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Archive for the ‘Contemporary Art’ tag

John Kessler: The Blue Period | Salon 94 Bowery | ArtReview

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John Kessler, The Blue Period (2007/2011); installation view, Salon 94 Bowery

That The Blue Period (2007/2011) was first shown at the old Arndt & Partner (now just Arndt) in Berlin in 2007, and then at Art Basel in 2008, and has now arrived at Salon 94 Bowery in New York in 2012 is noteworthy for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that it was apparently ‘zee Germans’ in 2007 who were still buying up all of those toxic subprime-mortgage-backed securities that Goldman Sachs and others were packaging and selling, and so it was ‘zee Germans’ who were giving that much more altitude to the global financial balloon whose basket was carrying, as we found out, not the most diversified portfolio of neoliberal wealth creation the world had ever seen, but a huge pile of shit.

Blue period indeed…

Read the rest at ArtReview and Neil_Kessler_AR_April.

Written by Jonathan T. D. Neil

March 21st, 2012 at 7:37 pm

Michael Snow: In The Way | Jack Shainman | ArtReview

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Michael Snow, The Viewing of Six New Works (2012); Installation view, Jack Shainman

All of the work in Michael Snow’s In the Way – some older, such as Exchange (1985), an early holographic work of a man mugging for the camera, and La Ferme (1998), a blown-up and recut filmstrip of cows in a field; and one newer, In the Way (2011), a floor-bound projection of a video shot off the back of a truck, showing a rough and muddy road passing beneath our feet – deals in some way with the shallow space just on the other side of the lens- and light-derived frame. But it is the newest work, The Viewing of Six New Works(2012), that takes this shallow space to its extreme and also animates, literally, what we might well call the ‘geometry of touch’.

The Viewing of Six New Works is an installation of seven looped video projections (one work consists of two projections), each of which features a different-coloured and -sized rectangle that moves against a black-screen background and intersects an invisible frame that is both internal to the projector’s own and commensurate with its coloured partner. (Just imagine the dream life of Ellsworth Kelly and you’re halfway there.) Every so often we get a glimpse of one of the rectangles aligning itself in its frame, but all the real action is contained by the rotations and translations of the rectangles within and ‘behind’ the frames, which at once hide and reveal the rectangles’ edges (now parallel, now skewed) and corners (now present, now absent).

However, to accept that what one actually witnesses are the movements of rectangles ‘behind’ their frames is to accept too easily this metaphorical language of real space: there is no ‘frame’ to speak of until it is intersected and so revealed – or better, actualised – by the movement of colour across the screen. And that colour itself only ever appears as a rectangle as much as it appears as a parallelogram or as some other irregular figure brought about by this actualisation of framing edge by the mobile colour field. The animation is self-consciously two-dimensional; it’s a speciation machine for inhabitants of flatland…

Read the rest at ArtReview.

Written by Jonathan T. D. Neil

March 21st, 2012 at 7:28 pm

The best work of art in ‘The Ungovernables’ at The New Museum…

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Cinthia Marcelle & Tiago Mata Machado, O Século (The Century), 2011

…is by Cinthia Marcelle & Tiago Mata Machado, and it is called O Século (The Century) (2011).  It’s a video, roughly ten-minutes long, and it shows a sun-raked, empty street, the kind you find at the edges or in the industrial zones of cities. Marcelle and Machado’s camera overlooks the street as if from a perch on an adjacent wall, so that what we see is only pavement, gutter, curb, sidewalk and a wall opposite the camera, all of which runs the length of the frame. The top of the wall is outside that frame, but we know that it is lined with concertina wire, because we can see its shadow on the sidewalk below.  There are sewer drains, just left of center.

Then the action begins.  From the right side of the frame, all manner of things are chucked into the scene: chairs, oil drums, car tires, slatted crates, hard hats, bicycle wheels, fluorescent light bulbs (these last are particularly satisfying to watch, given how they often disintegrate with a great “POP” when breaking against the rest of the junk).  Sometimes chunks of dried dirt that must have been stuck to one or another of the things vaporize into puffs of brown smoke when landing in the scrum.

The delivery is rapid-fire and comes from a number of different positions off to the right.  It builds quickly into a steady barrage, waxes and wanes a bit, and then begins to trail off, presumably as the hurlers begin to tire and their ammunition runs out.  At one point, the scene gets enveloped in white smoke, as if some larger collapse has occurred off screen.  Then it dissipates, and a final few things (some more fluorescent light bulbs, luckily) are thrown at and onto the pile.

It all takes about five minutes, at which point the video transitions back to the empty street, but now mirror-reversed.  The volleys begin again, the junk is hurled, but it is comes from the left.  Junk, smoke, smashing bulbs, it’s all there.

O Século is a powerful distillation of the kind of ballistics that have become so familiar to us in the age of filmed, televised, and streaming conflict. It would be a mistake to romanticize the action though.  The resistance fighter, the demonstrator and the protestor are here, but so too is the rioter, the looter, the vandal.  The act of throwing something about which one cares only that it hit its mark and do its damage, to person or property—or that it be seen to harbor this intention; so many times such throws are complete in and of themselves as acts, regardless of whether they hit anything at all—is a pure act of aggression.

This does not mean, however, that it is not historical.  As Marcelle and Machado’s title suggests, this act belongs to a period, and which period is given by what is thrown.  The light bulbs, the bicycle wheels, the hard hats, the oil drums, these are products of the Twentieth Century, as is their visibility as items in an arsenal of impromptu urban battles. That O Século was made in this, the twenty-first century, gives it a necessary ambiguity too. Will it memorialize the century just past?  Or is it prophetic for the century that has just begun?

As a work of art it is undoubtedly a product the 1900s.  Its formal rigor (the empty street is composed like a color field painting—think Kenneth Noland), its fixed-camera performance (a form that traces its genealogy back through Bruce Nauman to the films of Edison and the Lumieres), its dependence on gravity and accumulative spread (Jackson Pollock, Barry Le Va), its quotidian character (Duchamp), its mid-point mirror reversal (a hallmark of 1960s structural and materialist filmmaking), and so much more anchor O Século in twentieth-century art’s incessant, sometimes obsessive, concern with form.

In contrast to most everything else at The Ungovernables, which is almost singularly concerned with content, with what all this work is about and with what it all means, work which is in many cases seemingly wholly unaware of or willfully amnesiac about the art of the recent past, as if to suggest that its simply having been made is justification enough for our attending to it—in contrast to all of this, O Século is exceptional.