pedistals.

The overall effect that this curator is able to inflict on his audience is that of the punk rocker turned housecat. Making institutional critique that at first glance looks revolutionary due to its chaotic appearance, but under closer appraisal is accepted norm. How random is the work of art when there is a careful plan for visitors to take from wall-mounted plastic holders by the entrance? Labels indicating each of the artists names and date, title and dimensions of the art work in the appropriate place for visitors to notice is the marker of professional conciousness that makes this work clearly politically correct.

The final group exhibiton is able to exemplify the institutionalzation of institutional critique. The Structure curator John Bock has implemented for this exhibition ends up looking consistent and coherent with other John Bock instillations. by craniv boyd ©